“Two words to introduce this next song! Two words! Two words to introduce this next song! Two words to introduce this next song!” Billy Idol getting the sold out crowd of nearly 3,000 screaming, fist pumping fans shouting “Rebel Yell” at the opening night of Grand Sierra Resort’s new Grand Theatre. I can’t imagine a better way to launch a high end new concert venue than having none other than Billy Idol kicking off a new tour of his own on the vast stage built on the $10 million dollar renovation of the live music space. Billy Idol has been building on his own career and accomplishments of late, with 2014’s awesome new album Kings & Queens of the Underground (the first in nine years) and bestselling Dancing With Myself autobiography. In the midst of a resurgent mainstream interest in all things Billy Idol, he seems to be as popular as ever. Alongside his incredible band, they’ve put together probably their best live show ever with this tour. It also clocked in as the longest show I’ve seen, at around two hours. I’ve always noted this band as one of my all-time favorite live shows, and I’d have to say that this was the best I’d ever seen them. I’ve always complimented Idol on his boundless and limitless energy and he seems to have reached a new high with this show and tour. He is at once an icon and an enigma, as he continues to evolve his style while retraining his trademark lip curl and tongue in cheek uncensored gestures, looks, and poses. And one can’t neglect to mention Mr. Steve Stevens on lead guitar, who could put the audience in a trance even if he stood alone on the stage – one of the best guitarists performing today, if not the very best. If you haven’t been to a Billy Idol concert lately, you haven’t seen him and his band at all, as they are better than they’ve ever been, and that is saying a lot.
Depeche Mode has been my favorite band since Black Celebration came out, so when I came across the new of this special DJ set show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club in Santa Barbara, I was excited for an opportunity to see the man behind some of my all-time favorite songs express himself in a completely different setting. Part of SOhO’s 20th Anniversary Fundraising Show Series, it did not disappoint. Martin Gore played his unique style of live music for around two hours. It was amazing to see the man at work, and being close enough to see his own facial expressions reacting to his own music.
“Oh, somebody wants to hear, “What’s On Your Mind?”. Peer pressure him into letting it go… Dude. Or is he telling us to hurry the fuck up?” Kurt Harland, singer and front man for Information Society, displaying a mix of confidence and humor at their concert at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night. Live shows from the New Wave/synthpop band are very rare these days, and the guy shouting out the name of the song that made them very famous with the masses circa 1988 didn’t have the same appreciation for the full spectacle and show they put on as the rest of the crowd, who couldn’t seem to get enough of their unique style of music, whether it was old favorites from the 80s and 90s or new songs from the newly released (and excellent) _hello World, which came out late last year. This concert event promoted by WorldOne Presents was marketed as “80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”, and it was a special winter edition of their “80’s Rewind Fest” series. This concert boasted additional special guests Book of Love as well as local opener, Self.Same. Though the three founding members of Information Society have gone off to create lives and careers outside of their band, you wouldn’t know if from this concert. They brought a ton of excitement and style on stage. Given their amazing new studio album and their ability to put on a fantastic live show, hopefully it represents more InSoc coming in our future.
I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days with Clive Farrington, to see what is going on with the former front man and lead singer of the popular 80s band, When In Rome. On the itinerary was sitting in on a rehearsal with his new band prepping for 2015, checking out the New Wave Bar & Restaurant in Bellflower for Danny Sanchez’s birthday (“70s Disco Night”), and a few days later attending their special charity concert at Hogue Barmichael’s in Newport Beach, which benefited the Orangewood Children’s Foundation.
“Halloween is so brilliant though, isn’t it? ‘Cause everyone can dress up; be what they want to do… nobody is like judging you at all for how you look or anything or what you’re doing or who you’re with, blah, blah, blah …” Andy Bell of Erasure on Halloween at the Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. Certainly an interesting combination of band, date, and city to be sure. As the more extroverted of the duo, Andy came dressed in a sort of skeleton costume with accompanying face paint that has some resemblance to the cover art of their latest album; Vince Clarke, set back from the front of the stage and back to one corner, I don’t think said anything all night, and was dressed in more business-style attire (though he had the aforementioned art one his laptop lid. However the two contrasting personalities found one another for their journey into music that has gone on for nearly three decades, the magic worked in the beginning and continues to do so today. This was definitely an interesting (in a great way!) night on many levels. I had an opportunity to meet Vince Clarke and Andy Bell from Erasure via the special tickets made available through their PledgeMusic campaign for that newest latest album, The Violet Flame. The aptly named Violet Flame Tour included a number of those new songs mixed into the set, as well as a lot of their many, many hits and favorites. I got the sense that it was a different sort of show for this series of shows, and I’m happy that I got a chance to experience this new music and tour.
“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are going on a journey together…” Graham Russell giving a bit of a preface to an amazing concert, along with his songwriting partner Russell Hitchcock, the duo that comprise Air Supply have “been on tour” now for 39 years, though this is the first time I’d ever seen them live. Playing to a sold out crowd of around 1,300 or so at the Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa in Lake Tahoe, from the vantage point of the front row, eyes on the stage, it felt like they could have been playing to a vast sports arena. Hands down, I would have to say that Air Supply gave me the biggest surprise of the year in terms of my expectations against the actual performance – they were spectacular. Playing over 100 shows a year, unless there was something different about this concert (and I have no reason to believe that there was), these guys know how to put on a stunning show with a variety of music, up tempo and slowed down, and in many cases rocking, and they have a brilliant band backing them up. I cannot stress enough my recommendation to check them out if you get the opportunity – these guys put on a stellar live show.
The show at Thunder Valley Casino Resort’s Outdoor Amphitheater Sunday night was continuing on in WorldOne Presents’ tradition of their annual “80s Rewind Festival Music Fest”, and arrived in Lincoln, California with it’s own unique line-up and variation on the newly christened Retro Futura Tour 2014 (formerly Regeneration Tour). With this event, the same co-headliners – Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey and Howard Jones – shared the bill, as did Katrina Leskanich (formerly of Katrina and The Waves. But in place of Midge Ure and China Crisis was the incredible English Beat featuring Dave Wakeling. As usual, the show took on a character all it’s own, playing out to a large and enthusiastic crowd. I think the Katrina/English Beat/Howard Jones/Tom Bailey line-up featured artists that all have one thing in common: authentic optimism driving their music. Of course, the modern day ’10s are not the classic ’80s, and though the music played came from the past, it could also serve as a beacon of hope for the future. And, as with the show at Mountain Winery the night before, there seemed to be quite a reception for Tom Bailey, who stopped touring and performing live as Thompson Twins way back in 1987. It was another exceptional performance by all of the artists, and both shows are certainly on the short list for top concerts of the year for me personally.
The Popscene concert at Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday night was one of those rare shows that was very surprising (in a good way). Danish singer-songwriter MØ (Karen Marie Ørsted) headlined the night that featured Swedish singer-songwriter Erik Hassle supporting, and both put on stellar performances, with awesome bookend DJ sets by Aaron Axelsen. Candidly, I was not familiar with either of these young artists until recently, and I would mark the night as one of the best concerts I’ve attended so far in 2014. MØ and Erik Hassle should be on the pop culture watch list as ones to expect big things from in the future.
It was one year ago to the day that I saw Pet Shop Boys and their Electric Tour in San Diego… and while the “show” was mostly the same on this 2014 tour, kicking off at Fox Theater in Oakland, my own personal experience was worlds apart. The actual concert itself was the same as last year’s, with the exception of I think just one change to the setlist, but that is actually a good thing – why mess with near perfection? While there are a few favorites of mine I would have loved to have heard, the highly prolific duo have been making hits for over three decades now, so there will always be some songs that aren’t going to make the cut for every tour. As with last year, the avant-garde stage production is of the highest order, with credit also due to Stuart Price with his music production and programming, Creative Director/Designer Es Devlin and Stage Director/Choreographer Lynne Page, the two colorful dancers (Merry Holden and Tom Herron) with their interesting costumes and stage presence, and many others behind the scenes. This show was their first of 2014, and at one point Neil even confessed to having some nerves in coming back on the stage, but his voice and delivery was spot on, and the blending of old and new music maybe even works better the second time around. It was one of my favorite shows last year, and it was great to revisit it as well as share it with someone very special in my life this time around – it is a concert that I will never forget (more on that later)!
“…I thought, ‘you know, there’s no better translator of Black American Blues than a middle-class, 16 year old Australian white child’.” Part of Rick Springfield’s storytelling in-between songs, it was apparent early on that not only has he led an interesting life, but he has real depth as well as a self-deprecating sense of humor. Though he is best known for that one big 80s hit (“Jessie’s Girl”) and acting on General Hospital as Dr. Noah Drake, he is a great storyteller and certainly a real artist with some great music and a knack for bringing it alive in a special way in an intimate venue. The highlight of the night for me was his very personal rendition of “My Father’s Chair”, a song about the loss of his dad many years ago. It’s rare to see an artist connect with such a powerful song on stage, and present such vulnerability to an audience. This set of solo shows is definitely well worth checking out, and in many ways more compelling than the traditional, full band rock show, as Rick Springfield has a lot of storytelling in him, in both personal accounts from his life as well as his music.