Pet Shop Boys “Electric Tour 2014″ at Fox Theater | Oakland, California | 4/8/2014 (Concert Review) #PSBtour

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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)!

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Rick Springfield “Stripped Down” at Yoshi’s San Francisco | San Francisco, California | 3/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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“…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.

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at Saint Rocke | Hermosa Beach, California | 1/24/2014 (Concert Review)

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn kicked off 2014 with their first live date of the year at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, California, just as they did last year (which is a show I caught and reviewed as well).  The biggest difference between last year and this year is that their amazing new album, Animal, came out this past September.  While they have been playing some of this new material in their shows in the past few years, somehow it felt much more seamlessly intertwined into the set, maybe because now I’m so familiar with the songs.  Like last year, it was another stellar show with excellent supporting artists, and Saint Rocke is a great little venue.  I think more than most bands, Berlin gets what their music is about, how it affects people, and the power a live show can have on celebrating life and living it with some passion.  They definitely bring it all out on stage and they are one of those bands that can carry you along with them vicariously. [Read more...]

“Kids Company and Coldplay Present: Under 1 Roof” with Coldplay, Lily Allen, David Brent And Foregone Conclusion, Dynamo, Rizzle Kicks at Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith | London, England | 12/19/2013 (Concert Review)

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“Essentially, the word around here is grateful…”  Chris Martin at his piano, backed by the Royal Academy of Music, opening the encore for the night with a cover of “White Christmas”.  I’ve written quite a few articles about Coldplay in the past, so any who have read them would know that they are one of my favorite bands (along with Depeche Mode and Pixies).  I hadn’t seen them live since their show in San Jose in April of 2012, so it has been a while.  They took 2013 off as far as performing live goes, and have been in the studio working on new material.  The band has always used their gifts and successes in music to help others, and one of the organizations that they’ve been a big supporter of is Kids Company in the UK.  And, as per tradition, they tend to do a special show each year for Christmas and/or New Year’s, so this year it was another of their “Under 1 Roof” multi-artist events.  Sharing the bill with them this year was Lily Allen, Ricky Gervais reprising his character from The Office performing as David Brent and Foregone Conclusion, magician Dynamo, and Rizzle Kicks, with Fearne Cotton hosting the evening, along with some surprise guests like Robbie Williams and Tim Rice-Oxley from Keane.

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The Invisible Lighthouse – A Film and Live Performance by Thomas Dolby at Crest Theatre | Sacramento, California | 11/23/2013 (Concert Review)

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It’s a happy and a sad occasion…”  Thomas Dolby talking about his last stop at Creat Theatre in Sacramento last night, in his preface to “performing” his very personal documentary film, The Invisible Lighthouse Tour.  Really a film unlike any I’ve ever experienced, it was just that – an experience.  Dolby has been a pioneer in pop culture from his very beginnings, well known for his 1982 New Wave hit, “She Blinded Me With Science” among a number of other accomplishments in and out of music.  Dolby’s partner on the stage, Blake Leyh, produced some amazing “analog”, impressionistic sound effects during the film, which Dolby scored and narrated, which made it clear that each performance of his film has been quite unique and different.  A real pioneer in the arts, Dolby certainly has consistently blazed his own path, and after hearing his candid thoughts throughout the event, it would seem that he operates in a bit of a pop culture bubble, and looks to technology to find new ways in which to create meaningful art and vehicles for expression, and currently he is inspired by the ability today to make powerful films, sans Hollywood budgets and crews.  The result is something that literally has to be experienced in a theater, and hopefully this event is truly not the last for The Invisible Lighthouse.

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Book of Love (MMXIII Tour) at DNA Lounge | San Francisco, California | 10/9/2013 (Concert Review)

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“This is actually the first song we ever wrote…  do you remember your first time?”  Susan Ottaviano, vocalist for Book of Love, providing her introduction to “It’s in Your Eyes” halfway through their set at DNA Lounge in San Francisco last night, one stop in a handful of California dates this month.  The New Wave synthpop band from Philadelphia, which was formed more than 30 years ago, have started working together and recording together again, and these special concerts are a part of that rebirth for the group.  Based on the packed nightclub and enthusiasm of the crowd, they are not forgotten, and there was a large fan base in attendance, many of whom traveled special for the relatively intimate show.  As the style of music that they helped to develop back in the 80s gains in popularity today, it is exciting to see the band active and killing it on stage as if they’ve been active all along, rather than reuniting.  Hopefully it will mark the start of more to come.

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Pet Shop Boys “Electric Tour 2013″ at Copley Symphony Hall | San Diego, California | 10/8/2013 (Concert Review)

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I had really high expectations for this, the latest Pet Shop Boys tour… yet somehow, as I sit down to write my thoughts about their show in San Diego at the Copely Symphony Hall last night, I am left a bit speechless… Not because I have nothing to say about it, but because I have this swirling flood of thoughts in my mind, and can’t seem to form a coherent approach to the whole thing. Maybe it was the overpowering strobe lights that disrupted the circuitry in my brain. Maybe it’s because they put on one of the most brilliant shows of the year.  The cover of the tour program reads, “TURN IT ON”.  Not a mere concert, it was a full blown, avant-garde stage production 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. Just when you expect that they should have peaked by now, they keep blazing new paths in music and life. Real artists, they create new work (in the studio and on stage) with a palette featuring colors all their own. They obviously put a lot of thought into not just sharing their music (old and new, hits and deep cuts), but creating a captivating and memorable experience. Though the visuals were mind blowing, the arrangements were amazing, Neil’s voice sounded better than ever, and the sound quality within the venue was superb.

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OneRepublic at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 9/8/2013 (Concert Review)

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“Tonight what you see is a very, very, very stripped, stripped version of what it is that we do on a nightly basis…”  OneRepublic’s show at Mountain Winery in Saratoga Sunday night was one of those very rare shows that surprised me (in a good way) on all counts.  It was my first time seeing the band live, who are touring their latest studio album, Native (more on that later, also in a good way).  Since it was such a different show from the norm, I can’t really account for what is different, though I suspect it was much more acoustic-driven than their typical set, though both approaches certainly do justice to their material.  One thing that was apparent is that the group is made up of musicians at heart, and perfectionists in recreating their music on stage in a very real way.  Their crew quite masterfully swapped out instruments (large on small) on stage in-between each song, helping to create a very memorable night that was a tapestry of the great music that OneRepublic has created.  They sounded phenomenal and their identity as a band certainly came through in a variety of ways, especially their relationships with each other and boundless energy on stage.  The experience definitely made me a bigger fan and my curiosity is definitely piqued and interested in checking out the other kind of show that they referenced as different from this one, which felt quite intimate and special.

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The Zombies at Yoshi’s San Francisco | San Francisco, California | 9/5/2013 (Concert Review)

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“It sells more every year now than it ever did when it did first came out in 1968″…  Rod Argent, keyboardist and vocalist, talking about the second studio album put out by The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle, as he and vocalist Colin Blunstone took the time between stretches of songs to provide some history and context into their “musical journey” through the history of the British Invasion band.  After a stellar opening set from supporting band Et Tu Brucé, the two founding members of The Zombies along with rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (front Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums demonstrated with their performance why their legendary status continues to grow.  Yoshi’s San Francisco was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the audience seemed to be swept away with their brilliant and timeless music.

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Heart “Heartbreaker Tour” with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at America’s Cup Pavilion | San Francisco, California | 8/28/2013 (Concert Review)

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I have been to many, many concerts this year, but this is one of those few that left me feeling kind of speechless.  With their San Francisco stop on their “Heartbreaker Tour”, Live Nation and America’s Cup hosted the event at America’s Cup Pavilion as part of their Summer Concert Series.  Joining Ann and Nancy Wilson on this Heart tour is Jason Bonham and his Led Zeppelin Experience; more than a supporting act, it is a dynamic fusion that has made for a very unique and unforgettable concert experience.  Throughout the evening, the musical journey and artistry on display seemed to build perfectly, song after song, moment to moment, and culminated with Jason Bonham and his band joining Heart on stage to perform Led Zeppelin material, with the crescendo of the overall experience being their collective rendition of “Stairway to Heaven”.  Really, live music does not get any better than that, and when you see even the venue security rocking out with the fans, you know you are part of one of those special concert experiences where people forget who they are and just live the moment and soak it in, basking in the greatness shining from the stage.

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The Cure “The Great Circle Tour” at Neal S. Blaisdell Arena | Honolulu, Oahu in Hawaii | 7/30/2013 (Concert Review)

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Playing on stage for nearly three and a half hours, with just two 2-minute breaks and almost no in-between song chit chat, The Cure was all about songs and performance at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu, Oahu last night, making the legendary band’s first ever concert in Hawaii maybe one of the best for those lucky enough to score tickets at the sold out arena.  Last night’s rocking show was all about fan service, from the sprawling 38-song set list to the special meet and greet opportunity for those who were able to get one of the coveted front row seats on the floor; the decades old group that is impossible to categorize played a dream set of many of their seemingly endless catalog of hits, spanning their entire career. Though they’ve been one of my own favorite bands since the 80s, I haven’t seen them live since their Wish Tour in the early 90s. I’ve been to over 60 concerts so far this year and with that probably have seen sets by well over 100 artists, and I would definitely rank this as one of my Top Three shows so far in 2013. Having traveled special to the islands for this special concert event – part of their “The Great Circle Tour” – it was definitely more than worth it as it was an unforgettable experience.

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Peter Murphy “Mr. Moonlight Tour: Celebrating 35 Years of Bauhaus” at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 7/24/2013 (Concert Review)

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“If you’re on the wall, you’re awesome…”  Peter Murphy relaying what he was told pre-show, in a pretty impressive American accent, about the custom poster designed for the sold out show at The Fillmore last night, on the second American leg of his “Mr. Moonlight Tour: Celebrating 35 Years of Bauhaus”, before he critiqued the fact that it portrayed him as bald and with wings.  Peter Murphy has always been a bit of an enigma to me, as you have an idea of what he might be like from listening to his music, but on stage he usually has a few funny things to say in-between songs.  But for this tour in particular, fans turned out for the songs, with an all-Bauhaus setlist, with Peter Murphy and his band bringing the classics to life on stage, with great precision and style.   Bauhaus were one of the most important bands during that era, with a massive influence in music at large and a catalog of music that has stood the test of time.  The show in San Francisco last night definitely lived up to the billing as a celebration of that music.  I would say it is the best Peter Murphy concert I’ve seen (which is saying a lot).  One of the best tours of the year.

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