“I try to think about tomorrow, but I always think about the past… about the things that didn’t last… if I could go to the beginning, then for sure I would be another way… make it better for today…” Pixies (the “loud quiet loud” band) are a quiet band on stage in-between the generally quick songs, so we are left with the music, and the lyrics within, to try to figure out what is going on with them. It was less than one month ago that they released their sixth studio album – their second without founding bass player and vocalist Kim Deal – and their first with new full-time member Paz Lenchantin. The new album serves as fuel for this tour, with just four rare dates in Calif0rnia this month as prelude to many shows across Europe, England, Australia and New Zealand, keeping them busy until early next year. So it was interesting seeing them and hearing some of their new music performed at Ace of Spades in Sacramento on Wednesday night. The Pixies in Sacramento. A rare thing indeed. One of my all-time favorite bands playing in the city where I was born, and where I first saw the band way back in 1990, about a quarter of a century ago. A different time. So much has changed, but so much about the band remains the same. I’ve taken the new album, Head Carrier, for a spin and those lyrics above stuck with me. Interestingly, the vocals on that particular song are delivered by Paz, who is no Kim soundalike (on vocals or bass), though obviously the message in those lyrics is for Kim. So the Pixies in 2016 is older, mature, different… and the band is at once both old and new; looking backwards and forwards. The album sounds quite different from everything that came before (even 2014’s Indie Cindy). And I think that the sentiments expressed in that song, “All I Think About Now”, kind of sums up this new iteration of the Pixies. With this live show, the old and the new were mixed together to create a different sort of Pixies show, giving something fresh to both new and old fans alike. But there are still those songs that carry on and remain classic to those who were with it at the time, in the band’s short-lived first incarnation in the late 80s and early 90s. The concert was a tribute to that as well.
“You gotta keep believing in what you wanna do; don’t give up…” Howard Jones on stage at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub in Sacramento on Wednesday night, playing to a sold out crowd in an intimate space holding about 450 fans. He was reflecting back on when he was working in a factory as a very young man, and writing “New Song”. His debut single – released in 1983 – is all about optimism… and that is in my estimation what the man is still about today, some three decades later. Throughout his performance, he was beaming with joy and fun between each song, chatting with fans and tossing out anecdotes and familiar lyrics that can still be instructive today (“try and enjoy the here and now… the future will take care of itself somehow!”). But it’s not just the classic tunes that had people moving. Having released his 11th studio album this year – Engage – he is as creative and relevant as ever, with fresh new songs. My own feeling is that in all this time since the 80s have come and gone, he best represents not just the style of music but the feelings of that era, and it is awesome that he continues to spread his work and message in live shows like this one. Things can only get better, indeed.
“I’m happy to live in the mystery…” One of a seemingly endless set of poetic and thoughtful comments made on stage at The Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Sunday night. Part of a solo performance by Colin Hay, best known as the front man, vocalist, and guitarist for the Australian, early 80s, Grammy-winning New Wave/Rock/Raggae band Men at Work. In 1983, the band had a number one album (Business as Usual) and a number one single (“Down Under”) and gained international fame with their music and quirky music videos. Here we are, 32 years later, and Mr. Hay has cultivated not only an interesting career but an interesting life with insights and experiences that continue to guide him. All this time later, there is no ego, no regret, and an incredible depth of self-awareness. He seems to have a vivid and real view of the world and how it works, and seems quite settled and comfortable with who he is and his role in life as not just a musician, but as a storyteller and philosopher, with much of the latter coming in the form of brilliant comedy. I’d been lucky enough to catch his Finding My Dance one man show in 2013, so I had an idea of what to expect, but his current tour supporting his latest album, Next Year People, was even better. He is one of the most entertaining and gifted artists touring today, and I can’t recommend enough turning out for one of his shows if you have the opportunity.
“Okay, you all know this song and you need to sing along, because we don’t know what fucking hours of music were going to play tonight we’re going to keep going, so you guys sing along with this one…” Jules De Martino providing an intro into one of The Ting Ting’s biggest hits, “That’s Not My Name”, just before Katie White throws down with the vocals and gets the audience into a frenzy at their sold out show at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento on Saturday night. As mentioned in my review of their show for Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco the night before, The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore). Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign. Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy. I thought the show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out… Somehow, the Sacramento show was even better, and will definitely be in my Top Ten shows of 2015 at the end of the year, and has set the bar high for all of the other shows I’ll be seeing in the next 11 months.
“I walked out of there with not much, except a feeling in my heart that it was all going to work. And the reason that I tell you this story, is that I want you to know that if you have a dream, and you believe in yourself, and you believe something that you really want, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t have it. Don’t ever let anybody get in your way, because you can have it, and we are living proof of that…” Optimistic words spoken by Stevie Nicks at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento last night, joined on stage by the core members of one of the best rock and roll groups of all time, Fleetwood Mac. I think we collectively need more optimism in the world today, but not just lofty words and sentiments, but used to power individuals to look to themselves and their own abilities and opportuities to make their dreams come true. Somehow, this collection of gifted artists – Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Christine McVie – all found one another back in the 70s and made music that has endured as classics to this day. I first saw Fleetwood Mac with their tour in 2013, and marked it as one of the best shows of the year. As that tour did not include Christine McVie, with her return on this year’s tour, I marked this show as my top “must see” concert of the year. It did not disappoint. All of the players sound like they are truly at the top of their game, and they seemed to love performing as much as the audience loved watching it. It was also a bit different than last year’s tour, with even higher production standards and maybe the best sound quality I’ve ever heard in a sports arena. It was truly an epic show, and Fleetwood Mac is one of those rare bands that can make playing to a large indoor arena work (I rarely go to such shows because they typically do not work on many levels). They really exceeded my expectations with their nearly three hour show, and I think the highlight for me was “Little Lies”, with Christine McVie’s beautiful voice and the overlapping chorus with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – a real showcase for the distinct character in each of their voices but how well they harmonize and blend together to such effect.
“We had a new song come out today… We got a lot of comments on the site. You know, people asking us, are we a rock band? Or are we a folk band? Are we an electronic band? The answer is: fuck off!” Comments from The Airborne Toxic Event’s frontman Mikel Jollett, before kicking into that new song, “Wrong”, toward the end of the initial set at Ace of Spades in Sacramento. The comment might read as negative, but their music and connection with the crowd was anything but, with that same signer and guitarist jumping off stage and interacting with the crowd several times throughout their one and a half or so set. At one point, he even held a young boy in the air, asking (somewhat rhetorically) if he had the coolest mom there, but virtue of his presence. The band, and supporting act In The Valley Below before them, put on a fantastic show with great music. They are both certainly worth checking out. Even Mikel said, at the end, “Every now and then you get to have a night like tonight – I think this is the best show I’ve ever played in Sacramento!”, and I suspect the fans agree.
I usually open my reviews with a quote from the headlining artist, but the Melvins were pretty much all business at Assembly Music Hall on Wednesday night, kicking off their “Hold It In” tour in Sacramento. Quite the prolific band, they released their album Hold It In the day before, a collaboration with Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, with Butthole Surfers members Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus. On stage last night were all but Paul Leary. With a democratic stage set up, featuring Dale Crover at center on drums with King Buzzo and Jeff Pinkus flanking either side, they are one of those interesting collaborations that seems to lack ego. Just as their music is balanced by the contributions of each player – though with a lot of variety and variation song to song – each seems to hold their own with their live show, and the sonic spotlight seems to shift around as called for by moments and breaks in each song. The star of the band is really the music, and it’s eclectic style that doesn’t really fit into any particular genre (though there are strong foundations of both metal and punk at the heart of it). Truly an important band, in a historical sense, though that wouldn’t matter as much if they didn’t make compelling music or put on a killer live show, and in their case, they do both. Definitely a tour with catching as 2014 races to conclusion.
“Thirsty Thursday, is that a thing here? It’s a thing at home… not for me, because I’m never thirsty…” Georgia Nott, with a little bit of chit chat with the very enthusiastic audience at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento. Like her, much of the audience was young and female, and many were experiencing Broods live for the very first time. Like the sold out show at The Independent I attended back in May, Georgia split her time roaming the stage as well as performing at her keyboard station on the opposite corner of the stage from her older brother Caleb, with Joel Farland holding things down at the center back of the stage. Since that show in May, they have now released (or are on the verge of releasing, depending on what country you live in) their first studio album, Evergreen. Since it is not officially out yet in the U.S. (due October 8th here), I have only heard the songs pre-released on iTunes with pre-order (though two of the five were on the EP). But with that sampling, I’m even more convinced that this young band really deserves (and should) break big. They make great music with thoughtful lyrics and it all translates into a live concert so beautifully. Georgia has a remarkable voice – the kind that you hear on a studio recording and imagine that she could not possibly measure up in a live setting, but having been to two shows now, I can say that she totally kills it on stage, and Caleb manages to paint clean, distinct sounds with his keyboards and Joel is a force on drums. I’ve become a huge fan of the new song, “L.A.F.”, in large part because of the non-traditional drums and beats, and this was one of the highlights for the show last night for me. Phenomenal band, and one that I’ll continue to turn out for any chance that I get.
“When it hits the fan, people usually show up for each other…” Joan Jett of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, talking about surviving tragedy, and how real life experiences inspired their latest album, Unvarnished. It was really quite inspiring to hear the punk icon with roots in music – in her teens – going back to the 70s, today crafting music that is informed by a fascinating and full life. Yet regardless of her growth as an individual and as an artist, she still has that counter culture swagger and joy with a guitar strapped around her and a mic stand before her… she can still rock it unlike any other, and she certainly made that clear at their appearance at the California State Fair at Cal Expo last night. Whatever it is that she’s had since her formative years, that motor still drives her today. A real rock and roll legend.
“But the problem is, it’s a piece of shit… so things like the little thing, that goes on here… the plastic thing that keeps you from slicing your fucking finger in half? That fell off in the middle of that song…” A post song, play by play recap by Damien Kulash of OK Go, talking about how part of his favorite guitar (purchased at a pawn shop in New Orleans) fell off and how he waited for the right break in singing to pick it up amid a floor covered in confetti… and for some reason decided to put it in his mouth for the rest of the song. Quirky, funny, and entertaining… an OK Go show would probably be worth the price of admission even if they didn’t play any music at all, as the between-song banter was all quite amusing on its own. But they did put on an impressive showcase of music at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento… kicking off their 2014 tour that culminates in the release of Hungry Ghosts, their fourth studio album in October.