“Oakland, San Francisco, how the hell you doing tonight? We played here almost six years ago opening up for somebody… Who here was there? Was anybody there at the show? I’m just sayin’, I do see a lot of people who have been with us all six years, and for all of you who have come to all these shows, all these years, thank you so much!” Andrew Wessen, guitarist of Grouplove, a band who always has their gratitude and appreciation on display. They played a scorcher at a packed Fox Theater on Friday night, supporting their third studio album, Big Mess. Just one date into their new U.S. tour running through the end of the year (followed by dates in Australia), they sounded and performed better than ever. One of my favorite live acts, they put on a high energy show that had the crowd bouncing throughout, embracing the excellent new songs as much as the favorites. Definitely a must see tour. The latest album, produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove’s Ryan Rabin) and Phil Ek is characterized by their signature sound and style, and may be their best yet. With their “Big Mess World Tour”, one dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to the organization charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world. [Read more…]
“It’s been quite a while since we’ve played here…” Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES at the first of two back-to-back sold out shows at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Monday night. With the incredible Wolf Alice supporting, it was a stellar evening of music from two bands in the midst of a huge upswing in both talent and popularity. Late last year, both bands put out new albums, CHVRCHES with their Every Open Eye (their second) and Wolf Alice bowed their debut LP, My Love Is Cool. I had opportunity to see Wolf Alice at all three of their Bay Area shows last year and CHVRCHES with their “Not So Silent Night” appearance in December, so it has been fascinating to see them evolve and grow with both their studio recordings and their live shows. All in all, an evening that offered a look at the future of music… Wolf Alice with their alternative rock and roll and CHVRCHES with their synth pop. [Read more…]
“This is our first stop in America in a while…” Ragnar Þórhallsson, in preface to the final song of the night, “Yellow Light”. Ragnar performed beside Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, who he shares lead vocals with in their Icelandic indie folk/pop band Of Monsters And Men, playing before what appeared to be a sold out crowd at the Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno. This was a special show in advance of their Coachella appearance next week, and kicked off their larger world tour currently booked out through July. The word “electric” comes to mind to describe the show, but so much of their sound is of the “unplugged” variety. Yet they seem to create a whirlwind of energy that touched each fan in the crowd, bringing something otherworldly to the stage. They have such a unique yet consistent sound it’s almost as though they have created their own genre of music, in sound and themes. They definitely bring something unique and uniquely beautiful to the music world at large, and create an experience with both their studio recordings and live shows that is, for lack of a better word, magical and timeless. Definitely one of the best tours to check out this year if you get the opportunity. [Read more…]
“I’ve got to say, you’re the funkiest crowd we’ve ever had…” Music legend Nile Rodgers with Chic at Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night, playing not only through hits by Chic but number one hits Rodgers has produced over the past several decades with top, iocnic artists. Watching Nile Rodgers and the amazing Chic on stage really underscored how he is all about collaboration; he seems to have found his purpose in life early on in bringing the best out of other artists who were truly gifted in their own right… helping them make art that transcended what either could do on their own. Not just a beautiful way to create, but also an inspired way to go through life, bettering other people as well as yourself in the process. And then there is that music… all of it markedly up beat and happy and optimistic. But Nile Rodgers also appears to be a humble man on stage, and that reflects his life’s work as well, working in the background to help other artists and their songs and talent shine. So it was quite special to see Nile Rodgers and Chic do a full concert live on stage (they will also be performing with Duran Duran in their upcoming tour). What music, what talent, and what a way to bring it all to life in a way that makes the crowd feel that they are part of it. Though it is early into 2016, this will certainly be one of my own favorite and most memorable shows of the year.
“So what’s up Oakland? I’m the one who’s up? Oh baby, you just made my day. Thank you. I’m up, we’re all up tonight. Well, far be it from me to state the obvious, but it’s incredible being here tonight. It’s such a privilege to be able to play for you; to sing for you. Every day I wake up and I have the to opportunity to do this, this thing that we love, I kiss the ground. You’ve got a lot going on in your great city this weekend. Well, apart from me; but thank you very much. One of the reasons we’re up here… to have fun. Which is essentially the message I want to give to everyone tonight, whether you’re in the back, whether you’re in the middle, whether you’re right at the end, I want you to have fun and understand that I see you. I feel you.” The multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, Seal, taking a moment to express his feelings to a packed Fox Theater in Oakland on the eve of Super Bowl weekend. Having met the incredible vocalist years ago – that last bit about seeing and feeling the audience – that could not be more true. Seal has been prolific since his splash in music with “Crazy” back in 1991, with his own original work as well as fantastic covers of classic songs, particularly in the soul genre. With this one off show this past week, the focus was on his latest (ninth) studio album, 7, released by Warner Bros. last year, with a compelling set list framed by some of his biggest hits. One of the most earnest and talented live performers in music today, he did not disappoint with an engaging show that left me revisiting his catalog and dreaming about seeing him in concert again soon. [Read more…]
“…for those of you who haven’t been with us for twenty years, ‘welcome’. Thank you for listening, and thank you for connecting with us.” Shirley Manson of Garbage, talking about young people reaching out to the band, some of whom maybe weren’t even alive 20 years ago when they released their eponymous debut album. 20 years later, “connecting” has taken on a whole new meaning than it had in the mid-90s, as the Internet bounds us together in various forms and interfaces. This new tour is all about that landmark and somewhat counter culture album, Garbage, which came out in deluxe, remastered, reissue versions spanning three SKUs across multiple formats on October 1st. The “Super Deluxe Edition” features a whopping 62 tracks, including all of the B-Sides and remixes and demos galore. The “20 Years Queer Tour” is a celebration of that album, playing the whole thing front to back with B-sides sprinkled within, as well as a few songs from later albums and eras. The sold out show at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Wednesday night largely had a party-like atmosphere, as some fans spent the day waiting in line or participating in the Adventures in Wonderland add-on packages (which included swag, sound check viewing, meet and greets with the band, early entry into the venue, etc.). Having turned out for several of the band’s shows as they’ve made their comeback in recent years, they seem to kill it in concert more and more, and the trend continues with this tour, as they stand with confidence on stage, bathed in red-hued lights and performing over a sea of mostly black attire clad fans with the occasional pink feather boa as added flair. Even though they are looking backwards for this tour, they continue to move forward and it is an exciting time to be a fan of this band, who continue to reach up for their full potential. [Read more…]
“Oakland, I want to see you go fuckin’ crazy!” One of a set of similar sentiments shouted by Charli XCX throughout her high energy performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Thursday night, along with co-headliner Bleachers in their “Charli and Jack Do America” tour, though the latter had already whipped the crowd into a frenzy before she even had a chance to take the stage. At only 22 years only, Charli XCX has had a remarkably long and prolific career thus far, and in her ongoing evolution of her unique and varied brand of music, she has veered solidly into the pop diva lane of the genre highway. It was an interesting pairing of artists, with New Jersey-born Jack Antonoff from Bleachers building and building their own set with anthem-driven pop/rock songs that are catchy and captivating (even on first listen), contrasted against England’s Charli XCX pushing sexually-fused tunes with saccharine pop choruses. As a dual headlining show, each artist seemed to bring out a different crowd, though all skewed younger. Most certain is that each artist – though having respectively accomplished much already – will certainly continue to grow and evolve in the coming years. [Read more…]
“Remember baby, the lake may be cold, but the light at the end of the tunnel may be you…” The final words from the immortal Steven Tyler as he turned his back to the crowd and strutted topless down the ramp and into the bright lights glowing from the back of the stage, as “Bad To The Bone” played him out. Performing at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena in South Lake Tahoe as part of their Summer Concert Series two years running, the explosive live show by Aerosmith kept a sold out crowd on their feet for over two hours. In my own opinion, Aerosmith is not just the best live rock and roll band touring today, but maybe of all time. They do pretty much everything better than anyone else, and they have so many hits in their arsenal that it just builds and builds and builds all night. Steven Tyler was born to do what he does, and even at 67 years old, he does it like no one else (and last night appeared to be have more energy than any of the 7,000 people in attendance). As much as he is the ultimate front man and performer, he is absolutely beaming when “Joe Fucking Perry”, “on guitar for 40 fucking years” is beside him, bringing the familiar riffs to life in a way that seems to be equal parts passion and effortlessness. Their songs feel like they were made to be performed live, and maybe more than any other band today, they know how to put on a show that’s brilliant no matter where you are, from up close to far away in the bleachers. Even if you are not a dedicated Aerosmith fan, I would say above any other band today – if you are a fan of ANY contemporary music – you’ve got to turn out to their show at least once, just so you have a new benchmark from which to judge all other concerts. It really doesn’t get any better when you consider every critical element that goes into a live concert event. They’ve earned the title, “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”.
“Holy shit! San! Fran! Cisco! Oh my God. Well, I may be really fucking tired… I danced my ass off! I have sit down so I don’t have a heart attack! … just in case you missed what we were trying to say… San Francisco, you are fucking amazing!” MisterWives’ Mandy Lee, after coming back on stage for their encore, taking a seat behind the drum kit. That encore opened with a “fucking amazing” cover of “Uptown Funk”. This is the moment where they really showed off how each member of the group is an exceptional musician, as they went through an extended jam session that really showcased their music talents and ability to intuitively wander about a song and squeeze every last bit of sonic confection out of it. I first saw the New York pop band performing as part of the KNPB television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, and came away feeling that it was a band destined for a very bright future. That feeling was cemented Thursday night, as they have matured even more as a live act. Their debut album, Our Own House, has since been released, and fueled them through an hour and a half show. The theme of the night, for them, seemed to be an earnest love for The City by the Bay, with Mandy becoming choked up at the love being showered onto the band throughout the concert. They are definitely a young act with much larger stages waiting for them in the not too distant future, as long as they keep on doing what they are doing.
“I’d like to thank our two friends down here who have been down here all day; it was crazy for us to have any of you here in San Francisco all the way from London…” Ellie Rowsell’s gratitude expressed to the two Wolf Alice fans who came a long way to see the UK alternative four piece play in the U.S. I’d just seen their show at Popscene in San Francisco only three months ago, and I could not wait to catch another one of their dynamic live concerts. Having since had an opportunity to get schooled in their music released to date, I have found Wolf Alice to be one of the most exciting newer bands recording and performing today. With their debut album – My Love Is Cool – due next month, I am confident that their music will propel them to greater success and larger stages. They have a real set of gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and the contemporary yet timelessness of their music which features some touches and influences that span many disparate music genres and eras. They are the real deal.