2013 is maybe the best year since the early 90s to be a Pixies fan. Interestingly, having been in attendance now at the first two of three consecutive shows this week at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles (and a fourth coming right after at the Mayan Theatre), the crowd overall skewed very young, which really underscores my long held belief that the Pixies were way, way, way ahead of their time, and also had bad timing (maybe in an alternate universe they could have had Nirvana-sized mainstream success). In any event, as I’ve often referenced in countless articles here on the Rock Subculture Journal, the Pixies are solid in my Top Three favorite artists of all time. Before going into recent and ancient history, the big question those reading this are probably wondering is, ‘how were these shows?‘ The short answer is, absolutely phenomenal. Everything one could hope for in a Pixies concert has been present in Night 1 and Night 2. With their new touring efforts and new music (music that is on par with their classic material), it is an awesome time to be into the Pixies, whether you were around back in the day or not. A time to celebrate, and the band and the fans all brought the party to El Rey Theatre this week.
“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.
“What do you think? You’re scared… you want to know more, you want to see the whole thing”… Capping off “Metallica Day” at Comic Con International: San Diego (i.e. San Diego Comic Con) with a “secret” concert at Spreckels Theatre, the metal band’s front man James Hetfield makes a mid-gig reference to the IMAX 3D film, Metallica Through The Never. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band gave away tickets to the intimate 1,463 capacity concert venue during their Comic Con Hall H appearance earlier in the day (and funny enough, Hall H accommodates a much larger crowd of around 7,000. I know from picking up my own ticket at the special will call earlier in the day that many Fan Club members were also in attendance, so it was a pretty great energy from the crowd. Though the show was not too long (they came on an hour late at about 11 PM and finished up well before 12:30 AM), it was a fairly relentless onslaught of the metal music fans came to hear.
“This is a song for you young lovers out there. I was in love once. When I picked my guts up afterwards, I wrote this tiny little song, I hope you enjoy it; it’s called Wonderful.” A twisted sort of sentiment about his most mainstream song, New Wave icon and post-punk pioneer Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse kicked on their 40-city North American tour in San Diego last night, at the classy Balboa Theatre. Adam Ant launched his first album in 18 years, Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, earlier this year. Somehow last night’s show felt even more spectacular than the one I caught in San Francisco last year. Adam Ant was like a rock star possessed; perhaps more confident and somehow… joyful? At one point deep into the set, he tossed his mic stand, which landed on his bass player’s effects pedals, completely shorting them all out. One of the stage crew came out and messed with it briefly, then unplugged it and plugged him directly into his amp… the relentless onslaught of music could not be stopped, or even paused due to technical difficulties… and the near sold out crowd was perhaps treated to a more raw version of what was planned. A lot of music acts continually reinvent themselves, over and over, sometimes to the point where they become a series of completely different artists. Adam Ant is different. He is today what he was more than 30 years ago, in terms of his identity, style, and sound. He has evolved, of course, but stayed true to what he was and has always been – one of those rare artists who maybe got it perfect the first time.
“Hey Gina, did you play your brother’s 78s?” The Go-Go’s bass player Jane Wiedlin giving their drummer a hard time as Gina tried to give a preface to their stellar cover of the Rolling Stone’s hit “Paint it Black” by talking about how when you were a kid you would borrow your older brother or sister’s “records or CDs or whatever“. Like co-headliner The B-52s, both bands brought a combination of rock and good fun on stage at Mountain Winery in Saratoga last night, and even shared the stage for one song, contributing to the intimate, party-like atmosphere. I’ve seen both bands in the past 12 months, but it was something special to be treated to their respective New Wave sound on the same night. It was also kind of neat to see members of each band watching each others’ sets from side stage (like Belinda Carlisle fully immersed in The B-52s show and Kate Pierson taking in The Go-Go’s performance). Maybe the combination gave special energy all around, as each put on the best show I’ve seen from either band, so it was a pretty amazing night celebrating some of the best songs from my personal favorite era of music.
“‘The second hand is unwinding…’ And I’m thinking… good lyric. So I used it. I always think it’s good to put a piece of what is really happening in the songs… there’s always a piece of what somebody says, in the songs, and that was one of the pieces.” A small part of one of many stories told by Cyndi Lauper about the making of the songs comprising her debut album, She’s So Unusual. With her “She’s So Unusual: 30th Anniversary Tour” underway, currently touring California, the Grammy and Tony Award winning artist entertained and delighted fans in the audience of Mountain Winery in Saratoga last night with her compelling mix of great music and insights into her life and experiences. Having had the opportunity and pleasure to catch her show two nights in a row, there were definitely some differences between the show I reviewed at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento and the one at Mountain Winery. For starters, the former was indoors in a theater while the latter was outdoors in an amphitheater, both designated historic landmarks in The Golden State. It was fun for me, personally, to compare and contrast. In any event, one thing is certain – no two shows are the same. While the general framework of the stories behind the music was the same, her recounting of them and stream of consciousness approach provided different insights, and the music felt different show to show as well, with a bit of a different energy (with Sacramento being perhaps more relaxed and Saratoga being more rocking). I’m very glad I was able to turn out for both, but having written quite a bit in the original review for Sacramento, this is more of a Part 2 addendum. Both shows are among my favorites attended this year and it is definitely a must see event for pop and rock music fans, especially those (who, like me) view the 80s (and first half of the 80s in particular) as an amazing time for music, with the birth of many great artists and songs, with Cyndi Lauper being central to all of it.
69… 69… 71… 65… Years old, respectively. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood. The Rolling Stones. Synonymous with rock and roll. They rocked Oracle Arena in Oakland, California last night for two and a half hours. There were more people than seats (more on that later) and (mostly, well initially) very expensive seats at that (and more on that later too), but it was a remarkable night to witness one of the most (and last standing) legendary rock bands of all time plow through 23 songs. Sure, some will point out some occasional sloppiness, but I always heard a bit of that in their studio recordings. It’s the Rolling Stones. They more than make up for some lack of precision and complexity with enthusiasm, and Mick Jagger has moves like, well, him. He possessed fans in the audience of all ages who mimicked his moves with pure glee. And really, any time Keith Richards did much of anything, the two 52-year old women sitting to my right could barely contain themselves. I quizzed them about this deep into the set, between songs, and one of them said, “the fact that he’s still alive and standing there is nothing short of a miracle”. Some miracles are self evident, and others are in the eye of the beholder. I think one’s take on the show last night is likely more about and reflective of each person as much as it is the show itself. Each person’s connection with the Stones and what they mean to him or her. Given the reactions from the crowd, I would guess a majority found it nothing short of miraculous, and certainly unforgettable.
“I ain’t gonna waste a lot of time talking. All I’m gonna tell you is this… For the next two and a half hours, I promise to take you on a roller coaster ride you will never forget…” A pledge from the Bon Jovi front man, Jon Bon Jovi, about 15 minutes into their supporting act-free “An Evening With…” concert for their “Because We Can Tour” at the massive HP Pavilion in San Jose last night, which appeared near filled to its 17,496 capacity. Admittedly, I am not a dedicated Bon Jovi follower – I am a big fan of a handful of hits – so I don’t feel as though I was the intended audience. Having said that, I tried to imagine how I would take it all in if I were a fan, and I still find the roller coaster metaphor challenging to wrap my head around, as I found the show to be, for lack of a better description… ill-suited, and frankly boring… for such a large venue. While Richie Sambora did not make it through the tour to appear at this last date on the U.S. leg of their journey in support of the new What About Now album, I can’t imagine his being part of last night’s show would have been enough to overcome the shortcomings (and fill-in Phil X was fine). Bon Jovi seems like a genuine, appreciative, kind guy, but at least from my perspective, maybe he arrived last night and forgot to load that six string on his back.
“I’m not gettin’ old. I’m gettin’ dead.” Sixto Díaz Rodríguez, at age 70, standing before an enthusiastic, sold out crowd at The Warfield in San Francisco last night. He took time away from his set of late 60s folk protest rock and some surprising covers to engage the audience, often with humor (and some of it lighthearted and self deprecating) and incredible charm. I don’t know about the rest of the crowd, but if I could have one wish granted at the show, it would probably be to go up and give him a hug. He seems to be quite a sweet character, and beaming with happiness, which was not quite what I expected having his work on rotation for the 2.5 hour drive into the city. With boots, leather pants, black shirt and coat, and his trademark hat and glasses, he stood before us like some kind of elder statesman rock star… long lost and forgotten, that he was there at all playing on stage was as much unlikely as it seemed to be a part of his destiny. Truly an incredible opportunity to experience his music live and in person, I can’t imagine anyone in the room went away anything less that ecstatic with the show.
The Mountain Winery has announced this year’s Summer Concert Series, in conjunction with AXS, all kicking off May 24th with Juanes and running through October 6th with Bonnie Raitt closing out the season. With a few pre-sales having happened this week, the general sale of tickets starts April 22nd on AXS.com.