“That was a beautiful and circular moment…” Lindsey Buckingham talking about Christine McVie coming back to the world of Fleetwood Mac in 2014 – after a 15 break from the band – and then the two of them working on a new album together. That album, Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie, was released to much acclaim last month. Now touring together as a duo and playing a fairly even mix of old and new, the pair put on an amazing performance at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards on Friday night. Of all of the dozens of shows I’ve personally seen at the venue, this one might be my all-time favorite.
“Every little thing, is gonna be alright… We’re just gonna do this for fifteen minutes!” Jason Mraz & His Superband closing out the first of two sets, channeling a bit of Bob Marley. Which seemed quite appropriate, given his fun and optimistic “an evening with…” style show at Ironstone Amphitheatre on Sunday night, marking his only Northern California show on this tour. Early in the first set, he advised the audience, “you are permitted to sing… you are invited to sing… you are practically obliged to sing…” The audience accepted this challenge and most were up on their feet dancing and singing throughout the night. Mraz certainly has a distinct outlook on life that he carries with him and that is contagious with his fans (who span all ages, gender, and culture), and I’d have to say it was certainly the most joyful show I’d seen out of dozens at this beautiful venue, and that’s saying a lot.
Fans of The Moody Blues got to experience the band like never before on Sunday night at Ironstone Amphitheatre. Featuring “an evening with…” style concert presentation, The Moody Blues played two full sets in front of the massive crowd in attendance, the first with various hits from their career and the second presenting a track by track playing of every songs from their groundbreaking album, Days of Future Passed, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. They looked and sounded great, and there was a lot of magic in the air as they recreated this landmark album live on stage.
“Now this next song, I must have been about 25 when I wrote this song… I don’t even know why I play it anymore other than I know you guys want to hear it, right?” John Melloncamp on stage at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironston Vineyards Saturday night, talking about writing his hit song from the 80s, “Jack and Diane”. The venue was packed with fans turning out to see their blue collar hero from decades past, though it is a strange kind of incongruity with what inspires the fans still today seems to be more of a thorn in the side of the man who captured their imagination with these songs for which he does not seemingly share the same sentiment himself today. Regardless, he delivered an impressive set and supporting artists Carlene Carter and Emmylou Harris did the same.
“Let’s see some hands!” Tommy DeCarlo, vocalist from Boston, getting the massive crowd at Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphys reaching up to the sky during “Cool The Engines”. Essentially a double-header with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts performing earlier, it was a stellar night of classic rock spanning the last four or five decades. The two artists were a great choice to pair up, in that they had great crossover in fans but were also a showcase in contrasting styles and approaches to bringing their music to life on stage. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were stripped down to just the instruments they needed to recreate their raw punk rock style as the sun set into the horizon behind the crowd while Boston had a fantastic spaceship themed backdrop across massive monitors that seemed to fuel their hard and progressive rock sounds. Early on in Richter Entertainment’s Summer Concert Series, this show set a bar for high energy and pure rock and roll for all the artists to follow.
“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.
“It actually wasn’t supposed to be on the album, but I’m glad we did it, because it’s one of the greatest rock and roll songs of all time…” Daryl Hall giving an intro to their cover of the classic Righteous Brothers hit, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”. Along with his partner, John, Hall and Oates have so many hit songs that they don’t have time to get to in the span of a standard-length concert that it is the one rare cover song that they perform live, showing a respect and debt of gratitude to the record and artists that came before them. Playing to a nearly sold out crowd of many thousands at the gorgeous Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Winery in Murphy’s California, it was only fitting that they closed out their Summer Concert Series on such a high note. I tend to see them every year (and less than a year ago at Mountain Winery in Saratoga), and they remain one of my all-time favorite live acts. They are such a fantastic live band, their songs in concert tend to be even better and more vibrant than the familiar studio recordings. A full band of exceptionally talented musicians, they play so well together than little improvisational flourishes make it all fresh and immediate. As the most successful recording duo of all time, they at once exceed audience expectations yet leave everyone wanting more because they are just that brilliant on stage.
“We keep moving back now, further back to the 70s… you guys are fans of the 70s, right?” Daryl Hall and John Oates continued to delve deep into their catalog at their show at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Thursday night. With a seemingly endless reservoir of top hits, the number one duo of all time were in a special groove. I’ve always counted them as one of the top live acts of all time, and every time I see them play I feel that sentiment more strongly. As incredible as their studio cuts of each song are, they come to life in such a special way at their live shows. There is an element of improvisation and a kind of subconscious jamming among the band where they can riff and extend songs out in a way that makes everything fresh and new and unpredictable. And somehow better than ever. They usually hit Mountain Winery every year, but were missed in 2013, so it was great to have them return this year.
Daryl Hall & John Oates, currently in the midst of a Summer U.S. tour, will be coming to the west coast next month, playing Saratoga, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The Philly duo hit makers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year (already recognized by the Songwriters Hall of Fame); each also have new solo work out in 2014 (John Oates’ A Good Road To Follow and Daryl Hall’s Laughing Down Crying). They put on one of the best live shows today, so it is most definitely worth turning out to one of their concerts if you have the chance. [Read more…]
“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.