I usually open my reviews with a quote from the artist, but Phantogram didn’t do too much talking during their set, and when they did their words were mostly lost among adulation from the cheering crowd. Their live sets are still driven by songs from last year’s Three, which I voted at the #1 album of 2016. I’ve personally been dying to hear songs off this brilliant album live, as last year each time the duo and their band were playing local, I was traveling elsewhere. So with their appearance at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino’s Grand Theatre in Reno Friday night, I was not disappointed. This was actually my favorite concert thus far in 2017. Phantogram are so amazing right now the rest of the world needs time to catch on. [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…]
I usually start off my reviews with a quote, but Wolf Alice don’t spend too much time talking on stage, and their concert at The Chapel in San Francisco Thursday night was a bit too chaotic and kinetic for chit chat; they let the music speak for itself. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch all three of their San Francisco shows in 2015 (their debut at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in March and follow-up at The Independent in May), but their most recent show – fueled by the June release of their debut album My Love Is Cool – was their best yet. They are, in my opinion, the most exciting new band recording and performing today. They continue to develop their many gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and their live concerts serve as a showcase for how amazing they are at recreating their rich and complex, multi-layered sound on stage. But back to that album… for me personally, it is the Album of the Year. Truly, the best album of the past several years. Every song is a gem. They are THE band to watch.
“So we’re really at the very beginning of a tour that will probably go on for a year and a half… and we’re just starting to kind of realize the kind of appetite and love that is out in the world for Duran Duran… It hasn’t always been like this; you know we’ve been around for 35 years… We have a great job that we love doing…” Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran at The Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort and Casino in Reno, Nevada on Friday night… taking a moment to express some gratitude to the sold out crowd before performing one of their most popular songs (not from the 80s), “Ordinary World”. Supporting their 14th studio album, Paper Gods, which Warner Bros. Music released this month, the setlist for this tour is a good representation of the phenomenal music Duran Duran have released over the past four decades. But with less than two hours to perform, the show only scratches the surface of their brilliant catalog of music. With founding members Nick Rhodes on keyboards and John Taylor on bass, along with Roger Taylor on drums and Simon on vocals, the group have ties working with one another that goes back to the start, and they still make up the core of the band, with each contributing greatly to their signature sound. A lot of bands who have been around for a long time and have a strong association with a certain period or era become resentful of that, and some view their most popular songs with disdain – as if those hits are anchors holding them down rather than stepping stones that helped to propel them forward into world. Some other bands even refuse to perform their most popular hits live for their fans (see: Radiohead). Duran Duran are the opposite. Not only are they mindful of their own history and cognizant of what fans love to celebrate, but they appear happy to celebrate it right along with those of us in the audience. Duran Duran has always been about the past, the now, and the future, somehow all at the same time. I guess it goes back to that “great job” that they “love doing”, which is quite a modest take on creating some of the songs that are included in the soundtracks to the lives of people of my generation. As far as their concert tours go, they always bring some of that “new” with them with each tour, and this one is no different. From a healthy sampling of the new songs as well as new takes on older ones, they remind us all that they are accomplished artists with the ability to not only recreate that sublime studio sound, but also breathe vibrancy into it for how it all comes together on stage, in both sound and visuals. And somehow the guys appear timeless themselves, as they seem to defy the gods (paper or otherwise) and never appear to age year to year… the principals all look 10 to 20 years younger than they should, which contributes to the feeling of being part of an event that could be happening in the past, present, or future. At certain points during their live set, you could squint a little and travel back in time to the 00s, 90s, and 80s.
“Two words to introduce this next song! Two words! Two words to introduce this next song! Two words to introduce this next song!” Billy Idol getting the sold out crowd of nearly 3,000 screaming, fist pumping fans shouting “Rebel Yell” at the opening night of Grand Sierra Resort’s new Grand Theatre. I can’t imagine a better way to launch a high end new concert venue than having none other than Billy Idol kicking off a new tour of his own on the vast stage built on the $10 million dollar renovation of the live music space. Billy Idol has been building on his own career and accomplishments of late, with 2014’s awesome new album Kings & Queens of the Underground (the first in nine years) and bestselling Dancing With Myself autobiography. In the midst of a resurgent mainstream interest in all things Billy Idol, he seems to be as popular as ever. Alongside his incredible band, they’ve put together probably their best live show ever with this tour. It also clocked in as the longest show I’ve seen, at around two hours. I’ve always noted this band as one of my all-time favorite live shows, and I’d have to say that this was the best I’d ever seen them. I’ve always complimented Idol on his boundless and limitless energy and he seems to have reached a new high with this show and tour. He is at once an icon and an enigma, as he continues to evolve his style while retraining his trademark lip curl and tongue in cheek uncensored gestures, looks, and poses. And one can’t neglect to mention Mr. Steve Stevens on lead guitar, who could put the audience in a trance even if he stood alone on the stage – one of the best guitarists performing today, if not the very best. If you haven’t been to a Billy Idol concert lately, you haven’t seen him and his band at all, as they are better than they’ve ever been, and that is saying a lot.
“You’re one of the first cities that really, really supported us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” half of MS MR showering the crowd at the sold out Fillmore in San Francisco Monday night with some sincere gratitude. I’d seen the break out duo twice at The Independent last year, and as their success continues, they have stepped up from supporting at the Independent, to headlining multiple shows there, to now headlining multiple shows at the historic Fillmore, where they opened for Marina and The Diamonds a few years ago. As has been my experience seeing the band evolve, the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, seemed as thrilled as ever to step away from his keyboard a few times to dance and provide some backing vocals on Lizzy’s mic. I personally ranked their incredible debut studio album, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite release of 2013, so they certainly won me over as a fan. While they always sounded amazing live, they seem to grow in confidence with each new tour, while maintaining that humility and earnestness which is somewhat rare in the contemporary music scene. This was their best show year, and while it clocked in at just under an hour, to me that was just perfect, and I applaud that they keep the studio length of the songs rather than trying to stretch them out to fill out more time as some young bands succumb to when touring with just one album under their belt.
“Thank you so, so much for being here tonight. It means so, so much to us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” in MS MR thanking the crowd at the Independent in San Francisco last night for being “early adopters” of their music, while the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, preps the crowd for the last song of the night, “Hurricane”. Appropriately enough, the new band has taken the music industry by storm with their phenomenal first studio album, Secondhand Rapture, which I certainly rank as one of the Top 10 Albums of 2013. Their unique blend of at once dark and poppy electronic music has taken me back to those same feelings I had when I found Yazoo 30 years ago (with another male-female duo in Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet), though updated and reflective of our time today. This was the third of three sell out shows at The Independent in the past week, which is remarkable since it was only four months ago that I saw them take the same stage supporting CSS back in June. In much the same way Imagine Dragons graduated from The Independent (they played there as well earlier this year) to filling sports arenas, I suspect that MS MR will continue on with their upward trajectory, carried by their awesome music and brilliant live performances, which sound as sublime as the studio recordings. This is definitely a tour that fan who are lucky enough to check out will not forget.
It’s rare that audiences are treated to a real triple header concert, but that was my take on the female fronted trio of bands that owned the stage at The Independent in San Francisco last night. How I ended up there… I blame the Swiss (more on that later), but it was a real showcase of contemporary alternative bands that are making incredible music and bringing it on the road. All three have also released amazing new albums this year (more on that later as well) and this material seemed to please the sold out crowd of 800 at the intimate Bay Area club. They are all doing it again tonight at the Great American Music Hall, and I can’t recommend enough checking it out. If they aren’t coming to a city near you, I can’t recommend enough picking up their albums, each released this year. CSS’s Planta, MS MR’s Secondhand Rapture and IO Echo’s Ministry of Love are, for me personally, three of the best releases of the year, and there is a good chance all three will appear in my Top 10 Albums list for my 2013 End Of Year article.