“It’s lovely to be here celebrating beautiful memories”… Boy George in one of his asides during his headlining performance at the inaugural “iHeart80s Birthday Bash” live concert event at SAP Center in San Jose. The special show on Saturday night featured Boy George, Tiffany, The Romantics, A Flock Of Seagulls, Farrington & Mann of the Original When In Rome UK, Tommy Tutone, Animotion and Nu Shooz, with former original MTV VJ Martha Quinn hosting along with radio personalities Christie James and Morris Knight. It was really a stellar show with end to end 80s-era hits and hitmakers putting on non-stop entertainment for four hours.
As with my 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Year in Review features, this article looks back on a year of music with a summary of the highlights. This year, I attended about 35 shows, with hundreds of different sets of incredible talent and music to make sense of, not to mention trying to keep up with all of the studio releases from artists, new and old. This is my attempt to (subjectively) share my favorites of the year, from live shows to new songs and albums. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2016 in that separate article.
80s music icon Adam Ant is celebrating the 35th anniversary of his landmark album Kings of the Wild Frontier with a newly remastered box set release, as well as a North American tour kicking off next month in Washington DC. With this new tour, Adam Ant will play the album in its entirety and in sequence. [Read more…]
“Wow, it’s amazing to be back here at Humphrey’s, or as we like to call it, ‘free concert for boats!’ [pointing to the water] You were the guy who wrote the review! [mocking imitation] ‘Didn’t sound any good from my boat…’ Buy a fucking ticket!” Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears, bringing not just amazing music but laughs too, carrying on a funny faux dialogue in-between songs with an unseen concert reviewer from their last appearance at Humphrey’s Concerts By The Bay in beautiful San Diego. Alongside Curt Smith, the pair added to the casual atmosphere of the venue with their playful quips and anecdotes throughout the evening, making the entire affair feel somewhat like a private gig among friends. But then there is that music… song after song that added significant color and style to the soundtrack of our lives, for many of us in attendance who found the band in our formative years. Which isn’t to say that they are exclusively “an 80’s band”, but that is the decade that they helped to craft and shape not just in music, but pop culture at large. And many of those songs are as “alive” today as ever, with younger artists creating their own versions of some of the songs, as well as the music still giving life to new works in other mediums (like Donnie Darko). Tears for Fears is one of my favorite bands to see live, because they always deliver with a top notch group of fellow musicians on stage and recreate those familiar songs in new and substantive ways. They are still relevant, and they’ve still got “it”. [Read more…]
Alternative rock pioneers Jane’s Addiction are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Ritual de lo Habitual this year in a variety of ways, including a live set at The Masonic in San Francisco next week. Also in store for fans is their upcoming Sterling Spoon Vinyl Box Set due in October, which is up for pre-order now. The six LP set includes rarities, demos, and live tracks and is limited to 5,000 copies. [Read more…]
“So, basically Culture Club makes happy sad music. If you’re a Gemini, you don’t need that explained. If you’re a Libra, I can’t help you. Hands up for the Geminis! You’ve got to use two hands if you’re a Gemini, because there’s always two of you. What’s that saying? ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.’ That’s the Gemini mantra. So we do these happy sad songs. Dancy rhythms, melancholy sounds, mixed together…” Boy George explaining Culture Club in a way that only he could… an interesting insight into the band and the man who proudly stood out in front of it (as well standing for many other things) throughout the first half of the 1980s. All in preface to the song, “Move Away”, which was the lead single to their fourth album, From Luxury To Heartache, an album title which nicely dovetails into what he was explaining, as well as illustrative of that early trajectory of the band in it’s first life… It all ended far too early when they broke up in 1986 following the release of that album and that lead single, which would be their final entry into the U.S. Top 40 charts. The light that burns twice as bright last half the time and all that… But life is a funny thing. Fast forward thirty years (!), and there on that stage at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater in front of thousands of jubilant fans on Friday night was Boy George and the original members of Culture Club – Roy Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss – and I can’t imagine them being any more happy or in sync with one another musically and with their live performance. And, it would seem, the impossible journey each took to get them there made it all the more sublime. Joyfully playing those now classic songs of happy sad music. A potent chemical reaction of letting soul and reggae out to play with all manner of other music genres, bending and twisting and dancing with new wave, country, pop, funk, rock, R&B, and even church music, to create something altogether unique but unified in that wicked sort of Gemini manner… The genius of Boy George, and his bravery in always being uniquely himself and forging new paths for others to follow. Definitely one of the best tours of 2016, one of the most important New Wave bands (who helped push those loose boundaries within that broad musical movement), and a band fronted by one of the most interesting figures in pop culture in modern times. [Read more…]
Rock and roll legends Journey continue their massive series of shows in the U.S. as part of their “San Francisco Fest Tour”, ending appropriately enough in San Francisco in early September. Founded in San Francisco in 1973, Journey has sold over 80 million albums worldwide, recording countless top hits in their career. Neal Schon (founding member and lead guitarist), Ross Valory (original member and bassist), along with longtime members Jonathan Cain (keyboardist) and Arnel Pineda (lead singer) are joined on this tour with Steve Smith on drums – the first time he has toured with the band since 1998. Also performing on this tour are The Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason. [Read more…]
“Ever since I was four years old man, all I wanted to do is sing…” A grateful Darius Rucker in front of a massive crowd at the first show of Richter Entertainment Group’s summer concert series at Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphys, California. As preface to the song, “It Won’t Be Like This For Long”, Rucker talked about touring with two of his children and said: “If God came to me and said you could be one thing, you know what I’d be? I’d be a parent.” The Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter brought an authentic earnestness to the stage and his performance, which goes hand in hand with his style of music. Country hit makers Dan + Shay and Michael Ray filled out the entertainment for the evening with their supporting sets, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Ironstone Vineyards, with it’s seasonal amphitheater drawing a massive crowd yet somehow maintaining an intimate atmosphere. [Read more…]
“…I learned so much that year, about the difference between dreaming and pretending. Dreaming is so important for all of us and helps us live our aspirations… but pretending is really just fooling yourself, lying to yourself so you don’t see the truth. So here’s to truth, and here’s to growing up.” Jewel, the folk/pop/country signer-songwriter, producer, poet, novelist and actress… sharing one of many life lessons she has discovered in her remarkable journey, wherein the deeply personal has at times collided with her career and success. Creating an intimate atmosphere to a sold out crowd in Grass Valley, in the unique way only Jewel can, she had everyone captivated with not only her musical gifts but her insights based on a lifetime of experiences and challenges. It was a remarkable show, and she always seems to drive each performance as though it might be her last… Not only one of our most original songwriters, but one of our most talented and gifted vocalists, performing unique renditions of her songs, new and old, that at times left the crowd stunned. Jewel put on a showcase of storytelling in the personal and captivating way in which she has built her reputation over decades now. Those timeless songs and stories and poetry readings… Jewel lives her life authentically, one moment out loud and the next softly… but real in all it’s various forms and emotions. [Read more…]
“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…]