“She looked out her window one day, and saw a dog chasing a butterfly…” An intro to the song, “Dog & Butterfly”, the title track of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s 1978 album, and one of those songs that they don’t play every show. Heart’s show at Thunder Valley on Friday night was my second in as many months, and as I mentioned in my review of that concert at Mountain Winery, they do change things up from show to show. It’s also a reminder of just how many decades that they’ve been recording and touring hit music – they’ve actually been active as Heart since the year I was born, 1973. With the other show so fresh in my mind, for me personally, it was all about comparing and contrasting the two shows. Crowds create context, and Mountain Winery vs Thunder Valley is kind of like the wine-drinking city crowd vs the beer-drinking crowd from relatively more rural areas. Different energy and momentum, I’d say the smaller stage and softer environment of the winery venue made for a more intimate show while the bigger, tall stage and spotlights at this show was more rocking. As with each time I’ve seen them, the show was amazing and each member of the band had moments to showcase their special gifts and talents. They are one of my favorite bands to see live, and growing up with their music, they have the ability to tilt that adrenaline in my spine with those special moments in those songs I carry with me, that take me back to touch points in my life and feelings of nostalgia as they transport me back in time.
“I think we’ve been here like eight or nine or ten times before… you can tell we’re sort of a variety band…” Nancy Wilson reminiscing about past appearances with her sister Ann and band Heart at Mountain Winery, before diving into a stunning cover of “Mona Lisas and Madhatters”. I’ve been lucky enough to see Heart several times in the past few years (even a year ago at the same venue and two years ago almost to the day at America’s Cup Pavilion) and one thing that I’ve learned with them is that every show is a completely different experience. Slight but substantive changes to setlists and songs, different tone and attitude… they have so much range and talent and emotion, you never quite know what to expect. Maybe that feminine perspective brings a wider gamut of approaches and possibilities? Or the duo and their band have so much by way of musical gifts, they challenge themselves by expressing their art in a variety of ways? In any event, this show was exceptional, with each of the sisters – as well as their stellar band – having moments to shine and showcase their talents. The standing ovation following “Alone” was one of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen in a long time. Somehow, Ann can really nail that song in so many different ways it’s amazing. As has been the case in the past few years, Heart remains the caretakers of keeping Led Zeppelin music alive and well (along with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, who have toured with them as well), closing out the night with covers of the classic, beloved music. Real icons and pioneers in music themselves, they are one of the best live shows touring today, with a catalog spanning decades and reflecting different eras in not only music but pop culture and our times.
“In the spirit of toasting, here’s a song by Paul McCartney…” Nancy Wilson of Heart giving an appropriate intro to their cover of the Wings song, “Let Me Roll It”, from 1974, with her sister Ann sharing the stage in the wonderful atmosphere at Mountain Winery in Saratoga last night. This was one of several cover songs performed, though the rest were Led Zeppelin songs for their encore. I’ve saw Heart twice last year, and they always deliver with stunning performances and are truly as great as they’ve ever been. In addition to their own vast and growing (with last year’s Fanatic) catalog, they’ve also in some way become the caretakers of keeping Led Zeppelin songs alive and well (in addition to Jason Bonham’s own Led Zeppelin Experience, which toured with them last year). Who else but Ann Wilson can give epic delivery of those vocals, and yet with her own trademark style? But of course fans turn out to hear Heart songs first and foremost, though they only played one song off the new album, “Mashallah” (which Ann said drives her into the stratosphere). Each time I see them, the familiar songs sound a bit different, as though they find new and innovative ways to translate them into a live experience. In any event, they put on a fantastic show in a gorgeous venue, so it was a wonderful celebration of them and their great music (as well as a tribute to some other greats in music).
“We don’t do this one often… this is awful fast; it’s awful hard…” Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News giving an intro and tribute to a song they rarely play live in concert, “Hip To Be Square”. He went on to explain to the crowd at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Saturday night that San Francisco 49ers players Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott contributed backing vocals to the song, so were performing it to support their team. Having come off of their “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” in 2013, they are still drawing large crowds with a mix of old and new material, which seems to change show to show. Whatever the setlist, they seem to have a lot of contagious fun, and their shows always have a family affair sort of vibe. As Huey introduced his band, he mentioned that he and drummer Bill Gibson even went to middle school together. I think the spirit of all that shines through in their music (recorded and live), and it’s pretty remarkable that those relationships can endure in the music industry, when I’ve seen it completely tear other bands apart (even blood family members). They always put on an amazing concert, and Mountain Winery always serves as an awesome host, overlooking the night lights of San Jose and Silicon Valley.
I usually open my reviews with a quote from the headlining artist at a show… and I generally don’t care for audience sing-a-longs (I come to hear the artist, not drunk people that don’t know the lyrics). But Saturday night was a different, special sort of show with the perfect fans in attendance. Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins hasn’t played live for over 25 years, and came out of retirement for the newly rebranded Retro Futura tour (which was previously operating as Regeneration Tour). I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved the Thompson Twins and their music growing up, and that I never imaged I would have an opportunity to see them perform live. So at Saturday night’s stop at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, following the awesome sets by Howard Jones, Midge Ure (of Ultravox) and Katrina Leskanich (Ex Katrina and the Waves), Tom Bailey and his fantastic new backing band absolutely blew away every expectation I had. It was as if, as a performer, he was in hibernation for the past quarter of a century and came out the same as he was in his prime to play this show. It was quite surreal. So getting back to that sing-a-long… the final song of the night was Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” (which a friend of mine captured on video from the audience) and everyone in attendance was so elated to see that man performing in front of them. As the song came to an end, the entire audience was on their feet, singing the chorus. Tom looked moved by the whole thing, stopped singing in mic, pulled out his ear monitors, motioned for his band to join him at the end of the stage, and it all came to a close acapella. A beautiful thing, and I think a way for us fans to let him know that we still love him, love his music, and want him to stay. A perfect ending, and maybe new beginning. “Hold me now, warm my heart… stay with me, let loving start, let loving start…”
The Mountain Winery has announced this year’s Summer Concert Series, in conjunction with AXS, all kicking off May 28th with Gary Allan and running through October 3rd with Larry The Cable Guy closing out the season. With a few pre-sales having happened this week, the general sale of tickets starts April 28th on AXS.com.
“I just want to say, I used to see this guy at really crappy clubs right down the street. And now that it’s come to this, I’m like blown away. There is no better person to spend Halloween with, than him…” A few words from Tim Burton, paying tribute to Danny Elfman, the man who has accompanied him on quite the filmmaking journey that began with 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. I don’t know if I can say that I’ve ever seen and heard such an impressive display of music than with last night’s special event at Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. With the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and the 45-member Page LA Choir, conducted by John Mauceri, it was amazing. I feel like Danny Elfman was a key figure within pop culture in my formative years, as Oingo Boingo was the band I saw more than any other in concert in the late 80s and very early 90s, and as a huge fan of Tim Burton’s films and those consistent themes and quirky characters, I feel like I was along for the ride as well. So when I heard about this event, I knew it was one that I could not allow myself to miss, and I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to be part of it. Words really can’t describe; if you were there and are now reading this, I am sure you can agree.
Music composer Danny Elfman will be playing a special engagement of his “Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton” at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live on Halloween night. The concert tour will debut in England starting at London’s Royal Albert Hall on October 7th, with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Conductor John Mauceri will lead the Los Angeles show with the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and the 45-member Page L.A. Choir. Elfman has provided the score for 15 Tim Burton movies, beginning with “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985. Tickets are currently on pre-sale through AXS, with public sale beginning September 13th. [Read more…]
“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.