“…I am extremely upset at losing Robin Williams – much more than I ever thought I would be when I first heard the news. It’s really hard to see someone with that kind of talent and love from all over the world destroy himself. And I’m not saying he’s wrong… I’m just saying it’s hard… So we pulled this song that you’ve probably heard before, because I think it is what I want to say to honor him tonight. This is for Robin.” A heartfelt and emotional intro by Terri Nunn of Berlin at City Winery Napa on Wednesday night, talking in a personal way about what has been on the minds of the masses around the world, as a preface to their special tribute cover of Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”. All in all, it was a very intimate set, and probably the best I’ve seen them over the years. They have toured a bit more in 2014, in part to support their latest album, Animal. With their current sets comprised of a mix of old and new, it’s become more and more seamless as the rest of the band have made each of the classic songs their own over the years. And they are still full of surprises, last night playing “Like Flames” for the first time since 1987. They are one of my personal favorite live acts today, and each time I see them it inspires me to turn out for future shows.
Journey and Steve Miller Band at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 7/30/2014 (Concert Review)
“We’d like to play something off a very old record, but a very good record… it’s called Infinity. This was not the beginning with Mr. Perry… this was one of the first songs I wrote with him… actually the second song. We wrote it sitting downstairs in Gregg Rolie’s house… and then the song came out of nowhere – it wasn’t about L.A., it was about San Francisco! I don’t think they have a bay there… Is there a bay in L.A.? There’s one in San Francisco!” Neal Schon of Journey reminiscing about creating some of the best rock and roll songs of all-time, as intro to “Lights”. Journey and Steve Miller Band are just closing out a 41-date tour with Tower of Power that kicked off in mid-May, though this special one off show at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s did not include the third band playing on the larger tour. The two classic rock bands provided plenty of music and energy on their own, playing to what appeared to be a sold out crowd. With many hits spanning decades, it was a great show with a lot of music history on display – both the songs and the people that made them. I’ve seen Journey a few times in the past couple of years, but I have to say that they’ve really cranked things up with this tour, and look and sound better than ever. It was my first time seeing Steve Miller Band, and while I’m not as familiar with them compared with Journey, I really loved that set as well. Both bands were in top form and put on amazing shows. One of the best tours of the Summer to be sure.
Replay America (The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 7/19/2014 (Concert Review)
“Are we not in the desert? Where are we?” A bit of comic relief part way through The Go-Go’s set by Gina Schock, who as per tradition emerges from her drum kit at some point in the show to give us a bit of fun. And that is kind of at the heart of The Go-Go’s punky/poppy/surfy/beachy New Wave music, so what better a group to headline 2014′s newest 80s-centric tour, Replay America. Also on the bill is Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis from The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes. A real assortment of 80s hitmakers each took to the stage at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night to take the crowd back about three decades to a real innovative time in music. Though there was a lot of music to be heard, things proceeded along quite quickly with the first three artists sharing a band (with some changes set to set), and a quick changeover for the aforementioned Go-Go’s, who closed out the night with a string of classic songs. Definitely a unique opportunity to catch many favorites in one sitting, and I know I thoroughly enjoyed each artist, only half of whom I’d seen live before (though I was already a fan of all four). Awesome show.
New Order & La Roux at The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 7/11/2014 (Concert Review)
“…since we’re in San Francisco, we thought we’d do something special.” Bernard Sumner, singer and guitarist for New Order, as preface to an unexpected, second encore closer and cover of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last night. One of just a half dozen dates on this North American tour, the concert showed a band that has worked to refine their live set, with updated visuals as well as a bit of tweaking and reworking of what has become their usual selection of songs. It was definitely the best I’ve heard them in the past four years, and they seemed most energized during their performance of new song, “Plastic”. The sold out crowd of around 7,000 never stopped moving and bouncing as they ripped through a sequence of favorites at the end with “True Faith”, “The Perfect Kiss”, and “Blue Monday”. As has been tradition, they closed out with an encore of a few Joy Division covers, but the Scott McKenzie cover at the very end showed that they can still surprise when they are inspired to do so.
“As I look out on all your faces, there’s a few people here I don’t know! Most of you I do know… most of you are on the guest list, I think!” Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News, peering out across the overflowing crowd within the tent at the Marin County Fair, it was more like a party than a concert, with friends and family making up a good portion of the audience. A hometown show (Huey is from Marin County and the band as a whole is identified with the area), it definitely had a certain magic in the air… a celebration of a band that has written and recorded a large catalog of fantastic music and stuck together now for about 36 years, the crowd was energized from beginning to end. They played songs going back from 1978 to today, and showed how, as a band, they eclipse the decade that they are best known for, and can showcase not only their own music but rock and roll songs written by others, using electric guitars and their famous horn section as well as coming together to the front of the stage for acapella. Definitely one of the most talented bands playing today, and, as always, one of the best tours going.
New Order Returns to North America in July with “Summerfest” Appearance & Small Tour; La Roux Joins in California Concerts
New Wave and electronic music pioneers New Order will be returning to the United States next month for a limited number of special performances, one festival appearance, and one show in British Columbia. La Roux – with new album Trouble in Paradise due July 7 – will be supporting at the two California shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles. New Order are also working on new music, and debuted one of those new songs, “Singlularity“, at their appearance at Lollapolooza Brazil back in March. [Read more...]
V101′s Summer Jam Concert with Keith Sweat, Tony! Toni! Toné! and Salt-n-Pepa at Thunder Valley | Lincoln, California | 6/14/2014 (Concert Review)
“Somebody’s gonna get pregnant tonight!” Headlining this year’s Summer Jam for WorldOne Presents and V101, R&B icon Keith Sweat made it clear that much of his music is meant to accompany more… romantic activities. It was fitting that by the time he took the stage at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater Saturday night, the sun was long gone and there was a bright moon serving as backdrop to the evening. The other artists brought more of a high energy show to the stage, with Salt-n-Pepa performing not only their own music but samples from all manner of genre of music, courtesy the founding DJ, Spinderella, while D’wayne and Amar of Tony! Toni! Toné! raced back and forth across the vast stage getting the audience going at the start of the show. The sold out crowd of 4,000 fans in Lincoln, California appeared to be thrilled by the performances of all three artists, with DJ Gino bridging each act with his ongoing DJ set.
“We’ve got a few more songs here for you here… if you fucking want them!” Tim Wheeler, vocalist and guitarist for Northern Ireland’s alternative band Ash, which was born in the early 90s, yet seems to bring the best of that vibe forward in their music today. An enthusiastic crowd of fans packed Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last night, and they certainly wanted those few more songs that finished out a pretty lengthy and extremely impressive and rocking set. For a loud, ripping show, the sound was absolutely phenomenal, and these music veterans of the alternative music scene certainly are masters at the live show. It really exceeded my expectations, and was just a fantastic concert showcasing their unique brand of rock and roll. As one of their first shows on the West Coast of the U.S. in 9 years, they certainly came back to make a statement.
Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn kicked off 2014 with their first live date of the year at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, California, just as they did last year (which is a show I caught and reviewed as well). The biggest difference between last year and this year is that their amazing new album, Animal, came out this past September. While they have been playing some of this new material in their shows in the past few years, somehow it felt much more seamlessly intertwined into the set, maybe because now I’m so familiar with the songs. Like last year, it was another stellar show with excellent supporting artists, and Saint Rocke is a great little venue. I think more than most bands, Berlin gets what their music is about, how it affects people, and the power a live show can have on celebrating life and living it with some passion. They definitely bring it all out on stage and they are one of those bands that can carry you along with them vicariously. [Read more...]
“We played the Whiskey last night for their fiftieth anniversary, and I don’t want to kiss your ass or anything, but this is way more fun…” X vocalist and bassist John Doe at The Casbah in San Diego last night, in the midst of a rocking set in the tiny club, well sold out at its 230 capacity. I had seen the band last September on the “No Principals Tour” with Blondie in San Francisco, but this was more like taking a step back in time. Depending on where you were standing, they frequently could not be seen at all, which made the illusion all the more convincing. An authentic throw back to the earlier 80s punk scene they pioneered, it was a fantastic night of music and definitely an interesting, somewhat quirky crowd, which was apparent to those on the stage as well.
This is the second and last of my 2013 “Year In Review” articles. As with my article last year for 2012 in photos, I reviewed my concert photos from 2013 and compiled some of my favorites and stopped when I hit 100 photos in total. Please also check out my companion 2013 Year in Review article: The Rock Subculture Journal 2013 Year In Review (Top 10 Live Music Concerts, Top 10 Albums, Top 100 Songs, and more…) [Read more...]