“…sort of the college kids version of owning a winery.” John Rzeznik of The Goo Goo Dolls at Ironstone Winery, talking about when he and Robby Takac met just out of high school many decades ago and starting selling weed to their friends. Headlining a concert tour with Collective Soul and Tribe Society, this stop played to thousands at Richter Entertainment Group’s summer concert series at Ironstore Amphitheatre in Murphys, California. While both The Goo Goo Dolls and Collective Soul are most associated with the ’90s (when both bands broke out with global success), each have endured and continued to produce new music and evolve with the times. The Goo Goo Dolls’ latest album, Boxes, is in my opinion one of the best albums of the year, and worth checking out, as is this awesome live tour. [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…]
As with my 2012, 2013, and 2014 Year in Review features, this feature looks back on a year of music with a summary of the highlights. This year, I attended about 50 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 2015 in that separate article.
This is the first of my 2015 “Year In Review” articles. As with my articles in 2012, 2013, and 2014, I reviewed a sampling of my concert photos from 2015 and compiled some of my favorites and stopped when I hit 100 photos in total. Please also check out my companion 2015 Year in Review article, which covers my Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Songs, Top 10 Concerts and more. [Read more…]
“I was going to save this one for later… just like me, I’m too excited, and I just can’t wait!” Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, teasing the crowd and then finally throwing down with popular hit “Save It For Later” not even halfway through their lengthy concert at City Winery Napa on Thursday night. After finishing that song, toaster King Schascha exclaimed: “We could not be saving anything for later… after that, we officially want to welcome each and every one of you to the Dave Wakeling workout program. Just that seven minutes right there is the best workout you’ve had all week. And you did it while drinking alcohol. More calories than ever. All you need to do for this membership is come to a Dave Wakeling Beat show.” King Schascha is one of several line-up changes in the band since I last saw them live back in January, and this is definitely my favorite modern-era incarnation of the band yet. They absolutely killed it on stage, and sounded better than ever with amazing energy and chemistry pouring into the sold out crowd (many of whom did get a great workout through the night). If how good a performance makes you feel while it’s happening was the only criteria for ranking a live show, I would have to say that this English Beat event was the concert of the year, and definitely the best I’d ever seen them, from the energy to the sound to the venue and atmosphere to the crowd, it all just came together beautifully. I’m actually now worried about seeing them again in the future, as it would be hard to measure up to this one show. Outstanding.
“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.
“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.
“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.