“It’s so wonderful to be back in San Francisco. It’s wonderful to be back in America, because actually the title of the record – How Big How Blue How Beautiful – was inspired by the American sky. It was actually, in a text message… I sent – I don’t want to break the mystery of it – but I sent to someone I really cared about a lot. And this song was written about that time. And about just how everything seemed endless, and beautiful, and that the world was a magical place. And then if you hear the rest of the record, you may be able to tell that things got a bit… muh… but still, I feel like you come back to this feeling, always.” Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, providing an introduction to the title song of the upcoming album due out in June. Playing two back-to-back shows at The Masonic in San Francisco, it was not only a set of concerts with new music, but seemingly a Florence with a bit of a different feeling. I was lucky enough to catch two of their shows in 2012 (at the Mondavi Center in Davis and at the Hollywood Bowl), and the Florence I saw performing this week encompassed what I came to expect (an intense and phenomenal performer), but with flourishes of more joy than I’ve seen previously. It made for even more captivating shows, as her and her incredible group of artists truly put on a masterful performance, with a mix of familiar and new. I obviously attend a lot of concerts every year, but Florence + The Machine is one of the very few that can give me that adrenaline rush and tingle down my spine throughout – a real feat. Being fortunate enough to attend both shows this week, while the set list was the same, the shows each had there own character, energy, and vibe. With the preview of the new album, and the quality of the songs, it would appear that the band hasn’t hit any ceilings yet in terms of their gifts, talents and abilities, and I expect them to continue to soar in that big blue sky that Ms. Welch is so fond of… in studio or on stage, they remain one of the top musical artists active today. [Read more…]
Florence + The Machine at The Masonic | San Francisco, California | 4/8/2015 & 4/9/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“I’m happy to live in the mystery…” One of a seemingly endless set of poetic and thoughtful comments made on stage at The Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Sunday night. Part of a solo performance by Colin Hay, best known as the front man, vocalist, and guitarist for the Australian, early 80s, Grammy-winning New Wave/Rock/Raggae band Men at Work. In 1983, the band had a number one album (Business as Usual) and a number one single (“Down Under”) and gained international fame with their music and quirky music videos. Here we are, 32 years later, and Mr. Hay has cultivated not only an interesting career but an interesting life with insights and experiences that continue to guide him. All this time later, there is no ego, no regret, and an incredible depth of self-awareness. He seems to have a vivid and real view of the world and how it works, and seems quite settled and comfortable with who he is and his role in life as not just a musician, but as a storyteller and philosopher, with much of the latter coming in the form of brilliant comedy. I’d been lucky enough to catch his Finding My Dance one man show in 2013, so I had an idea of what to expect, but his current tour supporting his latest album, Next Year People, was even better. He is one of the most entertaining and gifted artists touring today, and I can’t recommend enough turning out for one of his shows if you have the opportunity.
Colin Hay’s U.S. & Australian Solo Tour In Progress and with Barenaked Ladies & Violent Femmes in June & July
Colin Hay, best known for his role in Men At Work, will be undergoing an extensive U.S. tour over the coming months, as well as playing some dates in Australia in April and May. Come June, Colin Hay will be joining Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes as part of the “2015 Last Summer on Earth Tour”. [Read more…]
Information Society and Book of Love (“80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 1/31/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)
“Oh, somebody wants to hear, “What’s On Your Mind?”. Peer pressure him into letting it go… Dude. Or is he telling us to hurry the fuck up?” Kurt Harland, singer and front man for Information Society, displaying a mix of confidence and humor at their concert at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night. Live shows from the New Wave/synthpop band are very rare these days, and the guy shouting out the name of the song that made them very famous with the masses circa 1988 didn’t have the same appreciation for the full spectacle and show they put on as the rest of the crowd, who couldn’t seem to get enough of their unique style of music, whether it was old favorites from the 80s and 90s or new songs from the newly released (and excellent) _hello World, which came out late last year. This concert event promoted by WorldOne Presents was marketed as “80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”, and it was a special winter edition of their “80’s Rewind Fest” series. This concert boasted additional special guests Book of Love as well as local opener, Self.Same. Though the three founding members of Information Society have gone off to create lives and careers outside of their band, you wouldn’t know if from this concert. They brought a ton of excitement and style on stage. Given their amazing new studio album and their ability to put on a fantastic live show, hopefully it represents more InSoc coming in our future.
The Rock Subculture Journal 2014 Year In Review (Top 10 Live Music Concerts, Top 10 Albums, Top 100 Songs, and more…)
As with my 2012 and 2013 Year in Review features, it’s always a challenge to reflect back on a year of music and summarize the highlights. Honestly, I don’t know if I will have have a year that beats 2013, which was an incredible one for me with a lot of travel as well. This year, I ended up attending 60-something shows, most with two or more artists, so hundreds of different sets of incredible talent and music. As such, I feel it is important to highlight the best of the best of the best, in an attempt to celebrate the year that was. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2014 in that separate article.
This is the first of my 2014 “Year In Review” articles. As with my articles in 2013 and 2012, I reviewed a sampling of my concert photos from 2014 and compiled some of my favorites and stopped when I hit 100 photos in total. Please also check out my companion 2014 Year in Review article, which covers my Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Songs, Top 10 Concerts and more. [Read more…]
Daryl Hall and John Oates at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 10/16/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)
“We keep moving back now, further back to the 70s… you guys are fans of the 70s, right?” Daryl Hall and John Oates continued to delve deep into their catalog at their show at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Thursday night. With a seemingly endless reservoir of top hits, the number one duo of all time were in a special groove. I’ve always counted them as one of the top live acts of all time, and every time I see them play I feel that sentiment more strongly. As incredible as their studio cuts of each song are, they come to life in such a special way at their live shows. There is an element of improvisation and a kind of subconscious jamming among the band where they can riff and extend songs out in a way that makes everything fresh and new and unpredictable. And somehow better than ever. They usually hit Mountain Winery every year, but were missed in 2013, so it was great to have them return this year.
Crystal Castles Comes To An End As Alice Glass Announces Break-Up; Special Exclusive Concert Tour Photography Showcase from 2012 & 2013
Today, Alice Glass announced her departure from – and thus the break-up of – Crystal Castles with Ethan Kath. She made a short statement on social media, including her personal Facebook page (with her first post since July): “I am leaving Crystal Castles. My art and my self-expression in any form has always been an attempt towards sincerity, honesty, and empathy for others. For a multitude of reasons both professional and personal I no longer feel that this is possible within CC. Although this is the end of the band, I hope my fans will embrace me as a solo artist in the same way they have embraced Crystal Castles.” Crystal Castles, who I had a chance to cover and photograph at two shows (one in Seattle in 2012 and the other in Oakland in 2013), and they were as unique in live form as they were in studio recordings. I thought I’d bid farewell to the band with a pictorial showcase of photos I shot at those two concerts, some of which have never been published previously. [Read more…]
“Is that the new iPhone 6?” Roland Orzabal, early on in the show, as he and Curt Smith looked out over the sea of cell phones in the air, held by an exuberant sold out crowd at the historic Wiltern in Los Angeles last night. Tears for Fears, best known for their collection of timeless and classic New Wave hits from the 80s, do not tour very often, and when they do, the tours are usually not too many dates and cities. So there was a bit of an “event” feeling in the air, and based on some of their comments later in the show, they both seem to have quite an affinity for the City of Angels. As such, it seemed to be one of those special sort of shows, that unfold in a different sort of way. About halfway through the show, Curt even gave a shout out to Richard Blade, who was at the front of the GA crowd in the pit… if you didn’t know him by his own lifetime in music, you would think he was the band’s biggest fan (and maybe he is). Perhaps the development that represented the biggest point of fan service, prefaced by Roland with “nothing like changing it up for L.A.; obviously this is a special place for us…” was the surprise encore opener, a song that “we haven’t done for many, many years”. He said that this version will be included in their deluxe reissue of Songs From the Big Chair in November. He said it has been impossible for them to do live “until now”, and then proceeded to play “The Working Hour”. Definitely a special show by a fantastic band, and the place was certainly buzzing when it all came to a close after upwards of a two hour show.
“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).
Daryl Hall & John Oates, currently in the midst of a Summer U.S. tour, will be coming to the west coast next month, playing Saratoga, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. The Philly duo hit makers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year (already recognized by the Songwriters Hall of Fame); each also have new solo work out in 2014 (John Oates’ A Good Road To Follow and Daryl Hall’s Laughing Down Crying). They put on one of the best live shows today, so it is most definitely worth turning out to one of their concerts if you have the chance. [Read more…]