“Are you ready?” Paul Stanley of KISS getting the audience prepped to sing along with “Say Yeah”, a song off of their 2009 album Sonic Boom. 24 studio albums (including their four solo albums), live albums and countless other impressions on pop culture at large going back to 1974, KISS have been a rock and roll phenomenon going strong for over four decades. I am not personally a KISS “fan”, so this is written from the review of someone who has been alive as long as they’ve been together, but never before attended a KISS concert. They are one of the biggest bands of all time and real icons in rock, so I finally took an opportunity to see what they’ve always been best know for – live concerts. And now having experienced it, I can say that their reputation for putting on an amazing show is well deserved. High energy, high production, and filled with many of the innovative elements that other artists have since copied over and over, it was really something to see and hear and feel. I really could not have been more impressed and I really have a lot of respect for the band and their crew that help put it all together. If you are a member of the KISS Army, you know all of this; if you are more like me and had never seen the band before, I give my highest recommendations to go and check it out. And I am glad I was able to take in my first KISS show at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino’s Grand Theatre as it is one of the best concert venues for this type of show. Everything was top notch.
“I guess we just wanna reinforce our message of hope and new beginnings; because anything can happen, hopefully…” Susan Ottaviano speaking on behalf of her and her bandmates and a full reunion of Book of Love as preface to “Happy Day”, one of the bright and shiny songs off of their self-titled 1986 debut album. Their music is in stark contrast to a lot of the self-perpetuating negativity permeating our culture today. The band seemed to have more of an attitude about shaping the future by painting a picture of what they wanted it to be, rather than engaging in conflict. Maybe they were onto something that might come around again someday? Optimism is powerful. And San Francisco turned out for a healthy dose of it Sunday night at a sold out show at the DNA Lounge… to be part of this special concert engagement in which all four members of Book of Love performed together, with not just the original hits but new music too, in celebration of their 30th anniversary last year. [Read more…]
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.
KFOG held their Concert for Kids concert at The Masonic in San Francisco on December 8th, boasting a stellar musical line-up of Band of Horses, Blind Pilot and The Revivalists. The popular venue was packed with fans coming out for a great concert and also in support of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland and the Marines Toys for Tots program. [Read more…]
“Tonight’s secret code is: Trump shifters of the world unite…” Morrissey, opening his appearance at Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno by giving preface to a slightly modified rendition of The Smiths’ classic “Shoplifters of The World Unite”. On the heels of the recent presidential election in the United States, it wasn’t too surprising for some kind of comment or commentary, in that when I saw him live in concert around this time last year, his band was wearing “Morrissey for President” t-shirts. Always one to bring a theme to each show, on Friday night the band wore shirts with “Don’t Eat My Peeps; Go Veg” emblazoned across the front over cartoon graphics of baby chickens. While the night was peppered with some political content, the concert included a variety of songs spanning Morrissey’s career, from 1985’s Meat Is Murder through to his latest solo album, 2014’s World Peace Is None of Your Business. As always, Morrissey and his band put on a stellar show, and he seemed to be in a great mood and as comfortable on stage as ever. [Read more…]
“I try to think about tomorrow, but I always think about the past… about the things that didn’t last… if I could go to the beginning, then for sure I would be another way… make it better for today…” Pixies (the “loud quiet loud” band) are a quiet band on stage in-between the generally quick songs, so we are left with the music, and the lyrics within, to try to figure out what is going on with them. It was less than one month ago that they released their sixth studio album – their second without founding bass player and vocalist Kim Deal – and their first with new full-time member Paz Lenchantin. The new album serves as fuel for this tour, with just four rare dates in Calif0rnia this month as prelude to many shows across Europe, England, Australia and New Zealand, keeping them busy until early next year. So it was interesting seeing them and hearing some of their new music performed at Ace of Spades in Sacramento on Wednesday night. The Pixies in Sacramento. A rare thing indeed. One of my all-time favorite bands playing in the city where I was born, and where I first saw the band way back in 1990, about a quarter of a century ago. A different time. So much has changed, but so much about the band remains the same. I’ve taken the new album, Head Carrier, for a spin and those lyrics above stuck with me. Interestingly, the vocals on that particular song are delivered by Paz, who is no Kim soundalike (on vocals or bass), though obviously the message in those lyrics is for Kim. So the Pixies in 2016 is older, mature, different… and the band is at once both old and new; looking backwards and forwards. The album sounds quite different from everything that came before (even 2014’s Indie Cindy). And I think that the sentiments expressed in that song, “All I Think About Now”, kind of sums up this new iteration of the Pixies. With this live show, the old and the new were mixed together to create a different sort of Pixies show, giving something fresh to both new and old fans alike. But there are still those songs that carry on and remain classic to those who were with it at the time, in the band’s short-lived first incarnation in the late 80s and early 90s. The concert was a tribute to that as well.
“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…]
“Oakland, San Francisco, how the hell you doing tonight? We played here almost six years ago opening up for somebody… Who here was there? Was anybody there at the show? I’m just sayin’, I do see a lot of people who have been with us all six years, and for all of you who have come to all these shows, all these years, thank you so much!” Andrew Wessen, guitarist of Grouplove, a band who always has their gratitude and appreciation on display. They played a scorcher at a packed Fox Theater on Friday night, supporting their third studio album, Big Mess. Just one date into their new U.S. tour running through the end of the year (followed by dates in Australia), they sounded and performed better than ever. One of my favorite live acts, they put on a high energy show that had the crowd bouncing throughout, embracing the excellent new songs as much as the favorites. Definitely a must see tour. The latest album, produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove’s Ryan Rabin) and Phil Ek is characterized by their signature sound and style, and may be their best yet. With their “Big Mess World Tour”, one dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to the organization charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world. [Read more…]
“We been coming around here with you guys… well, hell, we’ve been coming around with you all for over four decades. Same three guys right here… Same three chords right here…” Billy Gibbons, guitarist and vocalist of ZZ Top, sharing the stage with co-vocalist and bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. What can you say about a band that’s had the same line-up forever (since 1969!). Really unheard of in the music industry. In any event, having covered the Summer Concert Series by Richter Entertainment Group at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards over the past several months, ZZ Top turned out a huge crowd that had a unique character all its own. With Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band heating things up at the start of the evening, ZZ Top closed it out with both bands showcasing incredible work on guitar being the star of the show.
“It’s a very special evening for us, because this is the culmination of a lot of hard work… we’re about to take a month’s vacation, so tonight’s party night!” Shirley Manson of Garbage, playing before thousands at The Masonic in San Francisco, the band’s last U.S. show on their current tour (sort of, with a special one off show in Los Angeles next month). With this tour, they are supporting 2016’s new studio album, Strange Little Birds. As a follow-up tour to last year’s “20 Years Queer Tour”, we now see the band looking to the future more than reflecting on the past, though there is still some of that too, with stories about the birth of their music in the 90s and of course they are still playing those fan favorite songs and hits.