Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at City Winery Napa | Napa, California | 8/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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“…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.

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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)

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“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.

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New Order & La Roux at The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 7/11/2014 (Concert Review)

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“…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.

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Jewel Releases New Song “Sing On” For #LUNGFORCE; Plays Set of Special California Concerts This Month

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Country, folk, and pop singer-songwriter Jewel is playing a handful of shows up and down California this month.  The signer, guitarist, producer, poet, and actress will start playing shows beginning next week at The Center for The Arts in Grass Valley, followed by Mountain Winery in Saratoga, and then two Southern California shows.  Jewel released a new song last month, “Sing On” for the American Lung Association’s LUNGFORCE initiative to help fight lung cancer. When you download “Sing On” on iTunes, all proceeds will go directly to #LUNGFORCE. [Read more...]

Huey Lewis and The News at Marin County Fair | San Rafael, California | 7/2/2014 (Concert Review)

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“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.

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New Order Returns to North America in July with “Summerfest” Appearance & Small Tour; La Roux Joins in California Concerts

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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...]

Morrissey To Tour United States Ahead of New Album Due In July, “World Peace Is None of Your Business”

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Following the news of his first record deal since 2009 (a two-album deal with Harvest Records and Capitol Music, to be produced by Joe Chiccarelli), Morrissey announced a significant tour of the United States, which is scheduled to kick off in San Jose on May 7th.  Some of the dates will have special guests, with Tom Jones being part of the show in Los Angeles.  His forthcoming album, World Peace Is None of Your Business, is due in July. [Read more...]

Imagine Dragons “Into The Night Tour” at SAP Center| San Jose, California | 2/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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When I last saw Imagine Dragons in concert, I was packed into a small club with about 500 other fans, pressed against the small stage, with frontman Dan Reynolds dripping sweat onto those of us in the first few rows.  Fast forward just one year later, and now the band is easily selling out the 17,000 capacity SAP Center in San Jose (which even the Rolling Stones had trouble filling last year), and striking less successful music bands with envy (more on that later).  With their performance Thursday night, it was fascinating seeing how they’ve built up a fan base, yet retained their modesty.  At one point, during an ad lib, Dan became a bit self conscious about what he was saying, stopped himself, and confessed, “it’s because of you – you make me nervous…”  Honesty and earnestness is rare in rock stars these days, but I have a feeling that it is something innate in this one, and will always stay with him.  While photographing the first few songs at the start of their set, watching from a couple feet away, I saw Dan pause at one point and briefly stare out across the massive audience before him, and get choked up a little in the same way he did a year ago talking about the charity they were supporting for that small gig in San Francisco.  These are definitely genuine guys, and it certainly comes through in their music and performance.  Definitely one of the must see tours of the year, as I suspect they will get even bigger once they release their sophomore album.

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The Pack A.D. at Brick & Mortar Music Hall | San Francisco, California | 2/5/2014 (Concert Review)

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“It started off really nice today, and then just went to rain, and that is a Vancouver day as well, so I feel like I’m at home…”, In-between songs, The Pack A.D.’s Maya Miller, drummer and chattier of the Canadian garage rock duo just before singer/guitarist Becky Black threw down the familiar opening guitar riff for “Big Shot” off of their stellar new album, Do Not Engage.  The pair played through quite an extensive setlist at Brick & Mortar Music Hall Wednesday night, but they play their songs probably twice as fast at the typical band, so the blazing set was over sooner than all in attendance might have hoped.  The dimly lit venue was truly electrified by their blazing music, and they are armed with fantastic songs that seem crafted to be played live.  I just discovered this band last month with the release of their fourth studio album, and absolutely love Do Not Engage.  Now, having seen them play live, they have made me a fan.  Amazing show, and I’d personally seek them out if they roll into a town near you…

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Frankie Rose at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 2/4/2014 (Concert Review)

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You know you are at interesting show when the singer asks, in-between songs, for the audience to shout out their favorite taquería on the count of three.  Frankie Rose, singer-songwriter of the band of the same name, has roots in San Francisco, and packed Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday night with her special retroesque mix of fuzzy guitar and synth dream pop.  Supporting her latest album, Herein Wild, the set included a mix of old and new, which illustrated the evolution of her sound.  All in all an excellent show…

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Ash at Popscene @ Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 1/30/2014 (Concert Review)

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“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.

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at Saint Rocke | Hermosa Beach, California | 1/24/2014 (Concert Review)

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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...]