“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.
Journey and Steve Miller Band at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 7/30/2014 (Concert Review)
“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.
“We’re Veruca Salt, and we’re gonna blow it out your ass…” Early on in their sold out show at The Fillmore in San Francisco last night, Louise Post made reference to their EP that followed their hit 1994 album, American Thighs, though it seemed to sum up what they came to do on stage, with Louise and co-singer and guitarist Nina Gordon shredding, singing, and shrieking through just south of a two hour set to a crowd of people who were more into this show that I generally see. I became aware of Veruca Salt when their song “Seether” became a smash hit. Unfortunately, I never had an opportunity to see them play live back in the day; in the late 90s, I was living in LA and going to grad school full time and working full time, which left almost no time for concerts. However, I have to imagine that they are better than ever in their current comeback, which includes not just touring but new music as well. As a matter of fact, I am fairly certain that their new single – “Museum of Broken Relationships – is perhaps my favorite Veruca Salt song to date. The two things that most struck me about their concert at The Fillmore last night was that 1) they put on a stunning show and 2) they seem to be having more fun than anyone. Hopefully this is just the beginning of bigger and better things, because it would be well-deserved and a long time coming.
“We’re female chauvinist pigs…” Jill Cunniff, one of the three members of Luscious Jackson, prefacing her invitation of a handful of men in the audience to join them on the stage to shake their booties during their song, “#1 Bum”. It was an informal kind of show for the band, who haven’t been in San Francisco for a very long time, having recently reunited for their first studio album since 1999. One of just three headlining shows for this tour (having played Los Angeles the night prior and with Boston still to come next Saturday, as well as two festival appearances), The Independent appeared sold out (or close to it) last night. They put on an electric show with material spanning their original 90s songs as well as the new album, all sounding fresh and original. They definitely still have “it”, and hopefully their efforts to reinvent themselves with their PledgeMusic campaign and new independent streak will lead to a resurgence of their special brand of rock/pop/hip hop.
Imagine Dragons “Into The Night Tour” at SAP Center| San Jose, California | 2/13/2014 (Concert Review)
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.
“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.
Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton, Conducted by John Mauceri, at Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live | Los Angeles, California | 10/31/2013 (Concert Review)
“I just want to say, I used to see this guy at really crappy clubs right down the street. And now that it’s come to this, I’m like blown away. There is no better person to spend Halloween with, than him…” A few words from Tim Burton, paying tribute to Danny Elfman, the man who has accompanied him on quite the filmmaking journey that began with 1985′s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. I don’t know if I can say that I’ve ever seen and heard such an impressive display of music than with last night’s special event at Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live. With the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and the 45-member Page LA Choir, conducted by John Mauceri, it was amazing. I feel like Danny Elfman was a key figure within pop culture in my formative years, as Oingo Boingo was the band I saw more than any other in concert in the late 80s and very early 90s, and as a huge fan of Tim Burton’s films and those consistent themes and quirky characters, I feel like I was along for the ride as well. So when I heard about this event, I knew it was one that I could not allow myself to miss, and I am thrilled to have had an opportunity to be part of it. Words really can’t describe; if you were there and are now reading this, I am sure you can agree.
Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Rob Base (V101′s Hip Hop Halloween House Party 2013) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 10/25/2013 (Concert Review)
Last night was all about old school hip hop legends, with Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Rob Base each taking the stage during V101′s Hip Hop Halloween House Party at Pano Hall inside Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln. Pioneers in what has since become a wildly popular genre of music, it was a celebration of the artists who built the foundation of hip hop, with respect paid to many of their peers who were not part of the concert, by way of mention and covers. It made for an interesting and unpredictable night of music, with legend Kurtis Blow doing his own music, like “The Breaks” (the first gold certified rap song back in 1980) as well as some unexpected works from others that followed many years later, like House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Hip Hop has obviously changed tremendously in the past three decades, but those in attendance last night, I think, appreciate that it was probably at its best in those early years, and it is gratifying to have seen these artists do their thing on stage last night in a relatively intimate atmosphere with a great crowd, some of whom also took to the stage throughout the show.
Blondie with X “No Principals Tour” at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 9/19/2013 (Concert Review)
Blondie’s spectacular show at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco Thursday night was a reminder of how seemingly effortlessly Debbie Harry and the band crossed into and innovated within so many different styles and genres of music in the late 70s and early 80s. Punk, post-punk, disco, pop, New Wave, even some rap, reggae, and infusions of some world music, they were quite the innovators, really serving as a pioneering force in music, and they continue to record new and relevant music today. The Debbie Harry-fronted East Coast post punk/pop/disco group Blondie share the bill on the “No Principals Tour” with Exene Cervenka and John Doe fronting on vocals for the West Coast, L.A. punk pioneers X, which features its original line-up. Both artists brought amazing energy to the stage, which created a frenzy within the crowd at the Masonic unlike anything I’d seen at the usually mellow venue, with fans of both bands flooding the area between the all-seated venue and the low stage. It was definitely a different sort of concert (in a great way) and celebration of music that really served as a pivotal transition from the 70s to the 80s, paving a pathway into what turned out to be fresh and new world.
GROUPLOVE “Seesaw Tour” (Night 1 “Heavy”) at The Independent & (Night 2 “Light”) at The Chapel | San Francisco, California | 9/14/2013 & 9/15/2013 (Concert Review)
“We do it for love, sweet love…” Fittingly, the final words sung on stage both Saturday and Sunday night in San Francisco by GROUPLOVE, from their hit song, “Colours”. Playing back-to-back shows as part of their special run of their “Seesaw Tour”, performing at two small venues in select cities, doing one traditional show and one acoustic-style show, each night featured a different kind of show, almost as if seen, heard, and felt through a kaleidoscope that shifted not just night to night, but within each show. GROUPLOVE is a band with probably the best energy of anyone playing today – such joy and positivity beaming not just from the speakers at the venues, but from the artists themselves – their expressions and jumping around, and interactions with the audience. The funny thing is that the audiences and shows kind of played counter to expectations, with the “heavy” night at The Independent skewing older and more mellow and the “light” night at The Chapel being much more youthful and boundless, which seemed to fuel the band into rocking their acoustic instruments on the tiny stage, which could barely contain them. Two incredible shows that delivered well beyond expectations.