Heart at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 9/16/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“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).

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“Big Block Party” with Morris Day & The Time (The Original 7ven), Sheila E., Guy, and Doug E. Fresh at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 9/13/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Sacramento… you may notice a bit of moisture forming on my forehead… falling down my face…  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, ‘Morris has lost it.’  You may even be thinking, ‘Morris is not cool anymore.’  But let me fix that shit for you, Sacramento.  Just like you take a cool bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator, and you set it on the counter… what does it begin to do?  See, it sounds like you all don’t know.  See, it begins to condensate, Sacramento.  Because that’s what you do when you’re cool from the inside out…   So please understand, Morris is not sweatin’.  I’m condensatin’.   And, hell yes, Morris Day is still cool!”  Words from the legendary Morris Day from Morris Day & The Time (now The Original 7ven), headlining the Big Block Party by WorldOne Presents at Thunder Valley Casino Resort Saturday night.  Having come on stage after the sun dropped out of view, which hit a high of 100 degrees, it left me wondering if the sweat rolling off everyone in the sold out concert venue was from the heat of the day, or the heat coming off the stage from the outrageous funk band, who followed the incredible line-up of Sheila E., Guy, and Doug E. Fresh.

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Huey Lewis and The News at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 9/6/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“We don’t do this one often… this is awful fast; it’s awful hard…”  Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News giving an intro and tribute to a song they rarely play live in concert, “Hip To Be Square”.  He went on to explain to the crowd at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Saturday night that San Francisco 49ers players Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott contributed backing vocals to the song, so were performing it to support their team.  Having come off of their “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” in 2013, they are still drawing large crowds with a mix of old and new material, which seems to change show to show.  Whatever the setlist, they seem to have a lot of contagious fun, and their shows always have a family affair sort of vibe.  As Huey introduced his band, he mentioned that he and drummer Bill Gibson even went to middle school together.  I think the spirit of all that shines through in their music (recorded and live), and it’s pretty remarkable that those relationships can endure in the music industry, when I’ve seen it completely tear other bands apart (even blood family members).  They always put on an amazing concert, and Mountain Winery always serves as an awesome host, overlooking the night lights of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

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80s Rewind Music Fest 2014 / Retro Futura Tour (Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones, The English Beat, Katrina) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 8/31/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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The show at Thunder Valley Casino Resort’s Outdoor Amphitheater Sunday night was continuing on in WorldOne Presents’ tradition of their annual “80s Rewind Festival Music Fest”, and arrived in Lincoln, California with it’s own unique line-up and variation on the newly christened Retro Futura Tour 2014 (formerly Regeneration Tour).  With this event, the same co-headliners – Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey and Howard Jones – shared the bill, as did Katrina Leskanich (formerly of Katrina and The Waves.  But in place of Midge Ure and China Crisis was the incredible English Beat featuring Dave Wakeling.  As usual, the show took on a character all it’s own, playing out to a large and enthusiastic crowd.  I think the Katrina/English Beat/Howard Jones/Tom Bailey line-up featured artists that all have one thing in common: authentic optimism driving their music.  Of course, the modern day ’10s are not the classic ’80s, and though the music played came from the past, it could also serve as a beacon of hope for the future.  And, as with the show at Mountain Winery the night before, there seemed to be quite a reception for Tom Bailey, who stopped touring and performing live as Thompson Twins way back in 1987.  It was another exceptional performance by all of the artists, and both shows are certainly on the short list for top concerts of the year for me personally.

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The Eagles (“History of The Eagles Tour”) at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 8/29/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Yeah, I was from Detroit, Michigan.  Where “mother” is half a word.”  Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, which formed in 1971, alongside co-founders Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, using a bit of humor as the band introduced themselves to the sold out crowd at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s in South Lake Tahoe last night.  Performing “History of The Eagles” alongside other great musicians with their own history with the legendary band, they played hit after hit in a set that passed the two hour mark.  One of the most popular rock and roll bands of all time (critically and commercially, with six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, five number-one singles and six number-one albums), their success spans over six decades.  The concert itself was fantastic for many reasons, but interestingly, it got better and better as it went on, and by the time the members were introducing one another and having some freedom on the mic, I felt that things really took off from that point forward.

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

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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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San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Photography Journal (Cosplay/Costumes/Sights of The Convention) (#SDCC)

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As I have been covering San Diego Comic-Con on my sister site, The Original Prop Blog, since 2007, I am sharing some of the photos of the people and sights in and around the exhibit hall and the Gaslamp Quarter for this year’s event.  This feature focuses on photos of people in costumes. [Read more...]

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Photography Journal (Sights Around The Convention Center and Gaslamp Quarter) (#SDCC)

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As I have been covering San Diego Comic-Con on my sister site, The Original Prop Blog, since 2007, I am sharing some of the photos of the people and sights in and around the exhibit hall and the Gaslamp Quarter for this year’s event.  This feature focuses on photos of the convention at large. [Read more...]

Journey and Steve Miller Band at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 7/30/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“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.

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

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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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Veruca Salt at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 6/26/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“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.

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Luscious Jackson at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 5/31/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“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.

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