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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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...]

X at The Casbah | San Diego, California | 01/16/2014 (Concert Review)

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“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.

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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)

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“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.

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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)

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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.

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Blondie with X “No Principals Tour” at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 9/19/2013 (Concert Review)

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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.

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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)

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“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.

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Huey Lewis and The News “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 7/27/2013 (Concert Review)

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30 years is a long time.  Think back 30 years ago… no cell phones… no Internet… no CDs… no reading glasses…  Those were the days.  And in case you guys haven’t figured it out yet, we’re going to play the Sports album.  From the beginning to the very end.  And that… was Side 1.  That was the ‘video’ side, if you will.  And now we’re going to take the record, and we’re going to turn it over…  because that’s what we did, kids.  We took the record, and we turned it over.  Right? ”  Part of a pretty entertaining monologue by Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News at Mountain Winery last night, half way through their #1, septuple platinum 1983 album, which had four Top 10 hits (“Heart and Soul”, “I Want a New Drug”, “The Heart of Rock & Roll”, and “If This Is It”).  Playing the classic album front to back – side to side – in honor of the “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour”, they did not end with that, as the concert continued on beyond with a new song as well as more non-Sports classics and covers.  It was really a phenomenal show, and Huey and the band were in top form playing in their Bay Area home at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, which Huey Lewis characterized as “the scene of so many of our youthful indiscretions“.  The sold out venue was filled with an awesome crowd of fans, and I think this was the first time I checked StubHub before a show at this venue and found that there was only a single ticket for sale, which I illustrates that it was the hottest ticket for the night in Northern California on the beautiful Saturday evening overlooking the lights of Silicon Valley.

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Photography Journal: Comic Con International in San Diego and Cosplay/Masquerade/Costume Photos and the Sights of San Diego Comic Con 2013

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One of the most fun things about Comic Con International in San Diego each year is checking out the costumes created and worn by many of the other attendees. Some dress up for cosplay and others hope to win the annual Masquerade Party, but in any event it seems to get more and more impressive each year. And then there are the funny costumes… as well as the “photobombs” that have been know to occur (some of which can be found in the following photos). [Read more...]

Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse at Balboa Theatre | San Diego, California | 7/17/2013 (Concert Review)

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“This is a song for you young lovers out there.  I was in love once.  When I picked my guts up afterwards, I wrote this tiny little song, I hope you enjoy it; it’s called Wonderful.”  A twisted sort of sentiment about his most mainstream song, New Wave icon and post-punk pioneer Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse kicked on their 40-city North American tour in San Diego last night, at the classy Balboa Theatre.  Adam Ant launched his first album in 18 years, Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, earlier this year.  Somehow last night’s show felt even more spectacular than the one I caught in San Francisco last year.  Adam Ant was like a rock star possessed; perhaps more confident and somehow… joyful?  At one point deep into the set, he tossed his mic stand, which landed on his bass player’s effects pedals, completely shorting them all out.  One of the stage crew came out and messed with it briefly, then unplugged it and plugged him directly into his amp…  the relentless onslaught of music could not be stopped, or even paused due to technical difficulties…  and the near sold out crowd was perhaps treated to a more raw version of what was planned.  A lot of music acts continually reinvent themselves, over and over, sometimes to the point where they become a series of completely different artists.  Adam Ant is different.  He is today what he was more than 30 years ago, in terms of his identity, style, and sound.  He has evolved, of course, but stayed true to what he was and has always been – one of those rare artists who maybe got it perfect the first time.

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Jewel “Greatest Hits Tour” at Ovations LIVE! Showroom, Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino | Chandler, Arizona | 6/8/2013 (Concert Review)

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“I’ve been losing my voice, so I’m probably going to be singing a lot of sweet, falsetto songs tonight.  I apologize for not being able to do more of my trademark growling and Janis Joplin screaming that I’m so famous for… but I’ll do what I can.”  A few songs into her set, how singer-songwriter Jewel framed her performance at Ovations LIVE! at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino last night in Chandler, Arizona, well into her “Greatest Hits Tour”.   Having had an opportunity to meet her backstage before the show, where conversation was limited to whispering, I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Amazingly, sitting in the audience, you would never have any idea that she was having any issues at all, as she put on an incredible showcase performance, reflective of her place in the music world as one of our most gifted vocalists in popular music today, with range, versatility, and emotion bursting out of every song.  Having penned over 500 songs, later in the show Jewel mentioned that no two shows are ever the same, yet in addition to the music she provided some personal insights into her life and journey in music, both of which seem forever intertwined.  It was really a fantastic evening, and her (mostly) solo, all acoustic show is definitely a must see in live music today.

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