The greatest artists are always brilliant storytellers, in one way or another, and there is no doubting that Cyndi Lauper is a great communicator. I’ve been to many of her shows over the years, and Cyndi Lauper is all about connecting with people; connecting with her fans. She kicked off her show at the Crest Theatre in Sacramento last night by jumping off the stage and making her way up to the middle of the crowd, doing much of her singing surrounded by those who adore her and love not just her music, but what she’s down with her life, how she lives it, and what she gives back to the global community. Throughout her set, her stories in-between were unfiltered (apart from a few word choices out of respect for a nine year old up front), meandering, and fascinating… and going by the set list taped on the floor, passed into some of the time planned for singing. But when she sings, it’s truly a marvel, with her gift of voice and performance, and as she paced up and down the crowd up front (which instantly went from an all seated show to a standing GA free for all), she made personal connections with each of us – a look, a touch with her hand – because she is one of those earnest people… that rare breed who “made it” but it is not about themselves, but giving back… through songs, stories, laughter, experiences… and of course her brilliant music. Touring for the 30th anniversary of her debut album, She’s So Unusual, she is playing all those classic songs from that seminal 80s work, along with a bonus or two. I obviously go to a lot of concerts, but Cyndi Lauper was a true icon for me growing up in the 80s, and this was definitely the best experience I’ve had at one of her shows. Definitely a must see tour this year, and I’ll personally be doing it all again tonight at Mountain Winery in Saratoga.
CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy), MS MR, and IO Echo at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 6/16/2013 (Concert Review)
It’s rare that audiences are treated to a real triple header concert, but that was my take on the female fronted trio of bands that owned the stage at The Independent in San Francisco last night. How I ended up there… I blame the Swiss (more on that later), but it was a real showcase of contemporary alternative bands that are making incredible music and bringing it on the road. All three have also released amazing new albums this year (more on that later as well) and this material seemed to please the sold out crowd of 800 at the intimate Bay Area club. They are all doing it again tonight at the Great American Music Hall, and I can’t recommend enough checking it out. If they aren’t coming to a city near you, I can’t recommend enough picking up their albums, each released this year. CSS’s Planta, MS MR’s Secondhand Rapture and IO Echo’s Ministry of Love are, for me personally, three of the best releases of the year, and there is a good chance all three will appear in my Top 10 Albums list for my 2013 End Of Year article.
“We got in kind of late today, and everybody jumped off the bus, except me… I had to change my clothes… and I looked out the window, and there was a man in his underpants… directly across from the bus… and was just sort of walking around like, ‘it’s cold’. And I felt like I was finally at home. Which brings us to this next song, ladies and gentlemen, which is called ‘We Live In A Dump’.” Preface to one of their uniquely They Might Be Giants songs, by one of the two founding members, John Flansburg, painting an accurate picture of the immediate area surrounding The Warfield in San Francisco in a uniquely perceptive and humorous TMBG way. The Grammy Award-winning duo and backing band have long been pioneers in alternative and experimental music, breaking into the mainstream with their third studio album, Flood (1990), which included hits “Birdhouse in Your Soul” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” and well known for their “Boss of Me” theme song to the television series, Malcolm in the Middle. Last night’s show included a great mix of old and new material, including songs from their 16th studio album, Nanobots, released just a few months ago. The packed theater seemed to be filled with hardcore fans, which wasn’t surprising given that their work is so unique and they have been so prolific over more than a quarter century that they’ve cultivated quite a following.
The Cure Announce Special Concert in Hawaii Neil Blaisdell Center Arena in Honolulu on Hawaii for July 30th
Live Nation and BAMP Project today announced a special concert in Hawaii by Goth and Modern Rock icons The Cure. The Robert Smith fronted band will play the Neil Blaisdell Center Arena in Honolulu on Oahu on July 30th. Tickets will be on sale Friday, June 14th at 10 am at www.bampproject.com. Special front row seats will be offered with a portion of those proceeds for the ticket price to benefit the Hawaii Arts Alliance, which also include a meet and greet with Robert Smith. [Read more...]
Jewel “Greatest Hits Tour” at Ovations LIVE! Showroom, Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino | Chandler, Arizona | 6/8/2013 (Concert Review)
“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.
Muse at Royal Horse Guard’s Parade (World War Z Premiere) | London, England | 06/02/2013 (Concert Review)
15,000 hardcore Muse fans showed up at the Royal Horse Guard’s Parade in London, England last night for a special one-off concert promoting the premiere of Paramount’s new film, World War Z. As fans waited for the expected partial show (rumor was about half an hour of actual performance), we were shown the same movie trailer over and over and told that Brad Pitt would be appearing on stage before us. Well, he never did appear (apart from some silent footage on the jumbo monitors from the red carpet), but I don’t think the Muse fans could care less, as the usual opener to their shows was modified with some footage from the film, and after those few moments, it was pure Muse (not “Muze”, as the marketing department for the film would like us to believe). Being from the U.S., the awesome setting amidst historic London buildings and the awesome crowd certainly was not lost on me. The energy was as palpable as the heat wave surging into the audience from the pyrotechnics above the stage. But the real power came from the band, who have grown into being one of the best acts touring today, with real anthemic music that stirs the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy. They ended up playing maybe just under an hour, but I’m certain that they satisfied all who turned out for the special free show, most of whom turned out for the two shows at Emirates Stadium and seemingly universally declared them the best Muse concerts ever.
“The Zombies started over 52 years ago…” One of many breaks in-between songs wherein Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent – two founding members of the band – would provide some background and history on the “musical journey” myself and others in the packed indigO2 took part in throughout the concert. I love to have opportunities to witness true rock and roll pioneers and icons do their thing on stage, but given how long ago the band started, I always adjust down my expectations and anticipate nostalgia filling in where perhaps the performance might fall short. This perspective of mine ended up making me that much more thrilled once they started doing their thing, because the five men on stage were true musicians at the top of their game. They played flawlessly together, the sound was superb, Colin’s vocals were nothing short of staggering and sublime, and their music – new and old (and covered) sounded as contemporary as anything “new” I hear these days. I was truly floored by how The Zombies hit on all cylinders with their show in London last night, and cannot recommend enough turning out for their upcoming tour in the United States. Brilliant musicians and they put a variety of songs through their paces in a unique way that makes me wonder even more how this band never became so much bigger in popularity.
Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (European Leg) at The O2 Arena London | London, England | 5/29/2013 (Concert Review)
Last night’s Depeche Mode concert was the last for me, representing the fifth show in the past two weeks. The second of two concerts back-to-back at the O2 Arena in London, as with the night before, I elected to take a spot in the front row center at the end of the catwalk extending into the vast general admission standing floor. Waiting for the band to come out, it was a bit of déjà vu, but it turned out to be anything but… with the prior four shows, the set list was exactly the same at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena, Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion., and the prior night’s show at London, England’s O2 Arena. The signal that last night’s gig had something different in store was the familiar sound of distorted guitar feedback that marked the opening of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room”, which opened into the awesome Zepyhr Mix version of the song. A friend of mine from California also turned out for the two O2 shows, and we turned to each other at the same time with a “holy shit!” expression on our faces. We knew at that point we were going to be treated to an amazing – and unpredictable – show put on by my favorite band on Earth, and they did not disappoint. An epic conclusion to an amazing personal (and literal) journey with the band and their music over the past two weeks, spanning a number of countries all over Europe and coming to a close in their home of England.
Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (European Leg) at The O2 Arena London | London, England | 5/28/2013 (Concert Review)
“Welcome To My World” – the song Depeche Mode has been using to kick off each gig for the European leg of their Delta Machine World Tour – took on a whole different meaning for me tonight as I had an opportunity to see Depeche Mode play in their native home country of England. Playing two shows back-to-back at The O2 Arena in London, this marks my fourth consecutive Depeche Mode show in the past two weeks (having seen them previously at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena and Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion. Surprisingly, though the set list has not changed show to show, the concerts themselves have all been pretty different from one another, and completely different experiences on a personal level to be sure. One thing I didn’t expect with the London shows was that what seemed like a majority of the concert goers (close to stage on the floor at least) were not from England, but other countries, so it was quite a multicultural affair. I’ve also made a concerted effort to change my own point of view – literally – with each show, and with this first O2 gig planted myself at the foot of the catwalk that extends out into the audience (and is much shorter in the indoor arenas compared with the outdoor stadiums), and it was really a fantastic experience. Seeing the expression on Dave Gahan’s face as he came out to the end for “Never Let Me Down Again” – close up and in real life – made this relentless two week country-hopping adventure worth it just for that amazing moment (which I managed to catch on video as well). As I’ve mentioned over and over in the reviews leading up to this, Depeche Mode has long been my favorite band, and these concerts have been nothing short of epic.
Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (European Leg) at Štadión Pasienky | Bratislava, Slovakia | 5/25/2013 (Concert Review)
Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky played host to the third consecutive Depeche Mode concert that I am reviewing as part of the European Leg of their worldwide Delta Machine Tour (having covered Budapest, Hungary four days ago, and Zagreb, Croatia two days ago, with the two London shows at the O2 still to come). Funny enough, each show has been a completely different experience for me, and while all awesome in their own ways, as far as the pure show itself goes, I would have to say the one in Bratislava last night was the best. The crowd was awesome, there was a certain energy in the air, and everything seemed to be flawless with the show itself. I’ve been telling people that the best spot in the “front of stage” area is in the front to the left of the ramp (looking at the stage); I went against my own advice going for the front row on the opposite side of the ramp, and it ended up being awesome. Halfway down the ramp, you have an unobstructed view of Dave and Martin, and Dave seemed to go down the ramp many more times last night, which was awesome, as he shifted tremendous energy into the massive crowd, who just ate it up.
Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (European Leg) at Zagreb Arena | Zagreb, Croatia | 5/23/2013 (Concert Review)
So this is the second of five consecutive Depeche Mode concerts that I will be covering as part of the European Leg of their worldwide Delta Machine Tour (having covered Budapest two days ago, with Bratislava and two London shows still to come). With the last review I gave some background on my own views on Depeche Mode, and a general overview of this tour. Last night was a totally different experience from the first, so I will compare and contrast and share some thoughts for those who might be looking for some insights to prepare for upcoming shows. As was the case with Budapest, their appearance in Zagreb was nothing short of amazing, and while I was up front for the first show on my itinerary, for this one (after shooting the first three songs directly below the stage) I headed to the back of the huge indoor arena to get the “distant” experience, the highlight of which was taking in Anton Corbijn’s amazing (as expected) video collateral that filled the displays during some of the songs.