Howard Jones at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub | Sacramento, California | 5/13/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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You gotta keep believing in what you wanna do; don’t give up…”  Howard Jones on stage at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub in Sacramento on Wednesday night, playing to a sold out crowd in an intimate space holding about 450 fans.  He was reflecting back on when he was working in a factory as a very young man, and writing “New Song”.  His debut single – released in 1983 – is all about optimism… and that is in my estimation what the man is still about today, some three decades later.  Throughout his performance, he was beaming with joy and fun between each song, chatting with fans and tossing out anecdotes and familiar lyrics that can still be instructive today (“try and enjoy the here and now… the future will take care of itself somehow!”).  But it’s not just the classic tunes that had people moving.  Having released his 11th studio album this year – Engage – he is as creative and relevant as ever, with fresh new songs.  My own feeling is that in all this time since the 80s have come and gone, he best represents not just the style of music but the feelings of that era, and it is awesome that he continues to spread his work and message in live shows like this one.  Things can only get better, indeed.

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Florence + The Machine at The Masonic | San Francisco, California | 4/8/2015 & 4/9/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“It’s so wonderful to be back in San Francisco.  It’s wonderful to be back in America, because actually the title of the record – How Big How Blue How Beautiful – was inspired by the American sky.  It was actually, in a text message…  I sent – I don’t want to break the mystery of it – but I sent to someone I really cared about a lot.  And this song was written about that time.   And about just how everything seemed endless, and beautiful, and that the world was a magical place.  And then if you hear the rest of the record, you may be able to tell that things got a bit… muh… but still, I feel like you come back to this feeling, always.”  Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine, providing an introduction to the title song of the upcoming album due out in June.  Playing two back-to-back shows at The Masonic in San Francisco, it was not only a set of concerts with new music, but seemingly a Florence with a bit of a different feeling.  I was lucky enough to catch two of their shows in 2012 (at the Mondavi Center in Davis and at the Hollywood Bowl), and the Florence I saw performing this week encompassed what I came to expect (an intense and phenomenal performer), but with flourishes of more joy than I’ve seen previously.  It made for even more captivating shows, as her and her incredible group of artists truly put on a masterful performance, with a mix of familiar and new.  I obviously attend a lot of concerts every year, but Florence + The Machine is one of the very few that can give me that adrenaline rush and tingle down my spine throughout – a real feat.  Being fortunate enough to attend both shows this week, while the set list was the same, the shows each had there own character, energy, and vibe.  With the preview of the new album, and the quality of the songs, it would appear that the band hasn’t hit any ceilings yet in terms of their gifts, talents and abilities, and I expect them to continue to soar in that big blue sky that Ms. Welch is so fond of…  in studio or on stage, they remain one of the top musical artists active today. [Read more…]

Colin Hay at Crest Theatre | Sacramento, California | 3/22/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I’m happy to live in the mystery…”  One of a seemingly endless set of poetic and thoughtful comments made on stage at The Crest Theatre in Sacramento on Sunday night.  Part of a solo performance by Colin Hay, best known as the front man, vocalist, and guitarist for the Australian, early 80s, Grammy-winning New Wave/Rock/Raggae band Men at Work.  In 1983, the band had a number one album (Business as Usual) and a number one single (“Down Under”) and gained international fame with their music and quirky music videos.  Here we are, 32 years later, and Mr. Hay has cultivated not only an interesting career but an interesting life with insights and experiences that continue to guide him.  All this time later, there is no ego, no regret, and an incredible depth of self-awareness.  He seems to have a vivid and real view of the world and how it works, and seems quite settled and comfortable with who he is and his role in life as not just a musician, but as a storyteller and philosopher, with much of the latter coming in the form of brilliant comedy.  I’d been lucky enough to catch his Finding My Dance one man show in 2013, so I had an idea of what to expect, but his current tour supporting his latest album, Next Year People, was even better.  He is one of the most entertaining and gifted artists touring today, and I can’t recommend enough turning out for one of his shows if you have the opportunity.

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Kristin Hersh (of Throwing Muses) at City Winery Napa | Napa, California | 3/16/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I’m going to play really small tonight…”  Kristin Hersh at the start of her special show at City Winery Napa.  I would have to say that it was maybe the most quotable concert I’ve ever attended, filled with an endless number of interesting comments and observations throughout her set, which was a mix of poetry readings and music from her various projects recorded under her own name, Throwing Muses, and 50 Foot Wave.  The setting within the beautiful, candle lit venue seemed perfect (Kristin’s first words coming out to the stage and mic was, “it’s so romantic here…”).  Her comment about playing small was inspired by her own characterization of her setlist (“the tiniest setlist ever!“), which was about half the size of a Post-It Note, double-sided.  But Kristin always seems to do things different; her own way… and sees the world I think a lot differently from the rest of us, which makes her works all the more compelling (in words, sound, and delivery).  Quite the artist, it is interesting how she does not limit her expression to her incredible music, but also gives us glimpses into her world via words printed on paper (“I’m going to read books at you tonight…“).  She has a sort of funny, quirky, open, and honest presentation which is somewhat disarming, in that she will then tear into a raw and emotional (powerful) song that is a shock to the system.  A singular artist, I get the sense every show she does – even the “small” ones like last night – are quite unique journeys unto themselves.  Certainly one of the more gifted and unique artists of her generation (and a real pioneer in terms of creating new pathways for women in music), she is definitely worth turning out to see live if you get the opportunity, and I would say the solo show is even more interesting than the traditional Throwing Muses concert (like the one I reviewed about a year ago).

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Information Society and Book of Love (“80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 1/31/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Oh, somebody wants to hear, “What’s On Your Mind?”.  Peer pressure him into letting it go… Dude.  Or is he telling us to hurry the fuck up?”  Kurt Harland, singer and front man for Information Society, displaying a mix of confidence and humor at their concert at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night.  Live shows from the New Wave/synthpop band are very rare these days, and the guy shouting out the name of the song that made them very famous with the masses circa 1988 didn’t have the same appreciation for the full spectacle and show they put on as the rest of the crowd, who couldn’t seem to get enough of their unique style of music, whether it was old favorites from the 80s and 90s or new songs from the newly released (and excellent) _hello World, which came out late last year.   This concert event promoted by WorldOne Presents was marketed as “80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”, and it was a special winter edition of their “80’s Rewind Fest” series.   This concert boasted additional special guests Book of Love as well as local opener, Self.Same.  Though the three founding members of Information Society have gone off to create lives and careers outside of their band, you wouldn’t know if from this concert.  They brought a ton of excitement and style on stage.  Given their amazing new studio album and their ability to put on a fantastic live show, hopefully it represents more InSoc coming in our future.

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Air Supply at Thunder Valley Casino Resort| Lincoln, California | 1/30/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Tonight, we are here for you… and you for us.  Are you ready?  Let’s go.” Graham Russell, taking a pause on the front end of the sold out show at Thunder Valley Resort Casino on Friday night, looking back on 2014 and then at the very moment and forward.  He and his songwriting partner Russell Hitchcock, strike me as very thoughtful and contemplative.  I’d just caught one of their shows in South Lake Tahoe in September, and couldn’t pass up the chance to see them do their thing (and a special thing it is) again, since they were playing even closer to home for me.  The duo that comprise Air Supply this year are celebrating 40 years together of making amazing music together and taking it out on the road to play before crowds of all ages (Graham also exclaimed, “there will be a 50, too!”).  Which is no surprise, as their music is ageless.  And, like that last show I saw, close out their encore with the extremely contemporary “Desert Sea Sky”, which seems to catch many by surprise (in a good way).  But I’ve found from going on these live journeys with them twice now, that they are full of surprises, and know how to put on a live show that can go from fast to slow, rocking to ballad, in the blink of an eye.  And they seem to love it as much as their fans.

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The Ting Tings at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub | Sacramento, California | 1/24/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Okay, you all know this song and you need to sing along, because we don’t know what fucking hours of music were going to play tonight we’re going to keep going, so you guys sing along with this one…” Jules De Martino providing an intro into one of The Ting Ting’s biggest hits, “That’s Not My Name”, just before Katie White throws down with the vocals and gets the audience into a frenzy at their sold out show at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento on Saturday night.  As mentioned in my review of their show for Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco the night before, The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore). Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign. Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy.  I thought the show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out…  Somehow, the Sacramento show was even better, and will definitely be in my Top Ten shows of 2015 at the end of the year, and has set the bar high for all of the other shows I’ll be seeing in the next 11 months.

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The Ting Tings at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 1/23/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“San!!! Fran!!! Cisco!!!”  A city turned into a three-word chant by Jules De Martino, he and the other half of The Ting Tings duo Katie White aren’t the type to chit chat too much in-between songs at their live shows, but they certainly know how to get a place jumping.  And that’s just what they did at the sold out show at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Friday night.  The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore), and this latest gig was even more of a special occasion since they aren’t hitting but a handful of cities on this front end of touring in 2015 (and the dates in play are predominantly in California).  Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign.  Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy.  The show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out.  I loved every second of it, and while it was a full set, they left me wanting more, but I’ll get that at their follow-up show in Sacramento…  one of those rare bands who inspire me to follow them around a bit.

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Dave Wakeling’s English Beat “For Crying Out Loud” Album Coming Soon; 2015 Live Concert Dates, Photos, & Preview

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I recently had an opportunity to see The English Beat at Ace of Spades in Sacramento, for my first concert of the year (on my birthday no less!).  Unfortunately, with all of the cold and flu going around, after shooting the first three songs of their set, I had to bail as my fiancée was under the weather and burning up with fever.  Rather than waste the opportunity to talk about one of the best live bands playing today, I thought I would put up this preview for what they have coming in 2015, with a list of upcoming concerts, a little bit of information about For Crying Out Loud – the new album due early this year – as well as share a few photos taken at the show last week.  Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to attend another one of their shows soon, and put up a proper feature about it. [Read more…]

Jason DeBord’s Top 100 Concert Photos of the Year: The Rock Subculture Journal 2014 Year In Review

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This is the first of my 2014 “Year In Review” articles. As with my articles in 2013 and 2012, I reviewed a sampling of my concert photos from 2014 and compiled some of my favorites and stopped when I hit 100 photos in total. Please also check out my companion 2014 Year in Review article, which covers my Top 10 Albums, Top 10 Songs, Top 10 Concerts and more. [Read more…]

Reignwolf at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 12/26/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“All I was trying to say was, that it means a lot to us the day after Christmas that San Francisco shows up… I’m serious; thanks so very much for that… and I say like this… ‘Are You Satisfied?‘…” Jordan Cook, AKA Reignwolf, standing on the kick drum that he dropped into the audience at sold out show at The Independent, before throwing down with his signature anthem that somehow showcases what he is all about – authentic rock and roll.  I first saw Reignwolf opening for the Pixies in Los Angeles in 2013, and I have been raving about him since, to anyone who will listen.  It’s been more than a year, but Friday night in San Francisco I finally got to witness him and his band do their own headlining show, and it was even better than I imagined (and I went in expecting it to be one of the best shows of the year).  The man has such gifts, and taps into them with ease.  The only other artist I’ve seen live that has that same mix of innate improvisational ability and also has more music in him than can maybe come out through the traditional instruments of rock and roll is Prince.  Since seeing Reignwolf more than a year ago, I’ve been certain that he is destined to be one of our generation’s top rock stars, and I am as sure of that then ever after his show this weekend.  It’s really just a matter of how soon he debuts a full album and how long it will take the rest of the world to catch up to this brilliant talent.  Needless to say, the concert was phenomenal, and those who didn’t make it out the day after Christmas maybe missed the greatest gift of all.

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Clive Farrington, former lead singer of When In Rome at Hogue Barmichael’s | Newport Beach | 12/6/2014 (Rehearsals & Concert Review + Photos + New Wave Bar)

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I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days with Clive Farrington, to see what is going on with the former front man and lead singer of the popular 80s band, When In Rome.  On the itinerary was sitting in on a rehearsal with his new band prepping for 2015, checking out the New Wave Bar & Restaurant in Bellflower for Danny Sanchez’s birthday (“70s Disco Night”), and a few days later attending their special charity concert at Hogue Barmichael’s in Newport Beach, which benefited the Orangewood Children’s Foundation.

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