Tori Amos (Unrepentant Geraldines Tour 2014) at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay | San Diego, California | 7/24/2014 (Concert Review)

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“He had all these things there… Sandman comics… things like that…” Tori Amos, coincidentally playing in San Diego during Comic Con week, reminiscing about her brother (who was in attendance) back in the day, and the inspiration for her song, “Flying Dutchman”, which was third up on her phenomenal setlist at Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay.   This was my second show seeing the “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour” (having seen the show in Oakland on Monday night at the Paramount Theatre).  As with that show, Tori is ever full of surprises, and the two shows were completely different on many levels.  The most obvious being the venues, with the indoor, ornate, classy and historical Paramount Theatre having a certain sophistication, while the outdoor Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay is more relaxed, with the unmistakable coastal air and open feeling sitting out under the stars.  With the setlists from the respective shows sharing only three songs (opening with “Parasol”, closing with “Cornflake Girl” and having “16 Shades of Blue” in their encores), it was two very different shows in terms of the music as well.  The show in San Diego was at least to some degree a celebration of “Under the Pink”, as it was highly represented in the song choice.  I loved both shows, but I’d have to say – for me – my love for Oakland’s was on more of an intellectual level, while San Diego’s was because she played more of the songs I truly love (and if I had to pick any one song for her to play, it would be “Bliss”, and she totally killed it on stage at Humprey’s.  One of those rare artists that has the ability to completely change up her show night to night, this is definitely one of the best tours of 2014.

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Tori Amos (Unrepentant Geraldines Tour 2014) at Paramount Theatre | Oakland, California | 7/21/2014 (Concert Review)

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“So this is one of your requests… I’ll see if we got this right.”  Tori Amos in the “Lizard Lounge” section of her performance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland last night, wherein on this “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour” she does a few covers suggested by fans.  With Monday night’s show, the first was a kind of dark rendition of the Calvin Harris and Rihanna electro-house hit song, “We Found Love”.  What?  Tori Amos doing “We Found Love”?  Yeah, I know the song well, but it took my thought process a few seconds to catch up with the familiar lyrics played out in such a different manner.  As I settled into that incredible collision of techno pop and, well, however you might categorize what it is that Tori does, when she does her thing…  I started imagining what might be the most amazing cover to hear from her following that.  Immediately, I thought of “Tiny Dancer” (it has a special connection with my fiancé and I, and she was seated next to me in the orchestra pit for her first Tori concert)…  So after finishing “We Found Love” on her electric keyboard, Tori spun around and found her way to the deeper keys on her Bösendorfer piano and started into the classic Elton John tune.  I’ve seen, I would guess, thousands of artists live in concert – that was the first time I’d felt that maybe one read my mind.  Very surreal moment, and maybe the coolest moment for me at any Tori Amos concert (and I’ve been to my fair share).  She was certainly full of surprises last night, as a fan might see simply from taking a look at the set list, which had songs from her latest, Unrepentant Geraldines, going all the way back to her failed synthpop band, Y Kant Tori Read.  With the new album and this current tour, Tori has certainly hit her stride both in the studio and on the road, and she’s always been one of those rare artists that is a master at both.

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Replay America (The Go-Go’s, Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis and The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 7/19/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Are we not in the desert?  Where are we?” A  bit of comic relief part way through The Go-Go’s set by Gina Schock, who as per tradition emerges from her drum kit at some point in the show to give us a bit of fun.  And that is kind of at the heart of The Go-Go’s punky/poppy/surfy/beachy New Wave music, so what better a group to headline 2014′s newest 80s-centric tour, Replay America.  Also on the bill is Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis from The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes.  A real assortment of 80s hitmakers each took to the stage at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night to take the crowd back about three decades to a real innovative time in music.  Though there was a lot of music to be heard, things proceeded along quite quickly with the first three artists sharing a band (with some changes set to set), and a quick changeover for the aforementioned Go-Go’s, who closed out the night with a string of classic songs.  Definitely a unique opportunity to catch many favorites in one sitting, and I know I thoroughly enjoyed each artist, only half of whom I’d seen live before (though I was already a fan of all four).  Awesome show.

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OK Go at Assembly Music Hall | Sacramento, California | 7/15/2014 (Concert Review)

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“But the problem is, it’s a piece of shit… so things like the little thing, that goes on here… the plastic thing that keeps you from slicing your fucking finger in half?  That fell off in the middle of that song…” A post song, play by play recap by Damien Kulash of OK Go, talking about how part of his favorite guitar (purchased at a pawn shop in New Orleans) fell off and how he waited for the right break in singing to pick it up amid a floor covered in confetti… and for some reason decided to put it in his mouth for the rest of the song.  Quirky, funny, and entertaining…  an OK Go show would probably be worth the price of admission even if they didn’t play any music at all, as the between-song banter was all quite amusing on its own.  But they did put on an impressive showcase of music at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento… kicking off their 2014 tour that culminates in the release of Hungry Ghosts, their fourth studio album in October.

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Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band at City National Civic | San Jose, California | 7/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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“I don’t know about you, but this seems like a peace and love city…” A quote from a real rock and roll legend, Ringo Starr, at the City National Civic in San Jose last night as the front man for Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band.  It seems to be a consistent and heartfelt message and sentiment from the former drummer for The Beatles, though he doesn’t really “front” the group of talented musicians that share the stage with him on his touring concert event so much as jam with them and turn the spotlight not only on their gifts as artists but also provides a platform with which to share their own music with fans.  It was truly a spectacular concert on all levels Sunday night, with a collection of amazing artists, a superb setlist, and an excellent production (top quality sound and lights, etc.).  Not only did Ringo Starr play his own music, new and old… so, too, did his friends, which include Steve Lukather, Gregg Rolie, Richard Page, Todd Rundgren, Warren Ham, and Greg Bissonette.  I would rank it as one of the best shows I’ve been to in 2014, and really an honor to see such legends all play together on stage.  They seemed to be having as much fun as the rest of us, and it was more like a glimpse into a two hour long jam session.

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

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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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Hotel/Resort Review: Hilton London Tower Bridge – London, England [REVISIT]

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This review is for the Hilton London Tower Bridge. I have stayed at this property multiple times, so this is an updated review, for a lengthy stay in March and April of 2014.  This is far and away my favorite hotel in London. [Read more...]

Boy George at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 4/28/2014 (Concert Review)

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“It’s all about the attitude, right?  Intention and context are everything.  What’s next?  Oh, sometimes I surprise myself!”  80s pop culture icon Boy George, before launching into “Church of the Poison Mind” with his amazing band, one of a handful of songs performed to the sold out crowd at The Fillmore in San Francisco last night.  He had a lot to say to those who turned out for his show, and it marked his first visit to the city since 1999*.  He was beaming with joy throughout their lengthy set, that ran about two hours and fifteen minutes, with interesting anecdotes, and witty and self-deprecating humor (at one point describing himself as an emerging UK artist).  Culture Club’s albums were some of the first I bought as a kid, but in their prime years of ’83-’84, I was around 10-11 years old, so had no chance to see them live.  This was one of the tours I’ve most anticipated this year, and with uncertain expectations, in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined it would be, or even could be as stellar as it was.  It was truly magnificent on every level, and I’m an even bigger fan than ever after experiencing the show last night.  Definitely one of the best shows of the year.

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Pixies at Henry Miller Memorial Library | Big Sur, California | 4/15/2014 (Concert Review)

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“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware” – Henry Miller.  Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) had nothing really to say to the sold out crowd of about 300 lucky fans at the amazing show at Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur Tuesday night, but as an artist, he’s had plenty to say with his music over the years.  And 2013 and 2014 mark the big comeback for the band, with their EP-1, EP-2, and EP-3 (with four tracks a piece) collectively comprising their first new album in over 20 years.  Pulled together, their latest – Indie Cindy – somehow captures the sound and vibe of their pioneering work in the late 80s and early 90s, but with a contemporary vibe (though some would argue they were decades ahead of things back in the day).  Currently playing live dates with their current touring bassist, Paz Lenchantin brings great energy, warmth, and sex appeal to the band which still features original guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, in addition to Black Francis at the helm of things.  I’ve marked Pixies as one of my favorite bands since high school, and have seen them many times going back to the late 80s, and I’d have to say that not only was the show in Big Sur this week the best I’ve seen, it will probably go down as the best Pixies concert I will ever see.  A sublime mix of venue, crowd, and energy, it was nothing short of magnificent.  And since the two shows I saw in Los Angeles last year and Oakland a few months ago, it would seem that the band has come into their best groove ever, going without setlists and employing some keen (though at times glitchy) psychic powers among themselves.  Like what Henry Miller was getting at, this is a group that is aware on many different levels…

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The Cure (for Teenage Cancer Trust) at Royal Albert Hall | London, England | 3/29/2014 (Concert Review)

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“It’s not my instrument; for the last time…”  Not very talkative during a concert, a funny line blurted out by Robert Smith, front man for The Cure, after returning a cowbell to the side of the stage, during a sprawling set that ran continuous for nearly four hours, with no less than three full encores.  The second of two nights playing to benefit Teenage Cancer Trust, The Cure played sans opener, coming on a about 7:30 and performing 29 songs…  then the came back for a six song encore…  then another seven song encore…. and finally a last three song encore.  The sound was amazing, and the band was brilliant.  An amazing evening with a stellar crowd, at a historic venue, all for a very worthy cause – it doesn’t get much better than this show…

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Rick Springfield “Stripped Down” at Yoshi’s San Francisco | San Francisco, California | 3/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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“…I thought, ‘you know, there’s no better translator of Black American Blues than a middle-class, 16 year old Australian white child’.”  Part of Rick Springfield’s storytelling in-between songs, it was apparent early on that not only has he led an interesting life, but he has real depth as well as a self-deprecating sense of humor.  Though he is best known for that one big 80s hit (“Jessie’s Girl”) and acting on General Hospital as Dr. Noah Drake, he is a great storyteller and certainly a real artist with some great music and a knack for bringing it alive in a special way in an intimate venue.  The highlight of the night for me was his very personal rendition of “My Father’s Chair”, a song about the loss of his dad many years ago.  It’s rare to see an artist connect with such a powerful song on stage, and present such vulnerability to an audience.  This set of solo shows is definitely well worth checking out, and in many ways more compelling than the traditional, full band rock show, as Rick Springfield has a lot of storytelling in him, in both personal accounts from his life as well as his music.

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Throwing Muses at Jewish Community Center of San Francisco (Noise Pop 2014) | San Francisco, California | 2/28/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Oh…  ‘elaborate’…  I know that word…  I’m elaborately fine!”  The end of a funny exchange between Kristin Hersh and the audience, which began with her asking how we were doing, which was turned back to her, which resulted in a short answer – “fine” – to which someone else asked her to elaborate…  There was a bit of chit chat between songs throughout the show, including a reference to a recent dog bite that nearly caused this short West Coast run of Throwing Muses dates to be canceled.  But the trio of Kristin Hersh, David Narcizo, and Bernard Georges did indeed show up at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco last night to play to a sold out crowd of enthusiastic fans.  While Kristin founded the band way back in 1980, and has produced a wealth of albums and songs over the years, the set list was heavy with their latest book/CD combo, Purgatory/Paradise, which was their first new studio release in a decade.  They put on an electric show with great intensity, and I’m sure all in attendance felt fortunate to catch a rare appearance of the band that is legendary to those who have paid attention to music for the past 30 years.

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