“Joy is not supposed to… it’s never meant to be this seamless stream of happiness, you know? Joy happens in moments, in little minutes, in little capsules of time…” Alison Moyet, talking about the ideas and themes and inspiration behind her latest studio album, The Minutes. As I gushed about in my preview last month of this very special three date, three city stop in the United States by New Wave icon Alison Moyet, she has been one of my all-time favorite vocalists, so I had really high expectations for this concert. I expected it to be a highlight among the approximate 100 concerts I’ll have attended by the end of the year. Remarkably, my expectations were exceeded in every way. Truly a fantastic concert and I know from being within the crowd of fans that I am not alone in my assessment. She was joined on stage by band members John Garden and Sean McGhee, and there were ample songs from her latest album (in my opinion maybe her best solo record of her career) as well as favorites going all the way back to her beginnings with Vince Clarke with whom she partnered with for Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.). It is too bad for the masses here in the States that this must-see show is limited to just San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, but if you have a chance to catch one of the other two upcoming dates, it is well worth it. A phenomenal and unforgettable show by one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of my generation.
Alison Moyet (The Minutes Tour) at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 11/11/2013 (Concert Review)
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)
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.
“As it so happens, this one goes out to all the ladies!” A song intro by Alex Turner, front man for Arctic Monkeys, one of the coolest and most charismatic bands on the planet. Dispensing with too much in-between song chit chat, the band kept building upon the frenzy within the audience throughout their hour and a half set. The fans in attendance, who started lining up a 6 am in morning to ultimately bask in the stunning lights of pure and unfiltered cool glowing from the stage, made the first of two back-to-back Arctic Monkeys shows at the Fox Theater in Oakland a tough one to best. The band is in the midst of their world tour in support of their fifth studio album, AM, which was released earlier this month. Showing confidence in the future, the band closed out the show with an encored that ended with their new hit single, “R U Mine?”, which might just be their best song yet.
“Are you up for a rave? Do you have raves in San Francisco on a Tuesday?” Victoria Christina Hesketh, AKA Little Boots, leading into “Broken Record”, the thumping lead single from her highly acclaimed second studio album Nocturnes, which was released in May. A natural performer, Little Boots certainly brought a special mix of charisma and energy to the stage to power her amazing music, building on Amanda Warner of MDNR’s blazing opening set within the intimate setting of The Independent. Definitely a great night of contemporary electronic synthpop as Little Boots kicks off her world tour running through the end of the year.
Blondie with X “No Principals Tour” at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 9/19/2013 (Concert Review)
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.
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)
“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.
2013 is maybe the best year since the early 90s to be a Pixies fan. Interestingly, having been in attendance now at the first two of three consecutive shows this week at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles (and a fourth coming right after at the Mayan Theatre), the crowd overall skewed very young, which really underscores my long held belief that the Pixies were way, way, way ahead of their time, and also had bad timing (maybe in an alternate universe they could have had Nirvana-sized mainstream success). In any event, as I’ve often referenced in countless articles here on the Rock Subculture Journal, the Pixies are solid in my Top Three favorite artists of all time. Before going into recent and ancient history, the big question those reading this are probably wondering is, ‘how were these shows?‘ The short answer is, absolutely phenomenal. Everything one could hope for in a Pixies concert has been present in Night 1 and Night 2. With their new touring efforts and new music (music that is on par with their classic material), it is an awesome time to be into the Pixies, whether you were around back in the day or not. A time to celebrate, and the band and the fans all brought the party to El Rey Theatre this week.
“It sells more every year now than it ever did when it did first came out in 1968″… Rod Argent, keyboardist and vocalist, talking about the second studio album put out by The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle, as he and vocalist Colin Blunstone took the time between stretches of songs to provide some history and context into their “musical journey” through the history of the British Invasion band. After a stellar opening set from supporting band Et Tu Brucé, the two founding members of The Zombies along with rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (front Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums demonstrated with their performance why their legendary status continues to grow. Yoshi’s San Francisco was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the audience seemed to be swept away with their brilliant and timeless music.
Heart “Heartbreaker Tour” with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience at America’s Cup Pavilion | San Francisco, California | 8/28/2013 (Concert Review)
I have been to many, many concerts this year, but this is one of those few that left me feeling kind of speechless. With their San Francisco stop on their “Heartbreaker Tour”, Live Nation and America’s Cup hosted the event at America’s Cup Pavilion as part of their Summer Concert Series. Joining Ann and Nancy Wilson on this Heart tour is Jason Bonham and his Led Zeppelin Experience; more than a supporting act, it is a dynamic fusion that has made for a very unique and unforgettable concert experience. Throughout the evening, the musical journey and artistry on display seemed to build perfectly, song after song, moment to moment, and culminated with Jason Bonham and his band joining Heart on stage to perform Led Zeppelin material, with the crescendo of the overall experience being their collective rendition of “Stairway to Heaven”. Really, live music does not get any better than that, and when you see even the venue security rocking out with the fans, you know you are part of one of those special concert experiences where people forget who they are and just live the moment and soak it in, basking in the greatness shining from the stage.
This week The Breeders returned to San Francisco, the city where recorded their second studio album, Last Splash, back in 1993. This weekend will literally mark the 20th anniversary of the release of this album, and the original band members that recorded it were on stage for two concert dates at The Fillmore on Tuesday and Wednesday. I have been to many anniversary-style shows over the years, but this was maybe the most literal, with quite an attention to details, history, and nuance. The Kim Deal-fronted band did a brilliant job recreating the seminal album on stage as part of their “LSXX” celebration. As a special bonus to the two San Francisco dates (the first of which was sold out, and is the basis for this review), the “Last Splash” line-up not only played that album front to back, but their debut album, Pod, as well, so it was a really amazing show for fans of the band.
The Rewind Festival Featuring Regeneration Tour 2013 (Howard Jones, Erasure’s Andy Bell, Berlin with Terri Nunn, Men Without Hats) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 8/24/2013 (Concert Review)
Readers of The Rock Subculture Journal know that my favorite decade of music is the 80s, so a multi-headliner concert like The Rewind Festival Featuring Regeneration Tour 2013 at Thunder Valley Casino Resort’s Outdoor Amphitheater is an event I’ve been anticipating for months. With a stellar line-up of some of my favorite artists, it was certainly a night to remember. The Regeneration Tour is in the midst of a 9-date tour across the U.S. with a final show in Mexico City, with a varying line-up as it goes along. Music fans lucky enough to attend the show in Lincoln, California last night got to see a show which included Men Without Hats, Berlin with Terri Nunn, Erasure’s Andy Bell, and Howard Jones, as well as local talent Larisa Bryski kicking things off as part of the World One Presents and 93.7 Jack FM promotion. All of the artists were in top form, the sound system was excellent, and things moved along briskly, offering a non-stop show of hits from the 80s and beyond. It was a stellar show, and definitely one to catch if you are able to with the remaining dates on the tour.
Martha Davis and The Motels Featuring Bow Wow Wow and Dramarama at Blu42 Sports Lounge | Walnut Creek, California | 8/23/2013 (Concert Review)
It was a night of essentially a triple header line-up of bands that made their reputations with big hits in the 80s, and in the end, for those who stayed through to the end of the show that ended at about midnight, it closed out as a very intimate show of kindred spirits as Martha Davis from The Motels came down from the stage and gifted those fans all around her a very special rendition of “Only The Lonely”, which closed out an amazing evening at the Blu42 Sports Lounge in Walnut Creek, California. Also performing were Dramarama and a new line-up of Bow Wow Wow with original founding member and bass player Leigh Gorman.