This is the first of my 2016 “Year In Review” articles. As with my articles in 2012, 2013, and 2014 and 2015, I reviewed a sampling of my concert photos from 2016 and compiled some of my favorites and stopped when I hit 100 photos in total. Please also check out my companion 2016 Year in Review article, which covers my Top 5 Albums, Top 50 Songs, Top 10 Concerts and more. [Read more…]
“I try to think about tomorrow, but I always think about the past… about the things that didn’t last… if I could go to the beginning, then for sure I would be another way… make it better for today…” Pixies (the “loud quiet loud” band) are a quiet band on stage in-between the generally quick songs, so we are left with the music, and the lyrics within, to try to figure out what is going on with them. It was less than one month ago that they released their sixth studio album – their second without founding bass player and vocalist Kim Deal – and their first with new full-time member Paz Lenchantin. The new album serves as fuel for this tour, with just four rare dates in Calif0rnia this month as prelude to many shows across Europe, England, Australia and New Zealand, keeping them busy until early next year. So it was interesting seeing them and hearing some of their new music performed at Ace of Spades in Sacramento on Wednesday night. The Pixies in Sacramento. A rare thing indeed. One of my all-time favorite bands playing in the city where I was born, and where I first saw the band way back in 1990, about a quarter of a century ago. A different time. So much has changed, but so much about the band remains the same. I’ve taken the new album, Head Carrier, for a spin and those lyrics above stuck with me. Interestingly, the vocals on that particular song are delivered by Paz, who is no Kim soundalike (on vocals or bass), though obviously the message in those lyrics is for Kim. So the Pixies in 2016 is older, mature, different… and the band is at once both old and new; looking backwards and forwards. The album sounds quite different from everything that came before (even 2014’s Indie Cindy). And I think that the sentiments expressed in that song, “All I Think About Now”, kind of sums up this new iteration of the Pixies. With this live show, the old and the new were mixed together to create a different sort of Pixies show, giving something fresh to both new and old fans alike. But there are still those songs that carry on and remain classic to those who were with it at the time, in the band’s short-lived first incarnation in the late 80s and early 90s. The concert was a tribute to that as well.
“Wow, it’s amazing to be back here at Humphrey’s, or as we like to call it, ‘free concert for boats!’ [pointing to the water] You were the guy who wrote the review! [mocking imitation] ‘Didn’t sound any good from my boat…’ Buy a fucking ticket!” Roland Orzabal of Tears for Fears, bringing not just amazing music but laughs too, carrying on a funny faux dialogue in-between songs with an unseen concert reviewer from their last appearance at Humphrey’s Concerts By The Bay in beautiful San Diego. Alongside Curt Smith, the pair added to the casual atmosphere of the venue with their playful quips and anecdotes throughout the evening, making the entire affair feel somewhat like a private gig among friends. But then there is that music… song after song that added significant color and style to the soundtrack of our lives, for many of us in attendance who found the band in our formative years. Which isn’t to say that they are exclusively “an 80’s band”, but that is the decade that they helped to craft and shape not just in music, but pop culture at large. And many of those songs are as “alive” today as ever, with younger artists creating their own versions of some of the songs, as well as the music still giving life to new works in other mediums (like Donnie Darko). Tears for Fears is one of my favorite bands to see live, because they always deliver with a top notch group of fellow musicians on stage and recreate those familiar songs in new and substantive ways. They are still relevant, and they’ve still got “it”. [Read more…]
“Oakland, San Francisco, how the hell you doing tonight? We played here almost six years ago opening up for somebody… Who here was there? Was anybody there at the show? I’m just sayin’, I do see a lot of people who have been with us all six years, and for all of you who have come to all these shows, all these years, thank you so much!” Andrew Wessen, guitarist of Grouplove, a band who always has their gratitude and appreciation on display. They played a scorcher at a packed Fox Theater on Friday night, supporting their third studio album, Big Mess. Just one date into their new U.S. tour running through the end of the year (followed by dates in Australia), they sounded and performed better than ever. One of my favorite live acts, they put on a high energy show that had the crowd bouncing throughout, embracing the excellent new songs as much as the favorites. Definitely a must see tour. The latest album, produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove’s Ryan Rabin) and Phil Ek is characterized by their signature sound and style, and may be their best yet. With their “Big Mess World Tour”, one dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to the organization charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world. [Read more…]
“We been coming around here with you guys… well, hell, we’ve been coming around with you all for over four decades. Same three guys right here… Same three chords right here…” Billy Gibbons, guitarist and vocalist of ZZ Top, sharing the stage with co-vocalist and bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. What can you say about a band that’s had the same line-up forever (since 1969!). Really unheard of in the music industry. In any event, having covered the Summer Concert Series by Richter Entertainment Group at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards over the past several months, ZZ Top turned out a huge crowd that had a unique character all its own. With Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band heating things up at the start of the evening, ZZ Top closed it out with both bands showcasing incredible work on guitar being the star of the show.
“I must say it’s smelling awfully good out there… I’m on duty… [laughs]” Peter Frampton on stage and in front of a massive crowd at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, California, part of a double-headlining show with Lynyrd Skynyrd, fittingly playing as the sun set and dusk settled in as he then went into his blazing cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”. Darkness took over by the time he left the stage and southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd closed out the night, with vocalist and front man Johnny Van Zant trying to set the clock back through sheer force of will: “Now it’s Sunday night… Sunday night… we need to make it a Saturday night… Are you guys all in or what?” There was a lot of gratitude exchanged between the two artists as each took turns holding stage, as it was the end of their joint tour together, which would appear to have been a successful pairing of two different styles of music on this Summer tour. [Read more…]
“So, basically Culture Club makes happy sad music. If you’re a Gemini, you don’t need that explained. If you’re a Libra, I can’t help you. Hands up for the Geminis! You’ve got to use two hands if you’re a Gemini, because there’s always two of you. What’s that saying? ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.’ That’s the Gemini mantra. So we do these happy sad songs. Dancy rhythms, melancholy sounds, mixed together…” Boy George explaining Culture Club in a way that only he could… an interesting insight into the band and the man who proudly stood out in front of it (as well standing for many other things) throughout the first half of the 1980s. All in preface to the song, “Move Away”, which was the lead single to their fourth album, From Luxury To Heartache, an album title which nicely dovetails into what he was explaining, as well as illustrative of that early trajectory of the band in it’s first life… It all ended far too early when they broke up in 1986 following the release of that album and that lead single, which would be their final entry into the U.S. Top 40 charts. The light that burns twice as bright last half the time and all that… But life is a funny thing. Fast forward thirty years (!), and there on that stage at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater in front of thousands of jubilant fans on Friday night was Boy George and the original members of Culture Club – Roy Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss – and I can’t imagine them being any more happy or in sync with one another musically and with their live performance. And, it would seem, the impossible journey each took to get them there made it all the more sublime. Joyfully playing those now classic songs of happy sad music. A potent chemical reaction of letting soul and reggae out to play with all manner of other music genres, bending and twisting and dancing with new wave, country, pop, funk, rock, R&B, and even church music, to create something altogether unique but unified in that wicked sort of Gemini manner… The genius of Boy George, and his bravery in always being uniquely himself and forging new paths for others to follow. Definitely one of the best tours of 2016, one of the most important New Wave bands (who helped push those loose boundaries within that broad musical movement), and a band fronted by one of the most interesting figures in pop culture in modern times. [Read more…]
“I don’t even know where we are right now…” Patrick Monahan of Train to a sold out crowd of upwards of 7,000 fans at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphy’s California. Train certainly brought the magic to turn out such a massive number of fans to Murphys, California for a special evening under faint moonlight and brilliant lights from the stage on which they and The English Beat performed on Saturday night. Bringing a mix of hits, new songs, and covers, Train had the crowd up and out of their seats most of the night, and Monohan was on point vocally as well as engaging with fans, taking selfies with their mobile phones as well as performing one song from out in the audience. It was really a stellar show that left most satisfied but also probably thinking about doing it all again in the future. [Read more…]
Rock and roll legends Journey continue their massive series of shows in the U.S. as part of their “San Francisco Fest Tour”, ending appropriately enough in San Francisco in early September. Founded in San Francisco in 1973, Journey has sold over 80 million albums worldwide, recording countless top hits in their career. Neal Schon (founding member and lead guitarist), Ross Valory (original member and bassist), along with longtime members Jonathan Cain (keyboardist) and Arnel Pineda (lead singer) are joined on this tour with Steve Smith on drums – the first time he has toured with the band since 1998. Also performing on this tour are The Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason. [Read more…]
“This album’s called “Doin’ Time”, because this here feels like Summertime, alright, so party with me…” Rome, of Sublime with Rome, doing an updated version of the 1997 Sublime hit, which itself was an homage more than a cover of “Summertime” by George Gershwin. Like ripples in a lake, impactful music can take on a life of its own as it moves through time. Of course, Sublime with Rome is not Sublime (original vocalist Bradley Nowell died in 1996), but this band and tour is as much about the subculture as it is the music, and seems to draw a crowd that skews younger than one might expect, given that the original Sublime was a 90s era band. But it was an evening filled out with music of several eras, with the youthful Bleeker kicking things off, with Tribal Seeds and Dirty Heads following. Each had it’s own unique genre-bending sound and style, providing an interesting kaleidoscope of music for those moved by reggae, hip hop, rock, and alternative. [Read more…]