69… 69… 71… 65… Years old, respectively. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood. The Rolling Stones. Synonymous with rock and roll. They rocked Oracle Arena in Oakland, California last night for two and a half hours. There were more people than seats (more on that later) and (mostly, well initially) very expensive seats at that (and more on that later too), but it was a remarkable night to witness one of the most (and last standing) legendary rock bands of all time plow through 23 songs. Sure, some will point out some occasional sloppiness, but I always heard a bit of that in their studio recordings. It’s the Rolling Stones. They more than make up for some lack of precision and complexity with enthusiasm, and Mick Jagger has moves like, well, him. He possessed fans in the audience of all ages who mimicked his moves with pure glee. And really, any time Keith Richards did much of anything, the two 52-year old women sitting to my right could barely contain themselves. I quizzed them about this deep into the set, between songs, and one of them said, “the fact that he’s still alive and standing there is nothing short of a miracle”. Some miracles are self evident, and others are in the eye of the beholder. I think one’s take on the show last night is likely more about and reflective of each person as much as it is the show itself. Each person’s connection with the Stones and what they mean to him or her. Given the reactions from the crowd, I would guess a majority found it nothing short of miraculous, and certainly unforgettable.
Just when you think you know what to expect from a Crystal Castles concert, a naked man casually walks on stage to tend to his drum kit (not a euphemism), part of the second of two supporting bands. But of course the real show starts with the main set… and with Crystal Castles, it’s as much about the experience surrounding the music as it is the music itself. While Alice Glass and Ethan Kath don’t really have anything to say in-between songs during their thumping (with many thumps courtesy of touring drummer Christopher Chartrand) high energy shows, they certainly know how to entertain and excite once they take the stage. With their unconventional sound, seizure-inducing lighting effects, and interactivity (by way of Alice diving into the audience), a Crystal Castles show overloads the senses… so much unfamiliar and unexpected for your eyes, ears, and brain to process. Whatever your take on their brand of experimental electronic/synthpop/synthpunk music, you certainly can’t consider their live shows to be boring or uneventful. A band born to perform live, for sure. Their studio recordings are fantastic (and their third studio album, (III) is excellent), but you really need to see them live to understand their music, and get the full Crystal Castles experience.
“I ain’t gonna waste a lot of time talking. All I’m gonna tell you is this… For the next two and a half hours, I promise to take you on a roller coaster ride you will never forget…” A pledge from the Bon Jovi front man, Jon Bon Jovi, about 15 minutes into their supporting act-free “An Evening With…” concert for their “Because We Can Tour” at the massive HP Pavilion in San Jose last night, which appeared near filled to its 17,496 capacity. Admittedly, I am not a dedicated Bon Jovi follower – I am a big fan of a handful of hits – so I don’t feel as though I was the intended audience. Having said that, I tried to imagine how I would take it all in if I were a fan, and I still find the roller coaster metaphor challenging to wrap my head around, as I found the show to be, for lack of a better description… ill-suited, and frankly boring… for such a large venue. While Richie Sambora did not make it through the tour to appear at this last date on the U.S. leg of their journey in support of the new What About Now album, I can’t imagine his being part of last night’s show would have been enough to overcome the shortcomings (and fill-in Phil X was fine). Bon Jovi seems like a genuine, appreciative, kind guy, but at least from my perspective, maybe he arrived last night and forgot to load that six string on his back.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 4/22/2013 (Concert Review)
“We did something rather foolish here…” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been, reminiscing about a past performance at the historic Fillmore, in San Francisco where the band was born. A fitting venue from which to launch their North American tour last night, supporting the new studio album, Specter At The Feast. Robert never came back around to explain their past foolishness, but there is always a bit of mystery about this band and their music, as well as a genuine politeness, on and off stage. In any event, Robert and co-singer/guitarist Peter Hayes and drummer Leah Shapiro did not hold back at all with their overpowering sonic performance; a virtually non-stop set clocking in at about two hours and fifteen minutes. The hard rocking band only slowed down a little for a few acoustic numbers in the second half of the show and at the end, and later with the encore and set closer, “Lose Yourself”, which played out in a way that felt as if the building were unwinding itself like an overspun vintage pocket watch, beat by beat, with minimalist yet powerful drums that even improve on the studio recording. But I’ve learned to expect the unexpected with this band, who take their live sets to levels only dreamed of by other artists. It was one of those shows that felt like a special one, and I can’t imagine a better way for them to kick off what is likely to be a stellar tour.
“Do you guys remember – some of you will remember – Metric shows before cell phone cameras? It’s really funny you know; that shit changed my life.” Metric’s Emily Haines, taking a moment mid-show at the Fox Theater in Oakland last night to share some candid thoughts about how advances in technology have affected her and what she shares with audiences during concerts; a bit of a lament over the way things used to be… a simpler time. Her philosophical aside was quite interesting (salted with some humor as well); to hear her unique perspective on live concert events today and the ubiquitous technology wherein everything and anything can be recorded with ease (and how bits can carry on, out of context). Funny enough, it was something I had mentioned in my coverage of the show the night prior at Mondavi Center in Davis, though some friends of mine who have been to Metric shows that I missed said it is something she has brought up in the past as well. In any event, with that and a nice chat at the end leading into their “Gimme Sympathy” closer, there seemed to be a different kind of dynamic with each audience in the past two nights (both awesome, but different). Fox Theater offered a GA floor whereas Mondavi was seated (though ended up sort of GA as it got going), but the larger Fox has the distinct separation between stage and audience, with the security pit, so the added discussion maybe bridged that literal gap to create a different sort of connection compared with Mondavi, wherein the band could reach down and literally touch the members of the audience with ease. In any event, having seen back-to-back shows over two nights, it was fun for me to compare the two. Both were stellar shows with great performances by Metric, as they tour over a dozen shows and dates between now and June. While for me on a personal level the Mondavi show was more engaging (since I was front row for the entire show), I took an opportunity with the Fox show to enjoy the set from different perspectives, and it was quite enjoyable to even move to the very back and have a better perspective with which to take in the impressive lighting effects on the stage, which is much different from seeing it all up close. All in all, another fantastic show by Metric and they have become one of my favorite bands to turn out to see live.
“If you’re here, you know I love a sing along, so don’t let me down, alright? Hook me up.” Metric’s Emily Haines, giving her introduction to the acoustic version of their classic song, “Gimme Sympathy”, which brought the intimate show at Mondavi Center to a close last night. 2013 is shaping up to be one of the best years in some time for live music concerts, and April in particular is weighted very heavy with competing and conflicting shows all over the West Coast due to Coachella and bands doing their own headlining shows in addition to that “granddaddy of U.S. festivals”. Even so, when Metric announced a little over a dozen dates running through June, I changed around my own schedule to be sure to see them twice. The only other artist I’m seeing twice this month is Prince, so I think that speaks volumes about the esteem with which I hold this band. With their show a Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, they certainly didn’t disappoint. Pre-show, looking around the beautiful venue at the crowd, it was hard to say what kind of audience the band was going to encounter. Opener Mona delivered and got them out of their seats, and by the time Metric came on stage, they were beaming with excitement that further fueled the band. It was definitely one of the top shows I’ve been to this year, and it was one of those shows that was so good, the only negative was those fleeting thoughts that it eventually had to come to an end. In any event, it was spectacular and unforgettable, and the band is one of the must-see acts touring today.
“Because we’re sentimental folks, and we like symmetry, and we like to tie things up. And we like to make amends, and we love to give thanks. So thank you for being here tonight.“ Shirley Manson from Garbage opened up to the fans in attendance at The Pearl Concert Theater at The Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas last night, as the concert marked their return back to where it all started one year ago, and thus the U.S. leg of their world tour came to an end last night with a mix of mutual heartfelt emotion and gratitude from the stage and from the audience as well. The band has come a long way in the past year, and comparing the show at the same venue in April 2012 to the one put on last night, they have certainly matured as a live act, but it is more than obvious the bonds between the band members as well as between them and their fans has strengthened tremendously. It was an incredible show, and for me at least, is a frontrunner for concert of the year. They will be missed, but are going back to create a new album, and I’m certain that when they return it will open up a new journey for the group that we can all then become a part of again.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) at The Depot | Salt Lake City, Utah | 4/10/2013 (Concert Review)
“We could dance fast in those days… will you keep up?” OMD front man Andy McCluskey reminiscing about the late 70s as he introduced the final song of their encore at The Depot in Salt Lake City last night, their debut single, “Electricity”. It was a bit of personal déjà vu for me, as he closed out a show I attended way back in 1991 in much the same manner. But this was the first time I had the opportunity to see Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark with their full original line-up (with co-founder Paul Humphreys also on vocals and keyboards, Martin Cooper on keyboards and saxophone, and Malcolm Holmes on drums), and the energy from the stage and overall atmosphere was certainly electric. OMD put on an incredible show with songs from their new album released just this week – English Electric – as well as all those classics and favorites going back more than three decades.
Early on during his “Finding My Dance” one man show, I got the sense that Colin Hay is often the smartest person in the room, no matter how large or small the venue. More than a musician (and a great one at that), he is a philosopher, comedian, and genuinely kind man. He is very funny, and not just prepared and rehearsed funny, but quick witted as well, and I’ve always operated under the idea that really funny people have to be highly intelligent in the most fundamental of ways, as you must have real keen self awareness and highly complex and contemplative observational abilities, as well as emotional depth and empathy. I picked up on all of this with Colin Hay from my front row vantage point at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley where he put on his amazing show for the sold out crowd. That show – a hybrid of music and storytelling – was over two hours long and really captivating in every sense as he took us on both a narrative and musical journey of his life. He talked about having an understanding of his place in the universe, and those who might expect him to be nothing more than the former front man of 80s band Men At Work are truly missing out at what he has to offer not just in terms of music and entertainment, but the wisdom (in the form of stories and anecdotes) from someone who has had experiences that none of us ever could. He is a great musician but a wonderful storyteller as well, and I can’t imagine a more fitting venue with which to enjoy it.
Rihanna is an artist that is one of the hardest working in music today (on and off stage), and her only real problem with her show at HP Pavilion in San Jose last night was that she has so many hit songs – even at just 25 years old – she could not fit them all into a sprawling, nearly two-hour non-stop concert event. A prolific artist, Talk That Talk came out in 2011, just as she was wrapping up her Loud Tour (named after the studio album before that), she’s since release 2012′s Unapologetic, and tickets for this tour actually went on sale late last year as well. The show in the massive HP Pavilion was sold out and filled to its 14,500 capacity, and it was one of the best giant arena audiences I’ve seen. Rihanna did not disappoint, as the place was bouncing and euphoric before she ever took the stage, and things only cranked up from there. She put on her usual top class show fueled with energy and heartfelt emotion and gratitude, as I experienced at the O2 show in London in late 2011 as her last tour came to a close. This is definitely one of the must-see tours of the year, with both figurative and literal pyrotechnics.
“Are you ready? Are you really, really, really ready?” The English Beat front man and voice of the band, Dave Wakeling, is one of those music artists that is completely tuned into his audience, particularly in an intimate venue such as The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, California, where he performed last night. The part seated, part standing 360-capacity venue was packed and from the moment the band stepped onto the stage, the majority was on the dance floor moving to the very unique blending of 2 tone ska/punk/new wave/reggae hits from the band known simply as The Beat in their home of the UK, though also on offer were as some tunes from General Public, the subsequent musical efforts by Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger following the original break-up of The Beat (Ranking Roger currently performs in the UK version of the band back in England). The band dispensed with having an opening band on the bill, and instead performed two full sets of their own on either side of a short intermission. It was a true live music experience that made great use of the excellent sound system and acoustics of the charming venue as they played song after song for the energetic crowd.