“…I learned so much that year, about the difference between dreaming and pretending. Dreaming is so important for all of us and helps us live our aspirations… but pretending is really just fooling yourself, lying to yourself so you don’t see the truth. So here’s to truth, and here’s to growing up.” Jewel, the folk/pop/country signer-songwriter, producer, poet, novelist and actress… sharing one of many life lessons she has discovered in her remarkable journey, wherein the deeply personal has at times collided with her career and success. Creating an intimate atmosphere to a sold out crowd in Grass Valley, in the unique way only Jewel can, she had everyone captivated with not only her musical gifts but her insights based on a lifetime of experiences and challenges. It was a remarkable show, and she always seems to drive each performance as though it might be her last… Not only one of our most original songwriters, but one of our most talented and gifted vocalists, performing unique renditions of her songs, new and old, that at times left the crowd stunned. Jewel put on a showcase of storytelling in the personal and captivating way in which she has built her reputation over decades now. Those timeless songs and stories and poetry readings… Jewel lives her life authentically, one moment out loud and the next softly… but real in all it’s various forms and emotions. [Read more…]
“…that’s the dream, that together we can do amazing stuff for the right reasons!” Author and event organizer Kelly Corrigan was left nearly speechless on stage as she reflected back on the amazing evening that closed with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and performers from the Oakland School for the Arts covering David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”. All part of the annual Notes & Words: Benefit For UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland at Fox Theater on Saturday night. The sold out crowd of sponsors, donors and attendees took in a wide ranging selection of entertainment that also included a rocking performance from The Stone Foxes and readings from B.J. Novak and Dave Eggers. There was a lot of emotion throughout the night, though the majority of it was good humor and contagious joyfulness.
“Seriously. Seriously? Seriously? Shiiiiit… You guys are sounding so good tonight. Everything that you joined in with tonight was fucking insane. We wish that we could take you everywhere we went!” Kelvin Swaby of The Heavy, bringing the sold out crowd at The Independent in San Francisco into a frenzy, leading them into a sing along of “What Makes a Good Man?” – the first of their two punch encore close out, which ended with “How You Like Me Now?”. I started the show up front and center, with Kelvin just inches away most of the show as he strutted back and forth along the edge of the stage, feeding off of the fans. It felt more like what you might expect at a Rolling Stones or Aerosmith sports arena show, going by the jumping energy throughout their hour and a half set. Part retro blues/funk, infused with a garage band sound, the band is led by their crazy charismatic front man and vocalist… they are like a band born to play live to give fans an unforgettable experience. Fueled by four albums, including Hurt & the Merciless released this month, it was like a concentrated rock and roll vortex was set loose in the venue and none of us quite understood what hit us until it was all over and the house lights came up. Really one of the best live bands touring today. A must see. No, a must experience. [Read more…]
“I hope it wasn’t a massive hassle for you to come a week later… I’m sorry if it was… it fucking was for us!” Miki from shoegaze pioneers Lush at The Warfield in San Francisco on Sunday night, for their show that was rescheduled from the week before due to visa issues coming to the U.S. for Coachella and a handful of headlining shows California, the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver. The band just released their first new music in 20 years, EP Blind Spot, this month, and their sprawling set list of music new and old kept the packed crown transfixed on the stage for the duration of the show. Best known as “a 90s band”, music of that era is being rediscovered of late and it was awesome to see the band come back to the music scene to begin again in a different era. Prior to recent months (including an appearance at Coachella), the band last performed way back in 1996. You wouldn’t know it from their show, as they appeared relaxed, comfortable, and happy to play in front of their fans.
“It’s been quite a while since we’ve played here…” Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES at the first of two back-to-back sold out shows at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Monday night. With the incredible Wolf Alice supporting, it was a stellar evening of music from two bands in the midst of a huge upswing in both talent and popularity. Late last year, both bands put out new albums, CHVRCHES with their Every Open Eye (their second) and Wolf Alice bowed their debut LP, My Love Is Cool. I had opportunity to see Wolf Alice at all three of their Bay Area shows last year and CHVRCHES with their “Not So Silent Night” appearance in December, so it has been fascinating to see them evolve and grow with both their studio recordings and their live shows. All in all, an evening that offered a look at the future of music… Wolf Alice with their alternative rock and roll and CHVRCHES with their synth pop. [Read more…]
“Right now we’re going to do one that we haven’t done probably in about ten years… it’s a fan favorite. It’s not necessarily a happy song…” James “J.Y.” Young of Styx, leading into their controversial 1981 song “Snowblind”, which was claimed to have been “Satanistic” by some anti-rock activists at the time (as well as claiming that it was one of the songs that contained hidden messages – only heard if played backwards!). Styx has recorded and performed music now for over four decades (with some break-ups along the way), and given the energy and enthusiasm coming from the stage at Bob Hope Theatre in Stockton on Sunday night, it is quite amazing how well the band has endured over the years as they continue to bring their unique style of music to fans, old and new. Judging by their interactions while on stage, they seem like they really enjoy working and playing together these days, which is very rare in the music world. Playing “an evening with…” style of show with no supporting or opening artists, they split their own set in two (with a short intermission) and played a solid 90 minutes of not only their own songs but some surprise covers and tributes as well. An excellent show and the kind of band worth seeing again and again, as they seem to have unique elements to their concerts to keep things fresh and exciting. An earnest and authentic group of guys, there was no pretense or arrogance… they seemed to acknowledge that their legacy is locked within those songs and albums and were eager to celebrate their music with the sold out crowd.
“I’ve got to say, you’re the funkiest crowd we’ve ever had…” Music legend Nile Rodgers with Chic at Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night, playing not only through hits by Chic but number one hits Rodgers has produced over the past several decades with top, iocnic artists. Watching Nile Rodgers and the amazing Chic on stage really underscored how he is all about collaboration; he seems to have found his purpose in life early on in bringing the best out of other artists who were truly gifted in their own right… helping them make art that transcended what either could do on their own. Not just a beautiful way to create, but also an inspired way to go through life, bettering other people as well as yourself in the process. And then there is that music… all of it markedly up beat and happy and optimistic. But Nile Rodgers also appears to be a humble man on stage, and that reflects his life’s work as well, working in the background to help other artists and their songs and talent shine. So it was quite special to see Nile Rodgers and Chic do a full concert live on stage (they will also be performing with Duran Duran in their upcoming tour). What music, what talent, and what a way to bring it all to life in a way that makes the crowd feel that they are part of it. Though it is early into 2016, this will certainly be one of my own favorite and most memorable shows of the year.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me take you back…” Dennis Edwards, as original lead singer of legendary Motown band The Temptations from 1968-1976, 1980-1984 and 1987- 1989, he truly did take the sold out crowd at Thunder Valley back to a different era on Saturday night, leading his Temptations Review band through hit after hit. But it wasn’t just the music, but the performance and delivery, the costumes, the charm… it all worked together beautifully in recreating a show that is how I might imagine it might have been way back when. World One Presents’ “Valentine’s Soul Jam” for 2016 included hours of top notch entertainment, with leading performances by Dr. Funk’s Mind, Body and Soul Band as well as R&B, soul, and funk icon Carl Carlton, best known for his cover of “Everlasting Love” and early 80s hit, “She’s A Bad Mama Jama”. A celebration of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond, all three artists brought a ton of energy to the stage and engaged the audience throughout the show. [Read more…]
“So what’s up Oakland? I’m the one who’s up? Oh baby, you just made my day. Thank you. I’m up, we’re all up tonight. Well, far be it from me to state the obvious, but it’s incredible being here tonight. It’s such a privilege to be able to play for you; to sing for you. Every day I wake up and I have the to opportunity to do this, this thing that we love, I kiss the ground. You’ve got a lot going on in your great city this weekend. Well, apart from me; but thank you very much. One of the reasons we’re up here… to have fun. Which is essentially the message I want to give to everyone tonight, whether you’re in the back, whether you’re in the middle, whether you’re right at the end, I want you to have fun and understand that I see you. I feel you.” The multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, Seal, taking a moment to express his feelings to a packed Fox Theater in Oakland on the eve of Super Bowl weekend. Having met the incredible vocalist years ago – that last bit about seeing and feeling the audience – that could not be more true. Seal has been prolific since his splash in music with “Crazy” back in 1991, with his own original work as well as fantastic covers of classic songs, particularly in the soul genre. With this one off show this past week, the focus was on his latest (ninth) studio album, 7, released by Warner Bros. last year, with a compelling set list framed by some of his biggest hits. One of the most earnest and talented live performers in music today, he did not disappoint with an engaging show that left me revisiting his catalog and dreaming about seeing him in concert again soon. [Read more…]
As with my 2012, 2013, and 2014 Year in Review features, this feature looks back on a year of music with a summary of the highlights. This year, I attended about 50 shows, with hundreds of different sets of incredible talent and music to make sense of, not to mention trying to keep up with all of the studio releases from artists, new and old. This is my attempt to (subjectively) share my favorites of the year, from live shows to new songs and albums. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2015 in that separate article.