Retro Futura Tour 2014 (Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones, Midge Ure, Katrina) at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 8/30/2014 (Concert Review)

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I usually open my reviews with a quote from the headlining artist at a show…  and I generally don’t care for audience sing-a-longs (I come to hear the artist, not drunk people that don’t know the lyrics).  But Saturday night was a different, special sort of show with the perfect fans in attendance.  Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins hasn’t played live for over 25 years, and came out of retirement for the newly rebranded Retro Futura tour (which was previously operating as Regeneration Tour).  I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved the Thompson Twins and their music growing up, and that I never imaged I would have an opportunity to see them perform live.  So at Saturday night’s stop at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, following the awesome sets by Howard Jones, Midge Ure (of Ultravox) and Katrina Leskanich (Ex Katrina and the Waves), Tom Bailey and his fantastic new backing band absolutely blew away every expectation I had.  It was as if, as a performer, he was in hibernation for the past quarter of a century and came out the same as he was in his prime to play this show.  It was quite surreal.  So getting back to that sing-a-long…  the final song of the night was Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” (which a friend of mine captured on video from the audience) and everyone in attendance was so elated to see that man performing in front of them.  As the song came to an end, the entire audience was on their feet, singing the chorus.  Tom looked moved by the whole thing, stopped singing in mic, pulled out his ear monitors, motioned for his band to join him at the end of the stage, and it all came to a close acapella.  A beautiful thing, and I think a way for us fans to let him know that we still love him, love his music, and want him to stay.  A perfect ending, and maybe new beginning.  “Hold me now, warm my heart…  stay with me, let loving start, let loving start…”

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The Eagles (“History of The Eagles Tour”) at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 8/29/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Yeah, I was from Detroit, Michigan.  Where “mother” is half a word.”  Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, which formed in 1971, alongside co-founders Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, using a bit of humor as the band introduced themselves to the sold out crowd at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s in South Lake Tahoe last night.  Performing “History of The Eagles” alongside other great musicians with their own history with the legendary band, they played hit after hit in a set that passed the two hour mark.  One of the most popular rock and roll bands of all time (critically and commercially, with six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, five number-one singles and six number-one albums), their success spans over six decades.  The concert itself was fantastic for many reasons, but interestingly, it got better and better as it went on, and by the time the members were introducing one another and having some freedom on the mic, I felt that things really took off from that point forward.

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Broods at Assembly Music Hall | Sacramento, California | 8/28/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Thirsty Thursday, is that a thing here?  It’s a thing at home… not for me, because I’m never thirsty…” Georgia Nott, with a little bit of chit chat with the very enthusiastic audience at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento.  Like her, much of the audience was young and female, and many were experiencing Broods live for the very first time.   Like the sold out show at The Independent I attended back in May, Georgia split her time roaming the stage as well as performing at her keyboard station on the opposite corner of the stage from her older brother Caleb, with Jimi Mataio holding things down at the center back of the stage.  Since that show in May, they have now released (or are on the verge of releasing, depending on what country you live in) their first studio album, Evergreen.  Since it is not officially out yet in the U.S. (due October 8th here), I have only heard the songs pre-released on iTunes with pre-order (though two of the five were on the EP).  But with that sampling, I’m even more convinced that this young band really deserves (and should) break big.  They make great music with thoughtful lyrics and it all translates into a live concert so beautifully.  Georgia has a remarkable voice – the kind that you hear on a studio recording and imagine that she could not possibly measure up in a live setting, but having been to two shows now, I can say that she totally kills it on stage, and Caleb manages to paint clean, distinct sounds with his keyboards and Jimi is a force on drums.  I’ve become a huge fan of the new song, “L.A.F.”, in large part because of the non-traditional drums and beats, and this was one of the highlights for the show last night for me.  Phenomenal band, and one that I’ll continue to turn out for any chance that I get.

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The Zombies at Harrah’s South Shore Room | Stateline, Nevada | 8/23/2014 (Concert Review)

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“Before I sing each song, if you’re ever thinking, ‘what’s going through his mind?’, I’m thinking: ‘sing from your ass, project out the back of your neck, and try and get your tits over your shoulders!’” Colin Blunstone, vocalist for The Zombies, giving the summation of his three anecdotes regarding decades of experience with singing techniques, offered to visiting students from The Royal Academy of Music.  The concert at Harrah’s South Shore Room in Lake Tahoe last night marks the third time I’ve seen the band live in the past year (having seen them at the indigO2 in London and at Yoshi’s in San Francisco in 2013) and they are still full of surprises.  Joined on stage with co-founding member Rod Argent on keyboards and vocals as well as rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (from Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums, the British Invasion band continues to prove that they are both music legends of the past as well as relevant today, with their mix of classics and all new music (with one newly polished gem previewed last night and due to be to be recorded in studio in the next two weeks).  These guys are the real deal, and represent real rock and roll. [Read more...]

Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at City Winery Napa | Napa, California | 8/13/2014 (Concert Review)

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“…I am extremely upset at losing Robin Williams – much more than I ever thought I would be when I first heard the news.  It’s really hard to see someone with that kind of talent and love from all over the world destroy himself.  And I’m not saying he’s wrong… I’m just saying it’s hard…  So we pulled this song that you’ve probably heard before, because I think it is what I want to say to honor him tonight.  This is for Robin.” A heartfelt and emotional intro by Terri Nunn of Berlin at City Winery Napa on Wednesday night, talking in a personal way about what has been on the minds of the masses around the world, as a preface to their special tribute cover of Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”.  All in all, it was a very intimate set, and probably the best I’ve seen them over the years.  They have toured a bit more in 2014, in part to support their latest album, Animal.  With their current sets comprised of a mix of old and new, it’s become more and more seamless as the rest of the band have made each of the classic songs their own over the years.  And they are still full of surprises, last night playing “Like Flames” for the first time since 1987.  They are one of my personal favorite live acts today, and each time I see them it inspires me to turn out for future shows.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Photography Journal (Cosplay/Costumes/Sights of The Convention) (#SDCC)

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As I have been covering San Diego Comic-Con on my sister site, The Original Prop Blog, since 2007, I am sharing some of the photos of the people and sights in and around the exhibit hall and the Gaslamp Quarter for this year’s event.  This feature focuses on photos of people in costumes. [Read more...]

San Diego Comic-Con 2014: Photography Journal (Sights Around The Convention Center and Gaslamp Quarter) (#SDCC)

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As I have been covering San Diego Comic-Con on my sister site, The Original Prop Blog, since 2007, I am sharing some of the photos of the people and sights in and around the exhibit hall and the Gaslamp Quarter for this year’s event.  This feature focuses on photos of the convention at large. [Read more...]

Comic-Con International in San Diego 2014: Blake J. Harris and “Console Wars” Discussion Panel of Sega vs Nintendo

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This is off topic from music, but I thought some readers might enjoy…  During my coverage for The Original Prop Blog at San Diego Comic Con last week, the one “must see” discussion panel for me was the one that came about from the Blake J. Harris book, Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation.  Panelists included Sega of America’s former President Tom Kalinske, and former Director of Marketing Al Nilsen, as well as Nintendo of America’s former Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Affairs Perrin Kaplan and former Director of Marketing Bill White. [Read more...]

Journey and Steve Miller Band at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 7/30/2014 (Concert Review)

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“We’d like to play something off a very old record, but a very good record… it’s called Infinity.  This was not the beginning with Mr. Perry…  this was one of the first songs I wrote with him… actually the second song.  We wrote it sitting downstairs in Gregg Rolie’s house… and then the song came out of nowhere – it wasn’t about L.A., it was about San Francisco!  I don’t think they have a bay there…  Is there a bay in L.A.?  There’s one in San Francisco!”  Neal Schon of Journey reminiscing about creating some of the best rock and roll songs of all-time, as intro to “Lights”.  Journey and Steve Miller Band are just closing out a 41-date tour with Tower of Power that kicked off in mid-May, though this special one off show at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s did not include the third band playing on the larger tour.  The two classic rock bands provided plenty of music and energy on their own, playing to what appeared to be a sold out crowd.  With many hits spanning decades, it was a great show with a lot of music history on display – both the songs and the people that made them.  I’ve seen Journey a few times in the past couple of years, but I have to say that they’ve really cranked things up with this tour, and look and sound better than ever.  It was my first time seeing Steve Miller Band, and while I’m not as familiar with them compared with Journey, I really loved that set as well.  Both bands were in top form and put on amazing shows.  One of the best tours of the Summer to be sure.

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Foreigner at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 7/28/2014 (Concert Review)

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“This was originally a full electric performance on, I don’t know what you might have had – an LP, CD, or cassette… or 8-track tape!”  Kelly Hansen, singer for Foreigner, as preface to one of the many hit songs that they played at Mountain Winery on Monday night, underscoring how long the band has been around in one form or another.  Foreigner are currently touring with Styx and Don Felder of the Eagles as part of their “Soundtrack of the Summer” tour, though this was a one off date featuring Foreigner as single headliner, with Bay Area’s The Bad Jones supporting the show at this stop.  The band had an interesting sort of pacing throughout the night, rocking out and then having a leisurely sort of conversational and intimate way of chatting with the audience between songs.  The celebratory nature of it all was built on a framework of classic rock and roll music, and they most definitely played to and fed off of the energy of the crowd – maybe one of the more energetic shows I’ve seen at the venue.  I love the whole thing and wouldn’t hesitate to see them again the next time they tour – excellent show.

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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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