Heart at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 8/26/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I think we’ve been here like eight or nine or ten times before… you can tell we’re sort of a variety band…”  Nancy Wilson reminiscing about past appearances with her sister Ann and band Heart at Mountain Winery, before diving into a stunning cover of “Mona Lisas and Madhatters”.  I’ve been lucky enough to see Heart several times in the past few years (even a year ago at the same venue and two years ago almost to the day at America’s Cup Pavilion) and one thing that I’ve learned with them is that every show is a completely different experience.  Slight but substantive changes to setlists and songs, different tone and attitude… they have so much range and talent and emotion, you never quite know what to expect.  Maybe that feminine perspective brings a wider gamut of approaches and possibilities?  Or the duo and their band have so much by way of musical gifts, they challenge themselves by expressing their art in a variety of ways?  In any event, this show was exceptional, with each of the sisters – as well as their stellar band – having moments to shine and showcase their talents.  The standing ovation following “Alone” was one of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen in a long time.  Somehow, Ann can really nail that song in so many different ways it’s amazing.  As has been the case in the past few years, Heart remains the caretakers of keeping Led Zeppelin music alive and well (along with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, who have toured with them as well), closing out the night with covers of the classic, beloved music.  Real icons and pioneers in music themselves, they are one of the best live shows touring today, with a catalog spanning decades and reflecting different eras in not only music but pop culture and our times.

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The Band Perry at Ironstone Amphitheatre | Murphys California | 8/11/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“You know what, it’s on rare occasion that we get to play on someplace so beautiful…”  The Band Perry’s Kimberly, taking in the gorgeous surroundings at Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphy’s.  The Grammy Award-winning trio played to thousands of fans in attendance, making excellent use of the newly renovated stage with their impressive production of lights, sound, smoke, and music.  It was a night of more contemporary country music, with a younger generation of artists which also included sets from Jana Kramer and Casey James.  It was definitely a different sort of audience too, skewing much younger and energetic, and just plain blissful, compared to those that have turned out for the more established acts during this Summer Concert Series.  They all put on top performances that showcased an evolving sound in the world of country music. [Read more…]

Steve Miller Band with Buddy Guy at Ironstone Amphitheatre | Murphy’s California | 8/1/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“This and I think the ‘Gangster of Love’ inspired me to write ‘The Joker…'”  Steve Miller of Steve Miller Band giving an introduction to “One Mint Julip”.  Throughout his lengthy set of originals and covers, he gave some context and history about the music he has been playing for fans for decades.  Also performing on the massive new stage at Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphy’s on Saturday was Blues legend Buddy Guy.  The pairing made for an interesting show, if only to compare the drastically different styles…  Buddy Guy kicking off the night with a loud shirt and seemingly spontaneously arranged grouping of songs, using the whole stage and ultimately the vast venue itself as a stage as he unplugged and roamed the entire seated section playing to cheering fans.  In contrast, once the day gave in to give thousands of fans in attendance at the beautiful vineyards a glorious sunset, Steve Miller Band came out on stage with a few of his iconic images propped up against black and darkness.  Steve Miller had on his formal attire and sunglasses and was most comfortable at center mic.  Both put on fantastic performances that showcases incredible music from the 50s onward.  Another great event put on for Richter Entertainment Group’s summer concert series.

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Huey Lewis and The News with Eddie Money at Thunder Valley Outdoor Amphitheater | Lincoln, California | 7/31/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I love you too, sir!”  Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News literally giving some love to one member of the sold out crow at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater on Friday night.  “We first worked together about 40 years ago…”  Huey Lewis, talking about Eddie Money who played the supporting set, giving a sense of how long the two have been making hit music, both with new albums in the works today.   Of course, Huey Lewis and The News came armed with more hits than they had time to play, but they did manage to squeeze in a few new songs as well, introducing one by saying, “a brand new song for you… now feel free to imagine yourself owning this song on a CD sometime next year – it’s called, ‘Her Love Is Killing Me'”.  Having taken their “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” around the U.S. in 2013, they have always been a band to look both backwards and forwards, and the timelessness style of their music makes it easy for fans to embrace this approach.  Shows by Huey Lewis and The News always seem to have an authentic vibe to them, as Huey reminisces about their roots in the area, even when playing to a long sold out crowd of 5,000+ fans.

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Charli XCX and Bleachers (Charli and Jack Do America) at Fox Theater | Oakland, California | 7/23/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Oakland, I want to see you go fuckin’ crazy!”  One of a set of similar sentiments shouted by Charli XCX throughout her high energy performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Thursday night, along with co-headliner Bleachers in their “Charli and Jack Do America” tour, though the latter had already whipped the crowd into a frenzy before she even had a chance to take the stage.  At only 22 years only, Charli XCX has had a remarkably long and prolific career thus far, and in her ongoing evolution of her unique and varied brand of music, she has veered solidly into the pop diva lane of the genre highway.  It was an interesting pairing of artists, with New Jersey-born Jack Antonoff from Bleachers building and building their own set with anthem-driven pop/rock songs that are catchy and captivating (even on first listen), contrasted against England’s Charli XCX pushing sexually-fused tunes with saccharine pop choruses.  As a dual headlining show, each artist seemed to bring out a different crowd, though all skewed younger.  Most certain is that each artist – though having respectively accomplished much already – will certainly continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.  [Read more…]

Dale Bozzio, Missing Persons & Clive Farrington, When in Rome at The Karman Bar | Laguna Niguel, California | 7/18/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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Music from the 1980s continues to permeate pop culture today – it seems like every commercial break cycle includes a familiar New Wave hit song repurposed for selling something or other.  In addition – and on the positive end of the spectrum – we sometimes have the opportunity to catch a multi-artist live concert with a few or a variety of 80s artists perform at the same event.  One such event was held at The Karman Bar in Orange County, providing a double headlining show with Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons and Clive Farrington from When In Rome.  Taking a step back, one of the most interesting things about this show is how the two principals from the two very different 80s bands collectively covered the decade in music, with Missing Persons originally together from 1980 to 1986 and When In Rome being active from 1987 to 1990.  So listening to their music at this event, there was also a contrast in sound from the beginnings of that decade (with it’s more traditional rock and roll emphasis of vocals, guitar, bass and drums) to that at the end (with vocals and keyboards/synth and electronic beats at the forefront).  In any event, it is of course awesome to see two key players from the era keeping their music alive and turning out fans to celebrate it.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Travel/Hotel/Resort/Ferry Travel Advice for Staying on Coronado Island for Comic Con (#SDCC)

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I have been going to San Diego Comic Con (AKA Comic-Con International) since 1987, when I was 14 years old, but have until this year always stayed in Downtown San Diego apart from one time I stayed at Humphrey’s By The Bay on Shelter Island. Planning my travel and accommodations for 2015 was actually the first time that not only did I not get my first choice with the Travel Planners “lottery” style system for reservations and special rates for booking rooms, I did not get any room with them at all. As registered press, it has always been convenient for me to stay at the adjacent San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina, which is where I’ve stayed in the previous four years. With not a lot of options, I ended up booking a room at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort on Coronado Island (see my review here). While I was disappointed with the service of the hotel, and the distance to Ferry Landing (which offers a short five minute boat ride directly from Coronado Island to the Convention Center), I did find that not only is staying on Coronado feasible, but there are some significant benefits as well. So I thought I would share my findings with those who might consider staying on Coronado in future years. [Read more…]

San Diego Comic-Con 2015: Photography Journal & Photos of The Convention, Cosplay, Exhibit Hall (#SDCC)

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As in past years, this is a photo journal from San Diego Comic Con 2015, showcasing photographs of the exhibit hall, around the convention center and the Gaslamp District, and some of the popular cosplay participants. Images are from Wednesday (Preview Night), Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. [Read more…]

Hotel/Resort Review: Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel – Beverly Hills California

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my recent trip to Beverly Hills in June 2015. This review is for Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel. [Read more…]

Aerosmith (Blue Army Tour 2015) at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 7/3/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Remember baby, the lake may be cold, but the light at the end of the tunnel may be you…”  The final words from the immortal Steven Tyler as he turned his back to the crowd and strutted topless down the ramp and into the bright lights glowing from the back of the stage, as “Bad To The Bone” played him out.  Performing at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena in South Lake Tahoe as part of their Summer Concert Series two years running, the explosive live show by Aerosmith kept a sold out crowd on their feet for over two hours.  In my own opinion, Aerosmith is not just the best live rock and roll band touring today, but maybe of all time.  They do pretty much everything better than anyone else, and they have so many hits in their arsenal that it just builds and builds and builds all night.  Steven Tyler was born to do what he does, and even at 67 years old, he does it like no one else (and last night appeared to be have more energy than any of the 7,000 people in attendance).  As much as he is the ultimate front man and performer, he is absolutely beaming when “Joe Fucking Perry”, “on guitar for 40 fucking years” is beside him, bringing the familiar riffs to life in a way that seems to be equal parts passion and effortlessness.  Their songs feel like they were made to be performed live, and maybe more than any other band today, they know how to put on a show that’s brilliant no matter where you are, from up close to far away in the bleachers.  Even if you are not a dedicated Aerosmith fan, I would say above any other band today – if you are a fan of ANY contemporary music – you’ve got to turn out to their show at least once, just so you have a new benchmark from which to judge all other concerts.  It really doesn’t get any better when you consider every critical element that goes into a live concert event.  They’ve earned the title, “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”.

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