Clive Farrington, former lead singer of When In Rome at Hogue Barmichael’s | Newport Beach | 12/6/2014 (Rehearsals & Concert Review + Photos + New Wave Bar)

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I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days with Clive Farrington, to see what is going on with the former front man and lead singer of the popular 80s band, When In Rome.  On the itinerary was sitting in on a rehearsal with his new band prepping for 2015, checking out the New Wave Bar & Restaurant in Bellflower for Danny Sanchez’s birthday (“70s Disco Night”), and a few days later attending their special charity concert at Hogue Barmichael’s in Newport Beach, which benefited the Orangewood Children’s Foundation.

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at The Canyon Club | Agoura Hills, California | 12/5/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“You’ve excited me so much I’ve lost my voice all of a sudden…”  Terri Nunn in her intro to “Take My Breath Away”, Berlin’s Academy Award and Golden Globe winning 1986 song.  Playing to somewhat of a hometown crowd at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, the place was packed and the band changed things up a bit for Christmas, with a few festive classics fit in midway through their set.  They’ve had a heavier tour schedule in 2014, in part to support their latest album, Animal.  This marked the third time seeing Berlin in 2014, having seen their shows at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach in January and at City Winery Napa in August.  As per usual, they put on an incredible show with a mix of songs from old and new, including my two favorites, “Metro” and “Will I Ever Understand You”.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to see them just as much in 2015, and they are one of my highest recommended live acts to check out.

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Hotel/Resort Review: The Palms Casino Hotel – Las Vegas, Nevada – REVISIT

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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 Las Vegas in October 2014. This review is for The Palms Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. [Read more…]

Hotel/Resort Review: MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa – Stateline, Nevada (South Lake Tahoe) – REVISIT

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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 review is for the MontBleu Resort Casino & Spa – for a stay in September 2014. [Read more…]

Fleetwood Mac “On With The Show Tour” at Sleep Train Arena | Sacramento, California | 11/24/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I walked out of there with not much, except a feeling in my heart that it was all going to work.  And the reason that I tell you this story, is that I want you to know that if you have a dream, and you believe in yourself, and you believe something that you really want, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t have it.  Don’t ever let anybody get in your way, because you can have it, and we are living proof of that…”  Optimistic words spoken by Stevie Nicks at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento last night, joined on stage by the core members of one of the best rock and roll groups of all time, Fleetwood Mac.  I think we collectively need more optimism in the world today, but not just lofty words and sentiments, but used to power individuals to look to themselves and their own abilities and opportuities to make their dreams come true.  Somehow, this collection of gifted artists – Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Christine McVie – all found one another back in the 70s and made music that has endured as classics to this day.  I first saw Fleetwood Mac with their tour in 2013, and marked it as one of the best shows of the year.  As that tour did not include Christine McVie, with her return on this year’s tour, I marked this show as my top “must see” concert of the year.  It did not disappoint.  All of the players sound like they are truly at the top of their game, and they seemed to love performing as much as the audience loved watching it.  It was also a bit different than last year’s tour, with even higher production standards and maybe the best sound quality I’ve ever heard in a sports arena.  It was truly an epic show, and Fleetwood Mac is one of those rare bands that can make playing to a large indoor arena work (I rarely go to such shows because they typically do not work on many levels).  They really exceeded my expectations with their nearly three hour show, and I think the highlight for me was “Little Lies”, with Christine McVie’s beautiful voice and the overlapping chorus with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – a real showcase for the distinct character in each of their voices but how well they harmonize and blend together to such effect.

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Peter Hook & The Light Performing New Order’s “Low-Life” and “Brotherhood” (with Moby) at The Fonda Theatre | Hollywood, California | 11/22/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“And that’s how you play The Perfect Kiss!” An emphatic Peter Hook, currently touring as Peter Hook & The Light (formerly of Joy Division and New Order) – rock and roll’s greatest bass player – is apparently a skilled mind reader as well, as he pulled that quote right out of my head to shout back through his microphone after playing the best rendition of the classic song that I’d ever heard.  Hooky and his band are in 2014 touring New Order’s third and fourth albums (Low-Life and Brotherhood, respectively) in their entirety, having done the same in 2013 with the first two (Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies).  As an added bonus with each of these outings, they open for themselves as Slaves of Venues with dedicated Joy Division sets, which collectively makes for quite a substantive and lengthy set of shows each night.  At The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood Saturday night, the dedicated fans in attendance were also treated to a surprise guest appearance on stage for the encore, with none other than Moby coming out to perform vocals for the first two songs of that set to close out the evening.  All and all, with a show kicking off around 9:30 PM and going until 12:30 AM, it was three solid hours of celebration for fans of Joy Division and New Order.  It was certainly one of those special shows were the venue, artist, and fans all clicked perfectly to make for a very memorable experience and a blazing hot and awesome show by a legendary artist and performer, who in my opinion is the heart and soul of New Order keeping the most authentic live performance of their music alive for old and new fans.

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Erasure (“The Violet Flame Tour”) at Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort | Las Vegas, Nevada | 10/31/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Halloween is so brilliant though, isn’t it?  ‘Cause everyone can dress up; be what they want to do…  nobody is like judging you at all for how you look or anything or what you’re doing or who you’re with, blah, blah, blah …” Andy Bell of Erasure on Halloween at the Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.  Certainly an interesting combination of band, date, and city to be sure.  As the more extroverted of the duo, Andy came dressed in a sort of skeleton costume with accompanying face paint that has some resemblance to the cover art of their latest album; Vince Clarke, set back from the front of the stage and back to one corner, I don’t think said anything all night, and was dressed in more business-style attire (though he had the aforementioned art one his laptop lid.  However the two contrasting personalities found one another for their journey into music that has gone on for nearly three decades, the magic worked in the beginning and continues to do so today.  This was definitely an interesting (in a great way!) night on many levels.  I had an opportunity to meet Vince Clarke and Andy Bell from Erasure via the special tickets made available through their PledgeMusic campaign for that newest latest album, The Violet Flame.  The aptly named Violet Flame Tour included a number of those new songs mixed into the set, as well as a lot of their many, many hits and favorites.  I got the sense that it was a different sort of show for this series of shows, and I’m happy that I got a chance to experience this new music and tour.

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MisterWives, Crash Kings, The Soft White Sixties, & Moondog Matinee at Cargo at the Whitney Peak Hotel | Reno, Nevada | 10/24/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Those guys really rocked their faces off, so it was an honor to share the stage with those incredible bands.”  Mandy Lee of MisterWives, talking about the three awesome bands that took the stage leading up to their set: Crash Kings, The Soft White Sixties, and Moondog Matinee.  A quadruple headliner show, each act served as unique showcases of up and coming artists, with each being featured early next year in their own respective episodes of the PBS member station’s KNPB television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel, due to start airing early next year.  This concert, which ran for about five hours Friday night at Cargo in Reno, Nevada, boasted a fantastic collective of artists and the venue provided a great setting for really exciting and electric shows.

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Tears for Fears at The Wiltern | Los Angeles, California | 9/23/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Is that the new iPhone 6?”  Roland Orzabal, early on in the show, as he and Curt Smith looked out over the sea of cell phones in the air, held by an exuberant sold out crowd at the historic Wiltern in Los Angeles last night.  Tears for Fears, best known for their collection of timeless and classic New Wave hits from the 80s, do not tour very often, and when they do, the tours are usually not too many dates and cities.  So there was a bit of an “event” feeling in the air, and based on some of their comments later in the show, they both seem to have quite an affinity for the City of Angels.  As such, it seemed to be one of those special sort of shows, that unfold in a different sort of way.  About halfway through the show, Curt even gave a shout out to Richard Blade, who was at the front of the GA crowd in the pit…  if you didn’t know him by his own lifetime in music, you would think he was the band’s biggest fan (and maybe he is).  Perhaps the development that represented the biggest point of fan service, prefaced by Roland with “nothing like changing it up for L.A.; obviously this is a special place for us…” was the surprise encore opener, a song that “we haven’t done for many, many years”.  He said that this version will be included in their deluxe reissue of Songs From the Big Chair in November.  He said it has been impossible for them to do live “until now”, and then proceeded to play “The Working Hour”.  Definitely a special show by a fantastic band, and the place was certainly buzzing when it all came to a close after upwards of a two hour show.

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Heart at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 9/16/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“In the spirit of toasting, here’s a song by Paul McCartney…”  Nancy Wilson of Heart giving an appropriate intro to their cover of the Wings song, “Let Me Roll It”, from 1974, with her sister Ann sharing the stage in the wonderful atmosphere at Mountain Winery in Saratoga last night.  This was one of several cover songs performed, though the rest were Led Zeppelin songs for their encore.  I’ve saw Heart twice last year, and they always deliver with stunning performances and are truly as great as they’ve ever been.  In addition to their own vast and growing (with last year’s Fanatic) catalog, they’ve also in some way become the caretakers of keeping Led Zeppelin songs alive and well (in addition to Jason Bonham’s own Led Zeppelin Experience, which toured with them last year).  Who else but Ann Wilson can give epic delivery of those vocals, and yet with her own trademark style?  But of course fans turn out to hear Heart songs first and foremost, though they only played one song off the new album, “Mashallah” (which Ann said drives her into the stratosphere).  Each time I see them, the familiar songs sound a bit different, as though they find new and innovative ways to translate them into a live experience.  In any event, they put on a fantastic show in a gorgeous venue, so it was a wonderful celebration of them and their great music (as well as a tribute to some other greats in music).

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“Big Block Party” with Morris Day & The Time (The Original 7ven), Sheila E., Guy, and Doug E. Fresh at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 9/13/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Sacramento… you may notice a bit of moisture forming on my forehead… falling down my face…  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, ‘Morris has lost it.’  You may even be thinking, ‘Morris is not cool anymore.’  But let me fix that shit for you, Sacramento.  Just like you take a cool bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator, and you set it on the counter… what does it begin to do?  See, it sounds like you all don’t know.  See, it begins to condensate, Sacramento.  Because that’s what you do when you’re cool from the inside out…   So please understand, Morris is not sweatin’.  I’m condensatin’.   And, hell yes, Morris Day is still cool!”  Words from the legendary Morris Day from Morris Day & The Time (now The Original 7ven), headlining the Big Block Party by WorldOne Presents at Thunder Valley Casino Resort Saturday night.  Having come on stage after the sun dropped out of view, which hit a high of 100 degrees, it left me wondering if the sweat rolling off everyone in the sold out concert venue was from the heat of the day, or the heat coming off the stage from the outrageous funk band, who followed the incredible line-up of Sheila E., Guy, and Doug E. Fresh.

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Huey Lewis and The News at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 9/6/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“We don’t do this one often… this is awful fast; it’s awful hard…”  Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News giving an intro and tribute to a song they rarely play live in concert, “Hip To Be Square”.  He went on to explain to the crowd at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Saturday night that San Francisco 49ers players Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott contributed backing vocals to the song, so were performing it to support their team.  Having come off of their “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” in 2013, they are still drawing large crowds with a mix of old and new material, which seems to change show to show.  Whatever the setlist, they seem to have a lot of contagious fun, and their shows always have a family affair sort of vibe.  As Huey introduced his band, he mentioned that he and drummer Bill Gibson even went to middle school together.  I think the spirit of all that shines through in their music (recorded and live), and it’s pretty remarkable that those relationships can endure in the music industry, when I’ve seen it completely tear other bands apart (even blood family members).  They always put on an amazing concert, and Mountain Winery always serves as an awesome host, overlooking the night lights of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

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