“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.
“We need a new story, Oakland. Sometimes, you just gotta make it up. It’s called self-preservation.” It was a show that ran a full gamut of emotions, as the ever reclusive Prince opened up to a crowd of what felt like dedicated fans of the iconic artist. The show at Paramount Theatre in Oakland was put up for sale just a few days prior and sold out instantly, so it was likely that those sorts of fans with their ear to the ground were the only ones who had a shot at getting them. Though pricey, it was well worth the price of admission as Prince put up a “fan service” setlist that included many hits as well as favorites that you might not expect from The Purple One. Bathed in a digital kaleidoscope of light throughout the show, Prince (with ginormous afro and shoes with flashing red lights) sat, stood at, danced around, and at one point even lay on top of a grand piano painted an appropriate shade of his signature color. Billed as “Prince: Piano and a Microphone”, he started this concept at his own Paisley Park in Minnesota last month. But it was so much more than that… I think Prince stripped down inspires him to open up so much more, both with his emotions and his music. Truly an unforgettable experience. [Read more…]
“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.
“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…]
“We’re going to play a few songs now that you might know. You’ve been very patient; thank you very much. You also might not know them as well…” Dave Gahan, bridging the main set of Soulsavers material and their encore, which featured two songs from his first two solo records and two from Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. Making his debut performance with Soulsavers, they previewed the newly recorded material from Angels & Ghosts, which will be released on Friday. Dave Gahan has reunited for a second album as Dave Gahan & Soulsavers, as well as announced a very limited set of concerts with a 10-piece band at very small and intimate venues in the U.S. and Europe, with this first one happening at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles on Monday night. The album, Angels & Ghosts, is his second collaboration with producer Rich Machin and the tour takes them to New York, London, Berlin, Paris, and Milan. It all creates a framework to showcase Mr. Gahan’s ability to transcend the work of Depeche Mode into territory that allows him to reveal his own unique gifts, artistry, and vision. A peek into the soul of a man who is very complex, as well as a foundation with which to truly hear his voice soar to new heights and lyrics that provide real vulnerability. Decidedly not “a Depeche Mode show”, but a rare experience for fans to see another side of one of the most talented artists of our generation. Unforgettable.
I usually start off my reviews with a quote, but Wolf Alice don’t spend too much time talking on stage, and their concert at The Chapel in San Francisco Thursday night was a bit too chaotic and kinetic for chit chat; they let the music speak for itself. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch all three of their San Francisco shows in 2015 (their debut at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in March and follow-up at The Independent in May), but their most recent show – fueled by the June release of their debut album My Love Is Cool – was their best yet. They are, in my opinion, the most exciting new band recording and performing today. They continue to develop their many gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and their live concerts serve as a showcase for how amazing they are at recreating their rich and complex, multi-layered sound on stage. But back to that album… for me personally, it is the Album of the Year. Truly, the best album of the past several years. Every song is a gem. They are THE band to watch.
“Lyrics is everything to me…” The very thoughtful and contemplative Howard Jones, during his intimate solo show (“The Songs, The Piano, and The Stories) at City Winery Napa on Friday night, leading into his heartfelt hit song, “Life In One Day”. The lengthy set was split between his solo performance and stories about each song, delivered with warmth, honesty, and wit, in an authentic, humble manner. The format proved to be an amazing way in which to begin to get to know (funny enough) the man behind the music, which is something I always approach with a little trepidation (at least one favorite 80s icon proved to be a disappointment a few years ago – I wish I could “unexperience” that show). But Howard Jones proved to be a man the audience liked to get to know well… Mr. Jones is really not just an incredible artist, but an incredible man and I really appreciate his efforts to openly share about his fascinating life as well as pass along some life lessons. He does this in his traditional electric shows as well, but it’s not quite the same as him settling into his seat behind his keyboard with the mic volume set for discussion as well as playing, with an equally relaxed audience sitting around him. If you’ve ever seen one of Howard Jones’ electric live shows, I would highly recommend checking out one of these solo shows as well, as it is a totally different experience and maybe even more gratifying and entertaining. I loved every second of it, and plan to go to another one the next time the opportunity arises. My highest recommendation.
“I was going to save this one for later… just like me, I’m too excited, and I just can’t wait!” Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, teasing the crowd and then finally throwing down with popular hit “Save It For Later” not even halfway through their lengthy concert at City Winery Napa on Thursday night. After finishing that song, toaster King Schascha exclaimed: “We could not be saving anything for later… after that, we officially want to welcome each and every one of you to the Dave Wakeling workout program. Just that seven minutes right there is the best workout you’ve had all week. And you did it while drinking alcohol. More calories than ever. All you need to do for this membership is come to a Dave Wakeling Beat show.” King Schascha is one of several line-up changes in the band since I last saw them live back in January, and this is definitely my favorite modern-era incarnation of the band yet. They absolutely killed it on stage, and sounded better than ever with amazing energy and chemistry pouring into the sold out crowd (many of whom did get a great workout through the night). If how good a performance makes you feel while it’s happening was the only criteria for ranking a live show, I would have to say that this English Beat event was the concert of the year, and definitely the best I’d ever seen them, from the energy to the sound to the venue and atmosphere to the crowd, it all just came together beautifully. I’m actually now worried about seeing them again in the future, as it would be hard to measure up to this one show. Outstanding.