Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) usually has little to say to an audience during a Pixies concert, and unless I missed it, he had nothing to say to the sold out crowd at the Fox Theater in Oakland last night. The music he crafted with his band, originating in the late 80s, still sounds ahead of it’s time, and rocks harder than most of the material put out by bands yesterday and today. Yet in true anti-rock star style, after casually coming onto the stage Friday night and giving the crowd a friendly wave hello, Black Francis realized his shoe was untied and propped his foot up on the drum kit to rectify the situation before kicking into “Bone Machine”. The band has one of the best collections of songs for a band with such a short lifespan in its original incarnation (1986-1993, more or less). I personally love every song on their five studio albums, save one or two. As most are fairly short, some are played even faster live, so a Pixies concert always feels like some kind of a race of sorts to the end, and thus the chit chat engaged in by some artists is skipped over completely with the Pixies, though they always have a surprise or two none the less. The most unexpected moment with their stop in Oakland was the apparent lack of a set list, and after a satisfying encore, the house lights came up, band still onstage with fans exiting in a hurry, only to have the quartet break into a frenetic and rocking version of “Planet of Sound”, with house lights still up throughout. Funny enough, I asked the sound and light crew at the mixing board in the back about this when the show finally (finally) came to a close, and even they were surprised. In any event, a stellar show put on by one of my favorite bands of all time, played to a fascinating mix of fans old and new (some of the latter of which weren’t even born during their first run in the late 80s and early 90s). A true celebration of some of the best music of my generation. They’ve still got it. [Read more...]
Imagine Dragons “Into The Night Tour” at SAP Center| San Jose, California | 2/13/2014 (Concert Review)
When I last saw Imagine Dragons in concert, I was packed into a small club with about 500 other fans, pressed against the small stage, with frontman Dan Reynolds dripping sweat onto those of us in the first few rows. Fast forward just one year later, and now the band is easily selling out the 17,000 capacity SAP Center in San Jose (which even the Rolling Stones had trouble filling last year), and striking less successful music bands with envy (more on that later). With their performance Thursday night, it was fascinating seeing how they’ve built up a fan base, yet retained their modesty. At one point, during an ad lib, Dan became a bit self conscious about what he was saying, stopped himself, and confessed, “it’s because of you – you make me nervous…” Honesty and earnestness is rare in rock stars these days, but I have a feeling that it is something innate in this one, and will always stay with him. While photographing the first few songs at the start of their set, watching from a couple feet away, I saw Dan pause at one point and briefly stare out across the massive audience before him, and get choked up a little in the same way he did a year ago talking about the charity they were supporting for that small gig in San Francisco. These are definitely genuine guys, and it certainly comes through in their music and performance. Definitely one of the must see tours of the year, as I suspect they will get even bigger once they release their sophomore album.
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 San Diego in January 2014. This review is for Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites in San Diego, California. [Read more...]
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 extension trip throughout Eastern Europe and London in December 2013. This review is for the Hilton London Tower Bridge. I have stayed at this property multiple times, so this is an updated review. [Read more...]
“It started off really nice today, and then just went to rain, and that is a Vancouver day as well, so I feel like I’m at home…”, In-between songs, The Pack A.D.’s Maya Miller, drummer and chattier of the Canadian garage rock duo just before singer/guitarist Becky Black threw down the familiar opening guitar riff for “Big Shot” off of their stellar new album, Do Not Engage. The pair played through quite an extensive setlist at Brick & Mortar Music Hall Wednesday night, but they play their songs probably twice as fast at the typical band, so the blazing set was over sooner than all in attendance might have hoped. The dimly lit venue was truly electrified by their blazing music, and they are armed with fantastic songs that seem crafted to be played live. I just discovered this band last month with the release of their fourth studio album, and absolutely love Do Not Engage. Now, having seen them play live, they have made me a fan. Amazing show, and I’d personally seek them out if they roll into a town near you…
You know you are at interesting show when the singer asks, in-between songs, for the audience to shout out their favorite taquería on the count of three. Frankie Rose, singer-songwriter of the band of the same name, has roots in San Francisco, and packed Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday night with her special retroesque mix of fuzzy guitar and synth dream pop. Supporting her latest album, Herein Wild, the set included a mix of old and new, which illustrated the evolution of her sound. All in all an excellent show…
“We’ve got a few more songs here for you here… if you fucking want them!” Tim Wheeler, vocalist and guitarist for Northern Ireland’s alternative band Ash, which was born in the early 90s, yet seems to bring the best of that vibe forward in their music today. An enthusiastic crowd of fans packed Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last night, and they certainly wanted those few more songs that finished out a pretty lengthy and extremely impressive and rocking set. For a loud, ripping show, the sound was absolutely phenomenal, and these music veterans of the alternative music scene certainly are masters at the live show. It really exceeded my expectations, and was just a fantastic concert showcasing their unique brand of rock and roll. As one of their first shows on the West Coast of the U.S. in 9 years, they certainly came back to make a statement.
Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn kicked off 2014 with their first live date of the year at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, California, just as they did last year (which is a show I caught and reviewed as well). The biggest difference between last year and this year is that their amazing new album, Animal, came out this past September. While they have been playing some of this new material in their shows in the past few years, somehow it felt much more seamlessly intertwined into the set, maybe because now I’m so familiar with the songs. Like last year, it was another stellar show with excellent supporting artists, and Saint Rocke is a great little venue. I think more than most bands, Berlin gets what their music is about, how it affects people, and the power a live show can have on celebrating life and living it with some passion. They definitely bring it all out on stage and they are one of those bands that can carry you along with them vicariously. [Read more...]
“We played the Whiskey last night for their fiftieth anniversary, and I don’t want to kiss your ass or anything, but this is way more fun…” X vocalist and bassist John Doe at The Casbah in San Diego last night, in the midst of a rocking set in the tiny club, well sold out at its 230 capacity. I had seen the band last September on the “No Principals Tour” with Blondie in San Francisco, but this was more like taking a step back in time. Depending on where you were standing, they frequently could not be seen at all, which made the illusion all the more convincing. An authentic throw back to the earlier 80s punk scene they pioneered, it was a fantastic night of music and definitely an interesting, somewhat quirky crowd, which was apparent to those on the stage as well.
The Invisible Lighthouse – A Film and Live Performance by Thomas Dolby at Crest Theatre | Sacramento, California | 11/23/2013 (Concert Review)
“It’s a happy and a sad occasion…“ Thomas Dolby talking about his last stop at Creat Theatre in Sacramento last night, in his preface to “performing” his very personal documentary film, The Invisible Lighthouse Tour. Really a film unlike any I’ve ever experienced, it was just that – an experience. Dolby has been a pioneer in pop culture from his very beginnings, well known for his 1982 New Wave hit, “She Blinded Me With Science” among a number of other accomplishments in and out of music. Dolby’s partner on the stage, Blake Leyh, produced some amazing “analog”, impressionistic sound effects during the film, which Dolby scored and narrated, which made it clear that each performance of his film has been quite unique and different. A real pioneer in the arts, Dolby certainly has consistently blazed his own path, and after hearing his candid thoughts throughout the event, it would seem that he operates in a bit of a pop culture bubble, and looks to technology to find new ways in which to create meaningful art and vehicles for expression, and currently he is inspired by the ability today to make powerful films, sans Hollywood budgets and crews. The result is something that literally has to be experienced in a theater, and hopefully this event is truly not the last for The Invisible Lighthouse.
Alison Moyet (The Minutes Tour) at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 11/11/2013 (Concert Review)
“Joy is not supposed to… it’s never meant to be this seamless stream of happiness, you know? Joy happens in moments, in little minutes, in little capsules of time…” Alison Moyet, talking about the ideas and themes and inspiration behind her latest studio album, The Minutes. As I gushed about in my preview last month of this very special three date, three city stop in the United States by New Wave icon Alison Moyet, she has been one of my all-time favorite vocalists, so I had really high expectations for this concert. I expected it to be a highlight among the approximate 100 concerts I’ll have attended by the end of the year. Remarkably, my expectations were exceeded in every way. Truly a fantastic concert and I know from being within the crowd of fans that I am not alone in my assessment. She was joined on stage by band members John Garden and Sean McGhee, and there were ample songs from her latest album (in my opinion maybe her best solo record of her career) as well as favorites going all the way back to her beginnings with Vince Clarke with whom she partnered with for Yazoo (Yaz in the U.S.). It is too bad for the masses here in the States that this must-see show is limited to just San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, but if you have a chance to catch one of the other two upcoming dates, it is well worth it. A phenomenal and unforgettable show by one of the most gifted singer-songwriters of my generation.
“Thank you so, so much for being here tonight. It means so, so much to us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” in MS MR thanking the crowd at the Independent in San Francisco last night for being “early adopters” of their music, while the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, preps the crowd for the last song of the night, “Hurricane”. Appropriately enough, the new band has taken the music industry by storm with their phenomenal first studio album, Secondhand Rapture, which I certainly rank as one of the Top 10 Albums of 2013. Their unique blend of at once dark and poppy electronic music has taken me back to those same feelings I had when I found Yazoo 30 years ago (with another male-female duo in Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet), though updated and reflective of our time today. This was the third of three sell out shows at The Independent in the past week, which is remarkable since it was only four months ago that I saw them take the same stage supporting CSS back in June. In much the same way Imagine Dragons graduated from The Independent (they played there as well earlier this year) to filling sports arenas, I suspect that MS MR will continue on with their upward trajectory, carried by their awesome music and brilliant live performances, which sound as sublime as the studio recordings. This is definitely a tour that fan who are lucky enough to check out will not forget.