“Now this next song, I must have been about 25 when I wrote this song… I don’t even know why I play it anymore other than I know you guys want to hear it, right?” John Melloncamp on stage at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironston Vineyards Saturday night, talking about writing his hit song from the 80s, “Jack and Diane”. The venue was packed with fans turning out to see their blue collar hero from decades past, though it is a strange kind of incongruity with what inspires the fans still today seems to be more of a thorn in the side of the man who captured their imagination with these songs for which he does not seemingly share the same sentiment himself today. Regardless, he delivered an impressive set and supporting artists Carlene Carter and Emmylou Harris did the same.
“Let’s see some hands!” Tommy DeCarlo, vocalist from Boston, getting the massive crowd at Ironstone Amphitheatre in Murphys reaching up to the sky during “Cool The Engines”. Essentially a double-header with Joan Jett & The Blackhearts performing earlier, it was a stellar night of classic rock spanning the last four or five decades. The two artists were a great choice to pair up, in that they had great crossover in fans but were also a showcase in contrasting styles and approaches to bringing their music to life on stage. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts were stripped down to just the instruments they needed to recreate their raw punk rock style as the sun set into the horizon behind the crowd while Boston had a fantastic spaceship themed backdrop across massive monitors that seemed to fuel their hard and progressive rock sounds. Early on in Richter Entertainment’s Summer Concert Series, this show set a bar for high energy and pure rock and roll for all the artists to follow.
As with my 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Year in Review features, this article looks back on a year of music with a summary of the highlights. This year, I attended about 35 shows, with hundreds of different sets of incredible talent and music to make sense of, not to mention trying to keep up with all of the studio releases from artists, new and old. This is my attempt to (subjectively) share my favorites of the year, from live shows to new songs and albums. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2016 in that separate article.
This is the first of my 2016 “Year In Review” articles. As with my articles in 2012, 2013, and 2014 and 2015, I reviewed a sampling of my concert photos from 2016 and compiled some of my favorites and stopped when I hit 100 photos in total. Please also check out my companion 2016 Year in Review article, which covers my Top 5 Albums, Top 50 Songs, Top 10 Concerts and more. [Read more…]
“Oakland, San Francisco, how the hell you doing tonight? We played here almost six years ago opening up for somebody… Who here was there? Was anybody there at the show? I’m just sayin’, I do see a lot of people who have been with us all six years, and for all of you who have come to all these shows, all these years, thank you so much!” Andrew Wessen, guitarist of Grouplove, a band who always has their gratitude and appreciation on display. They played a scorcher at a packed Fox Theater on Friday night, supporting their third studio album, Big Mess. Just one date into their new U.S. tour running through the end of the year (followed by dates in Australia), they sounded and performed better than ever. One of my favorite live acts, they put on a high energy show that had the crowd bouncing throughout, embracing the excellent new songs as much as the favorites. Definitely a must see tour. The latest album, produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove’s Ryan Rabin) and Phil Ek is characterized by their signature sound and style, and may be their best yet. With their “Big Mess World Tour”, one dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to the organization charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world. [Read more…]
“We been coming around here with you guys… well, hell, we’ve been coming around with you all for over four decades. Same three guys right here… Same three chords right here…” Billy Gibbons, guitarist and vocalist of ZZ Top, sharing the stage with co-vocalist and bassist Dusty Hill and drummer Frank Beard. What can you say about a band that’s had the same line-up forever (since 1969!). Really unheard of in the music industry. In any event, having covered the Summer Concert Series by Richter Entertainment Group at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards over the past several months, ZZ Top turned out a huge crowd that had a unique character all its own. With Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band heating things up at the start of the evening, ZZ Top closed it out with both bands showcasing incredible work on guitar being the star of the show.
September and October sees Tears for Fears performing 14 shows in North America, making up for a set of concerts that were previously postponed. More, they are working on a new album with Warner Bros. Records that is due out in 2017, the first since 2004’s Everybody Loves a Happy Ending. [Read more…]
On the heels of the release of their third studio album, Big Mess, Grouplove next week kicks off their latest world tour. The latest album, produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove’s Ryan Rabin) and Phil Ek is characterized by their signature sound and style, and may be their best yet. With their “Big Mess World Tour”, one dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to the organization charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world. [Read more…]
“I must say it’s smelling awfully good out there… I’m on duty… [laughs]” Peter Frampton on stage and in front of a massive crowd at Ironstone Amphitheatre at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys, California, part of a double-headlining show with Lynyrd Skynyrd, fittingly playing as the sun set and dusk settled in as he then went into his blazing cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun”. Darkness took over by the time he left the stage and southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd closed out the night, with vocalist and front man Johnny Van Zant trying to set the clock back through sheer force of will: “Now it’s Sunday night… Sunday night… we need to make it a Saturday night… Are you guys all in or what?” There was a lot of gratitude exchanged between the two artists as each took turns holding stage, as it was the end of their joint tour together, which would appear to have been a successful pairing of two different styles of music on this Summer tour. [Read more…]
“So, basically Culture Club makes happy sad music. If you’re a Gemini, you don’t need that explained. If you’re a Libra, I can’t help you. Hands up for the Geminis! You’ve got to use two hands if you’re a Gemini, because there’s always two of you. What’s that saying? ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, I’m schizophrenic, and so am I.’ That’s the Gemini mantra. So we do these happy sad songs. Dancy rhythms, melancholy sounds, mixed together…” Boy George explaining Culture Club in a way that only he could… an interesting insight into the band and the man who proudly stood out in front of it (as well standing for many other things) throughout the first half of the 1980s. All in preface to the song, “Move Away”, which was the lead single to their fourth album, From Luxury To Heartache, an album title which nicely dovetails into what he was explaining, as well as illustrative of that early trajectory of the band in it’s first life… It all ended far too early when they broke up in 1986 following the release of that album and that lead single, which would be their final entry into the U.S. Top 40 charts. The light that burns twice as bright last half the time and all that… But life is a funny thing. Fast forward thirty years (!), and there on that stage at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater in front of thousands of jubilant fans on Friday night was Boy George and the original members of Culture Club – Roy Hay, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss – and I can’t imagine them being any more happy or in sync with one another musically and with their live performance. And, it would seem, the impossible journey each took to get them there made it all the more sublime. Joyfully playing those now classic songs of happy sad music. A potent chemical reaction of letting soul and reggae out to play with all manner of other music genres, bending and twisting and dancing with new wave, country, pop, funk, rock, R&B, and even church music, to create something altogether unique but unified in that wicked sort of Gemini manner… The genius of Boy George, and his bravery in always being uniquely himself and forging new paths for others to follow. Definitely one of the best tours of 2016, one of the most important New Wave bands (who helped push those loose boundaries within that broad musical movement), and a band fronted by one of the most interesting figures in pop culture in modern times. [Read more…]