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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Better Than Ezra at House of Blues Anaheim | Anaheim, California | 9/21/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Michael, I want you to take this crowd – this hardened crowd of entertainment junkies – on a percussion journey…”  Kevin Griffin of singer and guitarist for Better Than Ezra, along with co-founding member Tom Drummond on bass, setting the stage for the most blazing cow bell drum solo ever, by their drummer, Michael Jerome.  This was my first time seeing Better Than Ezra live in concert, and I came away with my expectations far exceeded…  and maybe a bit sad that they didn’t become bigger back in the day; big enough to carry them forward in a way that was, for lack of a better explanation, more successful.  They are talented songwriters, and it all manifests itself on stage in a unique way.  Everything is framed in a bit of irreverence…  not quite on the scale of, say, They Might Be Giants, but let’s just say that Griffin doesn’t take himself too seriously and makes the show fun for him, and in turn, the band’s mix of audience.  An audience that I couldn’t really begin to stereotype, as it seemed to be made of people of all ages, genders, and walks of life.  They certainly captivated and entertained the crowd, and there is a real sense of expecting the unexpected throughout their set.  I really recommend checking out their live show if you have a chance, and either way, I think the new album released this month, All Together Now, is certainly worth a listen.

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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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Air Supply at Montbleu Theatre | Stateline, Nevada | 9/12/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are going on a journey together…”  Graham Russell giving a bit of a preface to an amazing concert, along with his songwriting partner Russel Hitchcock, the duo that comprise Air Supply have “been on tour” now for 39 years, though this is the first time I’d ever seen them live.  Playing to a sold out crowd of around 1,300 or so at the Montbleu Resort Casino & Spa in Lake Tahoe, from the vantage point of the front row, eyes on the stage, it felt like they could have been playing to a vast sports arena.  Hands down, I would have to say that Air Supply gave me the biggest surprise of the year in terms of my expectations against the actual performance – they were spectacular.  Playing over 100 shows a year, unless there was something different about this concert (and I have no reason to believe that there was), these guys know how to put on a stunning show with a variety of music, up tempo and slowed down, and in many cases rocking, and they have a brilliant band backing them up.  I cannot stress enough my recommendation to check them out if you get the opportunity – these guys put on a stellar live show.

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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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Kitten, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Bomba Estéreo at Cargo at the Whitney Peak Hotel | Reno, Nevada | 9/4/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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I wanted to give a shout out to the other bands that played tonight; weren’t they all so hot?  I was like, ‘damn, I got some work to do tonight – those bitches were hot!’”  Kitten’s Chloe Chaidez giving props to the other two amazing bands sharing the stage with her at Cargo at the Whitney Peak Hotel Thursday night, which also featured Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas and Bomba Estéreo.  Kind of a triple headliner show, each act put on incredible sets with tons of energy, with the awesome lighting and sound at the Cargo giving them a lot to work with to showcase their unique approaches to their music.  As this was all filmed by PBS member station’s KNPB, each set will be an episode of the upcoming television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel, due to start airing early next year.

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80s Rewind Music Fest 2014 / Retro Futura Tour (Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones, The English Beat, Katrina) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 8/31/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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The show at Thunder Valley Casino Resort’s Outdoor Amphitheater Sunday night was continuing on in WorldOne Presents’ tradition of their annual “80s Rewind Festival Music Fest”, and arrived in Lincoln, California with it’s own unique line-up and variation on the newly christened Retro Futura Tour 2014 (formerly Regeneration Tour).  With this event, the same co-headliners – Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey and Howard Jones – shared the bill, as did Katrina Leskanich (formerly of Katrina and The Waves.  But in place of Midge Ure and China Crisis was the incredible English Beat featuring Dave Wakeling.  As usual, the show took on a character all it’s own, playing out to a large and enthusiastic crowd.  I think the Katrina/English Beat/Howard Jones/Tom Bailey line-up featured artists that all have one thing in common: authentic optimism driving their music.  Of course, the modern day ’10s are not the classic ’80s, and though the music played came from the past, it could also serve as a beacon of hope for the future.  And, as with the show at Mountain Winery the night before, there seemed to be quite a reception for Tom Bailey, who stopped touring and performing live as Thompson Twins way back in 1987.  It was another exceptional performance by all of the artists, and both shows are certainly on the short list for top concerts of the year for me personally.

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Retro Futura Tour 2014 (Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, Howard Jones, Midge Ure, Katrina) at Mountain Winery | Saratoga, California | 8/30/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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I usually open my reviews with a quote from the headlining artist at a show…  and I generally don’t care for audience sing-a-longs (I come to hear the artist, not drunk people that don’t know the lyrics).  But Saturday night was a different, special sort of show with the perfect fans in attendance.  Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins hasn’t played live for over 25 years, and came out of retirement for the newly rebranded Retro Futura tour (which was previously operating as Regeneration Tour).  I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved the Thompson Twins and their music growing up, and that I never imaged I would have an opportunity to see them perform live.  So at Saturday night’s stop at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, following the awesome sets by Howard Jones, Midge Ure (of Ultravox) and Katrina Leskanich (Ex Katrina and the Waves), Tom Bailey and his fantastic new backing band absolutely blew away every expectation I had.  It was as if, as a performer, he was in hibernation for the past quarter of a century and came out the same as he was in his prime to play this show.  It was quite surreal.  So getting back to that sing-a-long…  the final song of the night was Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” (which a friend of mine captured on video from the audience) and everyone in attendance was so elated to see that man performing in front of them.  As the song came to an end, the entire audience was on their feet, singing the chorus.  Tom looked moved by the whole thing, stopped singing in mic, pulled out his ear monitors, motioned for his band to join him at the end of the stage, and it all came to a close acapella.  A beautiful thing, and I think a way for us fans to let him know that we still love him, love his music, and want him to stay.  A perfect ending, and maybe new beginning.  “Hold me now, warm my heart…  stay with me, let loving start, let loving start…”

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The Eagles (“History of The Eagles Tour”) at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, Nevada | 8/29/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Yeah, I was from Detroit, Michigan.  Where “mother” is half a word.”  Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, which formed in 1971, alongside co-founders Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, using a bit of humor as the band introduced themselves to the sold out crowd at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s in South Lake Tahoe last night.  Performing “History of The Eagles” alongside other great musicians with their own history with the legendary band, they played hit after hit in a set that passed the two hour mark.  One of the most popular rock and roll bands of all time (critically and commercially, with six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, five number-one singles and six number-one albums), their success spans over six decades.  The concert itself was fantastic for many reasons, but interestingly, it got better and better as it went on, and by the time the members were introducing one another and having some freedom on the mic, I felt that things really took off from that point forward.

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Broods at Assembly Music Hall | Sacramento, California | 8/28/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Thirsty Thursday, is that a thing here?  It’s a thing at home… not for me, because I’m never thirsty…” Georgia Nott, with a little bit of chit chat with the very enthusiastic audience at Assembly Music Hall in Sacramento.  Like her, much of the audience was young and female, and many were experiencing Broods live for the very first time.   Like the sold out show at The Independent I attended back in May, Georgia split her time roaming the stage as well as performing at her keyboard station on the opposite corner of the stage from her older brother Caleb, with Jimi Mataio holding things down at the center back of the stage.  Since that show in May, they have now released (or are on the verge of releasing, depending on what country you live in) their first studio album, Evergreen.  Since it is not officially out yet in the U.S. (due October 8th here), I have only heard the songs pre-released on iTunes with pre-order (though two of the five were on the EP).  But with that sampling, I’m even more convinced that this young band really deserves (and should) break big.  They make great music with thoughtful lyrics and it all translates into a live concert so beautifully.  Georgia has a remarkable voice – the kind that you hear on a studio recording and imagine that she could not possibly measure up in a live setting, but having been to two shows now, I can say that she totally kills it on stage, and Caleb manages to paint clean, distinct sounds with his keyboards and Jimi is a force on drums.  I’ve become a huge fan of the new song, “L.A.F.”, in large part because of the non-traditional drums and beats, and this was one of the highlights for the show last night for me.  Phenomenal band, and one that I’ll continue to turn out for any chance that I get.

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The Zombies at Harrah’s South Shore Room | Stateline, Nevada | 8/23/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Before I sing each song, if you’re ever thinking, ‘what’s going through his mind?’, I’m thinking: ‘sing from your ass, project out the back of your neck, and try and get your tits over your shoulders!'” Colin Blunstone, vocalist for The Zombies, giving the summation of his three anecdotes regarding decades of experience with singing techniques, offered to visiting students from The Royal Academy of Music.  The concert at Harrah’s South Shore Room in Lake Tahoe last night marks the third time I’ve seen the band live in the past year (having seen them at the indigO2 in London and at Yoshi’s in San Francisco in 2013) and they are still full of surprises.  Joined on stage with co-founding member Rod Argent on keyboards and vocals as well as rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (from Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums, the British Invasion band continues to prove that they are both music legends of the past as well as relevant today, with their mix of classics and all new music (with one newly polished gem previewed last night and due to be to be recorded in studio in the next two weeks).  These guys are the real deal, and represent real rock and roll. [Read more...]

Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at City Winery Napa | Napa, California | 8/13/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“…I am extremely upset at losing Robin Williams – much more than I ever thought I would be when I first heard the news.  It’s really hard to see someone with that kind of talent and love from all over the world destroy himself.  And I’m not saying he’s wrong… I’m just saying it’s hard…  So we pulled this song that you’ve probably heard before, because I think it is what I want to say to honor him tonight.  This is for Robin.” A heartfelt and emotional intro by Terri Nunn of Berlin at City Winery Napa on Wednesday night, talking in a personal way about what has been on the minds of the masses around the world, as a preface to their special tribute cover of Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”.  All in all, it was a very intimate set, and probably the best I’ve seen them over the years.  They have toured a bit more in 2014, in part to support their latest album, Animal.  With their current sets comprised of a mix of old and new, it’s become more and more seamless as the rest of the band have made each of the classic songs their own over the years.  And they are still full of surprises, last night playing “Like Flames” for the first time since 1987.  They are one of my personal favorite live acts today, and each time I see them it inspires me to turn out for future shows.

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