“I know I got that Adult Top 40 reputation, but don’t let that fool you… I’m wearing leather pants. And I will put foot on the amp and show you what’s what.” Anna Nalick definitely showed the packed crowd inside Harlow’s in Sacramento last night what was what, and then some. The genre defying singer-songwriter kicked off her mini tour of the West Coast, with shows in Oakland, Grant’s Pass, Spokane, and Seattle to follow through the end of this month. Best known for her triple Platinum hit, “Breathe (2 AM)”, from her debut album Wreck of the Day, she is on a two week break from starring in Scott Caan’s play, 100 Days of Yesterday at Playhouse West. This set of concerts presents a rare opportunity to see a truly gifted musical talent perform her original music as well as a number of new songs she’s crafted since 2011′s Broken Doll & Odds & Ends. I definitely have a lot of thoughts about the show… in short, I can’t recommend enough turning out to catch this special tour if you can. Brilliant, brilliant artist and performance, and a fascinating woman.
Anna Nalick at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nighclub | Sacramento, California | 11/20/2013 (Concert Review)
Sascha Konietzko’s brain child, KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid, loosely “no pity for the majority”), played its second concert in the past year at The Independent in San Francisco to a crowd of its devotees last night. One of the leading artists that helped to build the Industrial music scene in the 80s (though Sasha prefers “Ultra-Heavy Beat”), they are certainly one of the last from that era who continue to carry the torch for that genre of music. They have been quite prolific in the past three decades, with regular and continued touring and 18 studio albums, as well as being uncompromising in staying true to that particular format of music. Sascha has been the one constant with the German group, with a rotating roster of band members, though the current formation was hitting on all cylinders last night. They put on an excellent concert and I can’t imagine that any who found their way into the show went away disappointed. While never remotely a mainstream act, the fans that they have converted over the years are truly dedicated, with a much more substantive relationship with this band than is the norm. These concerts feel as though they serve as an escape as well as celebration among those who “get” the counter culture sound and viewpoint that KMFDM imagines and then delivers with its relentless beat.
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.
Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Rob Base (V101′s Hip Hop Halloween House Party 2013) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 10/25/2013 (Concert Review)
Last night was all about old school hip hop legends, with Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and Rob Base each taking the stage during V101′s Hip Hop Halloween House Party at Pano Hall inside Thunder Valley Casino Resort in Lincoln. Pioneers in what has since become a wildly popular genre of music, it was a celebration of the artists who built the foundation of hip hop, with respect paid to many of their peers who were not part of the concert, by way of mention and covers. It made for an interesting and unpredictable night of music, with legend Kurtis Blow doing his own music, like “The Breaks” (the first gold certified rap song back in 1980) as well as some unexpected works from others that followed many years later, like House of Pain’s “Jump Around”. Hip Hop has obviously changed tremendously in the past three decades, but those in attendance last night, I think, appreciate that it was probably at its best in those early years, and it is gratifying to have seen these artists do their thing on stage last night in a relatively intimate atmosphere with a great crowd, some of whom also took to the stage throughout the show.
“This is actually the first song we ever wrote… do you remember your first time?” Susan Ottaviano, vocalist for Book of Love, providing her introduction to “It’s in Your Eyes” halfway through their set at DNA Lounge in San Francisco last night, one stop in a handful of California dates this month. The New Wave synthpop band from Philadelphia, which was formed more than 30 years ago, have started working together and recording together again, and these special concerts are a part of that rebirth for the group. Based on the packed nightclub and enthusiasm of the crowd, they are not forgotten, and there was a large fan base in attendance, many of whom traveled special for the relatively intimate show. As the style of music that they helped to develop back in the 80s gains in popularity today, it is exciting to see the band active and killing it on stage as if they’ve been active all along, rather than reuniting. Hopefully it will mark the start of more to come.
Pet Shop Boys “Electric Tour 2013″ at Copley Symphony Hall | San Diego, California | 10/8/2013 (Concert Review)
I had really high expectations for this, the latest Pet Shop Boys tour… yet somehow, as I sit down to write my thoughts about their show in San Diego at the Copely Symphony Hall last night, I am left a bit speechless… Not because I have nothing to say about it, but because I have this swirling flood of thoughts in my mind, and can’t seem to form a coherent approach to the whole thing. Maybe it was the overpowering strobe lights that disrupted the circuitry in my brain. Maybe it’s because they put on one of the most brilliant shows of the year. The cover of the tour program reads, “TURN IT ON”. Not a mere concert, it was a full blown, avant-garde stage production of the highest order, with credit also due to Stuart Price with his music production and programming, Creative Director/Designer Es Devlin and Stage Director/Choreographer Lynne Page, the two colorful dancers (Merry Holden and Tom Herron) with their interesting costumes and stage presence, and many others behind the scenes. Just when you expect that they should have peaked by now, they keep blazing new paths in music and life. Real artists, they create new work (in the studio and on stage) with a palette featuring colors all their own. They obviously put a lot of thought into not just sharing their music (old and new, hits and deep cuts), but creating a captivating and memorable experience. Though the visuals were mind blowing, the arrangements were amazing, Neil’s voice sounded better than ever, and the sound quality within the venue was superb.
“Are you up for a rave? Do you have raves in San Francisco on a Tuesday?” Victoria Christina Hesketh, AKA Little Boots, leading into “Broken Record”, the thumping lead single from her highly acclaimed second studio album Nocturnes, which was released in May. A natural performer, Little Boots certainly brought a special mix of charisma and energy to the stage to power her amazing music, building on Amanda Warner of MDNR’s blazing opening set within the intimate setting of The Independent. Definitely a great night of contemporary electronic synthpop as Little Boots kicks off her world tour running through the end of the year.
Blondie with X “No Principals Tour” at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium | San Francisco, California | 9/19/2013 (Concert Review)
Blondie’s spectacular show at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco Thursday night was a reminder of how seemingly effortlessly Debbie Harry and the band crossed into and innovated within so many different styles and genres of music in the late 70s and early 80s. Punk, post-punk, disco, pop, New Wave, even some rap, reggae, and infusions of some world music, they were quite the innovators, really serving as a pioneering force in music, and they continue to record new and relevant music today. The Debbie Harry-fronted East Coast post punk/pop/disco group Blondie share the bill on the “No Principals Tour” with Exene Cervenka and John Doe fronting on vocals for the West Coast, L.A. punk pioneers X, which features its original line-up. Both artists brought amazing energy to the stage, which created a frenzy within the crowd at the Masonic unlike anything I’d seen at the usually mellow venue, with fans of both bands flooding the area between the all-seated venue and the low stage. It was definitely a different sort of concert (in a great way) and celebration of music that really served as a pivotal transition from the 70s to the 80s, paving a pathway into what turned out to be fresh and new world.
GROUPLOVE “Seesaw Tour” (Night 1 “Heavy”) at The Independent & (Night 2 “Light”) at The Chapel | San Francisco, California | 9/14/2013 & 9/15/2013 (Concert Review)
“We do it for love, sweet love…” Fittingly, the final words sung on stage both Saturday and Sunday night in San Francisco by GROUPLOVE, from their hit song, “Colours”. Playing back-to-back shows as part of their special run of their “Seesaw Tour”, performing at two small venues in select cities, doing one traditional show and one acoustic-style show, each night featured a different kind of show, almost as if seen, heard, and felt through a kaleidoscope that shifted not just night to night, but within each show. GROUPLOVE is a band with probably the best energy of anyone playing today – such joy and positivity beaming not just from the speakers at the venues, but from the artists themselves – their expressions and jumping around, and interactions with the audience. The funny thing is that the audiences and shows kind of played counter to expectations, with the “heavy” night at The Independent skewing older and more mellow and the “light” night at The Chapel being much more youthful and boundless, which seemed to fuel the band into rocking their acoustic instruments on the tiny stage, which could barely contain them. Two incredible shows that delivered well beyond expectations.
2013 is maybe the best year since the early 90s to be a Pixies fan. Interestingly, having been in attendance now at the first two of three consecutive shows this week at El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles (and a fourth coming right after at the Mayan Theatre), the crowd overall skewed very young, which really underscores my long held belief that the Pixies were way, way, way ahead of their time, and also had bad timing (maybe in an alternate universe they could have had Nirvana-sized mainstream success). In any event, as I’ve often referenced in countless articles here on the Rock Subculture Journal, the Pixies are solid in my Top Three favorite artists of all time. Before going into recent and ancient history, the big question those reading this are probably wondering is, ‘how were these shows?‘ The short answer is, absolutely phenomenal. Everything one could hope for in a Pixies concert has been present in Night 1 and Night 2. With their new touring efforts and new music (music that is on par with their classic material), it is an awesome time to be into the Pixies, whether you were around back in the day or not. A time to celebrate, and the band and the fans all brought the party to El Rey Theatre this week.
“Tonight what you see is a very, very, very stripped, stripped version of what it is that we do on a nightly basis…” OneRepublic’s show at Mountain Winery in Saratoga Sunday night was one of those very rare shows that surprised me (in a good way) on all counts. It was my first time seeing the band live, who are touring their latest studio album, Native (more on that later, also in a good way). Since it was such a different show from the norm, I can’t really account for what is different, though I suspect it was much more acoustic-driven than their typical set, though both approaches certainly do justice to their material. One thing that was apparent is that the group is made up of musicians at heart, and perfectionists in recreating their music on stage in a very real way. Their crew quite masterfully swapped out instruments (large on small) on stage in-between each song, helping to create a very memorable night that was a tapestry of the great music that OneRepublic has created. They sounded phenomenal and their identity as a band certainly came through in a variety of ways, especially their relationships with each other and boundless energy on stage. The experience definitely made me a bigger fan and my curiosity is definitely piqued and interested in checking out the other kind of show that they referenced as different from this one, which felt quite intimate and special.
V101′s Old School Funk Fest 2013 (The Brothers Johnson, Midnight Star, The Dazz Band, and Sinbad) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 9/7/2013 (Concert Review)
“You can’t be what this is…” Part of comedian Sinbad’s introduction of The Brothers Johnson, headliners of V101′s Old School Funk Fest 2013. The legendary American Funk and R&B group took to the stage after Midnight Star and The Dazz Band through down the bass-driven hits for a few hours leading up to George “Lightnin’ Licks” Johnson and Louis E. “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson rocked Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater with classics like “Strawberry Letter 23″, “Stomp!”, and “I’ll Be Good To You”, to the thrill of the sold out crowd at the World One Presents production. It was definitely an evening of sublime entertainment with groups that unfortunately don’t perform on stage much too often these days, though their old school sound definitely is a reminder of a lot of what is missing in music today in many respects.