Jefferson Starship (The Music of Jefferson Airplane 50th Anniversary) at The Center for the Arts | Grass Valley, California | 2/27/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I think Paul and I actually played this before we even picked up electric instruments, more than 50 years ago… “ An intro into Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Cod-ine” by David Freiberg, who played with legend Paul Kantner in both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.  The sold out concert at The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley last night was a celebration of both bands, as they celebrated 50 years of the former and 45 years of the later.  Coincidentally, yesterday was also the day that the great Leonard Nimoy passed away.  I made the connection in that Jefferson Airplane and Paul Kantner and Star Trek and Leonard Nimoy were both pioneers in pop culture from the mid-60’s onward and remain icons of that period today.  The 60’s represents many different things to different people, but as time marches on, the reality of it slips more and more into the past and that reality is transformed more and more into symbolism and ideas.  In some ways it fades, but it also becomes more powerful in that it has more of a mythic than real quality to people today, who forget…  Or, like me, were born after that time.  But Paul Kantner and David Freiberg are still on the road, keeping their music and the messages behind their art alive for those who come out to experience it.

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The Lovemakers at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 2/13/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Is that the only pair of panties we’re going to get tonight?”  Lisa Light, remarking on the underwear tossed at her co-vocalist and guitarist Scott Blonde of The Lovemakers at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco Friday night, as part of their “My Bloody Valentine’s Day Party on Friday the 13th of February”.  The band seem to have a special relationship with the annual romantic holiday, though looking around it seemed to have turned out more singles looking for fulfillment than happily coupled couples.  Building on their 2014 reunion, the band seems at it’s best live and on stage, literally pouring water on their hot and sultry style of retro pop and dance music.  The Lovemakers were supported with a blazing set by Beginners, who came up from their home in Los Angeles.  Filling in with fantastic DJ sets were Popscene’s Aaron Axelsen and Omar.

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Information Society and Book of Love (“80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”) at Thunder Valley Casino Resort | Lincoln, California | 1/31/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Oh, somebody wants to hear, “What’s On Your Mind?”.  Peer pressure him into letting it go… Dude.  Or is he telling us to hurry the fuck up?”  Kurt Harland, singer and front man for Information Society, displaying a mix of confidence and humor at their concert at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night.  Live shows from the New Wave/synthpop band are very rare these days, and the guy shouting out the name of the song that made them very famous with the masses circa 1988 didn’t have the same appreciation for the full spectacle and show they put on as the rest of the crowd, who couldn’t seem to get enough of their unique style of music, whether it was old favorites from the 80s and 90s or new songs from the newly released (and excellent) _hello World, which came out late last year.   This concert event promoted by WorldOne Presents was marketed as “80’s Rewind Fest Presents: PURE ENERGY”, and it was a special winter edition of their “80’s Rewind Fest” series.   This concert boasted additional special guests Book of Love as well as local opener, Self.Same.  Though the three founding members of Information Society have gone off to create lives and careers outside of their band, you wouldn’t know if from this concert.  They brought a ton of excitement and style on stage.  Given their amazing new studio album and their ability to put on a fantastic live show, hopefully it represents more InSoc coming in our future.

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Air Supply at Thunder Valley Casino Resort| Lincoln, California | 1/30/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Tonight, we are here for you… and you for us.  Are you ready?  Let’s go.” Graham Russell, taking a pause on the front end of the sold out show at Thunder Valley Resort Casino on Friday night, looking back on 2014 and then at the very moment and forward.  He and his songwriting partner Russell Hitchcock, strike me as very thoughtful and contemplative.  I’d just caught one of their shows in South Lake Tahoe in September, and couldn’t pass up the chance to see them do their thing (and a special thing it is) again, since they were playing even closer to home for me.  The duo that comprise Air Supply this year are celebrating 40 years together of making amazing music together and taking it out on the road to play before crowds of all ages (Graham also exclaimed, “there will be a 50, too!”).  Which is no surprise, as their music is ageless.  And, like that last show I saw, close out their encore with the extremely contemporary “Desert Sea Sky”, which seems to catch many by surprise (in a good way).  But I’ve found from going on these live journeys with them twice now, that they are full of surprises, and know how to put on a live show that can go from fast to slow, rocking to ballad, in the blink of an eye.  And they seem to love it as much as their fans.

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The Ting Tings at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub | Sacramento, California | 1/24/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Okay, you all know this song and you need to sing along, because we don’t know what fucking hours of music were going to play tonight we’re going to keep going, so you guys sing along with this one…” Jules De Martino providing an intro into one of The Ting Ting’s biggest hits, “That’s Not My Name”, just before Katie White throws down with the vocals and gets the audience into a frenzy at their sold out show at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento on Saturday night.  As mentioned in my review of their show for Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco the night before, The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore). Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign. Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy.  I thought the show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out…  Somehow, the Sacramento show was even better, and will definitely be in my Top Ten shows of 2015 at the end of the year, and has set the bar high for all of the other shows I’ll be seeing in the next 11 months.

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The Ting Tings at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop | San Francisco, California | 1/23/2015 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“San!!! Fran!!! Cisco!!!”  A city turned into a three-word chant by Jules De Martino, he and the other half of The Ting Tings duo Katie White aren’t the type to chit chat too much in-between songs at their live shows, but they certainly know how to get a place jumping.  And that’s just what they did at the sold out show at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Friday night.  The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore), and this latest gig was even more of a special occasion since they aren’t hitting but a handful of cities on this front end of touring in 2015 (and the dates in play are predominantly in California).  Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign.  Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy.  The show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out.  I loved every second of it, and while it was a full set, they left me wanting more, but I’ll get that at their follow-up show in Sacramento…  one of those rare bands who inspire me to follow them around a bit.

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Dave Wakeling’s English Beat “For Crying Out Loud” Album Coming Soon; 2015 Live Concert Dates, Photos, & Preview

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I recently had an opportunity to see The English Beat at Ace of Spades in Sacramento, for my first concert of the year (on my birthday no less!).  Unfortunately, with all of the cold and flu going around, after shooting the first three songs of their set, I had to bail as my fiancée was under the weather and burning up with fever.  Rather than waste the opportunity to talk about one of the best live bands playing today, I thought I would put up this preview for what they have coming in 2015, with a list of upcoming concerts, a little bit of information about For Crying Out Loud – the new album due early this year – as well as share a few photos taken at the show last week.  Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to attend another one of their shows soon, and put up a proper feature about it. [Read more…]

Reignwolf at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 12/26/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“All I was trying to say was, that it means a lot to us the day after Christmas that San Francisco shows up… I’m serious; thanks so very much for that… and I say like this… ‘Are You Satisfied?‘…” Jordan Cook, AKA Reignwolf, standing on the kick drum that he dropped into the audience at sold out show at The Independent, before throwing down with his signature anthem that somehow showcases what he is all about – authentic rock and roll.  I first saw Reignwolf opening for the Pixies in Los Angeles in 2013, and I have been raving about him since, to anyone who will listen.  It’s been more than a year, but Friday night in San Francisco I finally got to witness him and his band do their own headlining show, and it was even better than I imagined (and I went in expecting it to be one of the best shows of the year).  The man has such gifts, and taps into them with ease.  The only other artist I’ve seen live that has that same mix of innate improvisational ability and also has more music in him than can maybe come out through the traditional instruments of rock and roll is Prince.  Since seeing Reignwolf more than a year ago, I’ve been certain that he is destined to be one of our generation’s top rock stars, and I am as sure of that then ever after his show this weekend.  It’s really just a matter of how soon he debuts a full album and how long it will take the rest of the world to catch up to this brilliant talent.  Needless to say, the concert was phenomenal, and those who didn’t make it out the day after Christmas maybe missed the greatest gift of all.

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Clive Farrington, former lead singer of When In Rome at Hogue Barmichael’s | Newport Beach | 12/6/2014 (Rehearsals & Concert Review + Photos + New Wave Bar)

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I had an opportunity to spend a couple of days with Clive Farrington, to see what is going on with the former front man and lead singer of the popular 80s band, When In Rome.  On the itinerary was sitting in on a rehearsal with his new band prepping for 2015, checking out the New Wave Bar & Restaurant in Bellflower for Danny Sanchez’s birthday (“70s Disco Night”), and a few days later attending their special charity concert at Hogue Barmichael’s in Newport Beach, which benefited the Orangewood Children’s Foundation.

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Berlin Featuring Terri Nunn at The Canyon Club | Agoura Hills, California | 12/5/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“You’ve excited me so much I’ve lost my voice all of a sudden…”  Terri Nunn in her intro to “Take My Breath Away”, Berlin’s Academy Award and Golden Globe winning 1986 song.  Playing to somewhat of a hometown crowd at The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, the place was packed and the band changed things up a bit for Christmas, with a few festive classics fit in midway through their set.  They’ve had a heavier tour schedule in 2014, in part to support their latest album, Animal.  This marked the third time seeing Berlin in 2014, having seen their shows at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach in January and at City Winery Napa in August.  As per usual, they put on an incredible show with a mix of songs from old and new, including my two favorites, “Metro” and “Will I Ever Understand You”.  Hopefully I’ll have a chance to see them just as much in 2015, and they are one of my highest recommended live acts to check out.

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Fleetwood Mac “On With The Show Tour” at Sleep Train Arena | Sacramento, California | 11/24/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“I walked out of there with not much, except a feeling in my heart that it was all going to work.  And the reason that I tell you this story, is that I want you to know that if you have a dream, and you believe in yourself, and you believe something that you really want, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t have it.  Don’t ever let anybody get in your way, because you can have it, and we are living proof of that…”  Optimistic words spoken by Stevie Nicks at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento last night, joined on stage by the core members of one of the best rock and roll groups of all time, Fleetwood Mac.  I think we collectively need more optimism in the world today, but not just lofty words and sentiments, but used to power individuals to look to themselves and their own abilities and opportuities to make their dreams come true.  Somehow, this collection of gifted artists – Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham, John McVie, Mick Fleetwood, and Christine McVie – all found one another back in the 70s and made music that has endured as classics to this day.  I first saw Fleetwood Mac with their tour in 2013, and marked it as one of the best shows of the year.  As that tour did not include Christine McVie, with her return on this year’s tour, I marked this show as my top “must see” concert of the year.  It did not disappoint.  All of the players sound like they are truly at the top of their game, and they seemed to love performing as much as the audience loved watching it.  It was also a bit different than last year’s tour, with even higher production standards and maybe the best sound quality I’ve ever heard in a sports arena.  It was truly an epic show, and Fleetwood Mac is one of those rare bands that can make playing to a large indoor arena work (I rarely go to such shows because they typically do not work on many levels).  They really exceeded my expectations with their nearly three hour show, and I think the highlight for me was “Little Lies”, with Christine McVie’s beautiful voice and the overlapping chorus with Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – a real showcase for the distinct character in each of their voices but how well they harmonize and blend together to such effect.

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Erasure (“The Violet Flame Tour”) at Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort | Las Vegas, Nevada | 10/31/2014 (Concert Review + Photos)

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“Halloween is so brilliant though, isn’t it?  ‘Cause everyone can dress up; be what they want to do…  nobody is like judging you at all for how you look or anything or what you’re doing or who you’re with, blah, blah, blah …” Andy Bell of Erasure on Halloween at the Pearl Concert Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.  Certainly an interesting combination of band, date, and city to be sure.  As the more extroverted of the duo, Andy came dressed in a sort of skeleton costume with accompanying face paint that has some resemblance to the cover art of their latest album; Vince Clarke, set back from the front of the stage and back to one corner, I don’t think said anything all night, and was dressed in more business-style attire (though he had the aforementioned art one his laptop lid.  However the two contrasting personalities found one another for their journey into music that has gone on for nearly three decades, the magic worked in the beginning and continues to do so today.  This was definitely an interesting (in a great way!) night on many levels.  I had an opportunity to meet Vince Clarke and Andy Bell from Erasure via the special tickets made available through their PledgeMusic campaign for that newest latest album, The Violet Flame.  The aptly named Violet Flame Tour included a number of those new songs mixed into the set, as well as a lot of their many, many hits and favorites.  I got the sense that it was a different sort of show for this series of shows, and I’m happy that I got a chance to experience this new music and tour.

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