Louis E. Johnson, known as Louis “Thunder Thumbs” Johnson and half of The Brothers Johnson with brother George “Lightnin’ Licks” Johnson, passed away on May 21st at age 60. Louis Johnson was a legendary bass player and one of the principal figures in Funk music, and also is famous for laying down that incredible bassline on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” as well as playing on his hit, “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”. The Brothers Johnson collaborated with Quincy Jones, and are best known for their 1977 cover of Shuggie Otis’ “Strawberry Letter 23”, their 1976 hit “I’ll Be Good to You”, and the 1980’s hit “Stomp!”. I was lucky enough to see what I think might have been the last live concert performance by The Brothers Johnson” in September 2013 as part of WorldOne Presents and their “Funk Fest” event at Thunder Valley in Lincoln, California, and did extensive photography at the show. You can see my full review and photos in my original article, but I thought I would pull out some of the Louis Johnson ones here as a tribute to the great man. [Read more…]
“You gotta keep believing in what you wanna do; don’t give up…” Howard Jones on stage at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub in Sacramento on Wednesday night, playing to a sold out crowd in an intimate space holding about 450 fans. He was reflecting back on when he was working in a factory as a very young man, and writing “New Song”. His debut single – released in 1983 – is all about optimism… and that is in my estimation what the man is still about today, some three decades later. Throughout his performance, he was beaming with joy and fun between each song, chatting with fans and tossing out anecdotes and familiar lyrics that can still be instructive today (“try and enjoy the here and now… the future will take care of itself somehow!”). But it’s not just the classic tunes that had people moving. Having released his 11th studio album this year – Engage – he is as creative and relevant as ever, with fresh new songs. My own feeling is that in all this time since the 80s have come and gone, he best represents not just the style of music but the feelings of that era, and it is awesome that he continues to spread his work and message in live shows like this one. Things can only get better, indeed.
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…]
2014 and 2015 are shaping up to be epic for fans of Billy Idol, starting with the Dancing With Myself autobiography, hitting stores and online retailers tomorrow. Today is the last day to pre-order for an entry into the Dancing With Myself Sweepstakes, and today is the first day of a limited number of book signings in the United States and the United Kingdom throughout October. In just a few weeks, on October 21st, the first new Billy Idol studio album in some time, Kings & Queens Of The Underground, will drop. The new single, “Can’t Break Me Down”, is already available. While UK and European concert dates were announced for November some time ago, today North American dates were announced for January and February 2015, including special meet and greet tickets. [Read more…]
“Sacramento… you may notice a bit of moisture forming on my forehead… falling down my face… I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Morris has lost it.’ You may even be thinking, ‘Morris is not cool anymore.’ But let me fix that shit for you, Sacramento. Just like you take a cool bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator, and you set it on the counter… what does it begin to do? See, it sounds like you all don’t know. See, it begins to condensate, Sacramento. Because that’s what you do when you’re cool from the inside out… So please understand, Morris is not sweatin’. I’m condensatin’. And, hell yes, Morris Day is still cool!” Words from the legendary Morris Day from Morris Day & The Time (now The Original 7ven), headlining the Big Block Party by WorldOne Presents at Thunder Valley Casino Resort Saturday night. Having come on stage after the sun dropped out of view, which hit a high of 100 degrees, it left me wondering if the sweat rolling off everyone in the sold out concert venue was from the heat of the day, or the heat coming off the stage from the outrageous funk band, who followed the incredible line-up of Sheila E., Guy, and Doug E. Fresh.
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.
“Are we not in the desert? Where are we?” A bit of comic relief part way through The Go-Go’s set by Gina Schock, who as per tradition emerges from her drum kit at some point in the show to give us a bit of fun. And that is kind of at the heart of The Go-Go’s punky/poppy/surfy/beachy New Wave music, so what better a group to headline 2014’s newest 80s-centric tour, Replay America. Also on the bill is Patty Smyth from Scandal, Martha Davis from The Motels, and Pete Byrne from Naked Eyes. A real assortment of 80s hitmakers each took to the stage at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on Saturday night to take the crowd back about three decades to a real innovative time in music. Though there was a lot of music to be heard, things proceeded along quite quickly with the first three artists sharing a band (with some changes set to set), and a quick changeover for the aforementioned Go-Go’s, who closed out the night with a string of classic songs. Definitely a unique opportunity to catch many favorites in one sitting, and I know I thoroughly enjoyed each artist, only half of whom I’d seen live before (though I was already a fan of all four). Awesome show.
Country, folk, and pop singer-songwriter Jewel is playing a handful of shows up and down California this month. The signer, guitarist, producer, poet, and actress will start playing shows beginning next week at The Center for The Arts in Grass Valley, followed by Mountain Winery in Saratoga, and then two Southern California shows. Jewel released a new song last month, “Sing On” for the American Lung Association’s LUNGFORCE initiative to help fight lung cancer. When you download “Sing On” on iTunes, all proceeds will go directly to #LUNGFORCE. [Read more…]
“Somebody’s gonna get pregnant tonight!” Headlining this year’s Summer Jam for WorldOne Presents and V101, R&B icon Keith Sweat made it clear that much of his music is meant to accompany more… romantic activities. It was fitting that by the time he took the stage at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater Saturday night, the sun was long gone and there was a bright moon serving as backdrop to the evening. The other artists brought more of a high energy show to the stage, with Salt-n-Pepa performing not only their own music but samples from all manner of genre of music, courtesy the founding DJ, Spinderella, while D’wayne and Amar of Tony! Toni! Toné! raced back and forth across the vast stage getting the audience going at the start of the show. The sold out crowd of 4,000 fans in Lincoln, California appeared to be thrilled by the performances of all three artists, with DJ Gino bridging each act with his ongoing DJ set.
The Popscene concert at Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday night was one of those rare shows that was very surprising (in a good way). Danish singer-songwriter MØ (Karen Marie Ørsted) headlined the night that featured Swedish singer-songwriter Erik Hassle supporting, and both put on stellar performances, with awesome bookend DJ sets by Aaron Axelsen. Candidly, I was not familiar with either of these young artists until recently, and I would mark the night as one of the best concerts I’ve attended so far in 2014. MØ and Erik Hassle should be on the pop culture watch list as ones to expect big things from in the future.