“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…]
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me take you back…” Dennis Edwards, as original lead singer of legendary Motown band The Temptations from 1968-1976, 1980-1984 and 1987- 1989, he truly did take the sold out crowd at Thunder Valley back to a different era on Saturday night, leading his Temptations Review band through hit after hit. But it wasn’t just the music, but the performance and delivery, the costumes, the charm… it all worked together beautifully in recreating a show that is how I might imagine it might have been way back when. World One Presents’ “Valentine’s Soul Jam” for 2016 included hours of top notch entertainment, with leading performances by Dr. Funk’s Mind, Body and Soul Band as well as R&B, soul, and funk icon Carl Carlton, best known for his cover of “Everlasting Love” and early 80s hit, “She’s A Bad Mama Jama”. A celebration of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond, all three artists brought a ton of energy to the stage and engaged the audience throughout the show. [Read more…]
“She looked out her window one day, and saw a dog chasing a butterfly…” An intro to the song, “Dog & Butterfly”, the title track of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s 1978 album, and one of those songs that they don’t play every show. Heart’s show at Thunder Valley on Friday night was my second in as many months, and as I mentioned in my review of that concert at Mountain Winery, they do change things up from show to show. It’s also a reminder of just how many decades that they’ve been recording and touring hit music – they’ve actually been active as Heart since the year I was born, 1973. With the other show so fresh in my mind, for me personally, it was all about comparing and contrasting the two shows. Crowds create context, and Mountain Winery vs Thunder Valley is kind of like the wine-drinking city crowd vs the beer-drinking crowd from relatively more rural areas. Different energy and momentum, I’d say the smaller stage and softer environment of the winery venue made for a more intimate show while the bigger, tall stage and spotlights at this show was more rocking. As with each time I’ve seen them, the show was amazing and each member of the band had moments to showcase their special gifts and talents. They are one of my favorite bands to see live, and growing up with their music, they have the ability to tilt that adrenaline in my spine with those special moments in those songs I carry with me, that take me back to touch points in my life and feelings of nostalgia as they transport me back in time.
“I love you too, sir!” Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News literally giving some love to one member of the sold out crow at Thunder Valley’s Outdoor Amphitheater on Friday night. “We first worked together about 40 years ago…” Huey Lewis, talking about Eddie Money who played the supporting set, giving a sense of how long the two have been making hit music, both with new albums in the works today. Of course, Huey Lewis and The News came armed with more hits than they had time to play, but they did manage to squeeze in a few new songs as well, introducing one by saying, “a brand new song for you… now feel free to imagine yourself owning this song on a CD sometime next year – it’s called, ‘Her Love Is Killing Me'”. Having taken their “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” around the U.S. in 2013, they have always been a band to look both backwards and forwards, and the timelessness style of their music makes it easy for fans to embrace this approach. Shows by Huey Lewis and The News always seem to have an authentic vibe to them, as Huey reminisces about their roots in the area, even when playing to a long sold out crowd of 5,000+ fans.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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…”
WorldOne Presents is bringing another fantastic line-up of 80s R&B icons to the Greater Sacramento Region at Thunder Valley Casino Resort on September 13th. The Big Block Party will feature Morris Day & The Time, Guy, Sheila E., and Doug E. Fresh. [Read more…]