Pet Shop Boys “Electric Tour 2013″ at Copley Symphony Hall | San Diego, California | 10/8/2013 (Concert Review)

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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.

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Savages at The Independent | San Francisco, California | 9/29/2013 (Concert Review)

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The real thing.  Real, authentic rock artists can’t be manufactured… they are born.  And standing witness to the phenomenal performance by London-based post-punk revival rock band Savages, I had a deep feeling that maybe they were born a few decades later than when they should have been, yet it makes them that much more powerful.  Having been born in 1973 myself, I was too young and on the wrong continent to catch the original shows put on by pioneering artists such as Bauhaus, Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and The Cure…  but I had this deep sense and feeling in watching Savages at The Independent last night that maybe what I felt like experiencing their show is what it may have felt like back in the day with those iconic bands.  This was the second of two sold out shows in San Francisco.  It was a different sort of show – unlike any of the 75 or so others I’ve attended thus far this year, and the many more going back years prior to that…  there is nothing contrived or manufactured about Savages.  Nothing at all – it is just pure post-punk art at its finest, in the best format of all – a live concert performance.  They have brought something new to this space that hasn’t been felt in decades – even by those original players still recording today.  A true resurrection.  And given the state of society and culture today, it could not be more timely.

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The Breeders at The Fillmore | San Francisco, California | 8/27/2013 (Concert Review)

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This week The Breeders returned to San Francisco, the city where recorded their second studio album, Last Splash, back in 1993.  This weekend will literally mark the 20th anniversary of the release of this album, and the original band members that recorded it were on stage for two concert dates at The Fillmore on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I have been to many anniversary-style shows over the years, but this was maybe the most literal, with quite an attention to details, history, and nuance.  The Kim Deal-fronted band did a brilliant job recreating the seminal album on stage as part of their “LSXX” celebration.  As a special bonus to the two San Francisco dates (the first of which was sold out, and is the basis for this review), the “Last Splash” line-up not only played that album front to back, but their debut album, Pod, as well, so it was a really amazing show for fans of the band.

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Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse at Balboa Theatre | San Diego, California | 7/17/2013 (Concert Review)

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“This is a song for you young lovers out there.  I was in love once.  When I picked my guts up afterwards, I wrote this tiny little song, I hope you enjoy it; it’s called Wonderful.”  A twisted sort of sentiment about his most mainstream song, New Wave icon and post-punk pioneer Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse kicked on their 40-city North American tour in San Diego last night, at the classy Balboa Theatre.  Adam Ant launched his first album in 18 years, Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, earlier this year.  Somehow last night’s show felt even more spectacular than the one I caught in San Francisco last year.  Adam Ant was like a rock star possessed; perhaps more confident and somehow… joyful?  At one point deep into the set, he tossed his mic stand, which landed on his bass player’s effects pedals, completely shorting them all out.  One of the stage crew came out and messed with it briefly, then unplugged it and plugged him directly into his amp…  the relentless onslaught of music could not be stopped, or even paused due to technical difficulties…  and the near sold out crowd was perhaps treated to a more raw version of what was planned.  A lot of music acts continually reinvent themselves, over and over, sometimes to the point where they become a series of completely different artists.  Adam Ant is different.  He is today what he was more than 30 years ago, in terms of his identity, style, and sound.  He has evolved, of course, but stayed true to what he was and has always been – one of those rare artists who maybe got it perfect the first time.

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Hotel/Resort Review: citizenM London Bankside – London, England

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my extension trip throughout Eastern Europe and London in May and June 2013. This review is for citizenM London Bankside. [Read more…]

Hotel/Resort Review: Hilton London Tower Bridge – London, England [REVISIT]

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my extension trip throughout Eastern Europe and London in May and June 2013.  This review is for the Hilton London Tower Bridge.  I stayed at and reviewed this property last year, so this is an updated review. [Read more…]

Hotel/Resort Review: Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill – London, England

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my extension trip throughout Eastern Europe and London in May and June 2013. This review is for the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill. [Read more…]

Hotel/Resort Review: Hotel Indigio London-Paddington – London, England

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This is part of a continuing series of my impressions and experiences staying at various hotels and resorts while traveling to attend concerts worldwide. This stay was during my extension trip throughout Eastern Europe and London in May and June 2013. This review is for the Hotel Indigo London-Paddington. [Read more…]

Muse at Royal Horse Guard’s Parade (World War Z Premiere) | London, England | 6/2/2013 (Concert Review)

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15,000 hardcore Muse fans showed up at the Royal Horse Guard’s Parade in London, England last night for a special one-off concert promoting the premiere of Paramount’s new film, World War Z.   As fans waited for the expected partial show (rumor was about half an hour of actual performance), we were shown the same movie trailer over and over and told that Brad Pitt would be appearing on stage before us.  Well, he never did appear (apart from some silent footage on the jumbo monitors from the red carpet), but I don’t think the Muse fans could care less, as the usual opener to their shows was modified with some footage from the film, and after those few moments, it was pure Muse (not “Muze”, as the marketing department for the film would like us to believe).  Being from the U.S., the awesome setting amidst historic London buildings and the awesome crowd certainly was not lost on me.  The energy was as palpable as the heat wave surging into the audience from the pyrotechnics above the stage.  But the real power came from the band, who have grown into being one of the best acts touring today, with real anthemic music that stirs the crowd into a fist-pumping frenzy.  They ended up playing maybe just under an hour, but I’m certain that they satisfied all who turned out for the special free show, most of whom turned out for the two shows at Emirates Stadium and seemingly universally declared them the best Muse concerts ever.

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The Zombies at indigO2 (at O2 Arena) | London, England | 6/1/2013 (Concert Review)

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“The Zombies started over 52 years ago…”  One of many breaks in-between songs wherein Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent – two founding members of the band – would provide some background and history on the “musical journey” myself and others in the packed indigO2 took part in throughout the concert.  I love to have opportunities to witness true rock and roll pioneers and icons do their thing on stage, but given how long ago the band started, I always adjust down my expectations and anticipate nostalgia filling in where perhaps the performance might fall short.   This perspective of mine ended up making me that much more thrilled once they started doing their thing, because the five men on stage were true musicians at the top of their game.  They played flawlessly together, the sound was superb, Colin’s vocals were nothing short of staggering and sublime, and their music – new and old (and covered) sounded as contemporary as anything “new” I hear these days.  I was truly floored by how The Zombies hit on all cylinders with their show in London last night, and cannot recommend enough turning out for their upcoming tour in the United States.  Brilliant musicians and they put a variety of songs through their paces in a unique way that makes me wonder even more how this band never became so much bigger in popularity.

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Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (European Leg) at The O2 Arena London | London, England | 5/29/2013 (Concert Review)

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Last night’s Depeche Mode concert was the last for me, representing the fifth show in the past two weeks.  The second of two concerts back-to-back at the O2 Arena in London, as with the night before, I elected to take a spot in the front row center at the end of the catwalk extending into the vast general admission standing floor.  Waiting for the band to come out, it was a bit of déjà vu, but it turned out to be anything but…  with the prior four shows, the set list was exactly the same at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena, Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion, and the prior night’s show at London, England’s O2 Arena.  The signal that last night’s gig had something different in store was the familiar sound of distorted guitar feedback that marked the opening of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room”, which opened into the awesome Zepyhr Mix version of the song.  A friend of mine from California also turned out for the two O2 shows, and we turned to each other at the same time with a “holy shit!” expression on our faces.  We knew at that point we were going to be treated to an amazing – and unpredictable – show put on by my favorite band on Earth, and they did not disappoint.  An epic conclusion to an amazing personal (and literal) journey with the band and their music over the past two weeks, spanning a number of countries all over Europe and coming to a close in their home of England.

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Depeche Mode Delta Machine Tour (European Leg) at The O2 Arena London | London, England | 5/28/2013 (Concert Review)

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“Welcome To My World” – the song Depeche Mode has been using to kick off each gig for the European leg of their Delta Machine World Tour – took on a whole different meaning for me tonight as I had an opportunity to see Depeche Mode play in their native home country of England.  Playing two shows back-to-back at The O2 Arena in London, this marks my fourth consecutive Depeche Mode show in the past two weeks (having seen them previously at Bratislava, Slovakia’s Štadión Pasienky, Zagreb, Croatia’s Zagreb Arena and Budapest, Hungary’s Puskás Ferenc Stadion.  Surprisingly, though the set list has not changed show to show, the concerts themselves have all been pretty different from one another, and completely different experiences on a personal level to be sure.  One thing I didn’t expect with the London shows was that what seemed like a majority of the concert goers (close to stage on the floor at least) were not from England, but other countries, so it was quite a multicultural affair.  I’ve also made a concerted effort to change my own point of view – literally – with each show, and with this first O2 gig planted myself at the foot of the catwalk that extends out into the audience (and is much shorter in the indoor arenas compared with the outdoor stadiums), and it was really a fantastic experience.  Seeing the expression on Dave Gahan’s face as he came out to the end for “Never Let Me Down Again” – close up and in real life – made this relentless two week country-hopping adventure worth it just for that amazing moment (which I managed to catch on video as well).  As I’ve mentioned over and over in the reviews leading up to this, Depeche Mode has long been my favorite band, and these concerts have been nothing short of epic.

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