Not So Silent Night (NSSN) is Live 105’s “Annual Holiday Rock Show”, with 2015 bringing it back from a two-night event to a one night show. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I tend to avoid the massive outdoor Summer-style festivals (too hot, dirty, sweaty and crowded, though I did cover Live 105’s BFD this year – see Part 1 & Part 2), so I really enjoy these indoor ones that happen in the colder weather. With this one being an annual event, they are extremely well organized and somehow improve upon their formula year after year. The night kicked off early at about 5:30 and ran up towards midnight, so it was a very long evening of excellent artists doing their thing (with scant 5-minute breaks in-between as the did quick stage rotations). It was also an interesting mix of artists, with newer bands as well as some that have put in a lot more years, with Weezer topping the billing. All in all, it was a great line-up that flowed well and all performers seemed to step up and deliver to their own fans as well as making some new ones.
“…for those of you who haven’t been with us for twenty years, ‘welcome’. Thank you for listening, and thank you for connecting with us.” Shirley Manson of Garbage, talking about young people reaching out to the band, some of whom maybe weren’t even alive 20 years ago when they released their eponymous debut album. 20 years later, “connecting” has taken on a whole new meaning than it had in the mid-90s, as the Internet bounds us together in various forms and interfaces. This new tour is all about that landmark and somewhat counter culture album, Garbage, which came out in deluxe, remastered, reissue versions spanning three SKUs across multiple formats on October 1st. The “Super Deluxe Edition” features a whopping 62 tracks, including all of the B-Sides and remixes and demos galore. The “20 Years Queer Tour” is a celebration of that album, playing the whole thing front to back with B-sides sprinkled within, as well as a few songs from later albums and eras. The sold out show at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Wednesday night largely had a party-like atmosphere, as some fans spent the day waiting in line or participating in the Adventures in Wonderland add-on packages (which included swag, sound check viewing, meet and greets with the band, early entry into the venue, etc.). Having turned out for several of the band’s shows as they’ve made their comeback in recent years, they seem to kill it in concert more and more, and the trend continues with this tour, as they stand with confidence on stage, bathed in red-hued lights and performing over a sea of mostly black attire clad fans with the occasional pink feather boa as added flair. Even though they are looking backwards for this tour, they continue to move forward and it is an exciting time to be a fan of this band, who continue to reach up for their full potential. [Read more…]
“Oakland, I want to see you go fuckin’ crazy!” One of a set of similar sentiments shouted by Charli XCX throughout her high energy performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Thursday night, along with co-headliner Bleachers in their “Charli and Jack Do America” tour, though the latter had already whipped the crowd into a frenzy before she even had a chance to take the stage. At only 22 years only, Charli XCX has had a remarkably long and prolific career thus far, and in her ongoing evolution of her unique and varied brand of music, she has veered solidly into the pop diva lane of the genre highway. It was an interesting pairing of artists, with New Jersey-born Jack Antonoff from Bleachers building and building their own set with anthem-driven pop/rock songs that are catchy and captivating (even on first listen), contrasted against England’s Charli XCX pushing sexually-fused tunes with saccharine pop choruses. As a dual headlining show, each artist seemed to bring out a different crowd, though all skewed younger. Most certain is that each artist – though having respectively accomplished much already – will certainly continue to grow and evolve in the coming years. [Read more…]
“So this is one of your requests… I’ll see if we got this right.” Tori Amos in the “Lizard Lounge” section of her performance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland last night, wherein on this “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour” she does a few covers suggested by fans. With Monday night’s show, the first was a kind of dark rendition of the Calvin Harris and Rihanna electro-house hit song, “We Found Love”. What? Tori Amos doing “We Found Love”? Yeah, I know the song well, but it took my thought process a few seconds to catch up with the familiar lyrics played out in such a different manner. As I settled into that incredible collision of techno pop and, well, however you might categorize what it is that Tori does, when she does her thing… I started imagining what might be the most amazing cover to hear from her following that. Immediately, I thought of “Tiny Dancer” (it has a special connection with my fiancé and I, and she was seated next to me in the orchestra pit for her first Tori concert)… So after finishing “We Found Love” on her electric keyboard, Tori spun around and found her way to the deeper keys on her Bösendorfer piano and started into the classic Elton John tune. I’ve seen, I would guess, thousands of artists live in concert – that was the first time I’d felt that maybe one read my mind. Very surreal moment, and maybe the coolest moment for me at any Tori Amos concert (and I’ve been to my fair share). She was certainly full of surprises last night, as a fan might see simply from taking a look at the set list, which had songs from her latest, Unrepentant Geraldines, going all the way back to her failed synthpop band, Y Kant Tori Read. With the new album and this current tour, Tori has certainly hit her stride both in the studio and on the road, and she’s always been one of those rare artists that is a master at both.
It was one year ago to the day that I saw Pet Shop Boys and their Electric Tour in San Diego… and while the “show” was mostly the same on this 2014 tour, kicking off at Fox Theater in Oakland, my own personal experience was worlds apart. The actual concert itself was the same as last year’s, with the exception of I think just one change to the setlist, but that is actually a good thing – why mess with near perfection? While there are a few favorites of mine I would have loved to have heard, the highly prolific duo have been making hits for over three decades now, so there will always be some songs that aren’t going to make the cut for every tour. As with last year, the avant-garde stage production is 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. This show was their first of 2014, and at one point Neil even confessed to having some nerves in coming back on the stage, but his voice and delivery was spot on, and the blending of old and new music maybe even works better the second time around. It was one of my favorite shows last year, and it was great to revisit it as well as share it with someone very special in my life this time around – it is a concert that I will never forget (more on that later)!
“You know how many hits I got?” The genius at work on his keyboards/samplers toward the end of his initial set (in the midst of a freestyle mix/onslaught of some of the best pop hits of my generation – “When Doves Cry”/”Nasty Girl”/”Sign ☮ the Times”/”Pop Life”/”If I Was Your Girlfriend”/”Housequake”/”I Would Die For You”/etc…). All culminating in a mind blowing rendition of “Purple Rain” (in which Prince made a comment about how he will never get tired of that song). I don’t know if it was just a fantastic audience at the Fox Theater last night, or if Prince simply had the power to bring us to life and in perfect unison with his music, but this one off, last minute (instant sell out) show was certainly one I won’t forget. I’ve never seen the Fox that rocking before (and I’ve seen many shows there) and I would even go so far as to say last night’s show blew away his set of shows played at the relatively tiny DNA Lounge last year (see review Night #1, Night #2). As epic as those were (and I counted the two I went to among the very best of the nearly 100 concerts I attended last year), this one bested them on nearly every level. Truly a musical genius at work alongside the brilliant 3RDEYEGIRL, as though they came down from some other planet for a few hours to illustrate another way of life. Words really can’t describe, and without photos to aid in retelling the experience, it was really something you would have had to have been there for to fully appreciate and understand.
Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) usually has little to say to an audience during a Pixies concert, and unless I missed it, he had nothing to say to the sold out crowd at the Fox Theater in Oakland last night. The music he crafted with his band, originating in the late 80s, still sounds ahead of it’s time, and rocks harder than most of the material put out by bands yesterday and today. Yet in true anti-rock star style, after casually coming onto the stage Friday night and giving the crowd a friendly wave hello, Black Francis realized his shoe was untied and propped his foot up on the drum kit to rectify the situation before kicking into “Bone Machine”. The band has one of the best collections of songs for a band with such a short lifespan in its original incarnation (1986-1993, more or less). I personally love every song on their five studio albums, save one or two. As most are fairly short, some are played even faster live, so a Pixies concert always feels like some kind of a race of sorts to the end, and thus the chit chat engaged in by some artists is skipped over completely with the Pixies, though they always have a surprise or two none the less. The most unexpected moment with their stop in Oakland was the apparent lack of a set list, and after a satisfying encore, the house lights came up, band still onstage with fans exiting in a hurry, only to have the quartet break into a frenetic and rocking version of “Planet of Sound”, with house lights still up throughout. Funny enough, I asked the sound and light crew at the mixing board in the back about this when the show finally (finally) came to a close, and even they were surprised. In any event, a stellar show put on by one of my favorite bands of all time, played to a fascinating mix of fans old and new (some of the latter of which weren’t even born during their first run in the late 80s and early 90s). A true celebration of some of the best music of my generation. They’ve still got it. [Read more…]
“We love you so much… you’re so beautiful! We’ve been playing San Francisco for years and years and years, and every time we come back here, you’re so fucking great and it’s so fucking fun…” Sarah Barthel, standing beside long time collaborator Josh Carter, both of whom seemed moved at times by the enthusiastic crowd that sold out the Fox Theater in Oakland for Phantogram’s debut show touring their latest album, Voices, which hit the streets earlier this week. Joined on stage by Chris Carhart on drums and Nick Shelestak on keyboards, the band put on an amazing show with a fantastic ability to recreate their unique studio sound live on stage, which was itself bathed in a pulsating light show that suited their songs well. This is definitely one of the must see tours of the year – really brilliant performance of their incredibly unique music and fantastic new album.
“As it so happens, this one goes out to all the ladies!” A song intro by Alex Turner, front man for Arctic Monkeys, one of the coolest and most charismatic bands on the planet. Dispensing with too much in-between song chit chat, the band kept building upon the frenzy within the audience throughout their hour and a half set. The fans in attendance, who started lining up a 6 am in morning to ultimately bask in the stunning lights of pure and unfiltered cool glowing from the stage, made the first of two back-to-back Arctic Monkeys shows at the Fox Theater in Oakland a tough one to best. The band is in the midst of their world tour in support of their fifth studio album, AM, which was released earlier this month. Showing confidence in the future, the band closed out the show with an encored that ended with their new hit single, “R U Mine?”, which might just be their best song yet.
69… 69… 71… 65… Years old, respectively. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, and Ronnie Wood. The Rolling Stones. Synonymous with rock and roll. They rocked Oracle Arena in Oakland, California last night for two and a half hours. There were more people than seats (more on that later) and (mostly, well initially) very expensive seats at that (and more on that later too), but it was a remarkable night to witness one of the most (and last standing) legendary rock bands of all time plow through 23 songs. Sure, some will point out some occasional sloppiness, but I always heard a bit of that in their studio recordings. It’s the Rolling Stones. They more than make up for some lack of precision and complexity with enthusiasm, and Mick Jagger has moves like, well, him. He possessed fans in the audience of all ages who mimicked his moves with pure glee. And really, any time Keith Richards did much of anything, the two 52-year old women sitting to my right could barely contain themselves. I quizzed them about this deep into the set, between songs, and one of them said, “the fact that he’s still alive and standing there is nothing short of a miracle”. Some miracles are self evident, and others are in the eye of the beholder. I think one’s take on the show last night is likely more about and reflective of each person as much as it is the show itself. Each person’s connection with the Stones and what they mean to him or her. Given the reactions from the crowd, I would guess a majority found it nothing short of miraculous, and certainly unforgettable.