“This is actually the first song we ever wrote… do you remember your first time?” Susan Ottaviano, vocalist for Book of Love, providing her introduction to “It’s in Your Eyes” halfway through their set at DNA Lounge in San Francisco last night, one stop in a handful of California dates this month. The New Wave synthpop band from Philadelphia, which was formed more than 30 years ago, have started working together and recording together again, and these special concerts are a part of that rebirth for the group. Based on the packed nightclub and enthusiasm of the crowd, they are not forgotten, and there was a large fan base in attendance, many of whom traveled special for the relatively intimate show. As the style of music that they helped to develop back in the 80s gains in popularity today, it is exciting to see the band active and killing it on stage as if they’ve been active all along, rather than reuniting. Hopefully it will mark the start of more to come.
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.
“I asked him what he wanted for his birthday… What do you think he said? He said, ‘Dad, I wanna play ‘What Do You Want From Me?”” Peter Hook of Peter Hook & The Light, currently, and formerly of Joy Division, New Order, Ad Infinitum, Revenge, Freebass, and Monaco. “What Do You Want From Me?” was the top single produced by Monaco, and as Peter Hook (more affectionately referred to simply as Hooky) recounted his conversation on stage before the packed crowd at Mezzanine in San Francisco last night, he held his hand on his heart, touched by his son’s request, and beaming with pride. It was definitely a special sort of evening last night, with more than the one big surprise, as I don’t believe his current band Peter Hook & The Light – with son Jack on bass – have ever performed that song live for the public. The other big surprise of the night was opening and supporting band Slaves of Venus… but more on that later. In the end, it was nearly three hours of not just the promised first two New Order albums, Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, but a bit of Joy Division as well. Really much more to cover than I can even contemplate in this opening teaser, but it was a stellar show and a showcase of amazing music.
Blondie’s spectacular show at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium in San Francisco Thursday night was a reminder of how seemingly effortlessly Debbie Harry and the band crossed into and innovated within so many different styles and genres of music in the late 70s and early 80s. Punk, post-punk, disco, pop, New Wave, even some rap, reggae, and infusions of some world music, they were quite the innovators, really serving as a pioneering force in music, and they continue to record new and relevant music today. The Debbie Harry-fronted East Coast post punk/pop/disco group Blondie share the bill on the “No Principals Tour” with Exene Cervenka and John Doe fronting on vocals for the West Coast, L.A. punk pioneers X, which features its original line-up. Both artists brought amazing energy to the stage, which created a frenzy within the crowd at the Masonic unlike anything I’d seen at the usually mellow venue, with fans of both bands flooding the area between the all-seated venue and the low stage. It was definitely a different sort of concert (in a great way) and celebration of music that really served as a pivotal transition from the 70s to the 80s, paving a pathway into what turned out to be fresh and new world.
“We do it for love, sweet love…” Fittingly, the final words sung on stage both Saturday and Sunday night in San Francisco by GROUPLOVE, from their hit song, “Colours”. Playing back-to-back shows as part of their special run of their “Seesaw Tour”, performing at two small venues in select cities, doing one traditional show and one acoustic-style show, each night featured a different kind of show, almost as if seen, heard, and felt through a kaleidoscope that shifted not just night to night, but within each show. GROUPLOVE is a band with probably the best energy of anyone playing today – such joy and positivity beaming not just from the speakers at the venues, but from the artists themselves – their expressions and jumping around, and interactions with the audience. The funny thing is that the audiences and shows kind of played counter to expectations, with the “heavy” night at The Independent skewing older and more mellow and the “light” night at The Chapel being much more youthful and boundless, which seemed to fuel the band into rocking their acoustic instruments on the tiny stage, which could barely contain them. Two incredible shows that delivered well beyond expectations.
“It sells more every year now than it ever did when it did first came out in 1968″… Rod Argent, keyboardist and vocalist, talking about the second studio album put out by The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle, as he and vocalist Colin Blunstone took the time between stretches of songs to provide some history and context into their “musical journey” through the history of the British Invasion band. After a stellar opening set from supporting band Et Tu Brucé, the two founding members of The Zombies along with rock veterans Tom Toomey on guitar, Jim Rodford (front Argent and The Kinks) on bass, and Jim’s son Steve Rodford on drums demonstrated with their performance why their legendary status continues to grow. Yoshi’s San Francisco was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the audience seemed to be swept away with their brilliant and timeless music.
I have been to many, many concerts this year, but this is one of those few that left me feeling kind of speechless. With their San Francisco stop on their “Heartbreaker Tour”, Live Nation and America’s Cup hosted the event at America’s Cup Pavilion as part of their Summer Concert Series. Joining Ann and Nancy Wilson on this Heart tour is Jason Bonham and his Led Zeppelin Experience; more than a supporting act, it is a dynamic fusion that has made for a very unique and unforgettable concert experience. Throughout the evening, the musical journey and artistry on display seemed to build perfectly, song after song, moment to moment, and culminated with Jason Bonham and his band joining Heart on stage to perform Led Zeppelin material, with the crescendo of the overall experience being their collective rendition of “Stairway to Heaven”. Really, live music does not get any better than that, and when you see even the venue security rocking out with the fans, you know you are part of one of those special concert experiences where people forget who they are and just live the moment and soak it in, basking in the greatness shining from the stage.
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.
“If you’re on the wall, you’re awesome…” Peter Murphy relaying what he was told pre-show, in a pretty impressive American accent, about the custom poster designed for the sold out show at The Fillmore last night, on the second American leg of his “Mr. Moonlight Tour: Celebrating 35 Years of Bauhaus”, before he critiqued the fact that it portrayed him as bald and with wings. Peter Murphy has always been a bit of an enigma to me, as you have an idea of what he might be like from listening to his music, but on stage he usually has a few funny things to say in-between songs. But for this tour in particular, fans turned out for the songs, with an all-Bauhaus setlist, with Peter Murphy and his band bringing the classics to life on stage, with great precision and style. Bauhaus were one of the most important bands during that era, with a massive influence in music at large and a catalog of music that has stood the test of time. The show in San Francisco last night definitely lived up to the billing as a celebration of that music. I would say it is the best Peter Murphy concert I’ve seen (which is saying a lot). One of the best tours of the year.
2013 is shaping up to be a great year for new music and exciting artists playing live dates, and AM & Shawn Lee are most definitely a part of both. With the release of their second collaborative studio album last month, La Musique Numberique, it is fueled by some amazing songs that translate brilliantly well in their live sets. The transatlantic writing and recording process (with AM in Los Angeles and Shawn Lee in London) produced an electronic and synth-driven collection of songs that fuse sounds from past decades (particularly the 70s and 80s) but sound as contemporary as anything else released in the past few years. As performers, both sides of the duo have a very relaxed style and great chemistry. As the climax to their “Sounds of Summer” touring album release party, it was a festive night at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last night, with a great crowd in an intimate venue. If you’ve never checked out their music, you are missing out and you can preview over at SoundCloud… awesome stuff!