Black Francis usually doesn’t have much to say on stage, and with the latest show by Pixies at the Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino on Thursday night, it was mostly to introduce the titles of new songs that will be on their upcoming album expected later this year. Hearing these songs for the first time myself, I’d honestly say that this as yet untitled new album may be their best since their original quadrilogy. Which got me thinking, as I took in the show and had fleeting memories of high school (where I counted Pixies and Depeche Mode as my favorite bands)… all four of their original albums were literally all released while I was in high school (Surfer Rosa in 1988, Doolittle in 1989, Bossanova in 1990 and then Trompe le Monde in 1991) and I saw them quite a few times in concert back in the day (even opening for U2 once). In any event, I love every song released during those formative four years (except the two I hated), so seeing them jam live is always such a joy, as their music was made to be performed. [Read more…]
“Thank you so much for having us back; this is the first night of the “High As Hope Tour”. This next song is from… oh you guys flustered me! This next song is from High As Hope and I wrote it about the place that I was born which is south London, which has a lot less trees than this…” Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena in South Lake Tahoe on Thursday night, kicking off her latest tour in support of her amazing new album. “I’m with you… I’m with you like… at the moment my heart, it hurts a lot of the time and I just want to say I want you all to hold hands because I really believe in you and I believe in the power of change. And I believe in love and I want you to hold hands for this song because if we connect, I really think amazing things can happen”. A lot of performing artists say things about connecting with their audience, and say those things from the stage, and the audience watch from below as they perform. With Florence, it is not just words. Toward the end of her set, into the song “Delilah”, Florence came off of the stage and ran deep into the audience while she sang, literally connecting with fans in the crowd. Then she actually came running across (barefoot of course) the seat in the row I was in, and I got to witness first hand something unlike anything I’d ever seen at a concert. Florence was engaging with fans one at a time, one on one. In many instances she was grabbing their faces and pressing her forehead against theirs, as if she was forming a mystical bond with them. She was right in front of me for a good length of time, and it was kind of surreal to hear her voice singing directly from her, not just through the sound system. It’s actually been years since I uploaded concert footage to my YouTube channel, but it was such an incredible experience, I thought this would be the best reason ever to share a snippet of this amazing concert moment (iPhone quality, unedited): LINK Really, it takes a lot to put me at a loss for words, but this concert really transcended what anyone might expect from a live show. For some fans, I think it was a near religious experience. Currently tied for my favorite concert of the year. Definitely the best tour of 2018 I am guessing. And since this was the first show on this tour, everyone has time to try to get out to make one of the upcoming dates.
I usually open my reviews with a quote from the artist, but Phantogram didn’t do too much talking during their set, and when they did their words were mostly lost among adulation from the cheering crowd. Their live sets are still driven by songs from last year’s Three, which I voted at the #1 album of 2016. I’ve personally been dying to hear songs off this brilliant album live, as last year each time the duo and their band were playing local, I was traveling elsewhere. So with their appearance at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino’s Grand Theatre in Reno Friday night, I was not disappointed. This was actually my favorite concert thus far in 2017. Phantogram are so amazing right now the rest of the world needs time to catch on. [Read more…]
“We gotta remember and identify and know that the only thing we gotta fear with the craziness and the madness and some of the very difficult evil things that have happened, is not to be human, is not to be cooperative, not to be looking out for one another, but to be spreading the good stuff everywhere…” Midnight Oil’s (“the Oils”) Peter Garrett, in his preface to “Put Down That Weapon”, the band’s second single off of their seminal 1987 album, Diesel and Dust. Some 30 years later, lyrics from the song and the ideas that they invoke seem as poignant as ever. The band has been mostly off the scene as Midnight Oil since they dissolved in 2002, so with their 2017 reformation and world tour, they have made an unexpected return to much acclaim and excitement. I was a huge fan of that 1987 album as it blew up in the U.S. at the time, and I had never had a chance to see them perform live until this show at Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night. It was nothing short of incredible, and will certainly rank as one of my favorite gigs of the year. They are touring a lot in 2017 and crossing back to cities already visited, so I give my highest recommendation to turn out for one of these events…
“Oakland, San Francisco, how the hell you doing tonight? We played here almost six years ago opening up for somebody… Who here was there? Was anybody there at the show? I’m just sayin’, I do see a lot of people who have been with us all six years, and for all of you who have come to all these shows, all these years, thank you so much!” Andrew Wessen, guitarist of Grouplove, a band who always has their gratitude and appreciation on display. They played a scorcher at a packed Fox Theater on Friday night, supporting their third studio album, Big Mess. Just one date into their new U.S. tour running through the end of the year (followed by dates in Australia), they sounded and performed better than ever. One of my favorite live acts, they put on a high energy show that had the crowd bouncing throughout, embracing the excellent new songs as much as the favorites. Definitely a must see tour. The latest album, produced by Captain Cuts (Grouplove’s Ryan Rabin) and Phil Ek is characterized by their signature sound and style, and may be their best yet. With their “Big Mess World Tour”, one dollar for every ticket sold will be donated to the organization charity: water to help fund water projects like drilled wells, spring protections, and BioSand filters that help provide clean water to communities around the world. [Read more…]
“It’s been quite a while since we’ve played here…” Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES at the first of two back-to-back sold out shows at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Monday night. With the incredible Wolf Alice supporting, it was a stellar evening of music from two bands in the midst of a huge upswing in both talent and popularity. Late last year, both bands put out new albums, CHVRCHES with their Every Open Eye (their second) and Wolf Alice bowed their debut LP, My Love Is Cool. I had opportunity to see Wolf Alice at all three of their Bay Area shows last year and CHVRCHES with their “Not So Silent Night” appearance in December, so it has been fascinating to see them evolve and grow with both their studio recordings and their live shows. All in all, an evening that offered a look at the future of music… Wolf Alice with their alternative rock and roll and CHVRCHES with their synth pop. [Read more…]
“This is our first stop in America in a while…” Ragnar Þórhallsson, in preface to the final song of the night, “Yellow Light”. Ragnar performed beside Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir, who he shares lead vocals with in their Icelandic indie folk/pop band Of Monsters And Men, playing before what appeared to be a sold out crowd at the Grand Theatre at Grand Sierra Resort & Casino in Reno. This was a special show in advance of their Coachella appearance next week, and kicked off their larger world tour currently booked out through July. The word “electric” comes to mind to describe the show, but so much of their sound is of the “unplugged” variety. Yet they seem to create a whirlwind of energy that touched each fan in the crowd, bringing something otherworldly to the stage. They have such a unique yet consistent sound it’s almost as though they have created their own genre of music, in sound and themes. They definitely bring something unique and uniquely beautiful to the music world at large, and create an experience with both their studio recordings and live shows that is, for lack of a better word, magical and timeless. Definitely one of the best tours to check out this year if you get the opportunity. [Read more…]
“I’ve got to say, you’re the funkiest crowd we’ve ever had…” Music legend Nile Rodgers with Chic at Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night, playing not only through hits by Chic but number one hits Rodgers has produced over the past several decades with top, iocnic artists. Watching Nile Rodgers and the amazing Chic on stage really underscored how he is all about collaboration; he seems to have found his purpose in life early on in bringing the best out of other artists who were truly gifted in their own right… helping them make art that transcended what either could do on their own. Not just a beautiful way to create, but also an inspired way to go through life, bettering other people as well as yourself in the process. And then there is that music… all of it markedly up beat and happy and optimistic. But Nile Rodgers also appears to be a humble man on stage, and that reflects his life’s work as well, working in the background to help other artists and their songs and talent shine. So it was quite special to see Nile Rodgers and Chic do a full concert live on stage (they will also be performing with Duran Duran in their upcoming tour). What music, what talent, and what a way to bring it all to life in a way that makes the crowd feel that they are part of it. Though it is early into 2016, this will certainly be one of my own favorite and most memorable shows of the year.
“So what’s up Oakland? I’m the one who’s up? Oh baby, you just made my day. Thank you. I’m up, we’re all up tonight. Well, far be it from me to state the obvious, but it’s incredible being here tonight. It’s such a privilege to be able to play for you; to sing for you. Every day I wake up and I have the to opportunity to do this, this thing that we love, I kiss the ground. You’ve got a lot going on in your great city this weekend. Well, apart from me; but thank you very much. One of the reasons we’re up here… to have fun. Which is essentially the message I want to give to everyone tonight, whether you’re in the back, whether you’re in the middle, whether you’re right at the end, I want you to have fun and understand that I see you. I feel you.” The multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, Seal, taking a moment to express his feelings to a packed Fox Theater in Oakland on the eve of Super Bowl weekend. Having met the incredible vocalist years ago – that last bit about seeing and feeling the audience – that could not be more true. Seal has been prolific since his splash in music with “Crazy” back in 1991, with his own original work as well as fantastic covers of classic songs, particularly in the soul genre. With this one off show this past week, the focus was on his latest (ninth) studio album, 7, released by Warner Bros. last year, with a compelling set list framed by some of his biggest hits. One of the most earnest and talented live performers in music today, he did not disappoint with an engaging show that left me revisiting his catalog and dreaming about seeing him in concert again soon. [Read more…]
“…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…]