“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…]
“Remember baby, the lake may be cold, but the light at the end of the tunnel may be you…” The final words from the immortal Steven Tyler as he turned his back to the crowd and strutted topless down the ramp and into the bright lights glowing from the back of the stage, as “Bad To The Bone” played him out. Performing at Harvey’s Outdoor Arena in South Lake Tahoe as part of their Summer Concert Series two years running, the explosive live show by Aerosmith kept a sold out crowd on their feet for over two hours. In my own opinion, Aerosmith is not just the best live rock and roll band touring today, but maybe of all time. They do pretty much everything better than anyone else, and they have so many hits in their arsenal that it just builds and builds and builds all night. Steven Tyler was born to do what he does, and even at 67 years old, he does it like no one else (and last night appeared to be have more energy than any of the 7,000 people in attendance). As much as he is the ultimate front man and performer, he is absolutely beaming when “Joe Fucking Perry”, “on guitar for 40 fucking years” is beside him, bringing the familiar riffs to life in a way that seems to be equal parts passion and effortlessness. Their songs feel like they were made to be performed live, and maybe more than any other band today, they know how to put on a show that’s brilliant no matter where you are, from up close to far away in the bleachers. Even if you are not a dedicated Aerosmith fan, I would say above any other band today – if you are a fan of ANY contemporary music – you’ve got to turn out to their show at least once, just so you have a new benchmark from which to judge all other concerts. It really doesn’t get any better when you consider every critical element that goes into a live concert event. They’ve earned the title, “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”.
“Holy shit! San! Fran! Cisco! Oh my God. Well, I may be really fucking tired… I danced my ass off! I have sit down so I don’t have a heart attack! … just in case you missed what we were trying to say… San Francisco, you are fucking amazing!” MisterWives’ Mandy Lee, after coming back on stage for their encore, taking a seat behind the drum kit. That encore opened with a “fucking amazing” cover of “Uptown Funk”. This is the moment where they really showed off how each member of the group is an exceptional musician, as they went through an extended jam session that really showcased their music talents and ability to intuitively wander about a song and squeeze every last bit of sonic confection out of it. I first saw the New York pop band performing as part of the KNPB television series, Cargo Live at Whitney Peak Hotel in Reno, and came away feeling that it was a band destined for a very bright future. That feeling was cemented Thursday night, as they have matured even more as a live act. Their debut album, Our Own House, has since been released, and fueled them through an hour and a half show. The theme of the night, for them, seemed to be an earnest love for The City by the Bay, with Mandy becoming choked up at the love being showered onto the band throughout the concert. They are definitely a young act with much larger stages waiting for them in the not too distant future, as long as they keep on doing what they are doing.
“I’d like to thank our two friends down here who have been down here all day; it was crazy for us to have any of you here in San Francisco all the way from London…” Ellie Rowsell’s gratitude expressed to the two Wolf Alice fans who came a long way to see the UK alternative four piece play in the U.S. I’d just seen their show at Popscene in San Francisco only three months ago, and I could not wait to catch another one of their dynamic live concerts. Having since had an opportunity to get schooled in their music released to date, I have found Wolf Alice to be one of the most exciting newer bands recording and performing today. With their debut album – My Love Is Cool – due next month, I am confident that their music will propel them to greater success and larger stages. They have a real set of gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and the contemporary yet timelessness of their music which features some touches and influences that span many disparate music genres and eras. They are the real deal.
“All I was trying to say was, that it means a lot to us the day after Christmas that San Francisco shows up… I’m serious; thanks so very much for that… and I say like this… ‘Are You Satisfied?‘…” Jordan Cook, AKA Reignwolf, standing on the kick drum that he dropped into the audience at sold out show at The Independent, before throwing down with his signature anthem that somehow showcases what he is all about – authentic rock and roll. I first saw Reignwolf opening for the Pixies in Los Angeles in 2013, and I have been raving about him since, to anyone who will listen. It’s been more than a year, but Friday night in San Francisco I finally got to witness him and his band do their own headlining show, and it was even better than I imagined (and I went in expecting it to be one of the best shows of the year). The man has such gifts, and taps into them with ease. The only other artist I’ve seen live that has that same mix of innate improvisational ability and also has more music in him than can maybe come out through the traditional instruments of rock and roll is Prince. Since seeing Reignwolf more than a year ago, I’ve been certain that he is destined to be one of our generation’s top rock stars, and I am as sure of that then ever after his show this weekend. It’s really just a matter of how soon he debuts a full album and how long it will take the rest of the world to catch up to this brilliant talent. Needless to say, the concert was phenomenal, and those who didn’t make it out the day after Christmas maybe missed the greatest gift of all.
“We’d like to play something off a very old record, but a very good record… it’s called Infinity. This was not the beginning with Mr. Perry… this was one of the first songs I wrote with him… actually the second song. We wrote it sitting downstairs in Gregg Rolie’s house… and then the song came out of nowhere – it wasn’t about L.A., it was about San Francisco! I don’t think they have a bay there… Is there a bay in L.A.? There’s one in San Francisco!” Neal Schon of Journey reminiscing about creating some of the best rock and roll songs of all-time, as intro to “Lights”. Journey and Steve Miller Band are just closing out a 41-date tour with Tower of Power that kicked off in mid-May, though this special one off show at the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s did not include the third band playing on the larger tour. The two classic rock bands provided plenty of music and energy on their own, playing to what appeared to be a sold out crowd. With many hits spanning decades, it was a great show with a lot of music history on display – both the songs and the people that made them. I’ve seen Journey a few times in the past couple of years, but I have to say that they’ve really cranked things up with this tour, and look and sound better than ever. It was my first time seeing Steve Miller Band, and while I’m not as familiar with them compared with Journey, I really loved that set as well. Both bands were in top form and put on amazing shows. One of the best tours of the Summer to be sure.
“…since we’re in San Francisco, we thought we’d do something special.” Bernard Sumner, singer and guitarist for New Order, as preface to an unexpected, second encore closer and cover of “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last night. One of just a half dozen dates on this North American tour, the concert showed a band that has worked to refine their live set, with updated visuals as well as a bit of tweaking and reworking of what has become their usual selection of songs. It was definitely the best I’ve heard them in the past four years, and they seemed most energized during their performance of new song, “Plastic”. The sold out crowd of around 7,000 never stopped moving and bouncing as they ripped through a sequence of favorites at the end with “True Faith”, “The Perfect Kiss”, and “Blue Monday”. As has been tradition, they closed out with an encore of a few Joy Division covers, but the Scott McKenzie cover at the very end showed that they can still surprise when they are inspired to do so.
“We’re Veruca Salt, and we’re gonna blow it out your ass…” Early on in their sold out show at The Fillmore in San Francisco last night, Louise Post made reference to their EP that followed their hit 1994 album, American Thighs, though it seemed to sum up what they came to do on stage, with Louise and co-singer and guitarist Nina Gordon shredding, singing, and shrieking through just south of a two hour set to a crowd of people who were more into this show that I generally see. I became aware of Veruca Salt when their song “Seether” became a smash hit. Unfortunately, I never had an opportunity to see them play live back in the day; in the late 90s, I was living in LA and going to grad school full time and working full time, which left almost no time for concerts. However, I have to imagine that they are better than ever in their current comeback, which includes not just touring but new music as well. As a matter of fact, I am fairly certain that their new single – “Museum of Broken Relationships – is perhaps my favorite Veruca Salt song to date. The two things that most struck me about their concert at The Fillmore last night was that 1) they put on a stunning show and 2) they seem to be having more fun than anyone. Hopefully this is just the beginning of bigger and better things, because it would be well-deserved and a long time coming.
“It enabled me to finish writing a bunch of these songs and create more of a positive spin. A hopeful, hopeful spin. This one is for my sweetie; it’s called “Brink of Destruction”… which is not a very positive title, now that I think about it. [laughter] …but, I don’t know, I like it; I like the dark side… and, you know, you walk to the edge and you look over and you go, “holy shit, do I want to jump?” and, yeah… I always do.” Sarah McLachlan talked about loss, and love, and new love, and like her music, it all reflects a very complex and deep feeling soul behind that soulful voice and heartfelt words. She is probably the most gifted vocalist to emerge in the past few decades, and having an opportunity to hear her in a live venue is definitely a memorable experience. Over the course of two hours, Sarah and her extremely talented band put on a showcase concert that hit on all cylinders – sound, lighting, audience interaction and some storytelling about some of the songs, as well as several Q&A opportunities (fans wrote down questions which she drew at random). Truly an “evening with” performance if there ever was one. Sarah has been writing and recording amazing songs for many years now, and her latest – Shine On – has quality that is right there with the best of it. End to end, the event presented a kaleidoscope of feeling and emotion, and Sarah can connect with people with her music unlike anyone else – she is truly peerless on many levels, and this is definitely one of the best tours going this year.
“We’re female chauvinist pigs…” Jill Cunniff, one of the three members of Luscious Jackson, prefacing her invitation of a handful of men in the audience to join them on the stage to shake their booties during their song, “#1 Bum”. It was an informal kind of show for the band, who haven’t been in San Francisco for a very long time, having recently reunited for their first studio album since 1999. One of just three headlining shows for this tour (having played Los Angeles the night prior and with Boston still to come next Saturday, as well as two festival appearances), The Independent appeared sold out (or close to it) last night. They put on an electric show with material spanning their original 90s songs as well as the new album, all sounding fresh and original. They definitely still have “it”, and hopefully their efforts to reinvent themselves with their PledgeMusic campaign and new independent streak will lead to a resurgence of their special brand of rock/pop/hip hop.