“This is our second time, and we like it a lot!” Georgia Nott, talking about their second gig in San Francisco to date, playing to a sold out crowd at The Independent on Tuesday night. She spent most of her time roaming back and forth across the stage, and the rest on her keyboards, at the opposite corner from her brother, Caleb, who had an array of electronics and musical tools at his own station. Holding down the center between them was touring drummer, Jimi Mataio. The set really came alive most when Georgia was on mic and vocals only, pacing the stage while showcasing her gifts, singing their unique style of music. Although one of the highlights was her heartfelt and slow tempo solo on keys and vocals toward the end of the set. With their first studio album due at the end of Summer, this overall versatility for such a young band – as well as their ability to recreate it live – makes me extremely optimistic about the future of this duo. It was a fantastic performance, which included support from one of my very favorite young artists, Meg Myers, as well as a great showing by Max and The Moon.
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.
Sascha Konietzko’s brain child, KMFDM (Kein Mehrheit Für Die Mitleid, loosely “no pity for the majority”), played its second concert in the past year at The Independent in San Francisco to a crowd of its devotees last night. One of the leading artists that helped to build the Industrial music scene in the 80s (though Sasha prefers “Ultra-Heavy Beat”), they are certainly one of the last from that era who continue to carry the torch for that genre of music. They have been quite prolific in the past three decades, with regular and continued touring and 18 studio albums, as well as being uncompromising in staying true to that particular format of music. Sascha has been the one constant with the German group, with a rotating roster of band members, though the current formation was hitting on all cylinders last night. They put on an excellent concert and I can’t imagine that any who found their way into the show went away disappointed. While never remotely a mainstream act, the fans that they have converted over the years are truly dedicated, with a much more substantive relationship with this band than is the norm. These concerts feel as though they serve as an escape as well as celebration among those who “get” the counter culture sound and viewpoint that KMFDM imagines and then delivers with its relentless beat.
“Thank you so, so much for being here tonight. It means so, so much to us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” in MS MR thanking the crowd at the Independent in San Francisco last night for being “early adopters” of their music, while the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, preps the crowd for the last song of the night, “Hurricane”. Appropriately enough, the new band has taken the music industry by storm with their phenomenal first studio album, Secondhand Rapture, which I certainly rank as one of the Top 10 Albums of 2013. Their unique blend of at once dark and poppy electronic music has taken me back to those same feelings I had when I found Yazoo 30 years ago (with another male-female duo in Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet), though updated and reflective of our time today. This was the third of three sell out shows at The Independent in the past week, which is remarkable since it was only four months ago that I saw them take the same stage supporting CSS back in June. In much the same way Imagine Dragons graduated from The Independent (they played there as well earlier this year) to filling sports arenas, I suspect that MS MR will continue on with their upward trajectory, carried by their awesome music and brilliant live performances, which sound as sublime as the studio recordings. This is definitely a tour that fan who are lucky enough to check out will not forget.
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.
“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.
“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.