“I hope it wasn’t a massive hassle for you to come a week later… I’m sorry if it was… it fucking was for us!” Miki from shoegaze pioneers Lush at The Warfield in San Francisco on Sunday night, for their show that was rescheduled from the week before due to visa issues coming to the U.S. for Coachella and a handful of headlining shows California, the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver. The band just released their first new music in 20 years, EP Blind Spot, this month, and their sprawling set list of music new and old kept the packed crown transfixed on the stage for the duration of the show. Best known as “a 90s band”, music of that era is being rediscovered of late and it was awesome to see the band come back to the music scene to begin again in a different era. Prior to recent months (including an appearance at Coachella), the band last performed way back in 1996. You wouldn’t know it from their show, as they appeared relaxed, comfortable, and happy to play in front of their fans.
“Fuck you, Greg! Just kidding!” What the audience playfully shouted at Inara George of The Bird And The Bee (on cue and at her direction) as she recorded video of the crowd with a borrowed phone, to share with the other half of their duo who is not joining her on this short, rare tour hitting just four cities in the U.S. (Pasadena, San Francisco, Chicago, and Minneapolis). Supporting their first all-original album since 2009 with the newly released Recreational Love, that crowd has certainly been waiting with great anticipation to see the act, in whole or part, for the better part of five years (in which time just a handful of dates have been played). The packed collection of fans at Social Hall SF in San Francisco (just below and part of Goldenvoice’s Regency Ballroom) was not disappointed, as Inara George and her band played through The Bird And The Bee favorites, old and new. Going by the quality and energy of the show, you wouldn’t know that live shows are not something that they do continuously, as it was a brilliant concert and the unique studio sound was recreated faithfully and, of course, at the heart of it all were Inara’s unique vocals. Definitely worth turning out for one of these rare shows, and short of that, checking out the new album, which takes them in a new direction while retaining that unique distinct, singular, signature sound. [Read more…]
“I think we’ve been here like eight or nine or ten times before… you can tell we’re sort of a variety band…” Nancy Wilson reminiscing about past appearances with her sister Ann and band Heart at Mountain Winery, before diving into a stunning cover of “Mona Lisas and Madhatters”. I’ve been lucky enough to see Heart several times in the past few years (even a year ago at the same venue and two years ago almost to the day at America’s Cup Pavilion) and one thing that I’ve learned with them is that every show is a completely different experience. Slight but substantive changes to setlists and songs, different tone and attitude… they have so much range and talent and emotion, you never quite know what to expect. Maybe that feminine perspective brings a wider gamut of approaches and possibilities? Or the duo and their band have so much by way of musical gifts, they challenge themselves by expressing their art in a variety of ways? In any event, this show was exceptional, with each of the sisters – as well as their stellar band – having moments to shine and showcase their talents. The standing ovation following “Alone” was one of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen in a long time. Somehow, Ann can really nail that song in so many different ways it’s amazing. As has been the case in the past few years, Heart remains the caretakers of keeping Led Zeppelin music alive and well (along with Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, who have toured with them as well), closing out the night with covers of the classic, beloved music. Real icons and pioneers in music themselves, they are one of the best live shows touring today, with a catalog spanning decades and reflecting different eras in not only music but pop culture and our times.
“When I grow too old to dream, remember me…” Morrissey, though frequently employing an economy of words on stage, always has something interesting to say. Over the past few years, he has seemed a bit preoccupied with the darker themes of mortality and retiring from live performances. And given his track record prior to this tour just completed, it has made those shows that do come together that much more magical, as it can all feel rare and fleeting. With the concert at The Event Center at San Jose State University on Saturday night, things seemed to come together quite perfectly (apart from the fact that Amanda Palmer sadly had to cancel her supporting set due to medical issues). Morrissey seemed to be in a great and (for him anyway) chatty mood to boot. The audience was stellar. All in all, it was a fantastic show with a captivating set list and a few surprises as well. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Morrissey in the past few years in which he seems really both at ease and dare I say kind of joyous on stage. It’s as if he’s found a new path forward, surrounded by great fellow musicians who can create a show for themselves as much as for the audience. As one of my all-time favorite artists, it’s certainly motivated me to continue to turn out for any of his shows that I can. There is always an element of excitement in the air as well as an overwhelming feeling of authenticity. He is one of a handful of artists that can still give me that chill down my spine and make me feel like I am witnessing something genuine and important. [Read more…]
“If I was rich, I’d live here…” The modest Georgia Nott, chatting in-between songs about the beautiful houses she’d seen in San Francisco earlier in the day, at their sold out show at The Regency Ballroom Saturday night. It was a big step up in size from the shows I’d attended last year. Accompanied as always with her brother Caleb and touring drummer Joel Farland, it was indeed a much bigger stage this time around, which they filled with ease with their authentic set of fantastic pop music fueled by incredible melodies and heartfelt, thoughtful lyrics (and of course those soaring vocals!). Dubbed “The Evergreen Tour”, they are supporting their solid debut album released last year (which I ranked in my own Top Ten Albums of 2014). The kiwi duo are so young that I’m really excited to continue to follow them to see where their gifts take them next. I expect checking in on them in 2016, we will see them take on even larger stages and venues. One of the best new artists of this era, and they put on a fantastic live show – my highest recommendation.
“And that’s how you play The Perfect Kiss!” An emphatic Peter Hook, currently touring as Peter Hook & The Light (formerly of Joy Division and New Order) – rock and roll’s greatest bass player – is apparently a skilled mind reader as well, as he pulled that quote right out of my head to shout back through his microphone after playing the best rendition of the classic song that I’d ever heard. Hooky and his band are in 2014 touring New Order’s third and fourth albums (Low-Life and Brotherhood, respectively) in their entirety, having done the same in 2013 with the first two (Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies). As an added bonus with each of these outings, they open for themselves as Slaves of Venues with dedicated Joy Division sets, which collectively makes for quite a substantive and lengthy set of shows each night. At The Fonda Theatre in Hollywood Saturday night, the dedicated fans in attendance were also treated to a surprise guest appearance on stage for the encore, with none other than Moby coming out to perform vocals for the first two songs of that set to close out the evening. All and all, with a show kicking off around 9:30 PM and going until 12:30 AM, it was three solid hours of celebration for fans of Joy Division and New Order. It was certainly one of those special shows were the venue, artist, and fans all clicked perfectly to make for a very memorable experience and a blazing hot and awesome show by a legendary artist and performer, who in my opinion is the heart and soul of New Order keeping the most authentic live performance of their music alive for old and new fans.
“We keep moving back now, further back to the 70s… you guys are fans of the 70s, right?” Daryl Hall and John Oates continued to delve deep into their catalog at their show at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Thursday night. With a seemingly endless reservoir of top hits, the number one duo of all time were in a special groove. I’ve always counted them as one of the top live acts of all time, and every time I see them play I feel that sentiment more strongly. As incredible as their studio cuts of each song are, they come to life in such a special way at their live shows. There is an element of improvisation and a kind of subconscious jamming among the band where they can riff and extend songs out in a way that makes everything fresh and new and unpredictable. And somehow better than ever. They usually hit Mountain Winery every year, but were missed in 2013, so it was great to have them return this year.
“We don’t do this one often… this is awful fast; it’s awful hard…” Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and The News giving an intro and tribute to a song they rarely play live in concert, “Hip To Be Square”. He went on to explain to the crowd at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Saturday night that San Francisco 49ers players Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott contributed backing vocals to the song, so were performing it to support their team. Having come off of their “Sports 30th Anniversary Tour” in 2013, they are still drawing large crowds with a mix of old and new material, which seems to change show to show. Whatever the setlist, they seem to have a lot of contagious fun, and their shows always have a family affair sort of vibe. As Huey introduced his band, he mentioned that he and drummer Bill Gibson even went to middle school together. I think the spirit of all that shines through in their music (recorded and live), and it’s pretty remarkable that those relationships can endure in the music industry, when I’ve seen it completely tear other bands apart (even blood family members). They always put on an amazing concert, and Mountain Winery always serves as an awesome host, overlooking the night lights of San Jose and Silicon Valley.
I usually open my reviews with a quote from the headlining artist at a show… and I generally don’t care for audience sing-a-longs (I come to hear the artist, not drunk people that don’t know the lyrics). But Saturday night was a different, special sort of show with the perfect fans in attendance. Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins hasn’t played live for over 25 years, and came out of retirement for the newly rebranded Retro Futura tour (which was previously operating as Regeneration Tour). I cannot emphasize enough how much I loved the Thompson Twins and their music growing up, and that I never imaged I would have an opportunity to see them perform live. So at Saturday night’s stop at Mountain Winery in Saratoga, following the awesome sets by Howard Jones, Midge Ure (of Ultravox) and Katrina Leskanich (Ex Katrina and the Waves), Tom Bailey and his fantastic new backing band absolutely blew away every expectation I had. It was as if, as a performer, he was in hibernation for the past quarter of a century and came out the same as he was in his prime to play this show. It was quite surreal. So getting back to that sing-a-long… the final song of the night was Thompson Twins’ “Hold Me Now” (which a friend of mine captured on video from the audience) and everyone in attendance was so elated to see that man performing in front of them. As the song came to an end, the entire audience was on their feet, singing the chorus. Tom looked moved by the whole thing, stopped singing in mic, pulled out his ear monitors, motioned for his band to join him at the end of the stage, and it all came to a close acapella. A beautiful thing, and I think a way for us fans to let him know that we still love him, love his music, and want him to stay. A perfect ending, and maybe new beginning. “Hold me now, warm my heart… stay with me, let loving start, let loving start…”
“This was originally a full electric performance on, I don’t know what you might have had – an LP, CD, or cassette… or 8-track tape!” Kelly Hansen, singer for Foreigner, as preface to one of the many hit songs that they played at Mountain Winery on Monday night, underscoring how long the band has been around in one form or another. Foreigner are currently touring with Styx and Don Felder of the Eagles as part of their “Soundtrack of the Summer” tour, though this was a one off date featuring Foreigner as single headliner, with Bay Area’s The Bad Jones supporting the show at this stop. The band had an interesting sort of pacing throughout the night, rocking out and then having a leisurely sort of conversational and intimate way of chatting with the audience between songs. The celebratory nature of it all was built on a framework of classic rock and roll music, and they most definitely played to and fed off of the energy of the crowd – maybe one of the more energetic shows I’ve seen at the venue. I love the whole thing and wouldn’t hesitate to see them again the next time they tour – excellent show.