“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.
“Yeah, I was from Detroit, Michigan. Where “mother” is half a word.” Glenn Frey, founding member of The Eagles, which formed in 1971, alongside co-founders Don Henley and Bernie Leadon, using a bit of humor as the band introduced themselves to the sold out crowd at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s in South Lake Tahoe last night. Performing “History of The Eagles” alongside other great musicians with their own history with the legendary band, they played hit after hit in a set that passed the two hour mark. One of the most popular rock and roll bands of all time (critically and commercially, with six Grammy Awards, five American Music Awards, five number-one singles and six number-one albums), their success spans over six decades. The concert itself was fantastic for many reasons, but interestingly, it got better and better as it went on, and by the time the members were introducing one another and having some freedom on the mic, I felt that things really took off from that point forward.
“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.
“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.
“The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware” – Henry Miller. Black Francis (AKA Frank Black, AKA Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV) had nothing really to say to the sold out crowd of about 300 lucky fans at the amazing show at Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur Tuesday night, but as an artist, he’s had plenty to say with his music over the years. And 2013 and 2014 mark the big comeback for the band, with their EP-1, EP-2, and EP-3 (with four tracks a piece) collectively comprising their first new album in over 20 years. Pulled together, their latest – Indie Cindy – somehow captures the sound and vibe of their pioneering work in the late 80s and early 90s, but with a contemporary vibe (though some would argue they were decades ahead of things back in the day). Currently playing live dates with their current touring bassist, Paz Lenchantin brings great energy, warmth, and sex appeal to the band which still features original guitarist Joey Santiago and drummer David Lovering, in addition to Black Francis at the helm of things. I’ve marked Pixies as one of my favorite bands since high school, and have seen them many times going back to the late 80s, and I’d have to say that not only was the show in Big Sur this week the best I’ve seen, it will probably go down as the best Pixies concert I will ever see. A sublime mix of venue, crowd, and energy, it was nothing short of magnificent. And since the two shows I saw in Los Angeles last year and Oakland a few months ago, it would seem that the band has come into their best groove ever, going without setlists and employing some keen (though at times glitchy) psychic powers among themselves. Like what Henry Miller was getting at, this is a group that is aware on many different levels…
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.
It all started with a late night tweet from the official Fox Theater Oakland Twitter account tonight, announcing that Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL will be playing the venue this Saturday, March 15th. On the heels of epic shows in England and most recently a 4-hour gig in Los Angeles, it looks like Prince will be heading to Northern California to follow up on last year’s four shows across two nights at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. [Read more…]