The Popscene concert at Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday night was one of those rare shows that was very surprising (in a good way). Danish singer-songwriter MØ (Karen Marie Ørsted) headlined the night that featured Swedish singer-songwriter Erik Hassle supporting, and both put on stellar performances, with awesome bookend DJ sets by Aaron Axelsen. Candidly, I was not familiar with either of these young artists until recently, and I would mark the night as one of the best concerts I’ve attended so far in 2014. MØ and Erik Hassle should be on the pop culture watch list as ones to expect big things from in the future.
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)!
As with last year’s 2012 Year In Review, reflecting on the many shows attended in 2013 and trying to make some sense of it all was a challenge. Having attended nearly 100 events, which usually includes at least one supporting act and a headliner, as well as one 10-day festival and many multi-artist shows, I saw literally hundreds of sets. Miraculously, I can probably count on one hand the number that were “bad”, and the majority were awesome in one or more ways. Still, I feel it is important to highlight the best of the best of the best, in an attempt to celebrate an amazing year of music. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2013 in that separate article.
The Scottish synthpop group Chvrches is kicking off a massive world tour this month, beginning with a dozen dates in the United States before hitting the UK, Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and Europe. Their debut studio album, The Bones of What You Believe, debuted in September. [Read more…]
I had really high expectations for this, the latest Pet Shop Boys tour… yet somehow, as I sit down to write my thoughts about their show in San Diego at the Copely Symphony Hall last night, I am left a bit speechless… Not because I have nothing to say about it, but because I have this swirling flood of thoughts in my mind, and can’t seem to form a coherent approach to the whole thing. Maybe it was the overpowering strobe lights that disrupted the circuitry in my brain. Maybe it’s because they put on one of the most brilliant shows of the year. The cover of the tour program reads, “TURN IT ON”. Not a mere concert, it was a full blown, avant-garde stage production 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. Just when you expect that they should have peaked by now, they keep blazing new paths in music and life. Real artists, they create new work (in the studio and on stage) with a palette featuring colors all their own. They obviously put a lot of thought into not just sharing their music (old and new, hits and deep cuts), but creating a captivating and memorable experience. Though the visuals were mind blowing, the arrangements were amazing, Neil’s voice sounded better than ever, and the sound quality within the venue was superb.
It’s not often that you attend a non-festival concert with ten (!) different music artists performing on the same stage in one night, all in the span of about three and a half hours. It was a pretty special event at the HP Pavilion in San Jose last night, with the Super Freestyle Explosion turning out about 7,000 fans of the predominantly Latin, electronic/synthesizer/samples-centric, and mostly mid-80s era genre of music. Representing the relatively short-lived but highly influential music scene and style for the evening was Stevie B, Lisa Lisa, Exposé, Debbie Deb, Shannon, Trinere, Johnny O, Nu Shooz, Pretty Poison, and Stacey Q. Really a remarkable line-up, to the credit of promoter ITP Records/Pacific Concert Group, for pulling together such a vast roster of artists to play through a series of highly recognizable hits to those who grew up with the music or perhaps rediscovered it later. Of course, pulling off such an event in such a time frame requires some concessions and trade offs, but in my opinion they found a near perfect balance to make for an incredible evening of 80s freestyle nostalgia.
2013 is shaping up to be a great year for new music and exciting artists playing live dates, and AM & Shawn Lee are most definitely a part of both. With the release of their second collaborative studio album last month, La Musique Numberique, it is fueled by some amazing songs that translate brilliantly well in their live sets. The transatlantic writing and recording process (with AM in Los Angeles and Shawn Lee in London) produced an electronic and synth-driven collection of songs that fuse sounds from past decades (particularly the 70s and 80s) but sound as contemporary as anything else released in the past few years. As performers, both sides of the duo have a very relaxed style and great chemistry. As the climax to their “Sounds of Summer” touring album release party, it was a festive night at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco last night, with a great crowd in an intimate venue. If you’ve never checked out their music, you are missing out and you can preview over at SoundCloud… awesome stuff!
AM & Shawn Lee are touring their second studio album, La Musique Numerique, with release party concerts in Chicago, IL, Rochester, NY and tour dates spanning California with shows in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego. With AM hailing from Los Angeles and Shawn Lee from London, the duo have collaborated to create a fresh sound influenced by disco, soul, R&B, funk, electronic, and other genres, with a bit of a late 70s/early 80s vibe. The track “All The Love” has earned significant acclaim. [Read more…]
The Super Freestyle Explosion will be hitting the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California on June 29th, US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona on August 2nd and Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento on July 27th with an amazing line-up of popular artists that are immediately recognized by fans of the electronic dance/pop music of the 80s, much of which originated in Florida and New York. The massive line-up includes Stevie B, Lisa Lisa, Exposé, Debbie Deb, Shannon, Trinere, Johnny O, Nu Shooz, Pretty Poison, and Stacey Q. [Read more…]
Just when you think you know what to expect from a Crystal Castles concert, a naked man casually walks on stage to tend to his drum kit (not a euphemism), part of the second of two supporting bands. But of course the real show starts with the main set… and with Crystal Castles, it’s as much about the experience surrounding the music as it is the music itself. While Alice Glass and Ethan Kath don’t really have anything to say in-between songs during their thumping (with many thumps courtesy of touring drummer Christopher Chartrand) high energy shows, they certainly know how to entertain and excite once they take the stage. With their unconventional sound, seizure-inducing lighting effects, and interactivity (by way of Alice diving into the audience), a Crystal Castles show overloads the senses… so much unfamiliar and unexpected for your eyes, ears, and brain to process. Whatever your take on their brand of experimental electronic/synthpop/synthpunk music, you certainly can’t consider their live shows to be boring or uneventful. A band born to perform live, for sure. Their studio recordings are fantastic (and their third studio album, (III) is excellent), but you really need to see them live to understand their music, and get the full Crystal Castles experience.