“You gotta keep believing in what you wanna do; don’t give up…” Howard Jones on stage at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub in Sacramento on Wednesday night, playing to a sold out crowd in an intimate space holding about 450 fans. He was reflecting back on when he was working in a factory as a very young man, and writing “New Song”. His debut single – released in 1983 – is all about optimism… and that is in my estimation what the man is still about today, some three decades later. Throughout his performance, he was beaming with joy and fun between each song, chatting with fans and tossing out anecdotes and familiar lyrics that can still be instructive today (“try and enjoy the here and now… the future will take care of itself somehow!”). But it’s not just the classic tunes that had people moving. Having released his 11th studio album this year – Engage – he is as creative and relevant as ever, with fresh new songs. My own feeling is that in all this time since the 80s have come and gone, he best represents not just the style of music but the feelings of that era, and it is awesome that he continues to spread his work and message in live shows like this one. Things can only get better, indeed.
“Okay, you all know this song and you need to sing along, because we don’t know what fucking hours of music were going to play tonight we’re going to keep going, so you guys sing along with this one…” Jules De Martino providing an intro into one of The Ting Ting’s biggest hits, “That’s Not My Name”, just before Katie White throws down with the vocals and gets the audience into a frenzy at their sold out show at Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub in Sacramento on Saturday night. As mentioned in my review of their show for Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco the night before, The Ting Tings haven’t passed through on a tour since supporting their sophomore album, Songs from Nowheresville, in 2012 (see my review of that show at The Fillmore). Their newly released third studio album, Super Critical, just came out late last year via their successful PledgeMusic campaign. Co-produced by original Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, the album pivots them into a different direction, though with their trademark infectious and experimental sound and energy. I thought the show Friday night was amazing, and illustrated how the band puts a lot of thought and attention into creating a live show that refashions their music a bit with each outing, keeping it all fresh and exciting for the crowds they turn out… Somehow, the Sacramento show was even better, and will definitely be in my Top Ten shows of 2015 at the end of the year, and has set the bar high for all of the other shows I’ll be seeing in the next 11 months.
“I know I got that Adult Top 40 reputation, but don’t let that fool you… I’m wearing leather pants. And I will put foot on the amp and show you what’s what.” Anna Nalick definitely showed the packed crowd inside Harlow’s in Sacramento last night what was what, and then some. The genre defying singer-songwriter kicked off her mini tour of the West Coast, with shows in Oakland, Grant’s Pass, Spokane, and Seattle to follow through the end of this month. Best known for her triple Platinum hit, “Breathe (2 AM)”, from her debut album Wreck of the Day, she is on a two week break from starring in Scott Caan’s play, 100 Days of Yesterday at Playhouse West. This set of concerts presents a rare opportunity to see a truly gifted musical talent perform her original music as well as a number of new songs she’s crafted since 2011’s Broken Doll & Odds & Ends. I definitely have a lot of thoughts about the show… in short, I can’t recommend enough turning out to catch this special tour if you can. Brilliant, brilliant artist and performance, and a fascinating woman.
Last night Modern English played Harlow’s in Sacramento as part of their U.S. West Coast tour, which begins and ends in the month of July. For me, their biggest hit, “I Melt With You”, was definitely among the best and most decade defining songs of the 80s – it is really ubiquitous with the vibe and culture and new direction in music that took hold in the early 80s. As the band has a history and habit of disbanding (in ’87 and ’91), this was my first time seeing them live, so it was an extra thrill to see the band featuring all of its original members. Of course, it was a matter of time until that seminal classic song would be played on stage, but the set list leading up to it was a fantastic voyage through their incredible catalog, and they sounded absolutely fantastic (and kudos to Harlow’s for the really nicely tuned sound system). It was both incredible and surreal to see this important band play live, just a few feet in front of me, but definitely worth the wait.