“So this is one of your requests… I’ll see if we got this right.” Tori Amos in the “Lizard Lounge” section of her performance at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland last night, wherein on this “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour” she does a few covers suggested by fans. With Monday night’s show, the first was a kind of dark rendition of the Calvin Harris and Rihanna electro-house hit song, “We Found Love”. What? Tori Amos doing “We Found Love”? Yeah, I know the song well, but it took my thought process a few seconds to catch up with the familiar lyrics played out in such a different manner. As I settled into that incredible collision of techno pop and, well, however you might categorize what it is that Tori does, when she does her thing… I started imagining what might be the most amazing cover to hear from her following that. Immediately, I thought of “Tiny Dancer” (it has a special connection with my fiancé and I, and she was seated next to me in the orchestra pit for her first Tori concert)… So after finishing “We Found Love” on her electric keyboard, Tori spun around and found her way to the deeper keys on her Bösendorfer piano and started into the classic Elton John tune. I’ve seen, I would guess, thousands of artists live in concert – that was the first time I’d felt that maybe one read my mind. Very surreal moment, and maybe the coolest moment for me at any Tori Amos concert (and I’ve been to my fair share). She was certainly full of surprises last night, as a fan might see simply from taking a look at the set list, which had songs from her latest, Unrepentant Geraldines, going all the way back to her failed synthpop band, Y Kant Tori Read. With the new album and this current tour, Tori has certainly hit her stride both in the studio and on the road, and she’s always been one of those rare artists that is a master at both.
“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)!
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.
“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.
Singer-songwriter Anna Nalick is scheduled to play a handful of concert dates along the West Coast this month. The critically acclaimed artist is best known for her debut album, Wreck of the Day, which featured the hit song “Breathe (2 AM)”, and she has since released a second studio album, Broken Doll & Odds & Ends. [Read more…]
American funk group Cameo will be having special concerts at Yoshi’s San Francisco on October 31std and at Yoshi’s Oakland on November 2nd. The band, best known for 80s hit “Word Up!”, will have a special Halloween show on the 31st, with a “70s vs 80s” costume contest. There will be two shows (early and later) on each date, so four concerts in total. [Read more…]
“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.
Mark Knopfler, who is best known as the founder, singer, and guitarist for British rock band Dire Straits and their Grammy Award-winning “Money for Nothing”, will be playing for special dates in California and Las Vegas supporting his eagerly anticipated U.S. release of his latest studio album, Privateering, due September 10th. [Read more…]