“We need a new story, Oakland. Sometimes, you just gotta make it up. It’s called self-preservation.” It was a show that ran a full gamut of emotions, as the ever reclusive Prince opened up to a crowd of what felt like dedicated fans of the iconic artist. The show at Paramount Theatre in Oakland was put up for sale just a few days prior and sold out instantly, so it was likely that those sorts of fans with their ear to the ground were the only ones who had a shot at getting them. Though pricey, it was well worth the price of admission as Prince put up a “fan service” setlist that included many hits as well as favorites that you might not expect from The Purple One. Bathed in a digital kaleidoscope of light throughout the show, Prince (with ginormous afro and shoes with flashing red lights) sat, stood at, danced around, and at one point even lay on top of a grand piano painted an appropriate shade of his signature color. Billed as “Prince: Piano and a Microphone”, he started this concept at his own Paisley Park in Minnesota last month. But it was so much more than that… I think Prince stripped down inspires him to open up so much more, both with his emotions and his music. Truly an unforgettable experience. [Read more…]
“I’ve got to say, you’re the funkiest crowd we’ve ever had…” Music legend Nile Rodgers with Chic at Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday night, playing not only through hits by Chic but number one hits Rodgers has produced over the past several decades with top, iocnic artists. Watching Nile Rodgers and the amazing Chic on stage really underscored how he is all about collaboration; he seems to have found his purpose in life early on in bringing the best out of other artists who were truly gifted in their own right… helping them make art that transcended what either could do on their own. Not just a beautiful way to create, but also an inspired way to go through life, bettering other people as well as yourself in the process. And then there is that music… all of it markedly up beat and happy and optimistic. But Nile Rodgers also appears to be a humble man on stage, and that reflects his life’s work as well, working in the background to help other artists and their songs and talent shine. So it was quite special to see Nile Rodgers and Chic do a full concert live on stage (they will also be performing with Duran Duran in their upcoming tour). What music, what talent, and what a way to bring it all to life in a way that makes the crowd feel that they are part of it. Though it is early into 2016, this will certainly be one of my own favorite and most memorable shows of the year.
“So what’s up Oakland? I’m the one who’s up? Oh baby, you just made my day. Thank you. I’m up, we’re all up tonight. Well, far be it from me to state the obvious, but it’s incredible being here tonight. It’s such a privilege to be able to play for you; to sing for you. Every day I wake up and I have the to opportunity to do this, this thing that we love, I kiss the ground. You’ve got a lot going on in your great city this weekend. Well, apart from me; but thank you very much. One of the reasons we’re up here… to have fun. Which is essentially the message I want to give to everyone tonight, whether you’re in the back, whether you’re in the middle, whether you’re right at the end, I want you to have fun and understand that I see you. I feel you.” The multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter, Seal, taking a moment to express his feelings to a packed Fox Theater in Oakland on the eve of Super Bowl weekend. Having met the incredible vocalist years ago – that last bit about seeing and feeling the audience – that could not be more true. Seal has been prolific since his splash in music with “Crazy” back in 1991, with his own original work as well as fantastic covers of classic songs, particularly in the soul genre. With this one off show this past week, the focus was on his latest (ninth) studio album, 7, released by Warner Bros. last year, with a compelling set list framed by some of his biggest hits. One of the most earnest and talented live performers in music today, he did not disappoint with an engaging show that left me revisiting his catalog and dreaming about seeing him in concert again soon. [Read more…]
“Spread open your Golden Gates…” Morrissey always has an interesting little quip before delving into the first song of the night, and what he prepared from The Masonic in San Francisco was appropriate enough. Having seen him one other time this year – in San Jose in July (phenomenal show!) – he seems to be increasingly jubilant this year… a turn of fortunes for sure. He also seems much more comfortable in his own skin, and more confident (with a stellar band bringing his music alive in a way that eclipses all iterations that have come before it). He was also quite chatty with this latest engagement on Tuesday night, abandoning at least some of the darkness fans have become accustomed to (though he did make a remark about looking to find him in a monastery eight miles south of Vienna in the future). There is often a unique theme for each show by way of matching outfits for the band, and with this show, they all wore “Morrissey for President” t-shirts. We can only image. As one of my all-time favorite artists, I see him as often as I can, and it seemed most fitting to make this show my final one for 2015. He remains one of just a few artists that can still give me that chill down my spine and make me feel like I am witnessing something genuine and important (kicking in at this show with “How Soon Is Now?”). Morrissey has a way of bringing up feelings of nostalgia and fusing it with his new works to create something special. [Read more…]
“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…]
“We’re going to play a few songs now that you might know. You’ve been very patient; thank you very much. You also might not know them as well…” Dave Gahan, bridging the main set of Soulsavers material and their encore, which featured two songs from his first two solo records and two from Depeche Mode’s Songs of Faith and Devotion. Making his debut performance with Soulsavers, they previewed the newly recorded material from Angels & Ghosts, which will be released on Friday. Dave Gahan has reunited for a second album as Dave Gahan & Soulsavers, as well as announced a very limited set of concerts with a 10-piece band at very small and intimate venues in the U.S. and Europe, with this first one happening at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles on Monday night. The album, Angels & Ghosts, is his second collaboration with producer Rich Machin and the tour takes them to New York, London, Berlin, Paris, and Milan. It all creates a framework to showcase Mr. Gahan’s ability to transcend the work of Depeche Mode into territory that allows him to reveal his own unique gifts, artistry, and vision. A peek into the soul of a man who is very complex, as well as a foundation with which to truly hear his voice soar to new heights and lyrics that provide real vulnerability. Decidedly not “a Depeche Mode show”, but a rare experience for fans to see another side of one of the most talented artists of our generation. Unforgettable.
I usually start off my reviews with a quote, but Wolf Alice don’t spend too much time talking on stage, and their concert at The Chapel in San Francisco Thursday night was a bit too chaotic and kinetic for chit chat; they let the music speak for itself. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch all three of their San Francisco shows in 2015 (their debut at Popscene at Rickshaw Stop in March and follow-up at The Independent in May), but their most recent show – fueled by the June release of their debut album My Love Is Cool – was their best yet. They are, in my opinion, the most exciting new band recording and performing today. They continue to develop their many gifts and talents with their songwriting and originality, and their live concerts serve as a showcase for how amazing they are at recreating their rich and complex, multi-layered sound on stage. But back to that album… for me personally, it is the Album of the Year. Truly, the best album of the past several years. Every song is a gem. They are THE band to watch.
“Lyrics is everything to me…” The very thoughtful and contemplative Howard Jones, during his intimate solo show (“The Songs, The Piano, and The Stories) at City Winery Napa on Friday night, leading into his heartfelt hit song, “Life In One Day”. The lengthy set was split between his solo performance and stories about each song, delivered with warmth, honesty, and wit, in an authentic, humble manner. The format proved to be an amazing way in which to begin to get to know (funny enough) the man behind the music, which is something I always approach with a little trepidation (at least one favorite 80s icon proved to be a disappointment a few years ago – I wish I could “unexperience” that show). But Howard Jones proved to be a man the audience liked to get to know well… Mr. Jones is really not just an incredible artist, but an incredible man and I really appreciate his efforts to openly share about his fascinating life as well as pass along some life lessons. He does this in his traditional electric shows as well, but it’s not quite the same as him settling into his seat behind his keyboard with the mic volume set for discussion as well as playing, with an equally relaxed audience sitting around him. If you’ve ever seen one of Howard Jones’ electric live shows, I would highly recommend checking out one of these solo shows as well, as it is a totally different experience and maybe even more gratifying and entertaining. I loved every second of it, and plan to go to another one the next time the opportunity arises. My highest recommendation.
“I was going to save this one for later… just like me, I’m too excited, and I just can’t wait!” Dave Wakeling of The English Beat, teasing the crowd and then finally throwing down with popular hit “Save It For Later” not even halfway through their lengthy concert at City Winery Napa on Thursday night. After finishing that song, toaster King Schascha exclaimed: “We could not be saving anything for later… after that, we officially want to welcome each and every one of you to the Dave Wakeling workout program. Just that seven minutes right there is the best workout you’ve had all week. And you did it while drinking alcohol. More calories than ever. All you need to do for this membership is come to a Dave Wakeling Beat show.” King Schascha is one of several line-up changes in the band since I last saw them live back in January, and this is definitely my favorite modern-era incarnation of the band yet. They absolutely killed it on stage, and sounded better than ever with amazing energy and chemistry pouring into the sold out crowd (many of whom did get a great workout through the night). If how good a performance makes you feel while it’s happening was the only criteria for ranking a live show, I would have to say that this English Beat event was the concert of the year, and definitely the best I’d ever seen them, from the energy to the sound to the venue and atmosphere to the crowd, it all just came together beautifully. I’m actually now worried about seeing them again in the future, as it would be hard to measure up to this one show. Outstanding.
“…for those of you who haven’t been with us for twenty years, ‘welcome’. Thank you for listening, and thank you for connecting with us.” Shirley Manson of Garbage, talking about young people reaching out to the band, some of whom maybe weren’t even alive 20 years ago when they released their eponymous debut album. 20 years later, “connecting” has taken on a whole new meaning than it had in the mid-90s, as the Internet bounds us together in various forms and interfaces. This new tour is all about that landmark and somewhat counter culture album, Garbage, which came out in deluxe, remastered, reissue versions spanning three SKUs across multiple formats on October 1st. The “Super Deluxe Edition” features a whopping 62 tracks, including all of the B-Sides and remixes and demos galore. The “20 Years Queer Tour” is a celebration of that album, playing the whole thing front to back with B-sides sprinkled within, as well as a few songs from later albums and eras. The sold out show at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Wednesday night largely had a party-like atmosphere, as some fans spent the day waiting in line or participating in the Adventures in Wonderland add-on packages (which included swag, sound check viewing, meet and greets with the band, early entry into the venue, etc.). Having turned out for several of the band’s shows as they’ve made their comeback in recent years, they seem to kill it in concert more and more, and the trend continues with this tour, as they stand with confidence on stage, bathed in red-hued lights and performing over a sea of mostly black attire clad fans with the occasional pink feather boa as added flair. Even though they are looking backwards for this tour, they continue to move forward and it is an exciting time to be a fan of this band, who continue to reach up for their full potential. [Read more…]