“Put your hands in the sky…” Robert Smith of The Cure dispenses with the chit chat in-between songs for the most part, but fans of the band are so into every thought expressed in every song that the subconscious grooves in the back of their mind move them to connect with the moment, as as he sang those words during “From The Edge Of The Deep Green Sea”, a majority of the sold out crowd at Shoreline Amphitheatre reached up to the blue above. Not even a “hit” song for the band, that is the power of their music among the devoted. But it wasn’t just those long-time, hardcore fans that turned out for this show, but quite a number of “casual” fans as well, as this current tour is their first major one in the U.S. in about seven years. Apparently, their absence has been felt and their return is cause for celebration. They are not touring just the U.S., but the world at large through the end of the year. With their sprawling set lists and shows running around three hours non-stop with three or four encores, one wonders how they physically keep up… yet the shows they put on are stellar and truly unique experiences. The band has been recording and performing for so long – formed four decades ago – it is something just to hear the music from such different eras all performed in the same style and sound, with Smith’s matured vocals making them better than ever. A spectacular evening of music from one of the most original and talented bands of my generation – live music events don’t really get much better than this. One of the “must see” tours of the year, hands down.
“My only birthday wish is to fucking bring the house down……” MS MR playing Popscene at Rickshaw Stop on Thursday night, being a traditional Popscene show that runs late into the night, it literally became Lizzy Plapinger’s birthday at some point during the show. When, exactly, was anybody’s guess, as she and her partner, Max Hershenow, blasted through hit songs and songs yet to be released at the sold out show in San Francisco. Keeping with the duality of their performing and recording name, the old and the new songs split the exactly hour long set in about in half, giving fans a preview of the upcoming sophomore album, due out in July on Columbia Records. MS MR easily sold out two shows at the much larger Fillmore last year (see past review), so it was special seeing them playing a smaller, intimate venue. The new music is fantastic, and shows a lot of growth for the duo as the expand their musical horizons. I ranked their debut, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite album of 2013, so I really look forward to seeing how the studio versions of the full album measure up to the brilliant Popscene show this past week.
“Before the night is over, I’m going to be in with these guys…” At some point into the sprawling one hour, forty five minute set put on by (an at times plain goofy) James Blunt and his band, the singer-songwriter looked up at the small section of balcony seats in the sold out show at The Fillmore in San Francisco, then glanced at the standing crowd right below, and made those up front feel that something special might happen toward the end of the show. Keeping his promise, a sweaty James Blunt did indeed end up surfing the crowd – not what one might expect of the emotional crooner, best known for his kind of dark, break out hit song “You’re Beautiful”. Full of energy and great humor (much of it self-deprecating, which wasn’t surprising coming from an Englishman), James Blunt seemed like a born entertainer, feeding off the crowd and giving it all back in spades. At times it seemed like a bit of an odd affair all around; kind of like what might come about from making cookies without a cookie cutter… the audience certainly didn’t fit any particular profile or stereotype, and his music seemed to draw what you might call “people who don’t dance at concerts” (and funny enough, I would classify myself as one of those), so there was a sort non-traditional connection between artist and fan – not so much seen, but felt. It seems that the James Blunt fan might be more of a devotee – quizzing the crowd up front, people started a line at 2:30 for the 7:00 doors show. With four studio albums under his belt (with the latest, last year’s Moon Landing serving as the theme for this tour), he seems to be doing well, and enjoying himself along the way.
“It’s all about the attitude, right? Intention and context are everything. What’s next? Oh, sometimes I surprise myself!” 80s pop culture icon Boy George, before launching into “Church of the Poison Mind” with his amazing band, one of a handful of songs performed to the sold out crowd at The Fillmore in San Francisco last night. He had a lot to say to those who turned out for his show, and it marked his first visit to the city since 1999*. He was beaming with joy throughout their lengthy set, that ran about two hours and fifteen minutes, with interesting anecdotes, and witty and self-deprecating humor (at one point describing himself as an emerging UK artist). Culture Club’s albums were some of the first I bought as a kid, but in their prime years of ’83-’84, I was around 10-11 years old, so had no chance to see them live. This was one of the tours I’ve most anticipated this year, and with uncertain expectations, in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined it would be, or even could be as stellar as it was. It was truly magnificent on every level, and I’m an even bigger fan than ever after experiencing the show last night. Definitely one of the best shows of the year.
“You’re one of the first cities that really, really supported us.” Lizzy Plapinger, the “MS” half of MS MR showering the crowd at the sold out Fillmore in San Francisco Monday night with some sincere gratitude. I’d seen the break out duo twice at The Independent last year, and as their success continues, they have stepped up from supporting at the Independent, to headlining multiple shows there, to now headlining multiple shows at the historic Fillmore, where they opened for Marina and The Diamonds a few years ago. As has been my experience seeing the band evolve, the “MR” half, Max Hershenow, seemed as thrilled as ever to step away from his keyboard a few times to dance and provide some backing vocals on Lizzy’s mic. I personally ranked their incredible debut studio album, Secondhand Rapture, as my favorite release of 2013, so they certainly won me over as a fan. While they always sounded amazing live, they seem to grow in confidence with each new tour, while maintaining that humility and earnestness which is somewhat rare in the contemporary music scene. This was their best show year, and while it clocked in at just under an hour, to me that was just perfect, and I applaud that they keep the studio length of the songs rather than trying to stretch them out to fill out more time as some young bands succumb to when touring with just one album under their belt.