Category Archives: Concert Review

Roger Hodgson’s Desert Spiritual

hodgsonroger_ad_150dpiRoger Hodgson performed at the Spotlight 29 Indian Casino in Coachella last Saturday night, December 3, 2016 to an audience of adoring fans. It was a heart rendering, spiritual journey through a bit of Hodgson’s fine solo work, topping a generous helping of the songs he wrote for the band Supertramp.

Anyone within range of an FM radio in the 1970’s heard a lot from Supertramp. The group was led by a marriage of the uniquely talented principal members, Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies. Their breakup in 1983, which ended with Rick taking over the band, and Roger taking the highway, is one of the saddest in rock history. A decade before the split, after two early releases that were not commercially successful, the band clicked, releasing three popular masterworks in succession, Crime of the Century (1974), Crisis? What Crisis? (1975), and Even in the Quietist Moments… (1977). Each of these albums blended pop, jazz, and progressive rock music into a crowd-pleasing brew that allowed them to build a growing worldwide audience.

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By the time of their best selling release Breakfast in America (1979) they were mega stars, finally getting a #1 record in the states (#3 in the UK.) Many of the songs from that album are pure pop, and they became radio staples, including the title track, “The Logical Song,” and “Take the Long Way Home.” The album also contained several deeper cuts including Hodgson’s “Lord is it Mine” and “Child of Vision” – the fabulous workout for dual keys, Hodgson on Wurlitzer electric keyboard (a signature part of the album’s sound) and Davies on grand piano. After one more studio album …Famous Last Words… (1982), and tour the partnership fractured.

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This Hodgson solo tour was billed as the Breakfast in America show, and there was truth in that advertising, as all of the Hodgson-penned tracks listed above were included in the set list. On top of those selections, there was a generous helping of four from Crisis? What Crisis? (my absolute favorite); the one-two lead-in “Easy Does It” and “Sister Moonshine” were included with the more rare songs “Lady” and “A Soapbox Opera.” Fantastic! Key tracks from Crime of the Century, included set opener “School,” pop hit “Dreamer,” message song “If Everyone Was Listening” and arguably Hodgson’s most beautiful, heart-rending track “Hide In Your Shell” were highlights. One of Hodgson’s solo songs, “Death and a Zoo” was particularly fitting at this venue, as the message of kindness to animals was in line with Native American attitudes and music, including a tribal drum workout that shined. Closing the set, “Fool’s Overture” sated the prog crowd, while encores -“Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” (his first solo single) and of course “Give a Little Bit” – kept everyone close to the stage and on their feet.

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Hodgson was in fine voice, able to reach smoothly into his upper register, which is critical for these songs to hit their mark. His playing on keys and particularly on twelve-string acoustic guitar was impeccable. The band was very strong as they deftly brought down the volume during sensitive bits, while punching the rockier moments. As the main man is so often on keys, there are times where an additional guitarist could punch things up a bit. But for this patron listening to these songs rendered with two and sometimes three simultaneous keyboards was pure heaven.

Hodgson himself waxed philosophical, as has been his norm during the last decade as he tours as a duo or with band. He spoke plainly and warmly about the meaning of these songs, to him and to others, sometimes reading notes he’s received from fans or sharing his thoughts about how music can bring back memories, and heal troubled spirits. Truer words.

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See this enduring artist while the show goes on and the quality of performance is still so outstanding – if you care for this music, or just have interest and an open heart, it will be a priceless evening.

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#RockinTheCityOfAngels   #RTCOA   #DiegoSpadeProductions

Kanye West, Mad Genius

Kanye West played one of what may be the final shows of his current Saint Pablo tour last Thursday night, November 17 at the SAP Center, San Jose. From media of all kinds, by now you think you know what happened there. You probably do not.

kanyewestmohammedaliFirst off, let me say that since my childhood I’ve been drawn to men with big egos, men with big plans, high ambitions and the certainty of their opinions. From Presidents (JFK), to fighters (Mohammed Ali, Bruce Lee), to musicians (John Lennon, Robert Fripp) and actors (Marlon Brando, Robert Conrad and Jane Fonda), these men and women inspired me, they thrilled me with the sheer power of their persuasive force, the brilliance of their art and their belief in themselves. To a person these heroes of mine were at times shocking in their strident manner, often offensive in their rhetoric, nearly always unapologetic.

Kanye West is to me one such man in today’s world. He is to me an absolute genius. Like him or not, love his music or not, he also lives passionately and he has strong opinions, unapologetically. Like other inspirational figures of the past Kanye has offended – he has made statements and taken actions that have shocked. From overly boastful claims, to taking the spotlight at award shows, to sometimes cutting a concert short, or filling it with speeches, to saying he would run for President in 2020, Kanye has to some, certainly to the media at large, crossed the line. Why?

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First of all let me clarify I am not a big fan of rap music, mainly as it is not particularly the sound of my now older generation. But I have some of it in my collection. I caught on to Kanye when he released the track “Power,” as he sampled therein the chorus of King Crimson’s breakthrough song “21st Century Schizoid Man.” Next I saw him a couple of kanyewest_pablocovertimes on Saturday Night Live, rapping in front of large LED screens, once in front of a raging lighting storm, another time in a room completely covered in LED screens and more recently in a heavenly shoot for one of his new songs, “Ultralight Beam” a stunning meditative track that begins his latest work of genius, The Life of Pablo, an album I would place next to Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life.

Recently my son screened a video of Kanye in 2015 at the BRIT awards, where he staged an absolutely spectacular performance of “All Day” complete with flamethrowers, and moves anyone who has danced would envy. Guess what – Taylor Swift was in the front row absolutely loving it, so we can all relax about award shows.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ABk7TmjnVk

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Kanye is known to sometimes inject into his shows long speeches, sharing whatever is on his mind, extolling the crowd to see his viewpoint or just hear him out on a few complaints. Knowing this, I still booked a ticket to see the man in San Jose, last Thursday night. Being a “school night” I was hoping for a tight two hour show, with about 33 tracks, as had been seen as the set list before that night. I was wrong, yet not dissatisfied and am happy to have gone.

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The staging was innovative. As most of the music was pre-recorded, with a couple guys in the mixing booth adding guitar, keys and other live instrumentation, the stage existed to support Kanye alone. This allowed for a platform both literally and figuratively that was maybe 30’x30’ square, suspended above the crowd, with lights below and above, able to move back and forth across the arena floor, hanging from on a large suspension rig above. The rig was also able to articulate, turning slowly to one side or the other across the length of the arena – very impressive. A few pictures say it all.

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The songs and the performance were decent – I know Kanye is capable of more spirited showmanship, but he was in a way a bit subdued. As we would see, he had a lot of things weighing heavy on his mind. The audience enthusiastically joined in, a chorus of young voices filling in background vocals and singing along with their liege. Due to the breaks in the show, we had to leave early near midnight, though I did get to see him perform my original favorite “Power.” He made it through 29 of the typical 33 tracks, mostly because it seems Kanye had clearly hit a breakpoint of some kind (queue media speculation here).

What happened that night? Nothing that was surprising to me based on what I know of the man and his concerts. Every fan who attends should it seems by now understand that if Kanye has something particularly urgent to say, he’s going to say it – this is his stage, and passionate speeches or “discussions” (not rants damn it!) are a part of his performance. Why is the media both formal and social making such a fuss about this? Kanye had politics on his mind ten days after the election, and all he did is talk to us about the following, perfectly leading to the next song in the set list “Power”

  • How many people at the San Jose show voted for Trump?
  • Do you think anyone here voted for Trump?
  • Republicans and Democrats both came to a Kanye West show so doesn’t that mean we are closer than we think? Music lovers are not all liberal
  • He did not vote; if he voted he would have voted for Trump
  • The dumbest thing about politics is this idea of creating a separation; no one side is all good or all bad
  • The echo chamber of online commerce is comparable to the same echo that drove us to think Hillary would win the election
  • Don’t believe everything you hear on the internet
  • If Trump does not find a new way to govern, if that is not successful, then we should think about Kanye in 2020
  • We are one world, one race
  • Jay Z should call him

So… really? What is all the righteous indignation about? To my ears, nothing here seemed so outrageous. In fact a lot of what he said was important, particularly for his younger audience members, most of who cheered. Prolonging a show for a point of view is no big deal, unless you really can’t miss seeing late night television? The man has his views, any fan knows, and he is apt to share them. In order to deliver this stream of conscience in his way, several songs were interrupted midway through, later restarted. For us, it meant we could not stay for the whole concert –though I would have loved to see him do the opener for the new album, which was performed as the last track, I’m good.

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After our show, Kanye cut his Sacramento set short after just three songs, clearly disturbed by the media reaction to San Jose, saying before dropping the mic, “get ready to have a field day, press.” For the next show in Los Angeles, he cancelled three hours before it was planned to start. Now the rest of the tour is scuttled and worst of all Kanye ended up in the hospital to recover from some sort of breakdown, stirring the media frenzy. These things are regrettable.

But I would respectfully say, please, REALLY? Why must we eat our own? Why pile on via every possible media outlet to attack our artists, many of whom are, in fact brilliant in their own way, sometimes to the level of being a true tortured genius. Art and seeing can do this, we all know this, we ALL know this. Lay off Kanye, he is one of those few people in our times who reaches for the brass ring, a pursuit that means winning but sometimes falling off the horse, inspiring and sometimes offending. Spin Life of Pablo listening as openly as you can, listen to the core of his actual speech, and then tell me I’m wrong. And, don’t believe everything you see on the internet, including I suppose this?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKoe_GteC2I

 

Steven Wilson’s Masonic Moment

Steven Wilson brought what will likely be the final leg of his Hand. Cannot. Erase tour to the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium San Francisco, Friday November 4, 2016. This is the third time I’ve seen Wilson on this tour – the first being in early 2015 and the second at the Royal Albert Hall in London. While the RAH show held many surprises, the show at the Masonic hewed much closer to the original leg of the tour, with the addition of a recent song off his six-song EP 4 1/2. It was another in a series of amazing concerts concerts which have served well to thrill Wilson’s existing fans and expand his audience.

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To begin the show, Steven and his well-seasoned band again performed the entire album Hand. Cannot. Erase, a concept record that fictionalizes the tragic true story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a young woman found dead in her London apartment, undiscovered and not wilsonsteven2016_cover_72dpimissed by anyone for over two years. On this night Ninet Tayeb (aka Nina) was not present to sing the devastating, beautiful lead vocal on “Routine,” though a recording of her vocal was used in part and the song was still a standout. With the focus appropriately on the five musicians on stage, dramatic subject matter and skilled performances graced the first half of the show.

After an intermission, the band continued with masterful versions of Porcupine Tree songs “Dark Matter,” “Lazarus,” “Harmony Korine” (again an enduring highlight of these shows) and “Sleep Together.” There was also a new track from 4 1/2, “My Book of Regrets,” followed later by “Don’t Hate Me” (originally a Porcupine Tree song from 1999’s Stupid Dream). These sounded equally fresh and powerful, despite another missed opportunity to hear Ninet who is featured in studio on the latter remake. Wilson began the encore of three songs with a Prince cover “Sign of the Times” which he promoted as a better choice than the typical cover of that artist’s rich and varied catalog. So true. Next up, a stellar rendition of Porcupine Tree song “The Sound of Muzak” and closing the show, the gorgeous title track from Wilson’s fantastic album The Raven Who Refused To Sing, a song he described as representing his best work, an agreeable notion for many fans.

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Wilson and his concert production team are adept at staging this work live, setting the mood with long dissonant ambient sounds, muted lighting and surrealistic imagery projected on a stunning high definition screen. As with earlier shows in the tour, the lighting techniques were clever and colorful. Sound was crisp and clear, reproduced by the top-notch audio system, which sounded amazing in the acoustic-friendly Masonic. Even with all the finery, the primary focus remained on the band members demonstrating their virtuosic skills throughout. From the increasingly well-rehearsed touring band there were complex rhythms and solos from lead guitar player Dave Kilminster, electronic textures and brisk synth leads from keyboard player Adam Holzman, and a deep, thunderous bottom end and vocal harmonies from Nick Beggs on basses, paired with skilled drummer Craig Blundell. It was plainly visible that each one of the musicians has become exceedingly adept and delivering this material – in particular Kilminster and Holzman cranked out a number of superb progressive-laden solos throughout the evening.

Wilson delivered his poetic lyrics throughout in fine voice, alternating skillfully between guitar, bass, keys and samples. He displayed his wit and thoughtfulness between tracks as lead raconteur. These elements combined to make up a masterful set; an evening of dramatic, inspirational and at times emotionally overwhelming musical theater. Wilson remains at the top of the list of artists I’ve seen over these now forty years with his accomplished, expressive body of work and ability to so expressively present it all live in concert.

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There are a handful of shows remaining in the U.S. this year, along with two in India, with no other plans announced at this time – get there if you can…nothing lasts forever!

Twitter: @diego_spade
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/diegospadeproductions/

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Alice for President!

cooperalice2016_alice_72dpiAlice Cooper started as a band that featured Vincent Furnier (vocals), Glen Buxton & Michael Bruce (guitars), Dennis Dunaway (bass) and Neal Smith (drums). The group’s early performances are some of the first examples of overtly theatrical rock, designed to shock and excite young audiences of the 70s. Because of their antics and stage sets that included guillotine, live snakes, baby dolls, fake blood, spiders and an electric chair, the group gained prominence and was banned more than once in multiple countries. In 1974 after 7 albums and countless concert dates, the group took a hiatus. Furnier legally adopted the name Alice Cooper, and embarked on a long and fruitful solo career. We just caught his latest band in concert in San Francisco at the Warfield Theater, fittingly near Halloween, on October 28, 2016.

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Of the many rock groups in the 70s that strove to stage a theatrical performance, Alice Cooper stands among those that invested significant time and energy in the pursuit. “We were trying to create something that hadn’t been done. And what hadn’t been done is nobody took the lyrics and brought them to life…. you use the stage as a canvas. It’s all vaudeville and burlesque” according to Cooper. Of their place in history, Cooper sums it up best in a documentary interview: “From the very inception of Alice Cooper [the idea] was, there are so many rock heroes, we need a rock villain. I want to be the rock villain. I want to be the personified Captain Hook of rock. I don’t want to be Peter Pan. But I wanted Alice to also … have a sense of humor. I enjoyed playing the heavy… a bizarre vaudevillian character.”

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This all remains true today, as Cooper completes a long 2016 tour with his crack band, stage props, dancers and costumes. While much of the stagecraft has been presented consistently throughout the years, the show is amazingly well rehearsed yet still fresh — a sonic and visual success. The best visuals included costumes like the Harley Quinn-styled ballerina and the huge “FrankenAlice” monster, which rages about the stage after being shocked to life during “Feed My Frankenstein.” Other bits included the long running gag where Alice is decapitated via guillotine, and the scene featuring the limp doll he caresses during “Cold Ethyl.” This, along with excellent stage lighting, pyrotechnics, and even bubbles (bubbles?) created a visual feast for the enthusiastic crowd.

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Musically, this was a straight-on hard-rocking show, highlighting the chops of the band’s three guitarists, most notably L.A. resident Nita Strauss, whose searing solos and flowing blonde hair punctuated many of the most metal-laden tracks. Cooper sustained his own cooperalice_nita_72dpistill-intact gravelly vocals from start to finish, enthralling the crowd as the well-fashioned master of macabre ceremonies. Near the end of the main set, Cooper paid unexpected and fitting homage to three fallen rock stars, Keith Moon, David Bowie, and Lemmy of Motörhead. Other than that the set list was peppered with some deep cuts and many hits like “I’m Eighteen,” “School’s Out” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” along with encore “Elected” during which Cooper made a fairly good case for his election to U.S. President, as a third-party candidate fronting the “Wild Party.”

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With many number one hits, multiple awards and a place in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame, Alice Cooper hit his marks once again, continuing a long and successful career as rock’s oft lighthearted prince of darkness.

Be sure to vote!

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The band included:

Tommy Henricksen, Ryan Roxie and Nita Strauss (guitars)
Chuck Garric (bass)
Glen Sobel (drums)

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cooperalice_superdvd_72dpiFor those interested in more on Alice Cooper, the band, and the man, consider picking up the brilliant documentary Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014) which is every bit as artfully presented as his unique stage shows. It provides deep insight into the madness that created the Alice Cooper character, a persona that almost killed the man.

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The Specials and Terry Hall

specials_band2_144dpiTerry Hall’s artistry is one of Britain’s fairly well-kept secrets. Sure, the average music fan outside of the U.K. who knows a bit about punk and new wave music from the late 70’s through the 80’s will know of ska sensation The Specials, and might have known about Fun Boy Three – at least their song “Our Lips Are Sealed” (a much bigger hit for co-writer Jane Wiedlin’s The Go-Go’s.) But fewer yet will know about the bands Colourfield or Vegas (with Euryhmics founder David A. Stewart), or in fact any of Hall’s rich and varied solo work. Terry Hall lent his compositions, his smooth expressive voice, and his at times political, satirical, or dryly-humorous lyrics to many bands and projects over the years, delivering them in his distant yet passionate style, improving everything he touched.

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Hall first came to be known with ska revival band The Specials in the late 1970s. Keyboardist and political activist Jerry Dammers formed the Specials. The lineup shifted for a couple of years, gelling into the most known lineup of Hall, Dammers, vocalist Neville Staple, guitarists Roddy Byers and Lynval Golding, bassist Horace Panter and rocksteady beat drummer John Bradbury. Dammers started the 2 Tone Records label in 1979, released the band’s first single “Gangsters” and then their self-titled debut album. The Specials music combines the primarily joyful sound of ska music with often politically charged and socially conscious lyrical commentary, peppered with the energy and attitude of punk.

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After their second album More Specials, and the non-album single “Ghost Town,” Hall, Golding, and Staple left the group to form Fun Boy Three, who were active from 1981 to 1983. The rest of the musicians in The Specials soldiered on in various forms and bands including Special AKA, Special Beat (with members of the Beat), Sunday Best, and others. Dammers disbanded The Specials in 1984. There have been reunion shows, four album releases and various lineups of the band since that demise, but all without Dammers and most missing one or two other key members including Hall. Interest peaked beginning on the band’s 30th anniversary in 2009, which led to several tours, including one of North America in 2013 and another this year, which stopped in San Francisco at the Warfield Theater September 23, 2016.

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The show was fantastic. Today Hall, Golding and Panter represent the original band, with rock-steady Libertines drummer Gary Powell just this year replacing ace John Bradbury, after his unfortunate passing in 2015. Byers left in 2014, and Staple hasn’t joined due to health issues since 2013. Nevertheless, with Hall, Golding, and Panter up front and the full compliment of musicians alongside them, the band sounds amazing and the performance is spirited. Hall himself doesn’t move a lot, and expresses himself infrequently as is his norm. Quips like (paraphrased) “hey what’s this picture of Santa doing on my can of Coca-Cola? Pepsi is the anti-Christ!” belie his continuing acerbic wit, while his real focus is on faithful delivery of the vocals, a treat for any long time fan of Hall’s restrained vibrato.

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The band organized the set list creatively, starting at a slow pace with the hit single from their EP Ghost Town, building the intensity gradually over the next hour, until unleashing the one-two punch of “Nite Klub,” which drew of bit of “slam dancing” from the standing-room only crowd up front. Highlights included one of my favorite Hall compositions “Friday Night Saturday Morning,” which evoked the crowd to croon its instant-ear-worm chorus “I go out on Friday night and I come home on Saturday morning.” Later in the set, “Doesn’t Make It Alright,” and the second a-side single from the EP, “Why?” had us thinking about the sad state of race relations in America:

I’m proud of my black skin and you are proud of your white, so
Why do you try to hurt me?
Do you really want to kill me?

Fittingly, at this point Golding admonished us all not to vote for Trump! The band continued to build the momentum, performing most of their first two albums and the Ghost Town EP to the adoring crowd. By the end, after cranking thru up-tempo songs like “Concrete Jungle,” “Little Bitch,” and “Too Much Too Young” they eased off the gas with covers “Enjoy Yourself,” and “You’re Wondering Now.”

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Dammers once said that when a new innovative music comes to the fore, it can be embedded with political lyrics – he intended that The Specials be able to address the issues of racism, something every fan of the band knows well from their lyrics and between-song banter. Hall continued in this vein with Fun Boy Three, Colourfield, and his later solo work. It’s a successful brew – one that cemented the group’s reputation and importance for their fans. It’s very hard to believe that this groundbreaking band will see the 40th anniversary of their founding next year. These reunion shows are, still, highly recommended. Now, I can still wait and hope for, someday, a solo Terry Hall concert as well!

Electric Light Orchestra’s Summer Bash

elo2016_bow_144dpiElectric Light Orchestra (ELO) was an enduring British band that deftly combined orchestral instrumentation and infectious pop rock. Founder Jeff Lynne was principal writer and producer, leading the band through several incarnations, all influenced by The Beatles, Chuck Berry and other rock pioneers. From 1972 to 1986 ELO racked up more than a dozen top 20 songs on UK and US charts. Now billed as Jeff Lynne’s ELO they have been back out on the road with Lynne up front, long time band member and arranger Richard Tandy on keyboards and a crack group of musicians and vocalists, including Lynne’s daughter, as backup.

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Seeing the new ensemble September 10, 2016, on the second of three sold-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl was like stepping back in time, as Lynne, band, and orchestra faithfully replicated every note of the original ELO compositions, along with a few newer tracks from Lynne’s most recent album. At around 80 minutes, incredibly, nearly every track on the set list was originally a hit or at least massively popular FM radio staple for ELO, including “Evil Woman,” “All Over the World,” “Livin’ Thing,” “Telephone Line,” “Turn to Stone” and on through seventeen songs, ending inevitably with “Roll Over Beethoven,” which as one would expect, highlighted the immense contribution of the Hollywood Bowl orchestra let by conductor Thomas Wilkins while fireworks lit the night sky. Highlights for this fan included “Mr. Blue Sky” during which original Tandy mouthed the refrain on an original or sound-alike vocorder, and “Wild West Hero,” a suite that always showed off their more creative side.

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Lynne has never been much of an extrovert onstage. Going right back to the band’s beginnings he stands in place, letting the music and his clear vocals communicate his message, saying almost nothing between tracks save for brief salutations. In fact, original band members who are no longer part of the group, including long time partner Roy Wood, along with violin and cello players were the most physical performers, accentuating the music back in the day. Today a lot of the expression falls to always-upbeat bass guru Lee Pomeroy and a couple of the other current players who are inclined. To augment this, the staging has always been and continues to be spectacular. The band made extensive use of unique lighting including then-emerging laser lights, and they continue in this tradition today. The stage at the Bowl, with its semi-oval canopy, lighting rig, front projections and fireworks, as seen recently when Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour played there, offer an opportunity to masterfully present these impressive lighting and visuals. It’s an entertainment on its own-threatening to but not rendering music as accompaniment to the spectacle. Instead, Lynne’s ELO with orchestra gave us a perfect show, leaving the audience enthralled long after the last notes faded.

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For this short tour, Lynne scheduled a mere five nights in Los Angeles and New York. They play Wembley in London next year – the only scheduled appearance I see for now. In my view, this would be worth a trip over the pond or for Brits, into crowded London for an evening of strange magic!

 

Coldplay Hot This Summer

Coldplay launched their A Head Full Of Dreams Tour this year in Latin America at the end of March and on September 3, 2016 brought the spectacle to our 49ers (Levi’s) stadium in Santa Clara, south of San Francisco. It was an amazing night of lights, confetti, stagecraft, and music, courtesy of Chris Martin and band. The event marks the group’s seventh full-length tour. Their popularity has grown to the point where they can fill massive stadiums with adoring fans, fans like me.

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Followers of Coldplay take no issue with their often-sentimental lyrics and heartfelt delivery by heartthrob Martin. I’ve read some number of critics who are dismissive of this band and their music exclaiming, “There’s no crying in a rock concert!”. Fair enough, Coldplay’s songs veer towards “adult contemporary,” with few gritty guitar licks, in favor of acoustic guitar and piano. Martin’s heartfelt vocals themselves express a seeking and yearning; lyrics plumb romantic topics of love gained and lost, of self-discovery and change. This is, after all the man who very publicly decided to undergo a “conscience uncoupling” with ex-wife Gwyneth Paltrow, then penned a song called “Fun” featuring the lyrical refrain “Didn’t we have fun” to honor what they had together. Very adult. For an older example, from X&Y (2005) take concert favorite “Fix You” and the lyrics

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

coldplay_fixu_72dpiThose receptive to emotional import can find no better example of an act capable of delivering this kind of material with unabashed reverence. At this most recent show, Martin sang the first half of this staple “Fix You” on the stage walk, lying on his back, and you could hear thousands of young girls, and guys, but yeah, more girls, providing a sweet chorus for the band.

The payoff to all of this, when one is open-minded, is that the music and the band’s delivery can evoke strong emotions and even lead to transcendent moments of peace and inspiration. The messages are strong, the poetry is very well written, the delivery is exciting, and the music is beautifully played in concert. The sometimes overlooked band mates, including guitarist Jonathan Mark Buckland, bass player Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion have each grown in ability and technique over the years and make a fine ensemble. The band also considered “creative director” Phil Harvey a fifth member of the group.

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The set list this time out covered the breadth of their many albums, including a handful of tracks from the new album, but coldplay_chris4_72dpialso their first hit “Yellow” and “Don’t Panic” from their debut, Parachutes (2000), still my favorite. One of the new ones, played on the b-stage, “Everglow” led to a moving video tribute to Mohammed Ali, followed later by a nod to David Bowie with the cover “Life on Mars” performed with the Oakland School for the Arts choir, who also joined for final encore “Up&Up.” These were nice touches that kept interest high through the buoyant 23-song set.

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The tour features design by Misty Buckley, deployed by Stageco Staging Group, just as with this year’s performance at the Super Bowl 50 Halftime show. The gear includes risers, a catwalk, lights and screens that fill 12 big rigs; it’s exceptional staging. Bursts of confetti shaped like stars and butterflies (yes, that’s right!) rain down from above while Martin sprints and spins from the main stage to the mid-stadium mini-stage, plying his trademark athletic performance. Martin draws the crowd in, encouraging all to sing along, coldplay_confetti_72dpiplaying a number of tracks with the band from the b-stage at the far end of the stadium, and popping up near the end of the show on a third stage, far to the rear and side, which along with cloud shaped projection screens, gave even those in the “nose bleed” seats a view. All the while, every audience member was given a wristband that lit up in sync with the songs, turning Levi’s Stadium into a sea of colored lights – no cigarette lighters for this crowd! It’s all part of an inclusive celebratory night of uplifting music and dance, with at least of bit of grit in parts to go with the butterflies, and yeah, a tear or two, or buckets…depends on you.

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