Tag Archives: concert

Rockin’ the City of Angels: What?

Click here to buy Rockin’ the City of Angels, the new book now available at Amazon.com


Titled Rockin’ the City of Angels, the book was a 2 year labor of love for this long time rock fanatic. I described it on the back cover in this way:


STROBE FLASHES PIERCE THE DARK STAGE to reveal a NYC street punk as he faces the other half of his fractured self. A father’s WWII fighter plane crashes into a wall, temporarily slowing its ascent around his son’s troubled heart. A fiend clad in a white tuxedo steps out from the frame of a graveyard scene onto a haunted stage welcoming all to his many nightmares. A woman, weapon drawn, tells the story of James and his very cold gun. The top drummer from the top 70s rock band in the world pounds out the opening beat that tells us it’s been a long time since he rock ‘n’ rolled . . . a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely lonely time.

David Bowie photo (c) Neil Zlowzower / Atlas Icons

THESE IMAGES ARE SEARED into my memory from the rock concerts I witnessed in Los Angeles, the “City of Angels” in the 1970s, a time when rock bands were making expansive concept records with sweeping themes. Rock albums at the time promised “theater of the mind,” and their creators were inspired to mount elaborate stage shows that brought these dreams to life. These artists used every available piece of stagecraft—lights, projections, backdrops, props, and costumes—to create awesome spectacles for arenas packed with adoring fans— fans like you and me.


This book celebrates more than thirty of these incredible performances including key tours by bands such as Led Zeppelin, Queen, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Genesis, Heart, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, The Who and Yes. We’ll share memories of those legendary concerts and my reviews of the best video documents of the era, each band illuminated by a hand-picked collection of brilliant images—some never-before seen—by the best photo- journalists of that time including Richard E. Aaron, Jorgen Angel, Fin Costello, Armando Gallo, Neal Preston, Jim Summaria, Lisa Tanner and Neil Zlowzower along with many others.

Who photo (c) Neal Preston

This coffee-table book is nearly the size of an LP album cover, 396 pages, over 500 images, written by Douglas Harr, designed by Tilman Reitzle. Forword by Armando Gallo.

The bands, order by category, then the date of their key performance in L.A.

A’la Mode

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe great Depeche Mode played the Shoreline theater last week to a sold out crowd of devoted rapturous fans.  I was there for every note with my soul mate and a couple of our best friends.  This is a band that’s truly weathered time well – singer David Gahan still bumps, grinds, and belts out the deep notes with aplomb.  Singer multi-instrumentalist and principal writer Martin Gore raises the stakes whenever he comes out to be front and center, most notably on this tour performing slow acoustic versions of “But Not Tonight”, “Home” and “Shake the Disease” hitting all the best long vibrato soaked tones perfectly. Andy Fletcher does his low key celebration in back.  A drummer and second instrumentalist round out the band for their live shows as they have for just over 10 years now.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe group was out to promote their latest release “Delta Machine” – an album that’s surprisingly good for writers so well into their careers.  From the opening track, also played to start the show, “Welcome to my World” to “Angel”, “The Child Inside (another Martin slow burner) and “Soothe My Soul” (a classic form for David’s best delivery) they covered many of its high points, all of which fit nicely in their catalog.  These new tracks serve to update the Depeche Mode sound, even hinting in parts at dub-step electronica, a variant on the form they practically invented along with German forbearers Kraftwerk.

Of the later work, only 2005’s “Playing the Angel” was represented with two tracks – “A Pain That I’m Used To” and “Precious.”  The rest of the set list focused on the band’s 80’s and 90’s hits including 1981’s “Just Can’t Get Enough”, skipping to 1985’s “Shake the Disease”, 1986’s “Black Celebration”, “A Question of Time”, and “But Not Tonight”, 1987’s “Never Let Me Down Again” (encore with everyone’s arm wipers to augment it), 1990’s “Enjoy the Silence”, “Personal Jesus”, “Halo”, and “Policy of Truth” (all practically required for these shows), 1993’s “Walking in My Shoes” and Martin’s tear jerker “Home”, now a perennial favorite from 1997. Not as fond of the other selection from “Ultra”- “Barrel of a Gun” which ended up being one of several instances where the drummer drowned out the founding members – a minor complaint, but here’s one fan wishing they more frequently dispense with the live drums.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe whole event proved that Depeche Mode has remained not only commercially viable, but in rare form artistically, delivering their sometimes gloomy but more often celebratory wares, aged appropriately and served up hot.

Black Sabbath Survival

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I was discovering classic and progressive rock music back in the 70’s, Black Sabbath was on the outs in my circle of friends. Their lyrics, presence and brand all shouted ‘satanism’ and ‘occult.’ The fantasy elements of Yes, Genesis, Camel and their ilk seemed more welcoming to our young minds. So, I never collected Sabbath recordings and did not attend any of their shows, nor did I know anyone who did. As their influence spread and drove the heavy metal movement over time I also stayed away, even though I became enamored of the goth movement in the ’80’s, and even later, knowing that Ozzy Ozbourne actually had become quite an entertaining front man and TV personality and that Dio had become one of the best metal vocalists ever, not to mention the fact that Toni Iommi kept showing at the top of guitar players popularity polls.

All of that changed for me earlier this year when I read of Toni’s illness, recovery, and the rebirth of his classic guitar techniques on the new recording ‘13‘ – hailed as a metal masterpiece and return to form from these survivors. I downloaded the tracks and instantly loved the album.  This led me to look into their past work to discover what I had missed. In fact, while several of their most popular tracks present the occult, more of them are about other topics well suited to aggressive rock – the folly of war, drug addition and other social ills.  Heck they even sang about fairies with boots!  Often there were long instrumental breaks with a clear blues-rock vein, at times reminiscent of early blues based Jethro Tull, with a sometimes ‘progressive’ approach to songwriting, as many of their best tracks switch keys and rhythm as they unfold.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATherefore it was with great anticipation that we finally attended the most recent Black Sabbath show at the Shoreline Amphitheater on August 26, 2013. And it was everything I hoped it could be – great set list, Ozzy still an energetic front man, able to sing and deliver the old and the new work, Toni in rare form ripping through his riffs, and Geezer proving why he’s been one of the most celebrated bassist in rock. The set list featured original work from their first albums, including War Pigs, N.I.B., Paranoid, Black Sabbath, and Iron Man, as well as new tracks including God Is Dead? and Age of Reason. Not sure this will lead me to collect more metal than I have today – I’ve always been more a fan of keys driven work, but I now have Sabbath sitting in their proper place in the collection, between Bad Company and Camel, and alongside the contemporaries of their day. A rebirth of survivors for this older, newer fan.

Hot Night for Neo-Soul Queen Erykah Badu

Erykah at the Winery
Erykah at the Winery

Erykah Badu brought her slow jam funk & soul show to the Mountain Winery last night and proved her command of the form under on a hot summers eve.  Starting the show her band displayed their chops on a version of “Amerykah Promise”, after which Erykah led us through a short list of twelve tracks, no encore, for just over an hour.  The set list ranged from older selections like “On and On” and “Apple Tree” from her 1997 album “Baduizm” through to her last studio release “New Amerykah Part Two” from 2010, from which my favorite track “Me” was included.  As there were a number of slower grooves during the first 45 minutes of the set, it took awhile for the majority of the crowd to get to their feet and dance.  But Erykah reaches out to her audience on a deeper, more soulful level as well, speaking her philosophies via her poetic lyrics, and honest delivery.  A warm introduction – highly recommended.

Black Dub Blues

Been a bit tardy in writing up reviews for the first part of 2011, due in no small part to the fact that I’ve taken on the role of CIO at Splunk, and having a great time focusing on all that entails. The other factor is that we have not been fortunate to catch many great shows since the new year. However, one of the best was seeing Black Dub on January 31, 2011, at the Independent in San Francisco. As they are coming back to the Fillmore on May 29, here is a recommendation.

Black Dub is a collaboration between Daniel Lanois (guitar, vocals), Trixie Whitley (vocals, drums, etc.) Brian Blade (drums) and Daryl Johnson (bass, vocals) resulting in a concoction of smoky blues and rhythm directly descended from the original form. Trixie is the daughter of the late guitarist Chris Whitley, and she is a revelation – a powerhouse vocalist, drummer, and overall multi-instrumentalist. For anyone not familiar, Daniel Lanois is the famed producer for Peter Gabriel, U2, Bob Dylan, and many other imaginative artists, and as a solo artist, he has released several stunning albums, most notably his first two releases and the soundtrack for the movie “Sling Blade.”  Lanois music traverses rock, jazz, soul and most often Cajun blues. His first recording, 1989’s Acadie, is a masterwork that should be in every music fan’s library.

As the leader of Black Dub, Daniel’s role is more as an equal member of the band.  Trixie is the perfect foil for him, pulling both into a darker angrier blues, and then back to happy, almost joyous tracks, while keeping the unit from drifting off into excess. Brian and Daryl are accomplished musicians in their own right, and together establish a propulsive foundation for the inventive soundscapes. The extremes make the overall work very dynamic, and best heard live. The band was incredibly tight throughout, and covered two standout solo tracks from Lanois’ first two solo albums. Daniel played a third track as a solo on pedal steel guitar – an unearthly, and beautiful ambient piece from 2005’s Grammy nominated Belladonna.

If this sort of blues makes you happy, or maybe just a bit sad, you’ll want to experience this stellar band live.

Arcade Fire Warm Hearts

Arcade Fire burst on the scene in 2004 with their first full-length album “Funeral” quickly winning over the indie rock community.  After their sophomore release, “Neon Bible“, and tour in 2007 they returned this year with the critical favorite “The Suburbs“.  During these last 6 years, the band earned a reputation as an amazing live act, blending wild abandon with a determined raw energy – building epic tracks towards frenzied crescendos.  Therefore, we waited anxiously for the recent tour’s visit to the Greek theater on the campus of UC Berkeley on October 2, 2010.

The show was amazing and hit all the right notes as hoped.  The band’s performance was full of emotion, energy and intensity.  Yes there was wild abandon, but also a sense that the delivery was very carefully arranged and rehearsed.  Lead singer guitarist Win Butler fronts most of the songs though several selections featured his wife Régine Chassagne as lead vocalist.  All of the band are talented multi-instrumentalists each of whom switch duties throughout the show keeping things fresh and never dull.  Lights, surreal video and a closed circuit live video feed of the show were very effectively combined on a central large hi-definition monitor placed in front of a full sized projection backdrop.  Highlights of the performance included the chipper “Sprawl II” sung by Régine in a childlike lilt.  The dramatic track “Rococo” is a personal favorite which was rendered even more powerful in it’s live delivery.  They closed the show with their epic first hit “Wake Up” and delivered it’s sing-song finish along with enthusiastic audience participation.  Heart warming inspirational show – highly recommended.

Muse Just That

Muse, the hard rocking band that has taken the world by storm over these last several years appeared at Oakland Coliseum Wednesday April 14, 2010. Older work by this band focused on rapid-fire metal compositions, but more recently they moved into more of a glam-alternative-stadium rock direction which mixes in elements of progressive and classical music. Put together Queen, Green Day, and Pink Floyd with an occasional disco beat and you get a new unique sound achieved by Muse. Wednesday night the band focused on more recent releases, 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations and last year’s The Resistance to deliver the right mix of these varied styles.

The show was simply spectacular. The staging was unique as each core band member appeared within a set of three huge towers stretching from stage to ceiling, on which live and collected images were projected to stunning effect. The lower sections of these towers were lifts which alternately rose and lowered to embellish the stage below.

The music was equally exceptional, as singer Matthew Bellamy (voice, guitars, keyboards) manages to hit all of his notes and somehow preserve his vocals through long tours, partly due to the band’s deft management of sound dynamics. Outstanding band mates Christopher Wolstenholme (bass), and Dominic Howard (drum) also take leads, but alternately lower and raise the volume during verses and choruses so everything can be heard.

Only complaint would be that Matthew spent too little time at the piano this time around, given he is an excellent pianist obviously influenced by classical composers such as Rachmaninoff . Also at times one could say Muse is almost too perfect live, threatening to lose a bit of the emotional punch of the tracks. Given the staging and performance itself is so expansive and aggressive, these issues are overcome making this spectacle truly amazing and highly recommended.