A Year of Concerts: 2014

Concerts, Reviews

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Yusuf Islam / Cat Stevens | “Peace Train … Late Again” Tour | Nokia Theatre L.A. Live | 12/14/14 [Concert Review & Photos]

Yusuf Islam / Cat Stevens | “Peace Train … Late Again” Tour | Nokia Theatre L.A. Live | 12/14/14 [Setlist & Video Clips]

Jamestown Revival, Nikki Lane & Pete Molinari | The Troubadour | 11/30/14 [Concert Review]

Jamestown Revival | The Troubadour | 11/30/14 [Photos and Video]

Nikki Lane | The Troubadour | 11/30/14 [Photos and Video]

Pete Molinari | The Troubadour | 11/30/14 [Photos and Video]

Better Late Than Never: Boston | The Forum | 7/29/14 [Concert Review & Setlist]

Concerts, Reviews

THIS ENTRY WAS WRITTEN 12/9/14 BY A. LEVEL AND IS REPRINTED HERE BY PERMISSION.

There’s one small problem with going to see Boston in 2014: namely, their lead singer died in 2007. Of course, I didn’t actually realize that until after the show. Something had seemed a bit off – and the lead singer certainly didn’t look quite right – but I’d figured he’d ditched his 70s hair and gone for a more modern style. I suppose that’s what happens when you go to see bands whose music you like but whose career you don’t actually follow that closely.

The opening act was Cheap Trick, which seems to have created a niche supporting bigger 80s bands. They’ve been on enough tours that I’m fairly certain that I’ve accidentally seen them more times than my favorite groups. Only one member seemed ready to rock – the rest looked like they’d come ready to play bocce and sort of shuffled around. You have to give Cheap Trick credit for longevity, but they certainly fall in the category of Bands Who Are Way Past Their Prime.

Between the two sets, this show featured one of the odder moments I’ve seen at a concert. Members of Boston came out on the stage, flanked by fez-wearing Shriners, and made a pitch for two of their favorite charities. They’d apparently sent Shriners all over the Forum to sell copies of their Greatest Hits cds as well as raffle tickets for a signed guitar, with the proceeds going to the Shriners and to Sea Shepherd.

Now, nothing says “militant anti-whaling organization” more than a concert played for an aging audience at the newly-renovated Forum. It’s a venue that seems to be marketing itself these days as the place for Music Old White People Like, with acts like the Eagles. (A fairly big shift after many years of increased disrepair, during which it mostly hosted concerts by rock bands whose audiences were more likely to trash the place.) I also have a soft spot in my heart for the Forum after years of Laker games plus my first concert, which featured the rockin’ stylings of one Neil Diamond. Anyway, a quick glance at their tour dates showed that they did a lot of their shows at tribal casinos, and maybe a raffle seems to fit in more at a venue that’s already primarily devoted to gambling.

We decided that it couldn’t hurt to have a cd, so we set off to find the nearest Shriner. It turns out that in spite of the sparkly red fezes, they’re surprisingly hard to spot in an area full of red seats. By the time we cornered one, he had sold all of his raffle tickets, but we managed to snag a cd. My companion threatened to listen to it on a loop all summer, though I politely declined her offer.

On screen: view from a cockpit.  On stage: was that thing a gong? A giant steering wheel? Frisbee? (Boston in concert at the Forum.)

On screen: view from a cockpit.
On stage: was that thing a gong? A giant steering wheel? Frisbee?
(Boston in concert at the Forum.)

Soon, Boston took the stage with a set that covered their greatest hits and made the audience happy. Though I enjoyed the night overall, the tech did distract me a bit from the performance. The screens in the background looked like cockpit windows, and it turned out that their stage designers had taken the space theme of the Boston cover art a bit too seriously. Every video swooped through the air for the duration of the show, soaring through clouds, constellations, and images of Earth in space. It had more in common with Disney’s Soarin’ Over California ride than with your average concert video. By the end, I was a little queasy and wished I’d taken some Dramamine. At other

Boston brought the roller rink flashbacks. Everybody free skate! (Boston in concert at the Forum.)

Boston brought the roller rink flashbacks. Everybody free skate!
(Boston in concert at the Forum.)

points, the lighting looked like it had come straight out of a roller rink circa 1985. They’d also taken pains to light the venue ceiling with sparkly moving constellations so that it seemed like the night sky was above us. Considering that the number of stars you can normally see in the Los Angeles sky is somewhere south of 20, it felt as unreal as the flying videos. Still, I found myself staring at the ceiling, checking out the stars like I was a cat fascinated by a laser pointer.

The music sounded great, real lead singer or no, as they rolled out the songs my sister had introduced me to as a kid. The only off note was the inclusion of a guest performance by Siobhan Magnus from American Idol; she seemed out of place, and we couldn’t figure out the point of including her in the tour. While music purists can debate the value of seeing bands in their “real” format, I’m not that kind of fan. A friend once teased me for going to see shows like an Everclear concert with so few remaining original members that he nicknamed it “Frankenclear,” but I’m more interested in the overall sound and the live experience. In this case, the venue was great, the production was just wacky enough to be entertaining and memorable, and the band put on a fun show. In terms of value for price, Boston put on one of the better concerts I’ve attended this year.

Boston | The Forum-image-v1

Pixies | Coachella | 4/12/14 (PHOTOS)

Concerts
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When the Pixies were added last-minute to the Coachella line-up, I had a total flashback moment to my pre-pubescent years. I remembered buying a used copy of “Surfer Rosa” at The Wherehouse (remember those?) and being amazed that I was able to purchase a record with a topless woman on the cover.

I knew that Kim Deal was no longer performing with the band, so I knew that “Gigantic” (my favorite song) probably wouldn’t be performed, but I still wanted to catch some of my other favorite tracks sung by Black Francis like “Where Is My Mind”. When I read an article  that Paz Lenchantin was the bassist who they picked up in late 2013, my heart melted. Ummm, can you say high school crush?

When Pixes opened up with “Bone Machine”, I felt that the vocals could have been boosted a bit. I was standing close to a monitor, but it was hard for me to hear Black Francis singing. It really didn’t matter though. I spent most of that song singing along: “You’re looking like you’ve got some sun. Your blistered lips have got a kiss. They taste a bit like everyone”.

Watching three of the original members, and babe Paz, perform really brought my nostalgia into perspective. Though they recorded relatively few albums whose sales were modest, their legacy on rock music in the 90s is unquestionable. You can really their influence in all of the big time bands of that era. Nirvana. The Strokes. Pavement. Radiohead. The Pixies have their fingerprints and influence over all of their music.

The Pixies. Rock legends. Blessed to have been able to see them perform.

 

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT BLOG ENTRIES OF OTHER BANDS I SAW AT COACHELLA!

In Memoriam | Kurt Cobain | 1967-1994

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Kurt-kurt-cobain-1285543-1024-768February 20, 1967, one of the most iconic figures in rock music was born. Kurt Donald Cobain, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana.  Nirvana’s legacy is well documented.  They made “alternative music” cool, bringing that which was part of the “underground”  into the foreground, and popularized a new genre of music that we call “grunge”.

Whether he wanted it to or not, Kurt Cobain became the voice of a generation.  For all of the Gen X kids, his voice spoke to our frustrations and Nirvana’s music was the outlet. His early death immortalized his legacy, and it is a shame that there isn’t more music with him featured out there.

Below are three video clips of my favorite Kurt Cobain moments:

1.  For Nirvana’s MTV unplugged TV performance, Nirvana closed with “Where did you Sleep Last night’.  The song itself is heavy and brooding, and quite repetitive. Kurt’s vocals starts off muted, and suspicious, but slowly  rises to intense accusation.  As he escalates the tension throughout the song, it culminates (at around the 4:40 mark) in the deepest and most intense breath in taped music performance history.  A breath, which to me, signifies a final realization that he in fact knew where his lover was.  So intense.  The exact way I want to remember Kurt Cobain.

2. If you  google “Kurt Cobain, interview” and watch whatever is pulled up from the search engines, you will see that Kurt Cobain was real person.  Very human.  The following interview is quite long (20 minutes), but it’s the kind of interview that made his fans adore him.  No pretentiousness.  Honest talk. 

3. When Nirvana was asked to play for England’s “Tops of the Pops”, and play to a pre-recorded, instrumental track, the band decided to have some fun at the show’s expense.  With the band faking to play their instruments, and Kurt doing his best (or worst) Johnny Cash impression, this is pure comedy awesomeness. 

4.  I’ve only read about this, but damn … I wish I was there.

“Amidst rumors that Nirvana was breaking up, not to mention Kurt Cobain’s questionable mental and physical state at the time, the band makes a scheduled appearance at the annual Reading Festival. Many fans, doubting that Cobain will even show, is rolled out on stage in a wheel chair. Krist Novoselic addresses the sea of the people, “With the support of his friends and family, he’s gonna make it.” Cobain stands up, sings a Bette Midler tune, and collapses on the stage. He then rises to his feet and leads Nirvana in a performance that Novoselic calls his highlight of the year. If Cobain dressed in a hospital gown wasn’t funny enough, the band later performs Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” (Boston had said “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a rip-off of their hit song). Cobain also delivers a classic line of stage banter during the set: This is our last show–until the next one.”  – From IFC’s list of “Top 10 Nirvana Moments”. http://www.ifc.com/fix/2009/04/lists-top-10-nirvana-moments

As an added bonus, here a list of Kurt Cobain’s 50 favorite albums (written in his own hand).  I’m proud to say I have a lot of them:

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I hope you’re resting in peace, Kurt.