Monthly Archives: October 2015

Richard Marx @ The Gallo Center for the Performing Arts, Modesto CA 09/30/15

I can’t believe how great this show turned out. I surprised wifey with tickets to see one of her girlhood heartthrobs. If you were a child of the 90s (or an adult for that matter), you had to have been exposed at some point to the pop powerhouse that is Richard Marx. Pure sounding tenor voice with a lot of heart and just a bit of raspiness that made the chicks melt. Romance and sappiness aside, the man writes some amazing music and not just his own songs (he’s written hits for Luther Vandros, Keith Urban, Vince Gill, Kenny Rogers, Josh Groban, Martini McBride…and what? Nsync???). We had no idea what we were in for, not having followed Marx for a number of years and I did no research for this brief tour he had scheduled. Little did we know that we would witness a one man show, Marx alone on acoustic guitar for the majority of the concert while taking breaks to perform piano on a handful of songs. It was a gem of a show and one of the best concerts we’ve ever attended. He performed at the Gallo Center for the Performing Arts in Modesto of all places. It seems like a very random city and venue to book. Modesto is a modest sized ville of 200,000. It’s an hour south of Sacramento, hour and 15 east of San Francisco. And wow is The Gallo a classy place, suited for refined performances, symphonies and play productions, and it was the perfect venue to host such a unique concert. I had the good fortune of scoring balcony box seats closest to the stage, which gave us this amazing diagonal view of Marx at work. We sat comfortably in big upholstered chairs with generous space and leg room, the only things missing were glasses of wine and chocolate. It was a mature crowd for the most part, people in their 40s and 50s, sprinkled with fans in their late 20s and 30s. There were few denim jeans in the crowd, mostly slacks, khakis and dresses, making for a somewhat formal affair, classy, just like the artist.

Marx was talkative, witty, joked with the crowd, interacted with us, and told us not to sing along at one point because we’d just “fuck up the song” lol. Plenty of story-telling and insight into the song writing and performing as well. At the end of “Hazard,” a guy from the orchestra area said “who killed her?” Marx sheepishly grinned and shrugged his shoulders, finally saying “I killed her” once he sat back at the piano. He added that a bell hop in a hotel once asked him “hey man, so who killed that chick?” lol. It was an up close and personal performance, one man at the front of an unadorned stage with a piano behind him. He sounded GREAT, richer and more dynamic than what’s on record, and clam-free. Well not so clam-free; to prove he was truly human there were a couple mess ups on guitar but it didn’t matter, that’s just part of the wonder and authenticity of a live performance. He was having a good time and it was as if he was playing in his living room to a bunch of friends. It was THAT intimate and fun. Near the middle of the show he shared how he’d worked with numerous other artists and treated us to a piano version of “Dance With My Father” that really hit me deep. That’s the way to play it, piano only, with a great voice. Wow. Some other surprise performances included a rollicking version of Keith Urban’s co-written “Long Hot Summer,” Nsync’s “This I Promise You,” and teasers of Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” Kenny Rogers’ “Crazy,” (did you know he co-wrote that?) and Maroon 5’s “Payphone.” Marx was awesome about “playing the songs you came to hear,” adding that you can only do so much of the new stuff, making a reference about his love for The Foo Fighters, explaining that a group like that can get away with playing so much new stuff so long as the favorites like Everlong and Times Like These are in there as well. Included was one or Marx’s original “Country” songs, a funny little tune called “How Can I Miss You (If You Won’t Go Away?).” There were some moments when we thought we would be let down by such stripped down arrangements. For example, Marx played the basic chords to “Hazard,” it was missing the distinctive keyboard hook. But the song still went over very well and convincingly, the same with “Angelia.” That song in particular was extra special. Marx said to the audience “ok for this next one we’re going to go truly unplugged,” and he pulled out his amp cord and walked up to the very front of the stage and played “Angelia” without a mic or his amplifier. You could hear a pin-drop in the theater, everyone shut up and just LISTENED. It was quieter of course without the amplification, but there was just enough natural volume and projection to still enjoy it. It was sweet. This was one of the best shows ever and very similar to Bryan Adams’ Bare Bones Tour, acoustic guitar and piano only, and a LOT of fun. The set was something like the following, most likely a bit out of order and maybe a couple incorrect songs.

  1. Endless Summer Nights
  2. Take This Heart
  3. Satisfied
  4. Keep Coming Back
  5. Hazard
  6. Not In Love
  7. Dance With My Father
  8. Long Hot Summer
  9. How Can I Miss You
  10. Angelia
  11. Hold On To The Nights
  12. Now And Forever
  13. The Way She Loves Me
  14. Should’ve Known Better
  15. Right Here Waiting
  16. When You Loved Me

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Bone Bash XVI: Def Leppard/Styx/Tesla @ Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View CA 09/19/15

Bone Bash is the annual super gig put on by KSAN 107.7 The Bone. I had always wanted to see Tesla and Def Leppard perform, more so Def Lep. To me they were one of the few groups that successfully married pop and metal, even though calling them pop could be an insult to most fans. The first opener was the mighty Tesla and they didn’t disappoint. I’ve been wanting to see these guys for a while now, I kick myself for missing a local gig a couple years ago. Tesla is unique because they emerged during the mid 80s hair metal/glam era and remained down to Earth the whole time: authentic rock n’ roll – no frills, no bullshit, blue collar rock. While the Sunset Strip acts were sporting spandex, make-up, lace and leather, Tesla retained an almost hippie throwback kind of look and philosophy. Jeans, t-shirts, solid playing ability (and good hair) were all they needed. Tesla plays aggressive, bluesy jams on guitar, bass and drums with the occasional folk inspired acoustic gems (think of the acoustic material on Led Zeppelin III), and they’re from California too 🙂 Props to Tesla for having 4 of the original 5 members still in their line-up. They’ve been performing for 28 years and could probably do a gig in their sleep. The band was tight, professional and I expected nothing less. The set was too short but it was a great introduction for a newbie like me. Tesla is still releasing new music and they’re isn’t a bad album in their discography. Jeff was very appreciative at the turn out, the amphitheater was filling to capacity as the band tore into their opening set. Jeff Keith is something else, he’s a mover onstage, dancing and slinking around the stage like some flower child from Woodstock. He’s received some flak recently for his vocal delivery, his tone in particular. He still has that bluesy rasp suited for rock music and it didn’t sound bad at all, maybe a bit tighter sounding (higher in pitch), but it’s still him, and not bad for being a guy in his 50s. The band was very good, with Frank Hannon and Dave Rude doing some very cool counter melodies on their guitars. Troy Lucketta and Brian Wheat laid down a solid groove and kept the Shoreline thumping. It would be so cool to see these guys in a small theater or even a decent sized club. Great all around rock group.

  1. Edison’s Medicine
  2. Hang Tough
  3. Heaven’s Trail
  4. Signs
  5. Little Suzi
  6. Love Song
  7. Modern Day Cowboy

Next came STYX. Holy sh*t…I will never, EVER, mock this group again. They stole the show, hands down. They turned Bone Bash into a Styx gig. EVERYBODY knew those songs, sang their drunken hearts out, and applauded these performers as if they were heroes. I was there to see Def Leppard and Tesla, but damn, Styx slayed the crowd and won my respect over and over. They performed as if they were in their 30s, not a sign of aging. The vocals were on par with the studio versions, and the performances were mind-blowing. I had no idea their songs were so intricate, complicated, epic and entertaining. I remember hearing Styx songs on FM radio in the car as a kid, riding around with dad, listening to the local classic rock station. That was my only connection with this group. I also remember passing them off as a lamer, wimpier, more pretentious version of Yes (if that’s even possible). But seeing them live totally shattered that unfair stereotype. Original bassist Chuck Ponazzo was on hand for this gig, as were classic line up members James Young and Tommy Shaw. Ex Babys/Bad English bassist Ricky Phillips was onstage and has played with this lineup for a number of years, as well as power-house drummer Todd Sucherman. Sucherman played amazingly, regularly pulling off intricate, complex patterns on the toms and cymbals, and while playing traditional grip. Their overall mix was crystal clear, better quality sound than Tesla, and Styx didn’t have to hide behind any distortion unlike some other hard rock groups. Their playing was so precise and clean, especially Sucherman on drums. He was pulling off very fast passages with double strokes, cascading up and down the toms, crashes and splashes, sometimes while cross-armed. Hell of a drummer. And the even bigger surprise was Lawrence Gowan on keys and vocals. That man sounds eerily like Dennis DeYoung, almost indistinguishable, and he was a great performer onstage, full of energy and enthusiasm. His voice was so compelling, no wonder the entire crowd sang along and hung on to every word. And shockingly enough, it made me sentimental and made me think of when I was a kid, listening to the radio with my dad in his ’70 Chevy Monte Carlo. Damned Styx. Connecting with me like that.  I’d love to see these guys again with a full set and their own production.

  1. The Grand Illusion
  2. Too Much Time On My Hands
  3. Fooling Yourself
  4. Miss America
  5. Lady
  6. Blue Collar Man
  7. Rocket Man/Bohemian Rhapsody/Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay
  8. Come Sail Away
  9. Rockin’ The Paradise
  10. Renegade

Def Leppard was the closer for this gig. I was so excited to finally see Def Leppard, one of the few 80s metal acts that I still gave a damn about. I was a big fan of the Hysteria/Adrenalize/Retroactive era. As a kid, I loved that Marshall sound on guitar and Joe Elliot’s voice. And the poppy and anthemic choruses made them all the more fun to listen to. In the early 90s I was mostly listening to Metallica, Van Halen, Queensryche and Guns n’ Roses. But I still had a soft spot for Def Leppard as well. The group put on a very good show, but unlike their counterparts in Tesla and Styx, it was most evident that age was catching up with Def Leppard. Don’t get me wrong, the guys in the group are healthy and still look good, although Phil Collin doesn’t count, that bastard, but you could hear it in Joe Elliot’s voice and some of the guitar parts strayed quite a bit from the studio originals, not necessarily a bad thing, but different. Joe still has much of his vocal range, however there was a thinner quality to his singing. That’s the picky gripe that I have about the singing. But Joe’s vocals were still very strong. What was sorely missing were stronger background vocals. Kudos to the guys for pulling off the backing vocals live, a fact they’ve always championed, but what adds to the magic and mystique of the Def Leppard sound are the high pitched backgrounds (I know that’s Joe’s voice multi-tracked 20 or 30 times, but still). It was great to see Vivian Campbell performing, the group initially announced that he wouldn’t be well enough to join this tour, but he’s undergoing cancer treatments while on the road and looking well, all things considering. He was smiling and having a good time. The big wow moment for me was witnessing Rick Allen on drums and seeing the up-close camera shots of his footwork. I had no idea the man played so many pedal triggers, I always figured he had the kick drum pedal and a trigger for his snare. But no, there had to be at least 6 or 7 pedals in succession, all triggering various sounds, including two kicks. And it was something else seeing his feet speed up during his solo piece at the end of Switch 626. Joe had a nice solo spot with “Two Steps Behind.” However I think the electric version crushes the acoustic version like a grape. LOVE the electric version. The only other gripe about the show was the sound of Allen’s triggered snare, it was thin sounding and lacked punch. The other big part of Def Lep’s sound is that infectious back-beat and the classic Leppard triggered snare sound, and it was missing in this night’s mix. And the tempo to “Let’s Get Rocked” was too damn fast. Still an awesome concert, crazy good triple bill. Styx definitely out played and out entertained the headliner though.

  1. Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)
  2. Animal
  3. Let It Go
  4. Foolin’
  5. Promises
  6. Love Bites
  7. Armageddon It
  8. Rock On
  9. Two Steps Behind
  10. Rocket
  11. Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
  12. Switch 625
  13. Hysteria
  14. Let’s Get Rocked
  15. Pour Some Sugar on Me
  16. Rock of Ages
  17. Photograph

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Morrissey @ The Fox Theater, Visalia CA 08/29/15

Morrissey in Visalia. To paraphrase what a writer for the south valley’s own Lifestyle Magazine had written: in Visalia, “culture is on the rise.” Personally, as a fan, the best parts of the evening were witnessing performances of beloved songs like “Suedehead” and “Stop Me If You think You’ve Heard This One Before” and shaking hands with guitarist Boz Boorer outside the venue. After our dinner at the wonderously yummy Little Italy (it’s all about the red sauce), we sat at a nearby bench across the street from The Fox and chatted while the line at the doors progressed. The place was a sell out and it was cool to see a crowd like that downtown, the locals driving along Main Street, rubbernecking to see who’s headlining in little ol’ Visalia. A man quickly walked by rather unassumingly, hands in pockets, head down. I looked over and recognized that it was Boz Boorer. I turned over to the wife and said “holy shit, that’s one of his guitarists!” She replied “Only you could recognize him.” 🙂  I caught up to him and got his attention. All I asked was if he minded if I shook his hand. He smiled and said ‘sure!’ with that charming Brit accent. I wished him a good show and he continued on his way, a lady recognizing him (her eyes got super big) as he quickly strolled by.

This was one of the hottest shows ever, temperature-wise. There were plenty of out of towners from the Bay Area I believe, unprepared for the valley heat and the muggy conditions inside the venue, especially in the upper balcony. We were sweating up a storm. It was very uncomfortable, leading to frustrated and impatient concert goers. Sweaters and hoodies were quickly peeled off, some of the guys wiping their foreheads with their sleeves or their outerwear. There were sour faces left and right. It was so uncomfortable that we left immediately after “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” the somewhat cooler outdoor air being a welcomed relief in comparison to the sauna in the balcony. It was a special treat to see the Mozfather in my hometown, it’s just too bad it was so damned hot and the set was a little lackluster. I was so hoping that the set would be heavier with more celebrated material, “Suedehead” as an opener got us going but the momentum never quite returned to that level of awesomeness. There were definitely some noteworthy and enjoyable moments, such as Gustavo’s solo pieces on lead vox, classical guitar and brass throughout the set. Boz also performed parts on Oboe and snare drum. Newer material like Istanbul, The Bullfighter Dies, World Peace is None of Your Business, Kiss Me Alot, and People are the Same Everywhere went over well – Much of the newer material was definitely strong, but fans (especially Valley fans) are going to expect the classics, the popular, the “old” stuff. And to be fair, playing the “old” stuff doesn’t make an artist a nostalgic act (I think Morrissey is desperately trying to avoid that label). Good music is good music, regardless of year or era. But unfortunately for us, we got ONE Smiths song in the first 15 selections. And in between those selections were a bunch of new songs, a Waylon Jennings cover (which was actually pretty good), a b-side, and a couple Morrissey classics, but not exactly the cream of the crop. I love “Speedway,” but if the drums aren’t played like Spencer Cobrin played them on Introducing Morrissey, then it’s not the real “Speedway!” Anyways, I’m very happy we were able to see the Man in my hometown, just 10 minutes away from my house. About “Suedehead,” the group performed a very faithful rendition with strong singing from Morrissey. Don’t you just hate it when a classic is played half-assed? Not “Suedehead.” It Jangled and thumped along, with a cool and aggressive guitar tone from Jesse Tobias. Gustavo played the keyboard parts true to the studio original, and Boz and the rhythm section fleshed out the rest of the instrumentation while Morrissey smoothly delivered his lines.

Even though it was hot as Hell, it was still cool to see people on their feet, some arm in arm, singing along to “it was a gooood lay, gooood lay, ah-ahhhhh.” Indeed. Morrissey was talkative and regularly addressed the audience, pronouncing VISALIA with a short ‘i’ and an ‘ah’, as in Vih-sahlia, but I don’t think anyone cared. At the end of ‘Hank Done It This Way,’ Moz informed the crowd that the previous song was written by a great American, a lady in the back of the orchestra section yelled out “Waylon Jennings!” to Morrissey’s delight. Thanks to Sound N Vision Foundation, Rainmaker Productions and Choices for making this gig happen. It’s a soothing thought to think that culture is on the rise in the Central Valley, Visalia in particular. There’s a dredg song called “18 People Living In Harmony,” which is kind of a sad story about the death of art, music and culture – the chorus going ‘…Rents are rising, our lease is up, culture is down.’ It’s comforting that maybe our neck of the woods won’t suffer that kind of fate so long as promoters are willing (and can afford) to bring high caliber talent to our area. So glad to see the Pope of Mope an additional occasion before he retires.

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Mana @ Save Mart Center, Fresno CA 06/16/15

I love the fact that this group continues to perform in the Central Valley. They can still put out quality material, for the most part, and their live shows are always a riveting experience. Spanish language rock acts that tour this area are few and far between. La Ley and Molotov graced this area with gigs in October and December of last year…that was a long time ago. La Barranca also did a gig somewhat recently, but since that time, The Valley has been pretty dry, for more reasons than one. Fortunately, Mana’s new offering, Cama Incendiada, is actually pretty good and waaaaaay better than Drama Y Luz. Drama Y Luz is better used as a coaster or a paper weight. Granted, I was pretty hard on the group the last touring cycle, but a stronger album also means a stronger tour. So I was excited to pick up some decent tickets, $100+ a piece, lower level. The last two Mana gigs we had seats up in the rafters, so it was time to experience the group from a closer vantage point. Went the extra mile and made the player move of arranging transport by Limo for the girls and I. We enjoyed the limo company’s alcohol, stopped at In n’ Out for some grub and arrived at the venue with no trouble at all. Props to our driver for finding an alternate route, free from traffic congestion. We entered Save Mart Center through the Shaw entrance and didn’t even have to wait in line. We had a pretty good view from section 107 in the lower rows. We found our seats easily and enjoyed some tall ass frozen margaritas and waited for the show to begin. There was no opener scheduled and we anticipated Mana to go around 8:45. The entire evening was unfolding effortlessly and all the planets seemed to be aligned.

The group appeared and one could tell that Fresno missed them IMMENSELY. The reception was warm and it looked like the entire venue was on its feet. The band performed tightly as always and the new songs have been very well rehearsed. The light and video show were unique and very different from the last couple tours. The band used X-shaped lighting rigs that were suspended from the wings. The rigs would elevate and lower depending on the song choice. And the lights housed within the X-rigs moved independently, bathing the stage and the crowd with brilliant shades of color from multiple directions or in synchrony. The accompanying videos were a great touch, coloring the songs with collages of images, adding to the mood and vibe of the songs. A tribute to rainforest activist Chico Mendez was used during “Cuando Los Angeles Lloran” and a video of colorful sugar skulls were used during “Me Vale,” for example. Video of a burning bed was used during “Cama Incendiada” and the official video for “Mi Verdad” was projected onto a giant white curtain while the band performed behind. A b-stage was again used at the rear of the venue for the acoustic section. The mini stage was made to look like a bed, complete with a white bed skirt and metal, ivory colored head and footboards. About the band’s performance, Fher was flat on a couple occasions but no big mess-ups. Unfortunately the mix was very boomey with lots of low end. Fher’s vocals had a lot of echo to them and it was difficult to make out what he was saying during his monologues with the audience. Alex’s vocals came through more clearly on the other hand, especially when he introduced the local guest guitarist right before “Me Vale.” Overall, the sound wasn’t bad but it could have used some tweaking and improvement. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a bad Mana performance. Personally, I was underwhelmed by Alex’s snare drum and stripped down kit. He created some buzz before the tour began by mentioning DW was designing a new kit for him and he was very excited about it. The kit from the last two touring cycles were more bad-ass in comparison: they sounded and looked beautiful, sexy even. The main snare was thuddy and too low pitched for my tastes, more appropriate for softer selections. A second snare, a piccolo, was to the left of the high hat and used sparingly. And the kit was reduced to one rack tom, a 12 inch. A single timbale, two floor toms and four Octobans to the left of the hi-hat completed the drum setup. I appreciate Alex trying different snare sizes and tunings, but this band’s music demands the commanding snap of a piccolo snare or a standard sized snare tuned way the hell up. The music sounds more exciting that way. Alex’s drum solo had added flare to it, literally. Pyrotechnics were used, with flames shooting out from around Alex’s kit while he laid down his solo. Similar performance from the last couple tours, but the snare was all wrong, damn it. Juan Calleros did his thing, and oddly enough he was hooded the first half of the set, I wasn’t sure if it was even him on stage. But the stance was definitely his, the lean that he does while laying down his bass parts, and the man never moves! And Sergio Vallin did great guitar work as always and had a brief solo spot. His tone was fiery on “Corazon Espinado” and his playing overall was flawless. The songs went over very well but there hasn’t been much change to the arrangements the last few tours. To change it up,”Oye Mi Amor” was used to start off the encore section, this time with a remixed, EDM styled intro. “Clavado En Un Bar” was played early in the set instead of the usual set ending slot.

Unlike the 2012 Drama Y Luz gig I attended, this set flowed very well while featuring 4 of the new songs and a couple covers. There’s variety to this new album, Cama Incendiada, and the songs are memorable and anthemic, unlike the flaccid and forgettable crap on Drama Y Luz. The remainder of the set featured fair representation from most of the group’s back catalog. The older songs supported the new material and the tracks complimented one another very well. Absent from the set were most of the well-known rockers and jungle grooves, songs which I personally prefer. However this night’s set, although a bit low-key and pop rock, was still very entertaining. I have to accept that I will most likely never see “Selva Negra” or “Ana” performed live. Highlight of the night had to be Somos Mas Americanos, a corrido that brought out the Mexicano/Mexicana in everyone. The onscreen lyrics and visuals that went along with SMA were appropriate and very well done, making for a great connection and all-around performance. “El Rey” followed “Somos Mas Americanos,” an excellent and spirited 1-2 punch of Mexican standards. Continuing that vibe, a great cover of Los Bukis “Si No Te Hubieras Ido” was performed at the end of the acoustic set, inspiring a sentimental sing-along with the audience. While I feel this set was stronger than the 2012 Bakersfield set, I think this night’s Fresno crowd was a bit more tame and restrained in comparison to our South Valley brethren. I could see that Mana had the Fresno crowd to their feet. But in comparison, the Bakersfield crowd went nuts and lost their minds when the group performed. I’m thinking the Bakersfield crowd is more appreciative because let’s face it, they get jack shit in regards to big name concerts (besides the country superstars and say, Kelly Clarkson). This show was close to a sell-out, probably over 90% capacity. I could see clusters of empty seats up in the nose bleeds, as well as a few semi empty rows in the lower level at the rear of the venue. I’m speculating that the Tuesday night gig as well as economics played a factor in that. The group went on stage at 8:45 and didn’t stop until 11, not too shabby. See this group if you can, they’re not getting any younger. Amazingly, Fher and Juan Calleros are now in their 50s. Alex Gonzalez is 46 and Sergio Vallin is 41. Mana can still put on a great show. It was a very fun and entertaining night, definitely wouldn’t mind repeating that at again.

  1. La Prision,
  2. Corazon Espinado
  3. Cama Incendiada
  4. Cuando Los Angeles Lloran
  5. Amor Clandestino
  6. Eres Mi Religion
  7. Clavado En Un Bar
  8. Me Vale
  9. En El Muelle De San Blas
  10. Mi Verdad
  11. Somos Mas Americanos
  12. El Rey
  13. Drum Solo
  14. *Acoustic Set*  Te Llore Un Rio
  15. El Reloj Cucu
  16. Maripos Traicionera
  17. Bendita Tu Luz
  18. Vivir Sin Aire
  19. Si No Te Hubieras Ido
  20. Oye Mi Amor
  21. Labios Compartidos
  22. Rayando El Sol

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