Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life

Stevie Wonder
Oracle Area
Oakland, CA
December 5, 2014

Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life

In order to be a musical legend, you need the Chops and the Vision (of a certain kind).  Also, longevity.  Stevie Wonder released his critically acclaimed masterpiece, Songs in the Key of Life, in 1976, over 38 years ago.  It was an ambitious social and cultural work filled with over 20 songs, an R&B Opus, if you will - including hits, “Sir Duke,” “I Wish” and “Isn’t She Lovely.”  It was envisioned and released at a time when albums were listening experiences, composed and arranged from start to finish and meant to be listened to that way - not just a collection of singles.  It was an instant classic.  Listening to Songs in the Key of Life can be an enlightening experience and listening to Stevie Wonder play the album live was epic.  No, awesome.  It was awesomely epic.  Fantastic and epic and awesome.

In fact, the only complaint that I can think of is that there was too much talking.  Stevie can be a bit of a chatterbox once he gets going, thanking God and each musician in his (more than) 30-member band, praising the sublime talents of India Arie (correctly so), who performed with him, and introducing his brother (who co-wrote “Have a Talk with God”) and his daughters and introducing Sheila E (who received an enthusiastic reception) and explaining each song and introducing Dave Chappelle who came on during the encore to play a half-hearted tambourine.  When you have songs as well-crafted and powerful as those on Songs in the Key of Life, the music can do the talking.  The chatting continued even during the encore when he played a medley of hits, abruptly stopping several songs after just a verse in order to demand that he be called “DJ Tik Tik Boom.”  This was a bit frustrating since I would have loved to hear all of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” “For Once in My Life,” “Master Blaster (Jamming),” or “Do I Do.”  Fortunately, he did play all of “Living for the City” and a rousing “Superstition” (two of my favorites) to end the night.
 
Still, those complaints are a pittance compared to the gratitude that I felt to be in the company of the genius of Stevie Wonder for the night.  Before playing Michael Jackson's
 “TheWay You Make Me Feel,” he jammed on a new instrument called a ‘harpejji’ which displayed his virtuoso skill at any musical instrument.  He also consummately directed the band and his string session in a jam session between a couple songs. All of which was great fun and left no doubt that Stevie is truly a once in a generation talent.

Ziggy: The Old Man’s Shoes

Ziggy Marley
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA
November 6, 2014

Ziggy: The Old Man’s Shoes


Has there ever been a concert review of Ziggy Marley that does not include comparisons to his legendary father, Bob Marley?  Of course, Ziggy doesn’t entirely discourage the practice since he includes three or four songs by his father at each concert.  And he probably is intensely proud of his father and everything that he accomplished during his short stay on Planet Reggae.  Some of the most warmly received songs that Ziggy played last night included Father Bob’s ‘One Love’ ‘Could This be Love?’ and ‘Iron, Zion, Lion.’  All of which distracts from Ziggy’s own gifts and talents as a songwriter and performer.  I’ve always thought that Ziggy’s songs were very poppy, kind of 'reggae-light'.  However, last night, Ziggy and his band sounded immensely professional and accomplished, there wasn’t a false note in their performance.  And his (now dated) hits, ‘Tomorrow People’ and ‘Love is My Religion’ sounded fresh and full of energy.  Even the predictable clouds, the ganja concert haze, that floats over any reggae audience didn’t mellow the party.    All in all, an evening well spent.

Aida: Stay Classy New York

Aida
The Metropolitan Opera
Lincoln Center
New York City, NY
October 30, 2014

Aida: Stay Classy New York

Oh, did I neglect to mention it was Opening Night?  Sadly, there were not very many tuxedos, furs or diamonds which you might expect to see at Opening Night of Verdi's Aida at The Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  Manhattan ain’t want it used to be.  But The Met still puts on a classy show.  The sets were quite an Egyptian spectacle and even included live horses (that weren’t always happy about being on stage).  At one point, I counted more than 100 people on stage!  Now, that’s a production!  Of course, any opera will be judged by the quality of the singing which I feel unqualified to judge.  There were times when I was engrossed and times when I was struggling to stay awake despite the eye-popping sets and stomping horses.

Though most of the drowsy moments were in the first Act when the performances were static and the singing forgettable.  Everything improved as it went along from the orchestra, to the sets, to the singing and the acting.  And while the audience may dress more casual than they should, the Met will always sparkle and is a special experience every time.

Amateur Night: A Professional Night

Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater
Apollo Theater
New York City, NY
October 29, 2014

Amateur Night: A Professional Night

The original American Idol!  Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NYC is a legendary event, not least of all because of the legendary stars that have launched legendary careers after performing at Amateur Night.  Going all the way back to the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s!  I think much of the audience at Amateur Night is hoping to see someone like Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, James Brown, Lauryn Hill or Ella Fitzgerald who previously debuted on the legendary stage.  Well, to bury the lead, we didn’t quite have that luck but what we did see was a consummate display of professionalism that ultimately belied the title of the show. 


The Amateur Night band at the Apollo was fantastic and tight.  The host comedian Capone kept things moving briskly and knew just how to work the crowd.  And the Set It Off Man, Joe Gray, is a class act.  The opening number included Joe coaxing three audience members from the crowd and egging them into a dancing display.  A young Japanese tourist did some impressive break dancing, capped with a backflip, followed by a twerking tourist from Virgina and an old white guy from Vancouver that did a kind of Chuck Berry hoe-down.  I got the feeling there weren't a lot of people from Harlem in the audience.  At least, not on the ground floor.  Next up, was ‘Stars of Tomorrow,’ performers under the age of 15 which were as good as or better than some of the adults.  The adults are subjected to boos and catcalls if they aren’t up to snuff.  But only a couple of the adult performers were yanked from the stage though perhaps that number should been a little higher because there were several moments of deep unrest in the audience.  Though first place probably went to the best performer, second and third place undoubtedly only got through because of a large number of family and friends that packed the audience and cheered loudly for their favorites.  Nevertheless, a very fun night that I recommend to anyone visiting NYC.  Go to the Apollo!

Rodriguez
The Warfield
San Francisco, CA
May 27, 2014

Rodriguez: Sugarman Found      


Almost everything about Rodriguez is unique.  His lifestory is so unusual and compelling that it became an Academy Award winning documentary called Searching forSugarman.  If you haven’t seen the film, you are missing out.  It’s an incredible, heartwarming story about the rediscovery of a 70s folksinger abandoned to the Could-Have-Been pile of history and his unknown fame in South Africa.  And it couldn’t have happened to a warmer, more generous or more genuine person.  Seeing Rodriguez perform live was a special experience, not only because I felt I was witnessing part of his unusual history, but even moreso because his talent really holds up without the Silver Screen treatment.  While many of his recordings sound dated now, they really came alive with his young bandmates.  There are obvious and striking comparisons that can be made with 
Photo by Jana L.
(midcareer) Bob Dylan.  At times, Rodriguez sounded like Dylan’s long-lost brother, perhaps separated at birth - though Rodriguez does sing better.  Rodriguez did look visibly frail at times.  He moved slowly and appeared to have significant vision problems but all that disappeared once he started singing.  His voice was strong and energetic. Crowd favorites, like I Wonder and Sugarman, were given upbeat rearrangements and Rodriguez really seemed to enjoy himself.   He also exhibited a wry sense of lefty humor throughout the evening.  A special night.



Paul Simon’s Graceland: Fire in the Kitchen

Undercover Presents
Paul Simon: Graceland
Jewish Community Center- San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
April 12, 2014

Paul Simon’s Graceland: Fire in the Kitchen

Just two months ago, I was waxing rhapsodically about Undercover Presents as being the Best In Show in the Bay Area live music scene.  While that still holds true, the latest Undercover of Paul Simon’s Graceland, did not quite live up to the lofty standards that were set during earlier UPs of Joni Mitchell’s Blue or Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand.  And though this could be an entire blogpost about the controversial, award-winning classic album and its controversies and award winning, I will resist the temptation.  There's already plenty of That on the internets for those who are interested.  

Despite the one or two disappointing performances last night, there was also plenty to celebrate, including John Vanderslice’s folky 'Graceland,' Diane Gameros’ latin jazzy 'Gumboots,' Afrofunk Experience’s afrofunky 'Under African Skies' and Guy Fox’s indie 'Crazy Love.'  One of the big talking points of the UP Graceland will undoubtedly be the Pacific Boychoir.  A supremely talented and much decorated choir of young boys who performed a fairly faithful rendition of Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s 'Homeless.'  Also, much discussed, in a more negative sense, was the experimental pop of Bill Baird who altered 'You Can Call Me Al' pretty much beyond recognition.  In the end, his performance seemed like experimentation for its own sake.  Walking around in circles in a purple poncho while reciting a pizza order through a distorted mic does not qualify as art, mostly it is just annoying.

While UP’s Sly The Stone Stand! was a nonstop high-octane party, UP Graceland was more mellow and introspective.  Not a big surprise given PSimon's more quiet, literate music.  In fact, the party did not really get going until after a kitchen fire set off alarms and caused the theater to empty out on to the street.  Several of the musicians followed the crowd outside and created an impromptu drum-circle while waiting for the all-clear from the SFFD to go back inside to continue the show.  Then, for the final number, PS's '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,' members of the audience flocked to the stage to dance and drink with the entire ensemble.  A memorable evening to say the least.  (Stay tuned for more UP including an encore of Stand at the Fox and the upcoming UP does Bob Marley.)

Hugh Masekela: The Best of South Africa


Hugh Masekela
The Miner Auditorium
San Francisco, CA
March 25, 2014

Hugh Masekela: The Best of South Africa

There are few artists that can be accurately characterized as a living legend.  Frequently, that honorific is thrown around willy-nilly without any relation to actual accomplishments.  However, master trumpeter and flugelhornist (flugelhorner?) Hugh Masekela is real live living-legend.  He is also a powerful reminder of the power of music.  After three decades of exile from apartheid South Africa, he finally returned when Nelson Mandela was released from prison over 20 years ago.  Hugh has been making music for a long time!  His music is filled with hope, vitality, and defiance.  Things that would threaten any government based on racial discrimination.  It’s hard to be fearful and anxious when listening to Hugh Masekela.   

As a living legend, you also get to play with the best in the biz.  HM was accompanied by some of the most talented cats around at Tuesday’s show at the Miner Auditorium- where, by the way, there isn't a bad seat in the house.  His guitarist, keyboardist, drummer were all ear-opening impressive.  When he puts down the flugelhorn, Hugh also plays a mean cowbell.  Who knew?  More cowbell !  In addition to the unanticipated and welcome sense of humor throughout the performance, I also really enjoyed his tribute to the Bobs:  Masekela performed Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” and Marley’s “Soul Rebel.”   The love felt for Hugh was palpable in the Auditorium including when the crowd burst into a spontaneous round of Happy Birthday in anticipation of his upcoming 75th birthday.  

One highlight was his classic 1968 hit, Grazing in the Grass.  

Sly Stone: The Man Funktastik

Undercover Presents
Sly and the Family Stone
Stand!
The Independent
San Francisco, CA
January 18, 2014

Sly Stone: The Man Funktastik


Epic show with about a million talking points that I can’t possibly cover!  Every band was funking fantastic!  From the opening Awesome Orchestra's uplifting and empowering Stand! to the final funk and soul note!  Undercover Presents, in no time at all, has become the Must-See shows of the Bay Area music scene.  If I were a musician in the Bay Area, I would be begging to be a part of any UP.  Undercover presents a classic album song by song, each one performed by a different Bay Area artist.  Not only does this showcase some of the best musical talents of the San Francisco area, it allows the musicians to showcase their love for some of the greatest tracks of all time.  See, e.g., the longer review of Joni Mitchell’s Blue.  The tribute to Sly’s Stand! was equally exceptional.  The show was super octane charged, each band trying to out-do the previous one culminating in a frenetic funk and soul free for all when the musicians all joined together for “Dance to the Music.”  The best show of the past year and why I love live music.   Huge Show, Huge Night.

A little taste:



video



Thievery: Better Luck Next Time

Thievery Corporation
The Greek Theater
Berkeley, CA
September 21, 2013

Thievery: Better Luck Next Time


The last time, MV&R visited Thievery Corporation, I was blown away by their next generation, multiethnic, multigenre vibe of celebration.  They played a great show at the Fox Theater that made me optimistic for the future of music while living in our dismal world of Justin Biebers and Miley Cyruseses.  There was still integrity and art in music somewhere.  Too bad, that couldn’t last.  This time around, the band sounded older and dated.  Only took a couple years for the bloom to fade.  They also played virtually the same show, song for song, as they did over a year earlier which disappointed and made the future of music seem less secure.  The main problem seems to be in the rotating crowd of singers upon which Rob and Eric, the essential duopoloy that is TC, rely.  They are overly dependent on the singers making good.  This time, their voices were frequently weak and they simply failed to connect as they did at The Fox.  I still have great hope for TC but it was not their night.

Outside Lands: VIP-ing

Outside Lands
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
August 10, 2013

Outside Lands: VIP-ing

Yes, it is that time of the year where it’s difficult to see a top music act without attending a mega-multi-day music-fest.  The mega-multi-day music-fest was designed for 20 years old with more money and more time and more drugs than they know what to do with.  It’s now become a fact of summertime for most major cities to have some kind of music-fest, normally with a goofed up, alliterative/onomatopoeia-sounding name that locks up talent for months in advance.  These fests pretty much suck all the oxygen out of the music scene for weeks and then blow into town like a hurricane.  Chicago has Lollapalooza, LA has Coachella, New York has The Governor’s Ball, Tennessee has Bonnaroo and San Francisco has Outside Lands.  I last visited the great Outside Lands fest in 2010 but decided to VIP it once again this year.  VIPing is the adult way to see a music fest, kind of like riding Business class, once you go VIP, you don’t go back!  Vanilla smelling RVs for port-a-johns, free massages, special food concessions and separate viewing sections allow you to get much closer to the action without squeezing between some drunken louts from Fresno or squealing sorority girls from LA.

Unfortunately, Saturday’s schedule included many conflicts of acts performing at the same time that I’d like to have seen so this review includes what time, energy and other vagaries allowed me to attend.

Gary Clark Jr.
After a short limo ride from downtown SF, the day started with Gary Clark Jr.  A blues master extraordinaire who’s got some major buzz going right now.  Think Stevie Ray Vaughn.  But young, black and hip.  If you don’t like Gary Clarke, you don’t like the blues and why are you even bothering to live?  Buckets of talent and quite a lot of fun.  A good way to ease into the day but a high standard for later acts to follow.  GC Jr played at Land’s End stage, the Big One that the other three stages could fit inside comfortably.  For a taste of Gary, check out  Ain’t Messing Round.  Even better, go see the real deal when he returns to the Bay Area to play the Fox Theater in Oakland on October 2.  I'll be there.

Mother Hips
It’s amazing that a music fest in San Francisco would not feature more hippie jammy jam-bands.  The graying hippie crowd largely had to make do with Mother Hips.  Thankfully, they were quite rocking, quite jamming, quite fun and hit just the right spot in this old hippie heart.  Mother Hips played the smaller Panhandle stage which was nicely intimate and allowed more breathing room and getting down room.  Mother Hips are a talented ensemble that has been around and back and know how to entertain a crowd.  I should probably mention at this point that the sound quality at all Outside Lands stages was fantastic!  The sounds guys were absolutely top drawer.

The Head and the Heart
On to the folk-rock portion of the show.  It was nice to have a little mellow break late in the afternoon before moving on to the Headliners.  My day was developing its own rhythm that was quite nice.  The Head and the Heart are playing in the same uber-popular territory as many folk acoustic indie bands, a la Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, Blind Pilot etc.  I don’t know how this genre suddenly became popular, it’s a bit of a mystery.  The Head and the Heart played at the Sutro Stage, a slightly larger venue than the Panhandle and were enthusiastically received.  Check out Lost in my Mind.

Phoenix
Last Band.  In the distant fog behind us, I could see the lights of Nine Inch Nails on the Land’s End stage but, in front us, Phoenix played a tight set of enjoyable pop songs.  There is really no better pop band on the market today than Phoenix.  The songs are catchy, hook-laden, intelligent, fun.  And that’s what they did at Outside Lands.  However, sad to admit, the set was a little bland.  I had to keep reminding myself not to be too disappointed because they’re just a pop band after all.  I guess my expectations were too high.  They rearranged some songs but, by the time I left, I felt I could have had the same musical experience by putting on a Phoenix Spotify songlist and turning the volume up high.  Fun but I was expecting more. 

Still, overall, a great day.  Bottom-line: will I return to Outside Lands?  Yes, but only under VIP conditions.

Robert Plant: The Gold Standard

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters
Greek Theater
Berkeley, CA
June 29, 2013

Robert Plant: The Gold Standard

Photo by Jana L.
Robert Plant is the gold standard by which all other rock and roll cool is measured.  The former front man of megasuperband Led Zeppelin struts and prowls across the stage like a cat ready to pounce.  Even his advancing years have not slowed him down and have not changed the megasupercool of his expressive voice.  He howls, he screams, he croons.  OK, maybe some of the screaming has been reined in.  However, if anything, he seems a better singer now.  Also, he has not let the megasuperlegacy of The Zep weigh him down. He continues to explore whatever music captures his imagination.  Many of the older Zep tunes that he played on Saturday were completely reworked and not immediately recognizable until he began singing, e.g. “You need cooling, baby, I’m not fooling.”  And then the band and fans would proceed to rock out.  This added an air of unpredictability that kept the audience on the edge of their seats waiting for the next song.

Photo by Jana L.
Last night was a beautiful, rare warm evening in Berkeley, a perfect night to be at the Greek Theater and Robert was In the Mood to party.  To be honest, some of the reworkings of the Zep-tunes were reworked better than others and the more faithful renditions were the highlights of the night, including “Going to California,” and “What is and what should never be.”  Though, all of the songs sounded bigger and more open when played live in the warm summer night.  In fact, the only thing missing was the raw energy of Jimmy Page’s guitar.  The prospect of the reunion rumors coming true next year would be Zeppelicious!  Bobby P opened the night with “Babe I’m gonna leave you” and went on to play “Friends,” “Whole Lotta Love” and “Black Dog.”  He also included almost unrecognizable psychedelic versions of the old blues classic "Spoonful" and the old folk classic, "Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down."

Last year, Led Zeppelin was honored at the Kennedy Awards for their 12 years of sheer awesomeness before the tragic death of drummer John Bonham ended the band prematurely.    (Though the tribute is 20 minutes, it is well worth watching for Zep-heads)  While fellow British bands, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, may claim greater popularity, few bands have been as influential as Led Zeppelin.  Led Zep albums, to me, always seemed at least a step or two above those bands in terms of poetic and artistic ambition and accomplishment.  The Beatles and the Stones were mere pop bands while Led Zeppelin was Rock and Roll.  There was always a chaotic edge to their songs that was dangerous and complex and full of sheer awesomeness.  And, last night at the Greek, Robert Plant recaptured much of that excitement and beauty.  Definite contender for show of the year.

BSSB: Love Yo Mama


Banana Slug String Band
Henry Brother’s Vineyard
June 2, 2013
Angwin, CA (near St. Helena, Napa, CA, in case you didn’t know)

BSSB: Love Yo Mama

On Sunday, world-renowned and award-winning and children’s eco band, Banana Slugs String Band, played a benefit for St. Helena Cooperative Nursery School on a mountain top in Napa.  SHCONS is a parent-run, not-for-profit preschool in St. Helena that believes children learn by play.  Plenty of parents in tie-dye telling their kids to share the organic pretzels.  Even though The Wiggles and the Fresh Beat might get all the children's rock press, really the Banana Slugs was the perfect band for the occasion and obliged by playing all their greatest hits including: “I am a Tree” and “Dirt made my lunch.”  OK, technically it was only two members of the Slugs but it was like Mick and Keith, John and Paul or Robert and Jimmy.  You know, the good two.  And even though the rest of the band were taking a breather, the BSSB still included their infamous giant dancing starfish.  Although BS has been around for some time, there’s always a child somewhere learning about the beauty of the natural world and who is ready to dance like an animal or pretend to be a tree or a moose.  The slugs also included a medley of Dancing In the Streets and Will it Go Round in Circles which had just about the entire crowd on their little feet. And the setting for the concert was idyllic: in the middle of a vineyard.  I may not seek out the Slugs on a regular basis but if you want to instill some respect for Mama Nature in your youngin's, not a bad place to start. 

Junip: Swedish Invasion, part 2


Junip
Bimbo’s 365 Club
San Francisco, CA
June 1, 2013

Junip: Swedish Invasion, part 2

Junip is a mostly, if not entirely, Swedish outfit that plays melancholy folk/rock/psychedelia.  The sound is fairly unique though the songs tend to blend together and their flat studio efforts don’t quite capture the energy and musicianship of their live performance.  At Bimbo’s on Saturday night, they frequently sounded like an American jam band riding the groove which was all good fun and a bit of a surprise.  The only real problem was the late starting time.  After a couple of blah opening acts that haven’t quite found their voice, and after a long, extra warm day in the Bay Area and a

filling, but tasty, meal at Panta Rei in North Beach, my compatriots and I were not particularly inclined to party late into the evening, even on a Saturday.  So, we left mid-set.  Still, Junip is another Swedish group to watch, if for no other reason, because of bandleader Jose Gonzales’ entrancing songwriting.  (He is also famed for ‘Heartbeats,’ the track to one of the best TV ads featuring SF).  Jose has a rather plaintive delivery that can sound both intimate and like he’s singing from some distance away but is certainly one of a kind.  Hopefully, their next studio effort will better capture the live sound. Also worth noting, the show was my first visit back to Bimbo’s in quite a few years, it is one of the lesser known jewels of SF venues that I’d like to frequent much, much more often.

Track to check out: Line of Fire


The Rolling Stones


The Rolling Stones
Oracle Arena
Oakland, CA
May 5, 2013


The two main narratives regarding the Rolling Stones’ 50th Anniversary tour are: 1. Man, those old guys are old and 2. Man, those pricy ticket prices are pricy!  Never let it be said that critics don’t grasp the obvious.  Yes, those guys are old, it’s their 50th anniversary tour.  That’s 50 years, not 50 days.  The Rolling Stones were touring the US before I was born.  Mick Jagger &Co. were a fact of life from when I was learning to crawl.  And, yes, $2000 for VIP tickets is a lot of money.  Good thing it was my birthday and I have a girlfriend who likes to rock!  Actually, we didn’t pay $2000 ($86/song) or $1500 for the tongue pit in front of the stage ($65/song) or even $600 for the floor ($26/song) or even the lowest price $175 tickets since they were all sold out.  Instead, we joined the lottery for $85 tickets ($3/song).   The lottery system could be an entire blog post on its own; suffice to say we didn’t win the lottery and were ensconced rather high up in the arena.  But we could see fine and it was The Stones and it was My Birthday.  So, party on, Garth!

So, yes, the Rolling Stones are old guys.  Older than the US Supreme Court.  Though I don’t know anyone who would pay $2000 to see Antonin Scalia do the rooster.  For old guys, they are more than a little spry.  Mick Jagger has got the moves like Jagger.  He’s got the moooooves like Jagger.  Mick’s dance style with seal claps, and jabby pointing and spinning has always vaguely resembled an old guy trying to get down and now he actually is an old guy getting down.  He scampered back and forth across the stage and around the catwalk nonstop.  It’s no small accomplishment for him to sing at the same time and with the same defiant and teasing voice as when he was 20. I was tired just watching him.  

I also don’t know how Keith Richards is still standing but he is.  At times, he seemed to teeter precariously close to just collapsing on stage.  And his playing certainly isn’t what it once was.  Thankfully Ronnie Wood is back with the gang and can still play a mean guitar.  Of course, KR’s main contribution to The Stones’ history has always been the unforgettable hooks and he can still provide that.

Tom Waits and the Stones
Mick Taylor returns
Also joining The Stones on stage was Tom Waits for Little Red Rooster.  Let me repeat that:  Tom Waits joined RS for Little Red Rooster.  Awesomeness!  Many people can’t handle his very gravelly voice but it was perfect for the tiny scarlet fowl.  And his appearance was probably the highlight of the night when they played a number of less known bluesy tunes.  One more much anticipated guest joining in the fray later in the show was former Stones guitarist Mick Taylor who kind of wandered around the stage a little lost but was enthusiastically greeted by all the band and the audience.  It would have been great to have guests throughout the night.  

There was a monster screen behind the band that was used well: showing videos, live shots and, at one point, a montage of old R&B artists that influenced the Stones during their 50 years.  It’s hard to think of a current band that could do the same.  Will Vampire Weekend or My Morning Jacket be playing shows after 50 years?  I doubt it.  There are plenty of acts past their prime playing Vegas, locked in a time capsule performing parodies of themselves, but The Stones have avoided that trap.  Their longevity is a testament to their once in a generation quality.  There will never be another Rolling Stones.

There isn’t much that can be said about the Stones that hasn’t been said.  Many of their songs have been overplayed by FM radio which is understandable because they are rock and roll canon.   At Sunday’s show, they added new life to one big hit after the next including Gimme Shelter and Brown Sugar and Sympathy for the Devil and You Can’t Always Get What You Want and Tumbling Dice.  The 50th Anniversary tour has all the hallmarks of a farewell tour and the band seemed in some ways to recognize the unlikelihood of another outing when taking their curtain call, savoring the cheers and each other's company.  Having accomplished all they have and survived this long, I can only say, well done, lads.

Los Amigos Invisibles: Fun, Fun, Fun


Los Amigos Invisibles
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA
April 24, 2013

There aren’t many bands more fun to see live than Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles.  Los Amigos play Gozadera music which translates as Merrymaking or Good Times music which is definitely true. They put a lot of effort into their shows which are one long party.  There is a lot of energy between the audience and the band.  No one stands still at a Los Amigos show.  There are no ballads, no breaks.  There is barely a pause from one rocking, funking, discoing, latin rhythm dance song to the next.  They come on stage, hit the groove and the party starts.  Any band that has been around for 20 years is going to know how to play and that is definitely true of Los Amigos.   For a taste, check out: MentirasDiablo.