AFI/Muse and the Black Crowes: Abby Musing

AFI and Muse
Oakland Coliseum
Oakland, CA
December 11, 2009

Senior Correspondent Abby Gregory

There was a rather long lineup of acts at the 'Live 105 Not So Silent Night' show which included many up and coming bands such as 30 Seconds to Mars, Vampire Weekend, and Metric; yet, I was only able to see AFI (A Fire Inside) and headliners Muse. Why would I miss such a hot band as Vampire Weekend? Well, show tardiness is an inevitable outcome when you allow the drunks in the group to plan the public transportation logistics across the Bay from San Francisco to Oakland. In addition, after a few drinks, the necessity for a burrito-run in the Mission also assumed a certain misplaced priority, but you can’t reason with the inebriated. So, I arrived at the Oakland Coliseum just as AFI was coming on stage. Fortunately for me, AFI and headliner Muse made up for our late arrive with two amazing sets.

AFI formed in Ukiah, California in 1991 which is probably why I only recently discovered them in 2006 when they released Decemberunderground, but I have been a fan ever since. This album's first single "Miss Murder" was a huge hit and AFI finally began to receive some overdue recognition. AFI has a punk/alternative sound that has evolved quite a bit over their long lifetime. I have never seen AFI live, and was excited to see them perform. They put on a fantastic set, and included songs from their older albums as well as their new release, Crash Love.

Following AFI, Muse came on to a standing crowd. They performed all of their hits old and new, including a couple of my favorites, “Supermassive Black Hole” from Black Holes and Revelations and the new hit “Uprising” from The Resistance. I am also a recent fan of Muse, so was not familiar with much of their older work, but found their performance to be phenomenal. Their onstage presence was outstanding, they were able to connect with the large crowd and get everyone going, not a small feat when you're the sixth or seventh band of the night. Out of Devon, UK, Muse has been a critic’s darling which is no surprise since their sound is reminiscent of Radiohead. Their latest album, The Resistance, is the band’s fifth album and is truly a broad spectrum musical endeavor- rock with a symphonic overtone.

Both bands put on a great performance and it was totally worth seeing them in a large venue even as late as I arrived. I walked away a bigger fan than ever of both AFI and Muse.

The Black Crowes
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA
December 6, 2009

The Black Crowes formed in 1984 and have had a regular rotation of band members since that time - with the exception of singer Chris Robinson and his brother guitarist Rich Robinson who are the creative forces in the band. They are heavily invested in 1970's Southern rock sound that makes me nostalgic for Led Zeppelin (the Crowes have previously toured with Jimmy Page) and the Allman Brothers, from whom they are direct descendants. The Crowes are big favorites in the jam band scene. I have been an intermittent fan of the Black Crowes since High School. Last year, I rediscovered them again with the release of their album Warpaint and after hearing their new album, Before the Frost….Until the Freeze, this past August, I decided that I really should see them live. They are well-known for long and enthusiastic performances and I could think of no better venue than the Fillmore in San Francisco for such an auspicious occasion.

Before the Black Crowes, Truth and Salvage Company opened the show. I enjoyed their set so much I actually purchased their CD. They also have a great 70's Southern rock sound, and turns out the album is a great listen. It is no real surprise that they opened for the Black Crowes since Chris Robinson produced their CD. They performed a great set, approximately 45 minutes long, and were a nice lead-in for the Crowes.

The Black Crowes walked on stage, and without fanfare, immediately launched into their set. While they played a great deal from the new album, Before the Frost…Until the Freeze, and a few songs from Warpaint, but they did not play as many songs from their older albums as I hoped. They played for approximately 2 hours with no chitchat, or gratuitous information, as some bands are wont to do these days. While an overall solid show, I think it could have used a little more “something.” It just seemed a bit lackluster given their history, reputation and musical capabilities. I am glad that I had the opportunity to see them at The Fillmore though, which served as a great backdrop. All in all, a pretty decent show.

Rickie Lee Jones: Bohemian Troubadour

Rickie Lee Jones

The Fillmore

San Francisco, CA

December 19, 2009

Rickie Lee Jones: Bohemian Troubadour

Who raised this banner/ that no one hears?/ The Jack beneath the axis/ Digging under the current/ Someone’s trying to get back/ But who’s qualified to retrieve the soul’s enduring song?/ from the grottoes of her eyes/ and the clashing of the stars

Throughout my college days, I had this quote from Rickie Lee Jones’ “Traces of the Western Slope” hanging on my dorm-room door. I have a long history with Rickie Lee Jones. I first heard Rickie Lee when I visited my alma mater, Lawrence University, as a high school senior. For a Midwestern boy raised on Journey, Styx and Rush, Rickie Lee Jones was a revelation. Her early days as a bohemian troubadour were far from the power chord ballads, new wave and bubblegum disco that typified FM radio in the Midwest during the 1970s and 1980s. She sang songs about down and out characters in bars and motels hustling in order to get by. Listening to her intelligent, poetic, melodic songs opened me to a musical world that I was only vaguely aware of and set me off down a road of lifetime musical exploration. I think most diehard music fans have had this kind of revelatory experience with some artist and for me it was listening to Rickie Lee Jones.

For most people, RLJ is known, mainly, if not entirely for the 1979 mega-hit “Chuck E’s in Love” which seems to provoke a love/hate response. A later hit, “It Must Be Love,” is less well-known but has appeared in more than a handful of movies and TV shows. However, for me, her second album Pirates will always be my favorite. It contains what I consider to be the greatest love song ever written, “We Belong Together,” and one of my all-time favorite songs, “Livin’ It Up.” RLJ went on to experiment less successfully with various musical styles in later albums, including jazz and trip-hop. But she still has a dedicated fanbase that comes out whenever she tours.

RLJ can be a bit of a mercurial performer. The first time I saw her was in Milwaukee in 1984 when she yelled at ushers from the stage for seating people after the show began. She also wore a short blouse and a sport coat over a pair of panty hose and nothing else. When she leaned over she mooned the whole audience. I was in the second row and had a close up view of, well, everything.

Last night at the Fillmore, RLJ's voice sounded better than it has in years. The crowd was very enthusiastic and she was clearly enjoying herself. The highlights included “Weasel and the White Boys,” a re-arranged “Livin’ It Up,” “Easy Money” (a nearly perfect example of story-telling song-craftmanship) and her cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.” She also did a fantastic version of “We Belong Together.” RLJ was joined on stage by a small ensemble that included bassist and San Francisco native Rob Wasserman, who has previously performed with Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, Lou Reed, Van Morrison and Elvis Costello to name a few. He is perhaps one of the most talented bass players around and added the perfect touch for almost every song. It was a great evening of music and a reminder of why Rickie Lee has a special place in my heart.