As with my 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 Year in Review features, this article looks back on a year of music with a summary of the highlights. This year, I attended about 35 shows, with hundreds of different sets of incredible talent and music to make sense of, not to mention trying to keep up with all of the studio releases from artists, new and old. This is my attempt to (subjectively) share my favorites of the year, from live shows to new songs and albums. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2016 in that separate article.
“…that’s the dream, that together we can do amazing stuff for the right reasons!” Author and event organizer Kelly Corrigan was left nearly speechless on stage as she reflected back on the amazing evening that closed with Coldplay’s Chris Martin and performers from the Oakland School for the Arts covering David Bowie’s “Life On Mars?”. All part of the annual Notes & Words: Benefit For UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland at Fox Theater on Saturday night. The sold out crowd of sponsors, donors and attendees took in a wide ranging selection of entertainment that also included a rocking performance from The Stone Foxes and readings from B.J. Novak and Dave Eggers. There was a lot of emotion throughout the night, though the majority of it was good humor and contagious joyfulness.
“We need a new story, Oakland. Sometimes, you just gotta make it up. It’s called self-preservation.” It was a show that ran a full gamut of emotions, as the ever reclusive Prince opened up to a crowd of what felt like dedicated fans of the iconic artist. The show at Paramount Theatre in Oakland was put up for sale just a few days prior and sold out instantly, so it was likely that those sorts of fans with their ear to the ground were the only ones who had a shot at getting them. Though pricey, it was well worth the price of admission as Prince put up a “fan service” setlist that included many hits as well as favorites that you might not expect from The Purple One. Bathed in a digital kaleidoscope of light throughout the show, Prince (with ginormous afro and shoes with flashing red lights) sat, stood at, danced around, and at one point even lay on top of a grand piano painted an appropriate shade of his signature color. Billed as “Prince: Piano and a Microphone”, he started this concept at his own Paisley Park in Minnesota last month. But it was so much more than that… I think Prince stripped down inspires him to open up so much more, both with his emotions and his music. Truly an unforgettable experience. [Read more…]
As with my 2012 and 2013 Year in Review features, it’s always a challenge to reflect back on a year of music and summarize the highlights. Honestly, I don’t know if I will have have a year that beats 2013, which was an incredible one for me with a lot of travel as well. This year, I ended up attending 60-something shows, most with two or more artists, so hundreds of different sets of incredible talent and music. As such, I feel it is important to highlight the best of the best of the best, in an attempt to celebrate the year that was. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2014 in that separate article.
“Sacramento… you may notice a bit of moisture forming on my forehead… falling down my face… I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘Morris has lost it.’ You may even be thinking, ‘Morris is not cool anymore.’ But let me fix that shit for you, Sacramento. Just like you take a cool bottle of champagne out of the refrigerator, and you set it on the counter… what does it begin to do? See, it sounds like you all don’t know. See, it begins to condensate, Sacramento. Because that’s what you do when you’re cool from the inside out… So please understand, Morris is not sweatin’. I’m condensatin’. And, hell yes, Morris Day is still cool!” Words from the legendary Morris Day from Morris Day & The Time (now The Original 7ven), headlining the Big Block Party by WorldOne Presents at Thunder Valley Casino Resort Saturday night. Having come on stage after the sun dropped out of view, which hit a high of 100 degrees, it left me wondering if the sweat rolling off everyone in the sold out concert venue was from the heat of the day, or the heat coming off the stage from the outrageous funk band, who followed the incredible line-up of Sheila E., Guy, and Doug E. Fresh.
“You know how many hits I got?” The genius at work on his keyboards/samplers toward the end of his initial set (in the midst of a freestyle mix/onslaught of some of the best pop hits of my generation – “When Doves Cry”/”Nasty Girl”/”Sign ☮ the Times”/”Pop Life”/”If I Was Your Girlfriend”/”Housequake”/”I Would Die For You”/etc…). All culminating in a mind blowing rendition of “Purple Rain” (in which Prince made a comment about how he will never get tired of that song). I don’t know if it was just a fantastic audience at the Fox Theater last night, or if Prince simply had the power to bring us to life and in perfect unison with his music, but this one off, last minute (instant sell out) show was certainly one I won’t forget. I’ve never seen the Fox that rocking before (and I’ve seen many shows there) and I would even go so far as to say last night’s show blew away his set of shows played at the relatively tiny DNA Lounge last year (see review Night #1, Night #2). As epic as those were (and I counted the two I went to among the very best of the nearly 100 concerts I attended last year), this one bested them on nearly every level. Truly a musical genius at work alongside the brilliant 3RDEYEGIRL, as though they came down from some other planet for a few hours to illustrate another way of life. Words really can’t describe, and without photos to aid in retelling the experience, it was really something you would have had to have been there for to fully appreciate and understand.
It all started with a late night tweet from the official Fox Theater Oakland Twitter account tonight, announcing that Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL will be playing the venue this Saturday, March 15th. On the heels of epic shows in England and most recently a 4-hour gig in Los Angeles, it looks like Prince will be heading to Northern California to follow up on last year’s four shows across two nights at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco. [Read more…]
As with last year’s 2012 Year In Review, reflecting on the many shows attended in 2013 and trying to make some sense of it all was a challenge. Having attended nearly 100 events, which usually includes at least one supporting act and a headliner, as well as one 10-day festival and many multi-artist shows, I saw literally hundreds of sets. Miraculously, I can probably count on one hand the number that were “bad”, and the majority were awesome in one or more ways. Still, I feel it is important to highlight the best of the best of the best, in an attempt to celebrate an amazing year of music. You can also check out my Top 100 Concert Photos of 2013 in that separate article.
“How do you like your rock ‘n roll? I don’t know about you, but I like mine funky.” Early on in Prince’s “Early Show” Wednesday night – the second evening of his two-night engagement with 3RDEYEGIRL at the tiny 800-capacity DNA Lounge in San Francisco – he let us know what we were in store for over the following hour and a half. And that was the theme of the entire night… funk. Since I already gushed over how the “Late Show” the evening before was one of the best concerts I’d ever been to in my life, I was hoping for more of the same. Well, it was another epic show, but somehow was altogether different from the show the night before. This gave me a different perspective on these concerts, which as precision-driven as Prince is, the concerts overall seem very much like a ripping and spontaneous jam session. A perfect collision of the planned and the unplanned… I got the feeling that there is an overall framework, and incredible planning and timing in all of it, but within that framework is a genius at work – inspired, reacting, and making up brilliant music set pieces as he goes along. He’s not there to please any particular sensibility or set of expectations. He’s there to rock the place out. And boy did he deliver. The highlight for me was, funny enough, when he took over the bass guitar and played that thing in a way I’ve never seen or heard a bass played before. And it was all about funk, without any doubt. $250 plus fees for these shows is a high point of entry, but had I known what I was in for, I honestly would have found a way to go to all four shows in San Francisco this week, they were that amazing. The must-see show of the year, hands down. [Read more…]
I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my life, and for a variety of reasons had never been to a Prince show before last night (as much as I rate him among my favorite artists). I can say, hands down, he is truly the most brilliant performer I’ve ever seen. It is all so effortless and mind-blowing that I can’t really put it all into words (or pictures – no photos were permitted, even from cell phones). Prince and his new all-girl band 3RDEYEGIRL literally sucked all of the oxygen out of the 800 capacity DNA Lounge in San Francisco for his second and final show on Day 1 of his two-day engagement. The only negative was the idea that it was all at some point going to end, but thankfully, I am going to get a second chance for this once in a lifetime experience tonight for the early show on Day 2 at the same fantastic venue, that almost felt as if it was designed to host these very special shows. Not only one of the best concerts of the year, one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to… ever.