Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gotye live in San Francisco, a gorgeous show for a gorgeous record

Gotye at Coachella last weekend (
Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

Last night, Gotye performed at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, in between Coachella performances, fresh off Saturday Night Live. You can definitely say that the Belgian-Australian artist is the hottest ticket of the moment.

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve most likely seen the sexy and innovative video and heard Gotye’s hit tune “Somebody that I Used to Know” featuring Kimbra covered on Glee, American Idol and everywhere else (Maybe you heard me singing it? I can't stop). What you might not know is that the song is not a one-off, but part of a beautifully written and produced album called Making Mirrors which transfers well to the stage.

Wouter “Wally” De Backer’s song-crafting has grown in leaps and bounds since the 2008 “Mixed Blood”. “Eyes Wide Open”, “Save Me” and surprisingly “State of the Art” are exquisite songs which could easily be released as singles.

Gotye has been compared to Elliott Smith, Sting, Peter Gabriel and I would throw Imogen Heap into the mix, creating a genre-defying, sample-saturated wall of sound. Watching De Backer perform these tunes is watching him switch from playing various percussion instruments, sample –filled keyboards and pushing his voice to unfathomable heights in pitch, volume and timbre. Experimental keyboardist Tim Shiel joyfully plugged away at his set of electronic toys.

The only time I felt the music suffered from too much sampling (the five-piece band also included a guitarist and bassist) was in the soul tunes “I Feel Better” and “In Your Light”. Live horns are always better; sampled horns are sort of sad.

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Train at the Fillmore, loving the "Mom Rock"

Many things can be said about the band Train. Originally from the Bay Area, this Grammy-winning band is the quintessential feel-good poprock band and will be forever associated with the cheese-tastic tunes “Hey Soul Sister”, “Drops of Juptier” and “Meet Virginia.”

When I caught wind that Train would be playing six-gig engagement at San Francisco’s most beloved venues including the Fillmore, The Great American Music Hall, Bimbo’s 365, Slim’s and the Independent, I definitely rolled my eyes a little bit. But when I heard that these shows sold out immediately, I decided I had to give this band who’s been working hard for over 20 years the benefit of the doubt.

I loved reading this little article from SFist about this group of mom’s who traveled here from around the country to see all six shows, and camped out early to get a good spot in front of the stage. SFist also coined the genre "Mom Rock" in association to Train. Too funny.

I'll just say now that Train puts on a GREAT show. And as my friend said, “They give a damn” about their fans. Lead singer and front man Patrick Monahan signed dozens of posters and t-shirts from stage mid-song. Some of the items came from the audience, some came from the band.

There were lovely, sappy and endearing moments when Monahan got to show off that he's just a regular family guy: bringing his tutu-wearing young daughter on stage to spin and dance. He also told stories about how much he loves his wife and how he wishes she could have gotten to meet his mother, who “Drops of Jupiter” is written about.

But perhaps the high light of the evening was when San Francisco Giants players Barry Zito and Matt Cain joined Train onstage for a couple songs (Zito plays guitar) incuding Journey’s epic “Don’t Stop Believin’” And of course, the crowd went wild, including yours truly. See a video here. There's nothing like celebrating the beginning of baseball season like that!

Monahan sounds terrific; 20-years of singing at the top of his vocal range has been good to him. The band works it out. Local singer/songwriter Megan Slankard who also opened for Train at the Great American Music Hall earlier this week sang back up vocals. Other bands to open for other San Francisco shows were Finish Ticket, The Family Crest, Jeff Campbell, bringing the local love.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Band of Skulls: straight up rock band

Gonna try posting more often (every day on weekdays? YES!), but shorter posts.

I'd like to tell you about a little band called Band of Skulls who I got to see play live recently. They're somewhere in the realm of the Black Keys, Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club and Jack White. So if you're into that raw rock thing that's gaining traction lately, check them out.

They have a lady bass player/singer who reminds me of Patti Smith, she's a badass.

And, I didn't even realize, but their track "Light of the Morning" was featured in this Mustang commercial I've seen many times. The Fillmore was almost sold out, so YAY for commercial licensing getting the word out about an awesome hardworking band.

And another tune called "I Know what I Am"

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Joy in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the only all-black orchestra in the world

Do yourself a favor and watch this 60-Minutes piece about a community orchestra and choir in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the capitol city of Kinshasa.

Some of the musicians have formal training, most do not. The founding musicians started off sharing donated and restored instruments. Since then they have been able to accumulate enough instruments, one gentleman taught himself to make violins. The conductor, Armand Diangienda, is an ex-pilot who taught himself to play music.

Two tenors walk 90 minutes each way to rehearsals. If I decided to walk to my rehearsals, it would probably take 35 minutes and I wouldn't have to traverse a river.

In this video, these folks perform bits of Orff's Carmina Burana, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", and Verdi's Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves.