Tag Archives: concert review

Jessie Ware returned to San Francisco for a sold-out show at the Fillmore on Nov. 18. She performed at Outside Lands earlier this year. (Photo by Mia Orantia)

British Phenom Jessie Ware Rocks the Fillmore

Before knowing who Jessie Ware was, I was told two things about her. The first was that she has worked with my favorite English electronic music duo Disclosure. The second was that she is “the missing link between Adele, SBTRKT, and Sade.” Instantly, I fell in love with the idea of Jessie.

Upon seeing her at the Fillmore mid-November, she surpassed my high expectations. Song after song, note after note, Ware hit every mark in front of a sell-out show crowd. She gave shine to many songs from different periods of her career, but mainly focused on songs from her most recent album “Devotion.”. Knowing the subtle sophistication of “Devotion,” I was happily surprised to find myself dancing along. Her smooth sensual voice soothed the soul, as all cares began to slip away.

More impressive than her flawless vocals was Ware’s glowing stage presence. Her charisma made me feel like I was reuniting with a long lost friend. Ware’s casual composure was shown throughout song breaks when she would play with the audience, calling herself a “good Jewish girl” and cheering out “L’Chaim.”

It was easy to forget that Ware is a world-renowned singer with an album that some called one of the best of 2012. However,  her stardom is something we cannot forget. In an age where revealing clothing and the selling of sexual appeal have become norms for many female musicians (I’m looking at you Miley,) one must not forget that there still are many women achieving incredible musical feats regardless of image. Jessie Ware may or may not be the missing link between Adele, SBTRKT, and Sade, but one thing is sure, this classy lady sure can rock a stage even in a pant suit.

M. Ward Raves On at The Fillmore

There’s something undeniably sexy about a brooding singer-songwriter behind a Gibson Custom Johnny A. guitar. Seeing Matthew Stephen Ward, better known by his stage name M. Ward, live at The Fillmore on Wednesday, April 11 was an experience comparable to frolicking in a field of flowers. If you’ve never listened to M. Ward or frolicked in a field of flowers, you have not yet fully lived.

The opening band was a relatively unknown singer-songwriter Jonathan Richman. Part comedian, part musician, and part ecstatic dancer, Jonathan made the crowd laugh with partially improvised songs about life, love, tai chi, and the “spooky” appeal of Vermeer paintings. If there’s one thing I learned from Jonathan Richman, it’s that the other Dutch artists Rembrandt and Jan Steen don’t even compare to Vermeer and his petite 9” by 13” paintings. Between verses he often dropped his guitar and broke out in bizarre pelvic thrusting movements reminiscent of a jellyfish on psychedelics.

When M. Ward finally came out on stage, the crowd went wild. Though the performances started out a little sleepy, by the end of the night everyone was dancing along (though admittedly not as enthusiastically as Richman’s sweet moves). The show was a good mix of M. Ward’s older hits such as “Requiem,” “Chinese Translation,” and “Fisher of Men,” as well as songs like “Primitive Girl” and “The First Time I Ran Away” off his new album “A Wasteland Companion”, which dropped on April 10. He even threw in some surprise gems like “Whole Lotta Losing” by Monsters of Folk, a supergroup collaboration between M. Ward, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and a Chuck Berry cover of “Roll Over Beethoven.”

Overall, the performance was polished. With touches of violin, trumpet, harmonizing steel guitars, and percussion, M. Ward’s crooning vocals really showed off his potential as a frontman. I had never seen M. Ward perform alone, other than backing up Conor Oberst at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival last year, or as the “He” of She & Him, his side band with the beautiful actress/vocalist Zooey Deschanel. Though M. Ward gives off a very “chill dude” persona, he can definitely hold his own under the spotlight as a solo performer. Even in the plethora of artists of the “introspective-indie-folk-singer-songwriter” scene, M. Ward shines as a talented musician – both in his soulful vocals and his intricate guitar work.
It was also interesting to see the crowd M. Ward attracted to the Fillmore. The patrons varied from young hipsters discussing their upcoming plans for Coachella, middle-aged couples slow dancing in the back of the room, to aged hippies lighting up during the set.

With the glitz of the chandeliers and the perks of free apples and M. Ward posters, the Fillmore was a perfect venue for the show.

For all you lucky individuals attending Coachella this weekend, make sure to check out M. Ward’s set on Friday April 20.

British Punk Group, Sharks, Rocks Out with Social Distortion and Frank Turner

Since their formation in 2007, a band called Sharks has exploded onto the punk scene. Hailing from England, their sound has been likened to that of punk-rock forefather The Clash, producing songs that are high energy and infinitely re-playable.Just shy of the one year anniversary of their first U.S. headline show at Berkeley, Sharks seems to be plunging headfirst into the music world and heading towards a bright future; they recently finished a run with Warped Tour and are currently touring with the legendary band Social Distortion. In addition, they’re releasing their latest album No Gods on March 20th.

Despite their success, it’s apparent Sharks possesses remarkable maturity not in just sound, but in the character of its members. When they sat down with me after a recent show at the Fox Theater in Oakland, I was pleasantly surprised by the down-to-earth nature of the entire group. This impression was solidified by drummer Sam Lister who noted, “Not one thing has changed in my personal life. I still have a job back home, and a girlfriend. I go home and get bored just like anyone else but it makes you appreciate all of it more.”

Singer and guitarist James Mattock, who provides uniquely rough but unclouded vocals and enthusiastic instrumentals, was rather soft spoken when discussing the band’s success but seemed incredibly optimistic, “[Over the past year], we’ve experienced Warped Tour and we’ve had a record. We went to Japan, that was cool, toured the U.S. and had a change in the lineup. It’s great now, it feels like we’re more complete and prepared.” Chemistry is exceptionally important to the Sharks, Mattock maintained “[guitarist Andrew Bayliss] will bring me a guitar part and that’s enough to inspire me to write [lyrics]. Our approach is difference, that’s what makes Sharks, the chemistry- we all have something different from each other”

Regarding their links to revolutionary punk bands, Mattock was exceptionally modest. On their current tour with Social Distortion, he said “It’s amazing, they’ve influenced us a lot, obviously, with their lyrics. It was incredible when we were asked to tour with them for the second time.” When Sharks’ constant comparisons to The Clash was mentioned, Mattock explained “We had this raw sound making music, scraping everything we had together to make our songs. I think that and our high energy is why people compare us so much to them.”

This high energy will continue to characterize Sharks’ upcoming album “No Gods” Mattock hinted, saying “We had a lot more time to really bring out the songs this time, we had five weeks in the studio, far more than what we’ve had before. We focused a lot more on the songwriting and let it really come together rather than just throwing in the energy but that will still be there.”

The energy and chemistry of the band’s members lends to the utter power of this band’s sound, which also features artful guitar riffs by Andrew Bayliss, dynamic drumming from Sam Lister and rather intricate but decidedly solid bass work courtesy of Tony Corrales, who also packs a punch of showmanship. In spite of their maturity and coveted status as an up-and-coming act, they were unabashedly excited about their excursion to San Francisco, which they were planning at the time of the interview. Bayliss mentioned “We love San Francisco, it’s great. I’m looking forward to visiting Alcatraz tomorrow. I hope it will be good.” It is indeed their grounded nature that sets their talent apart, giving them and their music a relatability that transcends their punk sound.

Wu-Tang Clan “Brings da Ruckus” to San Francisco

On January 22, The Wu Tang Clan came to San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom to live up to their name as one of the most legendary and influential forefathers of ‘hardcore’ hip-hop. Before the performance started, the crowd demonstrated their enthusiasm by chanting out lyrics of some of Wu Tang’s most famous songs like “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit” before the beginning of the show. The anticipation and excitement of the crowd was almost unbearable by the time that the show began.
As Wu-Tang exploded onto the stage RZA, the mastermind and forefather of Wu-Tang, commenced the show by spraying a bottle of pink champagne all over the crowd. Wu-Tang started the set with “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit”, arguably their most famous and recognizable track. With high energy, Wu-Tang continued with other notable songs off of their tour de force album “Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).” Opening with all these famous songs was a very intense and unexpected way to start the show. The audience was extremely enthusiastic during the entire time that they were performing songs from “36 Chambers” as they danced, sang, and flashed the “W” Wu-Tang hand signal.
Once Wu-Tang finished their section of the concert dedicated for “36 Chambers,” the next three songs were from GZA’s notable album “Liquid Swords,” hinting to the crowd that they were going to be performing their songs chronologically. The highlight of these three songs was “4th Chamber (Feat. Ghostface Killah, Killah Priest & RZA)” because of RZA’s extremely enthusiastic performance. Also, Method Man put on an impressive performance because he was wearing a leg brace and was sitting in an office chair. Despite his injury, he still somehow managed to do a stage dive, which was incredible to say the least.
Wu-Tang performed a lot of songs from solo albums of Clan members. This came as a pleasant aspect that added to the diversity of performance material for the concert. It also gave the crowd the opportunity to give praise to each individual member during the performance. A memorable instance of solo album song performances was when they played “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard. This gave the crowd and Clan the chance to pay homage to the fallen member by pointing to the sky during the song, and having everyone chant “Ooh baby I like it raw”.
Wu-Tang completed the show with the song that started their whole musical career, “Protect Ya Neck.” They performed a quick encore with “Gravel Pit” from the album “The W”. Overall it was an impressive performance.
It had all the best aspects of a concert – a great set list, spot-on execution, collaboration from the performers, and high energy performances. Wu-Tang lived up to its name and brought the ruckus to SF.

Mason Jennings Softly Rocks the Fillmore

The audience seems less like an audience than a congregation. There are many smiling faces, an enormous range of ages, fathers and daughters, couples arm in arm, modest outfits, lots of swaying back and forth, and seemingly not a single drunk person.

Mason Jennings isn’t a rock n’ roller. His songs are mellow, his lyrics uplifting. But who’s ever heard of a concert with zero catcalling and not a single whiff of marijuana smoke? The audience sings along, but quietly. They bob their heads. There are signs of moderate foot-tapping. Occasionally they’ll uncross their arms to clap, and then re-cross.

The Jennings fans reveal their capacity for excitement early into the show when an earthquake rumbles through the Fillmore, turning legs to jelly and inciting a cacophony of nervous chatter. The opening band plays on, and the audience quickly returns to looking mildly interested and picking at their cuticles. Overall, they’re about as energetic as Jennings himself.

Jennings shares the stage with just one other performer, a charming musician named Jake Hansen. They rotate instruments, alternating between drum, bass, keyboard, harpsichord, and cucumber-shaped maraca. Jennings is the singer and supposedly the star of the show, but I feel far more compelled to watch his counterpart, whose lanky body’s spastic beat-keeping is both fascinating and endearing.
The duo’s musicianship is great—the groove is tight and danceable, the guitar-playing is intricate, but the vocals don’t measure up to the instrumentals. This is partly because Jenning’s stage presence is muted and his voice falls just a little flat. It’s also because his lyrics are moronic.

“Sweetheart, this is my dream come true/ And god bless the babies,” Jennings croons. I scan the crowd for signs of nausea, but everyone else seems unaffected. In fact, they look happy. Maybe they don’t speak English.

Jennings’ style is reminiscent of Jack Johnson, a long-time friend and touring partner. However, a few of his songs include a notably-un-Johnson like kind of spoken-word that sounds straight out of a School House Rock recording. After this thought comes to me, I believe the comparison is affirmed when he starts the next song with a wide-eyed exclamation, “Goodness me!”

Mercifully, this is actually the beginning of a comedic song about a cheating girlfriend. This knowledge provides some relief, but Jennings’ sense of irony ultimately isn’t strong enough to stamp out the overall feeling that he’s an overgrown camp counselor, busting out his guitar to accompany the s’mores.

Similar to a camp counselor, Jennings is a likeable guy. In between songs he’s smiley and sincere as he talks about his wife and kids. I feel guilty as I obsessively check my watch, not wanting to offend this guy who clearly means so well. I’m mentally figuring how many more songs he’ll play before I can leave when Jennings breaks into a cover of the Ramones.

This changes everything. As Jennings and Hansen wail through “I Wanna Be Sedated, the duo takes on a new life. Whether it’s just better songwriting or renewed energy on stage, there is now real dancing and audible vocals from the audience. I’m no longer sure what time it is.

After his foray into punk rock, Jennings calls the Pines, his opening band, to the stage. Jennings and Hansen accompany the Iowa-bred trio through one of their beautifully ethereal folk songs that had enchanted he through their set. The six men on the stage are clearly happy to be there playing with each other, and the feeling is infectious.

Jennings closes out the show with a Woodie Guthrie song, only returning to his own catalog for the encore, which he plays with an excitement and earnestness that had been completely absent in the first three quarters of his set.

Despite the show’s turnaround, I’m glad I didn’t have to pay for the ticket, but most of the concert-goers around me feel differently. “That was great! Didn’t you think that was great!?” one man yells excitedly at what looks like his teenage daughter. I’m not Jennings’ target audience.

I’ll never understand the appeal of soft rock, much like I’ll never really understand the appeal of going to church or being a member of any congregation.

In truth, the excitement of the earthquake that shook the stage during the opener’s set was the highlight of my night.

2 Door Cinema Club Gets the Crowd Dancing at The Warfield

10.20.11 Foghorn 4

The marquee outside The Warfield Theatre read “Two Door Cinema Club,” signifying the long line of concert-goers that waited for hours down the street. A good number were in the box office line, only for staff to come out and announce they only had four tickets left for the night. Five months after their second ever San Francisco show, at the Fillmore, Two Door Cinema Club returned to the city, to a bigger venue and a completely sold out crowd.

The Lonely Trees were the first openers, likeable and fresh, a good way to start out, but not super memorable. Grouplove from Los Angeles came after, with a stronger stage presence and interesting sartorial choices: drummer in colorful boxer briefs, the bassist wrapped in a Union Jack and old hat, the guitarists looked straight out of a Haight-Ashbury thrift shop, and the keyboardist wore an eccentric black lace dress with a completely sheer skirt. They shared their eager energy with the audience and got them dancing to their own brand of Cali indie rock. In between during set breaks, dance music that the fans had grown up on, like Daft Punk, was played. The band hadn’t even arrived but the Warfield turned into a mini rave as the audience jumped and sang along, it was euphoric already.

From the moment “2DCC” as they’ve come to be called, stepped onstage, ecstatic screams from the crowd were so loud that you couldn’t even hear your own. As the first beats to “Cigarettes in the Theatre” began, the strobe lights seemed to be going off a million times per second, and the crowd’s anticipation could be felt in every way, leaving it hard to breathe. The night was definitely worth every second of the five hour total wait for the boys from Northern Ireland. The shimmering high notes peeling from Sam Halliday (lead guitarist) and Alex Trimble (vocalist)’s Gretsch and Fender guitars set the crowd adrift into a frenzied sea, the floor was being jostled back and forth, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. It was impossible to move, but impossible not to dance. Meanwhile, Benjamin Johnson, a blonde blur attacking his drum kit in a Fred Perry polo, and Kevin Baird on bass sparked the perfect rhythm to jump and clap along to.

The beautiful, intimate Warfield was the perfect setting for songs from their debut album, Tourist History (2010, which won Irish Album of the Year), especially when the audience sang along so loudly to their favorites like the fast paced “Undercover Martyn” and “What You Know”, heightening the emotion in Trimble’s lyrics. Not surprisingly for this band, new material that had just been debuted at this summer’s Glastonbury festival like “Sleep Alone” and “Handshake” were well memorized by the crowd. Though Tourist History was just released last February, and the band seemed to break out everywhere this year, it feels as if the four have been performing live for much longer.

The whole thing was punky in the “old school London in the 80’s” way in that many of the songs were short, sharp and energetic. Just the feeling of being in San Francisco lent itself to the dance party atmosphere, and it was easy to see that Two Door Cinema Club was happy to be here. The youth of the crowd was obvious and explained the electric spirit and exhilaration, barely containable. The band themselves were charming (It’s more than the accents. They manage to come off as shy and show off-y at the same time, greatly enthusiastic but calmly cool) and polite – Trimble apologized for technical difficulties in his soft voice, throwing some choice words in of course. His famous ginger hair flailed around every now and then, illuminated by bursts of strobe light. (On another memorable note, the resemblance between Baird, Trimble, and Halliday with a certain Harry, Ron, and Neville is striking!) Their talent as live performers and songwriters promises that they’re far more than a flash in the pan; they’re a unique, here-to-stay band that’s working towards being part of defining a time.

The night was spent immersed in bright melodies punctuated by Two Door Cinema Club’s trademark electro sounds and a crowd loudly in love with them. It finally finished off with their “I Can Talk,” sending the audience into a final frenzy true to sparkling fashion. Undoubtedly, one of the most passionate shows of 2011, and one to remember for years.