Concert file: Jason Isbell and Father John Misty at the Greek Theater in Berkeley, CA

Last Saturday we took our daughter to see one of hers, and our, favorite acts – Father John Misty at the Greek. This was the second time all three of us saw him there, and the third time my wife and I saw him. The first was in LA at the Wiltern on tour for “Honey Bear, I Love You.”

Of the three times we’ve seen him, this last concert was more subdued and shorter. He had some fun new twists on his older songs. For example there was a guitar solo instead of horns in “Chateau Lobby #4”, and an explosive surprise in the middle of “Holy Shit.”

Missing was the great light show, and time for more of his songs. I still think he put on a great show, but this wasn’t just his tour. He’s out on the road with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit alternating between headlining and opening. Both acts split their time evenly, so it’s neither is really an opening act.

I’ve been wanting to see Jason Isbell for a while. He comes through here at least once a year, and with other interesting acts. Last year, he opened for Aimee Mann at the Greek. In some ways he’s more of an anomaly than Father John Misty. He looks and sounds like he should be doing straight-to-Ford-F-150 commercial country. Instead his stuff is more about American shittiness than exceptionalism. He’s definitely a woke white king, which must be hard in the circles he travels in outside of Berkeley.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say that was Blake Shelton from where I was sitting.

Not only is he a pretty deep and thoughtful songwriter, he plays a pretty mean. He took the lead on many of his songs including a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tell Me All the Things You Do.”

The only minor disappointment of the evening was neither played my favorite songs. Every time the guitar tech got out his Les Paul, I thought, finally he’s going to play “Super 8” but nope. Father John didn’t play “Idea Husband” either, which I was expecting in his encore.

As much as I think it’s cool these two artists seem to be touring as buds, I’d rather go to two separate concerts and hear more of each artist’s deeper catalog.

The Lemonheads with Tommy Stinson at Slim’s

Last night we saw The Lemonheads at Slim’s in San Francisco. Tommy Stinson opened doing a solo acoustic act. I tried taking pictures, but they turned out horribly, so the best I can do are these shots of posters that are hanging at the DNA Lounge down the street.

The first act was a trio called the Restless Age. They’re from upstate New York and do a lot of session work. They’re like an updated version of The Band. They had a very early 80s sound about them, think Marshall Crenshaw doing Yacht Rock.

Tommy Stinson put a personable set. He was chatty with the audience, telling us about 11 year old daughter. This was the first time I’ve seen him as a solo act. I’ve seen him a couple times with The Replacements and Bash N’ Pop.

The last time I saw The Lemonheads, they were just “Lemonheads” and it was at Treto’s Uptown in Champaign around 1988 or ’89 around the same time I saw Dinosaur Jr. in their original line up. Coincidentally, I saw the latter a couple years ago at the Regency Theater. So I’ve been digging some GenX Fossils a lot lately.

Evan Dando sounded great, despite looking a little fried. It was great to see a rock star again, and not some clear eyed just happy to be famous newbie up there singing. I don’t think he was clean, but he also wasn’t incoherent.

1993’s “Come on Feel The Lemonheads” still holds up as a decent power pop album. I bought a copy of it in the cutout section in 1995, and still give it a listen a couple times a year. I was hoping to hear some stuff from it, and they did about 5 or 6 songs from it. So I left happy.

2018 in review the concerts

This year was a so-so year for concerts. We didn’t see that many and the ones we did aren’t that memorable. All told I think it was 4 or 5 and I did posts for most of them. We do have one more coming – John Legend’s Christmas Show in Oakland.

Here’s a list of shows we saw and their posts…

There’s always someone playing in the Bay Area, so hopefully in 2019 there will be something good.

Let Me Clear My Throat

I was listening to Marc Maron interview Mike D and Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys yesterday and decided to pick up their new book. I thought it would be a good read for a traveling. I was wrong. I have no idea if the book is any good yet, but it weighs a ton.

Weighing in around 3-4 pounds.

Like a lot of teens from the 80s, I liked “License to Ill” when it came out. But I was totally sick of it by Summer. So when “Paul’s Boutique” came out I pretty much ignored it, despite friends telling me it was worth a listen.

It wasn’t until I saw them live on the “Check Your Head” tour that I really appreciated the Beastie Boys. I had friends who worked for Jam Productions in Chicago and they got us into a show at the Riviera for free.

We missed L7, the opening act, and the show was already underway when we got there. It was total bedlam on stage and in the audience. They were playing their own instruments and tearing it up. All I remember was there was a ton of light. It was not dark like most concerts.

I got up in the shit pretty quick and joined the melee. I had seen several shows there before, but this was the first time they were just letting anything happen. They weren’t stopping any of the stage diving or crowd surfing, so I partook.

What I love about the Beastie Boys is they’re not just a band that played music. They were more like 3 dudes who played with music.

Hopefully the book as entertaining as they were.

Neko Case, Fox Theater Oakland December 3, 2018

Last night we saw Neko Case at the Fox Theater in Oakland. It was the second time I saw her this year. The first, was at The Greek in Berkeley, back in June when she opened for Ray LaMontagne. She didn’t get a lot of time to perform back then, so this show was a big improvement.

Her opening act was Destroyer, which is one of those artist/band one in the same acts, kind of like Bright Eyes. I recognized this guy’s voice as one of the New Pornographers. 

I have tried to see Neko Case for years and it never worked out until now. She did a great set doing a couple songs from different albums going all the way back to her album Blacklisted. 

She requested no recording or picture taking during the show, and people obeyed for the most part. I had to snap couple to document I was there. 

Next Show…

Fleetwood Mac

Last night we saw Fleetwood Mac at the Oracle Arena in Oakland. It was the ugliest crowd I’ve seen at a concert and I’ve been to Tool at the Sears Center.

That’s saying something. Because at the Tool show, I had to ride a school bus from the parking lot where I saw a dwarf in a wife beater with bleached hair. He gave me the stink eye, I assume, because he thought I was staring at his stripperesque girlfriend. 

I was reluctant to go because I hate arena concerts almost as much as 50th anniversary tours of rock bands. We went because my daughter is a huge fan, and especially loves Stevie Nicks; she just twirls and the audience loses their shit. 

In terms of concerts, it was decent – which isn’t the highest praise for a band of their stature. I really wanted to see Lindsey Buckingham play live, but he was fired in April. They replaced him with Neil Finn of Crowded House, and Mike Campbell from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. If you love Fleetwood Mac, it was disappointing. If you love Fleetwood Mac music, it was great. They played all the classics, even went back to their pre-Buckingham days for some blues. They were kind enough to skip songs from “Tusk” and whatever albums came out after 1986. 

Our seats were up in the nosebleed section, and still cost an arm and a leg. They said it was sold out, but you could see some open sections. Whatever the case, I’m glad we went. 

The best part of the show? They did a cover of Tom Petty’s “Freefalling” in the encore with a photo tribute. 

The worst part of the show? The last 10-12 minutes of Mick Fleetwood’s drum solo.

The view from the 4th to last row of seats at Oracle Arena.

Concert Log: Neko Case & Ray Lamontagne at the Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA

I finally got a chance to see Neko Case live. It was a shortened set since she was the opening act for Ray Lamontagne. The show was at the Greek Theater in Berkeley. She sounded great, and played mostly new stuff from her latest album that coincidentally was released that day. Fortunately, she’ll be coming back on her own tour in the winter. I hope to see her then.

Neko Case by daylight.

As for Ray Lamontagne. I wasn’t there to see him but figured what the hell. I know enough of his songs and I’ve seen plenty of singer-songwriters types. I’ve been blown away by the power of a single voice and an acoustic guitar. So I was surprised to see him with a full electric band.

I know he has a reputation as a very private person, but it felt like the audience and his band were interrupting his set. We left early, so I don’t know if he ever interacted with the audience or his band. While we were there he didn’t.

Upcoming Summer and Fall Concerts

We’ve got a crowded calendar of upcoming live shows all at great venues:

Willie Nelson with Kacey Musgraves, August 19 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.
We were watching an interview of Willie on CBS Sunday Morning and I said, I really want to see him before he dies. He’s the last of the real country singers I remember listening to growing up. Lo and behold he was coming.  So we grabbed our tickets. Also, I’ve been wanting to go to the Greek ever since I missed seeing the Ramones there in ’92.

Dwight Yoakam with Los Lobos August 24 at the Wente Winery in Livermore.
We have seen Los Lobos so many times, I’ve lost count. I’m bragging not complaining. I love those guys. The concerts at Wente are a lot like Ravinia in Chicago – outdoors and classy.

John Mulaney October 5 at Symphony Hall, San Francisco.
One of the few standup comedians my wife doesn’t hate. John Mulaney is hilarious, plus this is going to be a gorgeous setting. We’re taking our daughter who loves John too. I’ve wanted to see the inside of Davies Symphony Hall, but not necessarily a symphony – don’t tell anyone.

Father John Misty with Phosphorescent October 7 at the Greek Theater in Berkeley.
This will be our second time seeing him. The first was in 2015 at the Wiltern in LA. By far one of the best shows I’ve seen in years (next to Mayer Hawthorne at the Fox). I love how people think he’s a prick and a pompous ass. It just shows that people don’t get satire. Kind of reminds me of Urge Overkill in that regard.

Roctober

It’s been quite a month musically for me. In the course 8 days, I went to 4 different concerts.
Father John Misty Marquee
The first one was Father John Misty down in LA at the Wiltern Theater. We’ve been wanting to see him for a while. His only Bay Area appearance was a festival with 100 bands I didn’t want to see, so we opted to go south instead.

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A few days later, I took my daughter to Marina and the Diamonds at the Fox Theater in Oakland. She’s a great performer and her music sounds much better live than in recordings. I went with a buddy and his daughter. It’s good thing too, because I had a flat tire waiting for me at 11:30 pm in downtown Oakland. Not the best place for that.

Luna at the Fillmore

At the last minute another friend of mine pinged me to go see Luna at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I’m not a huge fan of shoe-gazing smug rock, but they kept it together. The audience of decrepit hipsters didn’t age so well.

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Lastly, we went to the 29th annual Bridge School Concert. It’s a fundraiser for a very special school started by Neil Young and his ex-wife Pegi. This was our second time, and like last year, it was an eclectic acoustic line up. The biggest surprise for me, was how much I enjoyed Ryan Adams. He’s a prolific songwriter, but he seems like a moody prick. I’ve heard “Give me something good” so many times on XM. But his live, solo acoustic version was much better.

Going to see the Replacements tonight

I’m not a big fan of reunion shows. Like many guys “my age”, I was a huge fan of the Replacements, so I’m making the exception.

The last, and only time I got to see them was at Foellinger Auditorium while I was  at the U of I. The rumor leading up to the show was they couldn’t stand each other anymore, AND they had cleaned up their act. For years, I had been dying to see them, but they never came to the towns where I lived. Since their last album was a little stale, I had lost some gumption.

1991-02-09 A1I was working at this show as part of the student-run concert organization called Starcourse. Surprisingly, it hadn’t sold out right away and to promote it at the last minute we had signs saying “come see them before they break up.”

On the day of the show, I got to be on stage while they did their soundcheck. It was like getting a private concert – with their backs to me. I got that chill down my back when you hear a song live that you’ve only heard recorded.

I’ll try to write more, I have to get going.