Tag Archives: Head and the Heart

The catch-all, clean up post for 2012

Been a busy, busy year.  I didn’t get every show reviewed, but I did get a number of the highlights.

In an effort to wipe the slate clean, here’s a list and a word or two about each one.  And, a hope that I can keep up better in 2013!

January:

Kool and the Gang – PCMA – reviewed

Joe Bonamassa – Baked Potato – reviewed

February:

Frank Turner – SLO Brewery – reviewed

Estelle – Anthology – My niece is in her band, so I was there to have fun and relax.

Frank Turner – Slidebar – reviewed

Frank Turner – Fox Pomona – reviewed

April:

Springsteen – IZOD Center – reviewed

Springsteen – Madison Square Garden – reviewed

Springsteen – Sports Arena – reviewed

Springsteen – Sports Arena – reviewed

Coachella – Three days, four posts…and still didn’t cover it all.  Interesting experience…but not sure I’d do it again.  A few good bands stick out in my mind.  The Head and the Heart, Dawes, Pulp, Bon Iver, M83, Madness, Kasabian, Givers.  And others….like Radiohead really didn’t do much for me.  Coupled with the hit-and-miss, the long walks and the heat.  This will stay on my “glad I did it list”, but not my “I want to go again” list.

May:

Jackson Browne – Largo –  Took a good friend to help give him a break and sadly we had to leave early to rush home for an ill family member. What I did see was  personal and moving.  The last song before the set break really sticks in my mind.  A version of Leonard Cohen’s “Thousand Kisses Deep”.  There’s a version on iTunes you can buy (not from this show, but live….I highly recommend it.)

June:

Head and the Heart – Observatory – reviewed

Beach Boys – Irvine Meadows – Took my nephew and just hung out.  They played a generous and overall fun show.  Nothing to review though.

Spyro Gyra/Lee Rittenour – Hyatt Newporter –  Seen both numerous times over the years…always fun and always the highest quality.

Dukes of September – Universal Amphitheater – Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald….what else can I add to that line up.  Great show, great fun.

July:

Howard Jones – Coach House – Doing two of his best albums complete.  Human’s Lib and Dream into Action.  I went on a whim, my sister passed away the day before I just needed some music.  Not in any shape that night to review, but it was a good show.

August:

Weird Al – OC Fair – I was supposed to see another show at the Fair that missed due to my sister.

Delgado Brothers – Brea Street Fair – Good friends, good music, but not really a show to review…just one to enjoy.

September:

Jack’s Show – Irvine Meadows – Joe Walsh, Pat Benatar, Toto, Mc Hammer, Gin Blossoms and Missing Persons.  Pretty cool show with friends.  The only real miss was MC Hammer, late and not a very good show.  Everyone else was fun.  The Gin Blossoms, Toto and Benatar all totally killed it.  Jow Walsh was a little self indulgent, as was Missing Persons.

Frank Turner – HOB Anaheim – reviewed

Estelle – Greek Theatre – Another trip to see my talented niece perform with Estelle….however LA traffic limited us to the last two songs…We didn’t stay to watch Anthony Hamilton headline…

October:

Elvis Costello – Irvine Barkley – reviewed

Head and the Heart – Wiltern – My third time seeing them this year….and of the same quality as the two shows I’d reviewed.

Joe Jackson – Orpheum – Doing mostly Duke Ellington from his new album, it was a very good and crowd pleasing show.

November:

Counting Crows – Grove of Anaheim – Wish I’d reviewed them…a great show, really a surprise how good they were live.  Loved it.

(I was supposed to see Steve Windwood at the Greek and I was so sick that I had to pass…disappointing.)

December:

Graham Parker and the Rumor – Wilbur Theatre – reviewed

Graham Parket and the Rumor/Lindsey Buckingham/Ryan Adams – Roxy – reviewed

Delgado Brothers – Harvelle’s – New Years Eve show tomorrow night!

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Elvis Costello – Irvine Barkley Theatre – October 2, 2012

I’ve seen a number of amazing shows so far this year.

Bruce Springsteen, four times…each different and each amazing.

Jackson Browne at the Largo holding a room spellbound.

The Head and the Heart at Coachella with the most amazing harmonies floating into the late afternoon heat.

The passion of Frank Turner twice and even the cool funk of the Dukes of September as the covered Buddy Miles, Sly Stone and the Isley Brothers.

But, tonight Elvis Costello put on a jaw-dropping show that I’d hold up alongside any of them, maybe only giving Bruce a slight edge due to the sheer force and power of his shows.  This was a different animal than that…so to compare them would be like apples to hubcaps…just not worth even trying.  Two different things, by two different artists with a clear vision and ability to age not just gracefully, but relevantly as they do so.

I saw Elvis with the Impostors back in 2002 in Long Beach, then I saw him solo in a show similar to this at the Queens Hall in London in 2002.  That show was good, this show was great.  (Even though Richard Thompson guested with him in London…)

Surrounded by an array of guitars and piano, he played a near two hour set that ranged from the feedback soaked loops of “Watching the Detectives” to the un-amplified hushed tones of his set closing “Allison”.  He played the hits, but some of the most compelling moments were the newer songs and covers.  Opening with a strong “Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes” and it’s brilliant opening line: “…Oh, I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused…” that transitioned into one of the best covers of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” since Levon Helm did it back in the 70’s.  That seemed to set the tone for the evening…even though the tour was called the “2054 The Centenary Tour” in a mocking reference to his 100th birthday…(coming up in only 42 years…)  He later mentioned learning after naming the tour that Americans call it a centennial, and thus many had read it as the “cemetery tour” and expected a Halloween show.

He was an engaging host throughout the evening, telling stories about his dad singing in workingman’s clubs, singing a song about his three sons and dedicating a sweet version of “Walking My Baby Back Home” to his “gal” (Diana Krall, who he admitted missing very much in the intro).  It had all the best informality of sitting around and listening to the most talented friend you know play music, but he never wandered too far or slowed the momentum of the show.

Three tracks from his National Ransom album from a couple years ago really stood out to me, as did a gripping version of “Bedlam” from his DeliveryMan album.  The National Ransom songs: “Jimmie in the rain” which told the sad tale of a performer with a suitcase containing a book of poetry and a lariat he used “late at night” with further comments reserved as it was a family show…”A Slow Drag with Josephine” with it’s 1920’s swing…and most grippingly a menacing take on “Stations of the Cross” that traded the produced feel of the album version for a version that was deeper and richer in it’s stripped down simplicity.  I couldn’t find a good solo version on YouTube, so here’s one with the Roots from Jimmy Fallon.

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Other standouts were the hits: “Veronica”, “Everyday I Write the Book” and a ukulele plucked version of the old Glenn Miller standard “I Know Why”.  It was just one of those amazing nights when it all clicks.  Sure, I’d have loved to have heard a dozen different songs…he has a big catalog.  But, I wouldn’t trade a single note out to replace anything he did.

This one goes right to the top of my annual list into some very good company.  Shows like this are why I go in the first place…magic happens that you’ll never get off a recording.

Until next time…

(Which is actually Friday night for the Head and the Heart at the Wiltern!)

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The Head and the Heart – June 4, 2012 – Observatory, Santa Ana

When I committed to writing about every show I went to…I maybe didn’t account for the sheer number of shows I tend to see.  Combine that with work (and the loss of a close friend  a week ago)…and I feel like I’m always apologizing for not being caught up on reviews.  I will get them done at she point….but, I may need to stop going to shows for a week or two!

Tonight I saw the Head and the Heart again.  My first time was in April at Coachella where they were and remain my best find of all the bands I saw all weekend there.  Since that time I’ve had their disc on heavy play and really grown to embrace it even more.  So I was exited to share the show with some friends and with Julie.

First a word about the Observatory in Santa Ana….WOW.

I hadn’t been there in a year, (when it was still the Galaxy) and I saw Eels.  They are still apparently in the midst of renovations.  But, the work so far is great, and the previously barely edible food is now so good that I’d go back just to have meal there.  The alcohol is still a bit pricey, and please…if I pay 8 dollars for wine…can it arrive in a glass and not a plastic cup please?

The first act, Husky (from Australia) were quite impressive in their half hour set.  Some echoes of Radiohead and maybe even Crowded House.  They were a fine start to the night.  Here’s a sample of their sound.

Up next was Moondoggies…another Sub Pop offshoot band.  A little more “jammy” than the first band, I  found them to remind me of Crazy Horse or maybe Wilco.  Also, a solid opener…two for two on the night and both bands I’d be glad to hear again.  Something which is not always the case on a three band bill in this neck of the woods.

I have to say, seeing these two opening acts alongside a band I now love reminds me why I love smaller venues so much…and smaller labels.  This was an evening of real music played by folks who didn’t get into the business to try and find a demographic and sell to it.  Its music of emotion and music played with heart.  In a place this size, there no room to mail it in and no room to hide.  All three bands delivered more than my expectations and I left feeling better than when I arrived…and honestly, that’s why I am so passionate about seeing live music myself.

Which brings me to the Head and the Heart…

I love these guys, they are full of life and obviously loving what they are doing.  It’s so fun to see a talented band on the way up.  It’s all fresh and new and I only could sit and wonder what the years ahead will hold for them?  Will they become huge (a distinct possibility with the solid material and promise shown on their first album)….will the shifting music industry change what success even means and how will that play out for them?  (In other words…will anyone ever really be huge arena level good again?)  No matter what, I really hope for the best for them…because they strike me as nice and ernest kids with a lot of talent.

Opening with “Cats and Dogs”, “Coeur D’Alene” and “Ghosts”, then sliding into “Heaven Go Easy on Me” they set a great early tone for the encouraging crowd.  They dropped in the first of a couple new (and very solid) songs next and then grabbed the crowd with “Lost In My Mind” which Jonathan Russell explained he wrote while riding the bus to work.

Winter Song, and it’s achingly  beautiful vocals followed and frankly it brought a tear to my eye with its stark imagery and sound.

After another new song they did “When I Fall Asleep” from their iTunes Sessions recordings and then “Sounds Like Hallelujah”, finally closing the set with my favorite of all their material “Rivers and Roads”.

Josiah Johnson came out alone for the first song of the encore, a very fine acoustic version of “Honey Come Home” and then was joined by the rest of the band for a rousing “Down in the Valley” to close.  Clocking in just over an hour, it was a satisfying visit by a band with barely one album of material to pull from…they played it all, plus new songs and one from iTunes.  I just couldn’t ask for more.

Winter Song

Down in the Valley

I just can’t say enough about how great they are live.  If you have a chance, see them now while you still can in a smaller venue.

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Coachella Day 2 – April 21, 2012 – The Afternoon

I slept in a little due to the heat, but finally headed back in on the shuttle bus at about noon on Saturday.  I short note about the shuttles is that they were 99% awesome.  Easy parking, a direct route to the shuttle lot.  Nice drivers and staff from Valley Music Travel who run them.  My only minor quibble is the “trudge of death at the end of the night”….you have to do a complete circle around the perimeter of the shuttle lot….that adds something close to a mile to the walk.  After a full day in the sun, that is a killer.  It seems a little reconfiguration of that lot is order folks….please?

I went through both searches fairly quickly.  (You have to be searched when you come off the shuttle and at the gate.)  A small pain, but the guys doing them were pretty efficient and fast.  But, a small tweak here to only require one search would be appreciated when it’s over 100 degrees (103 on Saturday to be specific)…

I headed to the Gobi tent and caught the last couple songs by Spector.  The songs were both decent “Chevy Thunder” and “Never Fade Away”.  I sort of wished I’d caught their full set, but realistically was happy that slept in no matter who I’d missed.  (I”d already downed 4 four bottles of water on the bus and walk in…)  I sort of thought of Gaslight Anthem, but with a British twist.  Some potential there.

I found a nice BBC clip of them from last year:

I have to say, finding groups like these guys is the really cool part of a festival like Coachella (or Glastonbury for that matter).  Nothing like wandering to a stage knowing nothing by band and having them catch your ear.  It may not all be something that lasts and becomes one of your top favorite bands.  But, hearing something fresh beats only listening to classic rock or only stuff you’ve heard for years.  At least for me, it’s keeps my mind open and my iPod playlist rotating with new stuff.  And, you get an occasional Gaslight Anthem, Frank Turner or Head and the Heart who do become a huge favorite.

I stayed at the Gobi and listened to Dragonette in the Mojave from a distance.  Sounded good, a bit like LaRoux from where I was.  I heard later that they had some sound problems.  But, I couldn’t tell from my spot.  It was a nice way to pass the time between bands without venturing into the sun.

Up next were the Vaccines in the Gobi Tent.  They stormed on stage to the Ramones version of “Rock and Roll Radio” which led into “Wreckin Bar (RA RA RA)”

So, a Ramones influence, but I have to say….I was never a big Ramones fan.

(Side note: I took a date to see the Ramones at Crawford Hall in Irvine in December of 78…we had awesome seats in the 3rd row, but we were both sadly not too impressed….after about 45 minutes (which was like 20 songs…) I asked her if she was enjoying it and she said “not really”…so, we bailed out and left.  Yes, my only time seeing the critically acclaimed Ramones, and I left early.  Not sure if that makes me dumb, or really smart, but after 40 minutes I really felt I’d seen pretty much all they had to offer.  Respect to them, just not a huge fan.)

Anyway, the Vaccines we fast, loud and brash…the most interesting thing was a few sort of rockabilly guitar riffs buried in there.  The crowd dug them, but I can’t see myself rushing out to buy most of their stuff.  They played a new song “teenage icon” that stood out to me…so, maybe there’s some potential?  Here’s a pretty good clip someone shot of that.  (I would be behind him to the right about 50 feet.)….

However, all that being said, their closer “Norgaard” was a nearly perfect song, crowd, attitude, time of day, etc.  My only note after the song title is – “awesome song”   So, I guess you could say that they sort of won me over in the end and I had fun.  Another of those “festival” moments where you try something out of your zone and walk away glad that you did.

I broke for some lunch and had a nice chat with some random college kids sitting around me who were from all over the country and who’d all made the trip to the festival.  It was really nice just sitting in the shade, chatting about bands we’d seen and letting the world pass by for a few minutes, don’t forget to take a quiet minute or two at a festival.  Relax, it’s supposed to fun, not some marathon to try and see every act.  Sit a chill for a bit now and then (although using the term chill in the context of that heat wave is sort of odd.)

I decided after a bit to head to see Big Pink.  I caught most of their set, and it was all not familiar to me.  A bit like the Vaccines in some ways…mostly that I wasn’t really grabbed initially by the set.  Unlike the Vaccines, they didn’t really win me over in the end.  Another festival rule is that you just may not like everything you hear, no matter how hard you try to only hit the highlights.  It wasn’t that they weren’t talented….the girl they had drumming really was quite good.  They just didn’t really catch my ear.  Here’s a sample:

Next up was the Head and the Heart, which I reviewed already as a stand alone post….best set of the weekend for me.

After Head and the Heart I went and got a CD signed at the record tent by both Head and the Heart and Kasabian.

Once done, I started to head over to see Laura Marling.  But, I decided on the fly that since I’d seen her in London, I’d check out Manchester Orchestra and wait for Squeeze.  In retrospect, I’d much rather have rather seen Laura (or Noel Gallaher if it wasn’t still so damn hot).  Of the three songs by Manchester Orchestra that I heard…two were not very impressive.  The last song (not sure of the title) rocked much better.

But, I seemed to be all afternoon in a sort of an up and down pattern…I’d see something epic and then something that was blah….Nothing was downright horrible (as I noted above), just blah, derivative or maybe even boring.  The chances you take at a show like this…they can’t all be winners.

At least the drummer had a really awesome beard….

So, really not a bad afternoon considering the heat, I’d seen most of what I’d hoped and a one big highlight band.  I’d even gotten a couple CD’s signed.  So, I would deem the afternoon an overall success.

Next up was Squeeze, but I’ll save them for my evening review!

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Coachella – The Head and The Heart – Saturday, April 21, 2012 – Mojave Tent

I have so much to write that I just have to start somewhere.  So, now that I’m home I think I’ll start with my biggest surprise and best set of the whole weekend.  The Head and the Heart are a Seattle band who play sort of folkie pop with a lot of harmony.  They were on my radar for the show and I’d even bought their disc and added it to my iPod.

But, I wasn’t prepped for just how good they would be live.

Driving home today I was doing a lot of thinking about why I go to concerts and what drives me and makes me care about seeing live music so much.

I’ve decided that a big part of it is that element of chance…that moment when all the pieces fall into place, the hair raises on the back of your neck and you hear something etherial that only exists for that moment in time.  Sure, you can buy a recording.  But, it will never quite have the same mystery and randomness as hearing something so perfect live and right there in front of you.  I’ll admit that music can actually move me to tears on the right occasion.  It’s something that’s not predictable or genre specific.  It’s just a feeling, one that is near impossible to define as I try to write about it tonight.

One of the cool things about attending a festival is that you increase the chances for that sort of moment.  And, on the mid afternoon of the second day of the festival one of those moments clicked for me.

The Head and the Heart played for less an hour and only ten songs.  But, from the very start of “Cats and Dogs” which segued into “Coeur D’Alene” they had me hooked.  They have a wonderful blend of voices, and any band with such tight harmonies is usually a winner in  my book.  I liked the instrumentation and arrangements, they were tight and locked in right out of the gate.  I respect that in a band and appreciate it no matter what style or genre they might play.

Next up was “Lost in my Mind” followed by a new song whose title was not mentioned (Maybe “gone are the days”?  That was at least one of the lyrics.)

From there they moved to “Winter Song” giving violinist/singer Charity Rose Thielen an opportunity to shine on vocals.  As on their CD  they followed with “Sounds Like Hallelujah”.  “When I fall asleep” from their iTunes sessions was followed by “Heaven go easy on me”.  Next to last was “Down in the Valley” which is the place that I really felt it all totally come together for me.  I wasn’t thinking anymore about how hot it was, how many shots I had left on my camera or who I might go see next.  The blend of soulful voices and sparse instruments before me was locked in and too beautiful to not just listen until they were done.

The last song was “Rivers and Roads”….it’s simple lyrics that I’ll put here can’t really convey the depth and feeling that was evident in the forceful delivery by the band.

a year from now we’ll all be gone
all our friends will move away
and they’re going to better places
but our friends will be gone awaynothing is as it has been
and i miss your face like hell
and i guess it’s just as well
but i miss your face like hellbeen talking bout the way things change
and my family lives in a different state
and if you don’t know what to make of this
then we will not relate
so if you don’t know what to make of this
then we will not relaterivers and roads
rivers and roads
rivers ’til i reach you

The repeated a cappella  chorus  of “rivers and roads” washed over the crowd and was sung with a ton of unspoken context that you just can’t easily define and print onto a page…you just have to hear it.  Honestly, this was one of those songs that looks a bit trite when written out in front of you, but it just comes alive when performed.

It was perfectly done out there in that field in Indio.

I walked to the record signing tent after the set and I had a chance to chat with the band.  I told them just how great it sounded.  Josiah (one of the lead signers) shook my hand, introduced himself and said that they “felt it too”.  It’s a bit of a blur, but one of them said that it was their best set in a long time.  True or not, it was really gratifying to hear that from them.  Since this whole “live music” thing for me is really about connecting with something that is fleeting, it was good to know that (at least sometimes) it’s not just in my head, but is part of an experience that’s even shared by the folks performing and creating on the stage.

So yeah….I guess that you could say I liked their set….a lot.

Here’s a live version of “Rivers and Roads” from last year’s SXSW.

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