Don Henley, Janet Jackson, Garbage in Chicago and Madison, Madonna, MS MR, and The Best Worst.
October 5, 2015 Don Henley (with Shawn Colvin opening) at Nob Hill Masonic
I am in no way a fan of the Eagles. Life in the Fast Lane, Hotel California, Desperado, Witchy Woman, all of those songs kind of annoy me. Strangely, though, I really like Don Henley’s solo material. So when it came time to want to go see Don Henley on tour, he went and reunited with the Eagles. No solo material for fourteen years.
Finally, Henley announced both a new album and a tour in 2015, with the second tour stop hitting San Francisco’s Nob Hill Masonic. We were excited, but yet, reluctant because the album is a bunch of Country and Americana tunes and we weren’t sure what that would mean for the show’s setlist.
Nevertheless, a little bit of country hasn’t stopped us in the past from getting concert tickets. We got great seats. Shawn Colvin’s opening set consisted primarily of cover tunes by male artists from her first covers album (Cover Girl) and her 2015 covers album (Uncovered). You’d think I’d be interested in a bunch of the material but instead it was dry and boring and literally put me to sleep.
Henley’s set started with a fantastic a cappela blending of voices as his band huddled together around some stage microphones. It then went through a roller coaster ride of Country, Americana, soul, 80’s rock and roll, some synth pop and just enough surprises to make the show weird. It was a very eclectic mix of material that included songs from the new album and classics from Henley’s extensive back catalog as well as some unique cover tunes from artists like Randy Newman, Screaming Jay Hawkins and Tears For Fears among others. His band was fantastic, even though he only used 6 members of his horn section for one song. He had a huge band full of talented musicians who really brought it. I wish he had utilized some of them more but that’s really my only complaint for the night.
It was great to see Don Henley in concert and there’s really only one rock drummer who went solo left that I’m dying to see in concert. Phil Collins, you’d better make good on your tour teasing and come play for us in the coming years!
October 14, 2015 Janet Jackson at Bill Graham Civic
We never got to see Michael Jackson in concert. His big comeback shows never happened due to his untimely death. His sister Janet has lived a controversial life herself, but surprised us with a new album and tour as well this fall.
When I saw the setlist, I was astonished. How could she get through such a lengthy set from her catalog of hits, each night on a worldwide tour? Part of that question was answered when a number of shows leading up to our show were canceled so that she could rest her voice.
The show itself was essentially a Janet Jackson megamix. It felt like the merging of a punk rock show and a dance pop show with an interwoven story in scenes shown on a front drop curtain every once in a while.
Janet and her band did all of the big dance moves we wanted to see, got through at least one verse and chorus for every hit we wanted to hear and still sent the crowd home early enough to put the kids to bed on a school night.
I liked that she did so many things for her biggest fans on social media. A crawl of tweets and Facebook replies showed how her team marketed for that subset of die hard fans. She also put her backing vocalists and dancers at the center from time to time. Despite the fact that we are all getting older, she cranked out a great performance and definitely sent us home happy.
October 17, 2015 Garbage at Riviera Theatre (Chicago)
It took us 20 years, but we finally headed to the midwest to see Garbage in their home territory. Night one was in Chicago and beforehand, we did what any other respectable visitor to Chicago would do. We nearly froze to death.
The rental car shuttle took a lot longer to arrive than we anticipated. It was rather cold and windy, as would normally be the case in Chicago. We had taken a cheap flight on Frontier, red eye, and didn’t have room for big cumbersome coats.
The flight itself was actually rather pleasant and while I have heard tons of bad things about Frontier, I have zero complaints.
The rental car shuttle got us to our rental car pickup area around 6am and I called on the off chance to see if our hotel room would be available for early check in. It wasn’t.
We found the O’Hare Oasis on the tollway and spent a good amount of time resting there and adjusting to the Chicago climate. A nice fast food breakfast and some time to reflect gave me the idea to go to Wal-Mart, buy a heavy blanket and rest in the car in their parking lot for the morning.
The idea came to fruition and we found a Wal-Mart store that seemed somewhat safe. We got a comforter that was nice and warm and slept for a few hours. When we woke up we freshened up at Wal-Mart and saw a guy peddling Krispy-Kreme outside. He was pretty dedicated as it was pretty cold out there.
We headed to the Bang Bang Pie and Biscuit, a place recommended by Max Temkin of Cards Against Humanity, a Chicago resident and a guy we’ve come to trust on his food recommendations over the years. It was good. I had some really great granola, a pot pie, a biscuit and a slice of pecan pie. It was all pretty awesome actually. It was good fuel to start out our day.
We next stopped by the Cards Against Humanity Some Office and took photos out front. We didn’t realize it at the time, but they had an open house that day and we actually could have gone inside with permission. Oops. It was still cool to be able to take silly fan photos outside the front door and their marquee.
After another short drive, we decided to check in to our hotel and rest for a bit and then headed to the Riviera for our VIP soundcheck.
The staff at the Riviera weren’t very organized for those of us with VIP tickets but eventually we got everything sorted and were inside in plenty of time for our soundcheck and Q&A experience.
We had awesome balcony seats for the show, and some small tweaks to the setlist to break up the album with b-sides and rarities rather than playing straight through helped keep a higher energy level in the band and the crowd than they had in Oakland. It was a great concert put on by one of our favorite live acts ever.
Afterward, we headed to Diner Grill, a 24 hour diner grill. We split a slider there, which was a two hamburger patties, two eggs, cheese, and chili on a bed of hash browns. It was not a pretty meal but it was tasty. Turns out the cook behind the counter was Kenny, the manager who has been there for nearly 15 years. I just learned that by doing a search to fact check the ingredients. There was a group of sports fans who came in and ordered take out while we were waiting on our food and otherwise, we had the place to ourselves until a guy who seemed a bit too California hipster came in and argued about what he wanted and didn’t want long enough that we paid and left before he decided.
On the way back to the car, we saw a pizza food truck and decided to order a slice. Turns out it was there for a wedding party, so even though we weren’t guests, our slice ended up free. Bonus food is good food.
It was pretty late when we got back to our hotel and fell into bed, but we ended up checking out a bit early and heading to Wisconsin to see Garbage in their hometown!
October 18, 2015 Garbage at Orpheum Theatre (Madison)
Ahh, Madison, Wisconsin. Land of cheese curds. Land of cows and cream.
It made sense for us to make the mecca to see Garbage in Madison. While it wasn’t at the sadly long gone Cafe Montmarte, where Garbage used to not only play but show up and hang out, the hometown show at the Orpheum was a very special show. So special, the band decided to agree to broadcast it live on AXS TV.
So yeah, a live television audience probably had a better viewing angle than we did.
Soundcheck and Q&A to start as had been the case at the other two shows we went to on the tour. We got a bit more about Smart Studios when one of the folks working on the documentary about the studios asked about it. Things wrapped up nicely and we headed down the street to The Chocolate Shoppe for a tasty dessert concoction.
Between Torres’ opening set and the band going on, they broadcast their backstage antics on Periscope, which was a bit surreal. We were sitting in the balcony, watching people backstage.
Of the three shows we saw on the tour, Madison was the best in my opinion. Garbage put on an excellent show that really shows how timeless their first album and the other songs they produced from that era truly are. I can only hope that they consider doing something similar for Version 2.0 in a few years.
The next day, we drove back to Chicago and flew home. Except we weren’t going straight home.
October 19, 2015 Madonna at SAP Center
What better way to spend the day you fly home from the midwest than to go to a Madonna concert that night that doesn’t start until after 10pm?
Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour had some interesting moments. Primarily those moments where when the focus was on her incredible dancers performing acrobatic feats to instrumentals or remixes of songs from her latest album. There were some moments that worked really well, like an acoustic version of Frozen. There were some that really didn’t like a mix of Holy Water and Vogue that only accomplished ruining both songs.
Madonna puts on a very theatrical show and reinterpreted pretty much every classic song that she performed. This may have been viewed as a positive thing, but she JUST did that for the MDNA tour and then previously for the Re-Invention Tour.
I appreciate the effort and the talent Madonna puts into her shows. I didn’t appreciate the very late night start on a weeknight and some of the experimental reinterpretation that just didn’t quite work right. I never appreciate the hurt that Madonna’s shows put on my wallet, but the production values justify those costs.
October 23, 2015 MS MR at Fox Theater
When MS MR played the Rickshaw Stop in April, they played a number of new tracks from their second album for the first time to a San Francisco audience. That show was a high energy small club show with a great vibe and a lot of energy. Their triumphant return to the Bay Area was at too large of a venue in the Fox, with sound at a much lower volume that it should have been. The band put on an excellent show, playing through hits from the first album and almost the entirety of How Does It Feel, their second album that came out earlier this fall. I found myself missing some of the songs from the first album, even though we had seen those songs performed multiple times on the last tour.
The low sound volume took some of the energy out of the performance and the small crowd made it more of a social hour for a lot of folks whose conversations could be heard over the music for the majority of the show. I want to say that this is a good reason to NOT subscribe to a Jukely membership, as this show was undersold and I’m sure a bunch of the people in the crowd were there for free with Jukely guest passes. Other shows on offer from Jukely likely also have this type of atmosphere unfortunately.
All of that being said, it is always great to see MS MR live. Their songs are catchy and float in and out of my head all of the time and they perform passionate and energetic sets no matter how large or small the crowd may be. I’d just have loved to have seen them at The Fillmore or a return to Rickshaw Stop over the enormity of the Fox.
October 28, 2015 The Best Worst at Social Print Studio
As fans of Cards Against Humanity and the brilliant and artistic folks that have worked on that property over the past few years, we were saddened with the news that designer Emily Haasch had left the brand earlier in the year. At The Best Worst, Emily talked a bit about her decision to leave Cards Against Humanity behind. Tash Wong talked about how making custom designer coasters can be a full time business. Brent Couchman told us a bit about how sometimes marketing can prevent the best design from coming to fruition. Lisa Anderson Shaffer introduced the night with a bit about the psychology behind creative design and what it means to both fail and succeed. It was a great evening of stories where even though I would not consider myself a designer, I still could relate to the subject matter in many ways and felt at home. We also got some tasty pastries out of the deal and some very cool posters.