Live Review: Drake in Oakland

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Drake had a lot of love for the Bay Area on Tuesday night, Sept. 13, at the first of his two shows at Oakland’s Oracle Arena.

Not only did he show up wearing a crisp Warriors jersey bearing Kevin Durant’s name and No. 35 — he brought out Golden State’s headline-grabbing offseason addition in person for a quick whirl around the stage later in the night.

“This is the best crowd you could ask for,” Drake boasted, pacing in front of the sold-out audience of 15,000 and laying it on thicker than usual.

“I had 60 shows to pick from, and I put my money on tonight!”

With the screen behind him blazing with the word “Revenge,” the Toronto rapper set out an ornery, angry course for his two-hour-plus set at the home of the Warriors, providing a pointed retort to the question: What does the underdog do once he gets the crown?

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Adele Live: Small Talk, Big Voice

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Aidin Vaziri | Adele really loves to gab. At San Jose’s SAP Center on Saturday night, July 30, performing the first of three sold-out Bay Area shows, the British pop phenomenon spent nearly as much time onstage casually chatting with fans as she did belting out the songs from her three blockbuster albums.

She listed and assessed all the movies she has recently watched, such as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” and “Fathers and Daughters” —“isn’t it just the saddest film?” she said of the latter. She noted how much she loves to shop at discount department stores. “The first thing I do when I get off the plane is go to Target,” she gushed, in her thick north London accent. She explained, too, that she was allergic to strawberries. “How boring is that?”

Well, since you asked …

On her first ever arena tour, Adele has no problem turning big rooms into intimate spaces. Her smoldering voice, torchy breakup ballads and fluttering eyelashes are familiar and easy to love, as evidenced by the 50-plus million albums they have helped her sell over the past eight years.
But at points, the two-hour set felt just a touch too informal.

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P.S. Adele to critics: Shut up dude, suck my (expletive).

Wild Beasts, ‘Boy King’

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Aidin Vaziri | A few weeks ahead of the arrival of its new album, “Boy King,” Wild Beasts put together a mood board playlist on Spotify that included four hours of eclectic material from artists as wide-ranging as Brian Eno, Nine Inch Nails, Kanye West, Cocteau Twins and Justin Timberlake. Listening to the British quartet’s fifth and latest set, it all makes sense. The lush ’80s synths, jarring rhythms and layered vocals that have become Wild Beasts’ hallmark take on adventurous new shapes in songs like “Get My Bang” and the slowly spiraling “Celestial Creatures,” which features lyrical twists such as “The heavens hang heavy on you tonight/ Put on your big coat, your only hope, the only thing keeping your guts from spilling out.” By ignoring boundaries, the group has further honed a distinct sound it can call its own.

Pop Quiz: Boy George of Culture Club

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Aidin Vaziri | Having weathered addiction, drama and animosity, the original lineup of Culture Club is back in America on a second round of shows following its recent reunion. Led by Boy George, who this fall appears on the latest season of “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” the group — which also features bassist Mikey Craig, drummer Jon Moss and guitarist Roy Hay — is revisiting its early 1980s hits like “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” and “Karma Chameleon,” as well as a handful of new tracks. George spoke to us from a stop in Texas.

Q: The band has been back together for two years running. What changed?

A: The last tour we did, I came off of it and said, “That was quite a pleasant experience!” It was actually fun. That’s the main thing for me. I would never, ever go on the road with a bunch of people I didn’t like. I respect it too much to ever bring that to a stage. We have this kind of weird magic that happens when the four of us get together.

Q: Do you think it will lead to any new music? There was some talk about releasing a new album, “Tribes.”

A: It’s not about releasing the record. It’s about finding the right way of releasing it. The old way of doing it is over — going to radio and putting it in shops is not working. We don’t want to put something out and have it disappear into the ether.

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Outside Lands: Music and more

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Aidin Vaziri | Radiohead drummer Philip Selway wandered through the dense crowd gathered on Golden Gate Park’s Polo Field at the Outside Lands festival on Saturday, Aug. 6, inconspicuous to all, including the local radio station intern waving a giant banner just a few feet away from his face that read, “I’m here for Radiohead!”

It’s hard to think of any other concert setting where a member of the headlining act would go completely unrecognized by thousands of people implicitly there to see him.

But as it marks its ninth year, the focus at Outside Lands — which was scheduled to wrap up Sunday, Aug. 7, with headline sets by Lionel Richie and Lana Del Rey — continues to drift away from the music and more toward the wide scope of the overall concept.

Tickets for the three-day festival sold out in 45 minutes, long before the lineup was even announced, putting it in the same league as mega fests Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.
Beyond the hundreds of music acts on offer, there were comedy performances, art exhibits and a selection of food and drink that could rival any gastronomically focused event in the country.

And then there was the weather.

“We have the distinction of being the only festival that takes place in the winter,” said Sherry Wasserman, president of Another Planet Entertainment, surveying the grounds earlier in the day.

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Pop Quiz: Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran

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Aidin Vaziri | You might have noticed that a Duran Duran revival is in full swing. Sure, the British pop band scored a majority of its biggest hits a few decades back, but last year saw the release of “Paper Gods,” an album that managed to conjure the electricity of the early years with a slew of top-notch collaborators like Mark Ronson, Janelle Monae, Kiesza, Nile Rodgers and Lindsay Lohan. The group is once again on tour — minus keyboardist Nick Rhodes, who is out for a family emergency while Amanda “MNDR” Warner fills in — with a stop scheduled at the Outside Lands festival. We spoke with singer Simon Le Bon on the 36th anniversary of the classic lineup’s first live date, and he told us things have never been better.

Q: Do you ever go to festivals as a civilian?

A: I’ve been to festivals, but quaint little English ones with like 800 people. It’s a weird thing for me. I like going as a performer. I’m used to going backstage, telling people what to do — having them polish my shoes, brush my hair.

Q: This is the first time you have been onstage without Nick in about 35 years. Is it weird?

A: It’s really strange. I want him back as soon as we can have him back. MNDR is amazing. She can play all the parts. She knows all the songs. She looks great onstage. But it’s not Nick Rhodes. That’s all there is to it.

Q: It just occurred to me that this lineup of Duran Duran has probably been together longer than any of the others.

A: How time flies when you’re having fun. We’re really enjoying it. We enjoy making the music as well. It’s got better.

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Pop Quiz: Alice Cooper

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Aidin Vaziri | Alice Cooper can’t sit still. Between launching simultaneous campaigns to become the president of the United States and the prime minister of England with a rebooted version of his 1972 hit “Elected,” the 68-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is also spending the summer touring with his own band andHollywood Vampires, the supergroup he fronts with actor Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. The band — which takes its name from Cooper’s old Los Angeles drinking club with Harry Nilsson, Mickey Dolenz, John Lennon and Keith Moon — performs a mix of classic rock covers and originals from its 2015 self-titled album.

Q: You could be spending the summer at the golf course. What are you doing on tour?

A: I feel more comfortable onstage than off. I would rather be working. My wife and I are built the same. She has been a ballerina since she was 15, and she’s as much of a professional as I am.

Q: How did the Hollywood Vampires come together?

A: Everybody’s pretty good friends. I’ve known Johnny for a while. I knew he was a great guitarist. Really. Joe Perry takes lessons from him. Our drummer Matt Sorum is one of those guys everybody knows. The music business is a bit of a fraternity — everybody knows each other. When you get that many alpha males in one place you would think there’s a lot of ego. With this group, there hasn’t been an argument in three years.

Q: Is this the full Alice Cooper tour with the snake and guillotine and all that?

A: Just the opposite. I’m on two tours right now. I started out in April with my band. And then this tour started. The crazy thing is my show is very constructed and it’s really, really tight. Everybody knows what’s going on at every second. It’s exhausting. The Vampires show — we bill ourselves as the world’s most expensive bar band. We get to be a bar band, only in front of 20,000 or 30,000 people. It’s really a cool thing. Alice Cooper never talks to the audience. When I’m with the Vampires, I talk to them after every song. I’m sort of like the narrator. It’s like a history lesson.

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