Twelve Rock Music Tours to Watch for in Spring 2018
By Joseph Perry (@JosephWPerryJWP)
Fans of all genres and subgenres of rock music have much to look forward to in the coming spring months, with loads of acts performing live in indoor venues of all sizes. When It Was Cool has its heart in decades past but keeps an eye on the present, as well, so I have chosen to spotlight some touring acts that started or have roots in the 1970s or 1980s along with some newer artists who proudly show their influences and traditions but offer their own unique, current spins on things.
Celebrating David Bowie
By almost all accounts, the Celebrating David Bowie concerts that feature such former Bowie bandmates and collaborators as guitarists Earl Slick and Adrian Belew, pianist Mike Garson, and bassist Carmine Rojas are events of joy that truly live up to the name. What started out as a small series of shows last year has grown into a 2018 tour on both sides of the Atlantic. Early reports tell of lengthy shows boasting more than 25 songs that span the legendary Bowie’s career, with some deep cuts and surprises, rather than being a mere “greatest hits” set. Speaking of surprises, some of these concerts have seen unannounced guest appearances by celebrated musicians. Both professional critics and paying fans have spoken enthusiastically about the positive vibes and respectful, loving approach of these shows. Upcoming dates can be found at http://celebratingdavidbowie.com/.
Celebrating David Bowie in Europe, January 2018
The lads in the English hard rock band The Darkness have been bringing fun back to rock and roll since the 2003 release of their Permission to Land debut album. Their “Tour de Prance” supports their fifth and latest album, Pinewood Smile, which is chock full of gutsy power chords, catchy riffs, and humorous lyrics that range from wryly clever to flamboyantly Rabelaisian. Lead vocalist and guitarist Justin Hawkins’ love for the band Queen has never been a secret, from some of his solos that recall that legendary band’s Brian May, to Roy Thomas Baker (who produced five Queen longplayers, including A Night at the Opera) twiddling the knobs on the band’s sophomore album, to his soaring vocals. Now Queen drummer Roger Taylor’s son Rufus Tiger Taylor is behind the skins for The Darkness, and it is a perfect fit. Make no mistake, this group is neither a put-on nor a comedy outfit. Hawkins, his guitarist brother Dan, bassist Frankie Poullain, and Taylor are all outstanding musicians who just love to celebrate the outrageousness of rock and roll while tossing in some laugh-inducing lyrics. Tour dates are at http://www.thedarknesslive.com/2017/09/tour-de-prance-north-america-2018/.
“The Darkness, “All the Pretty Girls”
David Byrne will follow the March 9 release of American Utopia, his first solo studio album in 14 years, with a concert tour for which he has hinted at playing both songs from his solo career and selections from his years as frontman of revered new wave group Talking Heads. He has stated that this will be his most ambitious show since the Talking Heads performances that were recorded for the 1984 Stop Making Sense concert movie and album, which is promising quite a bit. Concert dates are at http://davidbyrne.com/.
David Byrne, “Everybody’s Coming to My House”
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
At 76 years of age, George Clinton still packs in fans of his unique brand of funk — which features a fun dose of psychedelic rock — to live performances. The current iteration of his Parliament Funkadelic collective doesn’t have any members from the 1970s heyday of those two projects — when Clinton and company were turning out flamboyant, highly imaginative albums such as Maggot Brain and The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein — but the younger musicians who are on board now are certainly up to the task of keeping the flame of P-Funk alive. Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic’s shows are two-hour trips through a five-decade history of Afrofuturistic music. Tour dates are listed at https://georgeclinton.com/tour-dates/.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, “Atomic Dog (Live at Le Trianon in Paris, France)”
Judas Priest, Saxon, Black Star Riders
It’s hard to imagine that a better hard rock/heavy metal package tour than this one could be announced for 2018. Metal legends Judas Priest hit the road in support of Firepower, their eighteenth studio album, due out in early March. Rob Halford still hits high notes like nobody’s business, and he and the rest of the band put on concerts that crackle with sheer power. Along for the ride are fellow British metal legends Saxon, playing their largest venues in America in many years, though they are a huge draw at European rock festivals. Far from being a mere warm-up act, Saxon are amazing headliners in their own right, and this team-up should make for an amazing night of heavy rock. Add to the mix the melodic hard rock of Black Star Riders, featuring original Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham, and you have a storied line-up that packs a wallop. Tour dates can be found at http://judaspriest.com/tour/.
Judas Priest, “Lightning Strike”
Black Star Riders, “Testify or Say Goodbye”
OMD (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark)
English electronic rock group OMD may have had its heyday in the 1980s, but the recent output by the band is as vital and relevant as ever. The group’s recently released The Punishment of Luxury is one of OMD’s finest moments, and their career-spanning shows have been receiving rave reviews. Founding members Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys craft synthesizer-driven music that ranges from 1980s Britpop to more experimental soundscapes, some reminiscent of Kraftwerk, their main influence in their early days. OMD’s lyrics deal with everything from love songs to social commentary. This is intelligent electronic music that knows how to have fun. Tour dates can be found at http://www.omd.uk.com/shows/, with many shows already sold out.
Montreal’s Ought is a postpunk band that is on the verge of its greatest exposure yet, and deservedly so. The group has already received acclaim for its first two albums and EP, but its outstanding third album Room Inside the World shows the quartet at its strongest so far, successfully trying out new musical approaches and touches while holding fast to its core philosophies. Ought’s music recalls some of the finest alternative bands of the 1980s in a wholly modern and fresh soundscape. Room Inside the World is set for worldwide release on February 16, and the tour to support it should be one not to miss for fans of artful, cerebral rock music with energy and passion. Visit https://ought-band.squarespace.com/tour/ for concert dates.
Ought, “These 3 Things”
Peter Hook and the Light
Peter Hook is a legend in postpunk and new wave history as a co-founding member of the legendary British groups Joy Division and New Order, as well as heading up bands and projects of his own after leaving New Order in 2007. His current group is Peter Hook and the Light, featuring three musicians from his former band Monaco, along with his son Jack Bates. The quintet performs Joy Division and New Order songs live, and for its current tour, will perform the 1980s compilation albums Substance from both of those bands sequentially and in their entireties. It’s a chance to hear such classics as “Blue Monday,” “She’s Lost Control,” and “Bizarre Love Triangle” from the musician whose bass lines have been a huge part of placing these songs in the hearts of eighties music lovers.
Tour dates appear on the poster below.
Peter Hook and the Light, “Love Will Tear Us Apart “ (live)
Joanne Shaw Taylor
British blues rock guitarist and singer Joanne Shaw Taylor has won several awards for both her playing and singing, and just about any track on her six albums will confirm why. Taylor is a dynamic performer whose axe work is outstanding — combining rock-based fuzz tones with her stunning variations of classic blues solos and melodies — and whose strong, deep-toned vocals interplay perfectly with that guitar artistry. Her inspirations include Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, and her rock side surfaces stronger than ever on her most recent album, Wild. Her backing band is tight, and the passionate, infectious vibe of Joanne Shaw Taylor concerts is well documented. Tour dates are listed at https://www.joanneshawtaylor.com/.
Joanne Shaw Taylor, “No Reason to Stay”
New wave, pop punk, garage rock, indie pop, math rock, sludge pop, art rock, surf rock: Boston-based Vundabar has been described with all of these subgenre attributions and more, yet fits neatly into none of them. What is certain is that the group has an infectious, rollicking, guitar-driven sound and a reputation for incredible live performances. Their songs can be quiet and introspective one moment, and audacious and jangly the next, with Branden Hagen’s wide-ranging vocals impeccably matching whatever instrumental challenges come their way, Touring in support of its third album, Smell Smoke — due for release on February 23 — Vundabar is set to break big this year. Concert dates are listed at https://vundabar.bandcamp.com/.
The Wedding Present
David Gedge has headed up British indie rock band The Wedding Present since 1985 (except for a 1997–2004 sabbatical, during which time he formed his still-active second project Cinerama), turning out moody, sometimes brooding lyrical takes on love or the lack thereof that their guitar-driven soundscapes occasionally belie. What started as a rock band with a jangling guitar sound that found itself with 12 Top 40 hits in the United Kingdom in one year in the early 1990s has subtly matured into a group that doesn’t mind taking chances with new approaches every once in a while, but without losing any of its passion or drive. Gedge’s vocals may be less gruff than in The Wedding Present’s early days, but his range sounds stronger than ever. Tour dates can be found at https://scopitones.co.uk/news/forthcoming-concerts.
The Wedding Present, “Brassneck”
Founding member Dave Meniketti and his current Y&T bandmates are known as one of the hardest working and consistently outstanding live rock bands going today. Starting out as Yesterday and Today for its first two albums in the late 1970s, the group shortened its name to Y&T when it changed labels, and found increasing international success in the 1980s with such hard rock/heavy metal releases as Earthshaker, Black Tiger, Mean Streak, and In Rock We Trust. Y&T’s 2010 Facemelter album, the band’s first in 13 years, showed that Meniketti and company were as solid as ever. Fans and critics agree that Meniketti still has one of the best voices going in rock, and his guitar solos are blistering. Y&T has just released the six-song EP Acoustic Classix Volume 1, which can be ordered at http://www.yandtrocks.com/, where official tour dates are also listed.
On a personal note, Yesterday and Today was the first rock band I ever saw in concert, when they opened for Blue Oyster Cult at the Stockton (California) Civic Auditorium in 1976. When I return to the States in March after living and working in South for Korea for 10 years, they will be one of the first bands I see live. That’s a circle of life that I can firmly get behind, and one that makes the following video clip for “I’m Coming Home” from Facemelter particularly apt.
Y&T, “I’m Coming Home”
Joseph Perry is one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast (whenitwascool.com/up-hill-both-ways-podcast/) and the Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast (decadesofhorror.com/category/classicera/).
He also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com) and several other print and online film critique and pop culture magazines.
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