Fleetwood Mac Thrills Toyota Center for Two-Plus Hours

Photos by Jack Gorman
Have Shawl, Will Travel: Stevie Nicks and Mick Fleetwood (back)
Fleetwood Mac
Toyota Center
December 15, 2014

The Mac Attack is Back! And with the Songbird back in the nest, the Chain has been reforged, and seems stronger than ever.

Okay, that may be a little heavy on the symbols and metaphors. But it's hard to overestimate the importance the Fleetwood Mac's return to its classic mid-'70s to mid-'80s lineup of Lindsey Buckingham (vocals/guitar), Stevie Nicks (vocals), namesake rhythm section Mick Fleetwood (drums) and John McVie (bass), and returning vocalist/keyboardist Christine McVie.

So many references were made by other band members onstage to McVie's unlikely and never-thought-possible comeback after 16 years (she had retired to her English castle, vowing never to make music again), that no one would have blamed her for blushing, even nearly 40 dates into this reunion tour.

Every classic-rock band of any importance or longevity has gone through lineup changes -- including Fleetwood Mac, whose origins stretch back to 1967 as a straight-up, all-English blues band. But there just seems something so...right about this lineup reconstituting. Take out any one of the five, and it's just not the same.

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RL Grime and Lunice Prove to Be Monsters of Bass

Photos by Julian Bajsel
Behold, the hivemind.
RL Grime, Lunice
Warehouse Live
December 10, 2014

From recognizable forms such as trap and dubstep to the (potentially made up) more nebulous genres like deathstep and heaven trap, bass music is on the rise. While it may not have its hooks into popular culture the way that more established genres like house and trance do, if you've spent any time at dance shows over the past few years, you'll have noticed more and more bass music.

Teens and young adults love the stuff. This is no surprise, as the current generation is one of the first that has known rap music their entire life. Rap isn't edgy or foreign anymore; if it's good enough for Tim McGraw, it's good enough for Middle America.

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Ryan Adams Charms Yet Another Loutish Houston Crowd

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Ryan Adams, still the best hair in rock and roll.
Ryan Adams
Bayou Music Center
December 3, 2014

The story of Ryan Adams' performance at Bayou Music Center Wednesday night can be boiled down to one song called "Amstar." Born of something a fan shouted at the stage, the word was deemed by Adams to be the name of an especially disagreeable intergalactic supervillain with an appetite for shitty weed and other mood-altering ingestibles, so the 40-year-old singer and his four-piece band worked up an impromptu Pink Floyd-style space-rock jam about him.

This "Amstar" turned out to be a pretty decent tune, too; maybe it will even end up on an album sometime. It came toward the end of Adams' two-hour set, and made a fine example of not only his band's musical interplay but the way they were able to prevent the sometimes-unruly audience (more on them later) from seizing the upper hand.

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Ace Frehley Makes KISS Army Wait for It at Scout Bar

Photos by David Rozycki
Ace Frehley didn't go on until 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, but he made it worth the wait.
Ace Frehley
Scout Bar
December 2, 2014

Members of the KISS Army started to grow a little restless Tuesday, as the night closed in on 11 p.m. and Ace Frehley had not appeared on the Scout Bar stage. An hour earlier, the crowd had chanted "We Want Ace!" and "Bring on Ace!" As time continued to tick forward with no appearance, one man in the crowd shouted, "Hurry up, Ace, get your old-man ass out here!" The frustrated crowd then started chanting, "Bullshit! Bullshit!" around 10:56 p.m., followed by a few boos.

An unverified rumor going around the crowd was that Ace was busy backstage with a large number of fans who paid for the V.I.P. Experience package, which included a meet-and-greet and personal photo with Ace before the show. As 11:20 p.m. rolled around, some concerned fans started to ask each other whether there was a curfew in place that would not allow the concert to go forward at all.

But finally, around 11:30 p.m., a recording of Frehley's song "Fractured Mirror" began to play and Ace and his band hit the stage to open with "Rip It Out" from his 1978 self-titled solo album. The crowd erupted in cheers, and the long wait had seemingly been forgiven.

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Justin Timberlake Stakes His Claim as Pop's Top Dog

Photos by Greg Noire
None More Smooth: Justin's show Monday was free of wardrobe malfunctions.
Justin Timberlake
Toyota Center
December 1, 2014

Ten years ago, Justin Timberlake played a show in Houston that shocked the world. It was the halftime show for Super Bowl 38 headlined by JT's longtime friend Janet Jackson. He popped in at the end to sing "Rock Your Body," and that's when her breast popped out. And thus, we will never forget the line "I'm gonna have you naked by the end of this song."

Timberlake's concert Monday night at Toyota Center was nowhere near that controversial, but it was a grand spectacle of lights, dancing and music. A super-show, if you will. With a massive stage that included a video board that extended from one side of the arena to the other, Justin and his band the Tennessee Kids provided one of the most spectacular sets I've ever seen in Houston.

With the band elevating onto the stage, Justin appeared in the center of the platform lit by a single spotlight above. He was dressed in a black suit (no tie) and white sneakers, and opened with "Pusher Love Girl." The screams in the arena were piercing; I definitely picked the wrong show to forget my ear plugs.

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Augustana's Dan Layus Leads With His Heart

Photos by Francisco Montes
Augustana's Dan Layus (left) radiated an effortless ease at Fitz Monday night.
Throughout the past ten years, singer Dan Layus has been the only constant member of Augustana through a number of lineup changes. For some bands, this is is one of the toughest roads to travel, especially once more die-hard fans get involved.

For Layus, however, it's been a chance to prove what he can do when left to his own devices. If his stop at Fitzgerald's on Monday was any indication, he's got plenty of tricks up his sleeves. Augustana took the stage around 9:15 p.m. for what would be a nearly 30-song, two-hour set.

Although Layus and company hail out of California, their sound is best defined as roots-rock. It feels almost too sincere to come from a state defined by its pull on men and women trying to make it big in entertainment. More like Nashville, but that might also have to do with Layus himself.

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Trombone Shorty Brings Pure New Orleans Swagger to House of Blues

photos by Marco Torres
Trombone Shorty @ House of Blues - Houston.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Soul Rebels Brass Band
House of Blues
November 30, 2014

On Episode 6 of Dave Grohl's new HBO series Sonic Highways, a four-year-old Troy Andrews is shown onstage with the legendary Bo Diddley at New Orleans' annual Jazz Fest. From busking for tips in Jackson Square to now headlining his hometown's signature music festival as well as ACL and Voodoo Fest, the horn player known as Trombone Shorty has been involved in music at a high level for a very long time. Right away you can see and feel that he doesn't play for the money or fame...he plays due to a basic need to express himself and represent his hometown to the fullest.

With that tradition and mystique on hand, Sunday night Shorty and his band Orleans Avenue hit the stage at House of Blues with a furious swagger and mighty loud boom. Shorty performs as though he is part James Brown and part Jimi Hendrix, a virtuoso on the trombone and trumpet, with an unrivaled ability to get on up and get on the good foot.

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Dwight Yoakam Was the Eternal Honky-Tonk Man at Arena Theatre

Other than a few dozen new songs, not much has changed about Dwight Yoakam -- whose management has taken to not approving photography of his concerts -- since 1986.
Dwight Yoakam
Arena Theatre
November 28, 2014

Guitars, Cadillacs, etc., etc. was released in 1986, and other than his catalog expanding, not much has changed about Dwight Yoakam. He has been one of country music's most consistent performers, who gives equally consistent performances. If you have ever seen one of his concerts, it is highly likely that you did not walk away disappointed.

Last Friday night, the Arena Theatre looked like Gilley's back in the day, packed with pearl-snap shirts, boots, tight-fittin' jeans, large belt buckles and tall cowboy hats. Or it could have been the inside of a large tent at the rodeo cookoff. Groupon specials helped bring in fans on the unofficial day-after-Thanksgiving holiday, but it still wasn't quite enough to sell out the venue as several rows in each section sat vacant.

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Caribou at Fitzgerald's, 11/22/2014

Photos by Adam P. Newton
Caribou's buoyant and colorful light show was a good match for the music onstage.
Caribou, Jessy Lanza
November 22, 2014

I want to begin this review by showing my respect and appreciation for the crowd that showed up to see Caribou and Jessy Lanza rock Fitzgerald's Saturday. Not only was this show sold out in advance, but the house was packed even though the night was filled with hours of gross rain and wind. I've been going to shows in Space City for years, and it's been a long time since I've experienced a gathering of music fans willingly standing in line in the rain just to attend a concert featuring electronic artists. Kudos, Houston.

And guess what? Your patience was rewarded by a stellar opening set from Jessy Lanza, followed by a glorious and stunning 90-minute performance by Caribou. You responded by dancing, grooving, bobbing your heads, and generally basking in the evening's mix of sumptuous bass, '70s prog/funk, and '80s electro-pop. A good time was truly had by everyone involved.

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Chrissie Hynde at Bayou Music Center, 11/20/2014

Categories: Last Night

Photos by Jack Gorman
Chrissie Hynde would like you to put your smartphones away, please.
Chrissie Hynde
Bayou Music Center
November 20, 2014

During "Talk of the Town," one of the Pretenders' best-loved songs, Chrissie Hynde pointed up to the seats in Bayou Music Center's balcony. It was intended to be a nod to the people at the back of the hall, a standard rock and roll gesture.

Only no one was sitting up there. Hynde squinted through her trademark dark eyeliner, said to her guitarist "There's no one up there!" and peeled off a beautiful smile at her own faux pas.

That realization might have sent a more impetuous, less secure artist reeling, but not Hynde. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer just shrugged it off and continued her set for the Houston fans who had joined her this night. Touring simply as Chrissie Hynde, she ran through nearly two dozen songs that bridged her earliest days putting Pretenders through their paces to Stockholm, the 2014 release that for the first time ever bears her name instead the band's.

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