ALMOST FAMOUS – Round XV
Berlin (featuring Terri Nunn)/Petrol
I did get to attend another “gala event” c/o Steve Sodokoff at “Diamonds” (415-647-1860): San Francisco Magazine’s “Best of the Bay Area” Party at Herbst Pavillion at Fort Mason on July 11. Proceeds went to the Glide Foundation, a well respected and much loved non-profit organization supporting the homeless and needy children and families of the Bay Area. Over 1400 hundred beautiful people attended - dressed to impress, I must confess – and $50,000 was raised! Delicious, freshly whipped-up samples of everything under the sun you’d ever want to put in your mouth were available from fine restaurants such as Farallon and Rubicon at tasting booths, as were premium cocktails and champagne. There was a silent auction and raffle, the grand prize being a trip to Europe with first-class airfare for two. (Man, what I would have given…) The title sponsor was Mercedes Benz (gimme one of those, too!) and others included Shreve and Co. and the Limm Gallery. Entertainment was provided by The Glide Ensemble Choir, a multi-ethnic gospel extravaganza who were very inspiring, Pamela Rose, a soulful singer I used to go see when I was an under-aged kid sneaking into clubs, back in da day (time warp!), the John Turk Band, a group of seasoned, versatile players, and a couple of “groups” (?) singing and dancing to tracks that were too scary to watch for very long. Unfortunately, the sound system was abysmal – but aside from that, a fine time seemed to be had by all who attended. This month marks an event some may wish to declare a national holiday, some may curse in (almost) infamy:
August 27, the day many undisclosed years ago (no G.M. comments, please!) the universe decided the world was ready for Kimberlye “Almost Famous” Gold to descend upon it. Our illustrious publisher made his birthday the subject matter of his entire column in the June issue – I’ll only give mine a brief mention and contribute that former president Lyndon B. Johnson shared mine. Celebrate and rejoice!
“ In the Blink of an Eye - I Believe!” Berlin/Petrol, live at Slims, SF, July19
80’s new-wave divas making comebacks have been known to grace the pages of the SF Herald a time or two. Leading the pack in every possible category - past, present and future - of how it should be done, is the multi-talented, singer/songwriter, ultimate chanteuse, and still-a-total-babe-after-all-these-years, Terri Nunn. Her re-formed electro-pop band Berlin is still a crowd pleaser for all ages, not just us 30/40 somethings, for good reason, and this night at Slims was no exception. Looking like a blonde-haired angel (with black tips, like in her heyday), wearing long flowing garments with white gossamer sleeves over tight black pants that hugged her petite frame, Terri opened with the classic “Masquerade” – which immediately drove the crowd nuts, and went directly into a rousing rendition of “No More Words”. The sound started out muddy at first, not a good sign for the band’s many layered, electronically enhanced arrangements – but the soundman quickly corrected the flaws and Terri and the band delivered a seamless show of familiar hits (“Metro”, “Sex” “Take My Breath Away”), interesting covers that have become live Berlin standards (“The Dope Show” by Marilyn Manson,” Never Let Me Down” by Depeche Mode) an emotional acoustic version of “Pleasure Victim”, and some absolutely brilliant new material off their upcoming CD, “Voyeur”, due to be released September 3. I have become a “pleasure victim” of this new CD, and it is one of the strongest releases I’ve heard in years. Both timeless and timely in production techniques, lyrical content, and diverse musical styles, it combines modern electronica, rock, acoustic-based songs and classic ballads, all sewn together with that unique Berlin sound and Terri Nunn’s versatile voice, which has never had more depth and character. Driving songs like “Drug”, the mesmerizing “Lost My Mind”, and the joyous single “In the Blink of an Eye” should take them off the 80’s revival list and firmly on to the comeback trail and mainstream Top 40 radio, where they belong, if anybody who has a job in whatever influential music business department has a !##$ clue!
Terri’s playful and provocative interaction with her accomplished band members is always fun to watch, particularly her generous featuring of her striking, raven-haired, very talented (and very tall) background singer, Linda Dalziel (who has recently miraculously recovered from a life threatening accident!) The band’s dynamics were letter perfect, and Terri was in exceptional voice throughout. At one point, she disappeared offstage and performed standing atop the bar, generating some pretty heated crowd (and bartender) excitement. One critique about the band I must re-iterate from last year: lose the “The Cure/Souxsie and the Banshees” Goth look, boys!! It’s dated, detracts from the music, and has nothing to do with the sound or style! More importantly, I can’t tell if any of you are babes behind all that Halloween make-up and spiked hair – and after raving about how hot Terri is, my readers will suspect I’m gay! Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
Speaking of raving about Terri (and how hot she is – heterosexually speaking), the illustrious publisher of this little newsrag was kind enough to take me backstage after to meet the diva herself. Down-to-earth, warm and friendly, she greeted me with a hug and seemed genuinely glad to meet me (either that, or she still has her former actress chops!). We took photo op turns with her, while she kept exclaiming, “Wait, I wasn’t smiling, take another!” Terri and I put our arms around each other’s waists and cooed about how tiny the other was, complimenting each other’s pants. When Gene “The Publisher” Mahoney asked her if she had any further comments he could jot down on his little notepad, she laughed, “You’re a babe!” which I’m certain he must have dashed home and immediately taped to his bathroom mirror). Terri Nunn and Kimberlye “Almost Famous” Gold, backstage at Slim’s – now that’s the surreal stuff former adolescent dreams are made of…And sure enough, as I was leaving, some guy saw me from a distance and when I walked past them, remarked to his friend, “Oh, I thought she was Terri!” Go figure.
And while we’re on the subject of adolescent fantasies, opening the show was a very promising young SF rock band called Petrol. Led by Graham (lead singer) and Michael (guitar) Shaw, two brothers originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland (with nary a hint of an Irish brogue), this triple threat “power-pop-punk” quartet has a bright future. Currently riding the wave of retro-70’s “Stones/The Sweet” now “The Strokes” popularity, they have catchy, hook-laden songs, a new four song EP, and plenty of bad-boy-babe attitude mixed with a healthy dose of humor. (Seal of approval: Berlin lead guitarist, Dallan Baumgarten, watched their entire set and applauded heartily after each song.) Graham does a fine job as a front man, looking and sounding every inch the part, but the real star of the band is Michael. Watch him watch the audience while he plays his axe – it’s all you need to “get it”. Go get it at www.petrolsf.com. I’m glad I did. I’m gonna get some more soon. Check ‘em out August 28 at The Pound, opening for Ray’s brother Dave Davies of the Kinks.
Caught chanteuse extraordinaire Jenna Mammina @ Yoshi’s on 6/3. She consistently sells out this club and with good reason, as former senior editor of Rolling Stone Ben Fong-Torres pointed out during his introduction of the under-the-radar, exotic brunette. Whether it’s her “slow-as-honey dripping” twist on a jazz standard like “Cup of Sugar”, an obscure cover like Elvis Costello’s “Watching The Detectives”, (where she goes into a riff about all her favorite TV cops), or her own poignant “We Want The Same Things”, the effect is the same: delicious! Her partner-in-crime, guitar virtuoso Andre Bush, was celebrating his birthday in style and played part of the set with devil horns on his head that lit up, looking like a naughty kid in a fine candy store. Andre and the rest of her stellar rhythm section: bass player Jon Evans (who looks like Jesus) and drummer Rob Rhodes, all took turns soloing, while Her Highness swayed in approval. This chick’s got it. Go get some of your own. You can buy her CDs, Under The Influence and Meant To Be at www.jennamammina.com.
The Bazaar Café, (5927 California Street @ 21st Ave.) is a tiny coffeehouse that offers an intimate way to hear live music. Singer/songwriters stand in front of the window, without microphones or amps (mostly) and perform for the folks who cram themselves into the few tables and chairs available, while the rest stand wherever they can. Cozy. To one side of the room is a CD listening station, where you can sample the musical wares of others who have played there. (Now if only the owners of these joints would actually pay the fine musicians who bring in paying customers something besides “allowing“ them to pass the hat!@#…) On 6/18, I squeezed my way in to see Valerie (just “Valerie”, like “Jewel”), a statuesque, willowy, blonde English beauty and her swingin’ combo: Rob McLucky (great name!) on bass, Doug Blumer on guitar, and fiddle player, Calvin Keaoola. Val looks like Elle MacPherson, sings like Patsy Cline, and talks like Princess Diana (get thee to Nashville, lass!). Plus she invited me up to guest on one of my own tunes, which was a sweet “silver lining” for yours truly. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org to order her new CD. Be charmed, dah-ling, I mean, y’all!
On 6/26, I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge (the last time for three bucks?) to hear Damir Stosic (how’s that for a name?) at the No Name Bar (757 Bridgeway, Sausalito). Damir is a Croatian singer/songwriter who looks like a ‘70’s heartthrob (ala Shaun Cassidy), takes requests (you gotta hear his “Neil Diamond”), sings his own folky songs, and chats the crowd up between songs (with this cool accent like that hot doctor, “Luka”on ER). He just got back from a European tour and has some great stories. And I have a story of my own: Damir was kind enough to ask me to sit in (what’s Croatian for “mensch”?), and after playing a new song of mine, “Here For You”, some guy at the bar actually asked me if it was a Joni Mitchell song!! (I’m not worthy, like Wayne and Garth!) Damir holds court every Wednesday night from 8:30-11:30 pm here and every Thursday from 7-10 pm at Tarragon’s (140 S. Murphy Road, Sunnyvale). Rumor has it Dave Matthews sat in at the No Name when he was recording at the Plant recently! Find him (Damir, not Dave) at www.damirstosic.com.
Unsung Heroes ‘N Zeroes
On 6/19, I checked out Maia Sharp, a singer/songwriter opening for Keb Mo’ at The Fillmore. Her dad, Randy Sharp, is one of those legendary songwriters (Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, etc.), and she has already had cuts by the Dixie Chicks and written with other greats like Carole King. I’d been diggin’ her new self-titled CD on Concord Records, with well-crafted tunes and a voice that echoes Joni Mitchell’s. She also reminds me of Beth Neilsen Chapman, a hit songwriter/artist I used to go see when I lived in Nashville. She does seem to have a cult following here, much of it the “girl with girl” persuasion (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It was fun to watch her solo on soprano sax (!), between alternating on guitar and piano, along with her solid band. I was a bit disappointed with her lack of real stage presence, however. Whether singing about a married lover going back to his wife (“Long Way Home”), or two sad sacks finding their way to each other (“Understudies”), her expressions and delivery never varied. Get some fire up under your butt when you play live, woman! Make me feel it!
Circus Town – Tommy Womack