The continued and very welcome return of live music continues in September, when Irvine is truly spoiled for major shows. But with COVID conditions still changing almost daily, be sure to check the status of any of the events listed below, as well as safety guidelines for concert-goers, before setting out.
KISS at FivePoint Amphitheatre
When it comes to premature rock ‘n roll partings, KISS is rivaled only by Scorpions (whose 2010 farewell tour has essentially never ended) and Ozzy Osbourne (who cheekily titled his ongoing trek “No More Tours II,” after the 1992 original proved three decades hasty). While KISS’s 2000-01 farewell tour was later craftily rebranded as only a goodbye to drummer Peter Criss (who in fact left midway through) and guitarist Ace Frehley, the foursome’s current End of the Road World Tour might just be literally that. Accompanied by the epic career retrospective, KISStory, which premiered on A&E earlier this summer, these performances appear to be the final, if extended, bows – including a recently-announced Las Vegas residency – of a storied 50-year career. If you’ve read this far, you already know what to expect: a pyrotechnic orgy visible from space framing a string of bubblegum-pop classics draped in cartoonish heavy metal clothing.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND at FivePoint Amphitheatre
Fri. 9/10 & Sat. 9/11
The very mention of the Dave Matthews Band conjures images of khaki shorts, parking-lot hacky sack, and carefree, cannabis-enhanced college days for legions of its now middle-aged fans. Deftly bringing just enough hook and structure to the jam band genre, the South African singer-songwriter and his famously virtuoso bandmates burst from campuses to stadiums seemingly overnight with their first couple of mid-1990s major-label albums (1994’s Under the Table and Dreaming, and ‘96’s Crash). Yet while largely a nostalgia act today, DMB’s reputation-making live shows – which also embrace jazz, funk, and world music – remain strictly in the here-and-now thanks to a lingering, proudly jammy ethos that never treats a song the same way twice. Whatever your feelings about DMB’s strummy and perhaps overly-sincere anthems, this improvisational ability is especially refreshing in an era of programmed music, backing tracks, and Auto-Tune (which, yes, can even be used in real-time, on stage).
KORN at FivePoint Amphitheatre
From a distance, Bakersfield’s Korn will be forever associated with the knuckle-draggin’ nu-metal genre of the late 1990s. But while the quintet was indeed at the forefront of marrying rap, hard rock, and darkly confessional/confrontational lyrics, they’ve ensured their longevity by repeatedly probing outside their own template. Over the course of 13 studio albums, they’ve dabbled with melody (2002’s Grammy-winning Untouchables) and electronica (2011’s The Path of Totality), while periodically circling back to their rep-making ultra-dynamic, tortured and defiant bombast. While there have certainly been missteps (notably 2007’s untitled effort), it’s Korn’s willingness to take commercial risks that’s earned them respect far transcending their core fanbase. Even listeners who lost track of them years ago likely recall first hearing Jonathan Davis’ seething “Are you ready?” opening line on Korn’s 1994 debut, which ushered in not only a significant new band, but also a sonic revolution still audible in today’s hard rock.
THE GATLIN BROTHERS at Irvine Barclay Theatre
Between releases as Larry Gatlin and, later, as Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, these genuine country music siblings racked up an incredible 33 Top 40 singles during the slick “countrypolitan” era of the 1970s’ and ‘80s. Larry’s first Nashville gig was singing backup for Kris Kristofferson, and two of his earlier songs were even covered by Elvis Presley. Completed by Steve and Rudy, today’s Gatlin Brothers have a vast, if rather distant, gospel-infused back catalogue to draw upon, including Grammy-winning 1975 single “Broken Lady”; their first country number one, “All the Gold in California”: and their last, “Houston (Means I’m One Day Closer to You)”. With intuitively close family harmonies honed in Texas oil-country churches, the Gatlin Brothers were well suited to the syrupy, shamelessly mainstream production of their heyday, and are one of the best living examples of country music’s most vilified, and hence oft-overlooked, sub-genres.
JAKE SHIMABUKURO at Irvine Barclay Theatre
Hawaii’s Jake Shimabukuro has been at the forefront of a recent revival in respect for the ukulele. Long an instrument found gathering dust in children’s playrooms and thrift stores, the renewed interest in the ukulele emanated from Hawaii, where it has a long history, in large part propelled by the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. Shimabukuro picked up the torch as an international ukulele ambassador somewhat inadvertently, when a video of his stunning rendition of George Harrison’s “When My Guitar Gently Weeps,” posted without his knowledge, became one of YouTube’s first viral sensations in 2006 (and currently boasts more than 17 million views). Now known as “the Jimi Hendrix of the ukulele,” he’s repeatedly hit the upper reaches of Billboard’s Top World Music Albums chart, and tours frequently both here and in Japan, as well as collaborating with everyone from Jimmy Buffett and Ziggy Marley, to Yo-Yo Ma and Cyndi Lauper.
PITBULL at FivePoint Amphitheatre
Having built a head of critical and commercial steam as a reggaeton, crunk, and Latin hip-hop artist throughout the aughts, Miami’s Pitbull took it to the bank with his first overtly pop album, Planet Pit, in 2011. That collection earned him a U.S. number one single (“Give Me Everything”), but it was follow-up Global Warming that justified his “Mr. Worldwide” nickname, with lead single “Timber” topping charts in some 18 countries. Suave and shaven-headed, the bilingual Pitbull straddles genres and cultures with ease. His melting-pot approach has at various times embraced Southern-flavored party-rap, dancehall, West Coast G-funk, and radio-ready pop-rap, with cross-pollinating collaborations with everyone from Ne-Yo and Natti Natasha to Lil Jon and J.Lo furthering broadening his fanbase. All this, harnessed to ferocious ambition, has forged a 25-million-album career and a one-man empire of product endorsements, business enterprises, and social activism rooted in the Latino community of his hometown.
JASON ALDEAN at FivePoint Amphitheatre
Outside of country music, Jason Aldean may be best known for having the misfortune to be on stage when a gunman murdered 58 people during a 2017 Las Vegas music festival. But within the genre, he’s been a high-flyin’ fixture for over 15 years, with a string of platinum and multi-platinum albums. Unabashedly bro-country, yet not overly hokey, Aldean can equally crank out feel-good rockers (“Crazy Town,” “She’s Country”) and heart-hurt ballads (“Drowns the Whiskey,” “Tonight Looks Good on You”), typically littered with lyrical references to rural locations and lifestyles. Seldom seen without a cowboy hat, he epitomizes the solid-but-sensitive male modern-country role model. With a knack for choosing songs (mostly from outside writers) that broadly resonate, and delivering them with a vulnerability that never quite abandons masculine pride, Aldean doesn’t appear to be going anywhere – except maybe down a dirt road in a lifted truck – anytime soon.