It’s always so tempting when your favorite musician is performing halfway around the world, in a city you’d love to visit, at a venue you know would be perfect. I’ve met fans of British singer Beth Orton who flew from New York to London just to hear her perform one night at a small club called The Spitz. Orton’s performance was awe-inspiring, but was it worth paying $2,000 for everything from air fare to a hotel room to the actual ticket? And what about the time it took to get to London and back?
OK, it was worth it. But if you don’t have the time or the money this fall, you can always go for Plan B: Watching your ideal concert online, for just a few dollars or (here’s even better news) FREE. Yes, there are scores of great concerts this fall outside the Bay Area that, virtually, you can attend live. Here are seven concerts – a mix of rock, folk, country, and classical – that I’m planning to check out. The only catch: 8pm in London means 11am in San Francisco. So while the people at the actual concert might be partying at night like it’s 2099, it’ll be daytime for you. Slightly surreal, yes. But that’s a small price to pay for a concert that, one song at a time, transports you far beyond the Bay Area.
Chrissie Hynde and Blondie from London
Tuesday, September 16, 11:30am
American rock music hit a high point in the late 1970s and early ‘80s with the ascension of Chrissie Hynde and Blondie. “Kid” and “Brass in Pocket” (Hynde with The Pretenders), and “Call Me” and “Heart of Glass” (Blondie), combined elements of hard rock with experimental music and pop riffs. It was all so satisfying. Still is. So a concert with both Hynde and Blondie – led by the inimitable Debbie Harry – is cause for celebration. The double bill (Hynde at 11:30am, Blondie at 1pm) is part of the iTunes festival at London’s Roundhouse, an ideal place for concerts. The iTunes concerts, which began on September 1 and continue through September 30, are free to watch, though they have to be seen on iTunes or an Apple TV.
Tim McGraw from New York
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 6pm
A woman I once dated would play the songs of Tim McGraw on her car stereo while driving and swear there was no better music. I disagreed. Completely. But it got me thinking about country music in a way I’d never considered. As in, “Maybe country does have its place in the culture.” With his cowboy voice and his cowboy hats, McGraw is the apotheosis of country’s appeal. His 2014 song “Lookin’ for That Girl” has an infectious, rock-guitar twang that will appeal to those outside of country’s inner circle. To see for yourself, watch McGraw perform live from New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The concert is being produced by American Express, for its “Unstaged” series, which matches big-name singers with big-name directors – in this case, the director is Bennett Miller, whose credits include Moneyball and Capote.
Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, from Berlin
Thursday, Sept. 18, 11am
There’s a reason the Berlin Philharmonic is consistently rated one of the top philharmonics in the world: Its performances are so vivid and physical, the philharmonic plays classical music like it’s a contact sport. Sir Simon Rattle pushes the philharmonic in every direction with his conductor’s baton and pulmonary zeal. What will happen when Rattle and his cohorts tackle Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 in B flat major and Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor? These symphonies already have an over-the-top quality that makes audiences think they’re experiencing nothing less than the birth and rebirth of mankind. Watching this match-up of music and musicians, set in the eye-catching Berliner Philharmonie, promises to be one of the year’s best classical performances. The cost is about $13 (9.9 Euros), which gives you access for a whole week to the Berlin Philharmonic’s web concerts.
iHeartRadio Music Festival from Las Vegas
Friday, Sept. 19 and Saturday, Sept. 20
One of the United States’ biggest media companies, Clear Channel, operates one of the United States’ biggest Internet music portals, iHeartRadio, so when it decided to start a music festival in 2011, of course it chose the most glitzy, garish venue it could find: The MGM Grand Las Vegas. More than 15,000 people will jam into the hotel’s concert arena for this two-day extravaganza of the most au courant pop music. Usher, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Mötley Crüe, Lorde, and 50 Cent are among the headliners. The songs will come fast and furious, including online, where it’s being webcast by Yahoo! Two days may not be enough to get in all the material from the artists converging this weekend on the Las Vegas Strip.
Kat Burns from Toronto
Tuesday, Oct. 21, 6:30pm
For something much quieter than a Las Vegas festival, there’s Canadian singer Kat Burns, whose acoustic guitar playing and smart, sensitive lyrics are a nice way to spend any time on the Internet. Through her work with Forest City Lovers and KASHKA, Burns delves into all the subjects (love, chance meetings, strange people, etc.) that give expression to the best folk and smart-rock songs. One of my favorite songs of hers is “Song for Morrie,” about an old man who can’t walk, is close to death, but still has an active mind. “Maybe,” Burns sings, “all we need is someone to come home to.” “Song for Morrie” is sweet, fun, and genuinely uplifting and philosophical. Burns’ Oct. 21 performance is through a music platform called Stageit, where you pay whatever you want. Whatever you pay, it will be a bargain.
A.R. Rahman Meets Berklee at Boston Symphony Hall
Friday, Oct. 24, 5pm
A.R. Rahman is one of the biggest musical names in India. “Jai Ho,” the theme song from Slumdog Millionaire that won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award? That’s A.R. Rahman. “Chaiyya, Chaiyya,” the potent song that sets up Spike Lee’s film Inside Man? That’s A.R. Rahman. It’s rare that Rahman makes his way to perform in the United States, but he’ll be in Boston this night to be with the students and faculty of the acclaimed Berklee College of Music. The concert at the Berklee Performance Center coincides with the school giving Rahman an honorary doctorate. This is another online concert with a suggested donation. It’s free to watch the first few minutes. Most people can’t resist Rahman, which is why his music is in such demand around the world.
Berlin Philharmonic with Emmanuelle Haim from Berlin
Friday, Oct. 31, 11am
The French conductor Emmanuelle Haim frequently plays harpsichord while leading her orchestras in grandiose works of early and classical music. There’s nothing quite like it, and this performance is a chance to witness Haim’s musical pyrotechnics as she directs the Berlin Philharmonic in George Frideric Handel’s
”La resurrezione (Resurrection).” Handel’s work utilizes a flurry of beautiful operatic voices, which will be performed here by, among others, Swedish soprano Camilla Tilling and Finnish tenor Topi Lehtipuu. It’s a stalwart Europe-wide lineup for a night at the opera in Berlin.