Home Music Keanu Reeves lets music do the talking at Dogstar’s S.F. concert

Keanu Reeves lets music do the talking at Dogstar’s S.F. concert

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Keanu Reeves lets music do the talking at Dogstar’s S.F. concert


Keanu Reeves performs with his band Dogstar at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Keanu Reeves performs with his band Dogstar at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

It’s odd to watch Keanu Reeves for nearly two hours and never hear the actor speak. 

While “The Matrix” and “John Wick” star’s onscreen career has never relied on lengthy soliloquies, fans at Dogstar’s sold-out concert at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall on Sunday, Dec. 3, had to make do with no words from Reeves whatsoever.

Performing with his grunge trio in a short-sleeve black shirt and jeans, Reeves’ trademark goatee and shoulder-length hair were instantly recognizable as he took the stage alongside guitarist-vocalist Bret Domrose and drummer Robert Mailhouse in a spot that notably had no mic stand. From there, his fingers did all the talking — and fortunately, they had plenty to say.

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Keanu Reeves of Dogstar performs at Great American Music Hall on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Keanu Reeves of Dogstar performs at Great American Music Hall on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

The evening marked his band’s third local appearance of the year, following their first live performance in more than two decades earlier this summer at BottleRock Napa Valley. They’ve since put out a new album, “Somewhere Between the Power Lines and Palm Trees,” released on Oct. 6, and embarked on a tour that’s already brought them to the Guild in Menlo Park and back to Napa later this month, this time at Uptown Theatre, for intimate headline dates.

But on Sunday night, it was San Francisco’s turn.

The staff at Great American Music Hall was certainly in the spirit, placing a real dog named Murphy at the box office to assist with ticket issues. Unfortunately, Murphy’s human was kept busy as several distraught fans anxiously waited to learn whether anything could be done about the counterfeit tickets they’d apparently purchased.

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Following the concert, Fred Barnes, general manager and booker for the venue, confirmed with the Chronicle that “we may sell a small quantity of tickets to address scalping issues, which is handled on a case-by-case basis for those we deem to have been genuinely scammed by secondary markets.” Barnes “strongly suggests” concertgoers purchase tickets directly from the venue’s official website to avoid such problems.
 
Though it’s a shame such a policy is necessary, it undoubtedly saved the night for several fans. Inside the Great American Music Hall, everything was smiles and giddy anticipation. 

Dogstar’s Bret Domrose, left, and Keanu Reeves perform to a sold-out crowd at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

Dogstar’s Bret Domrose, left, and Keanu Reeves perform to a sold-out crowd at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.

Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

With Dogstar having previously performed at the Fillmore and the now-shuttered Slim’s nightclub over the years, plus Domrose a South Bay native, the frontman had a lot to draw on when he paused a few songs into the band’s set to talk to the crowd.

Reflecting on the gigs he used to play in the 1980s with his first band, Exigent Fall, Domrose shared that he and his drummer at the time, John Langford (who was in the crowd Sunday night, Domrose said), would find themselves playing the Chi Chi Club on Broadway as Metallica played next door at the Stone. Though neither venue remains today, Domrose appeared thrilled to once again be performing in one of the Bay Area’s storied venues. 

“We’ve played around here a couple times recently, and we’re starting to see some familiar faces. That means a lot to us,” he said. “We have a deep love for this city.”

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Playing tunes from all three of Dogstar’s albums to date, the audience unsurprisingly seemed more eager for the spotlight to shine on the band’s famous bassist than to hear the opening notes of any given track. Still, those there to enjoy a rock concert were given plenty to work with, as this trio’s desire to shred is no gimmick.

Demonstrating a cohesion and confidence that can only come from playing together on and off for 23 years, the three friends appeared genuinely delighted to revel in reverb over the course of a 90-minute set that included a four-song encore.

More Information

Dogstar’s set list

Blonde
Lust
How the Story Ends
Everything Turns Around
Lily
Glimmer
Dillon Street
Sunrise
Sleep
Flowers
Math
Overhang
Upside
Breach

Encore:
Lava Lamp
Halo
Shallow Easy
Jackbox

 

The show also provided a fitting bookend for an album that first took shape when the members of Dogstar found themselves together at the San Francisco premiere of Reeves’ “The Matrix Resurrection” in 2021. It was there that they decided it was time to start jamming again. The subsequent sessions in Mailhouse’s home studio in Silver Lake (Los Angeles County) would eventually inspire the material in the band’s third record.

Intriguingly, part of that process also involved deciphering Reeves’ inventive names for tracks, as Dogstar’s lead singer told the audience.

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“When we were writing this album, we were writing it pretty fast,and Keanu was really creative at coming up with titles for these impromptu songs,” he said. “One was just called ‘Shallow Easy.’ I said, ‘K, what’s that about?’ and he told me to ‘Just figure it out, man.’ ”

Domrose, it can be confirmed, managed to figure something amazing out. When Dogstar launched into “Shallow Easy,” a still-unreleased track the band previously debuted at BottleRock, it proved to be a soaring anthem that saw Domrose treat the crowd to a heavy dose of falsetto each time the chorus arrived.

Dogstar performs at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Dogstar performs at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Sunday, Dec. 3.

Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

Then, before the evening’s final song, Reeves provided what would amount to his only proclamation of the night.

“Whoa,” he mouthed, paying homage to his “Matrix” character Neo’s famous one-word reaction from the 1999 film. It was a kind gesture to those desperate for some acknowledgement from the world-famous actor, but more fittingly, it’s also a good way to describe the performance of his band.

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For 23-year-old Joy Daniels of Cotati, getting to see Dogstar amounted to a much-coveted second chance after missing out on the band’s set at BottleRock.

“I couldn’t make it to that, so when this date got announced, I was on it,” she said. “Keanu was amazing. I think we made eye contact at some point. Crazy!”

Zack Ruskin is a freelance writer.



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