Off the Record with
Kevin and Joe Jonas – Keswick Theater – Glenside, PA – June 7, 2014
So what becomes of teen
pop stars when they give up the pop?
The Jonas Brothers
suddenly announced their breakup (as a band, not as brothers) last year,
surprising their hardcore fans – a constituency which admittedly had shrunk
somewhat since their heyday as Disney Channel heartthrobs about five years
ago. All of the guys had somewhat been straying from the band idea for a
while: Joe was starting to concentrate on acting, Nick put together his own
band on the side and Kevin had become a dad.
Still, these guys had
been making music since they were little boys. When the split happened, it
begged the question, what is next for the Jonas boys?
This show featuring two
of the three brothers, part of a three-stop East coast mini-tour, appears to
be the answer. It was recently announced with a certain amount of fanfare
and also a bit of mystery. This Philly area stop was the second of the
three shows (one had been in Wilmington, Delaware, and the other one was in
their hometown of Freehold, New Jersey.)
It was promoted as an
interactive spoken word tour. Which got people wondering – if they weren't
going to sing, what exactly were they going to do? The Jonases don't seem
the type to do stand up, or to get topical or rant about society, like say
Henry Rollins. So what's the dealio?
The crowd was made up
almost entirely of teenaged girls who were decked out to make sure that
Kevin and Joe knew that they had developed since the boys last saw
them. It was not a huge audience (actually the venue was about half empty),
but the girls who were there were very passionate fans, screeching
their appreciation and love throughout.
The empty seats probably
were not totally an indictment on the guys' waning popularity, more likely
people just weren't sure what exactly the Jonas Brothers were planning on
doing if they weren't singing. And would taking a chance to find out
whatever it was be worth the slightly hefty ticket price (particularly on a
young girl's budget)?
It turns out that
Off the Record with Kevin and Joe Jonas was a celebration of all things Jonas, a
virtual Jonas convention complete with Q&As, cute baby videos and lots and
lots of filmed footage of the group's glory days. Their long-time best
friend acted as emcee, asking questions he had collected from the crowd and
sort interviewing/reminiscing with the guys.
The show started with a
tease right off the bat. Sitting on a rather comfy looking living room set,
taking questions from the crowd, the first one addressed the elephant in the
room: Why did you guys break up? The guys looked faux uncomfortable,
Kevin even grabbing a beer from a piece of stage setting (this ain't the
Disney Channel no more, guys!). Then they said we'll get to that later.
Maybe. And then they kept pushing the question back as it kept getting
asked in different ways. Later, when another girl asked where little
brother Nick was that night, the guys vaguely said he was working on a new
And after a few minutes
of talking and a couple of questions answered, cue the next video montage.
The guys were charming,
mostly funny, flirting gamely with their audience of young girls. As an
adult man, they didn't even care that I was there, which is fine, it was the
way it should be. I'm not their audience. They talked about being a Jonas
and being a father and being an actor and the crazy whirl of pop stardom.
And there were lots of videos. Scenes of the guys singing. Bloopers. The
guys as little boys in their first theatrical roles.
They had a trivia game
called "Know Your Bro" which put a fan up against each Jonas in a trivia
contest about the other brother. We all learned that Joe Jonas has
nightmares of being chased by Avril Lavigne. Who knew? Actually,
the girl playing along knew. Good for her. For knowing that, she
won a chance to take a picture with the Jonas boys and Santa Claus (yes, it
is June), for her holiday card shot. The picture was taken
on a Polaroid (who knew there were still Polaroids?), I guess so that it
wouldn't easily end up online.
And just over an hour
into the show, it was over, probably close to half of that time was watching
clips on a screen which have been seen before. However, none of the fans
seemed to feel shortchanged as they filed out. It was an orgy of the senses
for Jonas fans. And if you don't care about the Jonases, you'd have been
bored stiff. Then again, you wouldn't have been there anyway. As the old
song goes, the boys don't like it, but the little girls understand.
Jay S. Jacobs
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April 11, 2018.
The All-American Rejects
& Gentleman Hall - Delaware Valley
College - Doylestown, PA - April 25, 2014
Wow! What a concert. I can honestly say that in my whole
life, I have never seen a live performance like this before. Everything about the
concert added to the vibe, and it all culminated into quite the show.
First, there was the venue. This weekend, Delaware Valley
college had a series of performances for its spring concert series. This was
the first of three nights dedicated to “A-Day Weekend” as they call it, and
it did not disappoint.
The concert was held in the main gym on campus, a venue
quite like a high school gym setting. There were bleachers in the back and a
stage was set up at the front where concert-goers could get close enough to
see the sweat on performers faces. This interesting setting wasn’t typical,
but it worked. The intimate setting made it all the better, the music was
louder and there was a strong connection between the bands and the audience.
The concert opened with Gentlemen Hall, a quirky indie pop
band from Massachusetts. Gentlemen Hall is newer to the music scene than the
Rejects are, but they were great nonetheless. You may have heard their music
recently on TV or in commercials. The band performed with high energy.
were all dancing around while playing their instruments. Their songs were
very catchy and fun, I even woke up the next morning with one stuck in my
One of my favorite things about Gentlemen Hall is their use
of different instruments that aren’t often seen in pop bands. They had a
synthesizer and a flute. The flutist really added to the band with his
intense energy and enthusiasm. Coupled with his great playing, the band
reached a whole other level.
For me, the best song that the band did performed was “Sail
Into the Sun.” It was catchy and fun, a real hit (previously featured in
Target Commercials). In addition, due to the small venue and casual nature
of the event, I actually ended up meeting the flutist, Seth, who is a really
cool and laid back guy who loves being a part of Gentlemen Hall.
The All American Rejects were finally up. As the lights
came up, they started performing right away. They started off with a big
hit, “Dirty Little Secret,” which really set the tempo for the whole show.
It was fast and loud and the whole band was full of energy.
They were moving and dancing around, inspiring the audience
to join in the power. When a band has energy it makes the concert all the
better. This energy was there the whole time, even when they slowed down for
the ballad “Mona Lisa.”
The Rejects did not disappoint,
either old fans and new. For
the new fans, they kept the energy high and the lights flashing, providing
an entertaining experience. For long time fans, they played several
classics, mixed in with a few newer songs. They really outdid themselves, it
was an exciting concert that was wonderful to see.
The All American Rejects and Gentlemen Hall were an unique
combination but worked well together, providing an unforgettable concert
experience for everyone.
Pentatonix - Electric
Factory - Philadelphia, PA - March 30, 2014
Sunday night the Electric Factory had a full house to see the up and coming
a capella group, Pentatonix, winners of
season three of the reality singing competition The
Sing-Off. When going to this show I really didn't know what to expect,
but as soon as they hit the stage the energy from the five vocalists
– as well as the fans – was spectacular.
The group did
a series of covers that ranged from Daft Punk's hit single "Get Lucky" to
the new wave classic "Video Killed the Radio Star" by
The Buggles. Though covers at times can be rather dull, the group was able
to twist the songs in very unique ways to make even the toughest critic want
to get up and dance.
Not only were
their covers phenomenal, but the artists
got to showcase their specific talents: one
being Kevin (K.O.) Olusola beat-boxing and playing
the cello simultaneously. Needless
to say it was extremely impressive. If you were to drop a pin on the floor
the whole venue would have been able to hear it because they were so
enthralled from this performer's amazing talent.
thought this show couldn't have gotten any better, to my amazement, as the
performances continued the charisma and enthusiasm of the five performers on
stage led into an amazing crescendo at the end of the show to the audience's
This show was
one to remember and was probably one of the most energetic, fun concerts I
have ever been to. So the next time Pentatonix are in Philadelphia, I would
mark it on your calendars because this vocal group is going to be one to
Selena Gomez and Emblem3 -
Wells Fargo Center - Philadelphia,
Gomez didn't disappoint her fans when she rolled into Philly Friday night
for the latest stop of her "Stars Dance" World Tour. Showing off her powerful
singing voice and impressive dance moves, Gomez – the latest Disney
Channel star gone
pop superstar – made it perfectly clear that she's thrilled to take her fans
with her on to this new chapter of her life. She even thanked them and
their parents for trusting her to be a good role model.
80-plus minute performance, there were no tongues hanging out, no twerking and
she never, ever wagged a foam finger across anyone's crotch.
their age and background of growing up on a hit Disney show puts Selena and
Miley Cyrus at similar places in their lives, this 21-year-old star
is no Miley. Gomez loves her fans of all ages and is definitely all about
class. Before singing one of her songs that talks about being sexy, Selena
gave an Ashton Kutcher-like short speech about what is sexy –
Selena announced that to her "class" is sexy, the whole arena burst into
applause. Interestingly, the volume of cheers was not just the teens and tweens in attendance though, but also from appreciative parents
thankful and impressed that a positive message
was being given to their
started with a video showing Selena awakening and walking through a
mysterious white door leading to the stage. Throughout her performance, the
same video technique was used several other times: with her walking through
other doors like Alice in Wonderland, allowing for costume changes.
audience clearly enjoyed Gomez's set selection, which included music from all
of her albums including hits like "Who Says,"
"Bang Bang Bang,"
and Get It" and "Birthday." Selena also performed some covers,
including a powerful and well received rendition of Katy Perry's latest hit
single "Roar" and a moving rendition of
"Dream" by Priscilla Ahn, which
she sang only after telling her audience to never give up on their dreams.
performing "Love Will Remember," Selena showed her vulnerable side as a
video flashed on the screen highlighting her very public breakup with Justin Bieber. Words like
flashed slowly and then progressively quicker on the screen. When it all
went black, Gomez appeared on the stage to perform the song, seeming very
fans sang along to all the words of her songs and seemed to enjoy every
moment of her performance. The dance-friendly vibe of her performance was
enjoyable and her total performance made a powerful, positive statement to
her young fans. The majority of the show was choreographed well, though
there was one song with her and female dancers twisting in ropes hanging
from the ceiling that I didn't really get. But Gomez's eight talented
dancers backed her up well and definitely made her performance exciting.
Overall, Gomez put on an fun and enjoyable show proving the girl who used to
be known for being the cute girl on The Wizards of Waverly Place and
for dating the Biebs, is so much more than that.
for Gomez was the awesome trio from Huntington Beach, California called
Emblem3. Consisting of brothers Keaton and Wesley Stromberg along with
their lifelong friend Drew Chadwick, Emblem3 was first discovered as
contestants on the second season of The X Factor in 2012. The boys were
quickly signed by music mogul Simon Cowell to his label Syco Records and
Columbia Records... because lets face it, the guy knows how to spot musical
to the smart marketing of their record labels, the boys of Emblem3 are no
strangers to Philadelphia. They seem to be on an endless loop to our area,
as this is probably their fourth visit to Philly in the last year.
their cool California sound and adorable looks, all these visits are paying
off, as they leave their fans wanting more and more with each stop. Friday
night was no different. The guys put on an exciting show with their young,
adoring fans screaming and dreaming of their next visit.
for their reggae, rap, rock sound, Emblem3 performed an energetic set with
crowd favorites from their recently released CD Nothing to Lose which
included "Sunset Boulevard,"
"Just for One Day" and of course their mega-hit from the summer,
their first single "Chloe
(You're the One I Want)." Other song choices
included a rocking cover of Rhianna's "Diamonds." They sounded great
and surprisingly you could hear their voices and music above all the screams
of "Will you marry me Keaton?", "I love you Drew" and yes, frighteningly I
did hear "I want to have your baby Wesley!"
of Emblem3 know how to excite a crowd. They seem to love a lot of
interaction with their audience, which is always well received. In a
favorite moment for a lot of fans, the trio figured "when in Philly..." and
pulled on some Flyers jerseys, wearing them proudly for the next songs.
the performance of their recently released rock ballad
"3000 Miles," the
Wells Fargo Center glowed with cell phone lights (apparently the new concert
of the old-school cigarette lighters) and you could hear a chorus of thousands singing along with the
Recently the boys were doing a CD signing for Nothing
to Lose that
we were lucky to be part of. We spoke with many of their fans and learned
of their devotion to these talented musicians and that they are willing to
pay whatever they have to (or get their parents to pay) in order to see
them. Friday night's show was no different, as we heard from some of the same
girls who not only forked over cash for their concert tickets, but they also
super-sized the experience by buying a VIP pass to meet and touch their
favorite Cali boys before their set began.
really is a different kind of boy band that we will be hearing about for a
long time. They put on a fun, energetic show... so if you haven't caught them
in concert yet, give them a try.
Peter Hook & the Light
– The Trocadero – Philadelphia, PA – September 14, 2013
What Peter Hook and
the Light offered was a glimpse into the greatness of Joy Division and New
Order. They also exposed the transition of the members of
the first band surviving the tragic passing of their lead singer, Ian
Curtis, and changing to develop the sound of
iconic New Order. In a performance that lasted almost
three hours, Peter Hook gave his all as he showed his appreciation
for and his role in creating a sound that is now a
part of music history.
Those late to the show
may still be kicking themselves for missing Slaves of Venus, or Peter Hook
& the Light’s name for covering a number of Joy
Division classics. This included a rare B-side “In A Lonely Place,” which
also happens to be the last song written by the late Ian Curtis.
The transition to
Movement came in the form of “Ceremony,” which is both a New
Order hit and one of the last songs written by Ian Curtis. Peter Hook then
played through Movement, an album which still carries the signature
bass and the dark lyrics of Joy Division, but with the
emerging sound of New Order.
After taking a short
break, the band returned to play Power, Corruption & Lies,
the record where New Order came into its own.
Finally, Hooky finished with the classic “Temptation” (featured in the movie
Trainspotting), and closed with “Blue Monday,” which sent the crowd
roaring into the memorable night.
Needless to say, any
doubt regarding Peter Hook’s ability to carry lead vocals for two distinct
bands has been shattered, as he sounded excellent while rotating between the
bass and the guitar. His supporting cast consisted of his son, Jack Bates,
on the bass, David Potts on guitar, Andy Poole on keyboard, as well as Paul
Kehoe excelling at the drums.
Overall, Peter Hook
& the Light put on an intimate show that felt like
a heartfelt celebration of Joy Division and New Order, one which can stick
with you for weeks and create a deeper appreciation for songs you already
Simpson - The State Theater - New Brunswick, NJ - July 17, 2013
I went to see Cody Simpson with the silly notion that I could relax and
listen to this guy, see what the hype was about for this 16-year-old teen
sensation from Down Under. I thought I knew what to expect;
beyond thousands of screaming teens and tweens hoping that they would be
selected as Cody's Angel for the night. But I was more than pleasantly
surprised, though it was difficult to relax and
listen. This was his Paradise tour, promoting his first full length
EP Paradise. He also included some songs from his new album
Surfer's Paradise (do you detect a theme?)
that was released just the night before.
True to his roots from the Australian Gold Coast,
his music is beachy and fun. He has a smooth, mellow voice; almost
mesmerizing. And no it's not his adorable Aussie accent -
which you can't hear anyway when he sings,
though it sure sounds charming when he speaks. The teeny boppers all around
me felt the same; every time this kid opened his mouth, before he
had barely uttered a word or a note there was
screaming and crying all around me. I was sitting in a balcony and at times
was uncertain that the weight of all the jumping and dancing was not going
to cause a disaster. If the screaming did not completely interfere with my
Cody concert experience the bouncing and vibrating balcony did. I was
actually a little nervous we would crash.
Even if he was not a talented singer and entertainer his fans would probably
buy tickets just to hear him speak. When I say entertainer, he has it all.
He is a singer (a good one at that), plays a bit of guitar, is a great
dancer and writes some of his music. Do I need to mention that he is an
adorable beach blond surfer "dude"?
His new album, Surfer's Paradise is more mature and I find myself
listening and wanting to hear more because I like it and not because I have
to. It has touch of reggae, a touch of rap (both of which he pulls off just
fine) and I hear a hint of John Mayer. It's very pleasant and not at all
reminiscent of a teeny bopper concert. And to make it even more respectable,
Ziggy Marley is featured on "Love"
and Asher Roth is featured on "Imma
Cody Simpson's events are a family affair. So as usual his ever-present
family members were… present. His dad Brad and pretty younger sister Alli
(who also is breaking into music, in addition to
doing some modeling) could be seen chatting and being photographed with
their own fans and hanging out watching the show. I did not catch sight of
his mom Angie or his younger brother Tom at this show but I've seen them at
other events, including both sets of his
grandparents all the way from Australia. Lot's of
love in this family, which should give you a hint
at Cody's character and groundedness; a nice thing to see in a young pop
It's hard to believe that he is only 16 years old. His voice is mature and
he has the physique of someone much older. It will be interesting to see and
hear how this young, talented man evolves over the
years. I think he will be around for a while and that eventually people my
age may be buying tickets to his show; not as a "mom of a teen fan" but as a
fan of Cody Simpson.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Cher Lloyd, Jason DeRulo, Hot Chelle
Rae, Emblem3 and Megan & Liz - WPST PopFest 2013 - Sun National Bank Center - Trenton, NJ
- May 30, 2013
Thursday May 30, 94.5
WPST radio hosted Pop Fest 2013, featuring some of
this years biggest music stars. Held at the Sun Financial Center in
Trenton, NJ, fans were obviously very excited to
see some of their favorite musicians, including Megan &
Liz, Emblem 3, Hot Chelle Rae, Jason Derulo, Cher Lloyd, and Carly Rae
Jepsen. The atmosphere was definitely very family oriented, with the
majority of the fan base being young children accompanied by their parents.
But that did not stop the fans from getting loud with a lot of energy as
they definitely enjoyed the various pop-stars’ performances.
Megan and Liz were the opening act. The duo is becoming one of music’s
biggest as they played some of their most famous songs Thursday night,
including “Cruise” and “Bad for Me”. Megan and Liz definitely set the night
of with a bang, setting the tone for a great night for the fans.
Emblem3, the band
Wesley Stromberg, Keaton Stromberg, and Drew Chadwick, were definitely one
of the acts that fans came for. The band played their biggest song, “Chloe,
You’re the One I Want”, throwing fans into a frenzy of excitement. As soon
as Emblem3 started to play the song, the audience erupted with applause and
Chelle Rae followed Emblem3, and they were also welcomed warmly. The band
played a few of their songs, including “I Like it Like That,” “Whatever” and
“Hung Up.” The bands' sound was very similar to what you would hear on the
radio, showing that the band is less synthesized than most today. Hot
Chelle Rae, like every performer, gave a very good, fun performance.
Jason Derulo was definitely one of the fan's favorite performers.
Immediately as he came on stage the fans seemed to get even louder than they
had previously during the concert. Derulo played many of his best hits
including “Whatcha Say” and “Ridin’ Solo,” songs that have been prominent
for some time now. A very exciting dance team accompanied Derulo and they
were all perfectly synchronized for all of his songs.
British pop star Cher Lloyd's performance included hits like “Oath,”, “With
Ur Love” and “Want U Back.” She also covered other pop songs such as “O.M.G.”
by Usher, but put her own flare to them. Rising from the UK’s X Factor,
Lloyd went back to her roots of performing live and did not disappoint.
Probably the biggest star that performed, Carly Rae Jepsen gave a great
performance. Starting off with her Owl City collaboration “Good Time,”
Carly Rae was truly fantastic live and had all fans singing along to all of
her songs. Jepsen also inevitably included her most famous song, “Call Me
Maybe.” For many fans, hearing one of the most popular songs of the decade
live was very exciting.
Tom Jones – Theater of the Living Arts – Philadelphia, PA –
May 17, 2013
The youthful and charismatic Prince of Wales of yore has
matured into a slightly grizzled and hardened King. While the years have
passed and life has challenged, he still retains at 72 years old the
chiseled handsomeness and bellwether voice that so mesmerized your mother
(or grandmother) that she threw her panties up on stage back in the staid
60s, when they just didn't do that kind of thing. (I apologize if that's a
disturbing image, but you know it happened, dude.)
Jones has always been a bit of a musical chameleon. Over
the years he has tried (and mostly succeeded at) pop, soul, country, dance
music, alt. rock, new wave, hip-hop and easy listening. Jones' latest
album, the bluesy Spirit in the Room and its 2010 predecessor
Praise and Blame are back to basics efforts in which he covers the likes
of Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, Joe Henry, Johnny Lee Hooker
and more. The stripped back albums – particularly Spirit – have been
getting terrific critical reviews and comparisons to Johnny Cash's
Therefore, it made sense that such a low-key project would
spawn a low-key tour. Even calling it a tour is a bit of a stretch. Jones'
US trek of 2013 consists of smallish club dates in three cities – Los
Angeles, Philadelphia and New York – over a period of a little over a week.
Tickets were released – and sold out – mere hours before the shows.
The packed-to-the-rafters TLA was alerted to the fact that
they were not in Live in Las Vegas territory from the very start,
when Jones opened with a soft take on Leonard Cohen's "Tower of Song,"
featuring the apocryphal opening couplet, "Well, my friends are gone, and my
hair is gray/I ache in the places that I used to play." This was a more
wizened, mature Tom Jones, and he wore the gravitas well.
With that, Jones spun out an adventurous two hour set of
bluesy songs, performed enthusiastically with pitch perfect vocals and a hot
band backing him up. He teased the audience with the intro "This is a very
nasty song," and then launched into a rollicking and playful version of Tom
Waits' "Bad As Me" that sizzled on the stage.
Jones took something of a gamble in the fact that he almost
completely ignored his classic songbook in favor of newer songs and covers.
That's right, no "It's Not Unusual." No "What's New, Pussycat?" No "Love
Me Tonight." No "Delilah." Not even later hits like Prince's "Kiss" or "Sexbomb."
The one song that Jones performed written by Mickey
Newbury, who wrote many of his biggest hits, was actually a hit for someone
else: Kenny Rogers and the First Edition's psychedelic classic "Just Dropped
In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)." However, he said that he
wanted to show how his old collaborator had really wanted the song
performed, so it was a cool musical rescue mission.
Jones also paid tribute to the recently deceased George
Jones by doing a stunning version of "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Then
Jones talked about his good friend Elvis Presley and said he was going to do
his favorite Elvis song, but in keeping with the off-the-radar vibe it
turned out to be one of Presley's lesser known hits, "One Night With You."
When he finally played the first of his old hits (and it
turned out, last) in the second to last spot of a generous five song encore,
Jones picked a slightly more obscure one. A great song, granted, but if 100
Jones fans were asked what song they wanted to hear most from his playbook,
I'd be shocked if any of them picked "Green, Green Grass of Home." I kind
of get the choice, though, beyond the fact that I fucking love the song, it
is the old-fashioned story song lament of a death row inmate reminiscing
about his youth the night before his execution. It fit the vibe of the rest
of the playlist.
It would have been a gas to hear some more of his old
classics, but I can rather understand why he kept them under wraps in this
set. The more upbeat swinging beats of his classics would not rest easily
with the more bluesy set Jones had in mind. And while some more of Jones'
classics, like say "Delilah," "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" or "I (Who
Have Nothing)" could have been tweaked to fit the mood, the fact is they
Not many artists have the type of talent that they can keep
an audience rapt for two hours, performing mostly songs the audience did not
know and ignoring the ones that they expected to hear. Tom Jones did it
easily and with style. The show was not exactly what I was expecting coming
in, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Well done, Sir Tom.
Buckingham – World Café Live at the Queen – Wilmington DE – June 11, 2012
Lindsey Buckingham spent
quite a bit of time discussing the big machine and the small machine at his
recent solo show.
“The big machine” is of
course Fleetwood Mac – a long-lived British blues band that became one of
the biggest groups in the world after Buckingham and then-girlfriend Stevie
Nicks joined in 1975. The couple turned out to be just the thing to turn a
cult band into arena rock superstars, and it was greatly attributed to
Buckingham’s smart and artistic pop songwriting. Their 1976 album
Rumours, written and recorded around Buckingham and Nicks’ personal
relationship fracturing as well as bandmates Christine and John McVie’s
divorce, is arguably the definitive break-up album in rock history,
eventually selling over 19 million copies.
“The small machine”
is Buckingham’s solo work, which was critically acclaimed though more
earthbound sales-wise, though he did have a few hits in the early ‘80s such
as “Trouble,” “Go Insane” and “Holiday Road,” the theme to the comedy
National Lampoon’s Vacation.
Buckingham’s career with
Mac is getting further in the rear-view mirror. He originally left the band
in the late 80s and re-upped in 1997, but in the 15 years since returning to
the fold the group released one live album, one studio album of original
material and mounted three tours, the most recent in 2009.
This solo one-man-show
was a bit of an experiment even for Buckingham, who said that when he
started touring solo he had a 10-piece band, then for years toured with
three other musicians. Now it was just he on stage. Though
coolly, for a one-person-show there was a bank of at least twelve different
guitars – electric and acoustic – all of which were used on one song or
The stripping down worked
well for Buckingham. The sparse arrangements took away from some of the
slickness of his studio work – particularly the Mac songs – and gave them a
new ragged urgency.
Take, for example, his
mid-‘80s solo single “Go Insane.” Buckingham slowed the tempo greatly and
ramped up the vocals, giving the song a bleak desperation that is probably
more in tune with the lyrics than the upbeat pop of the original recording.
The song was completely reinvented, making a very good tune even better.
Even when he was faithful
to the original arrangements (or at least as faithful as a single man can be
on band songs) he enjoyed teasing the melody. After starting of with a very
upbeat, swinging version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Going Back,” Buckingham
suddenly bogged down the arrangement in the middle, stretching the lyrics
out as if they were painful to get out, before returning to the original
There was also a slight
feeling of melancholy over the proceedings – although Buckingham did not
acknowledge this – because the show happened a matter of days after the
suicide of Bob Welch, the guitarist that Buckingham essentially replaced in
frugally between band and solo tunes, offering up Fleetwood favorites like
"Go Your Own Way" and "Big Love" with lesser-known solo tracks like the
lovely "Cast Away Dreams," the wistful "Seeds We Sow" and the blistering
"Come" (it's amazing all that sound came from one guitar). He even did an
instrumental version of the early Buckingham/Nicks song "Stephanie."
He encored with a strong
version of the semi-obscure “Rock Away Blind” when a cute
blonde in the front row begged for it. Buckingham good-naturedly joked that
it wasn’t on his set-list and now everyone will be expecting him to take
requests. You won't get that with the big machine.
The set was loose and
passionate, fun and frisky, dark and ultimately hopeful. The show proved
that while Lindsey Buckingham is great with a band, he sure as hell doesn't
need one. The small machine was working pretty damned well all by itself.
Jay S. Jacobs
Lucy Woodward – Highline Ballroom – New York, NY – July 17, 2010
There was probably a
certain amount of wishful thinking involved when the emcee at this show
introduced Lucy Woodward as “The star of stage and screen” – but even if he
somewhat over-inflated her importance, in a better world those accolades
would be deserved.
Instead, Woodward was
playing the show for her terrific third album Hooked – her first
album for the legendary jazz label Verve Records – and way too many people
have never heard of her.
In fact, to this day,
Woodward is best remembered for her 2003 hit single “Dumb Girls” as well as
writing Stacey Orrico’s hit single “There’s Gotta Be (More To Life).” Both
are wonderful songs, however they couldn’t be farther artistically from where
Woodward is now. Back then her label was trying to sell her as an Avril
Woodward showed her true
colors a couple of years ago when her second CD Lucy Woodward is Hot and
Bothered reintroduced her as a modern jazz chanteuse, a good-natured
jump and jam artist whose sound is timeless and at the same time a tougher
continues Woodward’s metamorphosis into a jazzy song
stylist, with a broad stylistic palette and a warm, inviting vocal style.
The Highline show was a return home for the Bronx-born singer who has
recently moved to California. She seemed comfortable and welcoming in this
homecoming show, where she introduced the new album to her old hometown.
And she was not just playing with some hired hand jazz band,
her musicians were smoking hot.
The show was very
specific to Hooked – playing every song on the album except for her
gorgeous cover of “Stardust.” In fact, the only complaint I have about this
show is that none of the songs from her amazing previous album Hot &
Bothered were performed at this show – unless you count “Slow Recovery”
which was originally on that album and has been rerecorded for the new one.
That gorgeous heartbreak
ballad, which is Woodward’s current single and would be a smash in a just
world, sounded quietly and defiantly strong in a stripped-down more acoustic
In fact, the live
versions often improved on the already good versions on Hooked. For
example the live setting brought out the humor and desperation of the
ticking-biological-clock torch song “Babies” in a way that the more lushly
orchestrated studio version doesn’t quite achieve. She was also even more
playful in the sexy “Ragdoll” and even more desperately sad in the torchy
“My Purple Heart.”
The only non-album track
done in the show was a sultry take on Jace Everett’s “Bad Things” (a.k.a.
the theme song to the HBO series True Blood.) The version smoldered
and simmered with passion and Woodward should rush back into the studio like
yesterday to record this tune.
Jay S. Jacobs
Leonard Cohen – The
Academy of Music – Philadelphia PA – May 12, 2009
When was the last time you saw a man who was 75 years old give a
Leonard Cohen – the quietly polite gentleman, recent Rock & Roll Hall of
Fame inductee, novelist, poet and humble son of a tailor – seemed determined
to offer maximum entertainment value for the rather expensive tickets.
(They were just under $200.00 apiece! Not that anyone in the crowd seemed
to feel exploited at all.)
Perhaps it was the knowledge that Cohen doesn’t tour often (his last
Philadelphia show was in 1993.). Perhaps it was the unspoken understanding
that this may be his last go-round. Perhaps it was just a personal bucket
list experience for many in the crowd.
Whatever it was, Cohen had the audience in his pocket from the opening notes
of “Dance Me to the End of Love.”
Cohen filled the grand old opera hall with his unusually eloquent musical
tales of love, lust, war, religion, darkness, chaos, heartbreak, aging,
betrayal, apocalypse and redemption.
From the sexual politics of “Everybody Knows” to the doomsday scenario of
“The Future” to the artistic dread of “Tower of Song,” Cohen explored the
human condition with exceptional insight. Yet, from all the darkness there
was hope – as he sang in “Anthem”: “There is a crack in everything. That’s
how the light gets in.”
Cohen’s voice – always a gruff and not a naturally beautiful instrument –
has taken on nuances and shadings with age which fit his divine words in
unusual and trenchant ways.
For example, he reclaimed “Hallelujah,” which is arguably his best-known
song, from the ethereal cover done by Jeff Buckley. His slightly cracked
vocal brought passion and befuddlement and betrayal to the uneasy religious
quality of love.
The set list was nearly identical to Cohen’s current album Live in London,
which was recorded last year. Only three songs were added to the
queue – “Chelsea Hotel #2,” “Waiting for the Miracle” and “Famous Blue
Raincoat” – and one or two other songs were switched out of position.
(“Sisters of Mercy” was definitely played earlier here than on the London
Even much of the between-song patter was word-for-word identical. However,
this makes a certain amount of sense. Much more than most artists, words
are vital to Cohen. Everything out of his mouth is artistically structured
and measured for maximum impact, so it is only natural that when he found
the perfect phrasing he would stick with it.
After three encores, Cohen – always an elegant gent – closed the show with
an impassioned speech thanking everyone involved in the concert: from band
members, to the lighting and sound crews, roadies and even the catering
people. However, mostly he thanked the audience for sharing the night with
"I don't know when I'll pass this way again, so until then, take care
friends,” he said. “The weather's kind of tricky out there, so don't catch
a cold. If you have to fall, fall on the side of luck. And may you be
surrounded by friends and family. And if this is not your lot, may the
blessings find you in your solitude. Thank you so much for your warmth and
your hospitality. We greatly appreciate it. Good night, friends."
From some artists, this would sound insincere, but you get the feeling that
Cohen has truly come to appreciate his lot. For all of the craziness and
hypocrisy and pain and desperate love in the world, there is nothing more
vital than to shine a little light and spread a little beauty. To
paraphrase a line in “Chelsea Hotel #2,” life can be ugly, “but we have the
But, perhaps Cohen captured his own power even more simply as he signed off
“Sincerely, L. Cohen.”
No one should ever question his sincerity.
As someone who has been to hundreds of shows, I
can say without hesitation that this show was one of only a handful of truly
transcendent concerts that I have been privileged to experience.
Jay S. Jacobs
Nickelback, Seether &
Saving Abel – Wachovia Center – Philadelphia PA – March 9, 2009
sometimes a little easy to forget how many Nickelback songs you know and how
ubiquitous their music has been on the radio for the last several years,
simply because so many of their songs kind of sound alike.
However this long – closing in on two hours – set shows that while it is
easy to take their meat-and-potatoes rock for granted, this Canadian group
has put themselves together a pretty neat set list. Even if you aren’t a
fan, you probably like more of these songs than
you ever realized.
the moment that they shot out of the gates with the funny/sexist anthem
“Something in Your Mouth” the group had the crowd in his hand – making jokes
about dive bars, half-jokingly asking the women in the audience to see their
tits, cannoning t-shirts into the crowd – Nickelback has the blue-collar rock
star role down pat.
Whether doing an acoustic guitar version of their admittedly funny music biz
parody “Rockstar” to slamming down a fiery version of “Figured You Out” to
the sensitive balladry of “Far Away,” the band was hitting on all cylinders.
group also kept an interesting show going behind them on the big screens.
For example, they made a virtual slideshow video for their nostalgic hit
“Photograph,” giving the audience a Polaroid snapshot history of the band
members – growing up, partying, in school, in concert, back stage and back
street. They also kissed up to the local crowd, mixing shots of the recent
World Series parade, the Eagles, the LOVE statue and the Phillie Phanatic.
Nickelback played pretty much every song a fan would expect – though they
did skip over lead singer Chad Kroeger’s side project hits like “Hero” which
he did for the first Spider-Man movie with Josey Scott of Saliva and
his Carlos Santana collaborations “Why Don’t You & I” and “Into the Night.”
Even without those songs, it is a pretty perfect night of Nickelback.
please guys, knock it off with the fake gunshots
explosion sound effects in the middle of
the sets. I know you love loud noises, but you scared
the shit out of me several times.
Rounding out the bill
were a couple of bands that are quirkier but every bit as rock. South
African band Seether kept the audience rapt with their hardcore hits like
“Remedy” (which sounds disturbingly like Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” in
spots) rocked out seriously, as did the acidic “Tongue” and their rather
surprising cover of Wham featuring George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”
However, the band
sounded best when they slowed down the pace a bit, particularly in their
shattering ballad “Broken” and the poppier “Rise Above This.”
Singer Shaun Morgan
also returned to the stage with Nickelback to do a shredding cover of
Filter’s “Hey Man, Nice Shot.”
Opening act Saving
Abel also gave a strong short set – with the standout performances being
their hit single “Addicted,” the soldier’s tribute “18 Days” and the
pissed-off rant “Out of My Face.”
Jay S. Jacobs
Nikka Costa – World Café
Live – Philadelphia PA – October 21, 2008
Nikka Costa’s new tour they were selling t-shirts with a lightning bolt and
70s-styled fat fonts which read “The return of the funky white bitch.”
After watching Costa stalk the boards for nearly two hours all I can say is
“Hallelujah! Yea, she is back!” Costa, the daughter of jazz legend Don
Costa (Frank Sinatra was her Godfather) has deep-fried soul down to the
is a funky diva in the tradition of Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Millie Jackson,
Patti Labelle and number of soul mamas. She is a singer out of time – if
she were around in the 60s or 70s she’d have been huge.
Instead, after two critically acclaimed but mostly overlooked major label
releases she comes back swinging on a smaller label – but it is a revived,
legendary soul label, Stax; home of Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Booker T and
the MGs and Isaac Hayes. Her album may not have as much corporate backing,
but it’s got just as much fire.
do-it-yourself credo is achieved in her latest live gigs (which she referred
to as an Obama-styled grass roots tour) in which Costa testified and
screamed, jammed, cooed, burned, crammed and creamed.
a whip-tight backing band full of brassy horns and enough wocka-wocka guitar
magic to make Isaac Hayes blush, Costa sizzled with a retro abandon that
more mannered current divas would just envy. She even lost herself so much
in the encore ballad “I Wish I Loved You Less” that she teasingly slipped
her hand deep inside her pants – but it wasn’t gratuitous and dirty, it was
fun and frisky.
She’d tell her guitarist “Gimme some of that chicken shit” and get a
scratching funky sound straight outta a blaxploitation flick. Songs like
the almost-hit “Everybody Got Their Something,”
“Keep Pushing,” “Cry Baby” and “Happy in the Morning” built up a playful
soulful sweat that got every booty bumpin’.
funky white bitch is back!
Jay S. Jacobs
Stevie Wonder - The Hollywood Bowl - Hollywood CA - July
simple mathematical equation. Stevie Wonder + Hollywood Bowl = one special
night of music. After the passing of his beloved mother, Lula Hardaway, in
June of 2006, Wonder, long absent from the touring circuit, has returned to
live performance. He's currently finishing up a US leg and getting set for
an European jaunt beginning in September. On Monday, July 7th, Stevie Wonder
was back on his home turf performing a spectacular two and a half hour show
for a packed hometown crowd at The Hollywood Bowl, which included legendary
Motown Records icon, Berry Gordy and Adam Levine of Maroon 5.
a ridiculously rich catalog of timeless classics spanning the Sixties though
today, Wonder simply owns the concert stage, embracing his time honored
legacy with a contagious enthusiasm and winning exuberance. Kicking off a
typically incandescent set, Wonder dipped heavily into his 1980 LP,
Hotter Than July and knocked
out five gems from the record including the set opener "As If You Read My
Mind," "Master Blaster (Jammin')", "Did I Hear You Say You Love Me", "All I
Do" and a rare airing of the moody "Rocket Love." Drawing from all facets of
his illustrious career, Wonder's set indisputably proved he's a master
stylist, comfortable in a myriad of musical idioms including R&B, pop, funk,
soul, jazz, reggae, prog-rock, avant-garde and Tin Pan Alley pop.
the fun of a Stevie Wonder show is witnessing the pure joy and spirit that
he exudes while performing. Whether executing complex piano motifs or
stomping clavinet grooves or unleashing supernatural acts of elastic vocal
acrobatics, it's clear that Wonder revels in the enjoyment of being in the
moment, uniting artist and crowd in a wondrous musical communion. Nestled
alongside a slew of quintessential Wonder penned classics like "Sir Duke,"
"I Wish," "Isn't She Lovely" and "Do I Do," Wonder also drew heavily from
his 1973 album, Innervisions;
his impressive thirteen-piece band, ably led by bassist Nathan Watts,
interpreted a winning cross section of material from that seminal album
including "Higher Ground," the Latin-tinged "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing,"
the breezy majestic pop of "Golden Lady" and the funktastic, urban-charged
anthem, "Living For The City," its gritty message resonating even stronger
today than when it was first recorded more than three decades ago.
the show, Wonder also unveiled a few lesser played tracks from his
double-album masterpiece, Songs In
The Key Of Life, embracing the picture perfect pop of "Knocks Me
Off My Feet" and a beautiful and moving rendition of "If It's Magic," the
solitary harp stylings provided by a member of the 25-piece orchestra, who
also lent their rich and supple instrumental flourishes to a number of songs
in the set. Boding well for his next musical project, Wonder also
introduced a promising new song, "Keep Foolin' Yourself Baby", which the
artist informed the audience that the song is earmarked for his next CD,
provisionally titled Through the Eyes
of Wonder. Other surprises were a funky, vocoder flavored
version of The Spinners' "People Make The World Go 'Round", the instrumental
"Spain" by Chick Corea and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life," which
showcased a radio contest winner on duel lead vocals with Wonder.
was also a family affair in the truest sense of the word; Wonder's daughter,
Aisha (she was the inspiration behind "Isn't She Lovely") sang strong
background vocals throughout the show. His older son, Mumtaz, lent his
soulful lead vocal expertise to a dynamic mini-reading of "Ribbon In The
Sky" while his six-year old son, Kailand, sat in on a miniature drum kit
during show closer, "Superstition," which also featured Howard Hewitt,
former lead singer of Shalamar, on guest vocals.
KT Tunstall - Roseland Ballroom - New York NY
- November 21, 2007
This was one of very few KT Tunstall US
shows in 2007 to promote Drastic Fantastic
Tunstall's follow-up to last year's slow-burning smash CD Eye to the
This Thanksgiving-eve show was a low-key
affair. Tunstall didn't even bring her whole band, just doing an
acoustic set with only herself on guitar and vocals, a drummer and two
female backing vocalists.
And yet she rocked this
legendary venue, with her enthusiasm, strong vocals, sweet-natured charm and
already-rock-solid songbook easily seducing the packed house.
You knew you were in for a
different night early on, when an stripped-down version of the normally lush
"Other Side of the World" stunned with new textures and and even more direct
longing than the band performances.
This was just the first
of many wonderful surprises
– the most significant of which is how well the
songs of Drastic Fantastic, which has seemed to receive more public
resistance than the debut album, held up with the earlier, more well-known
Tunstall gave a hilarious insight into the writer's head when she explained
her motivation behind writing the good-natured tune "Ashes."
Apparently, Tunstall was surfing the net and stumbled across a site which
offered to take the cremated ashes of family members and pets and turn them
into jewelry. "You can turn man's best friend into a girl's best
friend," she cracked.
Other new songs which stood out were her
current-kinda-hit "Hold On"
in which Tunstall gamely mocked her own
as well as the wonderfully well-grounded (for an
entertainer) "Saving My Face," which argues for aging naturally.
Of course it goes without
saying that the songs from Telescope rocked the house, with "Another
Place To Fall," "Under the Weather," "Stopping the Love" and "Black Horse
and the Cherry Tree" keeping the audience rapt. By the time she wound
down with a propulsive "Suddenly I See," the audience was totally in her
This concert was a hell
of a place-holder for Tunstall. Still, as much as I enjoyed this show,
I'm looking forward to her returning again with a full band.
Five For Fighting & Chantal Kreviazuk - The Keswick
Theater - Glenside PA - May 9, 2007
Ondrasik is not just a singer, he is an old-school storyteller, as
demonstrated in the live setting. Whether sitting at the piano or
standing alone with a guitar, Ondrasik had the audience rapt with his
gorgeous melodies and warm, funny explanations of the songs' inspiration.
could be tongue-in-cheek (a winking story of realizing he was getting old
because he heard his song "Easy Tonight" played at a bar by a guitarist who
told him he learned the song as a kid) or heartfelt (the beautiful story
about the soldier and his father who inspired the song "Two Lights.")
course the stories wouldn't work if the music wasn't good, so Ondrasik kept
the beautiful melodies coming. He did his new charity single "World"
with warmth and skill. There was also a beautiful acoustic version of
perhaps his most impressive song
– "If God Made You" which was dedicated to
– as well as a rollicking ode to his '65 Camaro.
the few semi-missteps was when Ondrasik decided to do a slightly flamboyant
cover of one of the last songs in the world that you'd expect anyone to try
to cover –
Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover." Not that it is
a bad song, it is just a song that is so particular to its author.
More importantly, Ondrasik played the song way too broadly, going for a wink
rather than the tongue-in-cheek seriousness of the original.
covered that gaffe quickly, though, teasing a heckler who yelled out for
"100 Years" by saying that Billy Joel told him to always play the hits last.
Then he settled into the bench and started tinkling the very recognizable
intro to "Superman (It Ain't Easy)," his even bigger smash from 2001.
Then he dove right into the sweetly yearning "100 Years," closing the show
on a warm high.
Opening act Chantal Kreviazuk
who has never quite become the recording
star she deserves to be, but has become an in-demand songwriter-for-hire for
the likes of Avril Lavigne, Christina Aguilera and Pink
was very much FFF's equal, doing a charming
act full of new songs ("Ghosts of You," "Wonderful"),
oldie-almost-hits ("God Made Me") and some soundtrack
faves ("Time" and "Feels Like Home.") Like
Ondrasik, Kreviazuk is talented at stage banter and has a warm piano-based
sound. It was an inspired pairing.
Fountains of Wayne - The Trocodero -
Philadelphia PA - April 28, 2007
The best live rock band in
Fountains of Wayne?
It's not so far-fetched.
The Fountains rocked the
joint recently in this gig, a show which only benefited by the venue's
colorful history (it was a burlesque joint in the 1920s). This past
seediness lent depth and color to FOW's power pop short stories of
desperate outsiders trying to make it in a world that really doesn't give a
shit about them.
band has a mastery of styles and
irony that if possible is
even stronger in person than on their CDs. For example there is the
spaghetti-western dry lament "Hackensack," in which a loser in a small town
in New Jersey still pines away after a first-grade crush, who has since
become an A-List actress. Beyond being a surprisingly beautiful song,
the depths of the narrator's self-delusion is touching.
Then there are the lovely
flamenco touches of "Hey, Julie" in which a worker drone has only his
girlfriend to look forward to in life. The band turns up the rock on
"Bright Future In Sales," about a kid out of college who is being
overwhelmed by his first NYC job, perhaps because he is getting plastered
every night in Manhattan. They also slammed out the grunge-flavored
early hit "Radiation Vibe."
By the time the familiar
power chords of their biggest hit
the fractured MILF fantasy "Stacy's
rang out over the crowd, they had the audience eating out of their
hands. Great tunes, funny banter...
and there were periodic
jokes at the expense of Neil Sedaka (who they had backed in concert in New
York the night before.) What more can you ask for in a rock show?
Jay S. Jacobs