Backstreet Boys: Not Bigger Or Better, But Always Back!

Backstreet Boys
Ravinia – Highland Park, IL
June 17, 2010

Backstreet Boys Ravinia

Apparently, the Backstreet Boys have been back for a while now (since 2005), but seeing them for the first time (almost ten years after reaching the pinnacle point of their career) on June 17th, 2010 at the Ravinia Festival was the ultimate throwback to my childhood. Being apart of the atmosphere was like waking up on Christmas morning. I was experiencing pure exhilaration and anticipation. And also acting like a 14 year old again.

Backstreet Boys RaviniaThe best way to describe the ambience of the concert is to reference the newest summer comedy, Get Him To The Greek. Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, AJ McLean, and Howie Dorough were all cumulatively the equivalents of Russell Brand’s character Aldous Snow in the movie. To recap the group’s career: the Backstreet Boys were once on top of the world. The Backstreet Boys fell due to professional and personal differences. Each member of the Backstreet Boys endured their share of conflict. Kevin Richardson officially quit and made the jump to Broadway (Chicago). Littrell, Carter, McLean, and Dorough came together for big comeback album Never Gone (2005) to slingshot the Backstreet Boys back into the national spotlight they had once been under (minus the Russell Brand/Jonah Hill antics, of course).

I am wholeheartedly convinced that there will never be a fanatical craze similar to that of the boy band mania of the 1990s ever again. A time never to be repeated and never to be forgotten. With that said, no matter how hard the Backstreet Boys try to reach that peak once again, it will never happen. Thus forcing the guys into submission of their fans’ wants and wishes: the massive list of hits they sang in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Set List / Chicago

Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
We’ve Got It Goin’ On
PDA
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
As Long As You Love Me
This Is Us
Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely
All I Have To Give
She’s A Dream
I’ll Never Break Your Heart
The Call
The One
Bigger
Shape Of My Heart
More Than That
Undone
Incomplete
Larger Than Life
All Of Your Life (You Need Love)
Bye Bye Love
I Want It That Way
————————-ENCORE————————-
Straight Through My Heart

Backstreet Boys Ravinia

Backstreet Boys have been introduced to the realm of New Kids On The Block syndrome. Carter, Dorough, McLean, and Littrell are only capable of having a career with each other. A career that can not be successfully obtained via solo experiments. Therefore, BSB will forever tour nationally as the Backstreet Boys, releasing a new album every couple of years. Sadly, their career will never escalate, capping off and staying on the same level from here on out. The fans are going to demand “I Want It That Way,” “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” and every other hit from Backstreet Boys (1996), Millennium (1999), and Black & Blue (2000). This demand for the old songs will continue even when all four members are sixty years old.

Signs during the concert that the Backstreet Boys (and me) are aging:

1. Baylee Littrell, son of Brian Littrell and Leighanne Wallace, introduced the Backstreet Boys and thanked fans for their support before the curtain opened. That was probably the cutest thing I have ever seen as Baylee pulled Howie’s one-year-old on stage in a red wagon. Baylee had to be around five or six years old.

2. All four Backstreet Boys looked uncomfortable singing their cheesy ’90s hits and the lyrics that made them world dominating superstars.

3. Nick Carter, the “baby” of the group, is 30 years old now!

4. I was uncomfortable watching these now grown and mature men dance up on twenty-something back-up dancers that belonged in a Playboy spread.

As a boy band that in the glory days came to Chicago and sold out the Allstate Arena, it must be difficult to come and play Ravinia, a much smaller venue. The stage was implicative of what I imagine their old set up used to be, but on a much smaller scale. There were two sets of staircases (stage right and left) that led to a massive platform back in the middle of the stage with a slitted screen that BSB entered through after a video montage to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Special effects which the show heavily relied on included bright colored holographic lights nostalgic of a techno nightclub. Last, but not least, BSB’s touring DJ (and only instrumentalist) was positioned center stage.

One approach that was fresh and highly entertaining was a set of themed video montages shown during costume changes. Each video starred one Backstreet Boy and was based off of a movie with the respective BSB green-screened into various scenes from the film. Props to whoever’s idea that was. I cannot imagine how antsy and bored the audience would be during the boy’s side stage quick changes if it were not for humorous movie spoofs to grab the attention of fans.

First off, Howie played Paul Walker’s character in The Fast And The Furious. Secondly, AJ played Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club. Thirdly, Brian was charming as ever playing James Marsden’s role as the prince from Enchanted. Finally, Nick took a shot at Keanu Reeve’s world renowned futuristic Neo character in The Matrix.

As previously mentioned, the component that did not work was the inclusion of trashy back-up dancers. I spent most of the time trying to figure out what exactly their purpose on the tour was rather than enjoying the girls as an added garnish to enhance the overall performance. The back-up dancers seemed too much of a desperate attempt by the Backstreet Boys to rev up their sex symbol image and fit in with the times. Note to BSB: sex does not always sell. Especially in the instance where there are young kids in attendance who do not care to watch strippers grind on boy band members in their 30s.

The entire show was done in true boy band style as the formula has not changed since the ’90s, leaving me as giddy as if I was thirteen years old again. It was exactly how I had imagined a Backstreet Boys concert would be. There was complete pandemonium. There was mechanical and synchronized choreography. Brian is still the most adorable of the group, winking, waving, and making goofy facial expressions at fans while onstage. Littrell is still the best vocalist of the group. No doubt about it, Brian can really sing! Nick is still the sex symbol (read: “hot one”), paying proper homage to Michael Jackson with pelvic thrusts and crotch-grabbing. Even after all the drugs, alcohol, and rehab…AJ still has the appearance of resident “bad boy” and title of “most unique voice.” As for Howie? Well, I never really knew what label/stereotype was given to the latino/hispanic member. All I can say is thank God he got a new haircut and forever banned his old omnipresent ponytail.

This review can not be written without a reference to the ultimate pop music writing/producing genius Max Martin, who is the mastermind behind the Backstreet Boys’ sound and succession of hit singles and albums. To this day, BSB’s best music is created when they collaborate with Martin, who penned and produced the second single “Bigger” off of This Is Us (2009). If Backstreet Boys want to have a sustainable career, my suggestion is to stick with Martin. The man is incapable of writing and producing anything but number one hits (Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”).

What happens when BSB records a tune not delivered by Martin? You get something written by T-Pain called “She’s A Dream,” which was a complete bomb in the set as Nick Carter sang the very un-white-boy lyric “Shorty don’t know who I am.” I am pretty sure I heard crickets during this one, as well as during “PDA,” both of which were by far the lowest points of the night. Rich white boy band guys singing the line “hands all over your booty” just does not work. Not at all.

All criticism aside, I could go to a Backstreet Boys concert night after night for the rest of my life, replenishing the insane adrenaline rush I get from hearing them perform all of the songs I grew up loving and singing along to. This eponymous concert was a way for me to dwell on and enjoy a sea full of memories from my younger years. Speaking of the sea, for those of you who missed their show, do not fret. The opportunity to embark on a musical journey of a lifetime with the Backstreet Boys is happening in December. For an exorbitant price you can set sail with the boys on their first-ever cruise. Watch out John Mayer because…”Backstreet’s back, alright!” Anchor’s away!

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images:


Written by Kate Jacobsen
Photographed by Jennifer Boyer

Adam Lambert: Transposing, Lip-Syncing, & Auto-Tune

Adam Lambert Glam Nation Tour For Your Entertainment

adam Lambert

The Dead Hub was lucky enough to get another opportunity to ask Adam Lambert a couple of questions pertaining to his debut album For Your Entertainment and current headlining Glam Nation Tour. Read what Adam had to say below in regards to transposing his tunes live, pitch correction plug-in Auto-Tune, and the dreaded act of lip-syncing… Dead Hub: Many of your songs have you belting and holding out some pretty high notes. Do you find yourself having to lower the key of any of your songs live in your set on this tour just as a means to save your voice? Adam Lambert: Yes. We have lowered a couple of the keys so that I can make sure that I am sounding my best every night. I worked with a vocal coach on the show and we sat [down] and looked at everything. We said, “Okay, so let’s take this one down a half step and maybe alter this one,” so that I can get through it every night.

adam Lambert

Dead Hub: As someone who can really sing and has Broadway musical experience, how do you feel about artists who lip-sync when performing live and use Auto-Tune in the recording studio?Adam Lambert: I think at the end of the day, whatever they need to do to make the song sound good is what it is about for them. I do not judge it. It is not for me. I am not going to be lip-syncing anytime soon. I am not really fond of Auto-Tune abuse. But it’s a style and it’s cool and it’s catchy. If it makes you sing along and it makes you dance, then the song is doing its job and that is the whole point. I just happen to prefer the style where it is more vocally driven.

Boys Like Girls Break It Down To Business & Break Even

Boys Like Girls
Love Drunk
The Bamboozle Roadshow

boys like girls

Boston power pop/rock quartet Boys Like Girls stopped through Chicago on The Bamboozle Roadshow and took a pretty significant chunk of time out of their schedule to chat with The Dead Hub. Boys Like Girls is Martin Johnson (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Paul DiGiovanni (lead guitar), Bryan Donahue (bass), and John Keefe (drums).

“Heart Heart Heartbreak” sounds incredibly similar to “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi. When writing, recording, and producing the track was it your intention to emulate the Bon Jovi hit single in any way?

Martin: Did you see the YouTube that mashes them up? I’m really excited about it.

Bryan: I didn’t see it.

Martin: You know what it is? It’s the two hits at the beginning. I didn’t realize that until it was on the record. I probably would’ve changed the two hits if I had known so many people were going to talk about it. It’s just that I don’t really care. Bon Jovi’s sweet, so whatever. Everybody rips off everybody. [Copying] is the best form of flattery. Hey Bon Jovi, thank you, thank so much. Good song guys. It’s the two hits at the beginning. It’s the stealthy rock-and-roll hits. I guess we’re just keeping some stealthy rock-and-roll hits alive. We didn’t realize it until after the record [was finished] that it was kind of similar. I’ve never experienced ourselves in one of those “Wow, you ripped yourself off” or “Wow, you ripped somebody else off” video mashups. We got really excited. There’s this one with Nickelback where they rip themselves off. It’s a mashup of two [of their] songs.

Dead Hub: Well, all of their songs sound alike pretty much.

Martin: I’m not even a closet Nickelback fan. I’m a public Nickelback fan. I think they’re great.

Bryan: We all are. We made that public years ago.

Martin: We’re all public Nickelback fans. Check that out on YouTube [BLG/Bon Jovi mashup] and know that the band gets a good laugh out of it.

Read the rest of our interview with Boys Like Girls after the jump…

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Behind The Scenes With Adam Lambert And Max Martin

Adam Lambert
Glam Nation Tour
For Your Entertainment

adam-lambert-for-your-entertainment-00028464

Earlier this month The Dead Hub got the chance to ask Adam Lambert a quick question pertaining to his debut album For Your Entertainment. The singer will be performing at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN on Thursday, June 17th. You can still buy tickets here. Read what Adam had to say below in regards to his last two hit singles…

Hi Adam. How are you?

Good. How are you?

Good, thank you. I was wondering if you could discuss and elaborate on your experience in the studio working with Max Martin while you were recording “If I Had You and “Whataya Want From Me?

He is great. I think Max is obviously one of the best in the business. He just knows what is going to sound the best. I trusted that because I have heard his music and I have always been a fan of it. I remember we did “Whataya Want From Me” over the summer [last summer]. I remember after hearing the first demo, being so thrilled with it. I remember going back to my management and saying, “We have to ask him to do another song. We have to. He is so good. He is so, so good.” And then he sent this one ["If I Had You"] and he wrote some lyrics that are specifically about me, kind of for me. It is a really great song. I love it.

whataya

Check back on The Dead Hub soon to read more of what Adam had to say about his current Glam Nation Tour and his debut record For Your Entertainment.

Jewel Presents ‘Sweet and Wild’ On Star Light Café Tour

Jewel – Star Light Café Tour
Sweet and Wild
Chicago’s Vic Theatre

Jewel Promo

Singer/songwriter Jewel is back and ready to go this summer with a new album and tour. Jewel will be coming through Chicago this Friday, June 4th playing the Vic Theatre on her Star Light Café Tour. Jewel is currently promoting her sophomore country album Sweet and Wild, which will be released to the public next Tuesday, June 8th. The Star Light Café Tour finds the three-time GRAMMY® nominee performing acoustically, giving fans an intimate concert experience with the woman who has sold more than 27 million albums worldwide since her mainstream musical debut in 1995. The Dead Hub chatted with the artist this morning, keeping the focus on her songwriting and music, which is just the way Jewel likes her interviews to be conducted.

Read The Dead Hub’s full interview with Jewel after the jump…

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Fantabuloso’s Orianthi: Which One Isn’t Like The Other?

Orianthi
103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL
May 21, 2010

Orianthi Chicago

More photos of Orianthi after the jump…

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Fantabuloso’s Trey Songz: Girls, Bars, Drinks & Birthdays

Trey Songz
103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL
May 21, 2010

Trey Songz Chicago 1

More photos of Trey Songz after the jump…

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Fantabuloso’s Jay Sean: Two Down, Any More To Go?

Jay Sean
103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL
May 21, 2010

British singer Jay Sean has successfully made a name for himself in the United States with his two consecutive hit singles “Down” and “Do You Remember.” Naturally, the omnipresent radio favorite “Down” was an instant smash in America thanks to a guest appearance from Lil Wayne. “Do You Remember” has taken a little bit longer to catch on with listeners and seems to be stuck in second place. The tune, which features Sean Paul and Lil Jon, will most likely never surpass its predecessor, no matter how hard it may try. Any piece of music featuring Lil Wayne is a sure fire winner in the U.S.A., as evidenced by any week on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Sean Paul and Lil Jon no doubt can help boost the career of a relatively unknown pop star from another country, but they will never reach the level that is Lil Wayne.

Jay Sean Chicago

Jay Sean has the potential to survive in the cutthroat music industry and has two outrageously catchy songs to prove it. But the question remains: Does Sean have the talent, skills, voice, stage presence, stamina, and (most importantly) music to keep the fans he has already obtained satisfied and wanting more? If Sean’s debut album All Or Nothing can produce one or two more success stories in the form of hit radio singles and digital downloads, then we have an artist who might just make it. For now though, audiences across the country will have to be happy seeing Jay Sean live in concert performing “Down,” “Do You Remember,” and possibly one more tune from All Or Nothing. But that’s it, folks. Expect no more from a Jay Sean show at the moment.

Ludacris Hits & Guest Raps Keep Fans In The House

Ludacris
103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL
May 21, 2010

Ludacris Chicago

More photos of Ludacris after the jump…

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Ke$ha Kills It At Fantabuloso…But Not In A Good Way

Ke$ha
103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL
May 21, 2010

Ke$ha 103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso Allstate Arena - Rosemont, IL

As far as interesting performances go, the hot mess that is pop star Ke$ha took home the gold medal. Never before have I seen so much confetti and glitter in one area; all of it gold. And let’s not even talk about what Ke$ha’s dressing room looked like after the show ended and the blonde train wreck had left the building. It appeared that multiple people in her band/entourage suffered from glitter poisoning and threw up all over the place. I felt so sorry for the cleaning crew whose responsibility it is to turn that room inside out and make it spick and span.

More photos of Ke$ha and the set list after the jump…

Ke$ha 103.5 KISS FM Fantabuloso Allstate Arena - Rosemont, ILOpening her four-song set with second single “Blah Blah Blah,” it was obvious that Ke$ha is attempting to prove herself as a musician. In earlier performances of the tune (normally featuring 3OH!3), Ke$ha basically flung her body around on stage while barely holding on to her microphone. With arms and legs flailing about, it appeared quite possible that the girl was going to fall over while being completely out of breath and trying to sing. This time around, Ke$ha placed an electric guitar/bass on her body and proceeded to “play” the song’s core chords instead of drunkenly stumbling around. Or simply what Ke$ha probably considers dancing.

“Take It Off” made it blatant that Ke$ha’s debut record Animal is a culmination of the magical powers held by super producers Max Martin, Dr. Luke, and Benny Blanco. This chick cannot sing live. There, I said it. Animal is vocal editing at its best. Appalled, but not exactly shocked, my jaw practically hit the floor as Ke$ha miserably sang the first verse of “Take It Off” so insanely off pitch I barely recognized the track from the album recording. Ke$ha was flat to the point of causing my ears to scream in pain. Make it stop! By the end of the song’s choreographed performance, my theory was confirmed ten times over that Ke$ha has no vocal talent whatsoever. Her recent release Animal only sounds good because Martin, Luke, and Blanco know how to make anybody sound decent, if not amazing. Don’t believe me? Just listen to Britney’s vocals live compared to Britney’s vocals recorded. Oh wait, you can’t listen to Spears’s vocals live because she lip-syncs. Hmm…wonder why.

Now let’s discuss Ke$ha’s performance of third single “Your Love Is My Drug.” Again, the 22 yrs. old trailer trash Nashville native cannot sing. My aurally aware and classically trained ears immediately picked up on the fact that the tune had been transposed to a much lower key so that Ke$ha could hit the notes. I first noticed the key change when watching the singer perform “Your Love Is My Drug” earlier this month on Saturday Night Live. There was something off about what I was hearing. I knew that the original recording of the track was written in a higher key. Of course, to the average listener it sounds like Ke$ha has no issue hitting the notes on the album. Thank you, Pro Tools. Thank you, Auto-Tune.

The bottom line is that when it comes time to shine, Ke$ha does not pull through nor lives up to the hype. She is living and breathing proof that anyone can “sing” when working with the right people behind the scenes in the studio. What I wouldn’t give to hear the original raw stems from Ke$ha’s recording sessions before the vocal editing and effects are added into the mix.

Click on thumbnails of Ke$ha to enlarge photos:

Check out Ke$ha on Cheeky Chicago by clicking here.

Butch Walker & The Black Widows: Bolder And Better

Butch Walker & The Black Widows
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
May 9, 2010

Butch Walker The Black Widow Chicago

Butch Walker is one hell of a songwriter, I can tell you that. Even if you are not digging whatever song he wrote, you have to admit that the guy has great stage presence live in concert. Nobody in their right mind could deny the fact that Butch Walker obviously loves what he does for a living. It is blatant in the way he sings his heart out while playing his guitars so roughly that the strings break repeatedly. Walker started off the night seated behind the keyboard. From here he performed three tunes with just his voice and the black and white keys beneath his fingers providing the music. Once finished with his stint at the piano, Walker sauntered over to the microphone waiting to be utilized at center stage. Walker proceeded to pick up an acoustic guitar and played one more song solo before The Black Widows walked out to join the frontman for the rest of the evening.

More photos of Butch Walker after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

(in no particular order)

Passed Your Place, Saw Your Car, Thought Of You

ATL

Be Good Until Then

Pretty Melody

Here Comes The…

She Likes Hair Bands

Ponce De Leon Ave.

Trash Day

They Don’t Know What We Know

The 3 Kids In Brooklyn

Temporary Title

The Weight Of Her

Closer To The Truth And Further From The Sky

Once The Black Widows were enlisted to play along with their band leader, the party was officially launched into high gear. Not to offend any Walker fans, but I am not that entertained by his slower tunes where he is accompanied by just the keyboard or guitar. On the other hand, I absolutely adore his uptempo compositions and could watch the man play his faster material all night long. Walker’s latest release I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart includes a few midtempo tunes reminiscent of what you would find on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. One clear stand out track from Walker’s new record is “Pretty Melody,” which particularly reminds me of “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes and I dare you to disagree.

“Trash Day” is another favorite of mine from I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart. The tune begins with the lyrics: Trash day in Beverly Hills / All the sad little mommas with their happy little pills / They flirt with the lawn boys as they clean out the pools / While the Mexican nannies take the children to school / So much to be and nothing to do / How did it ever end up that way? I could not have put it better myself when describing how so many women live in the 90210 zip code.

The only element that could have made the show just a bit more awesome would have been if P!nk was present to sing vocals on “Here Comes The…” with Walker. The fierce and feisty singer makes a guest appearance on Walker’s previous album Sycamore Meadows, which is always a welcome surprise in my opinion. Love P!nk. That woman is the ultimate fun, fearless, female artist out there. “She Likes Hair Bands” recalls Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” mixed with a slight tinge of P!nk’s “Mean.” But all this similarity is to be expected seeing as how Walker has collaborated with both Weezer’s songwriter Rivers Cuomo and P!nk, co-writing and producing various songs and records by both artists.

Unfortunately, Walker did not play my absolute favorite song of his: “Vessels.” If this tune off Sycamore Meadows had been included in the band’s set last Sunday night, I would have left the House of Blues completely satisfied with Walker’s Chicago gig. Although the concert was somewhat shy of being 100% sold out, Walker & The Black Widows had no issue whatsoever giving 110% of their energy, talent, and skills to the audience for two solid hours. Originally planned as an hour and a half set, Walker mentioned multiple times that he was having too much fun to leave. Ending the night dancing and singing along with the crowd on the main floor, Walker undoubtedly favors audience interaction during his live show.

From a fan’s perspective, Walker is a dream come true. Not familiar with Butch Walker & The Black Widows? Check out the band live in concert and you will find yourself an enthusiast of the singer/songwriter/producer, the music he pens, and the musicians he tours with. I guarantee it.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos:

Sia Gives Sneak Peak Of Upcoming Album ‘We Are Born’

Sia
Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
April 25, 2010

Sia Vic Theatre

Quirky? Check. Fun? Check. Colorful? Check. Audience interaction? Check. Vocal talent? Check. Great songs? Check. Inclusion of my favorite song in the set list? Check. In the end, Sia’s performance this past Sunday night at Chicago’s Vic Theatre left me highly satisfied, willing to see the singer live in concert again, and wanting to tell all of my friends about the undeniably talented songwriter. Basically, Sia is amazing. Having interviewed the pop singer/songwriter just a few weeks ago, I had a pretty good grasp on her personality. While doing my research in preparation for my interview with Sia, I became quite familiar with her sound and style of music. However, due to the fact that this show was my first time witnessing the glory and goofiness that is Sia, I had no clue what to expect from her live performance. By the end of the first song “The Fight,” I knew that this adorable feisty Aussie lady would put on quite a show. And that she did.

More photos of Sia and the set list after the jump…

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30 Seconds To Mars Songwriter Jared Leto Talks Business

30 Seconds To Mars / This Is War
4.16.10 / Aragon Ballroom
Chicago, IL30 Seconds to mars Jared Leto

(updated: See pictures and review from their show at the Aragon in Chicago here!)

In preparation for the upcoming performance by three-piece rock band 30 Seconds To Mars, The Dead Hub though it would be a grand idea for our Chicago readers to get to know a little bit about the group’s lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and sole songwriter Jared Leto. 30 Seconds To Mars also includes Shannon Leto (yes, Jared and Shannon are brothers) on drums/percussion and Tomo Milicevic on lead guitar, violin, and keyboards. The band, hailing from Los Angeles, released their third studio album This Is War in December of 2009. The new record features lead single “Kings And Queens,” which is to be followed by “This Is War” as the second single. Opening acts for 30STM’s Chicago show include MuteMath and Neon Trees.

Read my interview with Jared Leto from 30 Seconds To Mars after the jump…

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Up Front And Blunt: Singer/Songwriter Sia Tells All

Sia / We Are Born
4.25.10 / Vic Theatre
Chicago, IL

sia

Never in my life have I spoken with an artist as open and honest in her responses to my questions than when I interviewed Sia in anticipation of the Australian singer’s upcoming concert in Chicago and new record We Are Born. Sia is truly a breath of fresh air in a world oversaturated with puppets masquerading around on stages all over the world as performers (Britney Spears? Justin Bieber?). Sia will be stopping in Chicago on The We Meaning You Tour 2010 on Sunday, April 25th, 2010 when she plays the Vic Theatre with opening act Girl In A Coma. Not planning on seeing the show? Read on to find out more about the singer/songwriter pop vocalist. Once you finish reading this interview, the need to see Sia live in concert will completely overwhelm you. You will NOT want to miss it.

Read my interview with Sia after the jump…

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Ingrid Goes Gaga, Vanilla Ice, Fresh Prince, and Britney

Ingrid Michaelson
Riviera Theatre – Chicago, IL
April 2, 2010Ingrid Michaelson Riviera Theatre

Not many things are impossible. Difficult maybe, but not impossible. However, I do believe that getting tired of seeing Ingrid Michaelson live in concert could be something that is most definitely impossible. Having attended each and every one of Ingrid Michaelson’s performances in Chicago since March 2008, I can honestly say I never get sick of going to the singer/songwriter’s shows. I don’t think I ever will. Each time is such a unique and intimate experience with Ingrid always telling the crowd hilarious new stories from her life and cracking jokes that get everyone laughing out loud. LOLs for realz…

More photos of Ingrid Michaelson and the set list after the jump!

Set List / Chicago

Soldier / Poker Face / Soldier

Die Alone

The Hat

Be OK

You And I

*new song*

Everybody

The Chain

Locked Up

Ice Ice Baby / The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air / The Way I Am

Maybe

Far Away

Toxic (Britney Spears cover)

“Can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my poker face,” sang Michaelson in the middle of opening number “Soldier.” Not that I didn’t love Ingrid before her impromptu cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” but as soon as those words left Michaelson’s lips, I fell even more in love with this girl, her personality, and her music. What a perfect way to kick off a show. As Michaelson repeated the “Poker Face” chorus over and over again, yours truly was smiling, chuckling, and singing along. I don’t care what anyone says, that Gaga song is addictive as any narcotic and everybody knows the words. Once Ingrid got Gaga out of her system, she and her five-piece band got back on track and finished out the rest of “Soldier,” which just so happens to be my favorite song on the artist’s new record Everybody.

After “You And I” came a new song whose title was never mentioned. But I came up with my own name for the new tune: “Long Gone.” This is because the phrase “You been long gone” was sung so often during what appeared to be the chorus, that anybody would assume the song must be called something along the lines of “Long Gone.” While introducing her new untitled material, Michaelson begged fans to be gentle with her new baby. “It just came out of the musical vagina,” joked Ingrid. “Be nice to it. It’s brand new. It’s just a baby.” Too bad her most recently born child is not on mom’s Everybody record because after hearing what I heard last Friday night, I am officially obsessed with the hunt to hear it again! All I can remember were the phrases “Give it up today,” “You been long gone,” and “I want to feel loved.” Michaelson better release a recorded version on iTunes stat.

At last the time came when Michaelson had to perform the one song that brought her mainstream success and will forever be the hit she is known for. After getting up from behind her keyboard where she had performed “Locked Up,” Ingrid announced to the audience that, “I’ve sung this song like 1,000 times so I have to change it up,” as her band played the tune’s intro on a constant loop. You all know what song I’m talking about…”The Way I Am.” However, what came out of this sassy singer’s mouth was not the expected lyric “If you were falling…” What we got instead was the first verse to “Ice Ice Baby” by the one and only Vanilla Ice. But oh wait! There’s more. Michaelson followed up her white boy rapping with some old school Will Smith and spat out “The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air,” the theme song memorized by every fanatic of hit TV series The Fresh Prince. Change it up, indeed.

Next up was lead single “Maybe” off of Ingrid’s latest record Everybody. Michaelson ordered fans to pass up a note from a fan who was frantically waving it around in the air in the hopes that it would catch the performer’s attention. Well, his plan worked. Ingrid ordered fans to pass up the note, which was from a boy named Jake. Inside the note was a wallet size photo of Jake and one daring question: Will you go to prom with me? “This song is for Jake,” said Michaelson before stuffing the photo into the left side of her bra, right over her heart. Aww… “Mandolin solo!” shouted Michaelson to one of her band members during the contagious sing along “Far Away.” Not to be outdone by the intricate and impressive mandolin solo, Ingrid snatched up what seemed to be a toy piccolo type of instrument from the woodwind family and attempted to give the song her own bit of flair.

It always annoys me when an artist ends their already very short set with a cover of someone else’s song versus one of their own compositions. And that is exactly what Ingrid Michaelson did last Friday night in Chicago. “This song is not mine. It’s by a girl who is finally just now getting the attention she deserves. She is coming into her own and I’m so proud of her,” said Michaelson with not one drop of sarcasm. “It’s by a Miss Britney Spears.” While I will acknowledge that “Toxic” is a classic great song, disappointment is what I felt when I realized that Ingrid wouldn’t be squeezing in one of her own tracks to finish out her set.

This tour is a “co-headlining” venture with Ingrid performing each gig alongside fellow singer/songwriter guitarist/pianist Mat Kearney. The two headliners take turns in every city playing last. With Ingrid playing first in Chicago, she got one hour to serenade her fans, and I will freely admit how unhappy I was with that time allotment. Michaelson has enough albums and tunes to play for an hour and half. I could have down without the tribute to Britney. Couldn’t we all? I would have been perfectly pleased and satisfied with the last song of Ingrid’s set being one of my favorites such as “Starting Now,” “Men Of Snow,” or “Once Was Love.”

Nevertheless, I left this show grateful that I was there. In all honesty, “Toxic” wasn’t so bad once the original version began blasting through the house PA with Michaelson centering herself in between band members as they all lined up and executed a previously made up and rehearsed dance routine. A grin spread across my face as I thought to myself, Nice try guys, but Britney puts you to shame when it comes to the dancing. Practice makes perfect!

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V.V. Brown Transports Fans Through Time With Tunes

V.V. Brown
Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
April 1, 2010

V.V. Brown Lincoln Hall

Come back V.V. Brown, please come back to Chicago! Seriously, though. That was the thought running through my mind as my new favorite artist of 2010 left the stage at Lincoln Hall last week. Unfortunately for me, V.V. Brown was the opening act and not the headliner at the sold out Little Dragon show in Chicago. I would have preferred for Brown to have headlined the concert, if only so that the amazingly talented English singer/songwriter could have performed every song on her new record Travelling Like The Light. Brown’s supporting set encompassed eight of the twelve tracks that make up her debut album, plus one Drake cover and a tribute to African music. Before I knew it, the show was over and I was left wanting more; a good thing for any artist I suppose. Now I just have to wait it out until V.V. Brown returns to Chicago so I can rock out with her once more.

More photos of V.V. Brown and the set list from her first Chicago concert after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

Everybody

Game Over

Bottles

L.O.V.E

Back In Time

I Love You

Best I Ever Had (Drake cover)

Crying Blood

We Love African Music (vamp)

Shark In The Water

Shifting gears from happy-go-lucky “L.O.V.E” to the more melancholy “Back In Time,” Brown announced that, “This next song is about a guy who I fell in love with who studied Physics. They’re nerds, but they’re hot.” Indeed, super smart dudes can be quite a catch. “Do you guys like love songs? Do you mind if I sing you a love song? I wrote this song on the beach,” said Brown to introduce the jazzy ballad and most downtempo song of the singer’s set “I Love You.”

“Do you guys like hip hop music? I’m a big fan of hip hop music,” exclaimed Brown before announcing that she would be performing a song that I cannot stand. “Tonight I’m going to do a cover of ‘Best I Ever Had’ by Drake. Do you guys know that song?” Yes, I know that song. I know it a little too well, actually. Honestly, that song is overplayed and has been exhausted on the airwaves to the point where I scream in frustration when it comes on the radio!

I adore everything about V.V. Brown, but I would have enjoyed her sold out concert even more if “Best I Ever Had” was not included in the songwriter’s set. Brown’s opening slot was too short in my opinion. Therefore, I wanted to V.V. to squeeze in as many of her own tunes as possible. Instead of the Drake cover, I wish Brown had sang “Quick Fix,” which is one of my favorite tracks off her debut album Travelling Like The Light.

For the first six songs of Brown’s performance, the English singer/songwriter kept her microphone in its stand while her arms helped to accentuate the passion in each tune. The cover of “Best I Ever Had” marked the removal of the mic from its stationary position and into the hand of its master. Barefoot and wearing a peculiar red headdress adorned with sparkles and feathers reminiscent of Mardi Gras, Brown held on tightly to her drumstick and proceeded to intermittently hit the single tom drum placed to her left throughout the night.

“Do you guys like reggae music? You see, my dad’s from Puerto Rico and my mum’s from Jamaica,” explained Brown before launching into “Crying Blood.” Apparently, Brown likes to ask the audience if they like a certain genre of music before singing each of her songs. Maybe that’s because each tune Brown writes and sings serves to transport the listener to a specific era from the past and present. It was obvious that the crowd at Lincoln Hall last Thursday night had no problem with the time machine contraption that is V.V. Brown and her music.

Keeping with her now standard preliminary questions, Brown asked eager fans standing before her, “Do you guys like African music?” What came next was a surprise to me, and I’m sure to everyone at the show seeing Brown perform live for the first time. “We Love African Music” is the title I bestowed upon the brief impromptu jingle that Brown and her three-piece band performed after our taste of Caribbean flavored “Crying Blood.” What else would you call a fragment of music that repeated the phrase “We love African music” over and over again for a few minutes?

Before delivering hit single “Shark In The Water,” Brown admitted that “This is our last song tonight.” This, of course, was followed by moans of disappointment and dissatisfaction from the audience as everyone lamented their unfulfilled need to hear more from V.V. Brown. “We’ve had a bit of a rough day today,” Brown reluctantly acknowledged with just the slightest hint of fatigue and defeat. This, of course, was received with vague expressions of sympathy and compassion from fans proving their love and support of Brown by simply being present at her first appearance in Chicago.

With my camera and crackberry safely tucked away in my bag, I sang my heart out along with V.V. as she performed my latest obsession that has been dominating my Heartbeats by Lady Gaga in-ear headphones for the past month. “Shark In The Water” is by far my favorite song of the year so far and I highly doubt another will be released by 2011 that will knock it out of the park.

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Justin Bieber Brings The Fever To Chicago

Justin Bieber
Rosemont Theatre – Rosemont, IL
March 24, 2010

 

Justin Bieber Rosemont Theatre

More photos of Justin Bieber after the jump!

Norah Jones Pushes ‘The Fall’ In Chicago

Norah Jones
The Chicago Theatre – Chicago, IL
March 20, 2010

Norah Jones The Chicago Theatre

Not many artists kick off their live show with six brand new songs in a row. Not even when on tour promoting their latest record. However, that is exactly what Norah Jones did last night when she performed to a sold out crowd at The Chicago Theatre. On the road in support of her new album The Fall, Norah Jones pushed her new tunes to the max. Not until the seventh song in did Jones revert back to an oldie. Upon completing the first midtempo keyboard-heavy song of the evening “Chasing Pirates,” Norah informed the audience that, “We’re playing all new songs from my new album for the first few minutes.” If fans wanted to hear Norah’s early material, no one dared to object to the singer/songwriter’s decision to plug her latest musical effort, The Fall. Norah works hard for her money. Clearly, the fact that Norah Jones has won multiple Grammy Awards (12 wins out of 18 nominations!) in the past seven years has no effect on this woman’s work ethic.

More photos of Norah Jones and the set list from the show after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

I Wouldn’t Need You

Light As A Feather

Even Though

Chasing Pirates

Young Blood

It’s Gonna Be

Broken

Waiting

Sunrise

Cold Cold Heart

Back To Manhattan

Sinkin’ Soon

Jesus, Etc. (Wilco cover)

Man Of The Hour

Don’t Know Why

You’ve Ruined Me

Lonestar

Strangers

——————————ENCORE——————————

How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?

Come Away With Me

Stuck

“It’s Gonna Be” is a throwback to 1969-1970 when Norman Greenbaum’s hit “Spirit In The Sky” was omnipresent and selling over two million copies. “We’re going to do a song from my last album. It’s a song called ‘Broken,’ announced Jones while two of her band members respectively arranged themselves with an upright string bass and a xylophone. What surprised me the most at last night’s concert, was that Jones did not sit down at her upright piano until eight songs through her set when she played another new track from The Fall, “Waiting.” Up until then, Jones was either steadily strumming on her red-and-white electric guitar, or on stage right standing behind her keyboard.

“You guys wanna hear a happy song now? I wore my party dress for you guys,” said Jones, cute as a button in a strapless polka-dotted red, black, and red dress straight out of a 1950s high school prom. “It kinda doesn’t fit under the piano, but whatever.” The happy song that the jazz piano major from the University of North Texas performed next just happened to be my absolute favorite track from the Norah Jones catalog. One simply cannot help but smile and sing along when you hear “Sunrise.” Believe me, just try not to hum or “hoo” along with the singer’s angelic and ethereal voice. This tune is addictive. And to imagine I first heard it at work while hostessing at the Olive Garden. The job was horrible, but it introduced me to one of my favorite pieces of music ever. “Sunrise” was accompanied by a gorgeous spectacle of lights set against a backdrop of four white curtains hanging from the ceiling. Rich, warm tones of red, orange, yellow, magenta, fuchsia, purple, pink, gold, and any other color reminiscent of a splendid summer sunrise and/or sunset illuminated the stage and its performers.

“Thanks, we’re going to do an old song now,” announced Jones before launching into “Cold Cold Heart” from her debut record Come Away With Me. “It’s way older than I am. And it’s probably older than most of you, too.” Next up was a cover that I somewhat expected would be included in the night’s festivities. “We’re in Chicago, so we’re going to do a song by our favorite Chicago band, Wilco,” Jones exclaimed. Performing a cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, Etc.” has become a staple of Norah’s live show. “Thank you, Jeff Tweedy,” gushed Jones, an avid and long-time fan of Chicago’s very own Wilco. “We actually did some shows with them and we sang this song in tribute to them to be funny. They played it, too.”

“We’re going to do a song about a dog here,” Jones said by way of introducing the next song “Man Of The Hour.” However, Norah was left alone on stage for this one, where she proceeded to perform “Man Of The Hour” sitting at her piano. This was the only moment during the entire show that had Jones playing solo, with only her delicate voice coming through the house PA, supported by her college-trained tickling of the ivories. “Man Of The Hour” is about man’s best friend. That’s correct, a dog. “Sasha and I have our dogs out on the road with us, which is really fun,” admitted a smiling Jones. Sasha is the only female member of Norah’s touring band. What is it with girls and their dogs? I suppose once you listen to the comical lyrics that compare a boyfriend to a canine, why not have your dog with you to keep you company?

Inevitably, the time came for Jones to knock out one of her big hits. The first few bars of “Don’t Know Why” was met with claps and shouts of approval from fans seated in the audience, who had been waiting patiently to hear a song that they knew. Radio fans is what I call those people. With “Don’t Know Why” out of the way, Jones took a few seconds to verbalize her appreciation of those fans in attendance. “You are great audience. It’s like I can feel you.”

“You want to hear a song about Texas? Let’s do a song about Texas,” Jones said while addressing her band as they stood by waiting for their boss to make an impromptu decision regarding which song would be next on the set list. “It’s the only song about Texas we have,” joked Norah before beginning to play the opening notes to “Lonestar.” After paying tribute to the state where Jones lived out her formative years, Norah told the crowd with a hint of disappointment, “I thought we were going to have some honkytonk dancers, but I think they were just going to the bathroom. We had it last night. Oh well, maybe next time.” Maybe next time, indeed. Although it will definitely NOT be me getting up out of my seat to dance the honkytonk. However, count on yours truly being at the next Norah Jones concert in Chicago. Witnessing the talent of Norah Jones right before your eyes is worth every penny of her ticket price.

For the encore, Jones and her band got up close and personal with each other as they gathered around a single microphone on stage right. From here they began to play a beautiful acoustic arrangement of “How Many Times Have You Broken My Heart?” With the first of three encore tunes wrapped up and out of the way, Jones gave in to the wishes and desires of fans who have followed Norah’s music since the beginning. “Come Away With Me” may have been the third single to be released from the artist’s debut record with the same name, but it is arguably the biggest hit of Norah’s career to date. “No, YOU come away with ME,” a smiling Norah told a fan sitting up front who shouted out the song’s title as Jones adjusted her electric guitar. I was caught off guard upon realizing that “Come Away With Me” was not the last song of the night. Jones is obviously very proud of her new record and its tunes because she chose to end her set with yet another new one, “Stuck.” When it was all over, Norah lovingly told the crowd, “Thanks a lot, Chicago! Have a good night!” before she sauntered off the stage and out of sight.

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Silversun Pickups: The Dead Hub 2009 Best New Artist

Silversun Pickups
United Center – Chicago, IL
March 12, 2010

Silversun Pickups United Center

Silversun Pickups left me with just one thought as they left the stage upon completing their set: This band should have won the 2010 Best New Artist Grammy Award that it was nominated for…these four musicians deserved to have won. Instead, the Zac Brown Band took home the coveted award that can make or break an artist’s career. What the hell was up with that? Silversun Pickups only performed eight songs while opening for Muse last Friday night at Chicago’s United Center, but those eight chosen pieces of music were LONG. The alternative indie rock foursome from California played for almost 45 minutes, alternating between new songs from 2009′s release Swoon and 2007′s breakthrough record Carnavas.

More photos of Silversun Pickups after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

Growing Old Is Getting Old

Well Thought Out Twinkles

There’s No Secrets This Year

The Royal We

Future Foe Scenarios

Substitution

Panic Switch

Lazy Eye

Silversun Pickups United CenterBrian Aubert (guitar, lead vocals)

“You guys are fucking awesome. First of all, ‘hi everybody behind us.’ Sorry about that,” said lead singer and guitarist Brian Aubert as he apologized to those fans unfortunately stuck with an obstructed view from their seats located behind the stage. Even though the concert was in the round for Muse’s stage setup, Silversun Pickups had to make do with an end stage and perform to the crowd standing and sitting before them. Muse had three skyscraper-type pillars on their stage, one for each band member to perform upon when the time came. However, when Silversun Pickups took to the stage, the columns served as nothing more than a backdrop that prevented audience members in the rear end of the arena from viewing the band’s performance.

Silversun Pickups United CenterNikki Monninger (bass, vocals)

The view from my standpoint was not that much better, though. Sporadic lighting with plenty of strobe light flashes made it quite difficult to clearly see each member of Silversun Pickups. At one point during the band’s opening performance, Aubert told the left side of the arena to take out their cameras and start taking photos with the flash on. Aubert then had the right side do the same. The fans on the main floor joined in third. “You in the back, start flashing!” ordered Aubert. “This is our only light show, so come on.” Indeed it was the band’s only light show.

For reasons unknown to me, whenever Aubert walked away from his microphone to rock out with a tricky guitar solo, there was no spotlight following him. I watched the man play in almost complete darkness, which bummed me out to be honest. My favorite part of any concert is intently watching the musicians play their respective instruments. I only wish I could have witnessed Aubert’s insane guitar playing more easily, without having to squint my eyes. In the end, I basically had to accept the fact that simply listening to (and not watching) Aubert’s skills would have to suffice.

Silversun Pickups United CenterChris Guanlao (drums)

There’s no denying the talent of Silversun Pickups as a whole. However, one cannot fail to notice the odd combination of its members, mostly evident during the band’s live show. While the drummer Chris Guanlao and Brian Aubert rock out like they’ll never play again, Joe Lester (keyboards) and Nikki Monninger (bass/vocals) seem to be quite content chilling out with minimal movement. A cymbal was positioned abnormally high on Guanlao’s right, forcing him to reach up with his right arm fully extended every time he hit it. By no means am I an expert on drums and percussion, but Guanlao’s sparkling metallic purple drum kit was set up in a fashion unfamiliar to me. This didn’t stop Guanlao from shooting his right arm up in the air every few seconds (drumstick in hand) while head-banging away, his hair whipping around in a bizarre heavy-metal video move straight out of 1986.

Bassist and backing vocalist Nikki Monninger chose to rock out on her own terms. This being a subtle nod of the head back and forth from left to right. Besides the slight movements every now and then from her neck up, Monninger pretty much just stands there behind her microphone and plays her part. Keyboardist Joe Lester is equally as uninteresting to watch as Monninger, to say the least. Lester performed the entire set hiding behind his piano/synthesizer, which was covered in a black tarp for whatever reason. That annoyed me, actually. I didn’t see any point in having his instrument blocked from the fans’ view. Being a piano player myself, I love everything about watching musicians’ fingers tickling the black and white keys live right in front of me. It appeared as if Lester was protecting his keyboard from a potential downpour of rain, which would have been perfectly acceptable if this was Lollapalooza. But come on, this was inside a basketball/hockey arena for crying out loud!

“Do not look Matt Bellamy in the eyeballs,” warned Aubert in between songs where he tended to scream much more than I was expecting. I don’t recall his vocals being so angry and screamo-y on the band’s records. I guess playing in front of 25,000 people brings the metal/emo side out of the Silversun Pickups guitarist. Not being fan of screaming in place of singing, Aubert’s amazing use of his foot pedal to create multiple guitar riff loops blew me away. As the grand finale and biggest hit of the band’s career “Lazy Eye” came to an end, I was spellbound by Aubert as he walked to the front edge of the stage and got lost in a solo that made me want to pick up a guitar and learn to play it. I can only dream of being as proficient on the instrument as this guy. And I truly believe that making a fan (like me) walk away from a show wanting to learn how to play the guitar (or any instrument, really) is a sign of a great artist, band, musician, etc. Silversun Pickups made me do just that. Now I just need to sit down and pick up that acoustic guitar…

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Black Eyed Peas Present ‘The E.N.D World Tour’

Black Eyed Peas
Bradley Center – Milwaukee, WI
March 11, 2010

Black Eyed Peas Bradley Center

“Boom Boom Pow is my freakin’ style,” rapped will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas last Thursday night in Milwaukee. “What up Lexie? I know you’re lookin’ sexy.” The mastermind songwriter and producer behind the Black Eyed Peas spent a good five minutes freestyling alone on stage while reading off of the two jumbotron video screens hanging down on either side of the stage. The Black Eyed Peas vocalist/rapper was getting his ideas and cues from various BlackBerry Messenger texts rolling up the screens sent in from BBM-using fans in the audience. Putting aside the obvious fact that BlackBerry is the official sponsor of the BEP’s The E.N.D World Tour, it was pretty amazing to witness will.i.am coming up with rap verses on the spot while a steady beat played through the Bradley Center’s PA system. That man has some serious skills. This awesome display of talent was only the beginning of what would become an almost two-hour long outrageously entertaining concert from the Black Eyed Peas.

More photos of the Black Eyed Peas after the jump…

Black Eyed Peas Bradley Centerwill.i.am (vocals, dj, keytar, harmonica, producer, writer)

Black Eyed Peas Bradley CenterFergie (vocals)

Black Eyed Peas Bradley Centerapl.de.ap (vocals, clavinet, strings, programming)

Black Eyed Peas Bradley CenterTaboo (vocals)

Set List / Milwaukee

Let’s Get It Started

Rock That Body

Meet Me Halfway

Don’t Phunk With My Heart

Imma Be

My Humps

Missing You

Bebot

Fergalicious

Glamorous

Big Girls Don’t Cry

Now Generation

Pump It

Where Is The Love?

———————————-ENCORE———————————-

Boom Boom Pow

I Gotta Feeling

With Or Without You (U2 cover)

Black Eyed Peas Bradley CenterTo kick off the night’s festivities, all four of the Black Eyed Peas slowly and enticingly appeared one by one amid smoke and green lasers via lifts located under the stage. First to come into view was apl.de.ap on the far left. Then came Taboo on the far right. Fergie was next, back next to apl.de.ap. Finally, will.i.am appeared in between Taboo and Fergie. The lineup was now complete. Green lasers were beamed in every direction. Time for the show to begin. And begin it did, with the foursome launching into “Let’s Get It Started” from 2003′s Elephunk record.

“Thanks for making this song #1 two weeks in a row!” exclaimed a grateful visor-wearing Fergie seconds before the group performed their latest hit “Imma Be.” The song is the group’s fourth single off of The E.N.D (The Energy Never Dies). “Wisconsin! How many cheeseheads do we have in the house?” Fergie asked the nearly sold out crowd, clearly attempting to appeal to the locals. “I know, I know, I should keep my day job, right?” That’s right, Fergie Ferg. Don’t leave the Black Eyed Peas anytime soon to try your luck in stand-up comedy. We love you and your lovely lady lumps! Speaking of lady lumps and humps…

You guessed it. “My Humps” was up next on the group’s set list with Fergie displaying her perfectly toned curves in a skintight bedazzled bodysuit. Throughout the song, Fergie (real name: Stacy Ferguson) gyrated her lower half while, doing her best to rival Shakira’s hip and waist twisting skills, while balancing one hand on the shoulder of band leader will.i.am. Simultaneously with the ending lyric “Imma make make make you work, make you work work, make you work,” Fergie showed off some impressive flexing of her pectoral muscles, much to the crowd’s delight. “What you gonna do with all that breast, all that breast, inside that shirt?” Make you work, indeed.

Black Eyed Peas Bradley CenterWith crystal clear vocals piercing through the airwaves, Fergie sang the introduction to “Missing You.” This track was immediately my favorite upon buying the BEP’s new album. It’s safe to say that I was very happy “Missing You” was included in the group’s set. Having Fergie sing her part totally on pitch was icing on the cake. When not belting out her notes, Fergie could be seen performing robot-like dance moves in her platform wedge heels. Oddly enough, her shoes actually had no heel to them at all. Heelless heels, I suppose. Not sure how else to describe them. You will have to catch her on the BEP’s current tour to get what I’m saying. Whatever they are, I give Fergie made props for being able to dance in those futuristic contraptions, let alone walk in them!

If you have never seen the Black Eyed Peas in concert, you may not be aware that each group member gets their own chance to shine alone on stage at some point halfway through the set. First off on The E.N.D World Tour is a performance of “Bebot” by apl.de.ap. The Philippino (real name: Allan Pineda Lindo) finished off his solo act with admirable breakdancing, proving that he could easily be a professional b-boy (break-boy) if the Black Eyed Peas ever decide to call it quits. Hopefully, that will never come to fruition. A world without the Black Eyed Peas? Absolutely ludicrous.

Next up is Taboo (real name: Jaime Luis Gomez). Rising from below the stage, Taboo appears on top of a black and white motorcycle. Instead of stopping when the lift reaches stage level, the vehicle continues to rise up into the air. To the awe of the thousands of fans, Taboo proceeded to be carried over the audience below him on the main floor. Once he is stationed above the front of house (soundboard/mix), Taboo’s ride is turned around and begins to return to the stage. “I keep it short and simple,” states Taboo once he is safely back on solid ground.

Black Eyed Peas Bradley Center“Are you all ready to get glamorous?” asks Fergie, who is now in her prime after kicking off a three-song solo set with “Fergalicious.” The second song is “Glamorous,” which just happens to be my favorite track off of the singer’s solo debut album Fergie As The Dutchess. How convenient is it that Ludacris is one of the opening acts (along with LMFAO) for this tour? As I had expected, Luda reappears (new outfit, of course) on stage with Fergie for his guest appearance rap on “Glamorous.” Before completing her solo halftime show with the third and final song, Fergie admits that “I go on the Internet and see that people are talking mad shit about me!”

Backed by two acoustic guitarists, The Dutchess leads the crowd in a girly-girl sing along of her hit “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” The only disappointment of the whole concert came when Fergie chose to belt out a high note during the final few seconds of “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” While attempting to hold the note out for as long as possible, Fergie’s pitch audibly wavered back and forth between flat and sharp, causing me to wince with physical pain at hearing her voice falter. Next time around, skip the vocal gymnastics, Fergie Ferg. We like the song’s original ending just fine, thanks.

The final soloist of the evening was the Black Eyed Peas mastermind will.i.am (real name: William James Adams, Jr.). Accompanied by a remix of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” will.i.am appeared center stage in a robot costume and introduced himself using Auto-Tune to its full effect. The man casually made his way down the catwalk where a DJ booth was waiting for him. As the booth gradually worked its way up about twenty feet in the air, will.i.am took to the controls of his makeshift turntable (with requisite laptop) and “American Boy” blasted from the house speakers.

Having written and produced the hit single by Estelle featuring Kanye West, I thought it quite appropriate of will.i.am to start off a 15-minute DJ set with “American Boy.” As “Pretty Young Thing” got everybody singing and dancing along, Will told the crowd, “If you love Michael Jackson, make some noise!” A cone of rotating green lasers encircled Will’s DJ booth for his entire set before he was lowered back down to the catwalk and disappeared for another costume change.

Black Eyed Peas Bradley CenterFor the return of the Black Eyed Peas as a whole, four podiums were lined up across the end stage. With will.i.am rocking the harmonica, and Fergie in thigh-high-tight boots with an equally high on-top-of-the-head ponytail, the group performed another new song, “Now Generation.” Fergie continued to amaze me (and the crowd, I hope) when she busted out two one-handed cartwheels (mic in other hand) in a row while making her way down the catwalk to join the rest of her bandmates. “We’ve been so familiar with opening for other people that it’s crazy to think that all of you people are here to see us,” will.i.am confessed before introducing his “favorite Black Eyed Peas song.” What is Will’s favorite BEP song? Hint: there is a silver trumpet involved, just like the one I played throughout all four years of high school…”Pump It” duh!

“We have been the Black Eyed Peas since 1995. We’ve been putting out records since 1998. Fergie joined the band in 2002. We’ve sold an accumulated 28 million records worldwide to date,” said a grateful and thankful will.i.am to his band’s Milwaukee fans. The hit song that catapulted the Black Eyed Peas into mainstream pop music followed Will’s speech: “Where Is The Love?” The show’s encore had my jaw dropping toward the floor as apl.de.ap, Taboo, Fergie, and will.i.am were propelled one at a time with unbelievable force from under the stage up into the air. My body was physically tensed as I secretly was wishing each member landed safely on two feet when free falling about eight feet from their launch.

“Boom Boom Pow” was followed by the band’s biggest hit single of their career “I Gotta Feeling.” As Fergie sang the lyric “Just take it off” for the first time (the line is repeated again and again), the group’s only female member ripped off the top of her outfit in a move reminiscent of Justin and Janet at the Super Bowl halftime show fiasco all those years ago. “What the fuck is she wearing?” was my immediate thought. I cannot even begin to describe it…

As the Black Eyed Peas’ touring band continued to play the instrumental version of “I Gotta Feeling” up on their own stage (elevated in the middle), will.i.am took the time to give thanks to everybody who makes their show possible every night on the tour. “I want to give thanks to our stage crew, musical director and keyboard player, DJ, band, and dancers,” said Will. “And I want to thank Keith Harris, our drummer and the producer of our songs “Imma Be” and “Boom Boom Pow.” Then the Black Eyed Peas held hands, took their final bow perfectly in sync with each other, and proceeded to disappear out of sight as a lift lowered them from stage level and out of the crowd’s sight. The END.

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V.V. Brown: The Dead Hub Artist To Watch In 2010

vvbrown

All it took was for me to hear the opening guitar riff in V.V. Brown‘s single “Shark In The Water” and I was in love. Then I heard the chorus. Words cannot express how insanely catchy that song’s hook is. The horn section! The layered vocals! The chord progression! The voice! The beat and groove! The guitar riff! The clapping! There is not one tiny thing wrong with that chorus. It is absolutely perfect. It serves its purpose: to get stuck in the listener’s head and have that person singing or humming along to the melody over and over all day long. That’s what it did to me upon hearing it the first time. “Shark In The Water” is still on repeat when I listen to it (over and over again). I am not only in love with the song, but in love with the woman singing it. Again, all it took was 20 minutes of conversing with V.V. Brown over the phone and my respect and admiration for her skyrocketed. V.V. Brown is by far my new favorite artist of 2010 and she should be yours as well.

Read on to hear what the British singer/songwriter had to say to The Dead Hub…

[Read more...]

Gomez Brings In ‘A New Tide’ To Chicago

Gomez
Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
March 4, 2010

Gomez Vic Theatre

Having never seen or heard Gomez before last Thursday night, I had no idea what was in store for me. With no expectations and an open mind, I attended the opening night of Gomez’s current tour in the States. Quite honestly, it felt pretty cool to be seeing Gomez live in concert for the first time while they were kicking off their tour in my hometown of Chicago. The fivesome hailing from Southport, England are promoting their latest album A New Tide, which was released almost a year ago on March 31, 2009. Three lead singers told me that Gomez is not your typical English indie rock band. There is nothing ordinary about a band whose members play multiple instruments in addition to having three out of five of the guys sharing lead vocal duties. Gomez earned my respect the second they walked out on stage and picked up their respective instruments. My admiration for Gomez and the group’s songs only grew as each song finished and a new one began. I am now a fan for life and will be at every Gomez show in Chicago from here on out.

More photos of Gomez after the jump…

Gomez Vic TheatreIan Ball (vocals, guitar)

Gomez Vic TheatreBen Ottewell (vocals, guitar)

Gomez Vic TheatrePaul Blackburn (bass)

Gomez Vic TheatreTom Gray (vocals, guitar, keyboards)

Set List / Chicago

Revolutionary Kind

Hamoa Beach

If I Ask You Nicely

Mix

See The World

Meet Me In The City

78 Stone Wobble

Sweet Virginia

Pick Up The Pieces

Rhythm And Blues Alibi

Other Plans

Bring Your Lovin’ Back Here

Ruff Stuff

Ping One Down

Step Inside

Win Park Slope

Girlshapedlovedrug

Devil Will Ride

—————————-ENCORE—————————

Airstream Driver

How We Operate

Gomez Vic TheatreOlly Peacock (drums)

Just to get it out of the way, I need to come clean with two random observations that I noticed. First off, singer/guitarist Ben Ottewell’s voice at times reminded me of former Barenaked Ladies lead singer Steven Page’s voice. Secondly, singer/guitarist/keyboardist Tom Gray physically appeared (to me, that is) to be a cross between Harry Potter, Elijah Wood, and Paul McCartney. Feel free to completely disagree with me on both points. Moments before launching into “Sweet Virginia,” Gray admitted to the crowd that the band was about to perform a song that they “haven’t played live in five years before tonight.” As Gray made the final adjustments to the placement of his guitar, he made the comment that it was the “perfect time for a waltz.” Indeed, “Sweet Virginia” is in fact, a waltz. “Are you ready Chicago?” asked singer/guitarist Ian Ball. And then Gomez began playing Sweet V as if they had played the song every night for the past five years.

Next up was “Pick Up The Pieces,” which had Gray stepping up to the edge of the stage and initiating the first of three clap alongs. “Bring Your Lovin’ Back Here” was the first composition included in Gomez’s set that I labeled as my favorite. If I had never gone to this Gomez show, one of the most catchiest tunes ever written would have never gotten the chance to reach my ears and become my new musical obsession. “Bring Your Lovin’ Back Here” was released back in October of 2000 on the Gomez record Abandoned Shopping Trolley Hotline. It took ten years for that particular song to be introduced to me. Songs affect my life in a way I can’t even begin to describe. It’s hard to explain and for some people to understand, but I feel as if my life would not be the same without BYLBH in it. That piece of music just makes every day living so much better to experience and get through.

Next up was “Ruff Stuff,” which became my second favorite song of the night. Not to say that I relate to the song, which contains the lyrics “Darling, I’ve given up fags and drugs now baby. Darling, I’ve had enough of the ruff stuff baby.” Can’t say I’ve ever taken any drugs (excluding medicine). A brief episode of smoking cigarettes lasted less than three months back in my early angst-ridden rebellious college years. But just like the addiction brought on from the use of drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes, the lyrics in “Ruff Stuff” paired with the melody the words are written to served as my new addiction. The way I look at it, is that it’s better to be addicted to songs and music than any of that body-harming ruff stuff. Wouldn’t you agree?

“Ping One Down” brought about the second of three clap alongs lead by Tom Gray. This time around, the clapping had a syncopated rhythm to it and the song later included a jam session breakdown showing off Ben Ottewell’s ridiculous electric guitar playing chops. Man, that guy can play! Note to those who don’t enjoy listening to or watching jam bands: “Ping One Down” may turn you off of Gomez’s music. Give their other songs a chance before you decide not to see Gomez live in concert again just because they got a little too “jammy” for your tastes. “I guess it’s time to play a song we’ve never played before. We wrote it a long time ago,” Gray said to introduce the next song “Step Inside.” Of course, the simple fact that Gomez had only played “Step Inside” during the recording of the song years ago had no effect on how well the guys performed it live last week in Chicago. To my aurally trained ears, Gomez performed “Step Inside” as if they had been playing it live every night of every tour since the beginning of the band’s career in the 1990s.

“Win Park Slope” gave Gray the opportunity to rock the shaker (as best as one can rock out on the shaker) while Ian Ball’s lead vocals were mixed with plenty of reverb and delay. “Girlshapedlovedrug” had Gray leading the audience in the third and final clap along of the evening. “Devil Will Ride” featured Gray on the vocoder, with him switching back and forth between singing into his regular microphone and his vocoder mic. Near the end of the song Gray brought the two microphones together and sang into both. In sum, Tom Gray is totally awesome. The kid plays every type of acoustic and electric guitar in existence, as well as the shaker, tambourine, keyboard, synthesizer, and piano. Oh yeah, and he can sing. Basically, I want to be him. Gomez started their encore with “Airstream Driver,” the group’s big hit from A New Tide and finished their set off with “How We Operate.” The sold out crowd was left with the final words “try to see things my way…i’ll try to see things your way.” A perfect way for humans to operate, indeed.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge images:

Vedera Takes Us Through Beginning ‘Stages’

Vedera
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
February 22, 2010

Vedera House of Blues

I will be the first to come clean and admit that if it were not for MTV’s “reality” (read: totally scripted) television show “The Hills,” I would never have heard of the band Vedera. Therefore, I want to get it over with and say “Thank You!” to MTV and “The Hills” for introducing me (and all of the show’s millions of viewers around the world) to an awesome band, great songs, and a female vocalist who can really sing. It also needs to be said that I only watch “The Hills” for the music that is featured on each episode. Whoever is responsible for the music supervision on this show is pretty good at what they do. Of course, there are a lot of mainstream pop songs on select episodes, but that is to be expected. Just about every song on Kelly Clarkson’s latest record was licensed and synched for the show last spring when her album was released. Cross-promotion at it’s best! Overall though, I discover some of my favorite new artists and music from catching brief samples of songs while having “The Hills” on in the background. I’m never actually paying attention to what is happening on my laptop screen, but when I hear a melody, beat, chorus, or voice that I like, I sure as hell jerk my head to look and see what is playing. When I found out Vedera was coming to Chicago this month, I jumped at the chance to catch the band perform live in front of me versus watching them chat with Audrina and Lo on TV…

More photos of Vedera after the jump!

Vedera House of BluesDrew Little (drums)

Vedera House of BluesKristen May (vocals, guitar, piano)

Vedera House of BluesBrian Little (lead guitar)

Set List / Chicago

Loving Ghosts

Forgive You

A World Apart

Goodbye My Love

Satisfy

Lover’s Lie

If You Go

We Sing

While watching The Hills (Season 5) | Ep. 12 | ‘Mess With Me, I Mess With You’, Smashbox Studios and Epic Records (Audrina’s “employer”) hosted a Vedera Showcase in which the band performed multiple songs in an effort to promote their major label debut record Stages. Two songs were aired on the actual episode: “A World Apart” and “Satisfy.” The first of these two has lead singer Kristen May playing the keyboard, which is a foolproof method of demanding my respect. The latter of the two has May playing the electric guitar, which is a foolproof method of making me seeth with envy for just a few seconds. Playing the keyboard/piano is something I can do, but I have yet to master the guitar. Vedera singer Kristen May is blatantly proficient in both instruments, plus singing and writing songs. This chick is pretty much the kind of girl I want to be.

As expected, Vedera included both “A World Apart” and “Satisfy” in their set when they performed in Chicago this past Monday opening for headliner Jack’s Mannequin. Although it was nice to be familiar with a couple of the Kansas City, Missouri band’s songs, I was more excited to hear new material from the foursome’s recently released album Stages. Out of the chosen eight compositions I heard at the show, “Goodbye My Love” had to be my favorite, hands down. The chorus resonated in my head all night long, simply because it’s so damn catchy. “We Sing,” the final song of Vedera’s set, was the perfect choice for an opening act to serve as a stellar home-run ending. Seriously, Kristen May’s vocals on the minor key melancholy hook of “We Sing” hit the ball right out of the park. I was blown away by the sound being belted out of this tiny girl’s voice. Where did it come from?!

Moral of the story? Don’t judge a band by their appearance on “The Hills.” If an artist and/or band is being heavily marketed by Epic Record in Los Angeles, chances are that they will be featured on an episode of “The Hills.” That is, as long as Audrina still “works” there. And usually, that particular artist/band is truly talented. Final note: don’t judge me because I watch “The Hills.” It’s one of the best ways to discover new artists and songs. Trust me, you should give it a try…

Vedera House of Blues

Jason Douglas (bass guitar)

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Timbaland Presents Shock Value II Tour

Timbaland
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
January 24, 2010

Timbaland House of Blues

There were three “quotes of the night” as I like to call them at Sunday night’s (well, Monday morning’s) Timbaland concert at Chicago’s House of Blues. These three quotes/phrases were repeated by Timbaland’s DJ more times that I care to remember. Not a good sign that I left the show recalling the DJ’s ridiculously annoying shout-outs than Timbaland’s actual performance. Anyway, here we go…

1) “Get your merchandise!”

2) “Where’s all my single ladies at?”

3) Where’s all my Timbaland fans at?”

More photos of Timbaland presenting his Shock Value II album live in Chicago after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

Timothy Where You Been (feat. Jet)

Say Something (feat. Drake)

Give It Up To Me (Shakira feat. Lil Wayne)

The Way I Are (feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E.)

Morning After Dark (feat. Nelly Furtado & SoShy)

Oh Timbaland

Can You Feel It (feat. Esthero & Sebastian)

If We Ever Meet Again (feat. Katy Perry)

————————-INTERMISSION———————-

Tomorrow In The Bottle (feat. Chad Kroeger & Sebastian)

Carry Out (feat. Justin Timberlake)

Promiscuous (Nelly Furtado)

Say It Right (Nelly Furtado)

My Love (Justin Timberlake feat. T.I.)

SexyBack (Justin Timberlake)

What Goes Around… (Justin Timberlake)

Timbaland House of BluesAttending a Timbaland performance is quite simply the same as dancing and singing along to the multiple songs the man has written and produced for both himself and other artists for more than a decade. Seriously though, I love the genius that is Timbaland and the music he creates, but he should stick to the studio and not the stage. A performer with stage presence he is not. In all honesty, Timbaland needs to drop the touring and performing components from his career aspirations. Once Tim arrives at the realization that his talents are best suited to remaining seated in the producer’s chair at his production company and recording studio, then the world will be better served. Needless to say, more amazing songs will be delivered to the public directly from Mr. Mosley. I love you Timbaland, but please give up the dream of being a rock star…

Wearing white Beats By Dr. Dre Studio High Definition Powered Isolation Headphones (with Powered Noise Cancellation), Timbaland broke up his set into two parts with an intermission. Yes, that’s correct…an intermission. Why was that necessary? I have no clue. Apparently act one of the Virginia native’s performance was dedicated to his new material from most recent release Shock Value II. The second half of the show was a nonstop medley of every major hit Tim has written and produced (and been featured on) for major recording artists such as Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake.

During the first half of the show, Timbaland provided the audience with some much needed (and appreciated) visual entertainment in the form of a large rectangular video screen. Placed portrait-style at the front of stage left, the LED display panel projected pre-recorded images of the artists featured on all of Timbaland’s Shock Value II tracks. With Mr. Mosley lacking any captivating MC skills, I found myself unable to tear my eyes away from the LED screen. By the end of Tim’s set, I had seen stars like Jet, Drake, Esthero, Katy Perry, Keri Hilson, SoShy, Nelly Furtado, Chad Kroeger, and Justin Timberlake singing and dancing along to the songs specific to them.

Unfortunately, Timbaland did not perform my favorite song from his first album Shock Value, “One & Only” featuring Fall Out Boy. Nor did he choose to include “Give It To Me” featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake in his set this past Sunday/Monday. This came as quite a surprise to me, seeing as how the song was a huge hit off of Shock Value and received tons of radio airplay. Plus, it’s another one of my favorites from Tim’s first solo record. Around 3:30AM, the House of Blues staff gradually cut off the power in the venue in the hopes that Timbaland would get the hint to end his set. With the stage lights completely shut down, Timbaland had no choice but to perform a capella if he wanted to continue with his playlist of hit songs. Finally admitting defeat, Tim’s final words of the night were as follows: “Thank you Chicago! Home of Kanye West!” Yes, well right now Chicago isn’t all that proud of the fact that we gave the world Mr. West.

Final note to Timbaland: more time in studio, less time on stage. Thank you for the timeless tracks!

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Butch Walker Plays ‘Sycamore Meadows’

Butch Walker
Schubas Tavern – Chicago, IL
January 7, 2010

Butch Walker Chicago 9

Butch Walker is a Taylor Swift fan. That’s right, people. The critically acclaimed singer/songwriter/producer performed a cover of Taylor Swift’s massively popular song “You Belong With Me” during his late afternoon soundcheck last Thursday while in town to perform four nights at Schubas. Walker even recorded his own version of the Swift hit and released it on iTunes this past November (2009). I was lucky to make it to even one of Walker’s four shows in Chicago because they were all SOLD OUT. Funnily enough, the particular night I attended was where Butch played his most recent album Sycamore Meadows from front to back, which happens to be the only full-length LP I own by Walker. Therefore, I was actually familiar with all of the music the man performed that night. Mind you, I discovered all of this information after arriving at the venue and striking up a conversation with a few die-hard Butch Walker fans surrounding me in the front row.

More photos of Butch Walker from his third night in Chicago after the jump…

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John Legend Ends the Year with Chicago

John Legend
The Venue – Hammond, IN
December 30, 2009

John Legend Chicago 7

Witnessing the undeniable talent of John Legend live in concert for the second time in my life ended up making me bounce between two utterly different emotions. First off, I felt inspired and was left in awe of how amazing a pianist and songwriter John Legend truly is. Second of all, I couldn’t help but feel like a complete loser for being just six years younger than John Legend and not possessing even half of the musical gift and skill set belonging to this man. Legend did not have an opening act to warm up the crowd before gracing the stage himself. And to be honest, with as much music as Legend has under his belt, John did not need an opener to precede him last Wednesday night at Horseshoe Casino’s The Venue in Hammond, IN.

More photos of John Legend after the jump…

[Read more...]

Butch Walker Asks (via Twitter): Any Requests, Chicago?

BUTCH WALKER TO PLAY FULL ALBUMS AND TWITTER REQUESTS AT FOUR SOLD-OUT SCHUBA’S TAVERN SHOWS

‘I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart’ (One Haven Music) Out 02/09 On Vinyl And 02/23 On CD/Digital

butch2

LA-based singer-songwriter and producer Butch Walker returns to Chicago January 5, 6, 7, and 8 for a career-spanning series at Schuba’s Tavern. Walker will play a different album from his back catalog in its entirety each of the first three nights. On January 8, he will treat fans to a special set of brand new songs from his just announced album ‘I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart’ (One Haven Music) plus other requests and one cover, submitted by fans via Twitter using the hashtag #butchwalkersetlist.

After Chicago, Walker will play another sold-out, four-night run in his hometown Atlanta, January 13-16 at 7 Stages Theater. He completed similar residencies in LA and NYC in December, both of which sold out instantly.

Butch Walker in Chicago:
Jan 5 – Performing ‘Letters’
Jan 6 – Performing ‘The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker…’
Jan 7 – Performing ‘Sycamore Meadows’
Jan 8 – Performing new songs and fan favorites

Butch Walker in Atlanta:
Jan 13 – Performing new songs and fan favorites
Jan 14 – Performing ‘Letters’
Jan 15 – Performing ‘The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker…
Jan 16 – Performing ‘Sycamore Meadows’

Butch Walker on The Web:
http://www.butchwalker.com/
http://twitter.com/butchwalker
http://maybeitsjustme.biz/
http://www.shorefire.com/clients/bwalker
http://www.onehavenmusic.com/butchwalker

About ‘I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart’:
Butch’s new album ‘I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart’ (One Haven Music) is about beginnings, endings, and the long journey in between. The album, featuring eleven new songs co-written by Walker and his new songwriting partner Michael Trent, will be released exclusively on vinyl on February 9, followed by a CD/digital release on February 23.

Unlike Walker’s previous, critically acclaimed solo works, ‘I Liked It Better’ was recorded quickly and collaboratively, with his band The Black Widows. “We literally went into the studio the day after our tour ended,” recalls Walker. “So the wheels were greased.” The album was recorded mostly “live” over just five days, using first and second takes. Strings were subsequently added at Abbey Road Studios in the UK, providing some of the album’s most interesting textures.

Kid Cudi departs Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball

Rapper Kid Cudi has exited Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, which he had been scheduled to be a part of through January.

kid

“Kid Cudi has decided to take an early leave of absence from Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, in order to balance his schedule surrounding the recording of his next album and acting commitment,” reads a statement on his official website. “Cudi does not want to disappoint his fans and will move forward with his individual show dates in December and throughout the month of January.”

The Academy Is… Announce Hometown Show

THE ACADEMY IS… ANNOUNCE HOMETOWN SHOW;

CHICAGO ROCKERS CELEBRATE 5-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF

“ALMOST HERE,” WITH EXCLUSIVE CLUB DATE

The Academy Is...

Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen recording group The Academy Is…have unveiled details for a special hometown performance.  The show, set to take place at Metro in Chicago, IL on February 6th , will commemorate the 5-year anniversary of their breakthrough debut “Almost Here.” TAI will be joined by friends Sing It Loud, as well as other special guests for the celebration.  Tickets for the event will go on sale at 12:00PM on December 19th and some members of TAI will be at Metro’s box office to kick everything off and collect canned food donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Formed in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates back in 2002, TAI captured attention right from the start with their inventive, electrifying take on expressive punk-inspired rock ‘n’ roll.  Released in February 2005, the band’s debut album, “Almost Here,” earned unanimous critical acclaim, with Alternative Press declaring it a “bona-fide punk-pop masterpiece.”

In 2006, TAI was honored with a trio of mtvU Woodie Awards nominations for “Almost Here,” including the prestigious “Woodie of the Year.” The also received two “Streaming Woodie” nods – presented to the year’s Most Downloaded Videos – for “Checkmarks” and “Slow Down.”

TAI recently wrapped-up a nationwide stint as co-headlinerson Alternative Press’ infamous “AP Tour.”  The tour heralded the release of their new EP, “LOST IN PACIFIC TIME” which gathers five brand-new TAI tracks including “I’m Yours Tonight.” The EP is currently available at all DSPs as well as the Fueled By Ramen webstore (located at store.fueledbyramen.com).

For up-to-the-minute information, please visit www.theacademyis.com and www.myspace.com/theacademyis.  Additional news and info can be accessed at www.fueledbyramen.com

Semi Precious Weapons Extend US Lady Gaga Tour Through 2010!

Semi Precious Weapons

Extend US Tour With Lady Gaga!

“Tranter is like Adam Ant, T.Rex’s Marc Bolan and Ziggy Stardust wrapped into one, singing lead on AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’”
– Rolling Stone 2009

“Semi Precious Weapons looked and sounded like the Sex Pistols if they had emerged from Warhol’s downtown Factory scene”
– SPIN.com 2009

“Semi Precious Weapons split the difference between AC/DC and Queen with fierce frontman Justin Tranter.”
– Boston Globe 2009

Semi Precious Weapons

Brooklyn rockers Semi Precious Weapons will tour with Lady Gaga through 2010!  The tour takes them all over the country, including a four-night stand at New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall. The band received previous rave reviews on their recent tours with Ladyhawke and rock icons The Sounds, so be prepared for a seductive spectacle that will keep the celebration going long after the stage show ends.

Semi Precious Weapons took a break from their busy touring agenda to get back into the studio with producer Jack Joseph Puig (The Rolling Stones, Green Day) in November.  Stay tuned for more information about their upcoming new record, due out next year!

Lady Gaga 2009-2010 US Tour Dates

12/18 Las Vegas, NV @ The Pearl

12/19 San Diego, CA @ San Diego Sports Arena

12/21 Los Angeles, CA @ Nokia Theatre

12/22 Los Angeles, CA @ Nokia Theatre

12/23 Los Angeles, CA @ Nokia Theatre

12/27 New Orleans, LA @ UNO Lakefront Arena

12/28 Atlanta, GA @ Fox Theatre

12/29 Atlanta, GA @ Fox Theatre

12/31 Miami, FL @ Knight Center

1/2 Miami, FL @ Knight Center

1/3 Orlando, FL @ Hard Rock

1/7 St. Louis, MO @ The Fox

1/8 Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre

1/9 Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre

1/10 Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theatre

1/12 Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre

1/13 Detroit, MI @ Fox Theatre

1/14 West Lafayette, IN @ Purdue University

1/16 Atlantic City, NJ @ The Borgata

1/17 Wallingford, CT @ Chevrolet Theatre

1/18 Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun

1/20 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall

1/21 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall

1/23 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall

1/24 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall

Phoenix Pulls Through for Chicago’s 93XRT

Phoenix
Allstate Arena – Rosemont, IL
93XRT Big Holiday Concert
December 11, 2009

Phoenix Allstate Arena

Upon arriving at the 93XRT Big Holiday Concert, I discovered that the band I came to see, hear, photograph, and review (Phoenix) was only going to be playing three songs…maybe four if the group felt up to the task. Originally scheduled to play for a solid 60 minutes, Phoenix decided to cut their hour-long headlining set to just 15 minutes. Apparently, the band’s drummer suffered a death in the family and could not play the 93XRT holiday radio show this past weekend in Chicago. The guys had to make an executive decision regarding their drummer’s sudden family emergency and whether or not to cancel their much anticipated performance alongside Pete Yorn and The Flaming Lips. Understandably, without a drummer it would be extremely difficult to play an entire set. Therefore, the guys chose to play an intimate acoustic set for their fans, consisting of four songs, which is saying something about the work ethic of these four French alternative indie rockers.

More photos of Phoenix after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

Lisztomania

Everything Is Everything

One Time Too Many

1901

Phoenix Allstate ArenaDeck D’Arcy (bass, keyboard, synthesizer)

Phoenix Allstate ArenaLaurent Brancowitz (guitar)

The quartet hailing from Versailles, France lined up alongside one another front and center at the edge of the stage. From left to right was guitarist Laurent Brancowitz, lead singer Thomas Mars, bassist/keyboardist Deck D’Arcy, and guitarist Christian Mazzalai. “We wanted to perform our songs the way we originally write them,” explained Phoenix vocalist Thomas Mars. “We are going to play an intimate acoustic set for you all tonight,” exclaimed Mars to a surprised, shocked, and delighted crowd. Looking back, I believe the guys did good with the unfavorable predicament they were in. However, I’m not sure this performance was realistically all that small and intimate. I mean, the Allstate Arena holds 18,000 when hosting a sold out show and the 93XRT Big Holiday Concert fell just shy of selling out the space.

Moments before photographing Phoenix, I found myself privy to a 93XRT staff member discussing the dilemma that his boss was forced to deal with at the 11th hour. As it turns out, the radio station’s program director placed a call to the band and their management pleading for the guys not to cancel the gig. After all, Phoenix is truly one of the music scene’s “It” bands of the year and was billed as a headliner for 93XRT’s Big Holiday Concert. WXRT was expecting the band to draw quite a large crowd; almost equal to that of The Flaming Lips.

Unfortunately for myself and fellow photographers, Phoenix’s small intimate acoustic set meant that any previously programmed lighting had to be altered. With insanely bright spot lights coming from above and behind the four band members, it was a challenge to get a few decent shots of the guys. I apologize in advance for the fact that the faces of Phoenix may not be as clear and defined as I had hoped. Due to this being an arena show, I was prepared for fantastic illumination highlighting each person playing a vital role in Phoenix. Well, that was not the case last Friday night. Admittedly, I was slightly disappointed that my first experience witnessing Phoenix live in concert was only four songs and 15 minutes long. Ah, that’s life I guess… Enjoy the photos nonetheless!

Phoenix Allstate ArenaChristian Mazzalai (guitar)

Phoenix Allstate ArenaThomas Mars (lead vocals)

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Mew at Metro

Mew
Metro – Chicago, IL
December 7, 2009

Mew Metro

Mew is not your typical band. First of all, the three men who comprise the alternative/progressive rock group Mew are from Denmark. Of all places, the band is from Denmark! Craziness, huh? Second of all, Mew’s drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen (just try and pronounce that name!) plays his drum kit from stage right (house left). Two touring band members (bassist and keyboardist) take up the rear center of the stage, positioned behind lead singer Jonas Bjerre. I first heard the name Mew when reading an interview in some music magazine given by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. The MCR frontman admitted that his new favorite band whose music he had recently discovered was Mew. Next thing I know, I’m buying a ticket to catch the first Mew concert in Chicago at the Double Door back in the winter of 2006. The guys may be huge in Europe, but here in America they are just getting started. “Thank you. It’s amazing to see so many people,” explained a humble and grateful Bjerre.

More photos of Mew after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

Intro

Shelter Swanky

Special

The Zookeeper’s Boy

Am I Wry? No

156

Introducing Palace Players

Repeaterbeater

Silas The Magic Car

Mica

Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy

Snow Brigade

——————-ENCORE——————-

Chinaberry Tree

Beach

Louise Louisa

Mew MetroBo Madsen (lead guitar, backing vocals)

Mew MetroJonas Bjerre (lead vocals, rhythm guitar)

Lead guitarist and backing vocalist Bo Madsen confessed that one of his guilty pleasures happens to be reading books about the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama. “Over in Europe, everybody loves him (Obama) so much. I know here, only about 50% of Americans actually like him. But in Europe, all the girls want to sleep with him. So congratulations.” The introduction of “Sometimes Life Isn’t Easy” was accompanied by claps and stomps conveniently provided by a nearly sold out audience at Chicago’s historic Metro. For someone drinking Red Bull throughout their set (and most likely beforehand, as well) frontman Jonas Bjerre appeared strangely calm and reserved all night long.

Last song of the evening “Louise Louisa” was broken up around the halfway mark with a random (well, it sure seemed random) drum solo, momentarily jerking fans out of the soothing trance the composition had held over the crowd. Before I could fully comprehend what was happening, drummer Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen and guitarist Bo Madsen had walked away from their instruments and off the stage, leaving singer and rhythm guitarist Jonas Bjerre to finish the band’s set alone.

I have never attended a concert with such a peaceful and relaxing encore ending as “Louise Louisa” provided last Monday night. By the time the house lights came back on, my friend Sarah and I were ready for bed! Make sure to check out Mew’s music if you’ve never heard of the Danish rockers before. Specifically, take a listen to the song “Beach,” which is by far my new favorite track of the band’s latest album No More Stories / Are Told Today / I’m Sorry / They Washed Away // No More Stories / The World Is Grey / I’m Tired / Let’s Wash Away.

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*Not photographed: Silas Utke Graae Jørgensen (drums)

Happy Holidays From The Fray

The Fray
Auditorium Theatre – Chicago, IL
The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11
December 4, 2009

The Fray Auditorium Theatre

Oh The Fray, how I love thee… Seriously though, I adore The Fray and have been a fan of the group since the very instant I heard “Over My Head (Cable Car)” on the radio back in the fall of 2005. I grew up playing the piano (classically trained, thank you very much); therefore, I am intensely attracted to The Fray’s compositions. Music of any sort that heavily features piano, keyboards, synthesizers, etc. holds a special place in my heart. Needless to say, I am a proud owner of the Piano/Vocal/Guitar songbook for The Fray’s first full-length album How To Save A Life and have taught myself how to play my favorite songs from the band’s debut record. “Heaven Forbid” is undoubtedly my absolute favorite track from How To Save A Life and every time I have seen The Fray live in concert, the guys have included it in their set list. Unfortunately, the Denver foursome decided not to perform “Heaven Forbid” at their Miracle Near State Street 11 gig last Friday night in Chicago. Slightly disappointed, I still managed to have an amazing time seeing one of my favorite piano-based bands play their music from the glorious vantage point of the second row (center section, of course). What I would have given for the chance to be invited up on stage to play the piano for just one of The Fray’s songs in place of frontman Isaac Slade…

More photos of The Fray after the jump!

Set List / Chicago

You Found Me

Syndicate

Absolute

All At Once

Say When

How To Save A Life

Ungodly Hour

Where The Story Ends

Never Say Never

Over My Head (Cable Car)

Happiness

One of the things I love most about The Fray is how talented these four guys truly are when it comes to writing music and playing a wide variety of instruments. Each one of the band’s members can easily adapt to and play each other’s instruments and proceed to do so during their shows, which I witnessed last Friday night. Lead singer Isaac Slade performs the majority of the set while sitting down at his grand piano, exactly where I like him to be. However, there were many times during the evening’s holiday radio show where Slade let his bandmates play the song’s necessary instruments while he chose to pace the stage sing his heart out.

To be honest, it was (and still is) hard for me to accept Slade as just a singer instead of a pianist/singer. Watching Isaac sing into a cordless microphone while standing still at the edge of the stage was difficult for me to observe. I had to resist the urge to yell at him to sit back down at the piano and play the same black and white keys that I know how to play, which is what I really wanted to do.

On my Christmas wish list this year is (can you guess?) the Piano/Vocal/Guitar songbook for The Fray’s second and latest full-length album, self-titled The Fray. The need to learn how to play my favorite track off of The Fray “Syndicate” is incessant and unrelenting. To my great relief and profound happiness, The Fray chose to play “Syndicate” at The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11. Rest assured, I was one delighted and satisfied fan when Slade announced that the second song of the night was called “Syndicate.” Looking back at the set list, I suppose that by playing “Syndicate” I will forgive Isaac and Co. for the fact that “Heaven Forbid” did not make the final cut. Next time, boys!

One of the fantastic perks that comes with living and working in Chicago is that super successful bands like The Fray tour through the Windy City quite often. Fortunately, I am one of the group’s lucky fans in America’s third largest metropolis who have seen The Fray all three times the band has played in Chicago within the past year. In celebration of most recent album The Fray, the band hit up small venues in select cities across the country to perform intimate shows while promoting the new record’s February 2009 release. So there I was, photographing and reviewing The Fray for The Dead Hub at a completely sold out show at Chicago’s historic Metro. That performance was impossible to get in to; after all, the Metro holds no more than 1,100 people. Trust me, I know how blessed I was to be there and do not take it for granted at all. I went alone for crying out loud!

The Fray must love Chi-Town, because the guys filmed their music video for lead single “You Found Me” off The Fray in the city I call home. Did you know that? I just found out about this interesting little fact within minutes of The Fray’s Miracle Near State Street 11 performance ending last week. Unfortunately, The Fray guys did not perform their amazing cover of Kanye West’s “Heartless” at this show. I bought their version of the song on iTunes the other day after remembering how much I fell in love with it after seeing the band play the cover at their Chicago concert this past June. But seeing as how I am currently boycotting everything Kanye West due to his appalling behavior at the MTV VMAs this year, I guess it was a good thing that The Fray chose not to pay homage to Mr. West.

Due to The Fray’s headlining gig at local station The Mix’s holiday radio show, the band’s set had to be much shorter than what is the norm for an artist of their merit and size. Upon the end of grand finale song “Happiness,” I was left wanting more of The Fray’s music. The guys did not even have enough time to include an encore in their set. What is that about? Who doesn’t perform an encore these days? Typically, two or three songs in an encore is the standard for performing artists and to be expected, right? Apparently The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11 thought differently.

Argh, the frustration I felt when the band finished playing a rousing rendition of “Happiness,” walked away from their instruments and off the stage into the shadows of the wings. Dashing all hopes I had of The Fray returning to play more songs, the house lights came on and the union stage hands began tearing down the stage. I am already waiting for the next date to be announced when The Fray will perform in Chicago again. For now, listening to their music on my iPod and playing their songs on my keyboard will have to suffice and hold me over.

The Fray Auditorium TheatreIsaac Slade (lead vocals, piano, acoustic guitar)

The Fray Auditorium TheatreDavid “Dave” Welsh (lead guitar)

The Fray Auditorium TheatreJoe King (rhythm guitar, backing/lead vocals)

The Fray Auditorium TheatreBen Wysocki (drums, percussion)

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Chicago Celebrates Christmas with Colbie Caillat

Colbie Caillat
Auditorium Theatre – Chicago, IL
The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11
December 4, 2009Colbie Caillat Auditorium Theatre

Each opportunity there is to see Colbie Caillat perform live in Chicago, you can bet I take advantage of it. This girl has grown on me so much since the first time I heard “Bubbly” on the radio and had no clue how to pronounce her last name. It took until the moment I experienced my first listen of “Realize” to truly consider myself a fan of Ms. Colbie Caillat. After catching Colbie’s concert in Chicago this past Friday night for The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11, I have been listening to the singer/songwriter’s newest album Breakthrough nonstop on my iTunes. Seriously, I have Caillat’s second full-length record set to “repeat all” and “shuffle songs.” There’s something about seeing an artist perform live a few feet in front of you that helps to turn their latest release into my current obsession.

More photos of Colbie Caillat after the jump…

Set List / Chicago

Begin Again

Realize

Lucky

Fearless

I Won’t

I Never Told You

Fallin’ For You

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Bubbly

Colbie Caillat Auditorium TheatreThe thing I loved most about Colbie Caillat’s Miracle Near State Street 11 performance at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre was that she included so many new songs in her set. Of course, hits such as “Realize” and “Bubby” from Caillat’s debut album Coco are pretty much mandatory to play whenever the California cutie has a show. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Colbie sing so many of my favorite songs from Breakthrough, such as “Begin Again,” “Fearless,” “I Won’t,” and “I Never Told You.”

Even though “Lucky” is technically Jason Mraz’s song and is only included on his latest album We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things, Caillat is acutely aware of how much her role in the duet is vital to the song’s popularity. Therefore, fans might be somewhat upset if Caillat did not include “Lucky” in her solo sets. After all, Jason Mraz may be able to fly his partner-in-crime to Chicago for his concert, but Colbie is still on her way to arriving at Mraz’s level of success. Not to worry folks, Caillat’s guitarist Justin can serenade audiences around the country in place of Jason Mraz any night of the week. Jason who? This past Friday evening, Justin and Colbie performed the duet “Lucky” like it was always their duet to begin with.

“How about Kris Allen? I am a huge fan of his,” gushed Caillat. “I got to meet him on American Idol even before he won.” If you haven’t figured it out by now, American Idol 2009 winner Kris Allen performed before Caillat at The Mix’s Miracle Near State Street 11 holiday concert. “I wrote this next song while on tour about an ex-boyfriend after I broke up with him,” explained Caillat before singing “I Never Told You.” The young singer (24 years old) continued to mention her inspiration for the tune’s lyrics and told the audience, “I started thinking about him all the time and missing him, his blue eyes, him sleeping next to me…” Take a listen to “I Never Told You” to hear Caillat’s intimate thoughts set to a beautiful, yet sorrowful melody built off subtle piano and guitar chords. The song structure is so simple, but simultaneously intense and eerily gorgeous. Heartstrings will be pulled when your ears hear this track from Breakthrough.

Colbie Caillat Auditorium TheatrePicking up the pace of the evening, an acoustic guitar was brought out to Caillat. The crowd’s mood was lifted as Colbie and her band proceeded to play Breakthrough‘s lead hit single “Fallin’ For You.” Being the holiday season and all, Caillat took a moment to have a little chat with her fans. “I’m excited for Christmas. I get to spend it at home with my family.” Home for this lucky beach bum being sunny Los Angeles (maybe even Malibu?). Hmm, Christmas in California or Chicago? Not sure about you, but I know where I would be if I had the choice (i.e. not here!).

“This next song I recorded for the Special Olympics and I want to sing it for you tonight,” Caillat said before performing the classic Christmas carol “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” With only her guitarist Justin accompanying her pure and crystal clear vocals, Colbie proved she’s got talent while leaving fans wanting more from the songstress than her opening slot for The Fray allowed. More of both Caillat’s own compositions as well as classic sing-along Christmas carols that is, please!

Colbie Caillat Auditorium Theatre“Are you excited to see The Fray? I know I am,” said a giddy Caillat. “I’m a huge fan of The Fray. I’ve never seen them live before. I’m going to watch them just like all of you are.” Well, it certainly is nice to know that this lady has not forgotten what it’s like to be a fan of another artist. Keeping with her promise, I caught Colbie watching The Fray’s performance from the shadows in the wings on stage right.

Before strumming the opening chord of “Bubbly,” Caillat managed to shout out an enthusiastic “Go Bears!” much to the crowd’s delight and approval. Inevitably, the time came when Caillat had to wrap up her set in order to hand the stage over to the night’s headliner, The Fray. “I wrote this next song when I was dying to fall in love,” prefaced Caillat upon reaching the final song of her performance. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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