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…

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All Hail to the Heroes from Gym Class

Gym Class Heroes
Sears Centre Arena
Hoffman Estates, IL
April 10, 2009

Gym Class Heroes Sears Centre ArenaTravis McCoy (vocals, MC)

I have seen Gym Class Heroes so many times in the past three years that I don’t even want to put the effort into trying to count them all! But no matter what, I never seem to get tired or sick of seeing the boys in Gym Class Heroes live in concert. The band’s live show doesn’t change much, but who cares? The flag boy or “hype man” is still there waving the GCH flag, as that seems to be his only talent. Fortunately, the foursome from upstate New York can now afford to take additional band members out on the road with them. Personally, I like it that way because then the music sounds fuller and there are more instruments from the original recordings of the songs represented (piano, keyboards, synth, etc.). The music is catchy as hell and great to dance to and sing along with. Case in point: take one listen to the GCH song “Clothes Off!” if you have not already. I’m pretty sure you will not get that song out of your head for the remainder of the day or even week! It’s THAT good.

More of the review and photos of Travis, Disashi, Eric, and Matt from Gym Class Heroes after the jump…

Other favorite Gym Class Heroes songs I’m a fan of (and which you should be too) include: “Cookie Jar,” “The Queen And I,” “Guilty As Charged,” and “Papercuts.” At the concert last Friday night, as part of the “I Am Music” tour, GCH performed the aforementioned songs plus many more. One of them being their biggest hit to date: “Cupid’s Chokehold.” The only reason why I am no longer a fan of that song is because it has been played to death on the radio. It’s the song that the “radio fans” know – the only song they know to be exact.

Gym Class Heroes also performed “Peace Sign/Index Down” off of their latest (and third) album The Quilt. Many tracks off of The Quilt feature guest appearances by some pretty big names. And even though none of those guests were at this show, GCH performed them anyway. “Cookie Jar” was the first single released from The Quilt and features The-Dream. “Peace Sign/Index Down” features Busta Rhymes. “Guilty As Charged” features Estelle. “Clothes Off!” features Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy, as does “Cupid’s Chokehold.”

Gym Class Heroes Sears Centre ArenaEric Roberts (bass)

Gym Class Heroes Sears Centre ArenaDisashi Lumumba-Kasongo (guitar, vocals)

Gym Class Heroes Sears Centre ArenaMatt McGinley (drums)

Gym Class Heroes Sears Centre ArenaTravis McCoy (vocals, MC)

More photos of Gym Class Heroes:

Estelle Shines “Real Talk” On Chicago

Estelle
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
February 25, 2009

Estelle House of Blues

I don’t know how the girl does it, but Estelle somehow can pull off wearing five-inch stiletto heels on stage for an entire hour without sitting down. She can even pull off dancing in them without showing any signs of unbalance. Estelle is the queen of “real talk,” which for those of you who don’t know London slang, is the equivalent for the phrases “for real” and “I’m serious” here in America. In between every song of the 60-minute set, British hip hop/soul/r&b star Estelle shared intimate stories from her past that served as inspiration for each song on her sophomore album Shine. Although Estelle’s appearance is stylish and polished, this girl has quite the sailor mouth when it comes to cussing. But given the circumstances of performing on stage to a crowd of 500 fans all 17+ years old, I see nothing wrong with Estelle’s use of profanities to embellish her story-telling. After all, Estelle wouldn’t be around if her experiences hadn’t motivated her to write songs and put those words to melody. Besides singing songs from Shine, Estelle also performed a cover of “Get Ready” by The Temptations. That was awesome. I mean, who doesn’t like The Temptations? Furthermore, who doesn’t like that song? Here is a list of songs from Estelle’s set (in no particular order):

Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)

No Substitute Love

American Boy

More Than Friends

Magnificent

Come Over

In the Rain

Back in Love

Pretty Please (Love Me)

Shine

I Wanna Live

Get Ready (The Temptations cover)

More photos of Estelle from the Chicago House of Blues show after the jump…

Gym Class Heroes Shows Chicago Their Quilt

Gym Class Heroes
Congress Theater – Chicago, IL
October 24, 2008

Gym Class Heroes Congress Theater - Chicago, ILTravis McCoy (vocals)

When Travis McCoy, the frontman for live band hip hop group Gym Class Heroes, asked the audience “How many of you people only know us as that band who sings the song about Cupid?” I was proud to NOT be one of the fans screaming and raising their hand high in the air. I can honestly say I have been a fan of Gym Class Heroes since June 2006, when I first saw them perform on the Vans Warped Tour outside of Charleston, South Carolina. There were maybe 10-15 kids standing around contemplating whether they should stay and watch or head home after a long, hot day at the Warped Tour. Gym Class got stuck with a time slot near the end of the day, so I couldn’t blame kids for being exhausted and wanting to drive home and go to sleep (and be in an air-conditioned house!). However, my friend Jennie and I wanted to stay until the VERY end and see as many bands perform as possible. It was the first Warped Tour for both of us and we felt like we had to soak up the entire experience that day. We grabbed a seat on a picnic bench next to the GCH’s stage, sat down, relaxed, and watched the foursome from upstate New York try to rile up a crowd of kids who were ready to pass out for the next 12 hours.

More photos of the band members from the show after the jump…

 

Gym Class Heroes Congress Theater - Chicago, ILDisashi Lumumba-Kasongo (guitar/vocals)

Since that show was almost two and a half years ago, I have made sure to attend every Gym Class Heroes show in Chicago and have yet to miss one since! A week or so ago I got to see the guys open for The Roots – the only remaining black live band hip hop group made up of all original members. British rapper/r&b singer Estelle opened for GCH and proceeded to join them on stage for the song “Guilty As Charged” from the group’s latest album The Quilt. Estelle is the featured artist on the album’s master of the song, and getting to see her perform it live with Gym Class Heroes was such a treat. “Guilty As Charged” is probably my favorite song on the band’s new album. Another crowd favorite that Gym Class saved for the end is the new “Cookie Jar” feat. Even though the band is barely getting any radio airplay with this track-the first single off The Quilt-most people in the crowd were quite familiar with the song from seeing the music video on MTV and MTV2. It’s obvious why this is the album’s first single-it’s super catchy-but for some reason radio stations in Chicago like B96 and 103.5 KISS have not added the track to their program. However, they play The Dream’s music, so I don’t see what is taking so long! Radio still plays “Cupid’s Chokehold,” but man oh man am I sick and tired of that song or what?!

Gym Class Heroes Congress Theater - Chicago, ILEric Roberts (bass)

My favorite song from Gym Class Heroes is off their sophomore album As Cruel As School Children: “Clothes Off!” The band also saved this fan fav for the end of their set, which has become a staple of their live show. I never have to worry that they won’t play it, because if I wait patiently, sure enough GCH will save the best for last and get the audience singing along with Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy on the chorus “We have to take our clothes off! We have to party all night! We have to take our clothes off! To have a good time!” With The Quilt, we get to hear the guitarist Disashi sing lead vocals on a couple of the songs he wrote such as “Live A Little” and “No Place To Run.” If you listen to these two tracks back to back, it is crystal clear that Disashi wrote both and sings lead on both. No offense to him or anything, but they sound almost exactly the same; almost as if one is a continuation or part 2 of the first. Take a listen and judge for yourself. Don’t get me wrong – I am NOT complaining. First of all, Disashi is a great songwriter. Second of all, he can sing on pitch and carry a melody. And lastly, I think it’s pretty cool that Travis McCoy lets another dude in his band take over as the frontman for a couple of tunes and steps back from the spotlight.

Gym Class Heroes Congress Theater - Chicago, ILMatt McGinley (percussion)

Click on thumbnails of Gym Class Heroes to enlarge photos:

Santogold: Crazy Sexy Cool

Santogold
House of Blues – Chicago, IL
9/28/08

Santogold House of Blues - Chicago, ILSanti White (Santogold)

Before this past July, I had never heard any music by Santogold. All I knew about her was from what I read in Blender, Spin, and Rolling Stone this past spring. I knew she used to work in A&R at SonyBMG in New York City. I knew she was another female rapper/singer falling into the same category as Lady Sovereign, M.I.A., Estelle, Lily Allen – all of whose music I enjoy. A die-hard Coldplay fan, I attended both of the band’s Chicago shows. Upon hearing the news that Santogold was booked as the opening act for the U.S. Coldplay tour, I figured those two shows last July would be my opportunity to check out some of Santogold’s music for the first time.

To keep reading my story (there is indeed a happy ending!), check out more photos from the concert and see the set list from Chicago’s show, continue on to the next page…

I was talking to a friend who works for an advertising company in Chicago that specializes in commercial music placement and licensing. She informed me that a recent project her boss had worked on involved placing Santogold’s track “Lights Out” in a new Bud Light Lime TV commercial that aired throughout the summer. I do not watch much television; therefore, I didn’t catch the commercial until about a few weeks ago. This was way after the Coldplay shows, but before Santi’s MySpace Gold Rush headlining tour last weekend at Chicago’s House of Blues. Anyway, the point of my drawn-out story is that as soon as Santogold sang the hook of her song “L.E.S. Artistes,” the first song of her set opening for Coldplay on July 22nd, I was OBSSESSED. I was actually angry with myself for not taking a listen to her songs before that show, especially since I had been reading great things about her for months before that! I am not joking. I felt like I had been depriving myself of this music – Santi’s music – that would have made my life so much better if I had discovered it sooner. Man, was I missing out on great songs or what?! By the end of her 30-minute set that night, I made a promise to myself to purchase her self-titled debut album, Santogold, before I left the United Center.

Set List

Sunday 9/28/08

Santogold House of Blues - Chicago, ILWell, even though I had good intentions of legally paying for music on impulse, it didn’t happen. But it wasn’t my fault! I went up to the first merchandise table I found and asked if they were selling Santogold’s album. For some weird reason, they said that no CDs were being sold at all that night or the next night. I guess larger arenas like Chicago’s United Center do not sell CDs at concerts anymore. Don’t ask me why… So I went back the next night of course to see my favorite band Coldplay, but this time around I was stoked to get another chance to hear those Santogold songs! I had been singing them all day at work. By the end of the second show, I was determined to get my hands on her record no matter what. Waking up early for work the next morning, I went to the iTunes Music Store and downloaded Santogold. My life is now that much closer to being complete. I am content and have officially been converted to a Santogold fan for life. I wouldn’t be surprised if she performs at next year’s Lollapalooza and neither should anybody else. She’s probably been booked for Lolla already…

Click on thumbnails to enlarge photos:

Gym Class Heroes – The Quilt

Gym Class Heroes The Quilt Cover

The Quilt is the third album for the Gym Class Heroes. Top notch producers have been recruited such as The-Dream, Cool & Dre and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. The album’s first single, “Cookie Jar”, produced by The-Dream will be available for digital purchase on July 8th. The Quilt will hit shelves September 9th. Feature guests include Busta Rhymes, Estelle & Hall & Oats’ Daryl Hall.