September 21, 2007

Stomping On The Yard National Step Show Championship @ Liacouras Center, Philadelphia - 9/15


Considered to be the 'super bowl' of step shows, Stomping On The Yard: SUPER STOMP, presented by Boost Mobile, is billed as a celebration of leadership, scholarship & showmanship. Don't let the cordial subscript fool you however, because this championship competition is also one electrifying event. Not only did the real life step tour inspire the box office hit film Stomp the Yard, the one-of-a-kind competition also boast its own ESPN special.  This night was the culmination of a national step tour, now in its forth year.  The show brought a sold out Liacouras Center crowd to its feet for performance after performance, as historically Black fraternaties and sororities lit up the stage with eleborate sets, routines and costumes.  One by one, the various teams vied for the title of national step champions.  Adding even more sizzle (and comic relief) was America's favorite perfect gentleman, Fonzworth Bentley, who drew uprourious screams from fans when he hit the stage as host of the competition.  If you had a doubt, a misconseption, or were just plain uninformed about step as an elevated art form, this night was the night that you learned...



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September 18, 2007

American Idols Live Tour 2007 @ Wachovia Center - Philadelphia


Okay, I admit it - I saw the American Idols Live tour.  And this, my review, is the embarrassing truth that proves it forever. Now don't get me wrong, I do watch American Idol every season, but sitting through endless karaoke-like performances (made longer by a sudden 'intermission'), shrieking fans and schmaltzy speeches is another story. It turns out, American Idol in any arena is far less entertaining without the judges. If Simon, Paula and Randy toured along with these 10 finalist, I'm sure they would have packed the house. Fortunately, there were a few highlights that came along by way of a couple of this past season's shining songstresses. Idol winner Jordin Sparks, long-running favorite Melinda Doolittle, and most impressively Lakisha Jones, were all music to my ears. They may not have made the sea of tween girls swoon like the male hearthrobs did, but they ultimately won over the entire crowd, and me, with stunning vocal performances...

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August 23, 2007

Chaka Khan, Tank, Angie Stone, Chrisette Michele, taragirl @ Unity Day, Philadephia - 8/19


Unity Day in Philadelphia is a huge event. With a stage set up on the steps of the art museum, the party draws hundreds of thousands. This year, relentless rain left everyone wet, but not disappointed as numerous soul music stars hit the stage for the WDAS-sponsored concert. Once you found a good dry spot and some support for your umbrella, all you had to do was watch the excitement unfold on stage. And if you heard your jam, getting a little wet suddenly didn’t matter. This was the case for many spectators as performers taragirl, Ledisi, Lady Alma, Chrisette Michele, Angie Stone, Bill Holly’s Hard Drive, Tank, and headliner Chaka Khan hit all the right notes…

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August 15, 2007

Beyonce at Wachovia Center - Philadelphia, 8/10


The Beyoncé Experience is an extraordinary one.  If you do not yet know what a Beyoncé experience is when you step into this superstar's world, brace yourself!  Even the slightest of fans will have the time of their life here, probably leave with a sore throat, and maybe twist their ankle in the process…  Beyoncé was a strikingly beautiful image when she emerged in a sparkling dress with her hands lifted up something like Diana Ross, blinding sparks falling behind her.  After her royal intro, the show had a deafening opening with ‘Crazy in Love,’ the smash hit that B used to always close her show with.  That was definitely an indicator of all the excitement to come.  On this latest arena world tour, Beyoncé is confirming that she is an exceptional live entertainer, even for a mega star.  She puts it down vocally and dancewise everywhere she goes with genuine energy, delighting countless fans.  This night at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Center is no different.

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August 12, 2007

Aretha Franklin @ The Dell East - Philadelphia, 8/6

'Can I get someone to come up and cut this fan off for me? I just have to be hot tonight!' said Aretha Franklin to roars of approval.  It goes to show you this entertainer doesn't play games when it comes to feelin' her music.  In the simmering heat of the night, classic song after classic song rang though East Fairmount Park’s Dell East outdoor venue.  Rumor had it that something had upset the diva before show time and Franklin was not going to come out (allegedly).  Thankfully she did and I got to experience some real music history.  Her band and singers were on point and her audience enthusiastically exalted her throughout the show.

The enjoyment of hearing a powerful and legendary voice like Aretha’s was made doubly entertaining by the material she covered—decades of hits!  It felt like a rare gift.  Franklin is a singer versed in many genres and a performer who can put on a Jazz-only show with as much ease as anything else, but it was a fiery classic soul and R&B show that Franklin lovers got this night.  This is the type of full-on performance that goes beyond entertaining to awe-inspiring at moments.  At 65, it is great that she still loves to show off too, riffing freely between songs and commanding the stage with a diva’s presence... there's nothing like a random vocal run between your sentences.  Franklin has that elusive old-school ability to entertain and connect with her crowd in a way that only a legend knows how…


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August 11, 2007

Tokyo Police Club; Ra Ra Riot; Vampire Weekend; Johnny Brenda’s, Philadelphia PA 08.09.07

OK, so let’s get something straight: if someone tells you Vampire Weekend are going to be "the next Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”, discredit their taste in music. Immediately. I mean, it’s not exactly a lie –- these kids will certainly blow up CYHSY stylee, but as for a musical comparison, your friend/mentor/music know-it-all has tin ears. I managed to squeeze myself into a little balcony spot and all I could think was, “this sounds like Paul Simon’s Graceland, and I don't like where it's going.” Then I saw, the barefooted lead singer, some boat shoes scattered on the stage and my suspicions were confirmed. (Actually, I’m lying – my good friend Josh from BadmintonStamps told me that the Shout Magic kids were saying the same thing too.) This isn’t to dissuade you from checking them out -- it’s more or less of a caveat emptor. I like to call this “divorced dad rock” – the kind of music a way out-of-touch adult clings to maintain some shred of relevancy/street cred with a younger peer group. So you know, if your divorced dad is looking for something that rocks, but reminds him of Paul Simon or world music… here you go.

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Tegan & Sara; International House, Philadelphia, PA 08.05.07

If you haven’t been paying close attention lately, there’s been a lot of talk about Tegan & Sara, the Canadian identical twin singing sensations, though most of it amounts to what what some in the biz call a “nontroversy” -– in short, a controversy that doesn’t actually exist. The majority of the fuss centers around a critic's decision to use the term “tampon rock” in a recent review. Feminists around the country have been calling her out, the cries ranging from being anti-female (and perhaps, a glib reference to their sexuality, which they have preferred to keep out of the spotlight) to “setting women back”. (I mean really, is the phrase “tampon rock” tying the apron strings back on, more so than say, the policies of a certain political leader?) Personally speaking, I don't see the big deal, as I fully agree with the writer's point that they've evolved light years beyond the genre they typically (and quite unfairly) are lumped into.

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August 06, 2007

Illinois; The Sw!ms: World Café Live, Philadelphia PA, 07.28.07

Look, I know I have a tendency to start these posts off with telling you about "how it is" here in the City of Brotherly Love, but let's face it -- there's few people like me who have the experience, history or whatever it takes to drop this science on all you readers out there. People say Philadelphia is the Next Big Thing, Sixth Borough and whatever, so let me tell you a secret (which I guess isn't really a secret now that I've shared it through Billboard!): some of this city's best exports are not Philadelphia bands per se, but rather from our surrounding areas. Thank heavens we have the keen sense to claim them for our own.

On this particular night it was a cavalcade of suburban indie rock; a great reminder that not every band outside city limits is chock full of soul-patch douchebaggery, and what better proof do you need than the one-two punch of Scranton's The Sw!ms and Doylestown's Illinois. Sometimes, you know, people just live outside the city 'cause it's cheaper. Or something like that. Who knew World Café Live could get so positively suburban?

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Sly Hats; Guy Blackman; Brown Recluse Sings: Tritone, Philadelphia PA 07.27.07

Let it be known: kids in Philly loves indie rock of the bloglike variety, but when it comes to twee things start to get a little... timid. I know, I know, the attitude's quintessential to the style. But I know Philly has tons of diehard twee fans and a night of well-curated pop (courtesy of the guys behind the "Go Back To Those Gold Soundz" DJ night) should have been enough to drive them out in slouched, argyle-bedecked droves. Failing that, this usually steamy late July weekend had a cool drizzle in the air, which is tailor-made for wistful nights such as this one.

Openers Sly Hats and Guy Blackman (who both hail from Australia) shook things up a little bit by opting to perform together, as opposed to two separate sets. Sly Hats wears its new wave and psychedelic influences on the sleeve for all to see, at times highly reminiscent of local psychedelphians Lilys. On the other hand, Blackman is steeped in the folk & classical traditions, something you can clearly hear on "Dark and Quiet", his collaboration with Jens Lekman. I don't know if these two have a history of touring together in this fashion; regardless, despite being on opposite ends of the pop spectrum, they managed to find a nice middle ground with their accompaniments.

Following the Aussies were local kids Brown Recluse Sings. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that I've booked shows for these guys before.) Perhaps you may have heard their track "Western Meadowlark" on Veronica Mars? On this particular night they presented a spacier version of their currently most-well known track that was quite nice.

And now, for some photos...

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August 03, 2007

BEASTIE BOYS @ Festival Pier in Philadelphia - 8/1

With the Beastie Boys’ new instrumental album The Mix-Up I didn’t know what kind of show to expect from the legendary trio tonight, but alas I largely got a classic Beasties Hip-Hop show! (I’m talking ‘Paul Revere’ and all).  This stop did have sprinklings of their new instrumental material, which made for nice dynamic shifting and was great for interlude purposes. I learned that they’ve scheduled some 'gala' dates with fewer rap performances within their tour, but I must say I am ecstatic at what I got.

The veteran Brooklyn group kicked off their summer tour in grand style to a jam packed crowd of fans eager to see them. One front row spectator I spoke to traveled to Philly from Columbus, OH, waiting at the venue more than 5 hours early! The show started over an hour late so after the third chanting of ‘beast-ie boys, beast-ie boys’ I feared a riot. Luckily the barricades of the press pit would have protected me, but there was nothing to fear once Ad Rock, MCA & Mike D appeared. [Much more of my review below]


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