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Tag: Concert Reviews (91-100 of 151)

Backstreet Boys at NYC's Hammerstein Ballroom: Aggressive fans, tears, and, oh yeah, a concert

backstreet-boysImage Credit: Larry Marano/Getty ImagesAnyone doubting the seemingly eternal appeal of the boy band era needed only to scope out the line wrapping around the block outside Manhattan’s Hammerstein Ballroom shortly before 6:30 p.m. last night, hours before a Backstreet Boys show. In the battle of fans’ evolved musical taste vs. nostalgia, nostalgia will always come out on top. The man behind me in line was so bemused by the fans braving the rain for a chance to be eight inches closer to Nick, Howie, A.J., and Brian that he turned to his girlfriend to say, “There are going to be crazy girls, of course. It’s a boy band.”

His statement echoed in my head as I walked ever-so-confidently into the general admission ballroom. Having been to three Backstreet Boys concerts in my youth (if you consider five years ago “my youth”), I felt like I had grown up since those days. I was sure that much of the obnoxiousness, fan bickering, and “crazy girls” I had encountered in the past would be subdued, if not completely absent. I was wrong. It was, in fact, worse than before. READ FULL STORY

Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter wows Town Hall: EW's live review

_Josh-RitterImage Credit: Brian StowellThere’s nothing cynical or contemptuous about Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, and at New York’s Town Hall last night, the Idaho-bred folk-rocker bounded on stage like an exuberant puppy freed from his leash. In an elegant 124-minute show, the earnest singer with the earthy voice and hyper-literate lyrics delighted what sometimes felt like an intimate gathering of friends. Ritter reveled in Town Hall’s history, expressing awe at the legendary performers, like Paul Robeson and Igor Stravinsky, who’d helped make it famous, but by the end of the night, the house was his.

It didn’t start out that way. Despite Ritter’s buoyancy, his first song, “Change of Time,” from his latest album, So Runs the World Away, suffered a few mechanical glitches that stunted some early momentum. It’s not unusual for Ritter’s shows to begin quietly anyway, a reflection more of the mild-not-wild NPR listeners in his audience than the band’s fervent energy. After the fourth song, “Folk Bloodbath” (“It’s a comedy,” deadpanned Ritter), he acknowledged the staid setting and warned the crowd not to get too comfortable in their velvet red theater seats. “This is Town Hall and everyone is wearing tuxedos and drinking martinis,” he joked. “But it would really help if we could all scream like … like….” “Like wild banshees!” volunteered a voice in the dark. That seemed to do the trick. The band quickly launched into “Right Moves,” a rollicking number from 2007’s album, The Historical Conquest of Josh Ritter.

From there, the band quickly put to rest any concerns that songs from the new album lacked the rock ‘n’ roll oomph of Historical Conquest. (Only “Rattling Locks” landed flat, judging by its unspoken designation as the show’s “bathroom song.”) Stomping to a thunderous beat, Ritter added an urgency to “The Remnant” that the recorded version lacks, transforming it into a pounding, crowd-pleasing delight.  Midway through the show, he revisited his gorgeous, winding rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” and then showcased some real vocal versatility with an acoustic version of “In the Dark.”

Ritter has said that he plays “rock ‘n’ roll with lots of words,” and he found the inspiration for So Runs in Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and, in the case of the melancholic “The Curse,” the Egyptian Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So it was appropriate but no less surprising when actor Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) ambled on stage before “Another New World” for a mesmerizing reading of Poe’s tragic poem, “Annabel Lee.” Simply epic.

After delivering a knockout version of “To the Dogs or Whoever” to close the set, the band returned for a three-song encore, highlighted by a tender version of “Moon River.” An accomplished storyteller and a versatile live entertainer who makes himself at home in any room, Ritter successfully swept aside any Town Hall stodginess, chugging an entire beer at one point during the encore. For Ritter, whose thoughtful lyrics open doors to hallowed halls but whose musical heart and soul reside in front of the neon beer signs of a pub, it was the perfect symbol for a memorable night.

(Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band perform again tonight at Manhattan’s Town Hall.)

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Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum returns with a beautiful acoustic set at Chris Knox benefit show

neutral-milk-hotelImage Credit: Will WestbrookNone of the 500 or so people who bought $75 tickets for the Chris Knox benefit show held at N.Y.C.’s Le Poisson Rouge last night were quite sure what we were getting into. We knew that a motley group of musicians and comedians would take the stage to raise money for Knox, the New Zealand indie-pop hero who suffered a stroke last summer. One of them, stunningly, would be Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel — a man as private as he is brilliant, who has performed very, very rarely since 2001. (He’s pictured above, second from the left with the rest of Neutral Milk Hotel in 1998.) Beyond that? Zip. The event’s organizers refused to provide the performers’ order or start times beforehand. Mangum’s “very short acoustic set” could be coming at any time between 6:30 P.M. and 1 A.M.

Standing in line outside Le Poisson Rouge before the show, I wondered if Mangum wouldn’t turn up at the very end of the night, play “Sign the Dotted Line,” the stirring Knox cover he contributed to last year’s Stroke tribute CD, and disappear again. I found myself thinking of an old Jewish folk song, “Dayenu“: Seeing Mangum sing even just that one tune would have been enough for me. So I went downstairs and settled in for the first few performers. Some of them, like TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone and singer-songwriter Sharon van Etten, were quite good. Out of nowhere around 8:35 P.M., comic Rachel Feinstein ended her raunchy stand-up routine with a casual, “Okay, Jeff Mangum is next!” Suddenly the room got very loud. READ FULL STORY

Corinne Bailey Rae performs and helps Daniel Merriweather pay rent at New York show

Corinne-Bailey-RaeImage Credit: Eugene Gologursky/“I’ve got this problem,” confessed Aussie soul man Daniel Merriweather last night at New York’s Webster Hall. “I’ve got to make rent this month. So I’ll be selling CDs in back after this. Yeah, It’s come to that.” He was joking. I think. Merriweather’s far from a struggling artist. Signed to Mark Ronson‘s Allido Records, he’s a big deal in the U.K., but has yet to experience matching success in the States. Just before the show Daniel causally smoked a cigarette with friends in front of the venue. Few that came to see Corinne Bailey Rae, who he was opening for, recognized him.

The brief performance that followed, however, was one to remember. In a denim shirt, black tee, and matching pants, Merriweather started off with “Getting Out,” the heavy mid-tempo cut from his 2009 debut set Love & War. With his guitarist and piano man in tow, he followed with a stellar cover of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and closed with his latest single, “Red.”

“Like I said,” Merriweather repeated before thanking Rae for the tour invite and leaving the stage. “I’m selling CDs. I’m broke. Go buy it.” I’m pretty sure Merriweather will make rent this month.

Next came Bailey Rae. In her gold sequined dress, she began with a white guitar singing her airy ballad “Are You Here.” She had three additional guitarists,  a drummer, and a keyboardist backing her. Bailey Rae continued with “Like a Star.” Her set felt intimate. With 1,400 fans inside, Webster Hall was filled to capacity, but more than a few couples found space to slow dance, and a few others used her mood music to make out.

“I want to play you one of my favorite songs,” Bailey Rae said as she dropped her guitar. The keyboard’s chords turned organ-like, kicking off a reggae rendition of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” She shook a tambourine for her 2006 hit “Put Your Records On” and returned to the guitar on “Seasons Change.” Her soothing English pipes never fluttered or faltered during her 90 minutes on stage. Before floating off to the next city, Bailey Rae performed the title track of her latest album, “The Sea.” “She’s like an angel up there,” said one woman to her friends. Agreed.

Have you seen Corinne Bailey Rae perform? What’s the best show you’ve seen this year? Let us know.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter:@EWMusicMix.)

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Pharrell Williams' N.E.R.D. rock out at New York concert

nerdImage Credit: Johnny Nunez/WireImage.comWhen Pharrell Williams, Shae Haley, and Chad Hugo—who together form N.E.R.D.—hit The Fillmore’s stage in downtown Manhattan last night, their geeked up fans knew exactly what to do: raise their hands and give the Vulcan salute. A self-proclaimed Trekkie, Williams is the head of Star Trak records. Relaxed, in a back fitted cap, white t-shirt, and jeans, Williams calmly returned the greeting. That was the only time Pharrell stood still.

The show kicked off with “Kill Joy,” their maddening single from 2008’s Seeing Sounds. From then on, Williams and Haley wildly traded verses on cult classics like “Spaz,” “She Wants to Move,” “Everyone Nose,” and “Hot N Fun,” the new single from their forthcoming album, Nothing. When he wasn’t rapping, Pharrell was dancing. Arms flailing and legs kicking, his moves looked like rhythmic seizures. But there, at a punk-rock-meets-hip-hop show, they worked.

The crowd enjoyed and matched his energy, creating several mosh pits as cuts like the rebellious “Rock Star” ripped through the speakers. Eventually Williams slowed it down to sing dreary ballads. “Maybe” showcased his trademark falsetto. Next was “Sooner or Later,” which the fans belted out  good portion of.

Before closing the show, Williams announced that a good friend of the group’s just had their first child. “N.E.R.D. makes baby-making music,” he said. And then he suggested that the following song was what the new born was conceived to. The track was the strip club rock anthem “Lapdance.” Nasty, right?

“All jokes aside,” Pharrell said in closing, “this was the raddest show ever.” It sure was.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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The-Dream brings love and lust to New York City

The-DreamImage Credit: Walik Goshorn / Retna Ltd.Last night at New York City’s Highline Ballroom, The-Dream didn’t hit the stage until 12:20am. Late, but rightfully so. The Atlanta singer-songwriter-producer’s hits are best suited for after-dark activities. They’re aggressive love ballads: Some about making a woman squeal in bed, others about stealing another man’s girl to eventually take her home and achieve the former.

Dream, born Terius Nash, hit the stage accompanied by six dancers—all slender, hour-glass-figured women dressed in black lace bodysuits and blazers. Wearing a silver and black varsity jacket, sunglasses, and fitted Atlanta Braves cap, Dream kicked off the show with his latest single, “Love King.” As a live performer, he’s not much of a singer. He coolly masked his light, airy tone by singing along with his own vocals as they blared through the speakers, halfway lip-syncing. READ FULL STORY

Thom Yorke jams out, road tests new tunes with Atoms for Peace in NYC

atoms-for-peaceImage Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.comThe biggest cheers for Flying Lotus at NYC’s Roseland Ballroom last night came at the very end of the electronic wizard’s opening set, when he dropped a pitch-shifted snippet of Radiohead’s “Idioteque.” Never mind the fact that, for 35 minutes or so prior, he had already been hurling down titanic beats to what seemed an unjustifiably lukewarm crowd reaction. The point was made: This was a house full of Radiohead fans, and they were more excited by a remix of a 10-year-old Radiohead classic than anything else Flying Lotus could offer.

This wasn’t, however, a Radiohead show. It was the East Coast debut of Thom Yorke’s other band, Atoms for Peace (né ????) — the one with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The fledgling supergroup had previously played only a tiny handful of gigs, all in L.A., since Yorke announced its formation in a September ’09 blog post. Even in an age when fans could watch those performances on YouTube last fall practically before the roadies finished clearing the stage, there was still a pleasant sense of mystery surrounding the first of Atoms for Peace’s two nights at Roseland.


Smokey Robinson: SXSW's best all-around entertainer?

smokey-robinsonImage Credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images Walking across town to Smokey Robinson’s concert at Austin Music Hall last night, I was anticipating something like chapter two of the SXSW keynote interview he’d given the morning before. Another opportunity to stand in a room with the man who penned some of Motown’s — all popular music’s — most enduring hits. A second chance to pay my respects to a 70-year-old veteran. The kind of show where you clap thoughtfully after each song, not holler in ecstatic appreciation. My mistake. I hadn’t even realized I’d been underestimating Robinson, but man, last night is the last time I’ll ever do that. What he gave us on that stage was a master class in no-gimmicks entertainment that would put artists a third his age to shame.


Broken Social Scene brings 'Forgiveness' to SXSW

“We are human beings,” Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew told the crowd at Stubb’s shortly after 1 A.M. last night, “and we’re still figuring our s— out.” It was an atypically humble sentiment coming from the headliner at a choice outdoor SXSW showcase like this. Then again, Drew isn’t your average swaggering rock frontman. The sprawling Toronto band’s first album together in five years (due May 4) is called Forgiveness Rock Record, after all, and seeking forgiveness, compassion, understanding from the world seemed one of the key themes in the new material they played at Stubb’s.

Yet aside from a few early moments of mic and monitor trouble, no apologies were needed last night. The seven main band members on stage — Drew plus Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin, Sam Goldberg, Justin Peroff, Lisa Lobsinger, and Andrew Whiteman, often assisted by a six-piece brass section — threw themselves into the music with abandon, building up crescendo after crashing crescendo of melody and noise. Epic grandeur is a quality that many of the artists at SXSW strive for; I haven’t seen anyone get there more convincingly than BSS did at Stubb’s. While they are indeed still working out how to perform some of their new tunes, they nailed quite a few, including show-opener “World Sick” (studio version below), the spacious, thudding “Sweetest Kill,” and several others whose titles I didn’t catch.


Raekwon and Ghostface Killah bring 'Wu-Massacre' to NYC's Nokia Theater

Wu-Massacre, the album that Method Man, Raekwon, and Ghostface Killah are dropping March 30, whittles down the Wu-Tang Clan to three of its finest. Last night, that line-up was pared further to just Raekwon and Ghostface, for what was billed as an early Wu-Massacre release celebration at the Nokia Theater in NYC’s Times Square. There was some sense in making the trio a duo. Rae and Ghost, in particular, have often felt like a group within a group on the Clan’s releases. These guys go together like peanut butter and jelly, or pasta and tomato sauce — speaking of which, they collaborate often enough to have come up with the acronym R.A.G.U. (for “Rae and Ghost United”) to identify their joint efforts.

The concert began with a string of unimpeachable cuts from 1995’s classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… — technically Raekwon’s solo debut, but one to which Ghostface contributed heavily, earning prominent billing on the album’s cover. Their undiminished chemistry was evident in the show-opening string of “Criminology,” “Incarcerated Scarfaces,” “Ice Cream,” and “Verbal Intercourse.” Both rappers are essentially storytellers, Ghostface narrating crime sagas with a jumpy urgency, Raekwon doing the same in gravelly and matter-of-fact tones. Together they strode the stage like giants, joining in on one another’s lyrics at key points for emphasis.


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