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Brandon Flowers' solo show in NYC: A killer night

Brandon-FlowersWho needs the rest of The Killers anyway? All joking aside—The Killers are great!—the band’s frontman Brandon Flowers, who announced in April that he was going out on his own, appeared without his bandmates last night at NYC’s Highline Ballroom and quickly proved that the solo thing suits him very well, thank you very much.

The thing that was most stunning about Flowers’ show was just how much the crowd was with him, even though he’s only officially released one track from his upcoming album, Flamingo. The second song of the evening, single “Crossfire,” had pretty much the entire crowd singing along rapturously (maybe because it’s really all most people know so far?)—and that was even without an appearance by Charlize Theron, who memorably pops up in the song’s video.

Brandon’s big moment, however, came a bit later in the under-an-hour set, when he covered “Bette Davis Eyes,” which Jackie DeShannon originated in 1974 before Kim Carnes made it a hit in 1981. (Watch a bootleg clip from an earlier show of Flowers’ version of “Bette Davis Eyes.”) The singular synth melody at the beginning opened it beautifully, and then Flowers owned it with his vocals, too. Maybe this cover will make the album? We can hope. Another highlight of the night was “Magdalena,” a folksy yet danceable track that has Flowers wailing throughout.

Overall, the show felt right for Flowers because of his stage presence—he was believable, very into what he was doing, and (see his Santa Fe-inspired vest above) completely adorable, especially with his new military-inspired crew cut. He just seemed joyful, and that bled immediately into the crowd, including yours truly.

Are you all pumped to hear what Flowers has cooking for the rest of his solo debut? Can he make it without the rest of The Killers behind him? All signs point to yes, but let me know what you think in the comments below.

Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky

Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.

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MGMT play New York's Radio City Music Hall: on the scene

MGMTImage Credit: Karl Walter/Getty ImagesLast night, an assortment of New York’s cool kids and dweebs piled into Radio City Music Hall to see Brooklyn-based band MGMT go to work.

But before leading men Andrew Wells VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser took the stage, former Wesleyan University schoolmate Francis Starlite opened with his ’80’s pop/funk collective Francis and the Lights. Often dancing into the dark crevices of the stage—arms flailing and legs twirling in ways that’d make James Brown smile—Starlite left the audience in awe. The band’s 30-minute set of pensive jams like “Strawberries,” “Darling, It’s Alright,” and “For Days” more than warmed the stage for MGMT.

The frail twentysomethings of MGMT hit the stage just after 9—bed-headed VanWyngarden in a tee shirt and skinny jeans, Goldwasser with an untucked shirt and blazer, as if he was interviewing for a managerial position at 7-Eleven afterward. Sprayed by primary-colored lights, they started with “Pieces of What” and transitioned to “Brian Eno,” their ode to the famed English producer.  They strangely followed with one of their biggest hits, 2008’s synth pop winner “Electric Feel.” Usually such a smash would be reserved for the conclusion. But as I’d learn, they had no intention of saving the best for last.

“We’re glad to be in NYC, our hometown,” said VanWyngarden before launching in to their surfy “Flash Delirium.” Psychedelic images of overlapping eyeballs and geometric figures projected on the stage while fans waved their neon glow sticks to the beat.

Next up was the first track off of their latest album, Congratulations:It’s Working.” Then they performed another big hit, the bouncing “Time to Pretend.” About an hour in, fans had spent the entire time on their feet. But that soon changed when they broke into “Siberian Breaks.” The audience used the lengthy song to rest. Butts fell to chairs, as did heads to palms. MGMT’s music teeters towards soft rock at times, and with wind chimes twinkling ever so lightly, they’d slowed the show down to a snail’s pace.

Life was revived when “Kids” and its throbbing synths dropped. But it fizzled quickly as the group attempted to end the show with “Congratulations.” They left after, but screaming for more, the fans didn’t move for the exits. Instead, they screamed for more.

What followed was a lengthy, obnoxious encore filled with ear-busting guitar solos and murky album cuts like “Something Missing.” Really, they could’ve done without it. Many became dejected, like they regretted their encore request. It was a dreadful ending for what was great show overall. Understanding that VanWyngarden and Goldwasser were excited to play Radio City, maybe they should’ve let the fans leave a bit earlier.

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

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Rapper Wale proves he will not lose with a stellar show at New York’s Highline Ballroom

WaleImage Credit: Erika Goldring/Retna LtdIf success in the music business is strictly based on albums sales and radio play, Wale is a failure. In 2008 the witty rhymer and Washington, D.C. native was riding high off the success of his Mixtape About Nothing, a charming set created around samples from NBC’s classic sitcom Seinfeld.

With a critically acclaimed mixtape in hand, Wale seemed set, and anticipation built for his debut album, Attention Deficit. Though critics generally adored it, oddly enough, fans didn’t pay attention when it came out last winter. The effort led by its Lady Gaga-assisted single sold a measly 28,000 copies in its first week.

But rather than sulk in defeat, Wale regrouped. He dropped out of the limelight and even took a break from his frenetic Twitter updates to record new music. And the time away was well worth it. Two weeks ago, he returned with the follow-up to his Seinfeld-inspired tape, More About Nothing. Another stellar offering, the free tape has amassed more than 300,000 downloads. This explains how he accomplished such a feat last night (August 16), selling out New York’s Highline Ballroom with his A Show About Nothing, hosted by Rap Radar’s Elliott Wilson.

Clad in a Chicago Bulls fitted cap, a black polo shirt and jeans, the 25-year-old Wale arrived on stage as horns from D.C.’s premiere go-go band U.C.B. blared behind him. Wale opened with “The MC” from his latest tape, then followed with “Mirror” from his album. Ever the showman, he pulled two camera-wielding fans out of the crowd to record his performance from both sides of the stage. READ FULL STORY

Rihanna at Madison Square Garden: The Barbadian star brings her army tank, Mickey Mouse ears, and catsuit to New York City

rihanna-concertImage Credit: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage.comNew York’s Madison Square Garden was flooded with kids for pop starlet Rihanna’s Last Girl on Earth tour last night (August 12). And not “kids” as in teens, twenty-somethings, and tweens. I’m talking about children, little girls whose parents wouldn’t even think of allowing their little ones to strut out of their front doors in the kind outfits worn by the Thursday’s headliner.

It was an odd sight, peering over the arena and finding such an eclectic blend of youth: An eight-year-old girl with barrettes in her hair sitting next to a woman 17 years her elder, a flamboyant pair of men in blazers with jagged hairdos and cut-off denim shorts one row in front them. All were waiting intently for not only their sister in loud haircuts but also her stunningly grungy opening act, Ke$ha.

Looking as if she’d just dropped major dollars at a glam-rock garage sale, Ke$ha hit the stage in a tattered black Metallica t-shirt, super-short shorts, and leopard-print gloves. The 23-year-old started off with “Blah Blah Blah,” and couldn’t contain how excited she was to be playing at the historic venue.

“I cannot believe that I’m playing at the f***ing Garden,” she yelled. “Holy s***balls.”

“Party at a Rich Dude’s House” quickly switched to a jam about creepy old men, aptly titled “”Dinosaur.” Hers was a fun 30-minute set: Prancing around U.S. flags draped in Christmas lights along with her dancers, Ke$ha ran through all of the singles from her debut album, Animal. Like a wasted party girl at night’s end, she crawled the length of the stage for “Take It Off.” Her style (or lack thereof) is constantly attacked; what hardly is mentioned, though, is her talent. The Nashville native’s Cyndi Lauper-meets-the-Valley voice was a near-perfect match to her tracked records. She also briefly hopped on the keyboard and drums before closing out with her breakout smash, “Tik Tok.” Her time up, the main event was set to start. READ FULL STORY

American Carnage: Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament thrash New Jersey

slayer-megadethImage Credit: Scott Legato/; Steve Thorne/Redferns/Getty ImagesLast night in New Jersey, a few folks in black t-shirts got together and pretended like grunge never happened. The American Carnage tour, which brings together Slayer, Megadeth, and Testament to relive the glory of old-school speed metal, came through the New York area last night. Slayer played their 1990 classic Seasons of the Abyss and Megadeth ran through 1990’s Rust in Peace, both in their entirety.

Sort of a second coming of each band’s last hurrah before alt-rock swept in and changed the hard-rock landscape. Metallica, who actually joined Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax for a show in Bulgaria earlier this year, would have fit right in on American Carnage if 1988’s …And Justice For All were only recorded two years later. The difference between Metallica and Slayer (and to a lesser extent Megadeth), of course, is that while Metallica cut off their hair, slapped on eyeliner, and recorded Bob Seger covers in response to alt-rock, Slayer is, and always has been effing SLAYER. No apologies, no compromise, no mercy.

That’s certainly what the freakishly dedicated fans at the Izod Center came to see. Is there such a thing as an ex-Slayer fan? You may have never liked Slayer. But anyone who ever did very likely did a lot, and almost certainly still does today. It’s a (Reign in) blood-in, (World Painted) blood-out fandom that last night attracted everyone from the teenage outcast who wasn’t even born when Seasons was released to the 50-year-old bald dude who threw on cargo shorts and a tattered Hell Awaits t-shirt and ran out of the office so quick he didn’t even have time to change out of his black dress socks. READ FULL STORY

Ke$ha performs on 'Today': Did you 'wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy' with her?

keshaEveryone’s favorite singing trashbot Ke$ha took over New York’s Rockefeller Plaza this morning to perform a few of the songs from her album, Animal. I’ve been a big fan of Ke$ha since she hit the scene last winter (heck, I wrote the—ahem!—definitive EW piece on her back in January!), but I must say: Ke$ha is not the most exhilarating live entertainer, unfortunately. Or maybe she just tries too hard and it comes off as cloying? It’s strange, because her music is catchy and amps me up when I listen on my iPod, but today’s performances felt decidedly muted. (Much like her ill-fated, uninspiring Saturday Night Live performance back in April.) Just kind of run-of-the-mill, nothing special. For reals, even the (surprisingly small, compared to the masses who showed up recently for Gaga) crowd in Rockefeller seemed more likely to yawn than sing along to “Tik Tok” and “Take It Off.” And the interview portions of the whole (non) spectacle were zapped of juice, too—Matt Lauer honestly asked her about the $ in her name and the story about how she broke into Prince’s house to drop off a demo once. How pedestrian! Again, it was all in the—ahem!—definitive EW piece I wrote back in January!

Regardless, take a gander at the performances here and decide for yourself:


Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour: EW's Top 5 Moments

lady-gaga-msg-concertImage Credit: Eugene Gologursky/Retna LtdLady Gaga’s recently launched tour, the Monster Ball, has taken up residence in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden for the past two evenings (and finishes with a final show on Friday evening!), making finger-claw wielding “little monsters” out of thousands of the city dwellers lucky enough to go. And that includes me! Rawr!

As you might imagine, this diva knows how to put on quite the ridiculously entertaining show. Zillions of costume changes! A Glinda the Good Witch dress! An encore of “Bad Romance” featuring a spiraling-out crowd! While I was there, I had the distinct feeling that, during those two hours, nothing else in pop culture really mattered because I—luckily!—was seeing the world’s biggest pop star for the first time at one of the world’s most famous arenas. Anyhoo, thought I might share my top five moments from Gaga’s show—everything from a mechanical monster that ate the star of the show to a fire-spewing mini-dress. Here goes:

1. The Monster. While performing “Paparazzi”—the last song of the regular set before her encore of “Bad Romance”—Gags shimmied in front of a stories-tall, homemade-looking monster, complete with flailing tentacles. Bonus: The janky thing, which was set into motion by a legion of people underneath it, eventually ate her! Just gobbled her up! In a word: Stunning. Just too bad it wasn’t during her song, “Monster,” which has correlating lyrics like, “He ate my heart / He ate, ate, ate my heart,” and, you know, is about a monster. Sorta. Regardless, the ridiculous trick worked famously and incited the throngs.


Ringo Starr's 70th birthday concert: Guests galore, and Paul McCartney, too!

Ringo-Starrs-70th-birthdayImage Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.comThe cake had been served, the candles had been blown out, and Ringo Starr had all but told the sold-out crowd at NYC’s Radio City Music Hall to go home, but the most exciting part of his 70th birthday show last night was still to come. That was the exact moment, right around 10 p.m., that none other than Paul McCartney bounded on stage in his skinny tie and fitted suit. The art-deco hall filled with 1964-style squeals as Sir Paul tore through the Beatles’ “Birthday” with the wild-eyed drive of someone decades younger.

McCartney’s unannounced appearance was the perfect end to an evening of festive collaboration. Ringo calls his touring act the All-Starr Band for a reason: They’re all handpicked veterans of bands from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. In between his solo hits (“Photograph,” “It Don’t Come Easy”) and Beatles classics (“Yellow Submarine,” “Act Naturally,” “Boys”), he gave each of his bandmates ample time to demonstrate their own claims to fame. Keyboardist/saxophonist Edgar Winter led electrifying renditions of “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” Guitarist Rick Derringer of the McCoys rocked “Hang On Sloopy.” The Romantics’ Wally Palmar told us “What I Like About You.” Mr. Mister’s Richard Page spread his “Broken Wings.” Gary Wright crooned “Dreamweaver,” which he said was inspired by a book on Eastern philosophy that George Harrison once gave him. (“George Harrison never gave me no damn book,” cracked Ringo.) I’m not sure I’d sit through an entire concert by any of those guys’ original groups, but seeing them run through their hits with Ringo was fun — a classic-rock radio revue with one of history’s greatest beat-keepers behind the kit. Starr himself was as energetic as any 70-year-old I’ve ever encountered, grooving gamely at front stage or drumming with that familiar head-bobbing enthusiasm. READ FULL STORY

Goldfrapp at NYC's Hammerstein Ballroom: It was Lovely 2 finally C U

GoldfrappImage Credit: Serge LeblonLast night’s Goldfrapp concert at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom was almost like a greatest hits tour—Alison and the band offered up plenty of ’80s disco magic (see: the video for “Alive”) by playing most of the tracks from their 2010 album Head First, but also went for some older favorites like “You Never Know,” “Number 1,” and “Ooh La La.”

“Voicething” was a brilliant opener, launching right into the thumping “Crystalline Green” from 2003’s Black Cherry. Alison, in full sparkle mode, started stomping around right away and quickly lost herself in a dizzying feast of outstretched arms and those ethereal wails we know and love. She adorably kept trilling “Helloooooooo….” between songs to the crowd, who ate her crazy right up. I’d say her most inspired outburst was “Neigh!” just before “Ride a White Horse,” but I also loved when she confessed that she’d had two drinks and wasn’t that so crazy? Said the creature responsible for some of the trippiest music of the decade!

For me, the best part of the concert was the first encore, or what my concert buddy and I called “the chill encore.” This was just two downtempo favorites, “Utopia” from Felt Mountain and “Black Cherry.” The jumping-bean crowd was able to catch its breath and retain some of its vision during this refrain from the strobe lights, and the heavy pulse of “Black Cherry” gently lured them back into mania mode….for the second encore: “Rocket” and “Strict Machine.” Of course!

I love music, but I’m not big on live shows. READ FULL STORY

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

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