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On the scene: Kings of Leon rock out at Madison Square Garden

Let’s get this out of the way first: Gary Clark Jr. is a rock star. The Texan guitarist opened for Kings of Leon Friday night at Madison Square Garden and gave one of those performances that makes you wonder, “Uh, why is this guy the opener and not the main event?” He seldom spoke, but his singing voice was consistently smooth and soulful, and his guitar solo on “When My Train Pulls In” was flawless, chills-inspiring, amazing.

But it wasnt a long set: After only five songs, it was time for the Kings. A white sheet was lowered down in front of the stage while the roadies prepared the set, and a fellow concert-goer and I joked, “wouldn’t it be kinda sexy if the band performed behind that white sheet?” In fact, the Kings actually did perform their first song, “Charmer” behind it. Frontman Caleb Followill’s shrieks were just as ear-splitting (in a good way) live as they are on the album track, and the chaotic nature of the song matched the flashing images of the boys’ shadows on the white sheet and the video of a screaming girl playing behind them. READ FULL STORY

Billy Joel headed to Madison Square Garden -- possibly for good

Billy Joel is movin’ in.

The singer will become the first-ever music franchise at Madison Square Garden, with the six-time Grammy winner performing a once-a-month residency beginning in January, the arena announced today. The first four previously announced shows — January 27, February 3, March 21 and April 18 — are already sold out. The shows will continue as long as there is demand.

“Since his first show in 1978, Billy has performed 46 shows at Madison Square Garden, including an unprecedented 12 consecutive sold-out shows that have earned Billy a spot among the Garden greats with a  banner raised in his honor. Today, we take that relationship even further and are extremely honored to have Billy as The Garden’s first music franchise,” said James L. Dolan, executive chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company. “This new partnership will ensure that someone who has been such an important figure in our past, will also be a major part of our future. We welcome Billy home and look forward to many unforgettable nights of music at the Garden.”

“Performing at Madison Square Garden is a thrilling experience,” Joel said in a release. “I’ve played different venues all over the world, but there’s no place like coming home to The Garden. Since my first show in 1978, I’ve always looked forward to the energy of the crowd. I’m honored to be joining the Madison Square Garden family and look forward to taking the stage of the newly transformed Garden to create many more memorable nights.”

On the scene: Kanye West's 'Yeezus' tour hits Madison Square Garden

Kanye West’s show last night (Nov. 23) at Madison Square Garden so closely mirrored his Yeezus sets at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Tuesday and Wednesday that, bizarre as it sometimes seemed, you could never rightly call it random.

I’m duty-bound to report that he did unleash another “rant,” once again past the three-quarters mark of the night, between “Street Lights” and “Stronger,” when he could just as easily have remarked “Are you not entertained?” and been guaranteed a bloodthirsty roar of approval.

This rant (a term he mentioned and dismissed) didn’t interrupt the show so much as strip it down to its raw essence: Literally screaming—it’s a wonder he hasn’t already shredded his voice on this tour—with only a little Autotune and synthesizer to blunt him, Kanye drew the audience in close to better take on the world. (Or Nike and Hedi Slimane, at least.) “Don’t ever let ‘em tell you that I’m crazy,” he shouted, “‘cause I believe in you!”


Pink spins out over Madison Square Garden: On the scene


Reports of Pink’s acrobatics have not been greatly exaggerated.

Over the course of the pop star’s two-hour set in Madison Square Garden last night, she took flight on no less than three occasions — spinning, dangling, and twirling. Once, she crawled in, out, and over a giant metal sphere as it hovered in the air. I think it was meant to visualize her inner turmoil, or maybe her arm muscles.

Regardless, the scale of the setting suited her, with the audience as her echo chamber. It was so large in fact, with so much constant bigness, that everything small or smaller was swallowed. What remained had to boom.

The “Truth Above Love” tour is a lot of things (including game show and circus) but it is one thing above all: a showcase for the power-pop anthem, which Pink pulled and pushed on with a showboating snarl. (Look carefully and you’d have seen a high-kick or two in the choreography.)

The night opened with “Raise Your Glass” and essentially didn’t stop. Even the ballad-y ballads got the arena treatment — a good thing, because some of them are, like, not very good. (Example: “Just Give Me A Reason” with guest-via-video-screen Nate Ruess, or, a good song strangled by a bad one.) Nothing was under-produced, with a crew and set design that included, at minimum, a dozen screens, a dozen dancers, and a dozen singers and musicians.

While performing “How Come You’re Not Here,” off her latest album, Pink was backed by the moving images of a videogame nightmare come to life in which she was pixelized and chased by spiked missiles. Elsewhere, the muscular backs of her dancers offered as much spectacle as the high-wires that strung across the ceiling.

Do you have to be a Pink fan to enjoy the tour? It’s a ridiculous question: you’ll be blasted by almost two hours of music and end up a Pink fan, regardless. The wall-to-wall setlist had its interludes, in the form of spotlit one-offs (a guitar solo; an appearance by a man-in-the-moon straight out of a Méliès short; philosophy from our host of the game show-within-a-tour) and a late-in-the-night turn toward the acoustic. But the audience filled in around even the sound of a lone instrument. This was not the kind of crowd for stillness.

And why should it be? At 33, Alecia “Pink” Moore has become the grand dame for sloppy, self-actualizing feminism. She’s a dork! She’s a slut! (Reformed!) And she is, it must be said, the fount for some truly great music, if the definition of greatness has room for surround-sound choruses and sticky, bounce-back lyrics. (The songs spanned her decade-plus career, including a dance-heavy medley — “There You Go,” “You Make Me Sick” — covering her early 2000s R&B moment; more personal mid-career confessionals like “Family Portrait” and “Just Like a Pill”; a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”; and the requisite NSFW anthems “F—in’ Perfect,” “So What,” and “U + Ur Hand.”)

The night ended not at all as it began, with the show’s game show motif, and attendant faux-host, wrapped up and sent off before a second encore of “Glitter in the Air.”

Of course, Pink used it as a chance to fly — and, for the first time in the night, dip herself into the water. The audience stood cheering up to the credits, as if they hadn’t quite gotten over not being her loudest backing vocal. And what about Pink? She’s somewhere, I’m sure, still soaring.

Read more:
SXSW: The amazing, never-ending Prince show — a moment-by-moment report
Fun. deal with their baggage in ‘Why Am I The One’ video: Watch here!
Nicki Minaj before vs. Nicki Minaj after — POLL

Rolling Stones join Hurricane Sandy benefit concert

Image Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

It’s official: the 12-12-12 concert at Madison Square Garden is the most rockin’ relief effort since Live Aid.

The Rolling Stones announced on Twitter that they’ll be performing at the event on Dec. 12, adding their names to an already-stacked lineup that includes Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, and Roger Waters. And The Who. And Paul McCartney. And Kanye.


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