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Unsung heroes: Nominate your favorite backup singers and musicians!

Duran Duran hit Madison Square Garden last week, and though they had special guests Mark Ronson and Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic join them onstage for “Girl Panic!” and “Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)”, respectively, I realized the person I was most excited to see outside the band was longtime backup singer Anna Ross (pictured, with Simon Le Bon).

I got oddly excited each time I caught her and I doing the same dance move at the same time. And dancing at a Duran Duran show is something you can count on — as sure as the audience chanting “Play the f—ing bass, John,” Nick Rhodes trying not to crack a smile, and my friend Sheila leaning over to tell me Simon’s choreography seconds before he does it (finger-licking during “Come Undone,” a spin during “The Reflex,” and jumps off a platform during “Hungry Like the Wolf” and “Rio”).

Who are the backup singers and musicians you look forward to spying onstage when you go to see your favorite artists? Go!

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Jennifer Lopez cries onstage during Connecticut concert: Watch the video

The emotions (and the dancing doppelgangers) of romances past caught up to Jennifer Lopez on Saturday night at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun Casino.

The singer-actress-mogul, recently separated from husband Marc Anthony (and already linked to a new love, actor Bradley Cooper), broke down in tears while introducing an acoustic version of her 1999 hit “If You Had My Love.”

According to E! News, the performance featured dancers dressed to look like former Lopez paramours, including Anthony, Diddy, Ben Affleck, and Cris Judd.

“You want to talk about love? I can talk about love. Oh, the stories!” Lopez told the audience before launching into what she called “the first song [she] wrote about love.”

“A little trip down memory lane, huh?,” she said as the song wound down, before wiping at her eyes and walking offstage.

Watch a clip of the performance below: READ FULL STORY

What are the best encore cover songs you've seen in concert?

Last week, I finally got to see country artist Billy Currington headline a show (as opposed to the first two times I saw him, opening for Carrie Underwood and Kenny Chesney).

And I’m still thinking about his perfectly-constructed five-song encore: It began with a cover of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” which, of course, Currington, the singer of the R&B-flavored ballads “Let Me Down Easy” and “Don’t,” would love.

The audience ate it up, particularly the young man behind me who stood and did rhythmic pelvic thrusts for the duration of it. (I can’t find a YouTube clip, but I’ve embedded Currington covering Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” below. Judging from his smile, I suspect he’s seeing similar moves.)

Then came a cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Family Tradition,” which predictably killed with a few thousand rowdy country fans in Johnstown, PA who’d been drinking for a couple of hours.

After his own “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” (and more pelvic thrusts) came Steve Wonder’s “Superstition,” which got everyone grooving. That’s the kind of song that makes you notice the folks dancing around you; you make friends as you laugh at/join them. By the time Currington ended with his own “Good Directions,” a tipsy twentysomething had thrown his arm around my 64-year-old mother and was swaying her back and forth for the singalong.

What’s the best encore cover song you’ve seen in concert? My colleague Jeff Labrecque will get the nominations started: Josh Ritter doing Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” tops his list.

READ FULL STORY

On the scene at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, day two: Lady Gaga takes over the show

Leave it to Lady Gaga to co-opt a music festival featuring dozens of top-line pop stars and make it her own.

The Lady appeared on stage as the final performer last night at the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and stayed on stage for well over an hour—much longer than any of the other acts. “They told me I was only allowed to play for 45 minutes,” she told the crowd. “But I think you’re all pretty drunk so you probably don’t know what time it is, do you?”

And it’s true: No one was complaining when she served up hit after hit, including “Judas,” “You and I,” “Just Dance,” and “Bad Romance,” which basically blew the roof off the arena.

READ FULL STORY

On the scene at the iHeartRadio Music Festival, day one: Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, and Jay-Z

When you think about it, there’s really only one way to kick off a pop music festival: with the gyrating, electro, pulsing sounds of the Black Eyed Peas, of course.

The foursome opened the iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena last night with laser lights, a cadre of jailbird-themed backup dancers (in a word: divine), and one of their signature songs, “Boom Boom Pow.”

It’s almost needless to say, but the party-rocking vibe the show’s producers were no doubt hoping for coalesced perfectly, as the crowd spiraled into dancing through songs like “Just Can’t Get Enough,” “Don’t Stop the Party,” “The Time (Dirty Bit),” and the perfect set-ender: “I Gotta Feeling.” (Personally, I was hoping for “Shut Up,” but no one ever seems to be into that song as much as me.)

Of much interest — at least to me — was Fergie’s delightful getup, which included glittery knee-high boots and onesie, and fascinating, gold fingernail/cap things that contributed to her overall drag queen look. She was Vegas to a T! (Then again, she always kind of is.)

The tone was set from the first act: This show was definitely all about the hits, and the 12,000 fans in the audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena seemed to get just what they wanted. From top to bottom, the show was quite the Vegas production with huge screens flanking the stage, more than one confetti blast (the first one came at the almost-still-daylight time of 8:01 p.m., no joke), and, yes, Ryan Seacrest as host.

He first appeared after the Black Eyed Peas left the stage to introduce the show: “This weekend,” he said, in a trademark way that’s both overly dramatic and overly bombastic, “all roads lead to Vegas.” Well, all roads carrying the biggest pop stars, at least. And it was during this interlude that he announced something that made the crowd go completely wild: Lady Gaga—already confirmed to be performing during the festival—would appear on Saturday night with Sting. In two words: Instant death!

READ FULL STORY

On the scene at Yankee Stadium: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax crank and shred

Over the course of his band’s two-hour set to close out the Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, Metallica frontman James Hetfield repeatedly asked the assembled crowd of over 41,000 headbangers, “Can you feel it?”

He didn’t have to worry; the collective had no trouble feeling it. Or hearing it. In perhaps a grandiose feat of overcompensation for the outdoor venue and the noise from the adjacent subway line, everything was cranked up to 11 from the first note to the last bellow.

Of course, this is metal, which means the louder the better, and while everybody brought their best noise, Metallica reigned supreme above them all. The bands populating the under-card all fared well, with Anthrax picking up points for sheer enthusiasm — most of the members are from New York, they were celebrating the release of their new album, and there was a spry joie de vivre that infiltrated even their thrashiest material, especially on the set-closing “I Am the Law.”

Megadeth primed the crowd for the headliner with some early shout-alongs (the one-two punch of “Symphony of Destruction” and “Peace Sells” was surprisingly anthemic), and Slayer bowling over everybody with a solid hour of ritual eardrum destruction (“Mandatory Suicide” was especially savage).

But then Metallica emerged, and everybody was reminded exactly why they remain one of the biggest bands in the world. Aided by some well-orchestrated pyrotechnics, a healthy dose of theatricality, and a bucketload of massive songs, the members of Metallica spryly navigated the huge stage parked in the outfield and held heavy court. READ FULL STORY

Rock the Bells: Lauryn Hill, Nas, Erykah Badu and more live at NYC's Governors Island

The most well-dressed folks on New York City’s Governors Island last Saturday looked the bummiest. On the balmy last Saturday of the summer, cutoff shorts, tank tops, dirty sneakers and worn-in sandals were among the best things to be wearing for the daylong hip-hop festival that is Rock the Bells.

Elaborate outfits highlighted by fresh tennis shoes, high heels (wedges, too) or anything that gave off a vibe of effort earned more laughs than sartorial appreciation at rap’s lone major fair.

I mean really, how can you appreciate grimy sets from Wu Tang Clan members, Slaughterhouse, and Mobb Deep when you look so, so clean?

Not I, Mixers. In beat up five-year-old Air Jordans, a star spangled tank top (it was Labor Day weekend!), and a pair of shorts, I came to sweat. And from 2pm to midnight, that’s exactly what I did.

My day began with Black Star. The duo featuring Brooklyn rhymers Talib Kweli and Mos Def performed cuts from their 1998 album Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star. They also broke away to perform solo hits. Kweli did his uplifting “Get By.” While Mos, dressed like a substitute teacher in his tie and short sleeve white shirt tucked into his jeans, broke out “Umi Says.”

Things continued with Erykah Badu, who ran through 1997’s Baduizm. Eclectically clad in a fedora, blazer, and pants tucked into her knee-high gold boots, she killed with her mellow “On & On.” Between singing and crowd cruising, she even showed off her production chops by hopping on MPC drum pad for some quick beats.

Next up was Lauryn Hill. Surprisingly, she was bumped out of her headlining slot in favor of hometown favorite Nas. Still, she performed as if she was the night’s main draw. The theme of this year’s festival was that each act select one of their several albums to play. The decision was easy for Hill, who notoriously only has one solo studio album.

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Lenny Kravitz brings 'Black and White America' to New York City's Terminal 5: EW on the scene

Lenny Kravitz’s band is no letdown in the cool department.

The crew’s lone lady sports a shaved head and taps her shoeless feet while shredding her guitar. The horn section follows suit. One member rocks well tailored, yet unkempt dreads. Another, like his lead man, has a mini ‘fro. While the second guitarist resembles Sideshow Bob—but in a “I’d hang out with him” way. All look like if weapons replaced their instruments, they’d be equally capable of defending our planet from the end of days.

Kravitz is captain, of course. And last night at New York City’s Terminal 5, he and company tore it down. The twenty-year veteran dropped his ninth album, Black and White America, Tuesday and he was the evening’s headliner of the Samsung AT&T Summer Krush concert.

Ever the sex symbol, he made ladies squeal upon his arrival. In sunglasses, a fitted black shirt, leather pants, and boots, Kravitz wasted no time getting to his classics. Watch him perform “American Woman” after the jump:

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MTV 2011 VMAs: What you didn't see on TV

The 2011 MTV Video Music Awards are in the books, and while the show as a whole felt a little scattered and unfocused, there were indeed some high points. Russell Brand, Tony Bennett, and Bruno Mars gave Amy Winehouse an excellent tribute, Beyoncé capped off a great performance with a nice little revelation about the future of her family, and Adele tore down the house with her stunning, jaw-dropping run through “Someone Like You.”

But there were a handful of amazing moments that happened between MTV’s rapid-fire camera cuts and commercial breaks. Luckily, I was inside the Nokia Theater at L.A. Live and can report the eight greatest things you probably missed during the show. READ FULL STORY

On the scene: Celine Dion live in Las Vegas. Holograms, Michael Jackson, and more!

Back in March, when Celine Dion’s new show “Celine” opened in Las Vegas, my colleague Tanner Stransky posed a very important question: Will you make it to Sin City to see it?

As a huge (non-closeted) Celine fan, I gave a resounding “yes!” and began my Celine countdown. To say I was excited would be an understatement. So I rounded up some travel partners (otherwise known as my mom and grandmother), and we left for Sin City with only one thing on our agenda—see Celine live at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace. (Seriously. We had no other plans.)

Before the show started, I chatted with a publicist for The Colosseum who told me, “well, if you’re already a Celine fan you’re going to love the show. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. It will be great.” I figured I’d enjoy the show. But laugh and cry? Probably not. Famous last words…

I had seen Celine once before on her Taking Chances World Tour, and she sang only her own music, so I was pleasantly surprised that last night’s show included a number of non-Celine classics. She opened the show with Journey’s “Open Arms,” then took it way back to the basics with her “Where Does My Heart Beat Now,” got the crowd to sing along at her request to “Because You Loved Me,” and then went right into “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now.” I’m so used to botching this song during karaoke, it was refreshing to hear it as it’s meant to be heard. She finished off the first set of songs with “I’m Your Lady.” Yes you are, Celine. Yes you are. READ FULL STORY

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