Views on pop culture through my eyes

Here is my list of my favorite movies, TV shows, albums, singles, DVDs and concerts from the past year. I will not bore you with descriptions. As always, comments are kindly welcomed at the end. Thanks for reading.

2017-kithanet-shutterstock-660-30

Albums

  1. Maren Morris — Hero
  2. Kelly Clarkson — Meaning of Life
  3. Madonna — Rebel Heart Tour
  4. Ed Sheeran — Divide
  5. DNCE — DNCE
  6. Brett Eldredge — Brett Eldredge
  7. Lady Antebellum — Heart Break
  8. Miranda Lambert — The Weight of These Wings
  9. Kelsea Ballerini — The First Time
  10. Miley Cyrus — Younger Now

Singles

  1. Ed Sheeran — Shape of You
  2. Shawn Mendes — There’s Nothing Holding Me Back
  3. Kygo featuring Selena Gomez — It Ain’t Me
  4. Sam Hunt — Body Like a Back Road
  5. Naill Horan — Slow Hands
  6. Kelly Clarkson — Love So Soft
  7. Demi Lovato — Sorry Not Sorry
  8. DJ Snake featuring Justin Beiber — Let Me Love You
  9. Imagine Dragons — Thunder
  10. Portugal. The Man — Feel It Still

Movies

  1. Lady Bird
  2. Dunkirk
  3. Battle of the Sexes
  4. The Shape of Water
  5. Wonder Woman
  6. Brad’s Status
  7. Goodbye Christopher Robin
  8. Call Me by Your Name
  9. Wind River
  10. Beauty and the Beast

TV Shows

  1. Master of None
  2. 13 Reasons Why
  3. Modern Family
  4. Will & Grace
  5. The Mayor
  6. Riverdale
  7. Gotham
  8. Bob’s Burgers
  9. Empire
  10. How to Get Away with Murder

DVDs

  1. Noctural Animals
  2. La La Land
  3. Madonna — Rebel Heart Tour
  4. Denial
  5. Captain Fantastic
  6. A United Kingdom
  7. Patriot’s Day
  8. Beyonce — I Am Yours — An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas
  9. Sing Street
  10. The Founder

Concerts

  1. Lady Antebellum — You Look Good World Tour
  2. Sam Hunt — 15 in a 30 Tour
  3. Mary J. Blige — Strength of a Woman Tour
  4. Jason Mraz — 40th Birthday Party and Concert
  5. Katy Perry — Witness — The Tour
  6. Kool & the Gang/Morris Day & The Time/Village People
  7. Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey
  8. Queen Nation — A Tribute to Queen
  9. Quincy Jones— The A&M Years
  10. Pentatonix — July 4th Fireworks Spectacular

Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments if you agree or disagree with my selections.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

Advertisements

Winter Reviews Part 1

It’s that time for some more entertainment reviews. What have I been watching or listening to that I recommend or that you should avoid. Read on for my take on the latest movies, TV shows, DVDs and albums of the last few months.

Movies

Wind River
Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen star in this murder mystery from writer-director Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water). Set in the snowy mountains of Wyoming, the movie deals with a murdered woman on an Indian reservation. Jeremy Renner is the Fish and Wildlife guy who finds the body. Olsen plays the FBI agent assigned to the case. Who was this woman? And who could have committed such a horrible crime? Good writing, acting and directing. I recommend it. Grade: B+

Leap!
This animated tale tells the story of an orphan (Felicie) who dreams of a being a ballet dancer. She escapes from the orphanage along with her inventor friend, Victor. They travel to Paris and soon Felicie is impersonating another girl so she can study dance at the Paris Ballet. Of course, she gets found out, but she still has the dream. This is a movie for those of us who believe in pursuing their passions. You should never give up. Grade: B

Logan Lucky
Steven Soderbergh’s latest is a heist comedy with an all-star cast. Channing Tatum is a down on your luck loser who comes from a cursed family. He hatches a plan with his brother, sister and some friends to rip off a NASCAR race in North Carolina. This is definitely a redneck “Oceans 11.” Turns out they may be able to break the family curse after all. I enjoyed myself. Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, and Katie Holmes co-star. Grade: B+

Mother!
Mother is the latest movie from director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan). It stars Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem as husband and wife. What seemed like it was going to be a cool horror movie, turns out to be more of a psychological mind trip. What a weird and strange movie… can’t say I would recommend it at all. I didn’t care for it at all. There are plenty of scenes that make you uncomfortable, as J-Law’s character is under attack for most of the movie. I had to Google what the movie was about. And once I found out, I still didn’t give a damn. A big misstep for all involved. Grade: D

Brad’s Status
Ben Stiller stars in this movie that is written and directed by Mike White. Stiller plays a man experiencing a midlife crisis. His son is going off to college soon. He starts to think about his friends from his college days and how he is the least successful member of the group. Filmed mostly in Boston, this is great movie that I can see being nominated for Best Original Screenplay. There are laughs and thought-provoking moments too. Go see it. Grade: A-

Home Again
Reese Witherspoon makes her return to romantic comedy with this movie. It is written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer, daughter of Nancy Meyers (one of the top romantic comedy directors). The movie has a good cast: Michael Sheen and Candace Bergen among others. The story has Witherspoon returning to her childhood home after a failed marriage. She starts a flirtation/romance with a young guy at a bar. And the next day, him and his friends are moving into her guest house. See these guys are looking to make it in Hollywood, and she is the daughter of a famous director. All involved try, but in the end it doesn’t add up to much. Forgettable for sure. Grade: C-

Battle of the Sexes
Steve Carrell and Emma Stone star as Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in the tile tennis match that happened in the mid-70’s. Riggs is a male chauvinist pig who wants to keep women in the kitchen. King is the up and comer who is reshaping the world of women’s tennis and discovering her sexuality. Both stars do a great job, but it is Stone who has the juicer role. I expect to see her nominated for a Best Actress Oscar again. Despite having taken place over 40 years ago, the movie still feels very relevant to today. Grade: A-

The Mountain Between Us
Idris Elba and Kate Winslet star in this adventure-romance. After their separate flights to Denver are cancelled, the two join up to rent a charter plane to get to their destination. She is going to her wedding. He is going to a medical conference. The plane crashes in the mountains, and they must join together to survive all of their challenges: extreme weather, hungry wild animals, lack of food and water, and more. The tragedy brings them closer together. Will they make it out alive? And what will life be like if they do? It plays a bit like a Hallmark movie, but I still liked it. Grade: B-

Goodbye Christopher Robin
This true story tells the tale of author AA. Milne — the creator of “Winnie the Pooh.” The book series was inspired by playtime with his young son (Christopher Robin). Mr. Milne served in World War I, and was dealing with PTSD. His son became a celebrity in his own right after the books were published. And it was hard for him to outgrow his father’s shadow. Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie star as the writer and his wife. I would expect to hear of this movie come awards season. Go see it. Grade: A-

Thor: Ragnorok
The third Thor movie has the character stranded on a trash planet, while back on Asgard the planet is being destroyed by Hela (played by Cate Blanchett). Thor is joined by the Hulk as contestants in a gladiator contest. Loki is back also. Will Thor get back to his planet to save it? This is definitely an improvement over Thor 2, but I still feel that the Captain America and Iron Man films are better. It is funny and action packed, but it becomes an overload of F/X by the end. Grade: B-

Justice League
DC tries their hand at the group superhero movie. So you have Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg coming together to fight off the villain known as Steppenwolf. Of course, Superman comes back to life. DC is still getting their movies wrong — this past summer’s “Wonder Woman” being the only exception. I was bored, and ultimately I just didn’t care. Grade: C-

Lady Bird
This movie stars Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) and is written and directed by Greta Gerwig. She’s a high school senior who can’t wait to escape her circumstances: living in Sacramento, CA, going to Catholic school and having a demanding mother (Laurie Metcalf). ‘Lady Bird’ refers to the name the girl wants to be known as instead of her boring birth name: Christine. This touching comedy-drama is definitely a must see. Excellent performances as well as writing and directing by indie star Greta Gerwig. Go see it! Grade: A

The Shape of Water
Guillermo Del Toro directs this modern fairy tale set in the 1960’s. It concerns a mute woman who falls in love with an amphibious creature that is being kept at the government facility she works at. The basic story is — I fell in love with the creature from the black lagoon. What was interesting were all the parallels to today… fearing those that are different, white male privilege, sexual harassment, government conspiracies and more. Sally Hawkins and Michael Shannon are sure to get nominated for their roles. Also starring Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins. The movie looks great and the director presents some beautiful visuals. Grade: B+

DVDs

Blade Runner
So I had to catch up on this one as I never saw it when it came out, and a sequel is out soon. Harrison Ford stars and Ridley Scott directs. The story has Ford playing a detective tracking down replicants (artificial humans) . What is cool about the movie is the look of it. The story was just OK to me. I know that it bombed at the time, but is considered a sci-fi classic now. Grade: C+

Passengers
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in this action-adventure movie. They are passengers on a space ship traveling to a new colony. Pratt’s character wakes up from the deep sleep he was in. He is alone, and he decides to wake up another person to spend time with — Lawrence’s character. The only “person” that they communicate with is a robot played by Michael Sheen. The stars have decent chemisty, but there is not much to the story for me. Much ado about nothing. Grade: C-

Office Christmas Party
A raunchy office comedy that stars Jennifer Anniston and Jason Bateman. T.J. Miller co-stars as Aniston’s brother — who is running the family business. He gets the idea to throw a wild Christmas party in order to nab a potential client. So there is sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I got some good laughs, it was decent diversion. Grade: B-

Madonna — Rebel Heart Tour
Madonna’s last world tour is finally on home video after premiering on Showtime last December. What you get is another wild and wonderful spectacle from the Queen of Pop. She may have been 58 when it was filmed, but she doesn’t look like she is slowing down. She is still pushing the limits. Includes new songs as well as re-worked favorites too. The DVD also includes a highlights audio CD. A 2-disc full audio version of the show is sold separately. Grade: A

Dixie Chicks — DCX MMXVI Live
This is the DVD from last year’s tour by the Dixie Chicks. It was my #1 tour of last year. This concert was filmed at the Forum in Los Angeles. It was great to see this show again. The crowd is into it and the ladies are in fine form. Includes all their hits plus a few new songs too. They haven’t lost any of their edge. The nice package comes with 2 CDs of the show too. Grade: A

Colossal
Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis star in this comedic drama. The basic plot is that Hathaway returns home after losing her job and boyfriend. In a parallel story, there is a monster that is attacking Seoul, Korea. It turns out that Hathaway is the one who is controlling the monster. Every movement she makes when she is at the park, happens with the monster on the other side of the world. The makers get plus points for trying something different. But ultimately I just thought the movie was sort of weird and just OK. Grade: C-

Split
M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie stars James McAvoy as a deranged man who has multiple personality disorder. He kidnaps 3 teenage girls from a mall parking lot and keeps them in a bunker-like location. The personalities range from a little boy to a woman to a violent man. The girls are never quite sure who they are dealing with. Betty Buckley stars as his therapist. The movie is better than I thought it would be. McAvoy does a good job of playing crazy. Grade: B

The Founder
Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, the man behind fast-food phenomenon McDonald’s. Kroc was just a milkshake mixer salesmen when he met the McDonald’s brothers in Southern California. Kroc goes into business with them and ultimately steals the company right out from under them. It is an interesting story about greed, ambition and drive. Grade: A-

A United Kingdom
David Oyelowo and Rosemund Pike star in this true story. It tells the story of Seretse Kharma and Ruth Williams. He is the heir to the throne of a kingdom in Africa. She is a English typist who he falls in love with when he is studying in England. Their marriage gains international attention and causes both of them strife and instability. Would his homeland accept him as King with a white wife? I enjoyed it — good acting, writing and directing. Grade: A-

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
This is the sequel to Al Gore’s 2006 Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Sequel.” That movie detailed the effects of global warming on the planet. Since then there have been some successes with the movement, but there is still a lot to be worried about. We are getting more extreme weather as well as national catastrophes. Plus we have politicians who are still denying that climate change is real. We need to keep talking til real change gets made. Grade: B+

CDs

Fleetwood Mac — The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac
I decided to get this as I had the “Greatest Hits” from them and felt that they had more to offer. This 2-disc retrospective has all the hits, plus classic album cuts and lost treasures too. It is a great career overview for them. Grade: A-

Thomas Rhett — Life Changes
Rhett’s third album follows his breakthrough “Tangled Up.” There are special appearances by Maren Morris and his Dad, Rhett Atkins. It is an eclectic batch of songs, most of which he co-wrote. So you get some modern country pop, a hillbilly tune with his Dad, and white-boy soul. I don’t think it is as good as “Tangled Up.” His voice sounds great. Maybe it will grow on me. Grade: C+

Miley Cyrus — Younger Now
Miley’s latest album takes a different path from her last major project “Bangerz.” She has made a folk-pop album with touches of country also running through the tracks. What I love about it is — is that she is doing what she wants and not trying to bow to the radio gods. She has help from Dolly Parton on one song. I can really sense her artistry on here. She is maturing as an artist. Go check it out. Grade: B

Glee – The Music — The Graduation Album
The original stars of the Fox musical comedy-drama are graduating from high school during this season musical highlights. The cover songs include songs by fun., Lady GaGa, Jason Mraz, Green Day and more. It was nice to hear my favorites from the show again including Rachel, Finn, Kurt and more. Grade: B-

DNCE — DNCE
First, Nick Jonas had a hit with his solo career. Now brother Joe and his band DNCE are releasing their first full-length album after last year’s EP “Swaay”. This album includes the hits “Cake by the Ocean” and “Toothbrush” as well as a bunch of other catchy, fun songs. I always said the brothers were talented. “Almost” is a nice mid-tempo song about a relationship that almost worked out. I recommend it. Grade: B+

Demi Lovato — Tell Me You Love Me
Former Disney girl Demi is all grown up and loving life. This is definitely better than “Confident” her last album. I love the title track as well as the first single “Sorry Not Sorry.” She’s sassy and sexy and she’s got herself some good songs that are worthy of her vocals. I am enjoying it. Grade: B+

Kelly Clarkson — Meaning of Life
For Kelly’s 8th album, she is going for a more R&B sound than her previous albums. The results are one of her best albums ever. The set includes the first single “Love So Soft” as well as plenty of great hook-filled songs like “Heat,” “Medicine” and “Whole Lotta Woman.” Her backup singers are given prominence during some numbers. She continues to be my favorite Idol winner. Grade: A

Pink — Beautiful Trauma
Pink’s latest album (her 7th) recently debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts. It contains the first single “What About Us” as well as the title track “Beautiful Trauma.” Sonically it is a typical Pink album, with some rock, dance, folk and pop leanings on various tracks. Through it all her voice sounds strong. They are some of the best vocals of her career. She walks the line between arena rocker and singer-songwriter for me. And that’s a good place to be. Grade: B+

 

TV

American Horror Story: Cult
The latest season of the horror anthology show takes the last Presidential election as a jumping off point for it’s story. Series regulars Evan Peters and Sara Paulson are the main stars this season. Peters is a right-wing nut, who voted for Trump. Paulson is one half of a lesbian couple that wanted Hilary to win. Peters seems to a be a messiah-like guy who is running for office; and he is amassing people for his cult. Paulson is one who is terrorized by some killer clowns who are part of the cult. I had my reservations after the first episode (about it being too close to reality). And I complained about it to my husband a few times after that…. I have since given up on it, it is too much for me — disgusting and sick. Grade: C-

Dynasty
From the producers of “Gossip Girl” comes the update of the classic 80’s soap “Dynasty.” As a huge fan of the original, I was looking forward to this. Grant Show (Melrose Place) leads the cast as Blake Carrington. So now the show takes place in Atlanta instead of Colorado. And they are in the energy industry not oil. Plus the cast is multi-cultural now too. What was surprising to me, was how closely it followed the story of the original. I was expecting more. The biggest change was changing Sammy Jo to a Latin guy. And that throws everything off, as Sammy Jo came into Steven’s life after Blake killed Steven’s lover. We’ll see where they go with the show. But so far, I am not impressed. I did love the flashback scene to Fallon and Steven’s childhood, with Steven playing the old “Dynasty” theme on the piano. Grade: C

The Mayor
A political newcomer suddenly finds himself elected to office. In this case, it’s an aspiring African-American rapper who becomes the mayor of small town in Northern California. He is aided by his 2 childhood buddies and his chief of staff played Lea Michele (Glee). Brandon Michael Hall stars as mayor Courtney Rose, who still lives at home with his Mama, a local postal worker. Yes, it’s a fish out of water tale in a new setting. It makes a good companion with “Black-ish.” I am rooting for this “Mayor” to succeed. Grade: B

Will & Grace
After 11 years, the ground-breaking Emmy winning series is back on NBC with all of the original cast members. I was skeptical at first, but I have enjoyed the first half of the season. The writing is sharp and funny. After the year we have had in the US, it is time to laugh again. And this is TV comfort food. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for part 2 coming soon. As always comments are kindly welcomed.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Testimony of Gratitude 2017

It has been sort of weird year for me and a lot of people. With all the chaos going on in Washington, horrible mass shootings, racial tensions, terrorists, catastrophic weather events like hurricanes and earthquakes — there is a lot to be sad and helpless about. Every day, I walk about 1.2 miles to work one way. On my walk I pass by about 10-20 vehicles or mobile homes in which people are living. They are homeless. I wish I knew how to help them.100_4322

Last year, my Mom died at the age of 88. We were close, so it was a major loss. I still have other family members alive, but the election has strained some of the relationships. Then, there have been financial challenges in my own life too…. With the cost of transportation and housing. It just never seems like you can get ahead.

Despite all of this, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. And I choose to have an attitude of gratitude every day and every minute of my life. Here is why:

  • I am 53 years young! I can still move, dance, walk, run, etc.
  • I am healthy! Some minor aches, but nothing major.
  • I am employed. Twelve years at the same company.
  • I am loved. Twenty-nine years together in a committed relationship.
  • I am cherished. By friends and family who call, write, text and just hang out with me.
  • I live in a beautiful city. Close to the ocean, the mountains, desert… not to mention lots of fun activities to do like hikes, movies, museums, concerts, etc.
  • God loves me. Even when I don’t, I know that his love for me never wavers.
  • My Mom is now one of my guardian angels watching out for me.
  • I have a beautiful little bird named AJ that brightens my days with his song and his presence.
  • I see the beauty all around me: flowers growing, birds chirping, blue sky, people of all races and colors.

I choose to have an Attitude of Gratitude in my life. I am constantly saying thanks for my many blessings. If you are blessed, pass it on. I am grateful for all that I have. And I encourage everyone to adopt a positive attitude to life. Let’s all help to lift each other up. We owe it to one another and the planet.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Katy Perry: Pop Perfection

Katy Perry in Concert
Friday, November 10, 2017
Staples Center

Witness — The Tour 2017

Special guest: Purity Ring

Merchandise purchased: T-Shirt

Songs performed: Heartsigh, Repetition, Obedear, Push Pull, Asido, Bodyache, Flood on the Floor, Fineshrine, Begin Again (Purity Ring); Act I “In The Space” (Video Introduction), Witness, Roulette, Dark Horse, Chained to the Rhythm (Hot Chip Remix outro), Act II Act My Age (Video Interlude), Teenage Dream, Hot N Cold, Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), California Gurls, I Kissed a Girl, Act III “Celestial Body” (Video Interlude) Déjà Vu, Tsunami, E.T., Bon Appétit (Contains elements of “What Have You Done for Me Lately”), Act IV Mind Maze (Video Interlude), Thinking of You, Power, Act V “Motorcyclist” (Video Interlude), Hey Hey Hey, Part of Me, Swish Swish, Roar (Contains elements of “Hard Knock Life”), Firework

katy-perry-witness-ticketsComments: Katy Perry brought her latest pop spectacle to the Los Angeles area — Witness: The Tour. It was behind her 4th album of the same name from earlier this year. Coming off huge previous albums and tours, expectations were high for the new project. Then the first single came out “Chained to the Rhythm” — billed by Katy herself as “purposeful pop.” Despite the sunny exterior of the song, it was really about disillusionment about the 2016 Presidential election. The album came out, and people were underwhelmed by it (myself included). Had Katy lost her edge or at least the public’s attention?

When I heard about the tour, I definitely wanted to go. Her last tour “Prismatic” was fantastic! Would she top herself on this tour? The answer is no she didn’t. But she did give us a high-energy, hit-packed evening that showed she is still going strong.

The show was broken into 5 different segments or Acts. And each act had different costumes, staging and choreography. The back of the stage was a giant video screen in the shape of an eye. In fact, before she came on, a eye was projected on the screen moving around and blinking. She got the crowd revved up by playing a bunch of songs from the 1980’s including INXS and Michael Jackson.

The first song of the night was the title track off of “Witness.” Katy came on stage atop a lighted futuristic vehicle, and she was dressed as a golden warrior. The bulk of the show was songs from the new album, 9 in all. And I have to admit that some of them are finally starting to grow on me. I think they sounded better live than on record.

She was aided by a top-notch backing band, and a troupe of mostly female dancers. There were a few men who came out and acted more as acrobats than dancers during a few select numbers.

Katy gave her fans the spectacle that they wanted. There were lights, lasers, dancers, acrobats, large puppets, crazy and sexy costumes, set changes with giant inflatable set-pieces (like a lion’s head for “Roar”) and more. The stage had one large catwalk that went out into the arena, as well as small stage that looked like a teardrop.

Some of the most memorable moments for me were the choreography during “Dark Horse,” the whole segment of songs from “Teenage Dream”; A large alien-like creature crawling across the stage during “E.T.”; Katy soaring above the crowd on a planet across the arena (with other planets hanging down) on “Thinking of You”; the addition of Janet Jackson’s “What Have You Done for Me Lately” to the end of “Bon Appetit”; the staging of “Swish Swish” with large basketball hoop and a dance routine on some trampolines; the sexy male acrobat doing a pole dance during “Tsunami;” and the anthemic 1-2 punch of “Roar” and “Firework” for the finale.

Katy had definitely put on a fun and energetic set reminding us of how great an entertainer she is. And I can’t forget the vocals too, she sounds as good live as on record.

Opening act Purity Ring was an electronic dance duo of 1 guy and 1 girl. The guy played percussion in a lighted igloo of sorts, while the woman sang and moved about. They had a very nice light show, with lights flipping all around the stage. I actually liked their music, though I am not so sure about their commercial prospects. The female reminded me some of Elle Goulding.

Thanks to Katy and her crew for another fun concert. I look forward to her next project.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Christmas Album Wish List

Are you ready for Christmas music? As a music fan, I enjoy buying new Christmas music every year from my favorite artists. Over the years, I have amassed quite a collection of Christmas albums — everything from Amy Grant and Cyndi Lauper to En Vogue and Kenny Chesney. This year brings new seasonal music from Fantasia, Gwen Stefani and Sia. It seems like every artist records a Christmas album (or at least a song) over the course of their career. Here are the artists I hope to hear Christmas music from in the near future:

 

Superstars

  • Madonna. She only did “Santa Baby” on the “A Very Special Christmas” album. Image if she brought her song craft to some Christmas originals. I would love it, but I have serious doubts she will ever do it.
  • Bruce Springsteen. He has a Christmas song too, but no album as of yet. I can’t think of any rock Christmas albums. A mix of old and new would be music to many Boss lovers.
  • Diana Ross. Sure, she did an album with the Supremes, and even a solo Christmas album in 1994 — but it was never released in America. Isn’t time it came out here, or she recorded new takes on Christmas classics. She could call on her children to help her out.
  • Janet Jackson. Wouldn’t you love to hear what Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Janet would do with a batch of holiday tunes? I am sure we would be dancing around the Christmas tree!

 

Current Pop Stars

  • Rihanna. She is one of the most consistent hit-makers of the last decade. She always find ways to surprise her fans with her music. I would love to see this happen.
  • Lady GaGa. Yeah, she isn’t as popular as she used to be — but she can still sing as evidenced by this year’s Super Bowl. She could do an album of very traditional songs with Tony Bennett, or a dance-pop Christmas album. I would be interested in both.

 

Country

  • Dierks Bentley. Hunky county star Dierks could do a bluegrass Christmas album or a modern country pop album. He would shine on the CMA Christmas special I am sure.
  • Carrie Underwood. Vocal powerhouse Carrie Underwood would be sure to be a bestseller, if she ever releases a holiday album. I am sure there would be a few spiritual songs on there. Another one that I could see being a #1 album.
  • Little Big Town. This group, that I describe as a country version of Fleetwood Mac, is known for their trademark vocal harmonies. A good mix of traditional songs plus a few new tunes too would be a winning formula.

 

Divas

  • Taylor Dayne. Taylor has one of the most distinctive voices of the 80-90’s. I could see her putting her own spin on some Christmas favorites. “Tell It to my Heart, Santa” could be a good title for one song.
  • Jill Scott. I heard she was great at the Hollywood Bowl this past summer. A soulful holiday celebration, with a few gospel tinged numbers would be great.
  • Angie Stone. Another big-voiced R&B diva. She has worked with Josh Groban in the past, and Justin Timberlake is a fan too. Imagine a Christmas duets album, that would be something different in the market.
  • Jennifer Lopez. Can you think of a Latin pop Christmas album? Neither can I. Just imagine all the guest stars she could pull in for the accompanying TV special… Pitbull, Enrique, Marc Anthony, Lin-Manual, and more.
  • Britney Spears. She’s only done 1 Christmas song in the past. How about a Christmas album to tie us over till her next all-new pop album? I would love to hear her take on holiday classics, and a few choice new tunes too.

 

80’s

  • The Human League. The ground-breaking new-wave group could bring something new to the table for sure. I would definitely be up for this.
  • Bon Jovi. Jon and the crew would definitely rock the holiday. Again, a mix of new and old songs would be just right. Maybe even call in former duet partner, Jennifer Nettles.
  • Belinda Carlisle. The voice of the 80’s girl band, The Go-Go’s. Plus she had a decent solo career too. Songs about Christmas in L.A., or maybe songs with some hippie-dippy vibes.
  • Duran Duran. Another big 80’s band. They could call in Mark Ronson or Nile Rodgers (both of whom they worked with before) to produce the album for them. I would love to hear them take on some original songs.

 

Boy Bands

  • Backstreet Boys. NSync did a holiday album back in the day, surprisingly BSB did not. It is never too late. Call up Max Martin and get this one going. I am sure it would sell well for them.
  • One Direction. With the members all enjoying varying degrees of solo success, it may be awhile before we get to this album. But they are good singers, and would definitely bring something different to the table.

And that’s my list! Did I miss anyone? Did I leave out one of your favorites? Please sound off in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Mary J. Blige in Concert
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Greek Theatre

Special guest: LaToya Luckett

Strength of a Woman Tour 2017

Merchandise purchased; T-shirt

Songs performed: (No, No, No (Part 1)/Bill, Bills, Bills/Say My Name (LaToya Luckett);
Love Yourself, The One, Enough Cryin’, I Can Love You, You Bring Me Joy, Reminisce, Real Love, You Remind Me, Be Happy, Love No Limit, Don’t Mind, Share My World, Everything, My Life, I’m Goin’ Down, Set Me Free, Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, U + Me (Love Lesson), Thick Of It, Not Gon’ Cry, No More Drama, Glow Up, Just Fine, Family Affair (Mary J. Blige)

mary-j-blige-soaw-tourComments: The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul returned to the music scene this year with her 13th album — Strength of a Woman. The tour of the same name touched down in the Southland with a stop at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The album is considered a return to form and is her most personal project in years.

I’ve always wanted to see Mary live, but I wasn’t able to until this year. It was worth the wait! She has quite the song catalog between hits and album cuts. She’s one of those artists that has too many good songs to choose from. I liked “Real Love” when if first came out; but I didn’t really follow her career until “No More Drama.” That was the one that really made me a fan.

So I may not have known every song that night, but I knew probably 80% of the songs she performed. She is very relatable. She joked about how hot it was that night, and how she thought about coming out naked. She thanked her fans for being with her from the beginning, through the ups and downs with her career and personal dramas too (like her recent divorce).

The audience was definitely into the show and was on their feet more most of the evening. They also seemed to know the words to all of her songs too.

During the middle part of the show, Mary played songs that have been an integral part of her musical journey: “My Life,” “Share My World” and “Be Happy.” While I wasn’t familiar with “Share My World” — The other 2 are definitely Mary classics.

The new songs went over well with the audience. She commented on the fact that she has been unlucky in love — again something a lot of people can relate to. I was wondering how she can sing so many heart-wrenching songs like “Not Gonna Cry” and “Set Me Free” night after night. But it is probably a bit of a catharsis for her.

I do wish she had sang some of the songs from her 2 previous albums: “My Life II” and “The London Sessions.” But that’s OK — I did get the hits and then some. She was definitely worth the wait.

LaToya Luckett had an entertaining opening segment. She is one of the original members of Destiny’s Child before she was fired during the group turmoil. And she’s had some success on the charts on her own, mostly on the R&B charts. She sounded good and was thankful for her time in Destiny’s Child and wished the members well.

Thanks to Mary and her band for a fun concert.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Kilt-of-HorrorsSenior year here I come! My high school years were coming to an end. It had been a bit of a roller coaster these past 3 years. Tons of homework, changes to my body and my mind, and just trying to fit in. It is a lot to deal with at 17 years old!

Who am I you ask? My name is Andrew. I am a senior at Valley High. At times, I didn’t think I would make it this far. I thought I would be dead by now. I had a tough childhood and was often bullied by my classmates. They made my life a living hell for at least the first 2 years of high school. Then things seemed to calm down, after the fools got kicked out and their bad deeds caught up with them.

I took up weight lifting in my junior year and lo and behold my skinny frame started to fill in. My Dad stopped trying to make me into his clone and my Mom trusted me to do the right thing whenever I was out with friends.

On the recommendation of my childhood friend Shelley, I even took up track and field. I didn’t know how competitive I was! I always liked board games, but this was totally new to me! I won my first meet last January, and here I was now the captain of the relay team going into my senior year.

To the casual outsider, it looked like everything was going right for me. Except for one thing — I was gay. Would my family and friends still love me if they knew? Would I get taunted again, because of who I was during matches?

I told myself I was going to be OK. I just had to take that first step. I was to give a speech to the entire student body during Thanksgiving week. This would be my time — to own who and what I was. I even decided I needed a special outfit for the occasion. I looked online at my family history, and found out that I had some Scottish ancestry. I decided that I would order myself a kilt to wear for the occasion. It looked a bit rock and roll. It was what they call a hybrid, part Utility kilt and part tartan kilt. This was going to be part of my coming out day outfit.

The package arrived and it looked great with my boots and designer shirt. I finished writing up my speech and the weeks flew by, as I was busy with classes and after-school activities. Finally, the day arrived. It was time to give the speech. I dressed in my normal kakhis and school polo in the morning, and changed before I came out to give the speech. As I approached the microphone, there were a few gasps from the crowd, like huh? What is that guy wearing?

Dear fellow students,

It is a great time to be alive! Our teachers have been recognized for their outstanding leadership and our coaches are all come off of past winning seasons. We have given back to the community around us via feeding the homeless and cleaning up neighborhood playgrounds. Senior year has been a time of reflection for me and most of my classmates. I have been struggling with something my whole life. Despite looking to most like I got it made, I really don’t. I have been hiding a part of me, and it is time for me to break free and set the record straight. I am gay! (Again, a few gasps and laughs from the crowd.) But I am not going to hide who I am anymore. It is time for all of us, to be proud of who we are. I am proud to be a golden eagle! I am proud to be a student at Valley High!

The crowd erupted in rapturous applause! The haters were drowned out. I was free. Afterwards, my classmates kept coming up to me and congratulated me on how awesome and inspiring my speech was. The outpouring of love and support was amazing! I even got interviewed by the new editor of the school newspaper — Julio. He was a sexy latin guy who had just transferred from Colorado.

Before you know it Julio and I were dating. He had always loved men in kilts and here I was in the same class with him! It was wild that I could finally live my truth. What I didn’t know was that things were about to get weird for all of us at Valley High.

It all started at the first movie night of the AV Club. They were doing a salute to Leonardo Decaprio and the first movie up was “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” Julio and I wanted to be there, but I was running late from work (did I mention I worked part time at a book store?). But from what heard, the lights went down in the auditorium, and a fire broke out in the control room.

People started screaming and running from the exits. Someone said they saw someone in a kilt running out the back door.

Luckily everyone got out in time, and there was only minimal damage to the school before the fire department showed up.

The next day rumors started circulating that I had tried to burn the school down. I told them I wasn’t even there as my boss pulled inventory on me that night, and I had to stay at work until 10 PM.

Now Julio had an interesting relationship with his parents. His Dad seemed cool and was a former athlete himself. His Mom, or should I say step-Mom, was another thing. She was always hard on Julio and seemed disappointed/sad when she found out that Julio and I started going out. She came from a strict religious background from what I was told, and that her Dad had died of AIDS.

Months flew by and why wouldn’t they… what with school, work and the track team. Before you know it was time for the big Spring Fling dance. I was able to talk Julio into getting a kilt to match mine for the occasion. The dance went off without a hitch thanks to the efforts of the School Spirit Committee. There were lights, lasers and a fantastic DJ who played all my favorite songs. Too bad the event had to end at 10 PM because it was on school grounds.

So when it was over there was a big group of us just shooting the shit in the parking lot after the event. Lots of seflies and funny pictures; talk of what we were going to do with the rest of the weekend; what was playing at the movies or streaming online.

Next thing we know this car come barreling at us out of nowhere! And the person who was behind the wheel was none other than my ex-girlfriend, Kristin. Did I forget to mention that I dated girls in the past?

I guess she is not taking to the new me like the rest of my classmates. Kirstin seemed cool after we broke it off last summer. She was busy with the cheerleading squad in addition to the School Spirit Committee.

Photos of me and Julio along with a patch of tartan cloth were found burning in a trash can near where Kirstin had parked her car. I reached out to her via text, but she didn’t respond.

Next week at school, I was assigned a big project in history class. I had to write a paper about the Renaissance. My history teacher was Mr. Thomas. I always suspected that he was a closet case. And I wasn’t the only one. He was very attentive to the guys in the class.

Between work, school and track team, there wasn’t much time for me and Julio. But he was busy too, and I knew we would find quality time together soon — There was a 3-day weekend coming up for us. Another day to unwind and let loose.

We were going to go to the Lady GaGa concert in the next town over. Unfortunately, our car broke down, and we had to crash at a cousin’s house that night instead of coming back to town.

We got back to town in the morning, after the car got fixed. What we didn’t expect was that the town was reeling from a brutal murder the night before. Fr. Magnus O’Flannery had been murdered in the confessional of the church. Fr. O’Flannery was one of those colorful characters who always had a story to tell. I remember him showing up at the local Scottish festival in his family tartan.

Back at school, Mr. Thomas was acting weirder than usual. In fact, he disappeared later that week. Someone said they saw him on a travel website buying a ticket to Bermuda.

Things sure had gotten weird the past couple of months. And why did it all seem to start happening after I started wearing kilts? So far I had avoided a school fire and being run-over. Who could have murdered Fr. O’Flannery? and was it connected in any way to Mr. Thomas running off?

Things quieted down for a few weeks. The police still had no clues in the murder. Mr. Thomas had been tracked down in Bermuda with one of the locals there. Seems he had made a love connection online and he went to be with them.

Graduation was right around the corner. I was almost done with high school. My parents were going to rent a limo for me that day, and Julio and some other friends were going to go with us in it. When we went to Julio’s house, his Mom said he wasn’t ready yet, and that we would have to go on without him.

WTF? How could he be late for his own graduation? We had coordinating kilts picked out for the occasion. And he usually texted me “good morning handsome” every day too. But today, I just got a text saying he didn’t sleep well. Something just didn’t seem right.

On the way to the graduation, Detective Sanders called and wanted to talk. He said he was closing in on the murderer, but had a few questions for me. Seriously, could I have any more drama in one day? I told the detective I had a few minutes to talk just before the ceremony (but he would have to make it quick).

Well, the time came for the ceremony to start and still no Julio. Things were definitely not right. The names started being called and I was still hoping he would show up. But then, I saw someone that shouldn’t have been there. It was Julio’s Mom! Why was she here? And where was Julio?

I texted my parents to find her in the crowd. She moved around the room, trying to avoid being seen. But I knew what I saw — she was here somewhere. The principal was getting close to my name … Andrew Taylor. I walked up on the platform, and and waved to my parents. As I was shaking the Dean’s hand, a shot rang out, and a bullet grazed my shoulder.

Could the day get any worse? Now I was in a school shooting. Everyone scrambled to get out of the building. And we were happy that there were no more bullets flying. It seems like someone had it out for me. The cops had the idea to check the school cameras and see if they could find any clues.

So far, we had a fire (and someone in a kilt) who ran away. Fr. O’Flannery? No, no way, he wasn’t up to running for a man his age. Then we had my ex almost run us over because she was jealous. And don’t forget the closest case, Mr. Thomas, who ran off to be with his internet boyfriend in Bermuda. His departure was still too close to Fr. O’Flannery’s murder for my taste.

Thank God the school had installed those cameras last year. The shooting itself was not on camera. But they did show who arrived last and who ran out first: Mrs. Lopez, Julio’s Mom. She had just moved to suspect #1.

Paramedics were called and took me to emergency. Meanwhile, my parents followed the cops to confront Mrs. Lopez. Mr. Lopez was out of town on business that weekend. She answered the door and did her best to get rid of the cops. But her story still didn’t add up. Why was she there on her own? Where was Julio? The cops started to look around the property. And in the backyard trash bin was a burned up kilt. And then they heard muffled screams coming from the back bedroom.

The cops busted the door down, and quickly were able to take Mrs. Lopez down. They got to the back bedroom to find Julio tied up to a chair. They got the gag off of him — “I always knew my step-Mom was nuts!” is all he had to say.

Pretty soon, my phone was blowing up with texts from Julio. Are you OK? I really missed being there with you at the graduation.

Mrs. Lopez was the missing puzzle piece. Seems she couldn’t stand her son being gay, what with what her father did to her. She dressed in drag to set the fire at school. And then she murdered the priest, cause he told her that she should move on and accept her son as is. She was there to kill me, as a way of showing her son that being gay is not a happy life. And that it always ends tragically.

Boy, was she wrong! My life was not tragic. I was full of life, excited for the future. And I was going to go about it being the real me. Armed with optimism, talent and a few kilts, I was ready to face my future. Now let’s hope college is not so dramatic!

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Summer-Fall Reviews Part 1

It’s that time again for some more entertainment reviews. This blog features TV shows and music reviews. Read on for what I have been enjoying (or not) this past summer.

TV

13 Reasons Why
Netflix bring you the story of Hannah Baker — a teenager who commits suicide. The story is told in 13 parts. She left behind 13 cassette tapes that give her 13 reasons why she did it. This is one of the best shows I have seen this year. It is one of the most realistic portrayals of high school that I have ever seen. The whole cast is fantastic, especially the 2 main leads. Yes, it deals with some heavy topics: bullying, sexual assault, slut shaming, amongst other topics. It is definitely a show that doesn’t shy away from things. I highly recommend it. You will be moved. Grade: A

Boy Band
ABC wants in the boy band business. The architects (coaches) are OK. Timbaland is the one whose praise I would want the most. Some of the guys were not good enough in the Top 30 and I was surprised they made it as far as they did. It will be interesting if a hit band comes from this show. I am a bit of a boy band aficionado having loved New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys, NSync, 98 Degrees and more. The winners are now crowned, so we’ll see what happens. Grade: B-

World of Dance
The latest dance reality show just concluded it’s inaugural season. It is hosted by Jenna Dewan-Tattum and judged by Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez and Derek Hough. One of the cool things is there is a wide variety of dancers and styles, all in a battle for a $1 million dollar prize. You have large groups competing against soloists; duos and trios competing against solo kid dancers too. The public does not get to vote at all, which I found interesting. The show was renewed for a second season. Grade: B

CDs

Katy Perry — Witness
“Witness” is Katy’s 4th full length album and her first since “Prism” in 2013. The first single “Chained to the Rhythm” hinted at a new direction for her — something she called “Purposeful Pop.” Well, the single underperformed for her, and what we get is Katy’s least successful album (so far). It’s not a miss for her, but not her best by a long shot. The stand–out song for me is “Swish Swish” — It sounds like a hit. Lots of attitude and catchy lyrics. And some of the ballads are catching on with me like “Save as Draft” and “Miss You More.” No power anthems like previous releases. I wanted more, and I didn’t get it. Grade: C+

Lady Antebellum — Heart Break
Their first album since the band took a hiatus and some down time for solo projects and families. Their trademark vocal harmonies and hit songwriting are still here. They try on a bit of funk for the hit “You Look Good.” Not as good as “747” but still a solid country-pop album for them. Grade: B

Michelle Branch — Everything Comes and Goes
I loved this woman since her early 2000’s breakthrough and her work with Santana and the Wreckers too. So this has a country-rock feel to it similar to what she did with the Wreckers. Sort of mellow compared to her earlier stuff. Grade: B+

Mary J. Blige — Strength of a Woman
Mary is an artist that always tells it like it is. On her latest, she talks about her divorce, saying to her ex “There’s a special place in hell for you” on the song “Set Me Free.” Ouch! The album is solid, if a bit on the mellow side. There is one full-on dance song “Find the Love.” And her duet with Prince Charlez (“Smile”) is very nice too. Grade: B+

The Time — Ice Cream Castles
I knew I was going to see this group in concert this past summer, so I bought this album. It contains their 2 biggest hits featured in the movie “Purple Rain” — “The Bird” and “Jungle Love.” It’s pretty slim, only 6 tracks total, and one is basically an extended comedy skit called “Chili Sauce.” The rest are just OK. Grade: C

Big & Rich — Hillbilly Jedi
The country-rock duo delivers a solid set. It recalls some of their earlier work. They may have treaded water some on this, but it is still likable. Special guests include Bon Jovi and Cowboy Troy. Grade: B-

New Kids on the Block — Thankful
This EP was released in advance of their summer tour with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men. Uptempo for the most part, it includes “Still Sounds Good” which is built around a sample of Nena’s “99 Luftballons.” Their vocals still sound good. Grade: B

Brett Eldredge — Brett Eldredge
The 4th studio album from Brett features the lead single “Something I’m Good At.” I like that one, but there are better songs on the rest of the album like “Super Hero” and “Crystal Clear.” Not sure this is the big breakthrough he was hoping for with this album. But overall, I enjoyed it. Grade: B

Maren Morris — Hero
She won a Grammy earlier this year for “My Church.” The rest of the album is just as good as that one. Country, blues, pop and soul are all featured on this album. She has really won me over on this one. I can’t stop listening to it! I highly recommend it! Other hits on here include “80’s Mercedes,” “Rich” and “I Could Use a Love Song.” Grade: A

Rascal Flatts — Back to Us
They are one of the most dependable acts out there. I can’t say I have ever heard a bad album from them. A solid mix of uptempo songs and ballads. Lauren Alaina (from American Idol) duets with them on 1 song. Grade: B

Sam Hunt — Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape
I have to say I hesitated to get this one. But after seeing his fantastic concert this past summer, I had to pick it up. It was released to the public after his breakthrough debut “Montevallo.” So this was recorded before that one, and features a lot of the same songs but in slightly different arrangements. The ones that are NOT on “Montevallo” are the most interesting songs here like “I Met a Girl” and “Saturday Night” (where he even full-on raps). Plus he covers a few of the songs he wrote for other artists like Kenny Chesney and Billy Currington. You can tell he was destined for bigger and better things. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Be sure to look for a fall edition coming soon. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Kool & the Gang in Concert
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Special guests: Morris Day & The Time, Village People

Songs performed: Macho Man, San Francisco (You Got Me)/In Hollywood (Everybody is a Star), In the Navy, Y.M.C.A. (Village People); 1999, Get It Up, Cool, Gigolos Get Lonely Too, The Walk, D.M.S.R., The Bird, Jungle Love (Morris Day & The Time); Fresh, Too Hot, Open Sesame, Jungle Boogie, Hollywood Swingin’, Cherish, Sexy (Where’d You Get Yours), Ladies’ Night, Get Down on It, Celebration (Kool & the Gang)

Comments: Three veteran acts took the stage for an incredible trip down memory lane at the world-famous Hollywood Bowl: Village People, Morris Day & The Time and Kool & the Gang. They had the crowd dancing and singing-along all night long.

First up for the night was Village People. The group came out of the gay discos in the 1970’s and became stars of the era with their catchy singles and distinctive stage costumes. So you have a cowboy, an Indian, a military guy, a leather man, a construction worker and a cop (who is the lead singer). The people behind the characters may have changed (there are only 3 of the original members left in the group), but the songs still hold up. The crowd were on their feet from the beginning. There were even some people dressed in Village People costumes in the audience. I have seen them a few times over the years, and wish I could hear more from them. It would have been cool to hear “Go West” and “Liberation.”

Next up was Morris Day & The Time. They worked with Prince back in the day, and are considered to be some of his protégés. The group and Prince starred in “Purple Rain” as well as “Graffiti Bridge.” The opening video segment was a tribute to Prince, with stills from the movie and pics of Prince and Morris together. The band started playing an instrumental version of “1999” with the crowd singing along. Morris came out of the 2nd number. He brought out his son, Darren Day to sing with him on one song. He did very well, and he was good-looking too. The middle of the set had the band playing “D.M.S.R. (Dance, Music, Sex, Romance) from Prince’s “1999” album. The 2 biggest songs of their set were “The Bird” and “Jungle Love” — both featured in the movie “Purple Rain.” Morris still has some moves. He played the same cocky character as in the movie, with Jerome helping him out with a mirror so he could comb his hair. The band was good, but compared to the other 2 groups in the night, they are lacking in their song catalog.

The final act of the night was Kool & the Gang. The group was founded back in the 1960’s and named after the bassist of the group, Robert “Kool” Bell. We had seen them a few years back as the opening act for Gladys Knight. The group has only 4 of the original members left in the group, but like a lot of older acts, they have added new younger members to the mix. And those guys took the lead on all of the songs except a few of the ones from the 70’s like “Hollywood Swingin”. They stuck to the hits and the crowd loved every minute of it. From the old school funk of “Open Sesame” and “Jungle Boogie” to their more mainstream pop, R&B and disco hits of the 1980’s like “Too Hot” and “Get Down on It.” They were the only group of the night to play a new song — a tune called “Sexy” (which was just OK to me). They were aided by 3 female backup dancers, who added to the fun on a few numbers. “Cherish” was the one that had the people waving their cell phones in the air. And we can’t forget the band’s fantastic horn section, which is up there with those in Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire.

The crowd was definitely grooving on a warm summer night at the Bowl. Thanks to all for a great evening. I haven’t danced that much in a long time!

Sam Hunt: Country Hip-Hop

Sam Hunt in Concert
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Greek Theatre

“15 in a 30” Tour

Special guests: Ryan Follese, Chris Janson and Maren Morris

Songs performed: Wilder, Float Your Boat, Put a Label on It, Lose a Little Sleep, Tonight Tonight (Ryan Follese); Redneck Life, Who’s Your Farmer?, Everybody, I Love This Life, Name on It, Fix a Drink, Holdin’ Her, Truck Yeah, Buy Me a Boat, Ring of Fire (Chris Janson); Sugar, Just Another Thing, How It’s Done, I Could Use a Love Song, Once, 80’s Mercedes, Rich, My Church, Second Wind/Halo (Maren Morris); Leave the Night On, House Party, Raised on It, Saturday Night, Cop Car, I Met a Girl, We Are Tonight, It’s a Great Day to Be Alive, Don’t Rock the Jukebox/Ignition/Come Over, Speakers, Body Like a Back Road, Take Your Time, Ex to See, Make You Miss Me, Break Up in a Small Town/Drinkin’ Too Much

Merchandise purchased: T-shirt

Comments: Sam Hunt headlined the Greek Theater for two nights on his “15 in a 30” Tour. It was the first headlining tour since his broke through with his debut album “Montevallo” — a critical and commercial hit in 2014-15. The crowd was definitely pumped for him, and they proved it by singing along to all of the songs that night (and not just the choruses, but the verses too).

He came on stage around 9:30 PM and played an enthusiastic and engaging 1.5 hour set. He was dressed in a loose-fitting camo shirt, cargo pants, combat boots and baseball cap. Plus he has a neatly trimmed beard too.

When I describe his music to those not familiar with him, I describe it as country hip-hop. Yes, he sings, but at other times, he is more just sing-talking, or even rapping on some numbers. Plus there are some hip-hop flourishes and scratching in the music too.

He is currently riding high with his #1 country hit “Body Like a Back Road.” There is no new album to promote at this point, as he is taking his time with an official follow-up. He did though play some songs from his acoustic mixtape “Between the Pines.” And the crowd ate them up, and gave them just as good of a reaction as the songs off of “Montevallo.”

He started the evening with “Leave the Night On” from that album. He had a very nimble and capable band behind him that was able to recreate the sound of the records. The stage had 3 large horizontal video screens on top, that played background imagery to help accentuate the songs; as well as lots of lights and smoke effects too used throughout the night.

During the middle of the concert, he took time to do an acoustic segment and talk about his influences. He grew up in Georgia. He sites country music, especially Alan Jackson (Don’t Rock the Jukebox); as well as R&B influences like (Juvenile, Usher and R. Kelly). He even sang Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)”. He talked about the power of music, and how the internet has changed everything for the music fan. He did not address the recent incidents in Virginia, but did say that he believes you choose your friends not by the color of your skin, but by the fact that you enjoy spending time with them. And that the younger generation is going to continue to break down more barriers in our society.

Sam also played a few of the songs he wrote for other artists, like Keith Urban (Cop Car), Billy Currington (We Are Tonight) and Kenny Chesney (Come on Over). He told the story of how broke he was and then he sold the song to Billy Currington. And he also said that he married the girl from the song “Cop Car” earlier this year.

He was humbled to be playing such a large venue and recalled when he played the Troubador in Hollywood just a few years ago. Sam is definitely an engaging entertainer. He roamed the stage like a hip hop artist and was bouncing around the it during the uptempo numbers. He did hit a few bum notes, but I credit that with lack of touring and not lack of talent.

The opening acts were all entertaining and got better as the night when on. First up was Ryan Follese. It turns out he is a former pop guy trying his hand at country. He was the lead singer for the pop-punk band Hot Chell Rae. And he even sang their hit “Tonight Tonight” as his final song.

Next up was Chris Janson. He put on a high-energy set that had the crowd on their feet. He is definitely of the “Bro-country” pack… as his songs about tractors, trucks and drinking proved. He is also a good harmonica player. I haven’t seen one around since the days of Blues Traveler. He also had a nice song for his wife and 4 kids. His voice was very strong — I would like to hear more from him. He included the hit he wrote for Tim McGraw — “Truck Yeah.”

And lastly was Grammy-winner — Maren Morris. I first saw her on tour with Keith Urban last fall. And she has only gotten better since then. She was wearing a sexy outfit, with a bare midriff and crop top. She performed hit songs and album cuts from her debut “Hero” (which is very good by the way). That album contains country, blues, rock and pop textures on it. She ended her set with “Second Wind” which she mixed with Beyonce’s “Halo.” She is definitely on her way to great heights.

Thanks to Sam and all of the performers for a fantastic evening at the Greek Theatre.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: