Views on pop culture through my eyes

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.

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Summer Reviews Part 3

It’s that time again for some more entertainment reviews. Part 1 will feature movies and DVDs. Part 2 will feature TV shows and music reviews. Read on for what I have been enjoying (or not) this summer.

Movies

Detroit
The latest movie from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow. This movie tells the true story of the incident at the Algiers Hotel in Detroit during the summer of 1967 — a period of racial unrest and rioting. This is sure to be remembered come Oscar time: writing, directing, and acting. It is sad that given the incidents in VA this past weekend that we have not learned anything in 50 years. I urge everyone to see this! Grade: A

Dunkirk
The latest movie from director Christopher Nolan is about the little known battle of Dunkirk. The Germans trapped 400,00 British and French soldiers on the beach in Dunkirk, France. This is the first movie I have seen this year that will be nominated for an Academy Award. It is that good. You are given different point of views as the action unfolds — on the beach, in a boat, in a war plane. It is very intense and shows the horrific events as they are happening. I can’t recommend it enough! Grade: A

Wonder Woman
The DC Universe finally gets it right! Gal Gadot stars as the title character in this origin story OF Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. The movie is set during World War I, and stars Chris Pine as the long interest. It has some parallels to the First Captain America movie (Set in the past, in love with someone who you can’t grow old with). It has exciting action sequences and an interesting storyline. I enjoyed myself! Grade: A-

Cars 3
The latest from Disney/Pixar brings back racing car Lightning McQueen and some of his friends from Radiator Springs. Lightning is feeling his age and starting to lose some races to a younger faster car. So after a crash, he regroups and begins training to reclaim his former glory. He has a personal trainer named Cruz, a female car who never got the chance to be a racer. One of the funniest parts is when Lightning ends up in a crash derby race. The movie is paired with the Pixar short “Lou” which was very cute and has an anti-bullying message. Grade: B

Despicable Me 3
The third (or 4th movie in the franchise if you count “Minions) brings back lovable former-villain Gru and his family. This time he is after a former-child star who has become a super villain named Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker). He loves 80’s music, clothes and dancing. Gru finds out he has a twin-brother named Dru, who is still a villain. Gru and Dru team up to get back a diamond stolen by Bratt. The Minions want Gru to go back to evil and quit, only to end up in jail. This movie felt very disjointed to me, there are at least 3 story lines vying for your attention. It all seems to be an excuse for more toys and theme park tie-ins. Grade: C+

Spider-Man: Homecoming
The latest Spider-Man movie has Tom Holland taking over the role last played by Andrew Garfield. The subtitle to me was more “The Teen Years” than “Homecoming” unless they we’re going for homecoming dance. This is probably the most light-hearted take on the web-slinger I have seen. It plays like a teen show on the CW. Imagine being a teenager with incredible powers while navigating your high-school years: classes, dances, debate team, fitting in, selfies and more. Michael Keaton plays the villain, Vulture. And Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) is there as his mentor too. Grade: B+

War for the Planet of the Apes
The third in the latest series of Apes movies and supposedly the last. The movie takes place a few years after the last one; Caesar and his band of intelligent apes are living peacefully in the hills. Woody Harrelson stars as the Colonel — The leader of a military group that is hell bent on getting rid of all the apes. What is interesting about this movie is how serious the subject matter is — the perils of war, living with others (in this case apes) who are different than you. You have overtones of the Holocaust, black lives matter, gun violence, family dynamics and political extremes. This is not a forgettable special effects movie. I definitely recommend it. Grade: B+

 

DVDs

The Magnificent Seven
This remake stars Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt in this action western. I would file this in the “unnecessary remake” column. While there is a good cast and some decent action, it doesn’t really add up to much for me. Grade: C-

La La Land
The film that almost won the Best Picture Oscar is a movie you will watch again and again on home video. Come for the romance, the fantastic leads (Ryan Goslin, Emma Stone), great songs and dance sequences — in a movie you won’t forget. Plus they make my home city look awesome! There are hints at a sequel when you rewatch it. Grade: A

Inferno
Tom Hanks stars in the third movie based on the books of Dan Brown (The DaVinci Code). Hanks stars as Professor Robert Langdon. Felicity Jones co-stars. I was entertained by this movie. There are enough twists and turns to make it interesting. Grade: B-

The Light Between Oceans
Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander star in this drama based on the book by M.L. Stedman. The story concerns a young couple who live on a deserted island off the coast of Australia. The husband is a lighthouse keeper. After struggling to have child for several years, a boat washes up on the shore with a dead man and a baby. The couple decides to raise the child as their own, only to have their secret unravel as the truth comes out. Grade: A-

Bridget Jones’ Baby
Reneé Zellwegger is back as the title character in this 2nd sequel to Bridget Jones’ Diary. Love interest Colin Firth is back along with new suitor Patrick Dempsey — one of whom is the father of Bridget’s baby. This was a likable movie, and I had a few laughs. Grade: B

Queen of Katwe
This fact-based movie tells the story of Phiona — a young Ugandan girl who becomes a chess champion. Of course there are troubles along the way with her family. David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o are the girl’s mentor and mother respectively. I liked this movie, but found it a little dull too. Chess is not that exciting of a game. Grade: B-

Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford directed and wrote the screenplay for this dark and engaging movie. It concerns a woman (Amy Adams) who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). She starts reading the book and gets wrapped up in the story that is told — of a family that experiences a terrifying act of road rage. The husband in the book story is also played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Aaron Taylor-Johnson plays one of the bad guys in the book story, and Michael Shannon (in his Oscar-nominated role) stars as a police detective in the book story too. This is one of the best movies I have seen in the past year. It is very intense and disturbing at times. It is highly recommended. Grade: A

Celine Dion “Taking Chances World Tour — The Concert”
This is the video for Celine’s last world tour between her 2 Vegas residencies. It is filmed in Boston. It is a good show, but my main criticism of this is the sound mix. You barely hear the crowd in the show and you half-way feel like you are listening to a studio recording when you listen to the CD that comes with it. I am ready for her to retire “My Heart Will Go On.” Grade: B-

Beyoncé “I Am… Yours: An Intimate Performance at the Wynn Las Vegas”
This is Queen Bey at the top of her game. Filmed back in 2009, this up close and personal show, was shown in an edited form on broadcast TV. The first half is her unplugged and the second half is with the full band. She puts on a high-energy show and you feel the excitement in the room when you play it. Includes 2 audio CDs too. I loved it! Grade: A+

Allied
Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard star is this war-time set movie. The stars play spies from different countries who fall in love and get married. Then the husband gets informed that his wife may be a secret spy for the Germans. I was bored with this movie. The stars try, but the script lets them down. Grade:C-

The Accountant
Ben Affleck stars as an accountant who is also a hitman with OCD. There are some great action sequences, as well as flashbacks to his life growing up (and why he is like he is). But it started to fall apart for me in the last third of the movie. They set up an interesting story but didn’t really know how to resolve it. Grade: B-

Patriot’s Day
Inspired by true events, this movie tells the story of the bombing of the Boston Marathon from a few years ago. Mark Wahlberg stars as a police officer who gets entangled with the events. He was there when it happened and helped the victims as well as helped to bring the brothers down. It includes footage at the end of real survivors from the event. Grade: A-

Stay tuned for the next installment that will feature TV and music reviews. 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.

Now that it has been announced that American Idol is returning to TV, it got me thinking about what needs to be done to keep the show going. After a 15-season run on Fox, the show is coming to ABC for the 2017-18 TV season. That was a short break! The last episode aired on Fox on April 7, 2016. When it went off the air, and Ryan Seacrest said goodbye “for now” — I was predicting that it would be back in 5 years. So it is definitely coming back sooner than I thought it would. But it is a successful format, and it was still a Top 20 show, even if wasn’t making the headlines or the stars it once was.

0502-american-idol-logo-4

One of my suggestions was going to be to put the emphasis back on the contestants. You have to remember that when the show first came on, Paula Abdul was the only famous judge. And she was considered a has-been at that point. But ABC has already announced that Katy Perry has been hired as one of the judges, so much for that! I heard they wanted former contestants like Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson to be on the panel, but they are signed to The Voice as mentors. Chris Daughtry is one of the rumored judges also, but has not been confirmed yet. Ryan Seacrest is also confirmed to be coming back as host.

So here are my suggestions for the 16th season of American Idol:

  1. Get rid of the delusional contestants. It is one thing to have a good singer who blows the audition because of nerves. Or to be a good singer, but pick the wrong song to sing. It is another to have someone who has no talent take up valuable screen time like William Hung.
  2. Bring back the theme weeks of the early years. When you think back to the early years, years 1-4, the singers had to be versatile in a number of different styles and genres. Yes, it takes you out of your comfort zone. But for me, this really shows who the great singers are. Think of Kelly Clarkson doing Bette Midler or Carrie Underwood doing Heart. Those were star-making moments of the show.
  3. Connect the singers with some top songwriters. I want them to be able to write their own songs. If they could have Diane Warren or Justin Tranter give the contestants some help with songwriting that would be awesome. Imagine if the winner actually gets to sing his/her own coronation song. That would be great.
  4. Contestants can only go forward to Hollywood Week if it is a unanimous decision amongst the judges. None of this, 2 out of 3 saying yes and the person going through. There is a strong reason why that 1 person said No… and viewers at home probably agree with it.
  5. Be able to vote easily for up to 5 days after the original broadcast. Last time they let you vote on Google, which was cool. Plus voting by text and phone too. But most people watch shows at different times now. So those people should be able to vote on the results also.
  6. Bring back the results shows! I guess I was only one of the people that liked them. But I like the big group numbers and the duos and trios too. Half an hour would be fine.
  7. Get rid of the Ford commercials. You know those commercials that look like music videos with the contestants in them — but they are just ads for cars? I can’t say I would miss them.
  8. Bring back the Wild Card round. That was the round that brought Clay Aiken back to the competition after being cut. Someone good might have slipped through the cracks, and you would be giving them another chance to shine.
  9. Make sharing easy for each of the contestant’s performances. They should have a share button for Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc. The number of times a contestant is liked and shared should be counted in the contestant’s total for the week.

So those are my recommendations. What do think American Idol 2.0 is going to be like? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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.

Pentatonix in Concert
Monday, July 3, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Pentatonix-Bowl

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins conductor

Special guest: US Air Force Band of the Golden West

Songs performed: Sing, Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love, Imagine, Take on Me, Hallelujah, Coldest Winter, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson medley, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Bohemian Rhapsody

Comments: Pentatonix, the a capella phenomenon, headlined 3 concerts at the Hollywood Bowl for their July 4th Fireworks Spectacular. I first became familiar with the group on the show “The Sing-Off” back in 2011. This was a reality competition for a capella singing groups. They won that season and have gone on to win 3 Grammys and sell out shows around the world.

I first saw the group in concert when they opened for Kelly Clarkson on her “Piece by Piece” tour in 2015. They also performed with her during the show also. They won the crowd over then, I knew they were on their way to being headliners.

The first part of the evening was just the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the conduction of Thomas Wilkins. They played a few numbers including “Yoda’s Theme” from “Star Wars” as well as the yearly salute to all the military branches. This the time when service members are encouraged to stand up and be acknowledged when their theme is played.

After a brief intermission, the Orchestra was joined by Pentatonix. Normally Pentatonix do all their shows with just them creating all the sounds. So it was a little different for them and for us — but in a good way. They did do the second song of the night, a capella — just to show the crowd what they can do. Their sound is so full, because they imitate the sounds of instruments with their vocals.

The show started with their original song “Sing” off their self-titled album. But the majority of the show was their interpretations of songs by other artists including those featured on their latest EP — “PTX, Vol. IV — Classics.”

That EP has their take on songs from Elvis, a-ha, the Andrew Sisters, John Lennon, Queen and more. They also performed their medleys of songs from Daft Punk and Michael Jackson as well. One of the more memorable numbers was a pop-operatic number sung entirely in Italian. We also got to hear Avi’s awesome bass vocals. Too bad he is leaving the group after this tour.

After “Take on Me,” the group exited the stage to make way for the fireworks. So the Orchestra was joined by the Air Force Band of the Golden West in a medley of patriotic tunes as fireworks exploded over the Bowl.

The group did come back after the fireworks for the finale of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was a rousing finale to another fun summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Thanks to Scott, Mitch, Kirstin, Avi and Kevin for an awesome show. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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.

Jason Mraz in Concert
Friday, June 23, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Birthday Celebration and Concert

jasonMrazSongs Performed: Let’s See What The Night Can Do, Make It Mine, The Remedy (I Won’t Worry), Common Pleasure, A Beautiful Mess, So You Think You Can Dance, Chocolate, Coming Undone, Try, Lucky, I Take the Music, I’m Yours/Three Little Birds, Details in the Fabric, You Do You, and I’ll Do Me, Browntown, Unfold, Might As Well Dance, Butterfly, You Matter To Me, Long Drive, 3 Things, Rise, Love Someone, Shine, 93 Million Miles/The Galaxy Song, I Won’t Give Up, Love Is Still the Answer

Comments: Jason Mraz celebrated his 40th birthday with a party and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. He first gained prominence with his debut album “Waiting for My Rocket to Come” back in 2002. Since then, he has released 5 studio albums, and a few live albums also. He has done world tours and played with top musicians. His most recent album was 2014’s “Yes!”.

I think it is pretty cool that an artist can celebrate their birthday at the Bowl. He had a party atmosphere going on with a carnival theme. There was a bounce house for the kids outside the venue; then inside there was a man on stilts and a juggler to greet you. As well as carnival games where you throw balls and swing the hammer. Jason came on stage and greeted the guests at 7:00 PM. He said how grateful he was for people coming out to celebrate with him. His friend took over and roamed the crowd (from the front to the back) getting people excited and interacting with them. Along the way, he made a few balloon animals too.

The show started at 7:30 PM, with Jason and his Superband taking the stage. His Superband included about 15 members including a horn section, a sitar player and a female trio called Raising Jane with whom he worked on “Yes!”. The show consisted of mainly tracks from his third and fifth albums. He did sing his breakthrough song “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” early in the show in a new reggae-tinged arrangement. His second album was completely ignored.

What you did get from Jason was a 3.5 hour show that consists of hits, album tracks, new songs and covers too. He had a great band — half of which was female. He had some inspired guest stars too. He brought out Colbie Caillat to sing with him on her song “Try” as well as on Jason’s song “Lucky” (which she appeared on the recorded version of). He brought out Sara Bareilles to sing “Long Drive” from the Broadway show “Waitress.” Both ladies were well chosen as they are female equivalents of his.

Though his most recent album “Yes!” wasn’t my favorite, I still believe in his artistry. In this day of corporate song-writing and cookie cutter artists, he stands out. He is someone who believes in love and in helping the planet. I have to admit I liked the songs from “Yes!” better in their live versions than on the album especially “Shine.”

During the middle of the show, he and his band played songs through the intermission — with instrumental versions of a few songs. I was glad that I could finally get to see Jason live. I had him on my list of artists yet to see. I would have liked some more of the earlier songs for sure, but I still feel that he put on a great show. His voice is very strong, and he is a good songwriter. I look forward to what he does in the future.

For the encore, he sang “I Won’t Give Up” (one of his best in my opinion) backed by a youth choir from a local school. The song describes the positive attitude and can-do optimism that we need more of in the world today. Thanks to Jason and his Superband for a memorable and entertaining evening.

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.

Lady Antebellum in Concert
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Special guests: Brett Young, Kelsea Ballerini

“You Look Good” World Tour

Merchandise purchased: T-shirt

Songs performed: Downtown , Our Kind of Love, This City, Dancin’ Away with my Heart, Heart Break, Compass, We Owned the Night, American Honey, I Run to You, Good Time to Be Alive, Thy Will, Hello World,You’re Still the One, Just a Kiss, You Look Good, Lookin’ for a Good Time, Something Like That,Crazy in Love,Love Don’t Live Here, Bartender, Need You Now, Allman Bros. cover songIMG_1239

Comments: Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum brought their trademark sound to the Hollywood Bowl last weekend. The “You Look Good” World Tour is in support of their new album “Heart Break” that is due to be released on June 9. The group is composed of Hillary Scott (lead vocals), Charles Kelley (lead vocals) and Dave Haywood (backing vocals, guitar, piano, mandolin). The group was formed back in 2006 in Nashville.

In 2016, the group took on various solo projects including Charles’ solo album “The Driver” and Hillary’s solo album (with the Scott Family) “Love Remains.” The new album is the group’s first since 2014’s “747.”

I have been a big fan of this group since the beginning. I saw them back in 2009 as an opening act for Keith Urban. They were a last-minute replacement for Sugarland, who had to cancel due to illness. I was happy with the change.

After the 2 opening acts, popular dance songs from Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Salt N Pepa and Justin Timberlake among others were played. People were shown on the big screens dancing in the audience. It all served as a warm-up to the headliners. In their Hollywood Bowl debut, the group delivered and then some. You got the big hits and album tracks, plus a few surprises too.

The show started with “Downtown” from their “Golden” album. For this tour, the band has added a horn section including a trumpet and a trombone. The horn players were the first band members seen and heard before the group made their entrance at the back of the stage in separate lighted rectangular boxes.

The stage set-up had a large video screen and panels of lights that moved around during the show. They have definitely upped their production values for this tour, which includes stops in Europe and South Africa too. The band utilized the ring around the front seats several times in the night. Charles also made his way out into the audience too for one number. (No where close to me, oh well!)

The 2 trademarks of the group were on full display: the harmonies/vocals plus their hit-making songwriting. This group has 2 excellent vocalists in Hillary and Charles. What is interesting is how often they are flirting with each other in song, and they are both married to other people.

The group did a little unplugged segment in the middle of the show including one of the songs from Hillary’s faith-based solo album, a track called “Thy Will.” No songs from Charles’ album. They also sang Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” during the unplugged segment.

For “You Look Good,” they brought out a full horn section to back them up. Is it country? Not sure, it is a very funky horn-filled number. So there were trumpets, trombones, sax, tuba, French horn and more. The show was a good mix of songs from their six studio albums. They are in the enviable position of having too many good songs to fit in one show. I would have liked to have heard more from the “747” album, but that was featured on the last tour.

There were some inspired cover songs during the last few numbers: “Something Like That” had Charles and Brett Young singing on a song originally performed by Tim McGraw. Then for “Crazy in Love,” you had Kelsea Ballerini and Hillary singing on the Beyoncé classic. It was one of the highlights of the night and there were many that night.

Southern California native Brett Young opened the show. He was wearing a gold Laker’s jersey that showed off his tanned and tattooed arms. The crowd responded well to his short set which included the current #1 country song “In Case You Didn’t Know.” For me, he is another good-looking, but forgettable, country boy in a crowded market.

The second opening act was Kelsea Ballerini. She has broken through in the last year or so on the strength of her debut album “The First Time.” She was also nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2017. She is filling the role of the country-pop female that was left by Taylor Swift. She debuted some new songs from her 2nd album that she is currently working on. She has a nice voice and a good personality. I can see her going further.

Thanks to Hillary, Charles and Dave for a great evening of music and artistry. I look forward to many more years of Lady Antebellum. I waited 8 years to see them in concert — and it was definitely worth the wait.

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 Reviews Part 2

So what CDs and DVDs am I enjoying this summer? Read on…

Music

Jason Mraz — Yes!
Jason continues to mine the adult contemporary terrain of “I’m Yours.” Honestly, I have heard it about 5 times through, and nothing is sticking to me. What happened to the guy who did fun up-tempo songs like “The Remedy”? Time to mix it up, Jason. Grade: D

Ed Sheeran — + (plus)
I fell in love with him on his second album. So now it is time that I checked out his debut album. You have the hits: The A Team and Lego House. Plus a good collection of tunes that show he is someone to watch out for. Interestingly, radio just played the folk songs, while he has some nice uptempo/hip-hop inspired ones. Grade: B+

Celine Dion — Loved Me Back to Life
Celine’s most recent pop album and her first since “Taking Chances.” It is definitely growing on me. You have pop, uptempo songs, ballads and a few cover songs. Special guests include Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder. She’s been better, but I still like it. Grade: B-

Mary J. Blige — The London Sessions
Mary J. went to London to record this album which pairs her with Sam Smith, Disclosure and more. So you have some dance textures on here. An interesting diversion, but I liked the previous album “My Life II” much more. Grade: B

Pentatonix — PTX, Vol. IV: Classics
The latest EP from the a capella 5-some has them covering songs by Queen, a-ha, Dolly Parton (who guests on here) and more. It is still amazing that they can create such full arrangements with just their voices. Grade: A-

Beauty and the Beast — Soundtrack
The soundtrack to the latest Disney smash movie includes all your favorites from the film including “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” “Gaston” and the title track. Includes bonus songs from Celine Dion, Ariana Grande & John Legend and Josh Groban. Grade: A-

Kelsea Ballerini — The First Time
The debut album from the up and coming country/pop singer. Features the hit songs: “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Peter Pan.” She reminds me a bit of Taylor Swift. She’s definitely someone to watch out for. She is on the road with Lady Antebellum this summer: Grade: A-

Brett Eldredge — Bring You Back
I became a fan of this man on his second album “Illinois.” This is his first one. The vocals are what stand out for me, even if the songs are not as strong as what he has on his second album. I definitely sensed potential, even if it was not all there. Grade: B-

Blondie — Blondie 4(0)Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download
Ground-breaking new-wave group Blondie is back for their 40th anniversary. The first half is re-recorded versions of their biggest hits. The second half is all-new songs. Honestly I wish I just could have bought the 2nd half, since I have several greatest hits collections from them already. The new versions bring nothing new to the equation. The second half has Blondie trying on dance and latin textures. Includes their take on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” Grade: B-

Josh Turner — Deep South
The deep-voiced singer country singer is back with an all-new collection. Highlights include the title track and “All About You.” He has a few beach inspired tunes on this. Not too much different from his other albums. It is a solid collection. Grade: B

Natasha Bedingfield — Strip Me
I was a fan of this singer’s first 2 albums, and am finally getting around to this one. It came out 7 years ago, and it bombed. It shouldn’t have. She has dance, rock, ballads, and alternative music on here. Plus there are some unplugged versions and videos on the deluxe version. Still hoping she comes out with a new album. Grade: A-

Videos

Sing Street
What a pleasant surprise this movie is! A teenage boy falls for an older woman and makes up a lie about being in a band and needing an actress for his music video. This romantic comedy set in Ireland in the 80’s has a great soundtrack, so you get Duran Duran and Hall & Oates. Plus the band that he starts with a few other misfits from school, ends up being pretty good with some catchy songs of their own. You’ll enjoy yourself. Grade: A-

Sully
Ton Hanks stars as the title character “Sully” Sullenberg who landed an airliner on the Hudson river. It is based on Sullenberg’s autobiography and directed by Clint Eastwood. Did he know what he was doing? Did he make the right choice? How did he handle being labeled a hero? Aaron Eckhart costars as the copilot. Grade: B

Southside with You
Otherwise known as the Michelle and Barack Obama date movie. This is the story of the first date between Michelle and Barack Obama in the southside of Chicago. They went to an art museum, and then to a rally at a black church. You could see the sparks flying between them. Grade: B+

Denial
The true story of a Holocaust denier taking a writer to court in England for slander. She was someone who called him out for what he was doing. Yet he had the nerve to try and sue her for slander. Could she prove that the Holocaust really existed? Or would she let the whole Jewish race down? Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. Grade: A-

Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton directs this dark fantasy film based on book by Ransom Riggs. Eva Green stars as the title character. Jake is a teenager who travels to Wales to investigate the school that his grandfather went to. It is the school mentioned in the title. So you have a floating girl, a boy with bees, masked twins, and an invisible boy among others. The movie reminded me of other ones. You take parts of X-Men, Harry Potter and other fantasy films and you have this one. But I still enjoyed myself. Grade: B

Suicide Squad
The 3rd movie in Warner Brother’s DC Universe, brings together a bunch of villians who are tasked with saving the world because no one else can. So you have Dead Shot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and a number of other villians you have never heard of. You have the Joker too, but his story line is pretty much about him getting back with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Again, I think special effects over shadowed the story in this one. It is a pretty forgettable movie. Grade: D

So that’s my take. If you agree or disagree with any of my comments, I would love to hear from you.

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.

Pride Protest 2017

This June in West Hollywood, there will be no LGBT Pride Parade. Instead there will be a march entitled — #Resist March. This will coincide with the National Equality March in Washington, DC. It will also be the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.resist-la-pride-750x563

I am happy to hear that LA Pride organizers (Christopher Street West) are doing this event at this time. I love Pride… I have been going to the festivals and the parades for over 30 years now. The last year at the Pride Festival was not so cool for us. It was expensive, and there was not much happening other than food, drinks and entertainment. In past years, there was plenty of community organizations and small business vendors. At today’s pride, those things are gone and replaced with more ways to get drunk and party.

The parade too has changed. There used to be more smaller groups too, and not so many corporations. But I always enjoy the men in Speedos and the leather guys in ass-less chaps. But it’s OK to be missing this — this time. There are more important things going on in the world.

Here are the reasons that I am marching this year:

  1. To send a message to Donald Trump. Still hard to believe that this evil, small-minded man is the President. LGBT people don’t seem to fit in his vision of “Making America Great Again.”
  2. To remember those friends that we have lost to AIDS and those elders that came before us in the fight for gay rights.
  3. To protect marriage equality. My partner and I finally got married on August 27, 2016. It was one of the happiest days of our lives. I want to make sure that the government cannot take that away.
  4. To protect and encourage healthcare for all. Everyone regardless of income, race, or religion should have access to quality and affordable healthcare. Republicans don’t seem to think this way… their idea is to just not get sick!
  5. To protect freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. We all have the right to worship as we want (Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.). But I don’t want religion in my politics!
  6. For our youth. I want to live in a world where people can love and marry who they want, dress how they want, and worship (or not) how they want to. I want a world of diversity.
  7. For the women in the world. It is about time that women make the same as a man for doing the same job. I believe in equal pay for women and in funding for reproductive health.
  8. For the planet. I believe in science and global warming. It is very scary that our leaders do not, and want to get rid of anything good that Obama did regarding cutting emissions.
  9. For the world. To let people in other countries know that we will not sit idly by why a fool ruins our country and world. We are fed up and we are going to keep our resistance up.
  10. Because Black Lives Matter. This doesn’t get said enough. I worry that my African-American husband will go out to the store, and not return. Just because he encountered a trigger-happy racist on his trip.

For all these reasons and more, I will be marching on Sunday, June 11, 2017. And yes, the KiltMan will be rocking the kilt while he protests. I encourage you to get involved, stand up and let your voices be heard. We will NOT be silent and we are not going away.

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 Reviews Part 1

Time for some more entertainment reviews. The first part will feature reviews of movies (some now on video and others still in theaters). The second will feature reviews of CDs and DVDs.

Movies

Kong Skull Island
The latest King Kong movie takes a different approach to the story. So you see Kong in his natural habitat on a just-found island — Skull Island. For some reason the filmmakers chose to place the story in the past, around the end of the Vietnam War. Tom Hiddleston stars as a mercenary for hire. Brie Larson is a photographer. Samuel Jackson is one of the generals who is leading the trip to the island. Besides Kong, there are a lot of weird and large creatures on the island. So you get to see plenty of fights between humans and the creatures, as well as the creatures themselves. Overall, I wasn‘t much for this movie. I say to wait for video. It is just a step above a movie on the SyFy channel. Grade: C+

Get Out
Written and directed by Jordan Peele of Key & Peele fame. This movie concerns Chris, a black man, going with his white girlfriend to meet her family at their home. Chris starts to feel that something is off in this town and with the black people in it. Are the townspeople as accepting as they claim to be? Did Chris get hypnotized by his girlfriend’s mother? Honestly I don’t know what to make of this movie. It is in a genre I am not a fan of (horror) and it is deals with racism and classism in today’s world. What statement was Peele trying to make? I feel a bit lost on it. Not sure how to grade it, since it was not something I would normally see. Grade: C

Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s latest reworking of movies from their film catalog is the live-action version of the classic “Beauty and the Beast.” I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you loved the original, and the Broadway show, you will love this one too. Emma Watson is winning as Belle. The whole cast is fantastic. The costumes and production design are both terrific. And who can forget all the excellent songs too. I highly recommend it! Grade: A

Logan
The last and final Wolverine movie, at least starring Hugh Jackman. He’s old and broken down, and so is Professor X too. Logan gets contacted by a woman who wants him to take her daughter to a place called “Eden.” It seems the young girl has some special powers just like he does. A huge improvement over the last stand-alone Wolverine movie. They went for a R rating, and it is very violent at times. Parts of it seem inspired by the last Mad Max movie. I liked it. There are some exciting action sequences. Grade: B

The Fate of the Furious
The latest (8th film) in the long-running franchise brings back all the characters we love including Dom, Letty, Hobbs and more. The story seems besides the point in these movies. The action takes place in Cuba, New York, and Russia. Charlize Theron plays a woman named Cipher who blackmails Dom into doing some of her dirty work. You get computer controlled cars falling from buildings in NYC and a Russian sub sending missiles across an icy frozen lake in Russia. Don’t be worried, the principals will all be back to drive another day. Grade: B-

The Circle
This timely movie stars Emma Watson as a new employee at a company called “The Circle” — sort of an internet giant like Google or Facebook. How much of our lives are we sharing or not sharing? Is life better because we are on there? Has technology brought us closer or torn us apart? Tom Hanks costars as the head of “The Circle.” Has big brother made us all safer? It is good to see an intelligent movie, that raises questions about internet privacy and social media. Grade: B

The Lost City of Z
Charlie Hunnam stars as Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who was determined to find a lost city of Zedd in the Amazonian jungle in the early 20th century. Also starring Robert Pattison (Twilight) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming). This true-life tale details the trials and tribulations that befell the explorer during his multiple trips to the region. Grade: B+

Saturday Night Fever (40th Anniversary Director’s Cut)
Back in selected theaters for it’s 40th anniversary is the movie that made John Travolta a star and cemented the impact of disco during the late 70’s. The soundtrack album featuring music by the Bee Gees as well as others won the Grammy for Album of the Year. It was interesting to see again after all this time. The basic story about Tony growing up and trying to make his way in the world (through his dancing) still holds up. I didn’t remember that it was homophobic, sexist and a bit racist too. The dance sequences are as memorable as you remember them. Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The first movie was a surprise smash. While I like this movie, it was neither as fresh or as fun as the first one. And that’s too bad. Because the Guardians themselves are at their best when they are together, and unfortunately they spend a good deal of time apart in the latest movie. Kurt Russell costars as Star-Lord’s Dad, Ego. Special effects are more important than heart and jokes in this one. Hopefully the ship will be course corrected for the third one. Grade: B-

Alien: Convenant
The latest in the “Alien” franchise brings back director Ridley Scott and is considered a sequel to 2012’s “Prometheus.” Michael Fassbender stars in 2 roles —both as androids. On a journey to a new planet to settle a colony, the crew has to make a side trip to a new found planet to see if it is inhabitable. Everything looks great until some of the crew start getting sick. You get the thrills and chills you want to see. It is the best “Alien” movie since the 3rd one in my opinion. Grade: A-

Baywatch
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in the latest TV show to big screen update for the campy 90’s show “Baywatch.” This is one of the lamest movies I have seen in a long time. I got a couple of laughs, but too many of them just fall flat. The makers have gone for raunchy action comedy, with lots of f-bombs and dirty jokes. I definitely cannot recommend this one. Grade: D

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 2. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

IMG_0944Thanks for being a part of this journey for me. I have been writing this blog for 6 years now. In that time, I have written 253 blog posts. They have been seen all around the world, from the United Kingdom to France — all the way to Ecuador. In total, over 50 different countries have visited my blog. That is definitely something to celebrate.

The past year has been an interesting one for me. I have experienced incredible highs — like getting married to my partner. And experienced some lows too having lost my Mom this past year. Then add on all the craziness in the world with all the violence, poverty, and the era of a reality TV president. Life can be overwhelming sometimes. I hope my writing shows that I love life, and want to inspire people to live their lives openly and honestly.

So here are a few of the highlights from the last year. Hard to believe it is almost a year since the massacre in Orlando. The world seems crazier than ever at this point. LGBT rights are still under fire from people who would love to get rid of all of us, and take back marriage equality. So I am glad to see there is a #Resist March happening in early June across the country.

Real men still wear Speedos. I am happy to see a new company called Sluggers out of Australia making some waves in America. I had to ask the question “Are You a Speedo Guy?”. It is time that guys have some option other than boring board shorts.

I got to go to some fun concerts in the past year. I hope I was able to share that joy with my readers. Everything from the triumphant returns of the Dixie Chicks and Gwen Stefani to Boyz II Men and Keith Urban. Plus I even wondered what shows from the past I would have gone to also.

Family played a big part in the past year too. My Dad celebrated his 90th birthday and had a big party in his honor. We also paid tribute to my Mom who passed away after a long illness last fall. I think both of my parents for all their love and support through the years.

I asked the question “Can we be objective” when it comes to arts and entertainment? So much of what we like or don’t like is influenced by our past experiences. I have often said I liked something only because I liked a person’s previous movie, album, etc.

Those are just a few of the highlights for the past year. Thanks for reading. I look forward to many more years of the “Kilt Man” blog.

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.

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