Views on pop culture through my eyes

Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Idina Menzel Soars at the Greek

Idina Menzel in Concert
Friday, April 14, 2017
Greek Theatre

Idina. World Tour 2017

Songs performed: Queen of Swords, Small World, Seasons of Love, Don’t Rain on My Parade, The Way We Were, Everybody Knows, Cake, Black Dog, I’m Not That Girl, Perfect Story, Wind Beneath My Wings, Defying Gravity, I Do, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Rock Steady, No Day But Today, Dear Prudence, Do You Want to Build A Snowman?, For Good, Let It Go, I’ll Be Seeing You, I See You

Idina-MenzelComments: Idina Menzel, star of stage and screen, opened the 2017 season at the Greek Theatre. It was the latest stop on her “Idina.” World Tour.

I knew Idina from her Broadway shows — Rent and Wicked. Plus, of course, her work on Disney’s “Frozen.” Not to mention her turn on Fox’s “Glee” and the remake of “Beaches” from earlier this year. So yes, I am familiar with her powerhouse vocals. Plus her acting chops too. Her recent pop albums though, never heard anything from them.

The show started around 8:40 PM with Idina and her band playing “Queen of Swords” from her recent album “Idina.” Idina even played banged on some drums during one of the instrumental breaks of the song.

Her star-making roles in “Rent” and “Wicked” provided some of the highlights of the night. “Seasons of Love” was performed in a more upbeat version than the original, and the audience was encouraged to sing along. “No Day But Today” was also an audience participation number about the importance of living life and not taking anything for granted.

The numbers from “Wicked” she sang were “Defying Gravity,” “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good” (which she sang a capella). And yes, she can hit those high notes on “Defying Gravity.” I saw “Wicked” in Dallas last year, and my thought was the woman playing Elphaba was not as good as Idina (but who is?).

She paid tribute to various artists throughout the night with inspired cover versions: Barbra Streisand (“Don’t Rain on My Parade”/”The Way We Were”), Aretha Franklin (“Rock Steady”), Bette Midler (“Wind Beneath My Wings”), Simon and Garfunkel (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”), the Beatles (“Dear Prudence”) and even Led Zeppelin (“Black Dog” during the middle part of the new song “Cake”).

Idina shared that she is in love, and that she is going to be getting married soon. The new song “Cake” is for her fiancé. The chorus goes “One man’s poison is another man’s cake.” What does that say about Taye Diggs — Her first husband and the father of her child?

Idina acknowledged how she can be a contradiction. She knows she has a lot of young fans from “Wicked” and “Frozen.” But then again, she is a Jewish girl from NY whose middle-aged gay fans want to see her be the “sassy diva” and drop a few f-bombs. Which she did a few times during the night.

The stage was sort of simple, with a staircase near the back of the stage. Plus curtains with lights and videos screens on the back too. She had air blowing on her for “Wind Beneath My Wings” with a flying shawl around her (which she later ripped up during another number). She joked how things were lo-tech. Like how she had to move her stool around the stage, how it didn’t ascend through the floor or come down from the ceiling and fly around like some other divas.

She came across as very relatable and friendly. During “Let It Go,” she invited young kids to come up on stage with her and sing the song — mostly girls, but a couple of boys too. Some of the kids were very shy and didn’t want to sing. She dismissed the kids before the end of the song, as she had yet to hit the high notes that the song requires.

The new songs were all enjoyable. “Cake” had a bit of reggae rock vibe. While “Everybody Knows” was a dance song. The closing song for the night was “I See You” (another new song) which she dedicated to her fans (with images from them playing on the screens behind her).

Her band was compromised of top-notch musicians, and included a cellist and a violinist too. They were all given time to shine, including her backing vocalist (who helped out on “Rock Steady”).

Thanks to Idina and her band for a great time. She is a classy lady with a big voice — ready and willing to take on a movie role, a lead in a Broadway musical or just performing as her fun, lovable self for an adoring crowd.

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.

Spring Reviews Part 2

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. Part 1 concentrated on music. Part 2 includes movies, DVDs and TV shows. What have I been watching recently? Read on.

Movies

Hidden Figures
This is the untold story of the women who were behind the NASA astronauts launch into space. It follows 3 African American women who were human computers. They were good at math, and were instrumental in the success of the space program. It is a very inspiring story. Go see it. Grade: A

Elle
Isabelle Huppert plays the title character. She won a Golden Globe for it (plus got nominated for an Oscar). She is good, but the movie itself is not that great. A schlocky tale of a woman who is raped by someone she knows, and acts almost as if nothing happened. Plus trying to figure out who raped her when she isn’t dealing with her job, her family, her ex and current lover. In French, with subtitles. Grade: C+

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Vin Diesel returns as the title character in this action sequel. Xander is a secret agent, who favors extreme sports and unconventional methods of working. The movie has plenty of action: car chases, shoot outs, brawls, even motorcycles on the water. Not much difference between this and the Fast and Furious franchise at this point. So you get a multicultural cast, exotic locales, and sex appeal. I enjoyed it for what it was. A good popcorn movie. Grade: B-

Loving
“Loving” is the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who challenged the laws against interracial marriage in VA. Interesting and moving story with good performances. Grade: A-

Fences
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this film adaptation of the August Wilson play. It concerns a working class garbage man who is married with children. He is not an easy man to love or get along with. He treats those around him at arm’s length. The performances are great, even if at times it feels like a filmed play (which it is). Grade: A-

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson directs and Andrew Garfield stars in this true-life tale of Desmond Doss. He is a conscientious objector during WWII, and serves as a medic during the battle at Hacksaw Ridge. He wants to serve, but will not carry a gun. The first half has Desmond in training and falling in love, the second part is on the battlefield where he saved 75 men. The movie is nominated for best actor, director and picture. It’s an old-fashioned war movie, that reminds us that hero’s come in all types of shapes and sizes. Grade: B+

Jackie
Natalie Portman stars as first lady Jackie Kennedy in this biopic. It follows Jackie during the week after her husband is assassinated. How do you compose yourself after experiencing something so tragic and so public? How do you move forward? I am surprised that this did not get a Best Picture nomination. Her performance may earn her the Best Actress award. Go see it. Grade: A

DVDs

The Purge: Election Year
The third movie in the “Purge” series. It fairs better than the second one, but it is still not as good as the first one. It concerns protecting a presidential candidate who wants to get rid of the annual Purge (the night where all crime including murder is legal). Grade: C+

The Lobster
Colin Farrell stars in this very strange, and at times, disturbing movie. In the not so distant future, everyone must be mated. If you are without a mate, you are turned into an animal. The title comes from the animal that Farrell’s character picks to turn into. At first, he is in some sort of government facility. Then he escapes and ends up in the woods. The first part of the movie I liked, the second half just got very weird and violent. Grade: C

Captain Fantastic
Viggo Mortensen (in his Oscar-nominated performance) stars as a father who is raising his brood of 6 kids off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. The family has to go out into the real world after a family tragedy. This movie raises a number of questions: what constitutes family? What is the best way to raise your kids? There are a few comedic moments in this movie. It becomes a bit of a road trip/fish out of water tale as the family leaves the forest for the city. I enjoyed it. Grade: A-

Ghostbusters
Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig headline the cast of this all-female reboot. The cast is game, too bad they spent more on special effects than they did on jokes. The script and the director definitely let the ladies down. Includes guest appearances from the original stars too. Grade: C

Mechanic Resurrection
Jason Statham returns as the hitman for hire. Jessica Alba costars as his love interest. Jason must get back in the game and perform 3 hits before he can get out of the business and get his life back. Pretty forgettable movie, though I did like the one scene with the pool on the high-rise. Grade: C-

 

TV

Beaches
Another unnecessary remake. I liked it, but the original was better. The original movie has a special place in my heart. It was the movie Rasheed and I saw on our 2nd date. I even have a VHS copy of it. Grade: C+

Riverdale
I enjoyed “Riverdale” on the CW last week. An update of the Archie comics, the show played like a mix of 90210, Gossip Girl and a bit of Twin Peaks. It will be interesting to see how the season progresses. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

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.

Spring Reviews Part 1

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. What have I been listening to and watching recently? Read on.

CDs

Basia “It’s That Girl Again” Back from her 90’s hey day, comes Basia. The only latin pop contemporary jazz artist to come from Poland that I know of! She doesn’t mess with her formula too much, which is a good thing. It was good hear from an old friend again. Grade: B+

Kenny Chesney “Hemingway’s Whiskey” Kenny is a very consistent performer for me. He’s got his successful formula, and he is good at it. So you get the party songs along with some ballads thrown in and some island references too. Includes his duet with Grace Potter on “You and Tequila.” Grade: B

Miranda Lambert “The Weight of These Wings” This is her first project since her public split from Blake Shelton. It is a double album, that is one of her most personal. It doesn’t really have a good radio single from it, but there is still plenty to like. It gets better with each listen. Grade: A-

Kylie Minogue “The Abbey Road Sessions” Basically it is Kylie unplugged. So you get reworked versions of Kylie’s hits and album cuts with all new arrangements. So yes, there are lots of strings on here. I really like this album. Pop artists like Kylie don’t seem to get the respect they deserve. Definitely worth a listen. You can tell she is a good pop singer when you strip away her production. Not something you can say about a lot of today’s pop stars. Grade: B+

Mary J. Blige “My Life II — The Journey Continues (Act I)” Mary J. Blige brings forth a sequel to her “My Life” album. Beyonce, Drake and Nas help out, but it’s her voice and charisma that shine through. She does a remake of “Ain’t Nobody” by Rufus and Chaka Khan. But my favorite is a song called “25/8.” Where she sings about a love she wants more than 24/7. Another consistently good album from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Grade: B

DNCE “Swaay” Another Jonas bother takes flight, this time it’s Joe Jonas. Joe sings lead in this 4-person group. He tried a solo album before, but that never took off. The EP of 4 songs, includes the smash hit single “Cake by the Ocean” as well as the hit “Toothbrush.” Worth a listen. Grade: B

Alex Newell “Power” An alumni of “Glee,” Alex first came to prominence on the “Glee Project” before taking on the role of Unique on the ground-breaking Fox drama. He is channeling 90’s dance divas on his first EP. The songs will get you moving. Grade: B

Bryan Adams “Get Up” The Canadian rocker is back with his latest collection. And it is produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO. You get some rockabilly, some ballads, and a few acoustic versions of some of the new songs. I enjoyed it. Highlights include: “You Belong to Me” and “We Did It All.” Grade: A-

Blake Shelton “Startin’ Fires” One of Blake’s earlier albums. A nice mix of songs including the #1 smash “She Wouldn’t Be Gone.” Also includes a duet with Miranda Lambert before they got married on “Bare Skin Rug” that highlights their chemistry. Grade: B

Tim McGraw “Two Lanes of Freedom” One of country’s most consistent performers, Tim delivers another solid collection. Includes the hit “Highway Don’t Care” with Keith Urban and Taylor Swift. Grade: B

Diana Ross “The Definitive Collection” I decided to pick up this collection after seeing Miss Ross in concert last summer. I was reminded of her incredible song catalog at the show, and this is a great collection of her biggest hits including “Endless Love” and “Upside Down.” Grade: A

Ed Sheeran “Divide” Ed is back with his latest album. And he has gone to number one on the singles chart with “Shape of You” as well as number 1 for the album also. He does his white-boy hip-hop on a few songs; plus brings in some celtic textures, latin rhythms and world music on a few numbers too. It is a nice welcome back from one of today’s hottest talents. Grade: A-

Little Big Town “The Breaker” The country vocal quartet is back in the country lane after a detour into pop with last year’s “Wanderlust.” You have their trademark vocal harmonies on a nice collection of songs including “Better Man” (written for them by Taylor Swift). Other highlights include: “Happy People” and “We Went to the Beach.” Grade: A-

Mariah Carey “Me. I Am Mariah. The Elusive Chanteuse” Mariah’s most recent studio album, has a nice mix of ballads and uptempo songs. Plus some special guest appearances including R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige on the deluxe edition. Includes the hit “#Beautiful” with Miguel. Grade: B+

Jason Mraz “Love Is a Four Letter Word” Jason is in love. This is a pleasant album. RB Lite is what I would call it. Includes the hit “I Won’t Give Up.” Grade: B-

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

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.

 

Concerts from the Past I Wish I Could Have Attended

 

As a huge live music fan, this is a fun topic for me to talk about. All the performances mentioned happened in my lifetime. I am sure it would have been great to see Elvis or the Beatles during their heydays too, but I am not so familiar with their tours or performances. So that is why they are not included here. So in no particular order, here are performances I wish I had seen in person:

Blondie’s “The Hunter” tour
One of my all-time favorite groups, this was the last tour before they broke up in the 80’s… I think they even broke up during this tour. They were coming off a string of commercially successful albums (Parallel Lines, Eat to the Beat, AutoAmerican, “Call Me”); and this was the most successful version of the band as far as the lineup of the members. This tour played the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.

Bee Gee’s “Spirits Having Flown” tour
They had just come off the successful “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack, and this was their first album since that breakthrough. This album had hits too: Tragedy, Love You Inside Out and Too Much Heaven. This tour stopped at Dodger Stadium.

Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” tour
Donna was also celebrating back to back hit albums at this point. She had shown the world how great a live performer she was on the “Live and More” album. The tour for this fantastic double album I am sure was amazing. This tour stopped at the Hollywood Bowl.

Madonna’s “The Virgin Tour”
The first tour from the material girl. Tickets sold out so fast… I wasn’t able to get any. These would be the smallest venues she would ever play on a regular tour. And she has been at it for over 30 years now. It was just her, 2 backup dancers and the band, but you could tell from her performance this was someone to be taken seriously… with how she commanded the stage. This tour stopped at the Universal Amphitheatre and the Pacific Amphitheatre too.

Madonna’s “The Girlie Show”
Madonna was on the outs in the US during this tour. There had been a backlash after the Sex book and the “Erotica” album. There were a couple of US dates on this tour, but most of it was outside of the US. It would have been excellent to be there. No Los Angeles area performances.

Live Aid
The bi-coastal concerts to benefit hunger relief in Africa. Simultaneous concerts in both Philadelphia and London, this was the TV event of 1985. Anyone who is anyone was on this show: Queen, Madonna, Thompson Twins, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and so much more. It would have been great to say you saw part of it in person.

Luther Vandross
One of the greatest soul singers of the last century — he was one of those people who could sing practically anything. I never followed his career that closely… so I can’t single out a single tour from him. But when he died, I regretted never having the chance to see him perform live. Performed Hollywood Bowl, Universal and more in Los Angeles area.

Diana Ross “Concert in Central Park”
I remember seeing this performance on TV… the day with the rain and the makeup show too. Diana was a true trouper and definitely made sure the show went on. I have seen Diana a few times at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, but that show would have been fun to be at.

So that’s my list. What performers and tours did you miss? 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.

Sixties Icons Still Relevant

Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in Concert
Friday, February 17, 2017
Fred Kavli Theatre — Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza

Songs performed: Blowing in the Wind, Puff the Magic Dragon, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Don’t Laugh at Me, Impeachable, If I Had a Hammer, This Land is Your Land, Goodnight Irene (and more)

peterandpaul-websiteComments: Two-thirds of the legendary folk-rock trio Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey) performed for a near capacity crowd in Thousand Oaks. Mary Travers was the third member and she died in 2009. The group came out of the New York folk rock scene of the 1960s. They went on to have major chart hits, and sell out concert tours for years to come.

Growing up I heard a lot of PPM’s music. My Mom was a huge fan of theirs. She used to play their music on albums, cassettes and then CDs. Plus she would sing and play the songs on guitar also. So when I saw that the two remaining members of the group where going on tour, I knew I had to be there to honor my mother’s memory (My Mom died on October 25, 2016).

The show was just the 2 guys and their guitars. Plus they added some tambourine to some songs also. They sang songs from their long career: Puff the Magic Dragon, Leavin’ on a Jet Plane, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, If I Had a Hammer, Blowin’ in the Wind and This Land is Your Land. It was a group sing-along for the big hits. As those were songs that everyone there seemed to know and love.

I love the fact that the group is still socially conscious. After all, this is the group that was at the March on Washington in 1963 w/ Martin Luther King. They protested the Vietnam War and for immigrant rights. They sang a song called “Don’t’ Laugh at Me” which Peter Yarrow has successfully placed in 20,000 schools. It is a song about tolerance, acceptance, and an end to bullying in schools. It includes references to different races, religions, disabilities and LGBT people too.

The two guys (Peter and Noel) each took turns performing solo material in the 2nd half of the concert. Noel (aka Paul) sang a song slamming President Trump called “Impeachable” to the tune of Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable.” It went over very well with the crowd. Peter also sang against the current administration in his solo segment. His crusade was against what he sees as a bully in chief.

Noel’s voice is holding up better than Peter’s voice. But I appreciate the passion that they put into their performance. They had some witty repartee between them as they have had over the years during their concerts. I saw them as a trio a number of times with my parents. I did get teary eyed a few times during the night. But I was happy that I could be there and to share it with my husband. I know my Mom was there in spirit.

Thanks to Peter and Paul for sharing their artistry and their message of social justice with the crowd. I loved the fact that when we were leaving the parking garage a group of young people (in their 20’s) got out of their car and were dancing to “If I Had a Hammer.” It gives me hope about the future.

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.

 

Winter Reviews 2017

So what have I been enjoying this past fall and winter as far as entertainment? Read on to read my latest reviews of DVDs, movies and CDs. AS always comments are kindly welcomed.

DVDs

Kylie Minogue “Kiss Me Once — Live from the Sse Hydro”
This concert movie was filmed on Kylie’s last tour in Scotland. It has all of the hits, plus the costume and set changes we have come to expect from her. Not to mention cute male dancers. Grade: A-

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
A smart and funny teen movie. An outcast forms a unique friendship with a girl dying from cancer. Earl is his best friend that he makes homemade movies with that spoof classic movies. It is very well written and acted. See it! Grade: A-

The Night Before
Seth Rogen stars along with Anthony Mackie and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Joseph is a widower who hangs out with his 2 buddies on the night before Christmas. They decide that it is going to be the last time. There are some chuckles along the way, but not as funny as you think it would be. Grade: C+

99 Homes
This was a very good movie. It’s about the housing crisis, and it’s effect on one young man and his boss. I preferred this movie over “The Big Short” which was good a bit overrated to me. Michael Shannon is a shrewd real estate man, and Andrew Garfield is the man who gets evicted by him. He ends up working for him, and seeing the other side of things. Grade: A-

Legend
Tom Hardy stars as twin gangsters, Ronald and Reginald Kray. One is straight and the other is gay. They terrorized London in the 1960s. Not as good as I had hoped it would be, but if you are a Tom Hardy fan, worth a look. Grade: B-

Concussion
Will Smith stars in the real life story of Dr. Bennet Omalu. He took on the NFL, after a series of players starting going crazy because of all the concussions they had suffered during their years in the game. Definitely a must see, even if you are not into sports. Grade: A-

Joy
Jennifer Lawrence shines in this story inspired by the inventor of the Miracle Mop. Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper co-star. It shows all the hard work and determination it takes to start a business. Grade: B+

45 Years
This drama stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a couple on the verge of their 45th wedding anniversary celebration. The husband’s former lover’s body is found in the ice, frozen in an accident 50 years before. This is the event that sets the story in motion. Were they meant to be or did the husband really want to marry the girl that died? Good performances, but overall it was sort of dull. Grade: C+

Eye in the Sky
Helen Mirren heads the cast of this timely drama. She plays a military officer who is in charge of a mission to take out some bad guys in Africa. She is in contact with world leaders and military higher-ups in the British and American governments. The question is should they fire on a house, when there is a chance that the blast will kill a little girl who is near by? What loss of life is acceptable? Should the greater good be taken into account? There are no easy answers in the war on terror. Grade: B

Albums

Lady GaGa “Joanne” Lady GaGa returns with her 4th pop album. Lead single “Perfect Illusion” has failed to take off. It is definitely not the album I expected from her. Very uncommercial, and boring in parts. Mark Ronson produced most of it. The one stand out track for me is “Million Reasons” — a country tune if ever I heard one. Other tracks are sort of 70’s rock inspired. I still love her, but she should realize she is dance artist. Grade: C

Barry Gibb “In the Now” Only the 2nd solo album from the last living Bee Gee. Barry is in fine form, and it sounds like he had fun making this album. He had some help from his sons. I prefer this to recent albums from Lady GaGa and Birtney Spears. Grade: A-

Britney Spears “Glory” Britney is back with her 9th album, featuring lead single “Make Me…” (with G-Eazy). Some decent songs, but at 17 songs on the Deluxe Edition, it doesn’t keep my interest. Most of the songs are sort of mid-tempo dance pop. And not exactly top-notch song-writing either. I am missing the high-energy songs of “Circus” and “Femme Fatale.” Grade: C+

Nick Jonas “Last Year Was Complicated” Nick’s 2nd (or 3rd solo album if you count the one with the Administration) follows the same sort of white-boy pop-rock-soul of the last collection. Except this time he doesn’t have a runaway smash like “Jealous.” Overall, I think it is a better album. Includes the Top Twenty hit with Tove Lo — “Close.” Grade: B

Pentatonix “A Pentatonix Christmas” The a Capella group’s third Christmas album features more reworked classics as well as a couple of new tunes too. Manhattan Transfer is one of the guests. Grade: A-

Kenny Chesney “Cosmic Hallelujah” Kenny’s latest album includes the first 2 singles “Noise” as well as his duet with Pink “Setting the World on Fire.” His albums are always solid, and contain songs you will like after only one listen. Nothing ground breaking here for me, but still enjoyable. Grade: B+

Michael Bublé “Nobody But Me” Another consistent performer who is sticking with his formula: some original tunes, some jazz standards, and a few updates of old pop songs also. All of them have his trademark vocals on them. I like it, but am thinking he should try some different next time. Grade: B

“La La Land” Original Soundtrack  This soundtrack to the modern musical that is one of the top Oscar contenders is a fun souvenir for the movie. It is very jazz oriented, gets your toes tapping and you heart strings going too. If you loved the movie, you need to get this too. Grade: A-

“Moana” Original Soundtrack  This soundtrack to Disney’s latest animated hit, contains all the songs sung in the movie, as well as the orchestral compositions too. Plus bonus tracks also, like pop versions of the 2 main character’s theme songs. Grade: B

Eric Church “Mr. Misunderstood” I am late to the party with this guy. I would see him on country award shows and enjoy his performances. He comes across as a bit of a mix of rebel outlaw and everyday working man. Highlights include “Record Year” and “Kill a Word”. Grade: B

Rascal Flatts “The Greatest Gift of All” This is their first full-length Christmas album. They take the songs you know and perform them in new arrangements. I not so sure about the slow version of “Deck the Halls” though. I do like the a capella parts and it is good to hear the other guys’ voices than just the lead singer. Grade: B

Movies

The Girl on the Train
Emily Blunt stars as the title character. She thinks she sees a woman being murdered from her view on the train. Based on the international bestselling novel, this movie wants to be this year’s Gone Girl. So did she really see a murder, or did she do it herself because she was jealous of the woman? I liked it, but didn’t love it. A good lead performance, but not as shocking as it claimed to be. Grade: B-

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
From J.K. Rowling, this is another wizarding world that centers on magic zooligist Newt Scamander. He has a briefcase that contains magical creatures, that get loose in New York City. Eddie Redmayne stars as the main character. Very special effects heavy, I think it misses the heart of the Harry Potter movies. And I am a big fan of those movies and books. I don’t see how this is going to be a 5 movie series. Grade: C+

Moana
From the creators of Frozen and Zootopia, comes Disney’s latest animated movie: Moana. Moana is a Polynesian girl that must team with a demi-god (voiced by Dwight Johnson) to save her island. Great songs, comedy, action. I enjoyed it very much. Lin-Manual Miranda (Hamilton) had a hand in the song-writing. Grade: A

Moonlight
From director Barry Jenkins, comes the tale of Chiron, a black gay man who is growing up in Miami. The film is divided into 3 sections: childhood, teens and adulthood — with different actors taking on the same role as the movie unfolds. The first 2 sections of the movie were moving to me. It’s the third chapter I had a problem with. I wanted more for the character than what I saw on screen. So ultimately I was a bit disappointed. Good performances overall. Grade: B-

Manchester by the Sea
This drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan stars Casey Affleck as a working class guy who has to pick up the pieces once his brother dies suddenly. That includes making funeral arrangements and dealing with his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). His character must also face what went wrong with his own life and marriage. Already a major awards contender, it is a movie that shows the messy challenges in everyday life. Grade: A-

Arrival
Amy Adams plays the main character in this science-fiction drama. It concerns aliens coming to earth, and Amy is the lead person that is helping to communicate with the aliens. Jeremy Renner costars as a fellow scientist. There are parts of this movie I liked, but overall, it was just OK to me. More of a thinking sci-fi movie, than an action one. Grade: C+

Lion
One of the surprises in the awards season for me. This movie is sure to tug at your heartstrings. It concerns an Indian boy that gets lost on a train in India. He is not able to get back to his family. He is adopted by a family from Australia and moves there. As an adult, he takes up the task to find his family that he lost. You will be moved by this tale of family (both biological and adopted). Grade: A

A Monster Calls
This fantasy drama centers on a boy who has an active imagination. He imagines a great tree monster that is voiced by Liam Neeson. This monster is very tall, with arms and legs made of twisting branches. The boy is struggling at school with bullying as well as dealing with his Mom in the hospital, and his grandmother taking over raising him for the time being. The look of the movie is very cool, and has some great fantasy sequences. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Please sound off in the comments. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.

 

Concerts I Am Looking Forward to in 2017

As a life-long live music fan, I always look forward to which of my favorite music stars will be coming in concert soon. Have I seen them a few times before, or are they someone I will be seeing for the first time? Do they have a long catalog of hits, or are they just starting out? Here’s who I look forward to seeing on stage in 2017:

Ariana Grande
She’s had a few successful years with “My Everything” and “Dangerous Woman.” She has the vocal chops for sure, and her personality is starting to show more. Plus she kills it every time I see her perform on TV.

Lady GaGa
It’s time to get back to her day job. After a few detours (Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennett and American Horror Story: Hotel), she is back with her new album “Joanne.” I have seen her first 2 tours, it will be fun to see her again. She is definitely one talented, multi-faceted woman. Plus she is headlining the Super Bowl half-time show this year.

Bruno Mars
After a break of a few years, Bruno is back with “24 K Magic.” So far the single is just OK to me, but he always kills it with his live performances. And he has a decent amount of hits too, so even if the new songs suck, we’ll get “Uptown Funk.”

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill
Mr. and Mrs. McGraw head back out for a big arena tour in 2017. Tim has continued to record and tour regularly. Faith hasn’t done much since her album “Fireflies” in 2005. Not sure the reason why, but I welcome her back. I saw them on an earlier version of the “Soul to Soul” tour and it was a great show.

Alicia Keys
She will be touring in support of her new album “Here.” I previously saw her on the “Diary of Alicia Keys” and “As I Am” tours. I started to watch “The Voice” again because of her and Miley. She has such a wonderful spirit and I love her energy. And she gives her all to the performance. The album is just OK, but I still love her.

Sting
The veteran artist is back with his first rock album (“57th & 9th”) in a long time. He’s been making the rounds with appearances on everything from “The Voice” to the “American Music Awards.” With more and more singers dying young these days, I say catch him while you can.

Justin Beiber
He is still riding high off his album “Purpose” and it’s string of hit singles. Plus he got some big love in the form of some Grammy nominations this year in major categories. Plus from what I have seen he really puts himself out there in his shows. Catch him on his stadium tour this summer.

New Kids on the Block
Their chart-topping days are long behind them, but they can still fill arenas. They have found a successful formula and are sticking to it. They put themselves as the headliners on a bill with a couple of other retro acts, and the tickets keep selling. This year’s The Total Package Tour includes Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men.

Ed Sheeran
No tour has been announced yet for him, but if there is one I am sure it is going to be huge. He just released two new singles from his upcoming album “Divide” and they both debuted into the Top Ten (one even went to #1). I have seen clips of his concerts online, and he is an amazing performer. I would definitely go to see him.

Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey
The two superstars are teaming up for Lionel’s “All the Hits” Tour. This show is playing on my birthday at the Hollywood Bowl, so I already have my ticket. Mariah needs to redeem herself after the New Year’s Eve fiasco. I haven’t seen Lionel since he opened for Tina Turner on her farewell tour. It should be fun.

So that’s my concert wish list for 2017. Did I mention your favorite? Who do you want to see live and in person at your local concert venue? Sound off in the comments below.

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.

KiltMan’s Year End Top Tens for 2016

What did I enjoy most in 2016, as far as entertainment? There was a lot of good work in all fields of entertainment. I admit, I am not a critic. I am more of a fan. I will not bore you with explanations about my choices. I will tell you, that I saw most of the movies at the theater. I also own all the albums. The singles I chose include those purchased as well as those I heard (but didn’t purchase). As always, comments are kindly welcomed.intro

Albums

  1. This is What the Truth Feels Like — Gwen Stefani
  2. Wanderlust — Little Big Town
  3. Purpose — Justin Beiber
  4. Lemonade — Beyoncé
  5. Illinois — Brett Eldredge
  6. Ripcord — Keith Urban
  7. Storyteller — Carrie Underwood
  8. Dangerous Woman — Ariana Grande
  9. In the Now — Barry Gibb
  10. Cosmic Hallelujah — Kenny Chesney

Singles

  1. Love Yourself — Justin Beiber
  2. I Took a Pill in Ibiza — Mike Posner
  3. Into You — Ariana Grande
  4. Don’t Let Me Down — The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
  5. This Is What You Came For — Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
  6. Cheap Thrills — Sia featuring Sean Paul
  7. Let It Go — James Bay
  8. One of Those Days — Little Big Town
  9. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) — Adele
  10. Setting the World on Fire — Kenny Chesney featuring Pink

TV Shows

  1. Grey’s Anatomy
  2. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  3. American Horror Story: Roanoke
  4. Gotham
  5. How to Get Away with Murder
  6. Modern Family
  7. Orange is the New Black
  8. Project Runway
  9. American Idol
  10. Nashville

Movies

  1. Hell or High Water
  2. La La Land
  3. Manchester by the Sea
  4. Captain America: Civil War
  5. The Jungle Book
  6. The Edge of Seventeen
  7. Moana
  8. Fences
  9. Lion
  10. 13th

DVDs (or Streaming)

  1. 99 Homes
  2. Concussion
  3. Two Days, One Night
  4. Kylie Minogue — Kiss Me Once: Live at Sse Hydro
  5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  6. The Last Five Years
  7. Trumbo
  8. Carol
  9. The Gift
  10. Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids

Concerts

  1. Dixie Chicks — MMXVI Tour
  2. Gwen Stefani — “This is What the Truth Feels Like” Tour
  3. Diana Ross — “In the Name of Love” Tour
  4. Keith Urban — “Ripcord” Tour
  5. Chicago — Tour 2016
  6. Boyz II Men and En Vogue — Tour 2016
  7. Smooth Summer Jazz w/ George Benson and Average White Band
  8. Daryl Hall and John Oates — Tour 2016
  9. Rihanna — “ANTI” Tour
  10. Jason Moran — Fats Waller Dance Party

I hope you enjoyed my year-end Top Tens blog. Please sound off in the comments. I would love to hear from you. 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.

Keith Urban: Rockin the Country

Keith Urban in Concert
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Staples Center

Ripcord Tour 2016

Special guests: Maren Morris and Brett Eldredge

Songs performed: Gone Tomorrow (Here Today), Long Hot Summer, Break on Me, Where the Blacktop Ends, Making Memories of Us, Gimme Shelter, Somewhere in My Car, Blue Ain’t Your Color, Gettin’ in the Way, You Gonna Fly, Days Go By, We Were Us (with Maren Morris), Cop Car, Sun Don’t Let Me Down (With Nile Rodgers), The Fighter, You Look Good in My Shirt, Somebody Like You (with Brett Eldredge), John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 (Jack & Diane, No Woman, No Cry), Wasted Time, But for the Grace of God, Stupid Boy, Raise ‘Em Up

keith-urban-ripcord-2016-tour-dates-tickets-infoComments: Keith Urban brought his Ripcord World Tour to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The tour is named after his 9th studio album of the same name. He performed 7 songs from that album, plus a lot of his hits from throughout his career.

What’s cool about Keith is what a showman he is. He’s got the rock star good looks and tattoos. He is an excellent guitar player and banjo player too.

The stage had large video screens on the back of the stage. Plus there was a small stage on the other side of the arena that they used for a few numbers also.

He pulled one girl from the audience to duet with him. She had a sign that read “I need to sing with you to pass my final.” Keith asked her what song she wanted to sing and she said the Rolling Stone’s song “Gimme Shelter” (which Keith recorded with Alicia Keys). She was really going for it, even though her voice was just OK.

Both opening acts showed up in the show too. Maren Morris dueted with him on “We Were Us”; and Brett Eldredge came out with Keith on the small stage and sang “Somebody Like You.” Keith and his band actually made their way across the floor to the small stage, shaking hands and hi-fives when they could.

Keith’s music has gotten much more pop leaning in recent years. Not that there is anything wrong with that, cause that’s what’s popular on country radio. One of the highlights of the night was the encore, when Keith came out and did 2 songs with just him and his guitar: But for the Grace of God and Stupid Boy. He should do a whole concert unplugged!

The first opening act of the evening was Maren Morris. She broke through big time this year with her hit “My Church.” She definitely has a good voice. But she hasn’t developed her stage presence yet. I am sure she will develop it with more touring.

The second opening act was Brett Eldredge. I was impressed with him. He is touring behind his 2nd album “Illinois”. The crowd seemed to dig him as much as I do. This is probably the last time he’s an opener. He’s got a nice voice and a bunch of catchy songs — so don’t be surprised to be hearing more from him.

Thanks to Keith and his band for a great 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.

The Triumphant Return of Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani in Concert
Saturday, October 15, 2016
The Forum

This is What the Truth Feels Like Tour 2016

Special guest: Eve

Songs performed: Red Flag, Wind It Up, Baby Don’t Lie, Obsessed, Where Would I Be?, Cool, Make Me Like You, Underneath It All, Misery, Luxurious, Harajuku Girls, Let Me Blow Ya Mind, Rich Girl, Hella Good, What You Waiting For?, Rare, Go Ahead and Break My Heart, It’s My Life, Asking 4 It, Don’t Speak, Naughty, Used to Love You, Hollaback Girl, Truth, Just a Girl, The Sweet Escape

rs_600x600-160418075720-600-gwen-stefani-this-is-what-the-truth-feels-like-tour-41816Comments: Gwen Stefani made a triumphant return to the music scene with her latest album and tour — This is What the Truth Feels Like. She is celebrating her 30th year in music this year. She came out of Orange Country in the late 1980’s with the band No Doubt. With their mix of rock, reggae, ska and punk, they were a breath of fresh air on the music scene. Years of touring and recording have earned them a dedicated following.

Gwen released her first solo album in 2004 — “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” It was followed by “The Sweet Escape” in 2006. So it has been a long 10 years since her last solo album. There was one No Doubt album in between there, but it failed to set the world on fire. Gwen’s marriage to Gavin Rossdale fell apart. And she started a romance with her fellow coach Blake Shelton from “The Voice.”

Both the dissolution of her marriage and her new romance feature prominently on the new album. And it is one of the year’s best if you ask me. The album features the hits “Used to Love You” and “Make Me Like You.”

Gwen put on a high-energy, non-stop party of a concert that featured hits from No Doubt and her 3 solo albums. She had a big production with backup dancers and costume changes. I especially loved the punk-rock inspired tartan ensemble she wore at the start of the show.

She thanked the fans several times during the night for getting her through the rough times in her life. She looked and sounded fantastic. And yes, Blake Shelton did show up for his lady to sign their duet “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.”

All night I kept asking myself, why haven’t I seen her before? She puts on a fantastic show. I would definitely see her again. One of the highlights for me was when she sang “Hella Good.” The whole venue was jumping literally! It was awesome to see.

And it was cool that she brought out Eve for the 2 songs: “Let Me Blow Your Mind” and “Rich Girl.”

Eve was the opening act. I was not familiar with her songs at all other than the Gwen duet. I am more familiar with her acting from the “Barbershop” movies. She had a few backup dancers, a DJ and a drummer. Lots of songs with attitude, you can tell she probably inspired Nicki Minaj.

Thanks to Gwen and her band for a awesome show! I loved it.

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: