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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.

Suggestions for American Idol

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.

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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.

Lady Antebellum: Brightens Up the Bowl

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 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.

Happy 6th Anniversary Kilt Man!

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.

Best Music TV Shows of all Time

As a fan of both music and television, it is not always easy to come up with a winning formula that benefits both mediums. You have had so many reality singing competitions, and a few fabulous duds like “Cop Rock.” But here is my list of the shows that got it right:

Reality Shows

American Bandstand (1952–1989)
Dick Clark was the host for most of the run and is credited with it’s success. You had acts of the day performing, plus good looking young people dancing to the songs too. Who didn’t want to be there?

Soul Train (1971–2006)
Don Cornelius was the host that most people are familiar with (1971–1993). This show focused mostly on soul and R&B performers but disco, jazz, funk and hip hop made their way on it too. Who didn’t want to strut their stuff in the Soul Train Line?

American Idol (2002–2016)
The greatest singing competition show that ever existed in my opinion. It has changed the face of popular entertainment forever, and brought singers and performers we are still enjoying today. They just announced this week it is coming back for the 2017-2018 season on ABC.

Solid Gold (1980–1988)
Dionne Warwick and Marilyn McCoo are the hosts that I remember the most. If you grew up in the 80’s you remember this show fondly. It had a dance troupe, the Solid Gold Dancers, who would dance to the Top Ten tunes of the week. It was tacky, but it was fun.

Dramas

Nashville (2012–current)
This series focuses on the performers, song-writers and music industry people in Music City. The two main stars are Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. It is basically a good old fashioned soap opera with music. Not a musical, but a drama. There have been concert specials of the stars showcasing their very real musical chops.

Smash (2012–2013)
This behind the scenes look at the making of a Broadway musical never really found it’s way to great success. But those that watched it loved it for what it was: a celebration of Broadway — it’s music and stars. Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty starred as the 2 women who wanted to play Marilyn Monroe in a musical entitled “Bombshell.” Along the way, there was plenty of drama and some great numbers as well as some ridiculous story lines too.

Glee (2009-2015)
This fun show followed the students in a Glee Club at McKinley High School. These kids were all misfits in their own ways… but they found power and success in the music. The early seasons were very successful and they were able to spin off a series of successful albums, singles and concert tours too. Some of the numbers were sung in character, while others were performance numbers. They also created some great mash-ups, where they took 2 or more songs and smashed them together into one great medley.

Empire (2015–current)
This show is Fox’s current hit drama about the going’s on in the world of hip-hop. It follows the Lyon family, ex’s Cookie and Lucious, and their 3 sons Jamal, Andre and Hakeem. Lucious is hip-hop royalty and 2 of his sons are performers, while the third is behind the scenes. The music is executive produced by Timbaland. The soundtrack from Season 1 debuted on the charts at #1, beating out Madonna’s last album.

Special Mention

So You Think You Can Dance (2005–current)
OK, so it is not a music show per se, but a dance show. But music is a big part of the routines, and I have discovered plenty of new music by watching this show. Plus they have had performances by up and coming musical acts too.

So have I missed any? 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.

 

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.

 

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