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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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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.

Soulful Sounds of En Vogue/Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men/En Vogue in Concert
Friday, July 8, 2016
Greek Theatre

Special guest: H-Town

Songs performed: Knockin’ Da Boots (H-Town); My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It), Whatta Man, Giving Him Something He Can Feel, Deju Vu, Don’t Let Go (Love), Medley: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Got to be Real, Bad Girls, Best of My Love, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Respect, Lady Marmalade, Tell Me Something Good, Proud Mary, Free Your Mind, Hold On (En Vogue); Motownphilly, On Bended Knee, Water Runs Dry, Uhh Ahh, Four Seasons of Loneliness; Medley: Thinking Out Loud, Let’s Get It On, Smells Like Teen Spirit; I’ll Make Love to You, A Song for Mama, End of the Road, Motownphilly (Reprise) (Boyz II Men)

1459193391-Boyz-II-Men-En-Vogue-ticketsComments: Two R&B/pop vocal groups from the 1990’s are co-headlining a summer tour this year: Boyz II Men and En Vogue. Both started with 4 singers each, and now have 3 singers each. Their heydays may be behind them, but both acts showed that they have the hits and the vocals to still put on a great show.

The opening act was H-Town named after the city they were from: Houston, TX. They had a few minor hits on the R&B charts back in the 90’s, including a #1 song called “Knockin’ Da Boots.” One of the founding members died back in 2003, so the other 2 members have carried on without him. Their music was all pretty much bump and grind R&B. They even spilled water on their torsos and crotches, like it should be sexy or something. But it came off as more pathetic. At least they threw some teddy bears into the crowd and handed out some roses too. Their act pretty much sucked. And Shazam has a good voice too — too bad it’s on this material.

Next up was En Vogue, the all-female vocal trio. The group features founding members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron-Braggs plus Rhona Bennett. Surprisingly the group never had a #1 single on the pop chart. But they had a couple of big #2 songs, and they started and ended their set with them. I was a big fan of this group back in the day. I got to see the original 4 on their “Funky Divas” tour, and then saw them as a trio as part of the Colors of Christmas concert.

The ladies are all in their 40’s and 50’s now, but they all looked good and sounded good. Wearing all black dresses, they sang their way through their hits, plus sang their new song “Déjà Vu” which they described as breezy R&B. They also did a big diva medley of the women/songs that inspired them: everyone from Diana Ross and the Supremes to Donna Summer to the Emotions and Tina Turner. I would have loved for them to sing more of the album cuts from their albums — but that didn’t happen. But the crowd was on their feet for most of their set — singing and dancing along.

Up next were Boyz II Men hailing from Philadelphia, PA. The group features founding members Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris and Shawn Stockman. The crowd was definitely excited to see them and I was glad to see them received so well. The 25 years they have been together have done them well. They are consummate showmen. They were dressed all in white, and still had the harmonies and vocals that made them famous.

They started and ended the show with their breakthrough hit “Motownphilly.” From there it was one big hit after the other — “End of the Road,” “Water Runs Dry,” I’ll Make Love to You” and more. Plus they had a covers section of their set also, but it seemed much more loose than the En Vogue one. They covered everyone from Ed Sheeran to Marvin Gaye to Nirvana. Nathan played guitar, while Shawn played bass during this segment.

Wanya was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” this past year where he reached the Top 4. He relayed how much has changed in 25 years — you can gain a few pounds and lose your hair. Shawn said he loved the fact that he could sleep in his own bed that night, since he calls Los Angeles home.

The difference I see between the 2 headliners is that Boyz II Men never really went away, whereas with En Vogue there have been stops and starts with fighting over the name, breaks for family time, and years of not recording or touring. En Vogue has 5 albums to Boyz II Men’s 11. The Boyz didn’t sing any new songs in their set, unlike En Vogue who sang 1.

I was disappointed that they didn’t do any songs together. “One Sweet Day” would have been the perfect vehicle for them both — with En Vogue taking on the Mariah Carey vocals.

Overall, I had a great time. It was good to see real singers who didn’t need any special effects (other than fantastic vocals) to win over the audience. Thanks to everyone for a great evening out.

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 Speedos lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

 

 

Flashback to the 80’s

Regeneration Tour in Concert
Friday, August 30, 2013
Greek Theatre

Starring: Andy Bell (of Erasure), Howard Jones, Information Society, Men Without Hats

Songs performed: This War, Antarctica, I Got the Message, I Like, Pop Goes the World, Where Do the Boys Go?, Head Above Water, S.O.S., The Safety Dance (Men Without Hats); Peace & Love Inc., Walking Away, Think, What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy) (Information Society); Pearl in the Shell, Like to Get to Know You Well, New Song, No One is to Blame, What is Love?, Everlasting Love, Things Can Only Get Better (Howard Jones); When I Start to (Break It Down), Electric Blue, Drama, Always, Breath of Life, Ship of Fools, Stop!, Chorus, Blue Savannah, Chains of Love, DHDQ, A Little Respect (Andy Bell)

regeneration tour

Comments: The semi-annual package tour known as the Regeneration Tour brought the 80’s back to the Greek Theatre last Friday night. This year’s edition is featuring Men without Hats, Information Society, Howard Jones and Andy Bell of Erasure. The Human League was originally on the bill, but they were dropped for some reason and replaced with Men Without Hats.

Music from the 1980’s has a special place in my heart and always will. These are the songs and artists that were around when I was becoming an adult and finding my way in the world. The songs I remember hearing on the radio, and dancing to in the clubs. They were all part of the new wave/electronic music scene of the 80’s and 90’s.

First up for the night was Canadian group, Men Without Hats. Led by original singer Ivan Doroschuk, and featuring hunky guitar player James Love and 2 ladies on keyboards. They actually had a decent set length considering they were basically a 2-hit wonder in the US.  They played one new song, plus 1 cover song — ABBA’s “S.O.S”, who Ivan claimed were one of his influences. The biggest reactions were for “Pop Goes the World” and “The Safety Dance.” How fun it was to see the crowd dancing and singing along to that one. Ivan has still got some dance moves.

Next up was Information Society from Minneapolis, MN. Led by quirky lead singer Kurt Harland, and featuring 3 musicians on keyboards. They are considered part of the American response to the 2nd British Invasion of the 1980’s. This group made use of the large video screen behind them with elaborate visuals including remixed versions of their past music videos (the screen was also used for the next 2 acts). Kurt commented on how weird it was to see his younger self on screen. I remember my lover had the cassette for their first big album, plus I have the CD for their underappreciated 3rd album. Highlights included: “Think,” “Peace & Love Inc.,” and “What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy).”

Howard Jones was up next — celebrating 30 years since his first hit “New Song”. I last saw Howard for his 25th anniversary, back in 2008 in Woodland Hills, CA. He was accompanied by a drummer and another keyboardist. The songs still resonated with the crowd. He has crafted some splendid pop gems like “New Song”, “Life in One Day”, “Everlasting Love”, “No One is to Blame” and “Things Can Only Get Better.” The last one was performed twice — once in the original version and than a remixed techno version for the encore.

The closing act of the night was Andy Bell of Erasure. This was my first time seeing him live. He was backed up by a percussionist and a keyboardist, plus 2 drag queen “Fembots” who danced along to the songs too. He came on wearing a leopard print muumuu, showing a green Madonna T-shirt underneath.  He then took off the muumuu, showing silver sparkling pants underneath. The T-shirt got ripped off soon after, revealing a sparkling silver and pink tank top.  I didn’t realize that the band has had 14 albums, and that a Christmas CD is on the way too. Plus Andy has recorded two solo albums also. So he definitely has a big catalog of songs to choose from. I may not have known all of his songs, but I did enjoy his performance. Here was an openly gay pop singer, doing what he loved to do: sing live for his fans. Highlights on his set included: “Chains of Love,” “Chorus,” “Stop!”,  “Always,” and “A Little Respect.” He also sang a song to Debbie Harry called “DHDQ (Debbie Harry Drag Queen)” — one of the most stylish and trend-setting women in music. He also acknowledged that it was an honor to be on the bill with the other artists, and he even sang part of the Human League’s “Love Action” — saying he would love to work with them. Andy came out with his shirt off for the last 2 numbers, the crowd still loved him despite his less than perfect shape.

Thanks to everyone for a great evening of music and memories. Some suggestions for future Regeneration Tours: Bananarama, Thompson Twins, Rick Astley, Heaven 17, Samantha Fox, Adam Ant and Billy Idol.

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  Rock the Kilt lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

 

 

Still Got the Beat

Go-Go’s in Concert
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Greek Theatre

Special guest: Girl in a Coma

Ladies Gone Wild Tour 2011

Songs performed: “Vacation,” “Lust to Love,” “Automatic,” “Skidmarks on my Heart,” “Tonite,” “Get Up and Go,” “Mother’s Little Helper,” “How Much More,” “Our Lips Are Sealed,” “Unforgiven,” “Mad About You,” “Cool Places,” “This Town,” “Fading Fast,” “Cool Jerk,” “We Got the Beat,” “Beatnik Beach,” “Fun with Ropes,” “Head Over Heels”

Comments: The party never stops with the Go-Go’s. Thirty years have passed since their debut album “Beauty and the Beat” came out and conquered the world. Lots has happened since 1981! They broke up and got back together a few times, had some solo hits, some kids and now here we are in 2011. They are not the most prolific group that’s for sure. They only have 4 full-length albums to their credit plus an anthology that had a few of their early punk songs plus a couple of new ones too.Go-Go's

So how does a 30+ year old group still fill the Greek Theatre after all these years? The reason being — the songs and the performance. I have seen them 8 times over the last 3 decades, and they are still one of my favorite live acts. I know I am going to have a good time, sing along with the crowd and dance like crazy. They have actually gotten better at their live shows in that time. So now, we get a sound that is harder than the first hits suggested but not as rough as their punk days. I’ll call it “Power Pop.”

In the past year, the ladies have gotten a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a Rock on the Greek Theatre’s Rock Walk. Still waiting on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… I’m sure it is coming!

The songs came out in the 80’s for the most part, but still sound great today. They do not sound dated and their themes are timeless… lost love, teenage angst, party times, alienation, girl power, relationship problems. Sounds like an episode of “Glee” or “Gossip Girl” to me.

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