Remember Lana Del Rey? Back in early January, she seemed poised to dominate the music headlines this year; thanks to the strength of her singles “Video Games” and “Blue Jeans,” the anticipation for her second full-length LP, Born To Die, was at a fever pitch. Then, of course, she appeared as the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, turning in a performance that ended up being so controversial and maligned that it will likely follow her for the rest of her career. In a matter of hours, she went from being the Next Big Thing to having bloodthirsty music bloggers gleefully penning her career obituary. In fact, the pendulum of hype swung at such a rapid rate that her concerned management team felt that the best course of action to save Lana’s promising career was to pull her out of the spotlight altogether here in the United States, canceling high-profile bookings at SXSW in favor of focusing on the international market. This effectively stalled the prospects for Born To Die to latch on with Stateside audiences — the album has yet to go gold — but turned out to have worked quite well worldwide, as her record has sold over 1.5 million copies to date.
Aside from a pre-taped performance on American Idol back in March and a rumored fling with Axl Rose, it’s been pretty much radio silence from Team LDR here in the U.S. for the last few months. Last week, she performed a three-night residency at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles, but tonight at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza, she made her first live appearance in the city since a low-key, one-song performance on the Late Show With David Letterman in early February. She had every right to be nervous performing for the sold-out crowd, especially considering that it was her first full show in town since her Bowery Ballroom performance in December, a show that was plagued with technical issues and one that she confessed to us that she wished “had gone a little differently.” However, the vibe in the room this evening — her first of three shows here over the next few days — was palpably different from the outset, as eager fans were anxious to show their support for Lana and convince her that her career had now entered the “Backlash To The Backlash” stage on New York Magazine‘s Undulating Curve of Shifting Expectations. As she strode out on a stage filled with lush greenery, she was bathed in a warm round of applause and cheers, which prompted her to gleefully stick her tongue out before launching into “Blue Jeans.” Read more…
Just when we thought Lady Gaga was going to ditch her backup dancers and perform solo in Jakarta, Indonesia to adhere to their censorship guidelines, she has instead cancelled the controversial June 3 show. She sure does know how to start a ruckus. Cancelling the sold-out concert comes after religious leaders protested the pop star because of her explicit lyrics and racy costumes. Certain people were so opposed to her performing in Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, that Gaga received threats on her life. Let’s face it, no show is worth the potential of losing your life. Read more…
It’s very easy to view reunion shows through cynical eyes, particularly those of bands who came of age in the Nineties. Ever since the Pixies got back together at Coachella 2004 and became millionaires many times thanks to extended tours catering to their aging Generation X fanbase, virtually every band of consequence from the Buzz Bin era has reunited, most of them with visions of dollar signs dancing through their heads. However, that most certainly was not the case last night in Williamsburg when one of the the alternative rock era’s most criminally underrated punky power pop outfits, that dog., played their first East Coast gig since 1997. The band dissolved after a difficult tour in support of their 1997 album Retreat From The Sun (a stone classic, if we do say so ourselves), but got back together for a handful of shows on their native West Coast last summer. They didn’t do it to inflate their respective bank accounts, but rather as a means to blow the dust off their revered three album catalog and play their material for an adoring audience, a good chunk of whom never had the fortune to see them pre-breakup.
that dog. doesn’t get much credit from the music critic community for being a particularly influential band, but looking back on their work with the benefit of hindsight, their three LPs — 1993′s That Dog, 1995′s Totally Crushed Out and 1997′s Retreat From The Sun — showcase some of the tightest hooks and catchiest riffs of that era. The soaring, three part harmonies of lead singer/guitarist Anna Waronker, violinist Petra Haden and bassist Rachel Haden were the perfect way to accentuate the band’s female-centric lyrical content, most of which centered around boys (finding them, dealing with them, losing them). Because the band shared a label (Geffen) with some of the most influential alternative acts of that era —Nirvana, Beck, Hole, Weezer, and Counting Crows, to name but a few— it’s easy to understand why they never quite got the spotlight pointed their way, but you wouldn’t know that judging by the level of devotion the fans at the Music Hall of Williamsburg showed the group last night. Read more…
Like true royalty, Lil Kim is back to reclaim her throne. Not that anyone should need a reminder of the Queen Bee’s iconic status when she entered the rap game in the mid 90s, but just in case, her performance Friday at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx served up a bit of nostalgia and excitement for what’s ahead.
On the New York City leg of her “Return of the Queen” tour, Kim hit the stage with a massive entourage and a crew of talented hip-hop friends. Dressed in a shiny beige pants paired with a jeweled bra the Queen Bee took the stage royally with flower petals at her feet while men held flagstaffs with her logos. Her fans welcomed her with deafening screams as she performed “Black Friday” from the mixtape of the same name. Although the mixtape received mixed reviews, this was not evident by the crowd’s enthusiasm to see Kim in her element. Read more…
Summer is fast approaching and we’re ready to bring on the BBQs, rooftop parties and most of all the concerts. What’s summer without indulging in live performances of the artists you love? Two of the biggest hip-hop concerts this summer, Summer Jam and Rock the Bells, have some acts lined up that are going to be bananas! Not that you’d go wrong attending either, but because they’re as different as night and day, we’ve broken down why one of these concerts rules as the must-see concert of the summer.
1. The headliners tell you everything you need to know about a show.
One of the biggest names in hip-hop, Nicki Minaj, is headlining Summer Jam along with Rick Ross, Waka Flocka and Young Jeezy. As far as mainstream rap, Summer Jam has it covered. With Nicki you’ll get a bit of hip-pop, Waka will make everyone dance and Rick Ross and Jeezy offer the trap anthems to make even the most suburban girl get hype.
Where do we even begin with the headliners for Rock the Bells? Its very big name acts run the gamut of the likes of Nas, Kid Cudi, Wiz Khalifa, Missy Elliott & Timbaland and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. It doesn’t get more versatile than Nas, one of hip-hop’s legends, and the fairly newbie Wiz Khalifa rocking the stage at the same festival. And Missy Elliott & Timbaland…together! That’s some epic 90s skeez right there. We’re singing, “Supa dupa fly, supa dupa fly” just thinking about it.
2. Whose lineup has the most artists hot in the streets right now?Read more…
Lead singer Chris Martin, not exactly known as being a party rocker, came up with an arrangement of “Fight For Your Right” that expertly played to Coldplay’s strengths. The big, boozy classic rock riffs of the Rick Rubin produced original were replaced by a plaintive, almost spiritual piano melody. Martin sang the lyrics in a wholly different manner than the brash Beastie style, trading snotty obnoxiousness for a vibe that’s more respectful in nature. It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea —we saw just as many snarky reactions to it on Twitter this weekend as we saw celebratory ones— but we definitely salute the gents for paying tribute to a music legend in a way that felt both thoughtful and unique.
Rebecca Ferguson might not be England’s answer to Aretha Franklin, but she’s just about their version of Fantasia Barrino. Pregnant at seventeen and then again two years later, the now twenty-five-year-old Ferguson first made waves across the pond as the runner-up of the 2010 season of the UK edition of The X-Factor, and hasn’t slowed down since. Tuesday night marked the occasion of the soulful chanteuse’s first-ever New York performance, ahead of the May 29th stateside release of her debut album, Heaven.
And what a performance it was. Looking glam in a modish and scalloped black-and-white sleeveless dress, Ferguson sang five songs off Heaven, in addition to a sizzling cover of Drake and Rihanna‘s “Take Care” (see video below) that brought some Miami heat to the proceedings. Her opening number was the anthemic original “Glitter & Gold,” followed by “Shoulder to Shoulder,” “Take Care,” “Teach Me To Be Loved,” “Nothing’s Real But Love,” and finally “Run Free,” a standout on the album that was equally exuberant in a live setting.
In the moments before Rita Ora took the stage at S.O.B.’s in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan last night, there was a palpable buzz in the air. The packed-to-capacity club had just patiently waited through a middling set from former OFWGKTA member Casey Veggies, and people were buzzing with anticipatory glee for a few reasons. Of course, people were excited to see the artist that is being described as “the new Rihanna” make her New York City debut, but we heard more than a few people in our immediate vicinity wonder aloud whether or not her mentor, one Mr. Sean “Jay-Z” Carter, would be making an appearance at the tiny club where artists like Kanye West, John Legend and Erykah Badu caught some of their first big breaks. Well, spoiler alert, Hova did not make an appearance, but by the end of Rita Ora’s 35 minute(ish) set, no one seemed to care.
Ora bounded onto the stage just a few minutes after 10 p.m. wearing an orange knit hat, a blue jacket, a white midriff-revealing crop top and black tights. Her outfit was colorful and playful, much like Ora’s personality, with a dash of Stefani-esque sexiness thrown in (that is to say, she’s an undeniable beauty that projects a certain wholesomeness). She led off with a song that we had not heard before, but one that contained the line “It’s the kind of beat that will make your face melt.” Normally, we associate the concept of facemelting to metal riffs, but in this particular case, her description of the roaring synths was entirely appropriate. Considering this was her first showcase in NYC, we expected to see a hint of nervousness from her when she first hit the stage, but that never came to fruition. Instead, she commanded the stage like a veteran rock star, prowling from side to side, even occasionally indulging in a bit of headbanging.
Have you ever seen a concert that’s been put on by a single person? No, by that we don’t mean a “solo artist,” someone who’s got a bassist, a drummer, and a roadie or two to get their guitars tuned for them in between songs while they preen behind the mic. We mean someone who, quite literally, stands up on stage all by their lonesome, setting up their instruments and pedals, then performing with nary another individual on stage, then tearing it all down at the end of a set. It’s an incredibly vulnerable position to be in, both as a performer and as an audience member, and a stark and intimate way to take in a performance.
We mention all this because we caught Teeth & Tongue‘s set at Piano’s in New York’s Lower East Side last night, one in which she performed all the duties mentioned above, PLUS playing the keyboard, drum machine and the guitar. Teeth & Tongue is the musical project of 31-year-old Jess Cornelius, who hails from Melbourne, Australia and is currently wrapping up her current North American tour. We caught a few minutes of her set at the 2012 SXSW Music Festival a few weeks back, which was intriguing enough to get us to brave the crisp chill in the air last night to see her showcase her talents.
Teeth & Tongue has a beguiling, sultry sound, one that to this listener lies somewhere between Cat Power and Bat For Lashes. She’s got a real knack for setting the scene in her songwriting, and has a novelist’s gift for conveying the kind of minute details in her lyrics that really put the listener in her head space. Take her confessional breakup song “Unfamiliar Skirts”, for example, a song that’s ostensibly about a couple that’s on one of those ill-fated “breaks.” It contains emotionally raw lyrics like “They all have long eyelashes that drink compliments like dew” and “You can seek forgiveness in their muscles and their thighs,” phrases that read like poetry and take on a heartbreaking quality when paired with her expressive voice and feedback-laden guitar accents. Check out what we mean in this video for the song, her first single off Tambourine (now available on Spotify), her second full-length album.
If you were playing Family Feud and the category was “Iconic Bridges of the USA,” the top two answers on the board would almost certainly be San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge. This thinking almost certainly went into play for this weekend’s aptly named Bridge Session benefit concert, which saw San Francisco’s own Bob Weir (of Grateful Dead fame, natch) team up with a cadre of Brooklyn indie rockers from bands like The National, The Walkmen, and Takka Takka for a series of collaborative songs from these bands’ catalogs.
If you think about it, though, the Bridge Session is not just a literal reference to a structure that rises over the water. If you stretch the Bridge reference into more metaphorical territory, one could infer that music itself is a bridge that connects generations — in this case, the Baby Boomers and Generation X.
Regardless of what the gents intended to convey with the name Bridge Session, the results were magical. This supergroup played two sets, which included covers of Bob Dylan’s “Most of the Time”, and Cass McCombs‘ “Love Thine Enemy.” In between sets, a discussion panel took place where they covered everything from politics, energy production, women’s rights, and everything in between. After taking questions from Twitter and Facebook, the lights were dimmed and they performed a 2 song encore acoustically, including the version of “Uncle John’s Band” we have for you above!