Whenever studies about the behavioral patterns of Millenials get published, words like “positivity” and “individuality” and “idealistic” make frequent appearances; if you believe what the academics and marketing folks tell you, this is a generation that believes that the world can be saved solely by the power of a tweet. However, anyone who has actually spent any significant amount of time with people who fall into this age-range know that they aren’t this shallow nor as eternally optimistic as the so-called experts suggest, and are just as apt to fall under spells of disillusionment and succumb to periods of disenfranchisement as the rest of us (whether you’re Gen X, Gen Y or a Baby Boomer). Well, after seeing Skylar Grey perform at a small industry showcase in Manhattan last night, it’s pretty apparent that she is an artist that is well-positioned to resonate with this “darker” side of Millenial culture.
Skylar Grey rose quickly in the Interscope farm system over the last eighteen months and change on the strength of her ability to write massively catchy hooks; she’s responsible for the sing-along choruses of Eminem and Rihanna‘s “Love The Way You Lie,” Diddy-Dirty Money‘s “Coming Home” and Dr. Dre‘s comeback single, “I Need A Doctor.” She’s now attempting to launch a solo career of her own, with an album of original material likely to materialize sometime in 2012.
Grey emerged on stage last night at the tiny club Dominion dressed in full, gothy Lisbeth Salander chic (aka The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) — jet black hair, tight leather jacket, Doc Marten-esque boots and a pair of plaid pants worn well below her waist with a wallet chain attached; Katy Perry, she most certainly is not. Like her stage name* evokes, Grey stands in stark contrast to today’s bubblegummier pop stars (think Demi Lovato, think Selena Gomez), delivering lyrics like “I’m addicted to your torture”, “I’m proud to be your f***in’ weirdo” and even something that sounded a lot like “Come here necrophelia” with a whispery, attitude-laden intensity.
Seemingly every time anyone discusses Lana Del Rey, questions about her quote-unquote “authenticity” are evoked. This sentiment was, above all else, dominating the pre- and post-show conversation at tonight’s sold-out show at New York City’s Bowery Ballroom (including the two dudes we overheard huddled up, sniffing something in a comically loud fashion, in a men’s bathroom stall after the concert had wrapped).
If you’re not already familiar with the artist known as Lana Del Rey, you soon will be. This 25-year-old siren exploded into the public consciousness this summer when she self-released her debut single, “Video Games,” to YouTube (garnering some 9 million views along the way). Cooler-than-thou hipster blogs initially praised her work, but quickly turned their backs on the self-described “gangster Nancy Sinatra” when it was discovered that she initially released an album under her real name, Lizzy Grant, before fully formulating the Lana Del Rey character. It’s not as if Grant/Del Rey’s calculated transition was unprecedented; everyone from Robert Zimmerman (better known as Bob Dylan) to Stefani Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) has done something similar in the name of “art.” However, in this age of information overload, the rabid, scoop-hungry blogosphere has recognized that they can rack up more page views by deriding this young singer’s work than they can by taking a wait and see approach.
After months worth of fervent Internet discourse and a hype-generating European tour, Lana Del Rey finally took the stage in her self-appointed hometown of New York City earlier this evening in what she clearly felt was a put-up or shut-up performance. “It’s good to be home,” she told the Bowery Ballroom audience as she strode on stage to the bold entrance music of Bernard Herrmann‘s iconic score from Psycho. After a couple uncomfortable moments of “f***in technical difficulties” (her words), she quickly launched into “Without You,” a song which contains lyrics that arguably define her ethos: “I think I found God in the flashbulbs of your pretty cameras.”
With the ghost of Biggie nowhere to be seen, Taylor Swift still managed to invite some incredibly impressive guests to join her on stage last night at her Madison Square Garden show. When Taylor welcomed BFF Selena Gomez to the stage to sing with her, we were half hoping the two would cover Nicki Minaj‘s “Super Bass” after their fan-girl display at the AMAs. Unfortunately, we had no such luck, but we were just as delighted with their adorable performance of “Who Says.” Taylor also performed with legendary singer/songwriter James Taylor (who she was named after). Describing the circumstances as “magical,” Taylor played “Fire And Rain” and “Fifteen” (video below) with her namesake, and proved that “magical” was somewhat of an understatement.
On Friday night in Pittsburgh, Bruce Springsteen performed “Incident On 57th Street” from the 1973 album The Wild, The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle for the very first time as a solo performer. The performance was part of a show The Boss did with long time friend Joe Grushecky, and it not only wow-ed the tiny audience lucky enough to be in attendance, but it has us in awe as we replay the video again and again. And awe is an understatement — in all honesty, we’ve found ourselves getting a little bit teary-eyed listening to Springsteen’s raw, soulful acoustic rendition of one of his earliest hits.
From humble beginnings as part of the controversial collective Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All, Frank Ocean is splashing out on his own and is not only vastly popular, but increasingly influential. Indeed, the singer/songwriter has appeared on Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s much hyped Watch The Throne album (co-writing and singing on “Made In America” and “No Church In The Wild”), and has even written a tune for Beyoncé (“I Miss You” from her new album, 4). All this without even having released an official album.
The fledgling performer could be, in this light, easily mistaken for a veteran, especially when he returned to hometown New Orleans on Saturday night to play his first ever solo show. All accounts tell of an enthusiastic, even hysterical reception, with fans singing along to lyrics and cheering for the rising star even when he fumbled with technicalities on stage. In the above video of Ocean performing “Thinking About You,” you can hear the crowd expertly keeping up with Ocean’s vocal, as if his songs were well-worn, tirelessly played classics. Ocean also beautifully covered his song for Beyoncé, “I Miss You,” at the New Orleans show (below).
Last night we caught up with the Watch The Throne tour in DC, and we were positively blown away. From the moment Jay-Z and Kanye West took to the stage and the audience erupted into a deafening roar, to the moment when the powerful pair closed with explosions and Hov’s “Encore,” we were on our feet with our hands in the air, dancing as if we were on Mount Olympus, partying with the Gods. Gods indeed — Hov and Yeezy commanded the reverent audience with the infallibility of deities, as both crowd and performers seemed indubitably ensconced in Watch The Throne dogma.
The show began with Jay and Kayne rising into the air on huge flashing cubes on opposite sides of the arena, rapping violently to “H.A.M” and inciting the audience into a fist pumping frenzy. True to form, Yeezy was wearing a leather skirt, which during the course of the show only amplified his jubilant unpredictability and erratic persona. The two continued with hits (aren’t they all?) from Watch The Throne “Who Gon Stop Me,” “Otis,” “Welcome To The Jungle,” and “Gotta Have It” before Jay-Z took off on his own for “Where I’m From” and “N—- What, N—- Who.” Kayne Came Back with one of our personal favorites, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” but it wasn’t until “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” followed by Jay-Z’s reemergence for “Public Service Announcement” that it became clear — Jesus really does walk, not in the shadow of, but side-by-side with God.
At the risk of sounding like a codger, the experience of going to see a concert live and in the flesh has diminished over the last few years, a time during which smart phones and digital cameras have become ubiquitous. Sure, audiences have always been easy to distract mid-concert—be that for beer, conversation, what-have-you—but over the last five years or so, the live concert experience has suffered because many members of the audience are too busy either taking crappy digital pictures or tweeting about the show instead of enjoying the vibes, mannnn.
I bring this up because at last night’s Dawes/Blitzen Trapper show at New York City’s Webster Hall, there were a surprising few number of people who experienced the show through a 4-inch handheld screen because they were, *gasp*, actually present in the moment! This kind of warm attentiveness is something that bands tend to react really positively to, and four gents of Dawes were no exception: Their rollicking, 90-minute(ish) set of “classic indie” songs went over like gangbusters with the demographically diverse audience last night, one that was a pleasant mix of hipsters in tight fitting plaid shirts, recently-graduated-yet-quickly-aging frat stars, bearded bros looking to kill time before next year’s Bonnaroo, and Lefsetz-reading Boomers.
MTV Hive’s Live in NYC series, which has hosted You Oughta Know alums Two Door Cinema Club and others over the past few months, is graduating to the big leagues: a CMJ Music Marathon showcase. This Saturday night, a four-band show will be streaming live at MTV Hive: Walk The Moon at 7:30pm ET, Memoryhouse at 8:15, The Stepkids at 9pm and Mr. Dream at 9:50. The whole shindig will be hosted by Matt Pinfield, and attendees will also receive free tacos. (We think that last bit is just to make those of us watching from home that much more jealous.)
After the jump, watch the Stepkids’ video for “Legend In My Own Mind,” directed by Tom Scharpling and featuring Kurt Braunohler as a guy whose acceptance of a Stepkids CD-R from Wyatt Cenac sends him into a Kangol-hat dream world. Read more…
The Webster Hall mainstage may have been host to chillwave buzz band Toro y Moi last night, but for about an hour, all the excitement at the venue was downstairs in the smaller Studio at Webster Hall, as Two Door Cinema Club ripped through most of their 2010 debut Tourist History, plus a couple B-sides, for an extremely hyped audience. All night, kids?some of whom had paid to see Toro y Moi?were trying to sneak in the back door of the already-packed show.
It helped that the band sounded really, really great. We selected them as a You Oughta Know band in February based not only on the strength of their then-nascent single “What You Know,” but the deeper cuts on the album?and those really shined last night. They made the wise decision to tour with a live drummer rather than the programmed beats they created in the studio, and it made all the difference, forcing them to push their harmonies out more so as not to be drowned out, and letting the guitar riff and play more, for a really great, open sound that was still recognizably theirs. But “What You Know” was the song everyone in the building knew: it inspired an immediate, unprompted singalong. The trio (now with drummer) must be accustomed to this, as they chose to close their set with the song. Naturally, the excited crowd wouldn’t let them go without a two-song encore.
We hope you were able to tune into the livestream last night, but if not, we’ve got the setlist below the jump, and be sure to check MTV Hive in two weeks for footage of the show. Read more…
To say that Katy B‘s performance last night for MTV Hive’s livestreamed Live In NYC concert required an adjustment is somewhat of an understatement. “Usually, it’s mostly girls!” she remarked last night, surprised at the gender-breakdown of the crowd at the Studio at Webster Hall. Welcome to New York City club shows, Katy. (To be fair, her recent performances on Britain’s summer festival circuit aren’t exactly her stock in trade either. “I’m used to performing with a DJ in a proper club environment at two in the morning,” she told MTV Hive.) Whether by practice or charisma, though, she effortlessly brought her performance into harmony with the venue and crowd.
The decision to bring a five-piece backing band (keyboards, bass, drums, saxophone, and trumpet) plus a hypeman (who understood that in this situation, unlike most, less was more) transformed Katy B’s sound significantly. The performance didn’t exactly shy away from the snapshot-of-UK-house-music that is her album On A Mission?out April 1 in England but only yesterday in the United States, though “illegally downloaded,” as Katy B teased from onstage, by the many in the crowd who knew her songs well?but it did reposition the singer as an R&B frontwoman rather than a dance vocalist. Maybe this is better suited for American audiences, who by and large don’t latch onto the Caribbean-inflected syncopated rhythms of much of UK dance music.
Or maybe Katy B was just really into it. That was the overall impression she tried to make?trying not to sell any records (no one even bothered to set up a merch table) but just to inspire the crowd to dance and to feel her vibe?or as she instructed in the introduction to one song, “Get on my level.” And we tried our best.
If you missed the stream, MTV Hive will have at least part of the show available to view on demand on Monday. The full setlist is below the jump. Read more…