Justin Timberlake - Man of the Woods Tour

Justin Timberlake - Man of the Woods Tour

Justin Timberlake - Man of the Woods Tour

Opening acts: Francesco Yates, DJs

Date Seen: February 6, 2019

Cost of Ticket: $150

Rating: 43%

The first time I saw Justin Timberlake in concert was in San Jose in 2007. He had cancelled the concert and rescheduled. Eleven years later, he cancelled and rescheduled his Edmonton concert. Coincidence? Mmm…

But let’s focus on the show. We skipped the 90 minutes of djs and warm up acts. Justin finally came onto the stage around 9:10pm (100 minutes from concert start). Considering the doors opened at 630pm and floor tickets were standing only, that would have been 4.5 hours standing on concrete. 

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Timberlake’s album and concert are named after his son Silas, who’s name means ‘Man of the Forest.’ Justin claims that “this album is really inspired by my son, my wife, my family, but more so than any album I've ever written–where I'm from." Knowing that, it seems unusual to release the first single and kick-off the concert with the sexually fuelled song “Filthy.” Mmmmkay. Even more sad, the opening was lacklustre. Timberlake’s massive meandering stage with faux trees and retractable scrims weren't enough to distract for the first two songs. Finally, Justin gets the crowd on his side with hits “LoveStoned” and “SexyBack.” While JT only sings about 1/3 of any song, he tries his best to keep up with his backup dancers. Ten years ago, JT commanded the stage with his liquid-like moves. Yesterday, the dad was outmatched by his troupe of 6 dancers. 

At this point of the concert, the crowd has forgiven JT for the start and is enjoying the danceable mixes of his decade old hits. And then he de-rails the entire show with the song "Man of the Woods." My friend turned to me and said “Are you freakin’ serious.” The aged pop star went from his steamy “ SexyBack" to a song that sounds like it belongs in a low-budget-made-for-tv children’s movie about the great outdoors. It was laughable…and again...sad. My other friend tried to find a silver-lining and noted that “at least all his music doesn’t sound the same.” And she was right - the music throughout the show did have different sounds. The problem was that they did not transition well. Furthermore, JT didn’t seem to know his audience. No one attended the show to hear him sing pop, electro, funk, country, soul, reggae and songs for Trolls. A lot of artists have chosen to take a country detour on their recent albums. I think of Kylie Minogue who packed her Aussie-self up and went to Nashville and recorded her album Golden. While the album had a western sound, it was also authentically Kylie. You could tell she considered her fans when she recorded it. Timberlake’s departure from his pop roots doesn’t do the same. It’s like he lost his way and we found him drunk in sad honky tonk with Toby Keith playing in the background.

There were a few decent moments. “Cry Me a River” seemed filled with the right amount of edge and angst. The visuals projected on the scrims worked well and for me, this was the best of the show.  “Mirrors” and “SummerLove” also reminded me why I liked JT in the first place. The retractable scrims provided makeshift screens that were occasionally used to accentuate the music (but all too often just showed a variety of trees…yeah we get it. Man of the Woods). While Timberlake did his best with these few songs, the sound wasn’t great. The arena was set up for a concert in the round, but the speakers provided an unclear sound for the majority of the show. One interesting touch was the campfire at the end of the arena. We didn’t have a great view of it but it was a nice idea. Unfortunately, it took JT and his team about 5 minutes (and a round of shots) in order to set up their acoustic set. 

I’m not going to beat the concert to death. I could write another 1000 words telling you how he barely sang, missed steps and lacked audience connection. It was bad. It wasn’t even 2 hours but I couldn’t wait for it to be over. After the show, I received several texts from friends asking if I thought it was as tragic as they did. JT is a undeniably talented but I think he is struggling to find his space as an adult artist. He worked with great producers on his most recent album, but the result missed the mark. His mashup of a concert failed on almost every front. Maybe he should stick to acting and appearing on Jimmy Fallon. Next time he plans to come to town, I can assure you that I won’t have tickets and he won’t be able to cancel on me for a third time. 

Setlist: 

Filthy

Midnight Summer Jam

LoveStoned

SexyBack

Man of the Woods

Higher Higher

Señorita

Suit & Tie

My Love

Cry Me a River

Mirrors

Drink You Away

Until the End of Time

Morning Light

What Goes Around... Comes Around

Say Something

Montana

Summer Love

Rock Your Body

Supplies

Like I Love You

Can't Stop the Feeling!

John Legend—A Legendary Christmas Tour

John Legend—A Legendary Christmas Tour

John Legend—A Legendary Christmas Tour

Opening acts: None

Date Seen: November 27, 2018

Cost of Ticket: $250

Rating: 83%

What better way to kick off the holiday season than with Legendary John Legend. Legend has been nominated for 27 Grammys and brought 10 of them home. Oh and did I mention that he also has an Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar and Tony Award? This makes John Legend one of only 15 people to achieve this and the first African-American man to do so. He has proven himself as a multifaceted performer, songwriter and producer. 

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Legend brought his tour to Toronto this evening to spread some Christmas cheer. He released “A Legendary Christmas” album which is comprised of reworked classics and original songs. While I appreciate his talent, I’m not a big fan. However, when I saw he was in Toronto while I was there for work, I thought why not go see him? Maybe Chrissy Teigen will be seated next to me and we’ll become BFFs. 

While I didn’t get to meet Chrissy, I did get to experience and understand Legend’s appeal. John opened up the show with an upbeat cover of Stevie Wonder’s “What Christmas Means to Me” that had the audience on their feet. Legend has a charismatic voice of a bygone era that lends itself perfectly to classics like Bing Crosby’s “Silver Bells.” His Motown take on Christmas carols gives them a unique aspect. His 8 piece band (especially the brass section) takes the music to the next level. 

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Legend’s message for the night is all about Love (See the Setlist!). He weaves between romantic Christmas songs like “Merry Christmas Baby” and “Please Come Home for Christmas” to his R&B hits like “A Good Night” and “Tonight (Best You Ever Had).” One of the most special parts of the night was when Legend sang his duet with Meghan Trainor “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” His voice is consistently pitch perfect. He hits his notes with ease. Everything he sings has a sensual and smooth quality to it. 

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Beyond his vocals, Legend does a decent job of working the stage. His occasional interactions with his 3 backup singers is cute and playful. Though a few less costume changes than Cher, he works his way through a colourful array of suits and tuxedos. The background LED screen transported the audience to different locations and moods. And at times, Legend kept it simple with just he and the piano. 

The highlight of the evening was the encore performance “All of Me.” The audience was not going home without hearing Legend’s biggest hit. John, solo at the piano, gave the crowd everything they had hoped for. The performance was nothing short of magical. 

All Of Me

All Of Me

Why didn’t John get a higher rating from me? Well besides Chrissy not being seated next to me (message me - we’ll go get some take out!)…there was room for improvement. Legend is likeable the minute he walks onto the stage. And I get the impression he is probably a great storyteller. But he doesn’t open up to let the audience in. His music alone only takes us so far on the journey. He briefly touches on the importance of music with his family but a few more anecdotes would have made the evening much more intimate and festive. Secondly, he should have kept the concert a bit more “classic” sounding and included songs like his beautiful cover of Mel Tormé’s “Christmas Song.” The song showcases Legend’s impressive voice and it was a shame not to hear it performed. And it felt a lil wrong to so quickly transition into Judy Garland’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from “Penthouse Floor."


Glad I went and got the John Legend experience but I expected a bit more. 
PS - John, thanks for liking my posts on Instagram ;-)

Setlist:

  1. What Christmas Means to Me

  2. Silver Bells

  3. Bring Me Love

  4. A Good Night

  5. Tonight (Best You Ever Had)

  6. Love Me Now

  7. Please Come Home for Christmas

  8. By Christmas Eve

  9. Where Did My Baby Go

  10. Slow Dance

  11. Merry Christmas Baby

  12. Christmas Time Is Here

  13. No Place Like Home

  14. Wrap Me Up In Your Love

  15. Save Room

  16. Like I'm Gonna Lose You

  17. Penthouse Floor

  18. Ordinary People

  19. You & I

  20. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

  21. Green Light

  22. Encore: All of Me

  23. Christmas Time is Here

Tour Dates: 

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Lea Michele & Darren Criss—LM/DC Tour—Gleeking Out All Over Again

Lea Michele & Darren Criss—LM/DC Tour—Gleeking Out All Over Again

Lea Michele & Darren Criss—LM/DC Tour

Opening acts: None

Date Seen: May 30, 2018

Cost of Ticket: $80

Rating: 74%

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Our favourite Glee stars kicked off their summer tour last night at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Both Lea and Darren have the vocals and star power to carry this show, however, the show was spoiled by poor sound engineering. Essentially, the music was too loud for the delicate Ryman. Perhaps, Darren Criss & Lea Michele figured this out by doing an encore that was completely acoustic (sans microphone, speaker or lighting for that matter). But let's start at the beginning.

The show started nearly a half hour late, with the Ryman keeping concertgoers waiting in ridiculous lines outside the theatre in the rain. Bad on you Ryman! Walking into this show, I said to my parents that the success of it weighed heavily on the setlist. Lea and Darren are known for their roles on Glee but have since gone on to record their own music to limited/moderate success. Luckily the setlist was near perfect—packed full of the songs made popular on Glee. The pair kicked off the show with “Broadway Baby” that was sung on Glee and a fitting song for them both. Lea especially knew what the crowd wanted to hear while Darren’s selections were more obscure, even his Broadway choices. Overall, the show was well balanced with what I wanted to hear and what they had to try and sell (their new independent music). 

Lea’s voice is something to behold. It is every bit as magical as Streisand or Menzel. She effortlessly hit notes that would scare other professional singers. However, because of the microphones, she lacked clarity. Several times, she even manually corrected her singing to adjust for feedback with the mic. Although I suspect she is too professional to do it, it sounded like she had skipped the sound check. (On a crazy sidenote, Celine Dion used to skip soundchecks and call them in over the cell phone while she was traveling. So it can be done). And while you could hear her pitch-perfect notes, more than half the time you didn’t know what she was singing unless you knew the song. Also, she had a couple 'off' moments in the show, most notably during my favourite song of hers, Battlefield, where she had rearranged the music but obviously forgot. They had to stop the song and pick up after the chorus.  Another time later in the show, while singing with Darren, she in her own words, “fucked it up” again. 

Darren Criss could be seen as the underdog on this tour but he makes certain to prove that isn’t the case. While he might lack Lea’s elevated vocals, he compensates with musicality, movement, and personality. And luckily he is able to come across as anything but the psycho from the Assassination of Gianni Versace. He has a genuine gift for music; especially with his songwriting, composing and arranging. But, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a stellar performance. He kept dismissing the band to play solo which was distracting - and most of the time he sounded better with the other four musicians (Sorry Darren). He was most enjoyable when he sang recognizable songs such as Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” which he covered on Glee. His best moment on stage, by far, was when he covered Patsy Cline’s classic “She’s Got You.” Also, Darren’s voice came through much clearer than Lea’s so that was an added benefit to him. 

Overall, an enjoyable night of music. The show lasted less than 2 hours which is short for 2 performers. Darren and Lea’s chemistry was fun and light, although, half was lost through the mics. Sadly, the sound worked against them here.  As a performer with your name on your marquee, the show is ultimately your responsibility. If you sound bad, even though the mixer or sound engineer or stage manager or band compromise you, I think it’s within your power/right to correct it. Both Lea and Darren were off stage at times and could have easily spoken to their team to correct the change necessary. Although, they should have been settled long before the show at the sound check. I quickly googled “Ryman acoustics” and the third article discussed how delicate the Ryman is, and that it has near-perfect acoustics. However, when the music is too loud, it throws everything off, which is what I think happened last night. Regardless, great talent, decent performance, lousy sound. 

___

Setlist:

Together:

Broadway Baby 

Suddenly Seymour 

Falling Slowly 

Lea Michele:

Cannonball 

Battlefield 

Don't Rain on my Parade 

Maybe this Time 

Pokerface 

Edge of Glory 

Glitter in the Air 

Run to You 

Together: 

Getaway Car

Darren Criss:

Cough Syrup 

Go Nowhere 

Baby I Don't Care 

I Don't Mind 

She's Got You 

Brotherhood of Man/Midnight Radio Medley

Foolish Thing 

Not Alone 

Teenage dream 

Together:

The Coolest Girl 

This Time 

Don't You Want Me Baby (the human league cover)

Encore Together:

To Make You Feel My Love (acoustic)

___

Tour Dates: 

May 30 in Nashville, Tennessee, at The Ryman Auditorium

May 31 in Cincinnati, Ohio, at Taft Theatre

June 2 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at Benedum Center

June 3 in Washington, D.C., at Kennedy Center

June 5 in Indianapolis, Indiana, at Murat Theatre

June 6 in Columbus, Ohio, at Ohio Theatre

June 8 in Easton, Pennsylvania, at State Theatre Center for the Arts

June 9 in Newark, New Jersey, at NJPAC

June 10 in Toronto, Ontario, at Sony Theatre

June 26 in Chicago, Illinois, at Chicago Theater

June 27 in St. Louis, Missouri, at Peabody Opera House

June 29 in Atlanta, Georgia, at Cobb Energy Center

June 30 in Durham, North Carolina, at DPAC

July 1 in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Ovens Auditorium

Taylor Swift — Reputation Stadium Tour — Back to Conquer

Taylor Swift — Reputation Stadium Tour — Back to Conquer

Taylor Swift — Reputation Stadium Tour

Opening acts: Charli XCX and Camila Cabello

Date Seen: May 8, 2018

Cost of Ticket: $205

Rating: 92%

Tonight Taylor Swift embarked on what might be one of her biggest career risks yet: a 53 date world stadium tour. Having had her personal life criticized, she stepped out of the spotlight and focused on trying to live as normal as possible. After nearly a 2-year hiatus, launching the largest-scale tour possible is a gutsy move. It's one thing to fill 15,000 seat arenas. It's quite another to fill 50,000+ stadiums. But on the kickoff show to her concert, she broke attendance records and set the tone for her tour. 

Springing into action

Springing into action

Scale is everything for a stadium concert. Swift understands this perfectly. Her soaring stage was well used to provide digital backgrounds and video footage of the performance. It was a simple structure that was very well used. Kudos to her creative team that kept the footage fresh and artistic and playful. (I especially loved the pre-show video footage of fan reactions to the "Look What You Made Me Do" music video and the small cameo from her cat Olivia). There was no shortage of fireworks and pyrotechnics to make a big impact throughout the show. The stage itself spanned the entire width of the stadium and had catwalks that went into the crowd on both sides. No matter where your seats were, you had a clear view of Taylor either in person or through projected video footage. The stadium was also equipped with 2 satellite stages at the back of the stadium in which Taylor traveled to and from in mechanical orbs and snakes above the crowd. Often stadium tours can get tricky when it comes to sound but I watched the show from 2 different locations and both had great sound. Finally, all concert-goers were equipped with light-up bracelets that illuminated the stadium beautifully...60,000 people with synchronized wristbands is pretty awesome

The show featured eight costume changes: ranging from embroidered black body suits to silver beaded mini dresses All were designed to allow Taylor to move and sparkle. While the costumes were glittery, only her rainbow shimmery dress used for "Shake It Off" had any wow factor. This was the only part of the show that I thought was disappointing. Taylor knows fashion and knows how to make it work for her—the basic costumes just left me underwhelmed. 

One thing Swift and her team do excel at is artistry. Taylor continued the use of snake imagery as the main theme throughout the show. At various times the stage was filled with a serpent throne, robotic and inflatable reptiles, bejeweled snake microphone, and projected snake imagery. Swift even explains the abundance of imagery as she was famously referred to as a 'Snake' on social media. (Though Taylor didn't name names, Kim Kardashian was the one who labeled Swift a snake). Beyond the slithery imagery, Taylor's show had a more urban feel while being playful enough not to be a complete badass. It still had plenty of positive messages even if the show does have a darker feel than past tours. 

Setlist can also make or break a show (Full setlist below). Swift did a great job of balancing old and new material: almost 50/50. The show started strong and plowed forward with hit after hit. Midway through the show, Swift did an acoustic set with just her and her guitar for a few songs. After that, Taylor kicked it into high gear and turned the stadium back into a dance party. Towards the end of the show, Swift sits down at her custom 'Reputation' piano and does a few more acoustic songs before she heads into the big finale. Surprisingly, there was no encore and the show wrapped up quickly and orderly. 

Performance wise, Taylor was at the top of her game. Her vocals were studio quality and she made the entire performance look so easy. Perhaps it's her passion and the return to the stage was important for her. There was never a moment when she wasn't strutting, dancing, working her 'tilted stage' or connecting with fans. If this is what a 2-year hiatus does, I suggest more performers take her lead. Regardless, she gave 110% at all times, vocally and physically.

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There were two opening acts for Taylor: Charli XCX and Camila Cabello. Charli XCX pounded hit after hit and got the crowd warmed up. I like a few of her songs but I was surprised at the hits that included her vocals such as "I Love It" by Icona Pop and "Fancy" with Iggy Azalea. Plus she rocked her own hit such as "Boom Clap" and "Boys." Then Camila Cabello came out. I'm not sure how 1-Hit-Wonder Cabello got a higher billing than Charli XCX. Cabello sold her sex appeal and her failed attempts to twerk to fill the space that music should have filled. She saved "Havana" for the end and the rest was forgettable. However, though I'm not a fan, I will say that as a performer she has grown tremendously since I saw her open for Bruno Mars last summer. She needs to focus on the music and less on gyrating on her male dancers. 

Few other things you NEED to know about the tour:

- You CANNOT bring your purse into the show.  They enforce a very strict clear-bag policy. See below

Very strictly enforced.

Very strictly enforced.

- You can't bring in any of the following: battery packs (I kept mine in my pocket), lights of any kind, glowsticks, professional cameras, studded jewelry, unusually long wallet chains and spurs, banners with poles, banners and signs larger than 11"x17", political signage, audio/video recording devices, road and emergency flares, pepper spray/mace. 

- Arrive early. Last night there was 60,000 in Glendale and it was an organized zoo. 

- Tickets are offered only via mobile devices. If you purchased multiple tickets for people, be sure to transfer tickets to them for ease of entry. 

- Prebook your parking or better yet, get a taxi or Uber. My one caveat is to be careful of surge pricing on Uber. 

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TAYLOR SWIFT REPUTATION STADIUM TOUR SETLIST

…Ready for It?
I Did Something Bad
Gorgeous
Medley: Style/Love Story/You Belong With Me
Look What You Made Me Do
End Game
King of My Heart
Delicate
Shake It Off with Charli XCX & Camila Cabello
Dancing With Our Hands Tied
All Too Well
Blank Space
Dress
Mash-Up Bad Blood/Should've Said No
Don’t Blame Me
Long Live
New Year’s Day
Getaway Car
Call It What You Want
Mash-Up We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together/This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams Tour—Endless Magical Moments

Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams Tour—Endless Magical Moments

Coldplay: A Head Full of Dreams Tour. Opening Acts: Tove Lo, Alina Baraz

Date Seen: September 26, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $225

Rating: 90%

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Going into tonight's Coldplay concert I had rather mixed feelings. I'm not a fan of their music but I don't mind it if it's on the radio. Perhaps I have a couple songs downloaded randomly in my 8000 song Spotify catalogue. And honestly, if you asked me what the first thing that comes to mind when someone says "Coldplay"—it would be Gwyneth Paltrow. (Let the judging begin).

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This evenings performance at Edmonton Rogers Place was nothing short of magical. This is Coldplay's seventh tour and includes 123 shows internationally. From the moment the band took the stage, their electric energy could be felt pulsing throughout the arena. More correctly, Chris Martin's energy. This really is the Chris Martin show—though humble and gracious, he is much more than just the frontman. At the age of 40, Chris has an endless supply of unharnessed energy, smiles and pitch-perfect notes. He is magnetic to watch. He is what you paid to see. And Chris delivered and delivered and delivered. 

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The rest of the band, consisting of Guy Berryman (bassist), Jonny Buckland (lead guitarist) and Will Champion (drummer), ensure that Chris sounds incredible. Berryman's good looks, Buckland's guitar talent and Champion's personality keep the band likeable. But Chris Martin is the Adam Levine of Coldplay.

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The show starts strong with A Head Full of Dreams and fan favourites Yellow, Every Teardrop is a Waterfall and The Scientist. From the beginning, the show was as much of a concert as it was a spectacle. Coloured wristbands strobed to the music. Confetti cannons regularly exploded. Lazers penetrated the arena. Fires blazed high behind the band. Dozens of balloons bounced over the crowd on the floor. The stage lit up with nonstop imagery and video clips. The stage backdrop was illuminated floral strands. Even Jonny Buckland's guitar was equipped with strobing lights. But none of this compared to how Chris Martin effortlessly bounced down the stage and twirled till he collapsed on the stage in childlike innocence—all without missing a beat or a breath. 

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The band moves down to the end of the runway and does a short three-song set where the pace begins to fade. Moving back to the main stage, the show continues with Clocks and with Martin working the entire runway and stage with his prior energy. For the song Charlie Brown, Chris Martin asks the crowd to put their phones away for one song to connect and feel the music. The result is rousing and the crowd dances with their hands free. Magic restored.

The next three songs are music gold and the audience is on cloud 9. Then the 4 bandmates move to a stage located directly in the stands and perform inches away from fans on the opposite end of the arena. It is a real treat for the nearby fans, but not much of one for the crowd on the floor. The band is crammed onto a 10 sq ft platform and once again the momentum drops. But it does allow time for the band to connect with the audience in a way other artists can't. 

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The final few songs back on the main stage brings back everything to awesome. The band seems in their element and Martin parades down the catwalk, plays piano and runs back and forth to cover each side of the stage. The concert finishes strong and the crowd gives a solid standing ovation. All the band members take their bows together and truly seem thankful for the opportunity to perform.

The show is designed to make you feel recharged and reborn. Martin talks about how no matter what craziness and terror are going on in the world, he reminds himself that people are generally good. Scripts flash across the screen about being good to one another. The message to spread love comes across loud and clear. It almost makes you want to run out and by a totally tie-dyed wardrobe and live in a commune near Big Sur. Almost. 

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The concert also had 2 opening acts. Alina Baraz was truly forgettable in elevator music kind of way. She began before the concert was scheduled to begin at 7pm. Tove Lo gave an edgier performance and proved that she could be the next big thing out of Sweden since Robyn. Her gritty lyrics and songbird voice gave a few memorable moments. Coldplay came onstage at 845pm and finished at 11pm.

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Even if you're not fans of Coldplay, I very strongly suggest you check out their live shows. There is one more show scheduled for Edmonton. Tickets begin at $29 and I'm even considering going again. The show is beautifully performed, stylistically pleasing, and nurturing for the soul...just with a few minor pacing issues.

Edmonton Set List

  1. O mio babbino caro (Maria Callas song)

  2. A Head Full of Dreams

  3. Yellow

  4. Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall

  5. The Scientist

  6. Birds

  7. Paradise

  8. Always in My Head

  9. Magic

  10. Everglow

  11. Clocks

  12. Midnight

  13. Charlie Brown

  14. Hymn for the Weekend

  15. Fix You

  16. Viva la Vida

  17. Adventure of a Lifetime

  18. Kaleidoscope

  19. In My Place

  20. Don't Panic

  21. Til Kingdom Come

  22. Something Just Like This

  23. A Sky Full of Stars

  24. Up&Up

North American Concert Dates:

August 1 – East Rutherford, NJ @ MetLife Stadium
August 4 – Boston, MA @ Gillette Stadium
August 6 – Washington, DC @ FedExField
August 8 – Montreal, QC @ Bell Centre
August 12 – Minneapolis, MN @ US Bank Stadium
August 14 – Omaha, NE @ CenturyLink Center
August 15 – Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
August 17 – Chicago, IL @ Soldier Field
August 19 – Cleveland, OH @ Quicken Loans Arena
August 21 – Toronto, ON @ Rogers Centre
August 25 – Houston, TX @ NRG Stadium
August 28 – Miami, FL @ Hard Rock Stadium
September 23 – Seattle, WA @ CenturyLink Field
September 26/27 – Edmonton, AB @ Rogers Place
September 29 – Vancouver, BC @ BC Place
October 2 – Portland, OR @ Moda Center
October 4 – San Francisco, CA @ Levi’s Stadium
October 8 – San Diego, CA @ Qualcomm Stadium

Lady Gaga: Joanne World Tour—Giving us a million reasons to enjoy the show

Lady Gaga: Joanne World Tour—Giving us a million reasons to enjoy the show

Lady Gaga: Joanne World Tour, No opening act

Date Seen: August 3, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $300: Come to Mama VIP Package

Rating: 85%

Starting off the show

Starting off the show

Leather, leather and more leather...

Leather, leather and more leather...

I've been fortunate enough to see Lady Gaga perform in 3 of her other world tours (Monster Ball 2010, Born This Way Ball 2012 & ArtRave 2014). I have appreciated watching Gaga grow as an artist and performer. There were parts of the Monster Ball tour that were riddled with amateur mistakes from blocking to song choices and pacing. Born This Way Ball was a huge improvement where I believe she really hit her stride. The ArtRave tour made me fall in love with songs from the ArtPop album that I otherwise felt had fizzled. The show gave her music life and her performances were electric. Gaga's latest album, Joanne, had a few stand out songs but overall lacked the edginess that has defined her career. So it was with great anticipation I waited to see what her most recent tour would bring to her fans and tonight I found out. 

Gaga took the stage and started her 22 song-set with gusto. Instantly digging into new material—and be prepared, she sings 9 of the 11 tracks from her Joanne album. Diamond Heart was an interesting choice to start the show. However, the little monsters ate it up as Gaga had finally arrived. She rocked Perfect Illusion which is the best breakup song of the past few years. Come to Mama was a poignant and sweet moment where Mother Monster embraced the diversity of the crowd and preached the need for love and acceptance. Her vocals hit all the right notes even if she occasionally missed one or two on the piano. 

Sequined cowboy hat

Sequined cowboy hat

Cool stage effect

Cool stage effect

A few highlights of the show came when Lady Gaga played crowd favorites such as Bad Romance, The Edge of Glory and Just Dance. While Scheiße has never been a personal fave, it was a great vehicle to showcase the energetic dancing of Gaga and her team of dancers. Sadly, a few songs fell flat. Telephone seemed empty without having Beyonce's role (prerecorded or otherwise) filled. While Alejandro was well performed with a multitude of sexy male dancers, the lighting was too dark for both Gaga and the dancers, and the performance essentially became a silhouette to the LED screens on stage. Bloody Mary and Dancing in Circles were both forgettable. But Mother Monster finishes strong with The Cure and a show-stopping encore of a Million Reasons. 

Dramatic costumes

Dramatic costumes

Gaga's stage was an innovative network of bridges that get lowered down from 'pods' suspended from the ceilings. Sometimes the bridges were rotated and doubled as screens. On another occasion, they were used for a quick change. They allowed Gaga to move from one end of the arena to the next. It was well used and interesting to experience. The mainstage had moving risers that contorted the stage into different angles. This also added to the overall visual effects of the evening. 

Birds' eye view of the staging with the bridges and pods.

Birds' eye view of the staging with the bridges and pods.

Another cowboy hat

Another cowboy hat

I think the biggest flaw of the evening was the disjointed and lengthy transitions between segments. Artists like Cher and Britney Spears change costumes within 30-45 seconds. Gaga's transitions were closer to 3 minutes with the band playing and the odd video segment. It killed the dance vibe the crowd had going. When Lady Gaga reappeared, she had no issue getting the crowd back again, but it felt like a bumpy ride. It should also be said that the costumes were mostly interesting and unique except for the repeated country themed outfits. I can only handle so many cowboy hats in one show. 

Here's lookin at you kid...

Here's lookin at you kid...

One final critique is on the organization of the event. Originally when I bought the tickets, the event was scheduled for 7:30 pm. It got changed to 8:30 pm with no notice to concert goers. We had purchased the VIP Come to Mama package, which included floor seats, some swag, and priority entrance. 2 days before the show, the email from organizers informed us that the priority entrance was from 3:30-5:30 pm. Many people arrived around 3:30 pm. Organizers herded us from one line to the next for over 4 hours.  Gaga didn't take the stage until almost 9 pm. So by the time the concert had started, many of the VIPs had already been standing for over 5.5 hours and then stood another 2 hours for the show. If you ask me...that's not very VIP at all. 

Bad Romance

Bad Romance

Overall, Gaga did what she does best, she connected with her crowd and sang her heart out. There were places she could have improved but there was also some standout moments that I'll likely never forget. Advice: See the show, Skip the VIP packages and avoid floor tickets. 

Another great costume

Another great costume

Remaining Shows are listed below:

AUG 5, 2017
SATURDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Tacoma Dome
Tacoma, Washington
AUG 8, 2017
TUESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour The Forum
Inglewood, California
AUG 9, 2017
WEDNESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour The Forum
Inglewood, California
AUG 11, 2017
FRIDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour T -Mobile Arena
Las Vegas, Nevada
AUG 13, 2017
SUNDAY @ 7PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour AT&T Park
San Francisco, California
AUG 15, 2017
TUESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Golden 1 Center
Sacramento, California
AUG 19, 2017
SATURDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour CenturyLink Center Omaha
Omaha, Nebraska
AUG 21, 2017
MONDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Xcel Energy Center
Saint Paul, Minnesota
AUG 23, 2017
WEDNESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, Ohio
AUG 25, 2017
FRIDAY @ 7PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Wrigley Field
Chicago, Illinois
AUG 28, 2017
MONDAY @ 8:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Citi Field
Corona, New York
AUG 29, 2017
TUESDAY @ 8:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Citi Field
Corona, New York
SEP 2, 2017
SATURDAY @ 6:30PM
Lady Gaga Fenway Park
Boston, Massachusetts
SEP 4, 2017
MONDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Centre Bell
Montréal, Quebec
SEP 6, 2017
WEDNESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario
SEP 7, 2017
THURSDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Air Canada Centre
Toronto, Ontario
SEP 10, 2017
SUNDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
SEP 11, 2017
MONDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Wells Fargo Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
NOV 5, 2017
SUNDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Indianapolis, Indiana
NOV 7, 2017
TUESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Little Caesars Arena
Detroit, Michigan
NOV 10, 2017
FRIDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, Connecticut
NOV 11, 2017
SATURDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Mohegan Sun Arena
Uncasville, Connecticut
NOV 13, 2017
MONDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour KFC Yum! Center
Louisville, Kentucky
NOV 15, 2017
WEDNESDAY @ 7PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Sprint Center
Kansas City, Missouri
NOV 16, 2017
THURSDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Scottrade Center
Saint Louis, Missouri
NOV 19, 2017
SUNDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Verizon Center
Washington, District of Columbia
NOV 20, 2017
MONDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour PPG Paints Arena
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
NOV 28, 2017
TUESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Philips Arena
Atlanta, Georgia
NOV 30, 2017
THURSDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour American Airlines Arena
Miami, Florida
DEC 1, 2017
FRIDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Amalie Arena
Tampa, Florida
DEC 3, 2017
SUNDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Toyota Center
Houston, Texas
DEC 5, 2017
TUESDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Frank Erwin Center
Austin, Texas
DEC 8, 2017
FRIDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour American Airlines Center
Dallas, Texas
DEC 9, 2017
SATURDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour Chesapeake Energy Arena
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
DEC 16, 2017
SATURDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga T-Mobile Arena
Las Vegas, Nevada
DEC 18, 2017
MONDAY @ 7:30PM
Lady Gaga Joanne World Tour The Forum
Inglewood, California

Bruno Mars: 24K Magic World Tour—Worth His Weight In Gold

Bruno Mars: 24K Magic World Tour—Worth His Weight In Gold

Bruno Mars: 24K Magic World Tour, Camila Cabello as the Opening Act

Date Seen: July 30, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $195 

Rating: 88%

Kicking off the show

Kicking off the show

There are so many great things to say about tonight's Bruno Mars concert that it's hard to find a place to begin. So let's make a list so we get to them all:

1) The voice. Bruno sounds better live than on his record. He has an impressive vocal range that allows him to master ballads like "When I Was Your Man" and "Versace on the Floor." However, he also has a quick tongue that allows him to keep to the beat of faster tracks like "24K" and "Perm." There are moments when he channels legendary Michael Jackson with his voice and moves.

Finesse

Finesse

2) The moves. From the moment he stepped onto the stage, his feet didn't stay still. The man has an excess of swagger and moves. It is rare to find a performer who can move and sing so well together. His signature moves are perfect for his funky R&B disco vibe. By the second song, Bruno was dripping with perspiration as he jammed out to his songs. But that certainly didn't stop him from grinding and grooving for the rest of the night.

24K

24K

Bruno & The Hooligans

Bruno & The Hooligans

3) The staging and lighting were innovative. I've never seen so much pyrotechnics used in one concert before. There was no shortage of fire and fireworks throughout the show. To the point where I could feel the heat 24 rows back. The stage had moving platforms to add extra levels. The stage was completed with a back row of lights as well as mobile floating banks of lights. These lights took on so many different formations that they were interesting to watch. On top of that, lazers were just the icing on the cake. Finally, there was a stage wide video screen to project video feed of the concert alongside two other big screens. 

Lazers!

Lazers!

Incredible lighting

Incredible lighting

4) The setlist. With the exception of "Billionaire," (which was part of copyright lawsuit), Bruno performed all of his hits while also including a good sampling of his new album. He put a fresh spin on older hits like "Grenade" and made us fall in love with some of his newer songs like "Perm" and "Finesse." My only criticism is that Bruno uses "Locked Out of Heaven" and "Uptown Funk" as his 'encore.' These are must haves in the setlist and so really they are just the finale. 

Runaway Baby

Runaway Baby

Grenade

Grenade

5) The band. Ooo...the band was good. After watching Ed Sheeran perform last week for 2 hours with just his guitar, I REALLY appreciated the awesome sound of The Hooligans. Special shout out to the 3 piece brass section that added that unique sound that differentiates Bruno from other artists in the pop genre. John Fossit on keyboards also had a solo that was showstopping. 

Chunky

Chunky

Now there are a few things that could have made the show a 10/10. Bruno was on stage for 90 minutes which just isn't enough. 90 minutes is the Las Vegas standard but not for a touring show. I think anything less than 2 hours is cheating. The opening act, Camila Cabello, was utterly forgettable. She started the show off at 8:15pm and wrapped her set after 30 minutes. Bruno came on stage at approximately 9:30pm and I was outside of Rogers Place by 11pm. 
Lastly, while I will praise the staging, I didn't love the stage. When you tour a show in arenas, the show would have benefitted from a catwalk or a secondary stage. 

Versace on the Floor

Versace on the Floor

Overall a great night of non-stop energy and music. If you don't have your tickets, get them quick. You will not be disappointed. The remaining tour dates are listed below. 

July 31, 2017     Edmonton    Rogers Place
August 2, 2017    Winnipeg    Bell MTS Place  
August 4, 2017    Fargo    United States    Fargodome  
August 5, 2017    Saint Paul    Xcel Energy Center   
August 7, 2017    Lincoln    Pinnacle Bank Arena   
August 9, 2017    Kansas City    Sprint Center   
August 12, 2017    Auburn Hills    The Palace of Auburn Hills   
August 13, 2017    Indianapolis    Bankers Life Fieldhouse   
August 15, 2017    Cleveland    Quicken Loans Arena  
August 16, 2017    Chicago    United Center    
August 18, 2017    Chicago    United Center  
August 19, 2017    Chicago    United Center  
August 22, 2017    Pittsburgh    PPG Paints Arena   
August 24, 2017    Quebec City    Canada    Videotron Centre      
August 26, 2017    Toronto    Air Canada Centre   
August 27, 2017     Toronto    Air Canada Centre
August 29, 2017    Montreal    Bell Centre
August 30, 2017    Montreal    Bell Centre
September 2, 2017    Las Vegas    The Park Theater    
September 3, 2017    Las Vegas    The Park Theater
September 14, 2017    Charlotte    Spectrum Center     
September 16, 2017    Atlanta    Piedmont Park   
September 17, 2017    Memphis    FedExForum   
September 19, 2017    Louisville    KFC Yum! Center  
September 20, 2017    Columbus    Schottenstein Center  
September 22, 2017    New York City    Madison Square Garden   
September 23, 2017    New York City    Madison Square Garden
September 26, 2017    Newark    Prudential Center  
September 27, 2017    Buffalo    KeyBank Center   
September 29, 2017    Washington, D.C.    Verizon Center  
September 30, 2017    Washington, D.C.    Verizon Center
October 4, 2017    Brooklyn    Barclays Center   
October 5, 2017    Uniondale    Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum   
October 7, 2017    Boston    TD Garden  
October 8, 2017    Boston    TD Garden
October 10, 2017    Philadelphia    Wells Fargo Center   
October 12, 2017    Raleigh    PNC Arena    
October 14, 2017    Orlando    Amway Center    
October 15, 2017    Sunrise    BB&T Center    
October 18, 2017    Miami    American Airlines Arena   
October 19, 2017    Tampa    Amalie Arena    
October 21, 2017    New Orleans    Smoothie King Center    
October 22, 2017    North Little Rock    Verizon Arena    
October 24, 2017    Houston    Toyota Center    
October 25, 2017    San Antonio    AT&T Center    
October 27, 2017    Dallas    American Airlines Center    
October 30, 2017    Denver    Pepsi Center    
November 2, 2017    Fresno    Save Mart Center    
November 3, 2017    Oakland    Oracle Arena    
November 5, 2017    Phoenix    Talking Stick Resort Arena    
November 7, 2017    Inglewood    The Forum
November 8, 2017    Inglewood    The Forum
November 10, 2017    Inglewood    The Forum
November 11, 2017    Inglewood    The Forum
Latin America
November 18, 2017    Rio de Janeiro    Brazil    Praça da Apoteose
November 19, 2017    Rio de Janeiro    Brazil    Praça da Apoteose
November 22, 2017    São Paulo    Estádio do Morumbi    
November 23, 2017    São Paulo    Estádio do Morumbi
November 25, 2017    La Plata    Argentina    Estadio Ciudad de La Plata  
November 28, 2017    Santiago    Chile    Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos   
November 30, 2017    Lima    Peru    Estadio Nacional de Lima   
December 2, 2017    Quito    Ecuador    Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa    
February 2, 2018    Mexico City    Mexico    Foro Sol   
February 3, 2018    Mexico City    Mexico    Foro Sol
February 5, 2018    Guadalajara    Estadio Chivas   
Oceania
February 27, 2018    Auckland    New Zealand    Spark Arena    
February 28, 2018   Auckland    New Zealand    Spark Arena
March 2, 2018    Auckland    New Zealand    Spark Arena
March 3, 2018    Auckland    New Zealand    Spark Arena
March 7, 2018    Melbourne    Australia    Rod Laver Arena  
March 8, 2018    Melbourne    Australia    Rod Laver Arena
March 10, 2018    Melbourne    Australia    Rod Laver Arena
March 11, 2018    Melbourne    Australia    Rod Laver Arena
March 14, 2018    Brisbane    Brisbane Entertainment Centre    
March 15, 2018    Brisbane    Brisbane Entertainment Centre
March 17, 2018    Sydney    Qudos Bank Arena   
March 18, 2018    Sydney    Qudos Bank Arena   
March 20, 2018    Sydney    Qudos Bank Arena   
March 23, 2018    Sydney    Qudos Bank Arena   
March 24, 2018    Sydney    Qudos Bank Arena   
March 26, 2018    Adelaide    Adelaide Entertainment Centre    
March 28, 2018    Perth    Perth Arena   
March 29, 2018    Perth    Perth Arena
Asia
April 12, 2018    Saitama    Japan    Saitama Super Arena   
April 14, 2018    Saitama    Japan    Saitama Super Arena
May 3, 2018    Manila    Philippines    Mall of Asia Arena    
May 9, 2018    Kuala Lumpur    Malaysia    Axiata Arena    
North America
June 8, 2018    Monterrey    Mexico    Estadio Universitario

Ed Sheeran: ÷ Tour—Needs a bit more addition

Ed Sheeran: ÷ Tour—Needs a bit more addition

Ed Sheeran: ÷ Tour, James Blunt as opening act

Date Seen: July 25, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $80 (Face Value $250)

Rating: 71%

Perhaps James Blunt said it best: Ed Sheeran is the most successful male solo artist in the world right now. It's impossible not to have heard his hits played repeatedly on the radio. Unfortunately, that is probably the best place you could have heard them.

First let's look at 3 different words: Performer, Singer & Musician. Ed is 2 out of 3. The guy can sing and he can play guitar but he is not a performer. Yet, he does have the charisma and dimples to keep the diehard fans' complete attention for the brief 2 hours on stage. Logistically, it is difficult for most singers to 'perform' when standing in front of a mic stand and playing the guitar. But this could have been easily overcome with a hands-free microphone. Ed...stationary = boring. 

Next. Have you heard of live looping? No? That's ok. Most musicians don't use it. Essentially, it's a technology that allows a musician to live-record a piece of music (ie. enough chords to fill a verse) and then with the touch of a pedal or laptop, replay it continuously to an audience. This is Ed Sheeran's answer to a band. So he creates his musical accompaniment by himself in layers and then sings to it. Don't get me wrong, this takes a huge amount of talent. He live-records music and plays it back to the audience and layers upon it, and then sing on top of all of the music - all in order to try and produce the same level of sound he had on the record. It's complicated as hell and according to stats, only about 11% of musicians use live looping. Of those same musicians, 51% of musicians didn't even know what live looping was. Here is why I don't like it. Everyone gives Britney Spears attitude for not singing her songs live. She does sing live, but she sings along to a pre-recorded vocal track. Now the sound guy keeps her live vocal track low (and sometimes silent) because she is dancing, writing around on the floor and jumping off of trees. But I don't see a huge difference between Britney singing along to her own vocal track and Ed playing along to his own pre-recorded guitar track, even if he did (or didn't - we don't really know) record it moments before in front of us. It looked cheesy having guitar music playing while he clearly wasn't strumming the guitar. The point of it all is that he does it by himself, without a band. Honestly, I would have preferred a band or hell just a background music track. At least then he would have the opportunity to 'perform' and interact better with the audience. 

Where Ed shines is his catchy tunes and he has a few of them. My personal highlights include Don't, Photograph, Thinking Out Loud, Sing and Shape of You. These songs give Ed full reign to shine and show why he has won over 45 major music awards.  And the crowd loves it...and I mean really loves it. If you were at the show, look around and look to see who is crying. Mr. Sheeran has a special talent of stirring emotions at the "Cougars and Kittens" party that is his concert. Now between his massive hits was a whole lot of disjointed music. While most of it was forgettable, the different genres were not. Perfect is a beautiful ballad that would be an ideal wedding song. This is followed by Nancy Mulligan is a full-on Irish jig. I can't forget his cover of the jazzy show tune Feeling Good. And why not throw Eraser in there, an acoustic rap song with a balladesque chorus. Then Happier, a heart wrenchingly slow sad lil melody. Overall, the set list could use some redirecting and cleaning up. I do have to remember that Ed has only released 3 studio albums and doesn't have an exhaustive catalogue to choose from. 

I don't write reviews for shock value or so that I can get a heap of hate mail. I try to watch concerts objectively and give my honest opinion. But what I enjoy the most is watching artists grow into real performers over time. I first saw Ed as the opening act for Taylor Swift's Red Tour. He was decent but forgettable. Now at 26 years of age, he isn't as forgettable anymore. But I do think he needs to take his showmanship to a new level in the future. And with the talent that he has, I doubt that will be an issue. 

And on a very pleasant note, the opening act, James Blunt, was a breath of fresh air. He played a set mixed with his bigger hits Beautiful and Bonfire Heart while mixing in new material that felt very familiar. He and his band played for just over 40 minutes (about 1/3 of the time that Ed was on stage). Photo of James and I below. 

By the way, Ed, if you're reading this, I really really beg you...go hire a band. You deserve it!

Queen + Adam Lambert—A Royal Rock 'n' Roll Odyssey

Queen + Adam Lambert—A Royal Rock 'n' Roll Odyssey

Queen + Adam Lambert Concert

Date Seen: July 4, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $175 CDN

Rating: 83%

Kicking things off...

Kicking things off...

I have something to admit. I don't own a single Queen or Adam Lambert record/8 track/tape/cd. Earlier this year when their summer tour was announced, I looked at tickets and didn't bother making a purchase. Today while driving home, I saw the crowds filing into Rogers Place and remembered that the concert was taking place and was able to secure a couple great seats on StubHub. My expectations for the evening were hopeful but not overly high as I didn't know what to expect from this Queen + Adam Lambert concert. 

Lambert looking the part.

Lambert looking the part.

To begin, Adam Lambert is not Freddie Mercury. He goes on to admit that during the show. Lambert lacks the appeal and presence that Mercury was famous for. Lambert tries hard to channel the late superstar, but it is clear he lacks what other stars like David Bowie, George Michael and Annie Lennox possess. However, Adam Lambert's voice is as good (maybe even better?) as Mercury's and he is an ideal choice to fill the legend's shoes—even the 6 inch platform heels. He soars through song after song effortlessly and with precision. And while Lambert might not have the Freddie persona, he is not afraid to be playful and dress the part. There were more than a half dozen wild costume changes which puts him in the same league as Cher. Freddie would have been proud so perhaps we're on the right track afterall. 

One way to make an entrance

One way to make an entrance

Freddie Mercury may have been the frontman, but he wasn't the entire band. Today Brian May and Roger Taylor prove that old guys can still rock. May is a genius on the guitar and brings the classic rock feel to the night. Taylor not only rocks out on the drums but his falsetto singing voice is surprisingly good. I was glad that the show highlighted these two original members of Queen throughout the show. They are both legends and the crowd certainly appreciated them and their talents. 

Brian May

Brian May

Lambert & Roger Taylor

Lambert & Roger Taylor

For me, the highlight of the evening was certainly Lambert's ability to master the Queen catalogue. And what a vast catalogue it is! 2.5 hours of music and there were perhaps 5 songs I didn't recognize. Lets not forget—I'm not a huge fan. But there were no shortage of hits: We Are the Champions, Who Wants to Live Forever, Fat Bottomed Girls, Don't Stop Me Now, I Want It All, Somebody to Love, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Under Pressure, Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You and so many more. The only noticeably missing song was The Show Must Go On. But with a setlist this full of hits (a few I forgot were originally sung by Queen), I am not going to complain. 

Brian May rocking out on guitar high above the crowd

Brian May rocking out on guitar high above the crowd

Another surprise of the night was the stunning visuals throughout the show. Although the band has always been known as performers, I did not expect it to be this visual for a classic rock concert. The stage was well rigged with a series of moving lights and a screen that stretched the entire width of the stage. Not only were the projections interesting and playful, but it was also well used to pay tribute to Freddie Mercury on occasion. For Who Wants to Live Forever, a very impressive laser show stunned the crowd. During the encore of We Will Rock You, the largest disco ball I've ever seen descended from the heavens. And to finish it all off, the confetti cannons signalled the end of the show. 

Lambert singing Who Wants to Live Forever

Lambert singing Who Wants to Live Forever

The crowd was certainly mixed. As Brian May said: Queen played Edmonton almost 40 years ago...but that was to your parents...and grandparents...but it looks like they all still showed up tonight. The crowd's age ranged from late 20s to late 70s with the rowdiest being those in their 50s. But all ages were having a good time and there was plenty of security to ensure the crowd stayed orderly. 

All in all, I had a very pleasant surprise tonight. I learnt lots about this famous band and had the fortune of enjoying Lambert's voice on those classic hits. I doubt a studio album will happen but doesn't mean I can't hope! Check them out if they are coming to your city. 

July 6th Denver, CO - Pepsi Center Arena

July 8th Omaha, NE - CenturyLink Arena

July 9th Kansas City, MO - Sprint Centre

July 13th Chicago, IL - United Center

July 14th St. Paul, MN - Xcel Energy Center

July 17th Montreal, QC - Bell Centre

July 18th Toronto, ON - Air Canada Centre

July 20th Detroit, MI - The Palace of Auburn Hills

July 21st Cleveland, OH - Quicken Loans Arena

July 23rd Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena

July 25th Boston, MA - TD Garden

July 26th Newark, NJ - Prudential Center

July 28th New York, NY - Barclays Center

July 30th Philadelphia, PA - Wells Fargo Center

July 31st Washington D.C. - Verizon Center

August 2nd Nashville, TN - Bridgestone Arena

August 4th Dallas, TX - American Airlines Center

August 5th Houston, TX - Toyota Center

European and UK Tour

November 1st - Prague, Czech Republic, O2 Arena

November 2nd - Munich, Germany, Olympiahalle

November 4th - Budapest, Hungary, Sportarena

November 6th - Lodz, Poland, Atlas Arena

November 8th - Vienna, Austria, Stadhalle

November 10th - Bologna, Italy, Unipol Arena

November 12th - Luxembourg, Amneville Galaxie

November 13th - Amsterdam, Netherlands, Ziggo Dome

November 17th - Kaunas, Lithuania, Zalgiris Arena

November 19th - Hartwell Arena, Helsinki, Finland

November 21st - Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden

November 22nd - Royal Arena, Copenhagen, Denmark

November 25th  - Dublin, 3 Arena

November 26th - Belfast, SSE Arena

November 28th - Liverpool, Echo Arena

November 30th - Birmingham, Barclaycard Arena

December 1st - Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena

December 3rd - Glasgow, The SSE Hydro

December 5th - Nottingham Motorpoint Arena

December 6th - Leeds, First Direct Arena

December 8th - Sheffield Arena

December 9th - Manchester, Arena

December 12th - London, 02 Arena

December 13th - London, 02 Arena

December 15th - London, The SSE Arena, Wembley

December 16th - Birmingham, Barclaycard Arena

Lisa Loeb at Cafe Carlyle—"Stay" for the Songs and the Stories

Lisa Loeb at Cafe Carlyle—"Stay" for the Songs and the Stories

Lisa Loeb—Cafe Carlyle

Date Seen: June 6, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $135 US

Rating: 86%

The set-up at the stunning and intimate Cafe Carlyle supper club.

The set-up at the stunning and intimate Cafe Carlyle supper club.

Lisa Loeb, household name of the late 90s, began her residency at famed Cafe Carlyle tonight. Cafe Carlyle has hosted many greats in the past: from the late Bobby Short (who held a 36 year residency here), Chita Rivera, Woody Allen, Debbie Harry, Allan Cummings, Sutton Foster, Megan Hilty and so many more. Throwing Lisa Loeb into the mix might seem like an unusual choice, however, her endearing personality and charm of storytelling are hard to match. And we can't forget, Lisa was the first unsigned artist to ever have a #1 hit.

Lisa opened the night with her charming smile and dove right into one of her biggest hits "Truthfully." Her and her guitar lit up the room as she filled the room with music. Her friendly interaction with the crowd showcases her experience as an entertainer and her true southern hospitality. She recalls how she was specifically asked to write a song for a movie, and did so, and the movie rejected her song. But she recorded it anyhow and another hit was made. Cue the next song.

"You say, I only hear what I want to..."

"You say, I only hear what I want to..."

She continues her setlist with her hits, a few new songs and even a few songs from her children's albums. Let's be very clear—the Cafe Carlyle is a very 'grown-up' venue but Lisa makes even the kid's music enjoyable and laughs are had. Afterall, how could a "Disappointing Pancake" not end in a giggle or two? It's a well calculated break from some of her more emotional material. 

Lisa's voice is pitch perfect and clear as a bell. Decades of performing have only made her more comfortable on stage and relaxed in front of the microphone. She gracefully goes from melancholy melodies to sweet yodeling to tender and deep love songs. But Lisa is fully aware of her crowd and throws in a few surprise standards for good measure—as if to prove to the crowd that she is more than just an indie artist. She masterfully sings her way through Nat King Cole's "Smile (Though Your Heart is Breaking)" and "Rainbow Connection" which she dueted with Alexis Michelle (her cousin and contestant on Season 9 of RuPaul's Drag Race). These were both highlighted by the piano accompaniment of Mr. Ted Baker (Steely Dan, The Lion King, etc.).

Lisa & Alexis Michelle singing "Rainbow Connection"

Lisa & Alexis Michelle singing "Rainbow Connection"

Finally, nothing was better than Lisa's interaction with the audience. From keeping the crowd thoroughly engaged with her stories to having a conversation with an audience member who sang Lisa's song at her own wedding, Lisa was enjoying every minute of it. She had a bit of technical difficulty when her guitar went out of tune half way through her set. But she only laughed and joked as she got the guitar back into shape and carried on with the show. And in a gutsy movie, she opened the floor to requests. She nailed both requests and continued with a bit of a back story for each of the songs. As a singer/songwriter, the songs are part of her and her familiarity with the music is both artistic and professional. 

Cafe Carlyle is a small intimate venue for approximately 50 guests. It is the perfect place to showcase someone like Lisa who is a gifted singer/musician but also a wonderful entertainer. She was very gracious and met with guests after her show. This is the Lisa that I remember from when I met her at Lilith Fair in 1998. The years have not changed her and I expect we will continue to watch Lisa's career evolve over the next twenty years. 

Lisa and I reunited after the show

Lisa and I reunited after the show

The Garth Brooks World Tour—The Legend Continues

The Garth Brooks World Tour—The Legend Continues

The Garth Brooks World Tour

Date Seen: February 18, 2017

Cost of Ticket: $75 CDN

Rating: 93%

Garth in front of the drummer's cage

Garth in front of the drummer's cage

16 years ago, Garth Brooks announced his retirement so that he could focus his time on his young family. His eldest daughter graduated high school a few years ago and now Garth is back on the road in a very big way. 

Yesterday was one of 9 sold-out concerts that Garth will play in Edmonton, Alberta. At 55, he has lost a bit of his country-rock energy that once made him the ultimate showman. However, his humour, vocals and extreme generosity prove he still has what it takes to dazzle a crowd. In his signature black cowboy hat and his handsfree microphone, he rocked Rogers Arena. He proves song after song that he is still the entertainer of our time. Impressively, this is the 7th leg of his World Tour which began in 2014 and will continue well into 2019 overseas. 

To be fair, I’ve never been a Garth Brooks fan. Growing up in rural Alberta, it was unlikely a day went by where I didn’t hear a Garth Brooks song. He was the most popular and awarded country musician of his time—and for good reason. But his music never really resonated with me. Trisha Yearwood is a very different story. I had always enjoyed her clear voice and distinctive sound. I had read her biography and been wowed by her concerts before. When they announced the concerts, I wanted to go, more to see Trisha but also to see if Garth would live up to the hype. I got a ticket a few days before the show and I’m very glad I did. 

The show featured a quick opening act by Mitch Rossell. He provided enough time for everyone to grab a drink and their seats but little else. With a countdown clock, Garth promptly took the stage a half hour after the concert began. His staging was revealed when an oversized video curtain rose up and revealed the band stretching to both sides of the arena. Technically the show is in the round but the stage was at one end of the arena. Garth played the majority of his show forward to the mass of fans on the floor. This was unfortunate for the folks sitting behind the stage who paid the same for their tickets and were not warned of a ‘rear view.’  An easy fix would have been to move the stage to the middle of the arena and truly play in theround. 

The show began as Garth comes up through the stage and jumps right into his older hits like “Rodeo” and "Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House.” The crowd loves it and can’t get enough. The applause and screaming is off the charts. Garth himself seems genuinely shocked and touched. He greets the crowd in a warm and familiar way making him instantly likeable. He promised the crowd that he was there to give them a show and to play all his old music. And he certainly did. I don’t think there was a song played that I didn’t know the words to. Highlights included “That Summer”, “The Thunder Rolls” and “Unanswered Prayers” where the lights were dimmed and every cell phone owner lit of the arena with their lights. By the time “Ain’t Going Down (’Til the Sun Comes Up)” came around, Garth was already sweating and panting but proceeded to run around the stage and give it all he had. He later joked that the reason he played with a guitar was more to cover his gut. But Garth does just fine and the crowd couldn’t care less. This is the Garth that they have loved and missed for the past twenty years. 

Garth and Trisha indicating their 9 shows in Edmonton, Alberta from Garth's Facebook page

Garth and Trisha indicating their 9 shows in Edmonton, Alberta from Garth's Facebook page

In the middle of the show, Garth introduces Trisha Yearwood to the stage. This cues Garth’s break and Trisha takes over like a pro. She isn’t flashy or loud or lively. Dressed in all black, she sang a few of her biggest hits including “XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl)”, “How Do I Live?” from Con Air and her first big hit: “She’s in Love with the Boy”. Yearwood sang a newer song “Prizefighter” which she recorded in memory of her mother who she lost 5 years ago to breast cancer. But her big moment came when she dueted “Georgia Rain” with Karyn Rochelle who wrote the song and is a back-up singer on tour. Not only is the song beautiful but Trisha generously gave Karyn the final verse and let her shine. Karyn was nearly in tears by the end. 

Garth comes back on stage looking refreshed and continues to belt out song after song. His voice is pitch perfect and he sounds just like he did on his albums. In all fairness, he usually only has to sing half of his songs because the crowd overtakes him with their singing. But you can tell it is warming his heart and he interacts with the fans so graciously. “Friends in Low Places” had the crowd singing along like they do on karaoke night. For the “The Dance”, Garth sings it for a couple who are celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary that day and are requesting that song on a 10 foot sign. Only the guy’s wife has disappeared to the washroom and he is stuck holding the sign with his buddy. Garth asks: “I know this is a free world and all, so is this your guy’s 39th anniversary???” The guy shakes his head and says his wife will be back in a minute. So Garth proceeds with the touching ballad and ends just as the wife shows up. Garth promises to fly them out anywhere in the world he is playing for their 40th anniversary. You know it’ll actually happen. 

Two hours in and Garth is still going. He invites Trisha back to meet a few younger girls who Garth had noticed went crazy when Trisha first came out. He asked her to come over and meet them and the young girls instantly broke into tears on the big screen. Trisha shakes their hands and then offers them a song. Eventually they settle on “Walkaway Joe” as it’s the only one Garth can play on the guitar. Trisha sits down on the stage and sings the song directly to the three girls and it is touching and sweet.

The concert continues and encores melt into encore. Garth comes back out in all his glory and walks around the stage. He is looking for requests that fans had put on signs. One mother/son were asking for the song “Mom” and he also spotted a pregnant fan in the audience and dedicated the song to them. Another sign asked him to sing “The Change” —a song Garth recorded to pay respect to the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing. And it continued on until there were no more requests. Garth had given the crowd all he had.

The applause rang loud one more time as a thank you to country music’s biggest legend just before the lights came back on. Garth left knowing that Edmonton was happy to have him and I’m certain the crowds at the other 8 shows will do the same. It’s good to have Garth back. 

Kinky Boots—Why You Need To See It

Kinky Boots—Why You Need To See It

Kinky Boots—Why You Need To See It

Back in 2005, my friend Charlotte Tanager took me to the premiere of Kinky Boots in the movie theatre. I remember the British movie fondly and the crowd certainly enjoyed it. Nearly a decade later, Kinky Boots debuted live on Broadway and warmed the hearts of theatre-goers. I saw the show at London’s Adelphi Theatre a year ago and today I am going to see the show as it tours North America. 

Without giving too much of the plot away, the story focuses on two young men who lead very different lives but are seeking the same thing: their father’s approval. The musical is based on the true story of a failing shoe factory in central England. When Charlie Price’s father passes away, he must find a way to turn the business around. After a chance meeting with Lola/Simon (a London Drag Queen), Price & Son changes their business model. 

Cyndi Lauper (music and lyrics) and Harvey Fierstein (book) worked together on Kinky Boots. Fierstein’s wit and humour shine through beautifully. He ensures that both Simon and Charlie are likeable and relatable. Lauper uses her creative genius to create a playful, diverse yet cohesive score. From disco to touching ballads, 80s rock to soulful acoustic torch songs, the music is varied. Cyndi Lauper would go on to the be the first woman to win the Tony Award for Best Score. Kinky Boots won a total of 6 Tonys as well as 3 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 1 Drama League Award, 1 Drama Desk Award and 3 Laurence Olivier Awards. 

Ensemble in the factory of Northampton

Ensemble in the factory of Northampton

The show balances between moments of deep reflection and campy dance numbers. While Simon and Charlie deal with their personal issues, their business partnership continues and changes their colleagues and town. Lola is a larger than life character that brings a lot of colour and attitude to the drab factory in Northampton. Daring choreography and catchy songs run throughout the story ensuring crowds are entertained while forming a deeper bond with two lead characters. 

In London, I was seated between a set of grandparents in their mid-70s and a young lesbian couple in their early twenties. It was fascinating watching their reactions to the show as it played out. Some parts shocked. Others received hearty laughs. Both couples were feeling the music. But most importantly, both couples were moved to tears near the end. That didn’t stop either couple from dancing to the finale and clapping along with the orchestra. The show has universal appeal and offers some sweet life lessons. 

Lola takes the stage

Lola takes the stage

If the title Kinky Boots concerns you, I promise you have nothing to worry about. This is not 50 Shades of Grey. There will be grown men dancing around in 4 inch heels. The show is fierce, fun and fabulous. 

As Charlie’s dad reminds him: "Shoes can protect a man’s journey, but only his heart can choose the path.” Kinky Boots is currently touring North America and is still running in both London and NYC. 

Charlie in the factory

Charlie in the factory

*Production photos of the national tour cast of Kinky Boots, photos by Matthew Murphy

Dolly Parton—Pure and Simple Tour

Dolly Parton—Pure and Simple Tour

Dolly Parton—Pure and Simple Tour

Date Seen: September 17, 2016

Cost of Ticket: $85 CDN

Rating: 88%

Before I discuss the concert, there are some impressive numbers to know about Dolly Parton.

Age: 70

Years Married: 50 and counting

Top 10 Albums: 41

Charted Singles: 110

Grammy Awards: 8 Wins, 46 Nominations

Academy Awards: 2 Nominations

Country Music Awards: 10 and is 1 of 7 females to win Entertainer of the Year

Composed Songs: 3000+

Worldwide Sales: 100 million+

Net Worth: $650 million

At age 70, Dolly Parton has embarked on the the largest tour of her career: The Pure and Simple Tour. With 63 North American dates, Dolly is in full swing promoting her 43rd studio album for which the tour is named. Surprisingly though, this is a stripped down show that really highlights the music. And like her album, the show is minimal but Dolly’s talent and charm prove that's enough to impress arenas full of fans.

I’ve seen Dolly Parton perform once before at Clarke Stadium about twenty years ago. It was general admission and my parents and I ended up snagging front row seats. Back then Dolly was still a down-home gal in glittery costumes with a big voice. Her oversized smile and infectious laugh added to her celebrity persona. Nothing has changed. Unlike many of her peers, her voice has kept its clarity, its range and its power. Dolly’s also kept her signature look and style. Jokingly she admits that she buys her clothes 2 sizes too small and then has the tailor take them in. Another of her famous lines quips about how much it costs to look so cheap. Between her two costumes, Dolly was sequenced and rhinestoned to perfection. 

Bedazzled from pantsuit to guitar

Bedazzled from pantsuit to guitar

The one thing I often criticize is when a performer goes too heavy on new material and doesn’t play enough of their hits. The Pure and Simple tour is very thoughtfully arranged. New material, hits, new material, hits, cover songs, intermission, hits, new material, hits and hits and hits, encore hits. While Dolly could have played her entire new album and thrown in a few big classics, she knew why her fans were there. She performed 26 songs ranging from honky tonk to traditional country, gospel and even a mashup with Alicia Key’s Girl on Fire.

The first thing you notice before Dolly even walks onto the stage is that there is only three musicians. A pianist and two guitar players. Occasionally Dolly herself would play an instrument and lend to the mix, but the four of them created a sound that was rich, full and unbelievable. I’ve seen performers with a full orchestra that did not sound as good as Dolly and her three bandmate. Then again, Dolly is a professional and after 40+ years in the industry, she knows what works. 

Dolly is a legendary entertainer. What she lacked in pyrotechnics, dancers and video images, she made up with jokes, witty remarks and stories. Between each song there would be a short history lesson about why the song was significant. Dolly told us who Jolene really was, how it was growing up with 11 siblings, and what she learnt from her parents. She shared highlights of her career and talked about her long lasting marriage. Although I shared the arena with 16,000 fans, it was as if I were in Dolly’s living room catching up over coffee. Her talent for storytelling and her sheer authenticity gave the entire show a special intimate feeling. 

There were plenty of highlights through the night. Jolene was clearly the crowd’s favourite. Coat of Many Colours drew more than a few tears in the audience. Here You Come Again was especially bouncy and hit all the right notes. Dolly ended the night with hit after hit including Islands in the Stream, 9-5, and I Will Always Love You. For me, the most magical moment was she sang an acapella version of Little Sparrow. You could have heard a pin drop as Dolly’s voice soared in this folky gospel gem. This is the sign of a true legend.

Looking back, there was very little I could be critical of. Do I think she should have video screens so everyone could have had a better view of the show? Yes. Did I love the cover songs she chose to sing? Not especially. Would it have been nice to have had an opening act? Sure. But at the end of the evening, I think everyone left the arena with a warm fuzzy satisfied feeling. They had forgotten about election drama, their nagging boss or the list of waiting chores. Dolly reminded us, with her music and stories, what was important: family, love and laughter. A great take away lesson for us all. 

Dolly's album  Pure and Simple  is available now. 

Dolly's album Pure and Simple is available now. 

Barbra Streisand—The Music…The Memories…The Magic!

Barbra Streisand—The Music…The Memories…The Magic!

Barbra Streisand—The Music…The Memories…The Magic! 

Date Seen: August 6, 2016

Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada

Cost of Ticket: $510 US

Rating: 87%

One of the most anticipated, and surprising, concert tours this summer is that of Barbra Streisand. The 74 year old, who has notorious performance anxiety, announced a 9 date tour across the US and Canada this summer. The tour is meant to promote Streisand’s 35th studio album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway which was released August 26th. On this album, Streisand duets with Hollywood royalty including Anne Hathaway, Melissa McCarthy, Jamie Foxx, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, and many more. 

The concert is divided into 2 acts: the first featuring her hits over the last six decades, the second highlighting songs from the new album. Unlike other tours, this show is meant to be less fussy and more intimate. The 58 piece orchestra from tours ago was replaced with a more modest band with three back up singers. The stage was simply laid out with a few tables with flowers, candles and a couple chairs. Behind the band was a massive screen that was well utilized as Babs strolled down memory lane. Unfortunately there were some technical issues and her teleprompter wasn’t showing the same feed as the video behind her. So now and then she would turn to look behind to see what slide they were on. For an act like Streisand, the slideshows felt a tad amateur for someone who prides herself as a director and cinematographer. 

barbra-streisand_0.jpg

As for her singing, lets look at the basics. Her voice is great—no longer amazing. When I saw her almost a decade ago in London, she had to work for the high notes but she always hit them. Now she goes for the big notes a little less often, holds them a little shorter and takes more time to recover. But you have to remember, she is 74 and for her to even go for the notes that she did when she was twenty is admirable. Streisand is aware of this fact and her more recent albums play to her strengths: her lower register is better and stronger than ever. It has a velvety raspiness while still being crystal clear. And as Barbra makes a joke of some of the other Vegas acts, “Well at least I’m not lip-syncing!” But this doesn’t mean that she can’t still stop the show time and time again. Almost every other song received a standing ovation—especially deserving were  You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Being Alive, People, and Losing My Mind. The Way We Were, Woman in Love and No More Tears (Enough is Enough) all hit the mark—but barely. The second act of recent material all came out smoothly and heartfelt but didn’t compare to the iconic hits of the first act. 

Beyond the singing, Barbra took us through an annotated photo tour of her career. From pointing out where the record company had photoshopped her nose, where she was wearing a headscarf because she was having a bad hair day, or where she fought the execs to release a cover without her face showing (where she later went on to win the Grammy for Best Album Cover for People), Streisand has stories to tell. Which is fitting since she is currently working on an autobiography. Aside from the stories and photos, the show had it’s political moments. Whether it was singing Being At War With Each Other or taking a few digs at Donald Trump, the show wasn’t short on messaging. 

There were 2 big misses in the show. First, Barbra brought out mentalist Lior Suchard half way through her first act. While Suchard was entertaining, it totally ruined the flow and intimacy of the show. Let me be very clear —Ms. Streisand doesn’t require an opening act and she certainly doesn’t require the help from a psychic half way through her show. Secondly, because she is promoting a new album of duets, in her first few concerts she had incredible guests including Jamie Foxx, Seth McFarlane, and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. However, in Las Vegas (the Entertainment Capital of the World) she did not have one live duet partner. This was the biggest disappointment of the night especially after reading of the great guests 2 nights prior. It felt like I had a been a bit shortchanged on the experience. 

In the end, Streisand did indeed deliver the music and the memories. Her crowd of 18,000 gave her over a dozen standing ovations through the night. “I love you” and “Marry Me Barbra” speckled the evening’s applause. What moved me the most is how this living legend could easily touch every person in the crowd through her voice. And that is where the magic came in. 

Barbra Streisand’s latest album, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, is available now.

Beyonce: Formation World Tour—Say What?

Beyonce: Formation World Tour—Say What?

Beyonce: Formation World Tour

Date Seen: May 20, 2016

Cost of Ticket: $200

Rating: 73%

So at the time that I went to the Beyonce concert, I didn’t even have an ‘Entertainment’ category to my website. I would rarely write a review of a show two months later, but it is a world tour and the show is continuing through Europe and back in the US until later in the year. This and the fact that people are still talking about the show. For so many people it has been the highlight of their summer. I sit here shaking my head in confusion.

Riding in style

Riding in style

The Monday morning after the concert, I had several coworkers swing by my office exclaiming how much they loved the show. Then I’d say “Well, didn’t you think the setlist was kinda terrible?” and they would agree but remarked how amazing she was. Another colleague would stop by and sing Beyonce’s praises. I’d remark “Didn’t some of the costumes seem odd?” They would again say yes and then move on to something more flattering. And when I asked them what they thought of the tribute to the late Prince, everyone seemed to gush. Call me crazy but lighting a screen purple while a recording of Purple Rain plays hardly seems like a tribute when you’re Queen Bey. I can still recall her beautiful tribute to Whitney Houston every night of the Mrs. Carter when she belted I Will Always Love You and sent Whitney her love.

View of the nearly full Commonwealth Stadium

View of the nearly full Commonwealth Stadium

But let’s start off with some praise for the show.

  1. Beyonce is an incredible performer. Her voice is pitch perfect and she doesn’t hold back going for the big notes. She is a great dancer and commands the stage the minute she walks on. Her interactions with the audience were relaxed and funny and personable. She never comes across as scripted.

  2. The staging is massive and can only be for a stadium tour. The main stage was huge with a connecting catwalk down to the B-stage. The entire space utilizes lighting, pyrotechnics and the B-stage even converts into a fountain (only done in 1 show). There are massive screens ensuring everyone gets a good view—even if you’re in the cheap(er) seats. The stage is also equipped with a 60 foot LED cube which is impressive in every sense. It rotates, splits and turns vertically—it is also sadly underused in the show. Mostly it doubles as another jumbotron.

  3. Her dancers and band hit all the right notes. The band was clear (even at times when Beyonce wasn’t) and they were studio quality. As for the dancing troupe, they never lacked energy and gave a great show considering the harsh (and potentially unsafe) conditions.

  4. Speaking of conditions, the show was outdoors and it was cold and miserable most of the night. It drizzled for the majority of the evening and then towards the end, it was full-on rain and I thought it could snow. Beyonce made one joke about how she had never been so cold in her life. But she performed like a true professional...a professional clad in a variety of fur coats, but a professional nonetheless.

60 ft LED Cube that was used during the show

60 ft LED Cube that was used during the show

Now it is time to point out some of the issues:

  1. The setlist was sad. While the roster calls for 35 songs we need to be very clear that this is a 2 hour show. Many of the songs get cut down to the point of being unrecognizable (Crazy in Love, Bootylicious, and many more). Other songs like Purple Rain are recordings used for costume changes and don’t really belong on the concert’s list. When I go to a concert that promotes a new album, I expect half of the material will be new. This leaves plenty of room for crowd pleasers. The show felt like it was 80% from Lemonade. Where was Single Ladies, If I Were a Boy, Sweet Dreams, Telephone, Beautiful Liar, and Listen or One Night Only from Dreamgirls? *Sigh*

  2. The costumes were a mess. A few were amazing and did Beyonce justice (silver jumpsuit and military jacket were both spectacular on her). The rest were lacklustre. One all black number with a hat can only be described as Quaker chic. Another was meant to be Antebellum style but looked more like a sheer dressing gown that Blanche from Golden Girls would have worn. But what offended me was Beyonce being clad in Gucci’s signature ‘G’. You’re bloody Beyonce. You don’t have to advertise for designers—you’re a fashion icon. Especially when they aren’t the exclusive designer for the tour. I’m guessing that if I noticed, Balmain, DSquared, Givenchy and Roberto Cavalli, who designed your other outfits for the tour, did too.

  3. Lack of an artistic team. The best way to describe this is by comparing Beyonce’s show to a Lady Gaga show. Gaga is prepped and planned with her artistic team at the Haus of Gaga and the show has a unity and cohesive glue that binds everything together. Gaga’s shows are artistic, visual and take the music to a new level. It tells a story. Beyonce lacked this and likely requires a strong team like Gaga to help elevate her music. At times I would have preferred to have heard the music in a club than at the show because it just went flat.


Back in 2007 I was offered front row tickets and backstage passes to see Beyonce’s The Beyonce Experience tour. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend because I was out of town and always regretted it. Over the last decade we’ve watched Beyonce grow from the leader of a girl group to being one of the most iconic performers of our time. What I love about her music is that she always conveys a strong empowering message and lifts her fans up. I expected her concert to be an extension of this and sadly I left disappointed. I know that the majority of fans and critics love the show—I wasn’t one of them.

Say What?

Say What?

Moulin Rouge: Féerie—A Féerie Féerie Enjoyable Evening

Moulin Rouge: Féerie—A Féerie Féerie Enjoyable Evening

Moulin Rouge: Féerie—A Féerie féerie enjoyable evening

Moulin Rouge, 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France

www.moulinrouge.fr

My Rating: 89%

Date Seen: June 14, 2016

Cost of Ticket: 92 Euros

For more than 125 years, the Moulin Rouge has been the premiere entertainment destination in Paris. Opening in 1889, the same year that the Eiffel tower was constructed, the Moulin Rouge has undergone numerous stylistic reinventions to stay on current, relevant and popular. Their shows, which have been popular with royals and the upper crust, continues to sell out and attracts over 600,000 viewers each year.  

The current show Féerie, opened in 1999 to full houses. It has all the quintessential elements of cabaret: lively music, flirtation, entertaining sideshows, comedic performers and of course, topless dancers. Of course the Can-Can is on full display considering the Moulin Rouge is credited as its birthplace. As the popularity of the Moulin Rouge grew, it learned to balance the bawdy humour and the glamorous sensuality of the show.

The entrance and the iconic windmill.

The entrance and the iconic windmill.

Moulin Rouge is synonymous with spectacle and the dancing girls deliver this routine after routine. North Americans often ask if the girls perform topless—yes. But 15 seconds in, after you’ve see the first dozen pairs of breasts, you begin to focus on the show. And although there are bouncing breasts on stage, it is classy and tasteful. Your eyes will be drawn to the impressive moving sets, over 1000 intricate costumes, soaring headdresses and a half dozen Shetland ponies. No wonder they needed a dance as bold as the Can-Can to hold attention. Nearly 100 perfectly in-sync dancers float across the stage and make their high-kicks look effortless.

Principal Dancer, Caroline Renno-Raynal

Principal Dancer, Caroline Renno-Raynal

While the dancers are the main attraction, the performance also showcases several variety type performers. Not only does this allow the dancers to change costumes, but it truly brings the cabaret to life. My favourite variety performer was Les Chicagos—a trio of acrobats that perform a routine that bogles your mind (and the rules of physics). Terry Parade was another highlight with his musical tennis balls and witty audience interaction. Though not quite as show-stopping, the Roller Pillar and the girl who swam with pythons were impressive in their own rite. Roller Pillar provided its share of gasps but the routine seemed dated. As for the snake girl, it was more interesting watching the snakes try to slither out of the glass bowl more than anything else. Overall, the acts provide a welcome reprieve from feathers and rhinestones.

Backstage with Caroline Renno-Raynal, the Principal Dancer at the Moulin Rouge. This dressing room was used by many celebrities including Ginger Rogers, Elton John and LaToya Jackson. 

Backstage with Caroline Renno-Raynal, the Principal Dancer at the Moulin Rouge. This dressing room was used by many celebrities including Ginger Rogers, Elton John and LaToya Jackson. 

I had the opportunity to interview the Principal Dancer, Caroline Renno-Raynal, backstage at the Moulin Rouge. She has been dancing at the Moulin Rouge for 10 years and steals the show each night with her smile. Originally from England, she began her training in dance school at 2.5 years old and then went to a professional dance academy at the age of 16. From there, she danced at a few cabarets in London before auditioning for the Moulin Rouge. She started off in the Can-Can line and still remembers auditioning for the lead position. Getting the lead position, her life-long dream, is her fondest memory of her career. As a younger dancer, she never believed that she would make it to the lead role and reminds all young dancers to believe in themselves because anything is possible. These days Caroline dances and sings for packed crowds and famous celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliott.

The Moulin Rouge is a must see attraction in Paris. It’s show is only equalled by it’s history and notoriety. Before you go, here are a few tips to help you enjoy your night:

  1. Do not expect to see a live version of the movie Moulin Rouge! with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. This is a cabaret, not a play. This is the actual show that inspired the movie. If you want to see the Moulin Rouge! movie live, then see Cirque du Soliel’s Las Vegas show Baz—Star Crossed Love at the Palazzo.

  2. There are different tiers of seating, but otherwise it is first-come-first-served. When you arrive you will likely see a large line waiting to go in. However, tip your usher well and you never know what might happen. Wherever you are seated, the show is ‘larger than life’ and you’ll be just fine. The theatre seats 900 so you're never too far away.

  3. Drink Champagne! You’re in Paris!!! Besides, the Moulin Rouge pours over 240,000 bottles of Champagne each year—more than any other restaurant or bar in the world. 

  4. Check out the gift shop. They had some unique items and the prices were fair.

  5. Look at all the ticket prices as they differ night to night. You can also save as much as 40 euros by selecting the 11pm show.

  6. Dress code is in effect. Men: Jacket and tie appreciated. Ladies: Dress smart.