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42 posts categorized "MUSIC REVIEW"

Dec 01 2016
Madonna: I KNOW THAT I CAN BE DIFFICULT AND DEMANDING AND PUSH YOU Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-12-01 at 6.23.51 PM(Video still via Showtime)

Showtime's December 9 airing of Madonna: Rebel Heart Tour gets a meaty trailer, throughout which we hear Madonna singing “Easy Ride” from her 2004 album American Life, performed live only at Tears of a Clown in Australia.

Keep reading to hear and see ...

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Nov 15 2016
My Last Pet Shop Boys Gig Comments (0)

 I've always loved the Pet Shop Boys. I think I first heard “West End Girls” on a family trip—our only fancy trip ever—to Hawaii, if memory serves. Cool Europop is my jam.

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DSC01092Neil Tennant's introductory look (All images by Matthew Rettenmund)

Over the years, I've seen them perform quite a few times, but there's really only room in my heart for one overall musical inspiration, because as time has passed, I've become kinda a bad fan of my #3 faves (and of Blondie/Debbie Harry, my #2 faves)—like, I haven't even listened to their new album, and yet I bought VIP meet-and-greet tickets to their MSG show.

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Oct 20 2016
A Little More Olivia: Catching ONJ's SUMMER NIGHTS Show In Vegas! Comments (0)

ONJ2014_02_ByDeniseTruscello-1(Image by Denise Truscello)

Though cool is probably not the first adjective she'd use to describe herself, Olivia Newton-John represented one side of my impression of coolness as a kid—my favorite male cousin was into Blondie, so Debbie Harry represented New Wave edginess to me, and my favorite female cousin received an ONJ album for Christmas that seemed to herald her arrival into womanhood. Both acts made me realize that keeping abreast of pop music was the only way to be true teenager.

Olivia is seemingly as busy in 2016 as she was back then, and her commitments are not only physical (she just returned to her wonderful show at the Flamingo's Donny & Marie Show Room in Las Vegas) but spiritual (she's always busy with her Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, and makes environmental causes a cornerstone of her stage show).

Tumblr_nsloty0vEp1roqc5co10_400(GIF via Universal)

As I told the incandescent songbird—now the same age Gene Kelly was when he danced alongside her in Xanadu (1980)—she looks beautiful, sounds beautiful and, most importantly, is beautiful; her centered approach to her enduring career is inspirational without being preachy, and is spreading a little more love with each passing day.

Perhaps most exciting for fans is her brand-new album, LIV ON, a collaboration with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman, which dropped October 14. The album emphasizes the trio's vocal skill and sensitivity, nowhere more powerfully than on the single “LIVE ON,” a sonic rock on which survivors can cling while struggling to get through life's challenges. LIV-ON-CD COVER_FINAL The album and single take ONJ full circle, back to her early country roots.

Speaking of her roots, I was lucky enough to catch Olivia's return to her Vegas residency following her August tour dates.

The Donny & Marie Show Room is a gorgeous space, designed like an old-fashioned nightclub/dinner-theater venue, just larger. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and Olivia didn't hit a bad note—all sung live, so you get more than just a piece of her.

Olivia looks phenomenal, isn't afraid to tease her audience and for the show's spirited numbers, especially a generous Grease segment and the stand-out from her pop/rock years, “Twist of Fate,” was frequently kick-dancing up and down the stage.

QNL1Jy(GIF via 20th Century Fox)

If you want variety, she's got it—Olivia nimbly segues from country to pop to rock to yes, even a Latin number, to New Age. Along with singing most of her iconic hits, she threw in new work like the aforementioned “LIVE ON” and lesser-known singles like the heart-tugging nature anthem “Don't Cut Me Down.”

Somewhat surprisingly, “Physical” arrived in the dead center of the very lively show, which allowed for some of her less reserved fangirls to jump up and recreate the choreography from that unforgettably gay-friendly music video.

Just when I was thinking Olivia had exhausted her top-tier smashes, her finale—delivered in a dazzling, silver-sequined, form-fitting gown—arrived in the form of a gorgeous take on “I Honestly Love You.”

And, honestly, right back atcha.

After the show, I was escorted to the green room, where I was able to meet with Olivia, have her sign two of my cherished 45s and tell her how much I loved the show. When I randomly blurted out that I've always loved her 1992 hit “I Need Love,” she asked me to remind her of it, so I had to speak-sing to Olivia Newton-John! She gamely jumped in and sang what she could remember of the tune, which was a slinky pop number with one of the best Hi-NRG dance remixes of all time.

IMG_3102*Love is what I found. (Image by Michael Caprio)

Magic indeed.

Catch ONJ's show Olivia Newton-John: Summer Nights at the Flamingo!

 

Full set list: Xanadu0002

“Magic” (1980)

“Xanadu” (1980)

“Deeper Than the Night” (1979)

“Suddenly” (1980)

“Make a Move on Me” (1982)

“A Little More Love” (1978)

“Twist of  Fate” (1983)

“Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975)

“Please Mr. Please” (1975)

“Jolene” (1978)

“Let Me Be There” (1973)

“Physical” (1981)

“The Promise (The Dolphin Song)” (1981)

“Don't Cut Me Down” (1994)

“LIVE ON” (2016)

“Not Gonna Give in to It” (1994) 017-grease-theredlist

“You're the One That I Want” (1978)

“Hopelessly Devoted to You” (1978)

“Summer Nights” (1978)

“We Go Together” (1978)

“Grace and Gratitude” (2006)

“I Honestly Love You” (1974)

GET TICKETS HERE!

 
Aug 20 2016
Liquid Diet's LUMINARY Is The Greatest New Song You'll Hear All Week Comments (0)

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 12.07.30 PM(Video still via Liquid Diet)

This sounds like the Cover Girls got into a cab with Kraftwerk, only to find that Giorgio Moroder was driving. Love this song and video (after the jump), and the good news is their full album Double Life is available for pre-order ...

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Aug 14 2016
Barbra's Turn: Streisand At Barclays Comments (0)

DSC00268(Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

I'm not a major Barbra Streisand fan, but when I saw her do a six-song set—with a cold—at the opening of Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, I vowed to see a full live show someday. There was definitely a little magic in that moment, but there was much, much more than just a little last night at Barclays in Brooklyn.

DSC00163Loved her Oscars-esque pantsuit... (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

In spite of the hag behind me who felt the need to loudly sing along the entire first act when she wasn't loudly talking (and heckling the pro-Hillary Clinton asides: “Benghazi.”), the show was a marvel.

Streisand was political, but not relentlessly so. She did talk about about President Clinton's (the first one) speech regarding how all human beings are 99.9% genetically the same, “Except for Trump. He's ... different.” She included projected images of police shootings and even 9/11 during a stirring performance of Carole King's “Being at War with Each Other,” and also included appeals for attention to climate change and women's heart problems.

But the banter was largely humorous and relaxed. She joked effortlessly with the crowd and seemed to feed off the delight in the room any time she tackled a monumental Broadway number, or, even more so, indulged us with a more commercial smash like “Evergreen.”

She definitely gave the crowd what we came for, and was in excellent, spine-tinglingly on-point voice, so my complaints are few: I would've liked full versions of the hits she confined to a medley, I felt her “I Didn't Know What Time It Was” made for a meh encore and she's dead to me for skipping “Prisoner.” Okay, that last one I never dreamed would happen.

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DSC00248It takes 2... (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)

She more than made up for small shortcomings by bringing out Jamie Foxx and Patrick Wilson for powerful duets. Actually, she received a standing O after every song she sang:

Highlights for me—these were the A-plusses in a field of straight As—were “Being Alive,” “Papa, Can You Hear Me?,” “Pure Imagination,” “Children Will Listen” and “Don't Rain on My Parade.” It was also a hoot hearing how Arthur Laurents never forgave her for improving on his vision of her “Miss Marmelstein” number in I Can Get It for You Wholesale.

DSC00212She seems humorless in interviews, but not onstage! (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

It was a performance for the ages. At 74, she looks lovely, sings beautifully, is curating her catalogue pretty well and still knows how to make the people laugh, as when she asked if we knew what it was really like to be famous and have an amazing career, answering her own question with, “It's fan-fucking-tastic!”

...which would've made for a good, one-word review of her show.

Full set list (the only difference on Saturday night was she dropped “Everything Must Change” and did “Children Will Listen”): 

 
Jul 15 2016
We Had Tonight: Sheena Easton In NYC Comments (0)

*DSC08651(All images by Matthew Rettenmund)

My friend Harry invited me to take his friend's place and join him in seeing Sheena Easton perform at B.B. King's, and we wound up having a great, if not totally heck-a-slammin' time.

We had front-section, central VIP seating, so missed nothing of the 90-minute gig, which was generously sprinkled hits (“I embrace my nostalgia!” she exclaimed early on), some of which a casual fan might have forgottne all about. Any student of Sheena Easton 101 knew to expect “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” from 1980, which got the evening's biggest reaction in spite of its near novelty-hit sound, and her smash Bond theme “For Your Eyes Only” from 1981, but I can't have been the only person surprised she is still doing gems like “Telefone (Long Distance Love Affair)” (1983).

*DSC08407Those over-the-hill jokes went over our heads.

Easton—looking very much like a red-headed Kylie Minogue, is still ravishing at 57, so much so that her surprisingly relentless self-deprecation about her age and her lack of hits since the '90s felt a bit like posting a fantastic selfie with the caption, “I look awful, right?” The true answer is she looks great and sounds great (aside from a tendency to over-emote) and has an engaging stand-up comedy banter between songs that made her perhaps a bit too accessible—one fan couldn't resist shouting suggestions to her after every song, eventually earning her ire. Sit down and shut up.

But back to the set list, which along with the previously named hits and some '60s and '70s pop covers (and one Christian song—she connected with *DSC08678Catholicism after four divorces), included the singles “When He Shines (1981), “I Wouldn't Beg for Water (1982), “We've Got Tonight (1983), “Almost Over You (1983), “Strut (1984), “The Lover in Me (1988). Most excitingly, with the help of a talented male duet partner, Easton offered a dynamic melding of “Sugar Walls” (1984)/“U Got the Look” (1987) as a tribute to her ex, Prince. 

Sheena Easton Setlist B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, New York, NY, USA 2016

Joking that she was thinking of hanging up her Spanx and discontinuing the performance of such sexed-up numbers, she revealed she had to do them as an excuse to air the work of the Purple One.

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Jun 25 2016
Armenia Girls: A Review Of KATDASHIANS: BREAK THE MUSICAL Comments (0)

IMG_7267*Three sisters: Kim Kat (Carmen Mendoza), Kourtney Kat (Bridget Kennedy), Khloé Kat (Elliott Brooks)

Okay, like, I got invited to this super exclusive new Off-Broadway show called Katdashians: Break the Musical, and it was seriously the funniest thing everrr or, like, at least, it was a funny thing, you know? Bible.

Katdashians: Break the Musical is the very funny creation of Bob and Tobly McSmith, the warped minds behind past romps like Bayside! The Musical!, Full House: The Musical! and Showgirls!: The Musical. With the McSmiths' perverse combo of legitimately complex songs and gross-out humor, tight direction by tight John Duff (who we would all like to see attempt to break the Internet with his own fame-ready caboose), and Broadway-level choreography by Viva Soudan, the show has more to offer than just cheap laughs at the world's most famous Armenian-Americans.

IMG_7219*There goes Times Square (again). (All images in this post by Matthew Rettenmund)

Though there are plenty of cheap laughs, too.

The show follows—wallows in?—the regrettable ascension of the Kardashians, ending somewhere just beyond Caitlyn Jenner's transition. The songs are, as the title suggests, frequently parodies of famous numbers from Cats (which is returning to Broadway in the near future—that legendary musical is as bad as Keeping Up with the Kardashians and apparently just as hard to euthanize permanently), but there are also clever re-workings of tunes by Beyoncé, Madonna and other suitably fabulous fame whores.

And yes, it was “better than Cats.”

IMG_7269*A Chorus Feline

Speaking of which, if there is anything limiting about doing a parody of the most famous, most polarizing people alive, it may be that the show works best if you know everything about the Kardashians and also have the Cats original cast recording memorized. Thing is, very few people probably check both boxes. Luckily, the show does work if you're only into one or the other, and even seems to work if you're a novice regarding both. I surveyed some patrons and was surprised how few were well-versed in Kardashian lore, though a girl behind me who claimed she knew nothing knew all the terms in the “How to Speak Kardashian” insert from our program. The guy next to me, who knew zero about the Kardashians, laughed loudly throughout. I mean, jokes about pubic hair and anal sex are pretty universal.

IMG_7257*Finding North: Vogue cover subject Kim vogues.

The cast/cats are purrfect, led by Carmen Mendoza as busty, bratty, dusky-Baby Doll Kim Kat. She has her look down pat and has the star quality necessary to function as the epicenter of an attention-logged sect.

Bridget Kennedy as Kourtney Kat is a riot, offering a deadpan, personality-free take that reminded me of the fun femme performances in the late, great American Psycho. She channels a Selma Blair monotone and has the requisite bombshell looks, the exact recipe for Kourtney.

Standing out from an already stellar group is Elliott Brooks as Khloé Kat, whose character gets the Cher-in-Moonstruck treatment as we follow her from Khloé's birth status as a softer, potty-on-me-mouthed version of The Thing to the voluptuous blonde work-out fanatic that she is today. With manic, verbal-diarrhetic glee, she spits out shocking one-liners about anal sex, anal beds, “Shit on a dick!” and projectile vaginal discharge—singing hysterically at one point about the seemingly drug-resistant strain of pubic hair she hosts—and yet still makes the audience root for her. Definitely pick of the litter.

IMG_7287*When Mama Jenner introduces her new boyfriend, Corey Gamble.

Bailey Nolan is Kris Kat/Kris Jenner's doppelgänger thanks to the perfect wig and a great vocal imitation; it felt like Kris was appearing in the show herself, which is not something I would put past her. Her counterpart, Peter Smith as Bruce/Catlyn/Caitlyn, nailed the transgender trailblazer's guyish speech and was able to make us cheer for her transition all over again, even though in real life, Caitlyn turned out to be kind of a dud in the inspiration arena. Smith's take on a parody of “Memory” was a show-stopper.

IMG_7284*They call me Bruce: Smith's Catlyn was the cat's meow.

Knee-slapping, mutinous scenes featuring choreographer Soudan as Kylie Kat and Ariel Ash as Kendall Kat (in a mask and peek-a-boo unitard, she was the spitting image) had some audience members howling. Alexis Kelley and Jenyvette Vega serve as ass-tastic Dash Dolls.

IMG_7295*Let's hope the litter-box office is strong!

Best thing about the show, though, might be the innovation of encouraging (non-flash) photography, and especially selfie-taking, throughout. So if your mind wanders, take a great selfie and let your followers on social media know that you're doing looking good.

In the end, this sometimes almost admiring, more often catty, hoot has its claws out mostly for you, the audience that pretends to revile a family famous only for being famous ... all the while watching their every move like a cat watches a bowl-bound goldfish.

Katdashians: Break the Musical is at the Elektra Theatre at 300 W. 43rd St., NYC, through July 16. Tickets are $25-$45. Visit the site here.

Keep reading for video and pictures from the opening-night champagne toast ...

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May 28 2016
The Empower Station: Cyndi Lauper & Boy George's Bangin' Bang A Gong Show Comments (0)
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(10 images in above gallery by Matthew Rettenmund)

I've seen Cyndi Lauper perform live probably a dozen (?) times, going back to her True Colors World Tour in (December 14, 1986) and including the Twelve Deadly Cyns World Tour (in NYC sometime in 1994-1995), She's So Unusual: 30th Anniversary Tour (October 20, 2013), her opening slot for Cher (May 9, 2014) and quite a few of her holiday and fundraising gigs (like this one). She's great, but I wondered if I really needed to see her yet again, as I did at the Beacon Theatre here in NYC on Thursday night.

Img151My room, 1987. (L) Full Madonna-cover mags in bags on the wall, plus Eurythmics, Marilyn Monroe, Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, Cyndi Lauper. (R) View of my ceiling, with Madonna, Molly Ringwald, Marilyn, Cyndi, Ally Sheedy, Debbie Harry, Sade and ... Boy George! (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)

The real draw for me was Boy George. I absolutely loved Culture Club as a teen; I vividly recall the day I bought Colour by Numbers at a record store in Flint in the '80s. I even had a promo poster for one of the group's video collections on my ceiling, with a huge image of George in full makeup. I also remember the very first time my pals Mike Ashton (at his house) and Eric Olson watched the video for “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” (1982) on MTV and openly discussed the novelty of the dude who totally looked like a girl. Liking George was somewhat of a political statement in a small town—in any town, really.

But even without the tantalizing gayness, I thought Culture Club created two amazing albums (and the other not-half-bad ones), records I listened to and memorized. I was a pretty fair voice mimic for George, too.

Back in the day, Culture Club had a bad reputation as a live act, and I didn't summon the guts to attend any pop tour until Eurythmics' Revenge Tour on August 21, 1986, by which time Culture Club was kaput. Also, I'd heard more recently that George didn't sound so hot on a reunion jaunt, but I believe that was due to vocal issues.

So when I failed to get tickets and the joint gig between Cyndi and George (with Rosie O'Donnell as a special guest) neared, I reached out to a friend with a connection and, after his previous invitees fell through, I found myself seated in the fourth row for what turned out to be a thoroughly satisfying show.

DSC08639You better pink! (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Cyndi came out first, weirdly; I'd expected George would open for her, considering her relative success and being 3/4 of the way to being an EGOT. She looked great in her pink hair and punky leather get-up, and thanked us all for being there while also ensuring she educated the young'uns about the days when R&B and country were quite close in form. This was relevant because she's recently released a C&W album, Detour. Her roots with Blue Angel make this a good idea:

As reluctant as I was to see her again (at some point, seeing an artist over and over can almost dull my enthusiasm), and as little interest as I had in hearing her do country stuff, her set wound up being phenomenal. She had us on our feet the whole time and was in superb voice.

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DSC08598Cyndi is an instrumental part of my musical taste (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)

Cyndi gave us four hits and four C&W covers from her new record:

(1) “Funnel of Love” (originally by Wanda Jackson)

(2) “She Bop”

(3) “I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart” (originally by Patsy Montana)

(4) “Walking After Midnight” (originally by Patsy Cline)

(5) “The End of the World” (originally by Skeeter Davis)

(6) “I Drove All Night”

(7) “When You Were Mine” (originally by Prince, covered by Cyndi on her first album)

(8) “Money Changes Everything” (originally by the Brains, covered by Cyndi on her first album)

For her encore, she treated us to one more cover and two of her biggest hits:

(9) “Misty Blue” (originally by Eddy Arnold)

(10) “Time After Time”

(11) “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (with Rosie O'Donnell on the drums)

DSC08644A moment when she was mine (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Just a fantastic performance from her, and I couldn't believe I'd been unenthused going in. She also said something that relates to my false fatigue while she was honoring Prince. She said: 

I hope you appreciate all the artists while you have 'em.

Noted!

DSC08737Wanna be a cowboy 'n' you can be my cowgirl... (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Her other remarks about Prince were respectful without attempting to make it seem she was a major part of his story (she sang his “When You Were Mine” on She's So Unusual, an excellent cover that she performed live at the show perfectly):

I did one of his songs on my first record, and when he passed I couldn't believe it and it broke my heart—a bright light went out ... Life is short. But he was funny, and he was smart as a whip ... he was quirky—but I loved him.

Cyndi joked about Madonna's English accent but quickly said she loved her, and also gushed about being on Sire Records now, a label she had always considered to be so creative, the home of so many punk acts and also Madonna.

DSC08885Cyndi Lauper is 62 years old, y'all! (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Cyndi loves Madonna and Sire, but there was no love lost on Donald Trump when Rosie O'Donnell took the stage for what amounted to a quickie cover while Boy George and his band prepped behind the curtain. Awkwardly, George's voice and other distracting noises were coming through on the monitors, so Rosie kept getting interrupted and eventually just had to shout over it all—glad it was her and not, say, Mindy Kaling.

DSC09117Rosie's set trumped anything The Donald could ever say. (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Rosie used her brief time onstage to lambaste Donald Trump. Though she declared the Beacon a Trump-free zone, that wasn't quite true—it was more like an anti-Trump zone, and rightfully so:

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