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45 posts categorized "MUSIC REVIEW"

Feb 08 2017
You're Just Jealous 'Cause You Can't Be Me: Michael Griffiths Shows He CAN Be Madonna Comments (0)

DSC01552You were expecting Lady Gaga? (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

Tuesday night, I took my Encyclopedia Madonnica 20 designer Anthony with me to 54 Below Unnamed for an evening of expensive scallops, microscopic dessert and a waiter who was serving ass for days, so we could take in the one-night-only show by crooner and pianist Michael Griffiths, In Vogue: Songs by Madonna.

If you've never seen or heard Griffiths, he's a nattily dressed cabaret performer who brings to life the oeuvre (said with all of Madonna's pretension) of the Queen of Pop, giving her songs the Cole Porter treatment while sardonically narrating her life and career.

The part of his show that takes some getting used to is that Griffiths addresses the audience as Madonna, but doesn't attempt to mimic her voice. For die-hard fans, his needling of Madonna's grandiosity and, at times, even her songwriting skills, can be alarming, but as the show unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that he's the type of person to keep his friends close and his icons closer.

DSC01540A Truth or Dare black-and-white moment (Image by Matthew Rettenmund)

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Griffiths has a beautiful, clear voice that he uses aggressively, squeezing out phrases brusquely and with precision. At times, his renditions were so fabulously inventive and fun to hear (“Die Another Day,” for example), it was frustrating that he would cut things short in order to be funny ... but funny he was.

Some of the songs that received relatively full renditions include her obvious best work, like “Vogue” and “Like a Prayer,” but one highlight of his curation was his selection of “Cry Baby” from I'm Breathless: Songs from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy, a gem of a tune that he rewrote in order to skewer Madonna's failed marriage to Guy Ritchie.

For me, the most interesting part of the show was a brilliantly compiled mash-up arranged to capture Madonna's movie career (aw, he referred to Evita as a Musical and/or Comedy), using snippets of her movie songs to sketch her (now long gone) desperation to be accepted as an actress. It was probably his most intelligent use of his spoken-word vs. sung-song approach, and was a harbinger of the poignancy he achieved by show's end.

Screen Shot 2017-02-08 at 12.23.12 AMTwo faces of Griffiths — serious 'n' silly (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)

Griffiths is currently on a mini-tour, singing the songs of Cole Porter (presumably sans bitchy asides about Cole's contempt for Lady Gaga). Catch him if you can regardless of what he's warbling, but if you get a chance to witness him being like a Ciccone, live out your fantasies of Madonna as torch singer there with him.

DSC01569My flash almost died waiting for this! (Image by Anthony Coombs)

Keep reading for his full set list:

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Jan 09 2017
Absolutely No Regrets: A Review Of PIAF!: THE SHOW Comments (0)

15826462_10154649452396001_8707316754049986677_nImages of Piaf were projected onto the walls of the performance hall as Carrere sang. (Image by Matthew Rettenmund; other images by G. Marsalla)

I spent Friday evening listening to Edith Piaf sing at Carnegie Hall in the '50s. 

Actually, the event was Piaf! The Show, we were in the Fifties in NYC and the singer was Anne Carrere, but close Please-credit-photo-by-g-marsalla_27637841531_oenough — Carrere hauntingly summons Piaf's vocal stylings so beautifully it has been said she possesses the legend's instrument at her peak. In a warm, witty rendering of all the songs Piaf made famous, Carrere's challenge was to inhabit Piaf's unique style while giving us flashes of her own personality.

She succeeded.

Act I consisted of early Piaf, 16 French numbers performed with gusto by Carrere and her tight band. Carrere looked the part enough to create an illusion but not enough to appear to be a caricature. The crowd was eating from the palm of her hand, so delighted were they to be hearing songs in what was likely the native language of more than a few.

After an intermission, Carrere & Co. returned for 12 more tunes, these more modern and among Piaf's signature hits. With each number the crowd grew more enthusiastic, awaiting the inevitable arrival of “La Vie en Rose” and “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien.” Carrere performed cheekily, leaving the stage to flirt with audience members, some of whom were all to eager to flirt back. (When she approached a woman, the attendee stood and shook her breasts, which earned her a skip.)

The only less than perfect part of the evening was when a creepy guy overeagerly volunteered to dance with Carrere onstage. Even seated, his body movements were disturbingly suggestive, threatening to kill the buzz of an incredibly emotional and faultlessly classy evening for Carrere, who was debuting at Carnegie Hall 60 years after Piaf's famed gig there. Her own respect for Piaf and her charm as a newcomer to the world stage won out.

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Wayward audience members aside, the evening was magical, driven by Carrere's indefatigable growl and her sweetness in admitting to us how much it meant for her to be able to bring us those songs in that place in that context.

For us, too, and for any big fan of Piaf; this is a show that can't be missed. Let it pass you by and you will regret it.

Piaf!: The Show has about 400 upcoming shows scheduled through 2019 in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Info here.

Set list after the jump ...

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Dec 17 2016
6-PACK — Bye, Fella-licia + Obama Blames Putin, Imagines Reagan Spinning + NEWSWEEK Scribe Given Seizure By Deplorable + BMXXXer + His Justin Vivian Bond Is His Word + Hand-Jive Talkin'! Comments (0)

WIDGETSean Mandell is leaving Towleroad — sob!

WIDGETObama's last 2016 presser: Press to blame for taking Putin's leak bait, but yeah, it was Putin. I prefer Mamie's take:

WIDGETNewsweek's Kurt Eichenwald has Trump's number, so people are tweeting him strobe images to trigger his epilepsy.

Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 11.27.26 PM(Image via Instagram @willgrant)

WIDGETWill Grant, BMXer-cum-model, goes nude. (Work Unfriendly)

WIDGETHe's with v: Review of Justin Vivian Bond's new Christmas cabaret act.

Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 11.31.22 PM(Video still via John-David Lyons)

WIDGETThank God for the (Really) Gay Men's Chorus of San Diego. Watch how they were born to hand-jive AFTER THE JUMP ...

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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”): 

 


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