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Monotonix – A Music Fest NW Review

September 19, 2009 No comments
Monotonix in Portland (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Monotonix in Portland (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Often when we listen to music, it’s over little white headphones that connect to our iphones or ipods, literally plugging us into our music. We own music, download it and possess it. For many, music is a very personal experience. Monotonix turns that relationship completely on its head by creating a concert experience where people are compelled to come together to experience the music rather than consume it individually.

Monotonix has very little regard for the conventional structure of a concert. They assemble their instruments on the floor of the venue surrounded by a ring of fans. When the concert starts, it’s an explosion. The entire room moves. It’s not like a mosh pit where people flay and spin bashing into each other; rather, it’s one big circular mass that moves as one.

The Crowd Moves as One (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

The Crowd Moves as One (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

The Music Fest NW set was a lot more tame than their previous Portland performances. Monotonix lead vocalist Ami Shalev spent a lot less time showing off his ass or simulating fellatio with audience members and spent a lot more time singing and rocking. This was a nice change for Monotonix, who seem to be continually refining and focusing what they do. Ami also spent a lot more time hoisted above the crowd. I was struck at site of the the constant sea of hands hosting and holding Ami, drums and the occasional crowd surfer. It was profoundly beautiful. The final song of the set was performed with Ami sitting on a stool playing the drums all hosited in the air by the audience.

Monotonix - The Crowd is The Stage (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Monotonix - The Crowd is The Stage (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

There’s something about a Monotonix show that creates an instant community. As two people collided at the periphery of the circle, their glasses went flying, and immediately the crowd around them made room and began looking for the glasses. In an almost perfect moment the two both emerged holding each other’s glasses. It wasn’t a moment you’d expect at an ‘Israeli Punk’ show.

Crowd Surfing at Monotonix (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

Crowd Surfing at Monotonix (photo: Ken Aaron Neighborhood Notes)

I’ve seen Monotonix now three times, and I can honestly say they’re not a one trick pony. Musically I do think there’s some room for growth. Their song Body Language (off their debut album of the same name) shows off some real potential for what they can do. I didn’t feel that some of their new songs were at the same level although the performance overall has certainly grown. But you don’t go see Monotonix for just music. It’s an absolutely amazing experience and one which anyone who loves rock music should have. Seeing Monotonix at Music Fest NW was a fantastic reminder to me of why I love music and why I go see live music. Music can be so much more than just consumed and it’s great to be reminded of just how alive it really is.

See more photos from Monotonix’s MusicFest NW set here:

A special thanks to Ken Aaron of Neighborhood Notes, whose pictures captured what my words could not.

For more information on Monotonix and Musicfest NW:

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros – Music Fest NW Review

September 18, 2009 2 comments
Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros in Portland

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros in Portland

Infectious and contagious (in a good way), Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros sucks you in with music that builds and crescendos into an ecstatic space so compelling it’ll win over even the most hardened hipster. Playing a late night set at a very packed Holocene, this ten-piece band filled every corner of the club with music, dance and electricity.

A folk-rock infusion, Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros could best be described as Arcade Fire if they were all hippies, or a band from the children of the members of the Grateful Dead. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros are a fairly young band, and the show had a variety of technical issues, but their inexperience was never prevalent. When a mic went out, Alex Ebert (aka Edward Sharpe) led the audience in un-amplified song, proclaiming, “Let’s do one without all this technology”. The result was magical. The Holocene stage was so packed with musicians that they literally spilled out into the audience. Ebert, swigging from a bottle of wine, spent part of the final songs in the crowd, not just performing to them, but being a part of them. This connection between the band and the audience is what really makes Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros something special. They don’t simply get up and play, they connect and they do so with a tremendous amount of heart and passion.

The highlight of the evening was the performance of their single “Home”. Ebert and company lead the audience in a whistle prologue to the song that was hauntingly beautiful. The rest of the band joined in and the song began to build. Bit by bit it transformed from a song into a celebration, one which involved everyone in the room. Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros showed tremendous promise in their Music Fest NW set and I can’t wait to see them perform live again.

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros return to Portland on December 9th at the Doug Fir Lounge. I highly recommend checking them out as they won’t be playing small venues for long and the experience of seeing them in a more intimate venue is really exceptional.

For more information on Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros:

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Music Fest NW – Go See Girl Talk and Monotonix

September 16, 2009 No comments
Monotonix is Not to Be Missed

Monotonix is Not to Be Missed

I’ve always been a fan of WWeek‘s Music Fest Northwest . The fact that it’s a smaller regional fest in an era of megafests really creates a nice opportunity to get small venue experiences with up and coming bands.

This year MFNW features two of my absolute favorite small venue bands:

Monotonix (listen to our interview with Monotonix), an Israeli punk slash rock band is a show not to be missed. Monotonix’s shows are a tornado of energy where almost anything can happen. Monotonix sets up on the floor of the venue (in this case it’ll be at the Roseland) and then they explode.  If you’re going to see one Music Fest NW show this year, make it Monotonix, it’ll be an experience you’ll never forget. [Monotonix plays at The Roseland Theater on Friday Septemer 18th at 10pm followed by Bad Brains at 11pm it’s one of the best double bills of the fest]

Another ‘band’ that is extremely fun is Girl Talk. While not technically a ‘band’, Girl Talk will completely blow your expectations of what one guy can do with a laptop. Bringing together samples from almost every genre and era of music. It’s amazing what gets mixed together, think songs like Elton John’s Tiny Dancer can’t collide with Kanye “Jackass” West’s Gold Digger,  it can and will and the result is some of the most dancable tunes you’ll ever hear. It is absolutely impossible to see Girl Talk and not dance and his shows are some of the most fun I’ve seen . [Girl Talk plays at The Roseland Theater (8 NW 6th Ave) on  Thursday September 17th at 11pm with Brother Reade and Guidance Counselor who go on starting at 9pm]

Other notable shows to be on the lookout for:

Arctic Monkeys – Friday Sept 18 @ 7pm Wonder Ballroom
Modest Mouse – Sunday Sept 20 @ 10pm Crystal Ballroom

Also I asked Trevor Solomon, the festival’s artistic director which band he felt was the ‘hidden gem’ of the fest and he immediately replied Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros (Read the Review of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros in Portland who play at Holocene on Thursday Sept. 17 @ Midnight.

Since many of the individual concerts are sold out, the best way to get in is to buy a Music Fest NW wrist band ($60) which gives you access to all the shows of the fest from Wednesday night through Sunday.

For more information about Musicfest NW:

Categories: Music Tags: , ,

Miley Cyrus Wonder World Tour Concert Review

September 14, 2009 247 comments
Miley Cyrus Tour Portland Spectacle

Miley Cyrus Tour Portland Spectacle

If there was one thing that was made perfectly clear at the Miley Cyrus Wonder World Contert Tour debut in Portland, it’s that Hannah Montana is no more. Miley has clearly hit a turning point in her life and career where she’s stopped being a child actress performer and is starting to explore her blossoming adulthood. It’s that transition when a teenager slams their door and instead of hearing Avril Lavigne emanating from the room, you hear Led Zeppelin. This period of time is exciting, wonderful, awful, painful and confusing, which in many ways is captured in the immense spectacle that is Miley’s concert tour.

Changing costumes with almost every number, Miley seemed to be trying on dozens of different looks, perhaps to see which best reflected herself. Musically this frenetic change of styles was also apparent. The show bounced around from rock to pop to ballad and then into songs which seemed to blend all those styles into one. It’s entertaining to watch but you get the real sense that Miley isn’t quite sure who exactly she’s becoming.

Miley was very clear about who she isn’t. In the hour and a half set, Miley barely touched any of the songs which made her a success, only flirting with the Hannah Montana library with a very sexed-up version of Girls Night Out and a nice rendition of The Climb. She seemed to steer very far away from her signature Hannah Montana theme song, something I think really disappointed the rather young audience.

There’s no denying that the Miley Cyrus concert tour is a grand spectacle. Each song seemed to be accompanied by some sort of massive set piece and with ten dancers and constant and elaborate choreography; the show was a constant feast for the eyes. Miley Cyrus deserves a tremendous amount of credit for this accomplishment. The complexity of the staging and the sheer amount of choreography (not to mention the constant costume changes) would be a huge challenge even for the most seasoned of performers. Miley Cyrus tackles this aspect of her show masterfully and should be commended for it. Unfortunately, musically she didn’t match the grand spectacle. It’s not that Miley is a poor performer – when she hits the mark, she’s got a solid voice, great stage presence and wonderful connection with the audience. I just don’t think the bulk of her material is all that great. There are some real stand-outs among her work including her new hit Party in the USA, The Climb (the theme song from The Hannah Montana Movie) and When I Look at You (which is the theme from her upcoming 2010 film, The Last Song). The rest of the songs she performed never really break out and tended to fall a little on the dull side.

Miley Cyrus put to rest any question that she can rock, with a fantastic cover of Joan Jett And The Blackhearts ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll’ which she sang while riding a motor cycle that was lifted up over the audience and flown through the air. It was frustrating to hear that she does have the talent, even to rock, but not the real material to back that up. Another frustrating moment came during a transition between numbers where Miley and the dancers teased with a short bit of the Thriller dance; I would have loved to see her cover Michael Jackson, but the number was only a quick tease and Miley did not sing.

Throughout the 90 minute show, Miley changed her costumes a dizzying 10 times. Most of the costumes were skin tight and accentuated her breasts. This sexually forward side to Miley might have been a bit of a shock to the parents of the younger kids in the audience who came to see ‘Hannah Montana’. My daughter, who is 10, even commented on how much Miley showed off the fact that she’s got breasts (it was that noticeable). Despite this obvious display of her blossoming sexuality, Miley kept her show fairly tame. Rather than shock or put off her audience in some sort of rebellion, she simply declared her womanhood and burgeoning sexuality.

Miley Cyrus on Tour catches a young artist at a real intersection in her career. There seems to be a dynamic performer emerging from the bubblegum pop child star she once was. Hopefully after this tour she’ll be able to have some real time to work with a producer and song writers who can see her talent and bring out the best of it, because without a solid foundation of music under her, all the spectacle in the world won’t be enough to ignite her career and carry her beyond Hannah Montana.

For More info on Miley Cyrus Wonder World Tour:

Miley Cyrus Portland Concert Ticket Giveaway

September 2, 2009 2 comments

Miley Cyrus Portland Concert In asking On Portland readers what they’d like to see on the site, one of the big pieces of feedback we get is “Give Stuff Away!”  So we’re excited to launch our first giveaway in conjunction with the Rose Quarter for the highly anticipated Miley Cyrus Portland Concert!

The Rose Garden is the official launch spot for this tour which officially kicks off Monday, September 14th at 7pm (Portland was also the launch for this year’s American Idol 2009 Tour).  The Miley Cyrus Portland concert will also feature a new paperless ticketing system that could possibly revolutionize the concert industry (check out this video on the new ticket system).

On Portland is giving away 5 pairs of tickets (10 tix total!!) in our first ever twitter giveaway.

Here’s how to enter:

1) Follow us on twitter:  @OnPortland

2)  Tweet this to your friends:  Miley Cyrus Concert  Portland Tix giveaway – follow @onportland & retweet to enter: http://sn.im/mileycyrus

CLICK HERE to send the Tweet out to your Twitter friends automatically.

Also… for more great Rose Quarter promos follow @rosequarter

The giveaway ends September 6, 2009 at midnight PST. Five winners will be picked at random (one for each pair of tickets) and notified via Twitter DM. If notified, you will have 24 hours to respond and claim your prize, at which point it will be given to another contestant. You MUST be following @OnPortland and tweet the entry phrase to be eligible to win.

NOTE:  Kids that aren’t old enough to have a government issued ID will need a parent to claim the tickets for them. Parents will need to be physically present with their ID to claim the tickets at the box office.  From there can give the tickets to their kids.

We hope to bring more great giveaways and promotions in the future, so let us know what you’d like to see.

Key On Portland Music coverage:

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94.7fm KNRK – Give us Feedback? Then "#YouFail"

August 24, 2009 27 comments
94.7 fm KNRK

94.7 fm KNRK

At times I’ve been a vocal critic of the direction 94.7 fm KNRK . Over the past year they’ve changed their format, fired some of their key on air staff (most notably Tara Dublin, their only female dj) and changed the way they participate in the community.

Last September I wrote a piece in response to some of this entitled KNRK – It’s Absolutely Not Different Here. I wrote it as a listener, a life long fan of music and as someone who believed that Portland, Oregon should have a vibrant and significant alternative radio station.

While driving my kids in the car the other day I happened to switch over to Z100 (at the sole request of my kids). I was amazed at just how much new music I was hearing.  I’ll admit that Z100’s fare isn’t my genre of choice, but I couldn’t help but recognize just how much ‘new’ I was hearing and just how much that was lacking on 94.7.  For the record, I don’t think  new music = good music.  But growing up on alternative radio I’ll never forget the experience of hearing something new, exciting, and different.

I remember sitting in my car on an extremly cold December morning (in Ithaca, New York) listening as the radio station played “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the very first time. I sat in 15 degree cold, idling my car in the driveaway just listening, realizing just how amazing the new song Iwas hearing was.

I do think that artists like David Bowie, Iggy Pop, XTC and even Bob Marley have their place in the rotation of a modern rock station. But when they make up the vast percentage of music on that station, you leave little room for the genre to move forward, for local bands to find their audience and for anything significant to happen.

But this isn’t just about the music on 94.7fm. It’s what happened when I expressed my frustration to them:

94.7fm Feedback

Now keep in mind 94.7fm is a station which has built its brand on listener feedback. They run daily promos with listener feedback and encourage people to tell them what they think. The thing is, this seems to only apply if what you say is positive.

#youfail from KNRK

I was shocked. Was an Entercom-owned radio station’s official twitter account name calling because I expressed my frustration with the lack of new music?!

Since this exchange was happening on the eve of the station’s big benefit concert “Pet Aid”, with proceeds going to Dove Lewis, I replied.

For Chairty

Again I was met with downright hostility:

No For Dove Lewis

I’ll spare all the back and forth, but the capper to me was:

blahblahblah

I emailed Mark Hamilton, 94.7fm’s program director, who seemed to be as befuddled by the interaction as I was. His response:

Neither our Facebook or Twitter accounts are meant to be a forum for a back and forth with a listener.

And yet, nothing really has been done about it.

I’m writing about this interaction not because I think I’m right. There are many people out there who want a station that plays more classic alternative music than new music.  Also the economics of a radio station have changed dramatically over the years, making it harder for art and creativity to have a place over commerce (look at Indie 103’s demise on the airwaves as an example).

The lesson here is that a company’s twitter and facebook pages ARE its face to its customers/listeners.  DJ Squid (@squidvicious, who is also appearantly the person behind @947fm)  literally lambasted me for my feedback and he did it AS 947fm.

All businesses will have their critics, some of them more harsh than others, but businesses can never go on the attack against them. You can’t on one hand ask for feedback and then another chastize people for their feedback when they say something you don’t like, or in a way you don’t prefer.

With iPhones, iPods, Pandora and so many other ways of consuming music, radio stations – especially local radio stations – can only really survive if they have some sort of relevant relationship with their listeners. Firing DJs, lambasting people on twitter and dropping support for local non-profits isn’t the way to build that relationship, it’s the way to kill it.

So I’ll move on, like so many other people, I’ll flip the radio to AUX and plug in my iPhone. I’ll stream KEXP (or OPBMusic) while I work and wait patiently for KZME to launch.

I’m convinced that someday Portland will have a truly amazing local radio station committed to being the alternative. It’s clear that 947fm isn’t it.

Relevant links:

Categories: Music Tags:

Storm Large 8 Miles Wide Music Video

July 21, 2009 1 comment
Storm Large

Storm Large

As far as I’m concerned Storm Large deserves every ounce of success she’s achieved.  Storm has been a Portland institution for many years. She’s put in countless hours supporting almost every major fund raising event, appeared on almost every major stage and literally worked her ass off. The nation got a peek at her talent when she appeared on Rockstar Supernova a couple of years ago,  but like many of those ‘reality tv/music contest’ shows they overlooked true talent.  It’s only fitting that Storm find her second wind of notoriety and success here in Portland.

Storm’s  auto-biographical show “Crazy Enough” has been a run away hit at Portland Center Stage, selling out and getting extended month after month after month. They finally announced that it would have to end at some point because PCS needs the stage for their other shows (another venue has even been discussed for a continue of the run).

Now the music video for 8 Miles Wide has been released and it’s a thrill.  The video was  shot and edited by local Portland filmmaker James Westby (director of Film Geek and The Auteur) and produced by Katie O’ Grady.

Check out the 8 Miles Wide music video from Crazy Enough:

Here also is a great behind the scenes video:

In addition to her smash hit play and new video Storm also did the soundtrack for the upcoming Pander Brothers movie called Selfless which is getting a screening and its own panel later this week at ComicCon.

For more info on Storm Large:

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American Idol 2009 Summer Tour – Portland Review

American Idols Live in Portland

American Idols Live in Portland

I had pretty realistic expectations going into the 2009 American Idols Live show on its first stop in Portland. Despite all the hype and hoopla, the reality is, these ten finalists are just at the beginnings of their careers. They’ve just crossed the threshold from semi-pro to the big leagues and this concert in Portland was their very first big arena show.

As a show I found it to be pretty choppy and extremely uneven. The staging was set up with a huge barrier between the audience and the performers. A stage which jetted out into the audience or a theater in the round set up, like they had with the Jonas Brothers, would have been a much better option. The evening was broken into two acts. The first one had performances from Michael Sarver, Megan Joy, Scott MacIntyre, Lil Rounds, Anoop Desai and Matt Giraud, followed by a group song featuring these six performers. The second act featured Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey, Adam Lambert and Kris Allen, and then a finale song with all ten.

The only ‘coloring outside the lines’ came when Adam Lambert invited Allison Iraheta back up to do a duet of “Slowride”. Other than that, the evening was as programed as it could possibly get. Each Idol did grab the mic during their set for some banter but it was only Allison Iraheta who really connected with the audience. Others, like Danny Gokey, came off poorly and preachy. The show wasn’t about the Idols talking, it was about them singing, and for the most part each Idol represented pretty well.

Michael Sarver’s passion seemed to fill the gaps as he sang “I’m in Love with a Girl” by Gavin Degraw and “Closer” by Ne-Yo. He sported a white jacket with an enormous cross on it. His performance was fine and well within the line of an ‘opening act’.

Megan Joy came out with a much sexier look than we’ve seen for her, a bright pink dress and coiffed blond hair. Her rendition of Corrine Baily Rae’s “Put Your Records On” was pretty close to the performance she gave on the show. It didn’t win any new fans over, but it wasn’t bad. Unfortunately her rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry on Their Own” didn’t come off as well and you could see why she’s been branded as one of the more ‘unlikeable’ Idols.

Of all the American Idols, Scott MacIntyre was the most improved from his performances on the show. He emerged from below the stage behind a grand piano. It was clear that behind the piano is Scott’s sweet spot. His rendition of Keane’s “Bend and Break” was sharp and he breathed new life into Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles”. I was disappointed that Scott only played two songs and would have liked to seen more from him.

Lil Rounds proved yet again that she can really sing, but something was missing from her performance. She opened with Mary J Blige’s “Be Without You” (a style she was constantly urged to sing during the show) but the audience didn’t seem to connect with it. Her rendition of Alicia Keys’s “No One” was solid, but sound alike and “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé had some great energy, but it seemed to fall apart at the end. Lil Rounds seemed mighty alone on that big stage and I think the show missed a huge opportunity to support her with some dancers. On “Single Ladies” she talked about working with a choreographer, but it ended up just being her strutting around the stage. If anything they could have brought the backup singers forward, or something so she didn’t seem so lost in the big space.

Anoop Desai was the first of the Idols to really connect with the crowd. A wave of flashbulbs fired off as he emerged from the center of the stage signing Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind”. Anoop was dressed in preppy/nerd chic and sported some thick rimmed glasses mid-way through the set. Anoop followed with “Mad” by Ne-Yo and then his signature “My Prerogative” by Bobby Brown. Musically Anoop isn’t the strongest of the Idols – Lil Rounds vocally eclipsed him – but Anoop has a charisma and style that fills the stage. He never looked alone up there and seems to have some of the raw goods to become a star. His set wasn’t earth shattering but it was extremely entertaining.

Matt Giraud seemed to have something to prove, and he did that with his set. With a big stardom presence he was the first Idol to really get the crowd on their feet with The Black Crows “Hard to Handle”. He then slowed it down a bit with Ray Charles’s “Georgia”, which came off fairly well, although I really didn’t like the arrangement. Surprisingly Giraurd closed with “I Found You” by The Fray, which is odd because during the show the judges specifically indicated that it wasn’t the best song for him, and I have to agree.

The medley that followed was okay. Throughout the season the group numbers were never the real strong points. This time around it felt a little choppy and Idol versus Idol. A highlight of the duet was dueling pianos with Scott MacIntyre and Matt Giraud singing Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It”. In that match up I enjoyed Scott’s performance more. The weakest pairing of the medley was Megan and Lil who didn’t sound good together at all.

What followed was an excruciatingly long, energy-sucking 20 minute intermission where we sat and listened to ads and music videos of past American Idol winners. The break wouldn’t have been so misplaced if they had some sort of fun or creative intermission video clips playing (like a retrospective on the show). It was an opportunity missed.

The second half started with a bang and Allison Iraheta made up for the energy suck of the intermission. She opened with an extremely energetic rendition of Pink’s “So What”. Allison played a few of the refrains on her guitar, but not well. She is so energetic and fun and I think she would have done better without the guitar. Allison continued with Janis Joplin’s “Cry Baby” which was fantastic. As she let loose, she really showed a real comfort on the stage. At one point during “Cry Baby” she did really embody Joplin. It wasn’t a mimic or impression, but something much deeper. Her talk to the audience seemed to really connect and it showed a real presence and charisma. She closed her set with a fantastic performance of Heart’s “Barracuda”. I was disappointed that she only sang three songs. It was at this point I wished the show were the top 5 and not the top 10.

Of all the performances, I was most disappointed by Danny Gokey. I really like Gokey and enjoyed his performances on the show, but what worked on the small screen didn’t quite work as well on the big stage. Danny Gokey opened with Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” without any form of comment or tribute to the artist’s death. He followed on with Santana’s “Maria Maria” which had him dancing around seemingly having fun on stage, but it felt a little stiff and forced and he didn’t quite have the audience along with him. The highlight of his set was “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts; it was the only point in the set where I felt any genuine passion. Danny Gokey followed the song with an ‘inspirational’, “you can do anything, don’t let adversity get in your way” talk. It just didn’t connect, so when he went into Rascal Flatts “My Wish” I felt like I was at a bad Christian Rock concert.

Gokey was immediately forgotten after Adam Lambert’s explosive opening. The crowd went crazy as he belted out Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”. A lot of the things that I felt didn’t work in Lambert’s performances on the small screen were the very things that made seeing him live in an arena so fantastic. His opening number was pure electricity and left absolutely no doubt that he’s a rock star. I was really shocked at just how amazing hearing Adam Lambert sing Zeppelin was. He followed with an extremely strong version of Muse’s “Starlight” and then slowed it down with “Mad World”. Although the live version of “Mad World” wasn’t as magical as on the show, it was still fantastic. He pulled the entire audience in with the song and showed how easily he could warp the tempo and tone on stage. Adam called Allison on stage and the two of them did Foghat’s “Slow Ride”. My son turned to me and said, “Isn’t that a song from Guitar Hero?!” (interesting how times have changed). Adam and Allison’s chemistry were fantastic and the song was spot on. Adam finished his set with a medley of David Bowie songs including “Life on Mars”, “Fame” and “Let’s Dance”. It was fun and playful, but I would have enjoyed more big rock like Queen or Kiss. Still, Lambert showed he’s the real deal and his performance was so strong, I’ll definitely make a point to see him when he returns on his own.

During Adam’s set it became pretty clear how limited the staging of the show was. “Whole Lotta Love” screamed for some sort of pyrotechnics and his melody of Bowie songs could have been a huge production number with dancers and effects. It was a huge opportunity lost and one of the most noticeable failings of the show as a whole.

Kris Allen emerged from the floor in the center of the stage to the screams of the fans. They dropped a curtain behind him and the rest of the band (an odd move) and he held silent with his acoustic guitar in hand, for just a little too long. What followed though was one of the highlights of the entire show. Allen performed Kanye West’s “Heartless” in a way that made it clear that he’s made it his own. The song sounded even better live and is the corner stone of Allen’s success. Kris Allen was pitch perfect with his performance of “No Boundaries”, which isn’t my favorite song, but Allen finds hooks in it to make it into something much more beautiful and strong than the source material. Allen’s emotion and connection to the audience peaked with “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. I think it’s Allen’s humble honesty in his performance that really wins the audience over. If Kris Allen came out with the ego of Matt Giraud I don’t think it would work nearly as well. Kris Allen went for the trifecta on Matchbox 20’s  “Bright Lights” singing, playing guitar and piano, a truly versatile performance. He closed his set with a fantastic performance of “Hey Jude”, with the other 9 Idols joining him for the end of the song.

The finale of the night was Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”, probably the best group effort I’ve seen. For one reason or another the song just ‘fits’ this group. There have been a lot of reports on how close the top 10 American Idol group is, but musically they really haven’t meshed well as a group, except for this song. It was a fantastic close to the show and a real highlight of the night.

As a complete show the 2009 American Idol’s Live Tour isn’t as strong as some of its parts. There are some serious shortcomings with how the show was staged. It was too formatted, overly programmed and lacking in some of the staging magic that could have transformed it into a much better show. The addition of a few dancers, some pyrotechnics and a little more stage pizazz would have gone a long way. I also think they could have dropped the twenty minute intermission in favor of a few more duets or sets which colored outside the lines. Also noticeably missing were any fun video clips or anything from the judges. It’s a clear opportunity missed not to have anything from any of the judges or even Ryan Seacrest on video saying “This is American Idol”.

Despite the production shortcomings the show was very enjoyable. Between Allison Iraheta’s energetic set, Adam Lambert’s jaw dropping Zeppelin and Kris Allen’s pitch perfect performance, there’s more than enough here to justifying seeing the show.

For more information about American Idol Live see:

Also be sure to read: Miley Cyrus Live in Concert – Tour Review

American Idol Live in Portland Video Interviews

July 5, 2009 4 comments

The 8th installment of American Idol Live makes its first stop at The Rose Garden on July 5th. On Portland had the opportunity to sit down and talk to the top 10 American Idol performers (in batches of two).

Reporters were given just 5 mins to ask questions and with two idols to cover it was tough to try to fit a lot in.  Meeting the Idols in person I was struck by how closely they mirrored their ‘personas’ on the screen. What you saw on TV is pretty much what you see when you talk to them in person. Of the group I enjoyed Allison Iraheta’s rambunctious humor, Adam Lambert’s ultimate humility and Anoop Desai who seemed to have the best take on the event.

The biggest surprise was Megan Joy who talked about the challenges she faced during the show. She was a much more grounded and down to earth person than I had expected and her playfullness with Matt Giraud was fun to watch.

The thing that stuck me the most was how exhausted the Idols seemed. It was clear that they’ve been working extremely hard to prepare the tour and I’ll be interested to see the results of all that effort.

Here are the interviews:

Kris Allen and Anoop Desai

Adam Lambert and Lil Rounds and

Danny Gokey and Michael Sarver:

Allison Iraheta and Scott MacIntyre

Matt Giraud and Megan Joy

For more information about American Idol Live see:

The Jonas Brothers in Portland – A Review

June 28, 2009 17 comments

I think it’s important to acknowledge that I am not in any way the target audience for the Jonas Brothers. In the sea of pre-teen girls and their mothers standing in line to get into the Rose Garden, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Committed to doing fun things with my daughter (despite my personal tastes in music), I had decided to take her to one of the most buzzed about concerts so far this year. I definitely felt out of place in an event dominated by debates over which Jonas Brother people think is ‘cuter’ (the consensus seems to be Joe).

The Crowd Waiting to See The Jonas BRothers

The Crowd Waiting to See The Jonas Brothers

As we waited for the show to start the stadium erupted in a deafening wave of screams any time anything Jonas Brothers related appeared on the overhead screens during the pre-show promotions. The Jonas Brothers seem to be able to instill that ‘boy crazy pre-teen frenzy’ that only a handful of boy bands can command. The sea of pre-teens waiting for the show carried fan signs, home-designed Jonas Brothers T-shirts, and were adorned by photos of the three Jonas Brothers.

As the lights dimmed the stadium was literally filled with screams (good thing I brought my Ear Love!). First to meet this adoring crowd was the relatively new Honor Society (watch the On Portland Interview with Honor Society), a band who described themselves as a ‘Myspace Band‘ (or a band that built its following initially from myspace). While Honor Society only played a handful of songs, the audience responded exceptionally well to them. The final song from Honor Society, ‘See U in The Dark’, was the clear favorite of their set. The song snapped and popped like a good pop anthem, noticeably elevated from the rest of their set and is sure to become a hit. I was surprised at how short the set was; I would have expected them to do another song or two especially considering how well they were received.

Following Honor Society was a unique all-girl band from South Korea called Wonder Girls. Dressed in 60’s chic (think The Supremes), Wonder Girls is an odd infusion of retro cool and bubble gum pop. I don’t think that the audience for the Jonas Brothers really knew what to make of them. Their first set, a single song, was so short it was hard to get a real sense of them (check out this video of their first set). Wonder Girls performed a second number after Jordin Sparks’s set and an introduction by Paul Jonas (the Jonas Brother’s father) called Nobody. The song itself was pretty catchy but the dance that went along with it could only be described as odd. It’ll be interesting to see if this Asian super group will find traction with American audiences. It could go either way.

Jordin Sparks, who I had seen a few years back, performed a much stronger set than the last time I saw her. Sparks had a much higher level of comfort on stage and seemed to connect well with the audience. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough of spark in her performance and even her signature single “No Air” didn’t have the punch that it should have. The highlight of Sparks’s set was a rendition of Pretty Young Thing (PYT) in tribute to Michael Jackson, which Sparks performed with more energy and spunk than the rest of her set. Sparks seems constantly on the brink of breaking out and I think a lot of the raw goods are there, but she seems to be lacking the right material to bring her to the next level.

Pop Rock

The stadium filled with lights and smoke as the main event launched like a rocket ship. With Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ blasting, Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas were raised from the depths of the center stage and spun around as if they were pop gods stuck in a doughnut display. The full stage configuration for the Jonas Brothers concert was impressive, presented as a ‘theater in the round’. The stage brought the performers much closer to the audience and gave far more fans a really good seat over traditional staging. The light, smoke and stage show was nothing short of impressive. With layered video screens, hundreds of different light configurations and an ever-revolving center stage, there was always something catching the eye.

Musically I can’t say I was amazingly won over by the Jonas Brothers. They are pure boy band pop through and through. The dynamic of the band is an interesting one. While many of the Jonas Brothers fans swoon over Joe Jonas, it’s actually Nick Jonas who seems to have inherited most of his father’s musical talent. Whether he’s playing guitar, piano or drums Nick seems to be the dominant musical force of the trio. Joe saunters around the stage to the admiring screams of fans, but if you really pay attention you can see it’s really Nick who’s carrying the lead. The third brother (sort of like the fifth Beattle), Kevin seems to be happy in his supporting role, rarely taking center stage. Kevin seems firmly rooted in his backup position. For whatever reason, that dynamic just works and the band comes off as an unashamedly pop boy band that is more ‘cute and swoon worthy’ than sexual (like Justin Timberlake). I also really appreciate that although the band comes from a strong religious background, they don’t bring that to their music.

While I may not have been completely won over by the Jonas Brothers’ music, I was quite impressed by their performance. A highlight for me was Nick Jonas’ rendition of “Black Keys” which was presented with him solo at a white piano in a cloud of smoke. After the song Nick spoke to the audience about his diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes and his commitment to push on in the face of adversity. The talk was an extremely skillful way of addressing a real serious issue (teenage suicide) and I thought that Nick Jonas did a phenomenal job of sending out an important message to his fans.

Impressive Jonas Brothers Staging

Impressive Jonas Brothers Staging

The set as a whole had its ups and downs as does their music. High points seemed to pivot around their break-out hits like “S.O.S” or “Burnin’ Up” and fall flat around some of their weaker songs. A complete misstep was the performance of “Sweet Caroline”, the notable Neil Diamond song. The band said they were doing the song for all the parents to get up and dance, but I think they’ve misjudged the age of their audience’s parents. They would have done much better with a stand out Michael Jackson song than Manilow, and I was actually surprised that their set was absent of a song to pay tribute to Michael Jackson.

At a high or low the stage spectacular always seemed to keep the show flowing. A late set return of Jordin Sparks was an unexpected treat. Surrounded by the full lights and video spectacular, Sparks belted out the title track to her new album “Battlefield”. The performances was legions beyond her opening set and showed the potential for Sparks when she has the right material. Also a particularly notable water effect was something I’d never seen at a concert before and was especially impressive.

I can’t say that I was won over at the end and became a fan of the Jonas Brothers. I am clearly not their target audience, but having said that I did enjoy their show. The Jonas Brothers have put together a pure spectacle of light and sound that is entertaining to watch. For me, though, the real enjoyment was watching my daughter as she jumped, sang and swooned. Equipped with the right ear plugs, the screams of the fans were manageable and the stage show was entertaining enough to make the evening more than worth it.

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