Archive for the ‘Live Music’ Category

Let’s put aside the fact that the MTV VMAs have become incredibly irrelevant over the past few years, because they just award the same artists over and over. Let’s ignore the fact that they don’t even televise the awards that actually have anything to do with the creative aspects of the videos. Let’s forget the fact there was no mention of Prince or David Bowie during the live broadcast. Let’s also pretend to believe the MTV VMAs represent all music and not just pop and hip-hop. That said, here are some thoughts on this year’s show.

Kanye does whatever he wants

After years of interrupting acceptance speeches, hating on anyone that wasn’t Beyoncé, Kanye was handed a full 4 minutes to rant and rave about whatever he wanted. It was disguised as a prelude to the premiere of his new NSFW video “Fade” off 2016’s Life of Pablo. His speech was nonsensical ramblings for the most part (as expected) but I’m not sure what MTV was hoping for: he shocked no one, and bored everyone.

Bey is Queen of everything

Slay, slay, slay. That’s all Bey does. Forget all her nominations and wins. Forget the fact that she gave a perfect 16-minute performance of snippets of her entire Lemonade album. Forget the fact everyone’s jaws dropped, and were left speechless. Forget everything you thought you knew about anything: Bey rules all.

Watch the epic performance here

Britney Spears needs to throw in the towel

Poor, Britney. In an attempt to revive her “career,” Britney Spears’ MTV VMA performance was slated as her big comeback. Except she had to follow Beyonce’s epic 15-minute explosion, and there’s no way she was going to surpass that. It didn’t help that Spears looked like old news, struggling to sell her sexuality. She performed her recently dropped single “Make Me” featuring no-one’s-ever-heard-of rapper G-Easy. Her outfit looked like something a figure skater would wear, and seemed to meander along the stage aimlessly, until G Easy showed up, which was her cue to grab his crotch. She needs to realize she’s not 16 anymore, and it’s not longer the 90s – no matter how much she wishes.

Drake vs. Rihanna

After essentially pouring his heart out and confessing his love for Rihanna, Drake went in for a kiss, and Rihanna so awkwardly dodged it. You could hear the viewers cringing, and Drake’s heart breaking  all over the world. Why can’t Rihanna just love Drake back? Also: as if she got some sort of lifetime achievement award for her videos. As if.

The Burning Questions

  • Is Puff Daddy still a thing?
  • Why is DJ Khaled such a fool? Conversely, why is Alessia Cara so adorable?
  • When panning the audience, why did the camera always fall on Kimye and/or Michael Phelps?
  • When did lip syncing during live performances become so widely accepted?
  • How many Kardashians need to be present at an awards show for people to watch?
  • Why is Nick Jonas’ new track called “Bacon”?
  • Why did Alicia Keys get high before dressing up in a tent and presenting?
  • How did Fifth Harmony win? Sexual inuendo is the only “art” in their videos
  • Who are the Chainsmokers and why are they so awful?

Lastly: why am I so old?

 

 

 

Earlier this year, Gwen Stefani dropped her third solo venture, This is What the Truth Feels Like, amidst her very public break up with husband Gavin Rossdale, and rebound-turned-romance with country singer Blake Shelton. In fact, Stefani’s album is part “I hate you, Gavin”, part “I love you, Blake” and part “I’m just so confused.” It’s a true pop album, sprinkled with all kinds of genres like dance, R&B, reggae; plus that good ol’ Stefani attitude.
A couple of weeks ago, Stefani took over the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre in support of her new album, and she killed it. From start to finish, there wasn’t a dull moment; not a single boring set. It was entertaining, lively and incredibly fun. She mostly played tracks off the new album, like “Misery”, “Make Me Like You,” and her personal favourite, “Rare.”
 
For long-time fans, she also paid homage to her previous solo work, with “Wind it Up”, “Luxurious” and left the crowd wanting more with an amped-up version of “Hollaback Girl” before heading off stage to prepare for the encore.
 
Stefani’s 2 hour performance also included incredible outfit changes, flawless back up dancers, and a rambunctious band; not to mention, live versions of “Rich Girl” and “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” – both collaborations with rap sensation Eve (her opener for the night.) She even played “Send Me a Picture” – a track on which she somehow put an endearing spin on sexting.
If that wasn’t enough, Stefani pulled at all the fans’ 16-year-old heart strings and delved into old school No Doubttracks like “Don’t Speak” and every girl’s favourite anthem, “Just a Girl”, during which she kicked up the bad-assery to the next level. Not a single person was sitting still, unable to help themselves from dancing, jumping, and singing all the lyrics along with her. She refused to run out of steam, and had just as much fun as the crowd – while still looking like she hasn’t aged since 1995 (how does she do it?)
The thing about Gwen Stefani is she’s ambitious, successful, fun, confident; while also being vulnerable and emotional. When she performs, she throws every part of her on stage, which is why her fans are such die hards – they feel like they know her. She’s someone with whom they can identify because everyone sees a part of themselves in her and her music. Her concert only proves what goes without saying: you can’t get any cooler than Gwen Stefani, you just can’t.

As many of my regular readers know, my relationship with U2 is a complicated and tumultuous one. They were my first “favourite band of all time”; I quoted them in my high school yearbook; I even made a cassette mixtape of their music, that resided in my walkman for years. They were the bee’s knees, the be all and end all of rock bands. Then one day, they just weren’t. They recently flew through Toronto in support of their Songs of Innocence album, here’s what went down.

Seeing U2 live used to be a treat and a half. That musicianship, that love, that passion, resonated in abundance across any stadium in which they played. You could feel Bono’s voice, Edge’s guitar, Adam’s bass and Larry’s drums, as much as they did, and the energy was incredible. All they needed was a stage, a crowd, and their instruments. It was a full body experience, leaving your spine chilling, everything tingling, and a pressing urge to belt out “One” along with them.

U2 have developed a very identifiable “U2” sound – one which they’ve tinkered with over the years. I applaud experimentation, exploration and evolution in music: no one wants to be a one-note band. That’s why we got albums like 1993’s Zooropa, and 1997’s Pop. A little more electronic, a little more out there, a deviation from their usual. Sometimes their wandering worked, sometimes it didn’t. But they kept trying, and I have to respect that.

Over time, the sets on their live shows have become more and more elaborate, extravagant; there’s no doubt that this Innocence and Experience Tour, in that respect, they absolutely did not disappoint. The audio was fantastic – I could hear everything crystal clear even from the nosebleeds. There was a hanging screen built in such a way that the band could actually walk inside, and play from there. All the while the screen was either transparent or full of images superimposing on the band. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and it was pretty mesmerizing. But at the same time, it was also distracting – too many things were going on at once, flashing on the screen, happening across the stage, that the music got lost in all of it and became a secondary part of the show.

U2 often bring fans up on to the stage during their shows. This time, they asked a woman dressed in a belly dancer outfit on stage to dance to “Mysterious Ways.” It seemed almost rehearsed because she was way too composed, like she was expecting it. She didn’t sing along, she didn’t freak out in any way, she just sort of shimmied around without adding any value. Then they brought up a tribute band, Acrobat, who took over the stage and performed “Desire.” To their credit, they were pretty good, but they too didn’t seem even a tiny bit nervous about playing in front of a sold-out crowd, and the lead singer just happened to have a harmonica on him. The whole thing happened so seamlessly, so perfectly, so unrealistically. It seemed much more formulaic than spontaneous.

For the most part, the music was well performed, though overall it lacked in pizzaz in comparison to previous shows. They played a somewhat lullaby version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday” – ie a rebel song, an angry song, a rock ‘n roll song. They performed “Bullet the Blue Sky,” easily one my least favourite tracks. I always used to skip it when listening to Joshua Tree (oh come on, you know you did too) because it came after “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” “Where the Streets Have no Name,” and “With or Without You,” and ruined the streak.

I don’t know if they’re lazy, tired or just bored. I understand nothing stays the same forever; I get that people change, music changes, everything changes really. I understand going with the times, adapting, and trying to stay relevant year after year. So maybe I’ve changed, and my taste too. However, I still have the right to expect the same artistry, the same attention to detail, the same ability to rock out and leave a crowd awestruck. As a fan, it’s basically my right. I hate to say it, but U2 just hasn’t been meeting the bar they themselves set. I’ve been blown away by them; I’ve witnessed true, passionate musicians; heck I’ve felt it. But on this tour they dropped the ball; they lost me, and I just wish I could find them.