Saturday, September 29, 2012

Review: Apple, cranky but no criminal at Fillmore


Given her recent drug arrest and her reputation as an uneven performer, Fiona Apple’s concert at The Fillmore Wednesday could’ve been a disaster. And although it wasn’t entirely drama-free, it never really threatened to derail. Yes, Apple ranted a bit about her arrest and the 40-some TVs that constantly run ads during concerts at the venue (a valid complaint - concert halls aren't sports bars and it detract from the ambiance). But mostly she tried to deflect attention from her recent arrest by mentioning a Hudspeth County, Texas environmentalist that fought proposals that would turn his home county - the one known for pulling over tour buses and arresting stars like Apple and Willie Nelson - into a dumping ground for sewage and radioactive waste. She scrawled his name - Bill Addington - on her loose white t-shirt.

Apple is known for her candor and the raw honesty of her lyrics. That’s what we dig about her, so a canned, opinion-free performance from the diminutive singer would have been a bigger disappointment than one laden with outbursts. But for every brief outburst, she’d apologize a song later.

Her singing oozed emotion and realness. Her band was spot-on, holding things together when Apple appeared most fragile. Guitarist Blake Milles reminded me of a sort of Lyle Lovett-meets-Chris-Isaak as a bluesy, creative guitar wizard during his opening set. Drummer Amy Wood is more of a thoughtful, jazzy percussionist than heavy handed beat keeper. They, along with the rest of the four-piece group, cast a moody, dynamics-driven setting for Apple’s emotional songs.

As local musician Bruce Hazel mentioned four or five songs in, “Apple came out swinging.” He wasn’t referring to angry banter, but the strong set list that included “Fast As You Can,” “On the Bound,” “Shadowboxer” and “Paperbag.” At times her voice grew to a hoarse growl on songs like “Get Gone.” She spat the lyrics of “Sleep to Dream.” But those moments added to the raw nature of the lyrics and the vulnerability of her performance. She played up the jazzy musical theater aspect of “Extraordinary Machine” and delivered “I Know” with sultry intimacy. She hit on new tracks “Werewolf,” “Left Alone,” “Every Single Night,” “Periphery,” and “Daredevil,” but most of the older songs in the set were culled from 1999’s “When the Pawn…,” which to me is the ultimate Apple album. She did not, however, perform an encore or play her biggest hit “Criminal.” But from what I’ve heard that wasn’t unusual.

Later in the set she addressed her inability to avoid controversy apologizing for being cranky and basically saying, “After 17 years anyone that’s worked with me - you do not tell me not to say something right before I walk on stage.”

I’ve read complaints about Apple’s demeanor. I’ve also heard raves about Wednesday’s show. I fall somewhere in the middle. Yes, she’s super skinny. Calling her skinny is like the guy in front of me at Coachella calling the Pixies old and fat (this isn’t news). I was just hoping for a mostly professional performance from Apple, which I think we got. My husband saw her here in the late `90s and she continually apologized for her performance, which can be really annoying (and just draws attention to flaws most of the audience probably didn’t notice in the first place). I’ve also seen her as a complete pro guesting with Nickel Creek.

Wednesday was also somewhere in between. She didn’t storm off. She didn’t cry. She didn’t turn into Billie Joe Armstrong and rant about what an important artist she is and “how dare they…” Maybe some folks are just less comfortable with a woman sharing her thoughts, but that’s why her audience has stuck with her. Apple’s lyrics are an open, poetic, metaphorical book that are still universal enough that we can pin our own drama to them. A staid, safe performance would’ve been a disappointment. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Want to see live music? Try this week.


Each week for nearly a decade now I’ve sifted through local venue calendars for our concert recommendations column. Obviously some weeks aren’t as busy as others. This coming week the number of shows between September 28 and October 4 is absolutely ridiculous - way too much to fit into a hot concerts column. 

Tuesday's variety is astounding. You have the loopy violin indie-folk shenanigans of Dr. Strings himself, Andrew Bird at Neighborhood, the metal supergroup Down at Tremont, long running revered indie powerhouse Cursive at The Milestone (a band that would normally play a bigger venue on a lesser week), soul singer Allen Stone who opened the Roots’ private DNC event earlier this month at Visulite, and former Headcoatee and (in my mind) underground UK legend Holly Golightly playing a free set during Snug Harbor’s Country Tuesday. And that’s only Tuesday!

The rest of the week reflects that same rich variety usually blessed on bigger cities like New York or Atlanta. Friday I’ll be taking my toddlers to see the Fresh Beat Band, but I could take in Matthews Mayfield and Perryman Jones at Evening Muse or the Afrobeat adventures of Daptone Records’ (home to Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings) Antibalas at Visulite, or the early `00s hit makers the Ataris at The Milestone. 

Saturday it’s three female singer-songwriters Garrison Starr (who I discovered opening for Steve Earle years ago), Maia Sharp, and Adrianne Gonzalez at Evening Muse, songwriter Steve Forbert at Stage Door Theater, music legend Leon Russell at Neighborhood, and NC’s 9th Wonder deejaying classic hip-hop at Republic. Other highlights include the Powerman 5000 anniversary at Tremont Wednesday followed by the double header of Accept and Kreator Thursday, which goes up against Georgia rapper Bubba Sparxx at Amos’, indie group White Rabbits at Visulite, indie group the Rocketboys at the Muse, and soul singer Curtis Salgado at Double Door. Taking it all in could be dizzying. 

Those concerts just scratch the surface. But the point is if you’re going to go see live music, go this week. 

This week's hot concerts

Antibalas
9 p.m. Friday, September 28, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $15. www.visulite.com
With ties to “Fela!” (the Tony winning musical on which its members served as musical directors) and a 15-year history as an influential force in the second wave of Afrobeat, the Daptone Records act is straddles forward thinking and rhythmic traditions.

Stolen Babies
6:30 p.m. Saturday, September 29, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $10. www.etix.com
Taking one page from goth-punk/metal bands like Schoolyard Heroes and another from No Doubt, this L.A. group boils it all into a sinister, noisy, circus-ready cabaret.

Garrison Starr/Maia Sharp/Adrianne Gonzalez
8 p.m. Saturday, September 29, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $12-$15. www.eveningmuse.com
This talented trio of LGBT-friendly, folk-rock singer-songwriters features Starr - the spunky tomboy, Sharp - the mature peer favorite (covered by Cher, Dixie Chicks, Kathy Mattea and others), and Gonzalez, who fuses her visual art and her lyrics.

Steve Forbert
8 p.m. Saturday, September 29, Stage Door Theater, corner of 5th and College Streets. $22. 704-372-1000.
The gravely-voice of this matter-of-fact veteran storyteller lends itself well to the lived-in, mature and sometimes playful songs about relationships that populate his newest album, “Over With You.”

9th Wonder
10 p.m. Saturday, September 29, Republic, 314 N. College St. $15. www.thesolkitchen.com
Before embarking on a three year research project as a Harvard fellow, the Winston-native, Little Brother member and acclaimed Grammy winning producer spins hip-hop classics.

Cursive
8 p.m. Tuesday, October 2, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $15-$17. www.etix.com
Usually booked at much bigger venues, this rare intimate set follows the Midwesterner’s 2012 story-driven concept album “I Am Gemini” although the group has been a fan and critical favorite since 2002’s “Domestica.”

Allen Stone
8:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 2, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $13-$15. www.visulite.com
If you’ve missed this vintage soul throwback on the late night talk show circuit or opening for the Roots during the DNC, you’re in for a surprise. Beneath the hippie-geek look lies a killer voice that has audiences doing a double take.

White Rabbits
8:30 p.m. Thursday, October 4, Visulite. 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $12-$15. www.visulite.com
This Brooklyn (by way of the Midwest) outfit hovers somewhere between the riffing and rhythms of Minus the Bear and the gentle (thanks to the vocals) indie-rock of Death Cab for Cutie, but with jazz roots that add another layer of complexity.

Curtis Salgado
9 p.m. Thursday, October 4, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12. 704-376-1446.
The 2012 Blues Music Awards soul/blues singer of the year has survived a 2006 liver transplant and had his second cancerous lung tumor removed this summer, but he sounds like a youthful, driven vocalist channeling Motown and classic R&B like a male Sharon Jones. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hamilton's hometown concert canceled

According to the Ovens Auditorium website, the Charlotte date of Grammy winner Anthony Hamilton's Back to Love Tour has been canceled. No explanation was given, but tickets will be refunded at point of purchase.

Tickets for Hamilton's October 6 concert at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex are still available via www.Ticketmaster.com. Hamilton recently performed in Charlotte during the DNC week festivities.

Indie bands rockin' the Haunted Mill Wednesday

The Haunted Mill in Belmont has long been a Halloween tradition in the area, but before the season officially kicks off this weekend (with buy one get one free tickets) the Mill hosts the most recent in a series of live music concerts called PotLuck XIII. This week's acts include Roanoke-based indie dream pop outfit Eternal Summers, Philly noise-pop combo Bleeding Rainbow (formerly Reading Rainbow, video featured above), and Charlotteans Yardwork and Blossoms.

The PotLucks (which actually start out with a pot luck dinner, so bring a dish if you're so inclined) are the work of Gaston County-based promoter and booking agent Philip Shive who was a partner in the resurrected Milestone Club and is still responsible for some of that venues' upcoming big shows (the Ataris Saturday, Cursive Tuesday, Kevin Seconds October 22, and Halloween's MXPX/Unwritten Law double bill). Shive lives in Belmont and the Mill shows allow him to bring in bands closer to the home. It's also a unique venue and live music keeps the Mill, which also features mini golf, more active during the year's less fright-friendly months.

Admission to Wednesday's Eternal Summers' show is $8. Doors open at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. For an extra $5 you can play unlimited mini golf and check out the haunted attraction as well.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

North Carolinians up for bluegrass music awards

The 23rd annual International Bluegrass Music Awards take place at The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville Thursday and Cherryville's Darin and Brooke Aldridge Band (pictured above) are up for Emerging Artist of the Year. The emerging artist award is given to a new group on the bluegrass scene that's made particularly strong strides either commercially or artistically. The title has previously been awarded to Nickel Creek, the Infamous String Dusters, and current IBMA 2012 Entertainer of the Year nominees Dailey & Vincent and the Steep Canyon Rangers (who are nominated in that category along with band leader/actor Steve Martin).

The Aldridges conclude their busy 2012 touring schedule with a holiday concert at the Joy Performance Center in Kings Mountain on November 10.

The IBMA awards show will air live online simultaneously at www.bluegrassnation.org and www.bluegrasstoday.com Thursday at 8:30 p.m. EST. The awards ceremony is part of World of Bluegrass Week, which includes a business conference and fan fest. Darin and Brooke Aldridge performed for fans there earlier this week.

It isn't the only NC group up for an IBMA this year. Steep Canyon Rangers is up for its work with Martin, who they met in their hometown of Brevard, as well as for the SCR album "Nobodoy Knows You." "Nobody Knows You" is up for best graphic design for a recorded project. NC music legend Doc Watson, who died in May, is also up for guitarist of the year.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

This week's hot concerts

North Mississippi Allstars/Missing Cats
8 p.m. Friday, September 21, Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St. $22-$25/$37 VIP. 704-358-9298.
The Dickinson brothers are back with its dark, funky, alluring take on modern Missisippi country blues. Missing Cats is the stripped down acoustic duo of Widespread Panic’s JoJo Hermann and songwriter Sherman Ewing.

Rosco Bandana
10:30 p.m. Friday, September 21, Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St. $8-$10. www.ticketfly.com
The coed Mississippi septet breathes fresh youthful spirit in the Americana genre with its striking, blatantly Southern harmonies, country-gospel rock, and the kind of Arcade Fire-like energy that comes from seven likeminded musicians sharing the stage.

Arrested Development
8 p.m. Saturday, September 22, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $20-$23. www.etix.com
The veteran alternative Southern hip-hop group remains a vibrant force blending world music, rap, and soul on its new album, “Standing at the Crossroads,” which its offering for free download in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its milestone “3 Years, 5 Months, and 2 Days…” album.

Boys Like Girls/All-American Rejects
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 25, Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St. $23.50-$26. www.etix.com
AAR returns still riding the wave of its latest colorful pop collection “Kids in the Street.” This trip it’s in the company of fellow pop rockers Boys Like Girls, who is anticipating an upcoming fall release of its own.

Eternal Summers
8 p.m. Wednesday, September 26, Haunted Mill, 6325 Wilkinson Blvd, Belmont. $8 for show, $13 for unlimited mini-golf and haunted house.
Having expanded to a trio, this jangly Roanoke dream-pop outfit graduates to a fuller sound on its new album “Correct Behavior,” which paints it as the perfect band to score the longing sequences in John Hughes’ teen dramadies. With Yardwork, Bleeding Rainbow and Blossoms.

Fiona Apple
8 p.m. Wednesday, September 26, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $56. www.livenation.com
The once uneven performer, who was arrested in Texas for possession of marijuana and hashish Wednesday, has matured into a critically acclaimed live force with a sound that grows even more unique and unpredictable on her latest album “The Idler Wheel...” With Blake Mills.

Ben Sollee
7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 27, Stage Door Theater, 5th and College Streets, $15. 704-372-1000.
The eclectic pop-folk cellist/singer-songwriter - last in Charlotte performing the live score to NC Dance Theatre’s “Dangerous Liasons” - celebrates the release of his new solo album, “Half Made Man,” which comes out Tuesday.

Crystal Castles
8 p.m. Thursday, September 27, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33. www.livenation.com
In anticipation of its third album, the experimental electronic Canadian duo and darling of the UK music press (who bends strange sonic arrangements with Alice Glass’ juxtaposition of angelic vocals and shout-singing) makes a rare Charlotte stop kicking off its tour here with Health.

Stars/Diamond Rings
8 p.m. Thursday, September 27, Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave. $21-$24. www.visulite.com
The Montreal group glides on funky bass synth, dreamy soundscapes, and danceable rhythms with quirky indie-pop that at times imagines what a Kate Bush/Pet Shop Boys mashup would sound like. It is paired with the dark moody, futuristically gender bending sound of Diamond Rings. 

Cowboy Mouth, Oysterfest returns at new location

Two familiar names are returning to uptown Friday. After taking a break, the annual Guinness/Newcastle Oysterfest featuring New Orleans' preeminent party-rock band, Cowboy Mouth, returns but this time the hub for tunes, booze, and food will take place at NC Music Factory's Fountain Plaza.

The annual Oysterfests became a fixture at Dixie's Tavern during the `00s. The Music Factory's Ken Thomas was behind the original parties at Dixie's and decided given the fest's past popularity to bring it back. Sponsors Guinness and Newcastle were on board and Cowboy Mouth was eager to rejoin the party.

Gates open at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance at The NC Music Factory's Saloon or by clicking here. Admission is $15 at the door.

Cajun Papa will serve Apalachicola oysters from the Gulf with Texas Pete and hand-grated horseradish root cocktail sauce. In addition to its opening set, Charlotte's Simplified will perform at the late night after party at The Saloon. For more information go to http://ncmusicfactory.com/blog/.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Avetts celebrate New Year's in Greensboro

Following the recent release of its new album, "The Carpenter," the Avett Brothers announced Wednesday that it will spend New Year's Eve in the Carolinas again. This year's annual NYE show will take place at Greensboro Coliseum Monday, December 31, with special guest Amos Lee.

The group last played Charlotte in April 2011.

Tickets will go on sale Friday, September 28 at 10 a.m. at the Greensboro Coliseum box office, Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com, and by calling 1-800-745-3000. Prices range from $39.50 to $54.50. VIP and travel packages will be available at CID Entertainment (http://www.cidentertainment.com). 

Belmont's Between 2 Rivers 2 set for October

The second annual Between 2 Rivers Music Festival will take place October 13 in Belmont. The benefit concert will feature Carolina country and roots music acts the Josh Fosdick Band, Baylor Drive, Walt Wilkins & the Mystiqueros, Mt. Woodland Band, and Greenville, SC's Piedmont Boys (pictured above) as well as Texas' (by way of Oklahoma) No Justice.

Last year's inaugural festival exceeded expectations with over 1,500 attendees and over $7,000 raised. This year proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project and Gaston Hospice.

The concert, which is spread across two stages, takes place at downtown Belmont's String Bean Market. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. Music begins at 2 p.m. and runs until 10 p.m. More details are available at www.b2rmusicfest.com

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pink sets long-awaited Charlotte '13 return

Pink, whose new album "The Truth About Love" hits stores today, announced Tuesday morning that she'll bring her "Truth About Love" Tour to Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena March 16, 2013. If memory serves the concert will mark Pink's first Charlotte performance since opening for Lenny Kravitz at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre in 2002 and her first as a headliner. 

The new mom (her daughter Willow turned 1 in June) and COVERGIRL spokeswoman embarks on her first US tour since 2009 on February 13 in Phoenix. Tickets for the Charlotte date go on sale October 13 at 10 a.m. at the TWC Arena box office, online at www.livenation.com, at Ticketmaster outlets, and by calling 1-800-745-3000. Pre-sale tickets will be available to Citi card's Private Pass program members September 25 (www.citiprivatepass.com)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Returning Weenie Roast rocks rain away


Rain threatened to mire 106.5 WEND The End’s returning End of Summer Weenie Roast Sunday, but the fine spray of sprinkles subsided just as Anberlin was leaving the stage around 2:30 making way for a pleasant, thankfully comfortably cool, stylistically diverse day. After side stage sets from Vess and Drop D, Foxy Shazam greeted concert goers at the gate with its charmingly over-the-top set, which was one of the best of the day.

Foxy is enormously fun to watch with its Queen-like grandeur, but they aren’t beyond theatrical stunts. The animated Sky White, for instance, removes his keyboard from its stand at one point in the show and plays it atop fans outstretched arms (pictured above). Frontman Eric Sean Nally ended the show by requesting “a bunch of cigarettes,” stuffing at least six in his mouth, lighting them, then eating them before letting the drummer use his head as a cymbal stand.

You get the sense that Foxy tries to outdo every other band on the bill no matter who it’s paired with.

The sound was actually strongest on the side stage earlier in the day. The main stage was a bit muffled for Our Lady Peace (pictured above), but that didn’t stop fans from singing along with the Canadian rock band. An early staple of WEND, Our Lady Peace continued the `90s rock resurgence kicked off by Eve 6’s set earlier with hits like 1998’s “Clumsy” and 1995’s “Starseed.” The group’s string of alternative rock hits, including the crowd favorite “Somewhere Out There,” extends well into the 2000s as well.

Though also from Toronto, hard rock act Evans Blue represented the flipside both sonically and chronologically with their biggest hits striking the rock chart in 2011 and 2012. It drew an ample crowd to the side stage for a testosterone-fueled set of Tool and post-hardcore-tinged modern rock. But neither Canadian group matched the excitement of Christian rock’s biggest crossover artist Switchfoot, whose set of hits like “Meant to Live” and “Mess of Me” escalated with a rousing cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.” What better way to get non-fans on their feet? 

Frontman Jon Foreman charged all the way to the front of the lawn and performed the next song from the audience where he teetered on the metal barrier that divided the pit from the seats (pictured above).
Hometown breakout Paper Tongues closed the side stage filling the fenced parking lot area. Although the mix was uneven, the band charged through its eclectic set with heart-on-sleeve enthusiasm. Having already made it outside of Charlotte, Paper Tongues always plays like it’s proving itself and though musically a pop-rock unit at its core the group hits on everything from reggae to gospel-like backing vocals to a Latin-tinged beat to a Chuck Berry solo. It somehow all works together. Maybe it was due to the sound issue, but its set seemed less polished, more raw and visceral than on record. That may be an indication of where the  now independent act is heading.

The stylistic mood shifted again as the heaviest band of the day, Coheed and Cambria, took the mainstage with its high concept, theatrical brand of math-metal. Frontman Claudio Sanchez is a revelation with his six string shredding, soaring vocals, and massive hair (which he unleashed the same time as the white double neck he ended the set with - pictured above). 

Although Coheed’s grand, complicated arrangements translated well on the big stage as with any festival you have pockets of intense appreciation next to faces of bored indifference. Such was the case for both C&C and Flogging Molly, whose enthusiastic fans made up for the seat dwellers. Flogging Molly actually ignited the best crowd of the day with the Irish-American folk-punk ensemble leading many in fist-pumping anthems and dances that bridged straight edge, skanking, and Irish jigs. One fan dressed as Luigi from Super Mario Bros. led what almost looked like a kickline of revelers in the pit.

The sound was often pummeling though with banjo, mandolin, fiddle and more traditional rock instruments blending on stage. It was hard to hear the nuances of individual instruments and the sound was even muddier from the lawn. 

Band leader Dave King dedicated one song to the families of those that died at the American Embassy in Libya this week and thanked soldiers serving in the military. Its raucous set exuded unabashed patriotism. It’s somehow fitting that an immigrant from Ireland whose band has literally climbed from a Warped Tour stage smaller than my living room to selling out venues like The Fillmore can inspire such chants of freedom.

Garbage, who disbanded for seven years in 2005 and hadn’t played Charlotte for over five years before that, made a welcome return. I never saw Garbage in Charlotte, but the mid `90s concert I witnessed at Virginia Tech remains on my short list of shows I’d travel back in time to. 

Led by the apparently ageless Shirley Manson, who at 46 looks better than many thirty year olds I know, Garbage delivered a set of mostly hits like “Blood for Poppies,” “Stupid Girl,” and “I Think I’m Paranoid.” There were a few surprises though. The early B-side “#1 Crush” (which actually went to #1 when it was included on the “Romeo & Juliet” soundtrack) was a pleasant inclusion while “Cherry Lips” and the minor single “Push It” also made the cut.

Though she struggled with her in-ear monitor, fiddling with her belt pack through much of the set, Manson never let it alter the quality of her vocals or her pacing, posing, prancing, bendy performance.

Although some in the crowd pondered the placement of the Offspring as headliner, the Southern California group has technically had twice the number of alternative rock charting singles as Garbage. For anyone only sticking around for its arguably biggest - “Come Out and Play” - Dexter Holland and company delivered it as the second song in its set. Those hungry for Offspring’s other biggies would wait until the end where “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)” and “Self-Esteem” helped close the resurrected Weenie down though some concertgoers had already vacated their seats. 

Empty seats were visible through the day, an issue WEND’s Jack Daniels addressed while introducing Flogging Molly: “If you see an empty seat next to you - or 12…” He asked those in attendance to bring friends next year signaling that this might not be the final Weenie. 

Here’s hoping the station decides to do it again. Given the overall quality of acts and the weather (compared to sweltering July Warped Tours), the festival made for a fun Sunday. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rapt crowd welcomes back Blige


A week and a half after her performance during the final night of the Democratic National Convention, Mary J. Blige returned to Charlotte for the final night of her Liberation Tour with D’Angelo.
Much of the crowd was fashionably late to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Saturday. Hundreds, having crawled from I-485 for an hour, still streamed through the gate as D’Angelo finished his set at 9 p.m. But it may have well been the best concert crowd of the year meeting Blige’s intensity and enthusiasm note for note.
Following D’Angelo’s set, which highlighted his swoon-worthy falsetto, balanced funkier material with piano crooning, and ignited the crowd with tracks like “Lady” and “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” Blige began her nearly hour and a half set at 9:30 with a motivational voiceover about how far she and her fans have come. That theme extended throughout an emotional evening that began with Blige leading the blissful crowd through Chaka Khan and Rufus’ “Ain’t Nobody” in nearly thigh high leather boots and a short red jumpsuit with sequined lapels that gleamed like Christmas candy.
She and her eight-piece band immediately hopped into “Family Affair” (which she’d played for the DNC crowd), quickly segued into the newer track “Feel Inside” (from her latest album “My Life II”), and on into “Enough Cryin’.” 
Blige has become such a model of maturity, class and fashion it’s almost easy to forget her streetwise beginnings until she breaks into a rap during “Enough Cryin’,” unleashes dance moves to cries of “Go Mary!” for “Love No Limit,” and tugs at her rising shorts following the workout that is “Real Love.” To women, she remains "one of us." Her continued relatability - matched with her tireless performance and killer pipes - is part of the reason she can still pack an amphitheater with well over 10,000 people 20 years into her career.
Having hit on an extended medley of seven songs in only twenty minutes, Blige stopped for some of that relating encouraging the women in the audience (while acknowledging the men) to pursue education and employment as she introduced the female empowerment anthem “Good Woman Down.” That theme continued through “Everything,” which proceeded a quick change from red short suit to black evening gown and bare feet.
“Not Gon’ Cry” began an emotional roller coaster with Blige shedding a few tears. “Real Woman,” “Mr. Wrong,” and “I’m Goin' Down” seem to represent a journey that most of the crowd could relate to - in and out of a bad relationship and the self-acceptance that follows. Blige appeared blown away by the crowd’s response during this segment. At times she stepped away from the microphone as tears dotted her cheeks and let the crowd take over. Even the men sang hands raised in the air in support as if moved by a church service. 
The crowd proved more than once that it knew every single word (and could actually sing!). There were times she let them sail right through the first verse and chorus before stepping in. While lesser singers sometimes rely on a crowd to cover for their vocal shortcomings, Blige is no lazy singer. In fact she was flawless, but the crowd seem to revel in offering its lyrical support. Although I would’ve liked to hear more Mary, especially during the encore of “Be Without You” for instance, which was practically all crowd.
The last portion of the show began with an intense rendition of “No More Drama” and found Blige in a formfitting white jumpsuit with leopard print boots (pictured above) that hit over the knee. She hit on “Sweet Thing,” “Be Happy,” and “You Bring Me Joy” before introducing “Midnight Drive” and closing with “Just Fine” and “Be Without You.”   
“People want to remember the worst thing about you,” she preached, summing up her message before inviting the massive crowd to an after party at 5th Element. “You gotta remember the best thing about you…thank you for never leaving me.”

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This week's hot concerts


Brad Paisley
4:30 p.m. Friday, September 14, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $38.25-$79. www.livenation.com
The recent CMA Entertainer of the Year nominee heads up a bill so big it might as well be a festival with the Band Perry, “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery of Garner, Kristen Kelly, “One Tree Hill’s” Jana Kramer, and Love and Theft, which features Charlotte-bred Eric Gunderson.

Big K.R.I.T.
7 p.m. Friday, September 14, Tremont, 400 W. Tremont Ave. $15-$18. www.etix.com
The Mississippi emcee is one of 2012’s hottest young artists with number ones across the board (R&B/hip-hop, rap, digital) for June’s non-mixtape debut, “Live from the Underground” and its single “Country S***.” He heads up an eight artist bill that includes Tito Lopez, Slim Thug, and Royal-Tee.

Datsik
9 p.m. Friday, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $30.50. www.livenation.com
Since ringing in the New Year at The Fillmore, the Canadian dubstep DJ/producer and frequent remixer has released his first official album - a surprisingly eclectic and futuristic guest-heavy affair titled “Vitamin D” - and launched his own label.

Mary J. Blige/D’Angelo
7 p.m. Saturday, September 15, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $38.75-$116.55. www.livenation.com
Blige, fresh from her Presidential opening gig at the DNC, is paired with the R&B/hip-hopper – who is making a long-awaited comeback after years of silence. They co-headline the Liberation Tour.
106.5 The End’s Weenie Roast
12 p.m. Sunday, September 16, Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 707 Pavilion Blvd. $24.50-$68. www.livenation.com
WEND turns back the clock with `90s acts the Offspring, Garbage, Our Lady Peace and Eve 6, while later entries Flogging Molly, Coheed and Cambria, Anberlin, and Switchfoot join rising acts Foxy Shazam, Evans Blue and Charlotte’s Paper Tongues, Drop D, and Vess.

Metric
8 p.m. Monday, September 17, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $39. www.livenation.com
One of the best live acts touring, this Canadian guitar and synth-rock four-piece create bold, yet beautiful infectious tracks elevated by singer Emily Haines' dreamy vocals and dynamic stage presence.

Passion Pit
8 p.m. Wednesday, September 19, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33. www.livenation.com
Two months after postponing its July show due to singer Michael Angelakos’ mental state, the electro-dance outfit returns for a makeup date with new supporting acts the Neighborhood and Pacific Air. 

Randall Shreve & the Sideshow
9 p.m. Wednesday, September 19, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $5. 704-376-1446.
Call it cabaret or burlesque rock, the former drummer reinvented his sound from more generic (but still quality), contemporary rock to a colorful vaudeville which comes across like Ours' Jimmy Gnecco or Jeff Buckley playing ringmaster in Amanda Palmer's circus. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Jon Lindsay reveals arty new video



Charlotte's Jon Lindsay is making a habit out of releasing visually artistic videos following the live action/stop motion clip of "After Dark" and the animated video for "Margot," both released on his website earlier this year. Friday PureVolume premiered the new video for "Oceans More," the opening track off the pop singer-songwriter and band leader's latest album "Summer Wilderness Program." It features he and his band in a strange new light that you really have to see to explain.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Temperance League unveils LP at free show


Charlotte rock quintet Temperance League starts its Friday afternoon with a performance at Raleigh’s Hopscotch Festival today before winding back across the state to headline its album release party at Snug Harbor tonight. It follows that gig up with another Saturday at NoDa’s Chop Shop, which hosts the mammoth three-day God Save the Queen City 2 festival.

While some bands might scoff at the mere travel or debate about oversaturating the market, Temperance League seems to take an old school approach - play. That old school philosophy permeates many aspects of the band, including its new self-titled LP. Yep, LP. The 11-track album is out on vinyl and digital download only. That’s just how the group rolls. It previously released a handful of 7” singles.

The sound of the new album follows that old school mentality while heading away from the group’s political garage rock beginnings and more in the direction of recent singles like “I Don’t Wanna"/“But I Have To.” While I absolutely love some of those early rabble rousers like “No Jobs/More War” and “Ain’t Nobody Listening,” the full-length comes across as a cohesive collection.

Like its previous singles the album was recorded by famed NC producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M.) at his Fidelitorium Studios in Kernersville. 

Frontman Bruce Hazel is frequently compared to Jersey’s favorite son and admitted influence Bruce Springsteen (Hazel also hails from there), and he puts his Bossiest foot forward on the opener “Pursuit of the Past” before reaching deeper into the rock n’ roll canon with the aforementioned combo of “I Don’t Wanna” and “But I Have To.” I could imagine a girl group like the Ronettes singing the former, while the latter rides a sort of `60s psychedelia groove as, if willing, Temperance League could offer a grittier take on the music of psychedelic movies like “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.”

Along with Hazel, Temperance League includes an all-star lineup of locals in Shawn Lynch, Chad Wilson, David Kim, and Eric Scott. Its members are connected enough to the local music scene to draw a crowd, but to its credit those crowds keep returning as the group’s sound continues to evolve.

Although the record is deeply rooted in old rock n’ roll, classic garage rock, and the `60s, `70s and early `80s, it hits on so many different facets of those decades that it’s never stuck in one simple genre.  “(I) Dreamed Last Night” is a crooner that imagines Elvis fronting the Byrds.

“Your World” and “Homecoming” both connect to the sort of grand anthem that Springsteen does well and are elevated by the guitar work and “oooh, ah” style backing vocals. “Bigger Things” echoes that format by building tension and hope with a repeated melody. All of these elements seem to come into the play on the breakup track “Our Romance” (which is in the running along with “Your World” and “Homecoming” for my favorite). That song bridges jangle pop, Byrds-like harmonies, girl group arrangements, and that Boss-like longing that comes across in the sustain of a guitar phrase.

Appropriately “Moving Forward” (as well as “Don’t Give Up”) is probably the most contemporary track on the record with its distorted guitar and climbing feel.  

You can grab a copy and catch the band's free show Fridayat Snug Harbor with Mark Crozer & the Rels, Hungry Girl, and Loose Lugnuts or tomorrow during God Save the Queen City 2 at NoDa’s Chop Shop. Tickets for the latter are $15 or $30 for a weekend pass that includes performances from 40 bands. Or if you don't have a record player, the album is available for download here

Final DNC parties draw crowds, delegates

Party goers gathered at Amos’ Southend Thursday during the final night of the Democratic National Convention for Carolina Speakeasy, a fundraiser for the Greensboro-based International Civil Rights Center & Museum. A crowd of roughly 200 mingled and watched President Obama’s televised speech.

The crowd included the museum’s founders Melvin “Skip” Alston and Earl F. Jones who opened the museum in 2010 on the 50th anniversary of the Greenboro Four’s historic sit-in. The museum is housed in the former site of Woolworth’s Department Store where the Greensboro Four held the historic sit-in at the store’s lunch counter. The seats they occupied have never been moved. 

The latest version of Chapel Hill’s Squirrel Nut Zippers, who shot to national fame in 1997 with the single “Hell,” took the Amos' stage following the President’s acceptance speech. Led by Jimbo Mathus, the nine-piece band bopped through songs like “Good Enough for Granddad” and its late `90s single “Put a Lid On It.” A statuesque woman in a retro green velvet dress who Mathus referred to only as Miss Vanessa handled former vocalist and Mathus’ ex-wife Katharine Whalen’s parts well. A handful of party goers took to the dancefloor, while most watched from the wings as delegates from downtown began to arrive.

Many more delegates gathered across town at The Fillmore’s private party at NC Music Factory starring Cuban-American rapper Pitbull. Swarms of taxis, vans, SUVs, and limos delivered delegates outside The Fillmore. A sleek black SUV sped into the loading area adjacent to the club’s entrance sometime around midnight and the Miami-based rapper hopped out and ran inside. Only his bald head and sharp suit were really visible.

The entire block was hopping with local reggae/groove rock act Of Good Nature drawing a boisterous crowd outside on the patio at Small Bar. It’s sunny jams filled the block as delegates rushed past the corner pub on their way to The Fillmore. Butter NC, one of the complex’s dance clubs, also drew a crowd full of short, tight dresses and well dressed men doused in cologne. The crowd spilled on to the loading dock and surrounding patio and parking lot around the fountain stage.

Photo by Marty Price: Flo Rida poses on the red carpet. 

More photos


This week's hot concerts

God Save the Queen City 2
Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St. Single day passes are $10, $20 and $15, respectively or $30 for a three day pass. https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Chop-Shop/161498290559158?sk=app_154926464573917
Forty-four bands over three days makes for a perfect place to sample Charlotte music from acts such as Super Ape, Jim Avett, Yardwork, Side By Side, Pullman Strike, Funky Geezer, Little Bull Lee, Ancient Cities, the Elves, the Loudermilks, Hello Handshake, Small Talk Industries, Vess, Elonzo, Miami Dice, S.O. Stereo, Lindsey Ryan, Renelvis and many more.

Colin Hay
7 p.m. Sunday, September 9, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $25-$30. 704-372-1000.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of his band Men At Work’s Australian anthem “Down Under,” the frontman-turned-solo-artist released a new version to roil Australian Olympians following the 2011 album, “Gathering Mercury,” which is being called his best work since Men At…

Chris Isaak
7:30 p.m. Monday, September 10, McGlohon Theatre, 345 N. College St. $34.50-$94.50. 704-372-1000.
The ageless crooning rocker digs into a bucket list of classic rock n’ roll and country songs by his idols while still hitting on the original fan favorites that, along with his sharp band and showmanship, make for such a brilliant live show.

Pan
8 p.m. Tuesday, September 11, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $6-$9. www.etix.com
Named for Peter (not the fluting Greek God), this Columbia foursome create guitar-rooted, post-rock instrumentals that seem simultaneously expansive and grand yet whimsical. With comparisons to a mathy Explosions in the Sky (“Friday Night Lights”) and Fang Island, it’s certainly a band to watch.

Kendrick Lamar
8 p.m. Tuesday, September 11, Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd. $33. www.livenation.com
The 25-year-old rapper hasn’t released a major label album yet, but he’s become the industry’s new go-to collaborator working recently with Lady Gaga on a song for his upcoming album “M.A.A.d city” (due in October). Catch him in a club while you can.

Hunter Valentine
8 p.m. Wednesday, September 12, Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd. $7-$9. www.etix.com
Since its last Charlotte show these Canadian-bred Brooklyn transplants have become reality stars on Showtime’s third season of the lesbian-centered series “The Real L Word,” which, of course, focuses on the poppy hard rock quartet’s inner band drama more than Joan Jett-like hooks.

Danielia Cotton
9 p.m. Wednesday, September 12, Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown Ave. $12. www.doubledoorinn.com
The bluesy rock guitarist and soulful singer faces one hit after another (miscarriage, scarred marriage, and cancer), but she comes out swinging on her uplifting upcoming survival-themed album, where she sounds like a female Lenny Kravitz and dares to impressively cover Prince and Billie Holiday. 

Cancellation - The Outernational show at Tremont Music Hall Friday, which was featured in the print version of Hot Concerts, has been cancelled. Singer Miles Solay recently discovered a node on his vocal chord and the group is cancelling tour dates until he is able to see a doctor. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Anthony Hamilton's Back to Love back in CLT

Charlotte native and Grammy winning soul singer Anthony Hamilton returns to Ovens Auditorium for a hometown gig Sunday, October 7. The bill includes special guests Estelle and Antoine Dunn. Presale and VIP tickets for his local Back to Love Tour stop went on sale today. VIP tickets include a seat in the first five rows and a pre-show meet and greet, group photo, and Q&A with the singer as well as exclusive VIP merch and check-in. Public sale begins Friday, September 7, at 10 a.m.

The month long leg begins Saturday in Columbia and ends here in Charlotte. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster outlets.

Hamilton's latest single "Pray For Me" was #1 on the Urban Adult Contemporary chart and in late August peaked at number 21 on Billboard's R&B/Hip-hop chart. Hamilton sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at Monday's Carolinafest.


Foo Fighters Rock the Vote for 3+ hours

Despite speculation about special guests, acoustic sets, celebrity hosts, and surprise openers, Rock the Vote gave Charlotteans exactly what the organization promised Wednesday at The Fillmore - the Foo Fighters. No guests, no host, no opener, not even an acoustic guitar. But what no one expected was that Dave Grohl’s anthem-spewing, hit-heavy, post-Nirvana outfit would play what may be its longest concert ever…in a club for fewer than 2,000 people…in Charlotte, NC.

The group hit the stage at 9:17 with “White Limo” and finished 35 songs, three hours, and twenty minutes later. Grohl admittedly just did not want to stop playing during the band’s third to last scheduled tour date (it plays Atlanta’s Music Midtown Festival and Pensacola’s DeLuna Fest later this month).

The group rolled from hit to hit beginning with “All My Life,” “Rope,” “The Pretender” and “My Hero.” The latter drew the guy on crutches in front of me to his feet.

Grohl stopped long enough to joke: “This is the biggest place we’ve played in quite a while. We were gonna play the stadium but…” cue snare drum. He mentioned playing here with another band a while ago. Most thought he was referring to Nirvana (who played the West side's Milestone), but Grohl could have been referring to the actual Fillmore where he played with his side project Them Crooked Vultures in February 2010. That was also a good show, but Wednesday’s Rock the Vote concert will go down as legendary based on sheer length alone.

It segued from “Dear Rosemary” (from the group’s latest album “Wasting Light”) to Tom Petty’s “Breakdown.” Fans lit up for older songs like “Learn to Fly.” Following “Arlandria” Grohl referenced the black and shiny gold ABBA t-shirt he was wearing, waxing nostalgic about how he wished he could write a song as good as the 1970's Swedish pop group.

“This is not an ABBA song, but it’s as close as I can get which means it’s the best song I’ve ever written,” he said introducing “These Days.”

Grohl seemed genuinely surprised when, as he was getting ready to introduce drummer Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals for “A Cold Day in the Sun,” a fan in the crowd yelled “Eddie Vedder!” (referencing the aforementioned rumors). 

“I don’t have that kind of juice,” he replied. Hawkins responded with a brief Vedder impression as Grohl chimed: “Be nice.”

“Cold Day” led to the familiar “I’ll Stick Around” and “Walk.” Another old one, “Monkey Wrench,” was a fiery crowd pleaser during which Grohl rushed into the crowd. He stood on two bars downing a shot of Yaegermeister at one and taking a sip of a Miller Lite tall boy (pictured above) while standing on another before returning to the stage to finish “Wrench” and launch into another track from “The Colour & the Shape,” “Hey Johnny Park.”

After a hit-heavy first half, Grohl stated: “We can do whatever we want now right?” before delving into Wings’ “Jet” and the Who’s “Young Man’s Blues" - the most political statement made all night. Grohl didn’t bother to mention the actual cause (registering voters) until the thirty-second song, which was 11 into its encore. It wrapped up the pre-encore portion of the show with “This is a Call,” Pink Floyd’s “In the Flesh” (which I think it hit on last November at TWC Arena), and “Best of You.” 

The break was a long one at seven minutes, but maybe the group was reloading for another 15 or so songs. The next hour and twenty minutes included “Aurora,” “Times Like These,” and the rarely performed b-side “Winnebago” which dates back to Grohl’s pre-Foo days. 

“Pretend you’re seeing us for the first time and the album’s not even out," he said before the latter. Afterwards, he added: “That’s not the response we got in 1995. Shall we do the whole first record?” 

It looked like they might do just that as it followed "Big Me" with “For All the Cows” and the screamy punk-metal of “Wattershed.” “Alone + Easy Target” (performed a few songs later) brought the number of first album tracks to six. It also touched on its second with “New Way Home," “Enough Space” and the playful lounge-y “See You” followed by “Skin and Bones.”

Grohl struggled to decide which of the groups “hundred” songs to play next, although even at 35 songs there were some surprise omissions considering its had 27 songs chart in the Alternative Rock genre (no “Stacked Actors” for instance). “Breakout” and “Bridge Burning,” which tore the house down, brought the mood back to that of the hit-filled opening segment.

“This is how we used to end concerts," he said before the group delivered a stoner-ish mid-tempo number. The crowd all knew what would truly signal the end of a Foo Fighters show - even a nearly three and a half hour one. That would be “Everlong,” which was played truer to the original version than I’ve seen it in a long while. The band’s biggest anthem even had the bartenders singing along. 

No there was no Jessica Alba. No Eddie Vedder or Jack Johnson. But for a Foo Fighters' fan reality was actually probably better than anything the rumor mill could dream up. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

UndocuNation highlights immigrant art and music for free tonight

Buzzing Panamanian-American hip-hop duo Los Rakas headlines UndocuNation: A Night of Art, Activism and Immigrant Rights at Neighborhood Theatre tonight, September 5. The event coincides with the Democratic National Convention in order to cast a spotlight on issues currently facing immigrants as well as their contributions to arts and culture.

The lineup includes emcee/activiist Jasiri X, spoken word artists Sacrificial Poets from Raleigh, Greensboro-based singer-songwriter Laila Nur, slam poet Kendrea Mekkah, and filmmaker Josh Davis. Speakers include Jose Antonio Vargas, founder of Define America. Visual art by Julio Salgado, Marco Saavedra, Felipe Baeza, Inocente, and others will be on display. The event is presented by Center for New Community and Culturestrike. Artist and Culturestrike co-founder Favianna Rodriguez and poet Yosimar Reyes will co-host.

The members of Los Rakas emigrated to Oakland, California from Panama as adolescents. Its sound is informed by the Jamaican reggae, salsa, merengue, and Latin rock as well as the hip-hop cousins Ricardo Bethancourt and Abdull Domingo, both 23, absorbed living in Oakland. The award winning Los Angeles-based group often write socially-conscious lyrics about the immigrant experience. It was recently featured on CNN en Espanol. You can watch the report and hear the pair's music here.

Pickler shaves head for cancer awareness

Albemarle native Kellie Pickler is famously blonde, but the country star is now nearly bald. She and childhood friend Summer Holt Miller, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, both buzzed their long blonde locks Tuesday in Nashville to raise awareness about breast cancer screenings and early detection.

Miller was 36 when she was diagnosed. The pair appeared on "Good Morning America" to share their story.

"If this compels even one person to change their mentality toward waiting until the age of 40 for their mammogram, then it will be worth it," said Miller, who underwent a double mastectomy and begins chemotherapy Thursday.

A video of the shearing (and sharing) will appear on www.athenawater.com. The company is making a monetary donation to the American Cancer Society in Miller's honor.

Check out Pickler's new look, above with Miller. (Photo courtesy of Russ Harrington).