Friday, July 31, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Kickoman/Bakalao Stars
Friday  10:30 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10,       
Charlotte’s original Latin party band, Bakalao Stars, team up with like-minded DC-based Spanglish rock act Kickoman. Both bands trade in reggae and ska with colorful Spanish hip-hop and bursts of rock guitar and both create a party atmosphere with bouncy tunes and pogoing sing-alongs.

Saturday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., $5-$7,
Dallas’ Sealion is an exercise in dichotomy, tying frustrated punk singing with bouncy feel-good indie-pop and channeling the Vaselines backing X or the Breeders and the Pixies with deliberate bass, languid vocals and surf guitar. It’s like they combined all your favorite old indie and alt-rock guitar bands in one concise package.

Nicki Minaj
Tuesday  7 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $33.85-$147.26,     
For the first time in ages a female rapper headlines the amphitheater and while the hip-hop diva provides plenty of hits and glitz, what would her set be without a little drama? Having put her VMAs-related Twitter beef with Taylor Swift to a quick end, she and fiancé Meek Mill (also on the bill) share the stage and stoke the flames of his recent feud with Drake.

Boz Scaggs
Wednesday  7:30 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $20-$119.50,
The seasoned crooner follows 2013’s “Memphis,” which featured talented local musicians, with the similarly conceptual “A Fool To Care.” Again working with producer Steve Jordan, Scaggs convened in Nashville and puts his stamp on songs by the Band, Al Green, and the Spinners with guests Ray Parker, Jr., Lucinda Williams and Bonnie Raitt.

Authority Zero
Wednesday  8 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $12-$15,    
Despite having its van robbed of $50,000 of equipment in San Antonio last week the veteran punk band soldiers on through the South with nary a beat. The group, whose sound combines the beachy ska and reggae-influenced spirit of Sublime with the urgency and speed of Bad Religion, is borrowing opener Counterpunch’s gear.

Machine Gun Kelly
Wednesday  8:30 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58,   
Sick of his label Bad Boy/Interscope holding up the release of his second album “General Admission” and continuing to play the same songs live on four consecutive tours, the Cleveland rapper dropped a new mix-tape. “F*** it” is his first release in two years (not counting singles) and you can bet he works his frustration out on the mic.

Flatland Tourists
Thursday  7 p.m., US National Whitewater Center, 5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Free ($5 Parking),   
The Union County outfit, which boasts folky picking and soulful singing, recently received the award for best Americana Band at the 8th annual Carolina Music Awards in Raleigh (which were co-founded by Randy Travis and Roberta Flack). The Waxhaw-based roots band will release its second record in a year in September.

Kamasi Washington
Thursday  8 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $22.50-$25; $30 reserved seating;    
With equal footing performing and studying jazz and world music and working with hip-hop, R&B, and soul musicians like Snoop Dogg, Lauryn Hill, and Kendrick Lamar, as well as in his own bands the Young Jazz Giants and the Next Step, the eclectic L.A. sax player, like Robert Glasper, is conquering new musical frontiers and new jazz fans.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Friday  7:30 p.m., Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $27.50-$49.50,    
For its 25th anniversary the sunny funk and hip-hop-flavored rock act release a career-spanning four disc 81-track box set, launch its own craft beer, and embark on its annual summer tour. Live it’s much more of a jam band than its hits indicate, playing marathon sets and bringing along beachy openers like Hawaiian reggae band the Green.

Jon Lindsay
Friday  9 p.m., Petra’s, 1919 Commonwealth Ave., $5,   
Pop singer-songwriter and NC Music Love Army co-founder Lindsay is leaving his native Charlotte for the triangle area, so this marks his last hometown show as a Charlottean at his home base of Petra’s. He’s readying his next album and focusing on more protest music with other Carolina musicians in the Love Army.

Planes Mistaken For Stars
Friday  9 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 35th St., $11-$14,   
The summer renaissance of beloved `90s and early `00s emo and post-hardcore bands is in full swing with the dynamics-loving outfit who broke up in 2007 but have reunited sporadically. The group’s angsty melodicism and fiery aggression is exhibited on the new reissue of 2006’s “Mercy.” With Black Market, Sea of Storms, and Mon Frere.

Beres Hammond
Friday  9 p.m., Amos’, 1423 S. Tryon St., $40-$45,      
The reggae veteran had to cancel his 2012 show at Amos’, but he brings his romantic lovers rock and classic R&B-spiked ballads to Charlotte again. At 59, he has spent four decades making some of the smoothest soul-steeped reggae out there - it’s a wonder he hasn’t had more major crossover success in the states.

Will Hoge
Friday  9 p.m., Visulite, 1615 Elizabeth Ave., $15-$18,  
Few singer-songwriters walk the line between country and rock as well as this Franklin, Tenn. native who was nominated for a Grammy and several country music awards for penning Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” but can tour with a harder rock band like Shinedown. His latest album, “Small Town Dreams,” taps his country roots. 

QC Summerfest
Saturday   2 p.m., McGlohon Theater, 345 N. College St., $25, and 6 p.m., Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $39.50-$69.50, 
The revamped smooth jazz festival is a weekend-long event built around these two performances. First the intimate matinee concert features Four80 East and saxophonist Andre Delano. The Decade of Jazz celebration continues at night with renowned sax player Najee, pianist Keiko Matsui, and guitarist and host Nick Colionne.

Cameron Floyd
Saturday  8 p.m., Evening Muse, 3227 N. Davidson St., $10, 
This Charlotte singer-songwriter celebrates the release of his new EP, “Momentum,” which features bluesy guitar playing, his soulful, R&B-tinged vocals, shades of country, acoustic rock, blues, and `70s AM pop, and a classic duet.

Raekwon/Ghostface Killah
Saturday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $33.58,    
Raekwon’s 1995 RZA-produced album “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx” is considered arguably the best of Wu Tang’s solo output. For its 20th anniversary he and fellow Wu member Ghostface, who appeared on a number of the album’s tracks, revisit it live while drumming up support for the documentary they’re working on about the seminal record.

My Morning Jacket
Wednesday  7:30 p.m., Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $29.50-$45,    
The Kentucky psychedelic roots alt-rocker continues a long run of critical acclaim with its latest album, “The Waterfall.”  With annual high profile spots on Bonnaroo and its own eclectic Louisville-set Forecastle Festival it’s proven that it’s the jam band even haters can love.

Wednesday  10 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., Free,
Charlotte’s psych-rock trio Modern Primitives closes out its month-long residency with this Alabama noise rock trio whose new album “Beats Misplaced” unfolds like a hopped up Dinosaur Jr. jamming while stranded in the desert with Sonic Youth and the singer from Clutch. It’s stoner rock for indie nerds. With the Business People and Pleather.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

New Music: Cameron Floyd's "Momentum" EP

Charlotte area singer-songwriter Cameron Floyd celebrates the release of his new EP "Momentum" Friday at Evening Muse.

The acoustic pop songs on "Momentum" have broad appeal because of Floyd's ability to touch on several styles. With Nashville production, the opening track "Fix This" could easily be transformed for country radio. While the duet "Rather Be" with Ana Torres has a bluesier edge, but flirts with the sort of AM pop or soft rock that was a fixture of soundtracks in the `70s and `80s. It lands somewhere between ZZ Ward and a love scene from "Urban Cowboy," although Floyd's R&B tone and phrasing give it a more modern edge.

There's a bit of nostalgia in the playing and arrangements that put "Momentum" on the adult contemporary rock path. The repeated guitar phrase on "Thought of You" hints at reggae or a smoky blues band, but the chorus crescendos into a more contemporary rock track which swells into the echoing bridge's alt-rock feel. It's an interesting web and speaks of Floyd's talent as a writer and arranger that he can hit on subtle style changes and different eras seamlessly within one track.

The three songs that form the nucleus of the record all have that quality, which seems to be Floyd's signature. And in the overpopulated world of singer-songwriters there's little that's as important as carving out your own unique niche. You can hear how in other hands his songs could have drifted into more predictable territory, but listening to "Momentum" there's a sense of the work and care that went into these five tracks.

"Mystery (I've Given In)" rides the blurry line between acoustic rock and R&B that often spells "hit" for breakthrough pop singles. There's bluesy country twang to the guitar at the tail end of the chorus, but the restrained delivery and slow build is more reminiscent of early John Mayer, Jason Mraz, and even Maroon 5's earlier ballads. The lyrics tell a familiar story, but one that begs for multiple listens - a sort of love-the-one-your-with in the face of being ignored by your significant other on the road. "So I dance, I drink and I shout. With a girl I know nothing about" sings Floyd and the listener wants to know more.

Tickets to Floyd's show at the Muse are $10-$12. It starts at 8 p.m. with opening act Charles Walker. You can check out the track "Fix This" on Floyd's Bandcamp site now. The full EP will be available at the show, via online retailers, and added to the Bandcamp site on July 28th.

(Photo Courtesy of @cameronfloydmusic Instagram)

Friday, July 17, 2015

AVL-set show seems like a good way to cope with Runaways rape news

The feminist music community - not to mention the rock world - was sent reeling last week after the Huffington Post published Jason Cherkis' shocking article about Runaways' bassist Jackie Fox's 1975 rape. This weekend's one-off reunion of `90s goth rock feminists Jack Off Jill in Asheville may offer some sort of catharsis to music-loving feminists like myself who were thrown for a loop that female artists who are held up as trailblazers and have continued to spin rock n' roll stereotypes on their ears since, could have witnessed or at least been privy to such a horrendous assault.

Jack Off Jill (pictured above) will play a sold out show at Asheville's Orange Peel with JD Samson of Le Tigre and Man and Minneapolis band Kitten Forever. Lori Barbero of Babes in Toyland and Allison Wolfe of Bratmobile and Cold Cold Hearts will DJ.

Saturday's event is sandwiched between an opening reception on Friday at The Odditorium featuring Los Angeles visual artist Camille Rose Garcia (who will unveil a mural she painted for the reunion) and a performance by Marilyn Manson co-founder Daisy Berkowitz and Sunday DJ sets from Samson, Barbero, and Wolfe.

Those acts may not mean much to the average reader, but if you were into `90s riot grrrl it's a pretty exceptional list. I don't know if the Runaways' ordeal will be addressed at all or if their's or Jett's music will make its way into the mix, but a gathering of like-minded females bent on nurturing ideals of equal rights and self-acceptance and combating shame can help remind us why this movement is still so important. Fox's story is a blaring example of why women's rights, equal rights and rape culture remain hot button issues. But maybe it also means we're making progress.

Like most readers I was shaken by Fox's account of how she was drugged and publicly raped in front of members of the band and other party-goers by the band's now famous (and deceased) manager Kim Fowley. The revelation rocked my world. I was furious. I couldn't sleep. I tried composing a blog in my head, but instead got out of bed and went to vent to my mom at 3 a.m.

I'm still struggling with it. Fox's story brought into question all the feminist ideals I hold dear and not only tarnished the legacy of the Runaways but altered my view on the so-called role models that grew out of that band. Beyond the news of Fowley's vile crime was Fox's replacement Victory Tischler-Blue's testimony that her bandmates later laughed off the incident and mocked Fox in her absence. You can read her post-fallout statement here.

Girls can be catty, but man that seems almost more disturbing than the actual incident itself. Maybe it's easier for me to accept the revolting actions of a man I have no love for than it is the behavior of a bunch of women I admire. I was at first disgusted with Joan Jett, who Fox and others placed at the scene yet who denies any knowledge of the incident. If she was not there as she says, I wish she'd talk about what she actually does remember because, as author of the Runaways' bio "Queens of Noise" Evelyn McDonnell writes in her statement on Cherkis' story, the tale of Fowley's public rape of a young girl after a Runaways' show isn't new. Singer Cherie Currie addressed it in her own book, but at the time she was writing it no one including Fox (pictured in her youth with the band, second from right above) was ready to admit that it happened. The victim in Currie's story remained anonymous. Surely there were whispers or as Tischler-Blue argues, jabs addressing the incident. McDonnell suggests that some of the inexperienced people in the room may not have viewed it as rape given the time period and drugs, which is somewhat believable. I imagine they'd be haunted either way.

Cherkis' writes about the bystander effect. I've tried to think of the era, of being put in a similar situation, of myself as a naive teenager, of looking the other way. There's not much I can truly compare this to. As an adult I once had a boss who would target other employees. Her behavior was mean-spirited and the damage she inflicted was psychological, but I did little to defend people that I considered my friends. It ate at me though. I wanted to keep my job and I didn't want to be on the wrong end of her ire, but I remember walking on eggshells, drinking a glass of wine everyday after work, and stewing about the things she'd say in my presence.

I don't blame those girls for standing by idly, but I would like to hear more from the other members in response to the story and particularly Tischler-Blue's accusations. I've checked Cherkis' and Fox's Twitter almost daily since, waiting for responses or news but there's still little aside from Currie's Facebook responses and Jett's brief statement. Both are fairly defensive, but I think fans just want acknowledgment and to understand. It's easy to jump into blame-mode after reading it, but as Fox says, that's not what it's about.

My heart aches for those kids, those young girls, and especially Jackie. Maybe fans, who have been defensive of all sides, can find understanding through communities made up of women who support each other - like at this weekend's gathering in Asheville. That's something the Runaways obviously could not do.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Jazz Room presents the music of Thelonious Monk
Friday  6 and 8:15 p.m., Stage Door Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $12,  
Accomplished jazz pianist and Durham native Ernest Turner  lends his youthful spark to the music of another NC-native - hugely influential, innovative Rocky Mount-native and late jazz legend Thelonious Monk - during the monthly Jazz Room concert series.

Dierks Bentley
Friday  7 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $31.25-$56,
Kicking off last year’s Riser Tour at PNC in May 2014, Bentley proved he’s as captivating, fun, and relatable as an amphitheater headliner as he is on record straddling his Oklahoma red dirt roots with slicker Nashville flair. He’s back with Maddie and Tae, Kip Moore, and Canaan Smith.

Morgan Heritage
Friday  9 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $30-$40/$50-$60 VIP,     
Reggae’s other favorite siblings (who join the Marleys’ Catch a Fire Tour in August) - topped Billboard and iTunes’ reggae charts recently with its all-star collection “Strictly Roots,” which includes appearances from Shaggy, Rebelution, Soja, and third generation artists Jo Mersa Marley and Jemere Morgan. Jemere Morgan is also part of the tour.

Deniro Farrar
Sunday  6 p.m., Chop Shop, 399 E. 35th St., $15-$20/$40-$50 VIP,    
The Charlotte rapper continues to twist hip-hop stereotypes with his latest slice of hard-edged rap, “Cliff of Death II.” The collaborative EP with Bay area producer Young God pits haunting tales of his checkered past with dark, cinematic soundscapes while publicly sharing his own redemption, retribution, healthy lifestyle and reading recommendations.

Shania Twain
Sunday  7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St., $46-$136,   
The queen of `90s country returns to the live stage for her first tour in 11 years featuring a greatest hits set that critics say is big on flash and spectacle, but light on musical punch. Although billed as her final tour, Twain plans to release a new album after she turns 50 in August, yet is still looking for the right producer. Gavin DeGraw opens.

Primus/Dinosaur Jr.
Monday  7 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $35,  
The `90s alternative rock giants take a nostalgic trip, not only through their respective catalogs, but - with Les Claypool’s bass-heavy, funk-metal outfit’s latest album- an excursion into 1971’s Gene Wilder-starring “Willy Wonka” film. Besides wacky Oompa Loompas and chocolate rivers, both bands continue to put out impressive new material.
Ariana Grande
Tuesday  7:30 p.m., Time Warner Cable Arena, 333 E. Trade St., $29.93-$83.34,
The 22 year old former Nickelodeon star’s rep was recently rocked by the bizarre TMZ news that the future “Scream Queens’” star licked doughnuts and made anti-American comments (a statement, she says, about America’s eating habits). No charges were filed and it’s doubtful young fans turning out for her Honeymoon Tour care.

Iron & Wine and Ben Bridwell
Tuesday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $48.41,    
Unlike most covers album, “Sing Into My Mouth”, the new collaboration from SC natives Band of Horses’ Bridwell and Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam features obscure tracks by acts like Talking Heads, Unicorn, Bonnie Raitt, Spiritualized, Sade, and Marshall Tucker Band, which gives the project a fresher feel than your average covers set. With Susto.

Robert Earl Keen
Tuesday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $28-$30,     
The acclaimed Texan songwriter delves into the rootsier side of acoustic Americana with his latest Lloyd Maines-produced album, “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions,” which features covers of classics by Flatt & Scruggs, A.P. Carter, Bill Monroe, and Richard Thompson and includes guest spots from Natalie Maines and Lyle Lovett.

Tonight's Camila show postponed until August

Mexican pop duo Camila's concert Thursday at the Fillmore will now take place on August 16. The show was cancelled earlier today due to routing issues with a makeup originally slated for September. LiveNation announced this evening that the Latin Grammy winning group will be back sooner that first thought. Tickets for the August 16 show will be available through LiveNation outlets Friday morning.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Friday  8 p.m., Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St., $44.95-$69.95,
After reuniting at Funk Fest in Atlanta in May, oft-Grammy nominated duo Marsha Ambrosius and Natalie Stewart are touring together for the first time since the Brits’ spoken word poetry and hip-hop laced R&B duo parted ways in 2007. Reviews indicate the pair hits on solo work individually as well as past Floetry favorites.

Saturday  7 p.m., Common Market, 1515 S. Tryon St., Free,   
Although the thought of a 13-year-old-led family band conjures images of the Partridge Family, this New Jersey foursome rocks a lot harder. With daughter Eilee backed by dad, mom and drumming brother Evren, the punk-edged indie quintet’s new EP “Gold Glitter Shoes” sound more like the Donnas, Letters to Cleo, and Juliana Hatfield than Kidz Bop.

Mail the Horse/Pullman Strike
Saturday  9 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $5-$7,  
This Brooklyn quintet, whose new album “Planet Gates” has drawn the attention of Spin and Brooklyn Vegan, mix the carefree blues of `60s and `70s Stones, the Southern rock key and harmonica-laced jams of the Allman Bros, and the NYC garage rock of the Strokes. Charlotte’s Pullman Strike and the Loudermilks fill out a roots-rocking bill.

Benefit for Joe Borruso
Sunday  6 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $20-$30,    
Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara and John Nolan, who play an acoustic set, are among Charlotte musicians pitching in to cover visual artist Borruso’s medical costs. He was hit by a car on Parkwood, which resulted in a partial leg amputation and other serious injuries. Paint Fumes, Animals, MTHR, Modern Primitives, Aswell, Shadowgraphs, Fat Geoff, Bo White Y Su Orquestra, Cabron, DJ Elon, and Buckmaster also perform.

Anni Piper
Sunday  9 p.m., Double Door, 1218 Charlottetown St., $8,  
A towering bass player and sultry vocalist that plays up her sex appeal, this Australian transplant mixes soul-spilling electric blues-rock, raw Southern-steeped hill country acoustic blues, gritty hard rock, and jarring slow burners approaching it all like a seasoned torch singer that’s conscious of her instrument’s lack of limitations.  

Kid Rock/Foreigner
Tuesday  6:45 p.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $20,
Who would’ve thought Detroit’s cobbler of American music and Southern culture would be the picture of integrity when it comes to ticket prices? Yet he’s at it again, charging $20 for a helping of classic rock (courtesy of Foreigner), bluegrass (from the Packway Handle Band), and his own high energy hit-heavy swagger.

Stephen Stills
Tuesday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $61, 
The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer and one third of Crosby Stills & Nash, returns to play two sets - one solo acoustic and one full band. He’ll reveal new tunes - at least one from his upcoming Rides’ album with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Barry Goldberg - as well as hit on old favorites.

Tuesday  9 p.m., The Milestone, 3400 Tuckaseegee Rd., $5-$7,   
The Savannah rock trio, who enjoyed a boost from play on MTVU in 2013,  roars with confrontational vocals and a hard blues edge. All three members contribute charisma and a unique musical spark while frontwoman Angel Bond captivates with a mix of aggression and vulnerability. Its fittingly paired with locals Hungry Girl and Grown Up Avenger Stuff.

Tedeschi Trucks Band/Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
Wednesday  6:30 p.m., Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $32.50-$99.50,  
The husband and wife duo have made a go of this traveling family affair that fans of both longed for. The Wheels of Soul lineup boasts the couple’s 11-piece band and support acts retro soul showstoppers Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings and guitarist and current tabloid magnet (Renee Zellweger’s recent flame) Doyle Bramhall II.

Thursday  8 p.m., The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $53.95,  
The Latin Grammy winning pop group led by one of Mexico’s most prolific hit songwriters Mario Domm - who has written hits for Paulina Rubio, Thalia, Yuridia, and Alejandra Guzman - released its long-awaited third album, “Elypse” in 2014. It picked up the Latin Grammy for best contemporary pop vocal album last fall.

Daddy Issues
Thursday  9:30 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $5, 
Apparently daddy issues are so prevalent that at least three bands lay claim to the name online. The best may be this Greensboro quintet who trade in gentle vocals, winking feminist lyrics, and surf guitar that would been at home opening for Speedy Ortiz. It’s joined by fellow female trio Faye and newish locals Banda Suki.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Imagine Dragons proves captivating arena headliner at TWC Arena

While you can argue that a concert is always a shared experience, the ability to create the sort of unity Imagine Dragons captured Tuesday at Time Warner Cable Arena remains a rarity. U2 has been pulling it off for years. A Coldplay show is the closest thing I've experienced to a secular revival - and I'm not even a big fan. Imagine Dragons has that gift.

Tuesday's concert felt like a participatory event from the moment the Las Vegas band (with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Will Wells) hit the stage with the uplifting anthem "Shots."

The group reveled as much in its performance as the crowd did. Frontman Dan Reynolds (above) spent most of the show on the catwalk that extended into the audience and raced into the crowd at one point. Bassist Ben McKee (below) may be the jolliest performer I've ever seen. He mimed the words along with Reyolds, rallying the crowd with a toothy smile glued to his face. No one in the building looked happier than McKee singing along to songs like "Trouble" and the hit "It's Time."

Drummer Daniel Platzman and guitarist Wayne Sermon enjoyed themselves as well whether diving in on backup vocals, stepping from behind the drumkit or, in Sermon's case, shredding like Eddie Van Halen. This is not a band that's so self-serious it's afraid to smile on stage.

The only time Reynolds stopped long enough to speak other than to address opening bands Metric and Halsey and thank the crowd, it was to draw attention to the recent highs and lows America has experienced in the wake of the Charleston shootings and last week's Supreme Court decisions. Reynolds noted an audience that covered a diverse cross-section of races, ages, genders, and the like. He was right. There was a middle-aged mom and her grown son to my left and an Asian girl still learning English on my right, not to mention several parents with young children in tow. As Reynolds began Alphaville's "Forever Young" backed only by bass and synth he shared that he thought this generation would be the one to truly embrace diversity and see past all those divisive lines.

Cellphone lights circled like fireflies as the full band segued into "Smoke and Mirrors," the title track to its latest album. An exercise in dynamics, the drums kicked in like cannon fire (the sound engineer did such a flawless job this was the only point that I actually thought about it).

"I'm So Sorry" proved the highlight of the show outside of the driving pre-encore finale. The band got to show off its classic rock instincts with mid-song falsetto harmonies and Sermon again shredding like a maniac while drums and bass rumbled the floor. Those moments in particular illustrated Imagine Dragons' ability to merge disparate styles without sounding like a completely different band. There was world music, shades of stomp-and-shout Americana, bursts of dub step, hip-hop-inspired delivery, and singalongs that bordered on spirituals. The future is a place where electric guitar theatrics are at home with pop singalongs and electronic music.

"Friction" with its Muse-meets-Nine Inch Nails-meets-hip-hop vibe repeated the thundering urgency of "Sorry." The mood escalated as the crowd exploded for the homey anthem "I Bet My Life" and the showstopping monster hit "Radioactive," which saw every band member pounding a drum beneath a maze of red lasers. I saw no one scampering up the stairs to make a quick exit during the encore of "The Fall."

All three bands benefited from stunning lights shows from opener Halsey's dub step-aided light blasts to the wall of LEDs that flanked Metric to Imagine Dragons' vertical screen towers and lasers.

Twenty-year-old Halsey opened the show by mixing fantasy (castles, ghosts) and contemporary. Her most memorable track, "New Americana," focused on the "now" Reynolds later spoke of - a generation raised on Biggie and Nirvana, legal marijuana and a growing intolerance for inequality. The song seemed the most relevant and current statement of the night.

It's also nice to see a young woman wearing an oversize t-shirt and jeans. With cropped Kool-Aid blue hair, the diminutive singer looked more 14-year-old tomboy than your average fledgling pop singer. Plus, her voice is like Dido-meets-Sinead O'Connor.

Veteran Canadian indie rockers Metric (above) had to work a little harder despite a few alt-rock hits ("Stadium Love," "Help I'm Alive"). Frontwoman Emily Haines was up for the task, prancing and jogging in place in short shorts and legs that beckon for a Nair commercial. She donned a flowing sheer cape which swayed in the air behind her during the new single "Cascades" as the three men in the band sported neon glasses. Metric put on one of the best shows I've seen as a headliner at Neighborhood Theatre in 2010 and the Juno winning band can bask in the brighter spotlight. By the end the crowd was with her.

All three bands benefited from stunning lights shows from opener Halsey's dub step-aided light blasts to the wall of LEDs that flanked Metric to Imagine Dragons' vertical screen towers and lasers. The entire bill made for a consistent night, but Imagine Dragons demonstrated why they're one of a handful of young rock bands touring at this level. .

Thursday, July 2, 2015

This week's hot concerts

Sinners & Saints with Elonzo Wesley
Friday  6 p.m., Fountain Plaza, NC Music Factory, $10,
This Charlotte acoustic duo celebrates the release of "This Ain't No Country Song" - its split 7 inch record with songwriter Elonzo Wesley whose beautifully sparse tune gives the EP its name. He's on the bill with Everymen and Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band.

USNWC July 4th Celebration
Friday and Saturday  4 p.m.,5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Free,  
The US National Whitewater Center’s annual Independence Day festivities includes cornhole tournaments, fireworks and live music by acoustic, folk, and roots acts the Shook Twins, the Honeycutters, and Greensky Bluegrass Friday and Kansas Bible Co., Stokeswood, and Donavon Frankenreiter Saturday.

Squirt 4th of July Bash
Saturday  3/8 p.m., Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St., Free,  
Snug Harbor makes it an all-day affair with two shows - first it’s a matinee with female emcee Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia with locals Rapper Shane and Elevator Jay followed by an evening lineup of local rock acts Hungry Girl, Serfs, and the Business People with Knocturnal host and resident DJ Justin Aswell.

Warped Tour
Tuesday  11 a.m., PNC Music Pavilion, 707 Pavilion Blvd., $37,
With few true old timers on the bill Pierce the Veil, We Came as Romans, Matchbook Romance, Escape the Fate, blessthefall, Family Force 5, the Wonder Years, Metro Station,  Black Veil Brides, Juliet Simms, August Burns Red, Beartooth, Riff Raff, Asking Alexandria, Silverstein and Miss May I are just some of the acts making for a decidedly newer school Warped Tour.

Barenaked Ladies
Wednesday  7 p.m., Uptown Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., $29.50-$69.50,  
It’s hard to think of three quirkier, nerdier bands than Barenaked Ladies, Violent Femmes, and Men at Work. Each holds the same sort of slot for a generation charmed by unlikely, infectious radio hits. Ladies and Femmes are joined by Men frontman Colin Hay, who has enjoyed the attention of a new generation thanks to Zach Braff and “Scrubs.”

Stu Hamm
Wednesday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $20-$25,  
With a sideman adept enough to keep up with both Steve Vai and Joe Satriani, guitar geeks will want to tune in as this innovative bass guitar giant is joined by Testament’s Alex Skolnick and Al Dimiola drummer Joel Taylor for a mind, ear, and string bending (no doubt) musical exercise.

Freddy Jones Band
Thursday  8 p.m., Neighborhood Theatre, 511 E. 36th St., $ 12-$15,
It’s not easy for a band to duplicate the success of its first-run after a lengthy break, but the Chicago roots-rock band is making a play to recapture the glory it enjoyed in the mid `90s as a peer to Hootie and Dave Matthews with its new single “Those Diamods and the July release of “Never Change” - its first full studio album since 1999.

The Temptations and Four Tops
Thursday  7:30 p.m., Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St., $20-$89.50, 
Mirroring the short Broadway run the Motown legends did this winter, the `60s two biggest vocal acts reunite for a friendly, if a tad competitive, stroll down memory lane led by founders Otis Williams and Abdul “Duke” Fakir the respective bands’ only surviving original members. It’s also a perfect prequel to August’s Motown: The Musical at the same theater

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Def Leppard remains a consistent crowdpleaser at PNC Tuesday

Def Leppard's story is one of overcoming and soldiering on be it through the loss of drummer Rick Allen's arm, the death of guitarist Steve Clark, or in the wake of news of guitarist Vivian Campbell's returning cancer little more than a week before the band's US tour was to kick off last week.

Yet Tuesday night at PNC Music Pavilion (where the venue's name has changed three times since Def Leppard started playing there in the early `90s) Campbell was back on stage, having only missed the first two dates of the tour.

Singer Joe Elliott introduced him as "healthy and happy" earlier in the set (pictured above), but the warmth and spirit of band brotherhood and achievements well beyond massive album sales came to a head later in the set during "Hysteria." Following Allen's crowd rousing drum solo which ended with his face contorted in elation, the band broke into the mid-tempo pop hit as a homage to Clark, whose image flashed on the screen. For a moment as they cruised into the second verse Campbell smiled, took his hands from his guitar and clasped them together as if in thanks that he could join his comrades on stage. The meaning of the band's perseverance was wrapped in that shared moment with Clark's photos and the gracious guitarist that replaced him over 20 years ago.

The other side to Def Leppard's appeal is a knack for rousing pop-metal anthems that have been in radio rotation for so long the words are seared in fans' minds. That was the case for much of the night as the British hard rock giants shifted from the opener "Rock Rock (Til You Drop)" and "Animal" to later era Leppard "Promises" and "Paper Sun."  The latter weren't the monster hits that "Love Bites" and closer "Pour Some Sugar On Me" were, but many of the fans still knew all the words.

Styx (guitarists Tomy Shaw, back and James "JY" Young, front, above) did a lot to rally the crowd early in the night. Following a set of Tesla's bluesy hard rock, which included its own monster hits "Love Song" and cover of "Signs," Styx proved youthful, bombastic showmen most comfortable utilizing the sprawl of the amphitheater stage (they've also played the smaller Fillmore and Uptown Amphitheatre). Styx's production consisted of a revolving keyboard platform for animated vocalist Lawrence Gowan and four sets of stairs leading to a walkway running the length of the stage above drummer Todd Sucherman's kit. The set-up was slightly more elaborate than Def Leppard's, which - like last year - made more use of LED screens than tiered levels and height.

After an hour-long set that peaked with "Come Sail Away" and encores of "Rockin' the Paradise" and "Renegade," the standing ovation was worthy of a headliner.

Def Leppard, who held Styx's spot as a big band in a support slot opening for Kiss at PNC last summer, played a set similar in look and songs to that tour. The video backdrops for "Rocket" and "Armageddon It" were the same, but those were some of the highlights of last year's show so the inclusion makes sense. I could always do without a cover of "Rock On" (my point of reference is soap star Michael Damian's version). I'd rather hear a side 2 "Hysteria" album track (side 2 gets no love). "Rocket" on the other hand has turned into one of the highlights of the set despite its 6 and a half minute length and sort of trippy, psychedelic chant-feel. Even as a kid I found it an odd choice for a single, but over 25 years later it works maybe even better than it did then.

The sound wasn't pristine. Elliott doesn't hit all the high notes as regularly as he once did and the lack of clarity and singing crowd helped cover that fact. He doesn't swipe at notes like some veterans his age, but seems to know when and where to push it. He may not reach for the peaks on "Love Bites" or "Animal," but he soared on "Foolin'."

He was playful, tossing a Union Jack stiletto to a fan whose high heel somehow ended up on stage and bassist Rick Savage and guitarist Phil Collen (with Elliott above) remain consistent, charismatic players.

Between last summer's Def Leppard show and Tuesday's concert, I've gained a greater appreciation for the group's history through my 6-year-old's interest in them. There was a time in my life when Def Leppard wasn't cool. An avid Headbanger's Ball and MTV Top 20 countdown viewer during the band's height when I was 12, boyfriends and peer groups eventually steered me toward "alternative" fare. But a fondness for bands like the Pixies and the Smiths, shouldn't have negated my love of Def Leppard. I thought about that as I was singing "Rock of Ages" with my son during the encore.

I'm so glad that adolescent time has passed. I - like the audience Tuesday - still find a lot of joy in Def Leppard.