Categories
Watching

Rihanna at the Borgata

You know that scene in The Body­guard? It was like that the whole time.

I’ve been all about R&B this year. Don’t know why it took so long. I guess it was eas­i­er to com­plain about all the things that were wrong with indie rock. Now when I look back, I feel like I real­ly did­n’t appre­ci­ate all the great stuff that hap­pened when I was grow­ing up because it was­n’t “under­ground” enough. Wish I’d under­stood the dif­fer­ence between main­stream crap and real­ly great, engag­ing art back then.

Hav­ing said this, this is a pret­ty lack­lus­ter Rihan­na song, but it’s one of just two videos from the Bor­ga­ta show last week­end. Fun­ny since you could­n’t look at the stage with­out see­ing hun­dreds of cam­eras point­ed direct­ly at her. Like I said, it was like that scene in The Body­guard from start to fin­ish.

Categories
Doing

Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae

Caught them at the Tow­er The­atre Tues­day night. Cap­ti­vat­ing show. Janelle Mon­ae is an incen­di­ary per­former. I feel bad for any artist who has to fol­low her act. She’s James Brown rein­car­nate with a dash of Sun Ra’s out­er space imagery for good mea­sure. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen any­one sing and dance so well in a live set­ting, much less the some­times hol­low Tow­er, which can be a tough room to warm up even for sea­soned per­form­ers.

Her ener­gy com­plete­ly over­shad­owed Bilal’s set, who coast­ed a bit on the strength of the home­town crowd. I must admit that his cov­er of Led Zep­pelin’s “Since I’ve Been Lov­ing” you was a bit inspired, although his band did­n’t real­ly have the chops to real­ly dri­ve it home. As Dan DeLu­ca observes, Bilal had what it takes to be a neo-soul star in the mak­ing back in 2001; now, some nine years removed, who does­n’t shud­der when they hear “neo-soul?”

Erykah Badu mes­mer­ized the audi­ence. Her mere pres­ence com­mand­ed the room’s atten­tion and she held it for two hours, pos­sess­ing them with a mix­ture of songcraft and guile. Badu is a for­tu­nate mem­ber of the neo-soul scene, expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing of a renais­sance since she began the New Amerykah series in 2008. She’s incor­po­rat­ed ele­ments that draw on Par­lia­ment and Funkadel­ic, updat­ing her once staid, Star­bucks soul sound. Even the stuff from her 1997 debut, Baduizm, did­n’t sound dat­ed thir­teen years on. She is a singer at the height of her pow­ers and if you miss her, you’re real­ly miss­ing some­thing spe­cial.

Categories
Doing

HALLOGALLO!

Yeah, once upon a time I would’ve derid­ed this gig as a shame­less ploy. For­tu­nate­ly peo­ple can change. Can’t wait to see Krautrock pio­neer Michael Rother per­form the music of Neu! at Inter­na­tion­al House in August. Should be a pret­ty amaz­ing expe­ri­ence.

Categories
Watching

Mariah Carey in Atlantic City

It’s been almost two years since I went up to New York for Mari­ah’s Com­cast com­mer­cial shoot. Back then I was pret­ty opti­mistic about the direc­tion her career was head­ed. It’s been pret­ty amaz­ing to watch the bal­loon deflate.

I man­aged to get tick­ets to her recent Atlantic City show at the Bor­ga­ta. The seats were amaz­ing. The per­for­mance? Not so much. I think Helen summed it up best when she said her per­for­mance was more Atlantic City than it was Vegas, that it was more kitschy than cool. I’d say that was spot on.

After I read Jon Cara­man­i­ca’s ter­rif­ic review, I was look­ing for­ward to final­ly see­ing her per­form. Man, was I ever dis­ap­point­ed. It was a bru­tal com­bi­na­tion of bad sound, bad dancers, and an over­all lack of enthu­si­asm from Mari­ah, who seemed to just go through the motions. The back­up singers (and back­ing track) were so loud I often could­n’t tell when she was singing and I feared that might have been done inten­tion­al­ly. Over­all, it was just a lack­lus­ter per­for­mance by one of the few remain­ing super­stars in music.