Janet Jackson brings the State Of The World to Vancouver

Janet Jackson – Rogers Arena – September 26, 2017

Janet Jackson brought her State Of The World concert tour to Rogers Arena in Vancouver this week.  Vancouver has a special connection with Miss Jackson, being the rehearsal spot the All For You Tour, and starting arena for her Rock Witchu and Unbreakable Tours.  An enthusiastic audience cheered the voice-over social commentary before the R&B legend made her appearance, followed by her troupe of dancers, to give us The Knowledge and State of the World to open the set.

From then on, it was two+ hours of hits, and memories, keeping most of the audience on their feet for the evening.  Just as her albums have shown an evolution and provided Miss Jackson with a platform to make her own statement on the state of the world, this tour performance was broken into segments that reflected the divas decades long career.  The new mom worked at a great clip powering through vocals and dancing mash-ups of her early hits including; Nasty, What Have You Done For Me Lately, Miss You Much, Alright, Control, Escapade, and more.  A costume change brought some of her softer ballads, and some slight sound issues, before kicking it back up for a crowd pleasing That’s The Way Love Goes and other legendary 90s hits before another costume change wraps up the show with If and Rhythm Nation.  Video vignettes showing career highlights as well as new imagery accented the stage set and served as a statement about the longevity of the Janet’s iconic career. 

The encore and final costume change saw a casually sexy Janet, fitted white shirt and jeans, come out to engage with the audience, introducing her band and dancers then leaving the audience satisfied but wanting the good times to continue. 

 

Janet Jackson’s State of the World Tour continues around North America for the remainder of 2017.

 

Lionel Richie & Mariah Carey bring All The Hits to Vancouver

This week, Lionel Richie wrapped up his All The Hits tour in Seattle with their penultimate gig making a stop in Vancouver. Along with the iconic hit maker, another legendary voice joined the tour with Mariah Carey sharing the bill as a special guest.

As the audience arrived, opening act Tauren Wells, got the evening going with a set of his Christian R&B tinged pop/rock.

A short stage reset welcomed Mariah Carey to the stage.

With a flash of a career montage, Ms Carey, upon a throne, her voice preceding her, arrived on stage. Her set included some of her greatest hits, sounding amazing as she hit every note of her career defining tunes like; Heartbreaker, Touch My Body, My All, It’s Like That, Vision of Love, and more.  One of the sweetest moments of the set was when the singer’s twins, Moroccan and Monroe joined her onstage.  Little Miss Monroe joined her mother singing Always Be My Baby, while Moroccan took to the throne and interjected like a hype-boy.  With her instrument fully in great form, Mariah has fun playing the diva throughout the set; her back-up dancers treating her like a Queen, getting a hair & make-up touch up whilst on her throne, three costume changes but never letting the over-the-top fun get in the way of job number one, belting out best-selling hit after hit.

After Ms Carey’s 75 minute set wrapped up with an encore of Hero, another set change get the stage ready for Lionel Richie and his nearly 50 year catalogue.

The energetic 68 year old showed little effect from the knee surgery that postponed the tour from earlier in the year.  Boundless energy and an arena filling presence kept the audience enraptured and singing along to hits from both his solo career and with The Commodores.  Starting with Easy, then moving swiftly between upbeat numbers and ballads like Running With The Night, You Are, Penny Lover, Hello, Stuck On You, Brickhouse, Three Times A Lady, Say You Say Me, Dancing On The Ceiling.  Engaging the audience, and poking a bit of fun at his and some of the fans’ age. Lionel also had a good time with some of the ladies in the front of the audience, highlighting them or their dancing on the stage screens caused some embarrassment and some joy. Getting a bit political the songwriter reminded us of how much good can get done when people work together with a solo rendition of We Are The World before wrapping up the evening with his anthem All Night Long (All Night).

Surely many of the audience would have like the evening of great songs and singers to continue all night long but after nearly 4 hours the night wrapped leaving smiles on faces and songs in heads and hearts across the arena.

 

Queen + Adam Lambert rock Vancouver

Queen + Adam Lambert – Rogers Arena – July 2, 2017

 Queen + Adam Lambert returned to Vancouver on Sunday night for a spectacular performance at Rogers Arena.  Before a most diverse audience, from children to seniors, Queen founders Brian May and Roger Taylor along with Adam Lambert brought the house down performing their vast catalogue of hits.

Even though he passed 27 years ago, the spirit of Freddie Mercury lives on in the fans, including the brilliantly dressed ‘Freddie’ working the arena in Yellow “A Kind of Magic” jacket, and the 5 year old Live Aid styled “Freddie’, as well his pre-recorded vocals and video highlights appeared during the concert.  In Adam Lambert, the band has found a singer who can complement the songs and legacy without being an imitation.  Respecting that Freddie Mercury paved the way for artists like Lambert to fuse camp theatricality, flashy costumes, shockingly red hair with great vocals.  Original members Brian May and Roger Taylor have said in the past that they aren’t replacing Freddie when they tour with someone, hence the billing as Queen + Adam Lambert. They are like a perfect duet, two individual acts that fit together; two of the best musicians in the world combined with an amazing vocalist, when they speak of each other one gets a sense of genuine respect and camaraderie.

From the beat of Another One Bites The Dust, to bluesy Fat Bottom Girls, to the pop of Don’t Stop Me Now and Somebody To Love or rockabilly on Crazy Little Thing Called Love, the Queen catalogue of hits is an eclectic mix of styles, genres and tempos.  The iconic Bohemian Rhapsody has all the genres in one song, and Adam Lambert deftly weaves the vocal variations and adds his own theatricality to the stage.  Even though their instrumental work is front and centre throughout, Brian May and Roger Taylor each had the opportunity to highlight their vocal skills too, with May handling the vocals and accoustic guitar on Love Of My Life (also featuring Freddie Mercury on video) and Taylor drumming and singing the duet with Lambert on Under Pressure (dedicated to David Bowie).  Over the two hour show, the set list builds to the highly anticipated encore of the legendary hits We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, with the whole of Rogers Arena singing along.

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While they may not live forever, in entrusting their catalogue to Adam Lambert, Queen has ensured that these hit songs are performed for a long time to come.

Queen + Adam Lambert North American Summer Tour continues around Canada and USA until August, before moving to Europe in the autumn.

Kinky Boots on Tour

Broadway Across Canada’s Kinky Boots wrapped it’s tour stop in Vancouver this weekend selling out most shows at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  The Tony Award winning musical, adapted from the 2005 British film of the same name, has a timeless theme of diversity and inclusiveness that stands out as topical in the current political environment.

J Harrison Ghee as Lola | photo: Matthew Murphy

 

Loosely based on a real-life story, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie Price, (Curt Hansen) the 4th Generation in Price & Son shoe factory, who longs to break away from the family business and his father’s expectations to live his own life with fiance Nicola in London.  When his Father passes, Charlie is forced to accept the realities of being responsible for the livelihoods of the small town factory’s staff, many of whom he has known his whole life.   In a chance meeting with Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a London drag queen, he falls upon an unusual niche market that he hopes will save the factory and the employees.
After accepting that footwear is in his blood, the pressures of being responsible for the factory workers take their toll on his relationships.  Both Charlie and Lola try to shake off the expectations placed upon them by society and their fathers, leading them to the inevitable epiphany that moves the musical’s story along to it’s rousing climax.

The book by Tony award winner, Harvey Fierstein, brings plenty of laughs and heart without being too heavy handed with the production’s theme.  The contrast between the Price and Son factory folk and Lola and her troupe of drag queens provide the opportunity to enforce the message of accepting other as they are. Cindy Lauper’s music and lyrics, much like her own pop career, swing from quiet heartfelt ballads to over-the-top dance-pop production numbers.  Lola and the drag queens give Director / Choreographer Jerry Mitchell the obvious opportunity for colourful over the top dance numbers but these were almost expected from the performers. It is the factory pieces or when two sides of the cast combine that really awoke the audience, seeing the contract of the drably garbed staff keeping up with the long legged, high-kicking queens.

While Kinky Boots has closed in Vancouver, it continues on Tour around Canada and the US.  It was also announced this week, that J Harrison Ghee will be making his Broadway debut when he takes over the role of Lola in the New York production in March.

If you can catch Kinky Boots on tour, Broadway or in London’s West End, I hope you’ll come away with a bit of joy in your heart.

Chicago + Earth, Wind & Fire – Heart & Soul Tour 3.0

Chicago_EWF_img_9883Earlier this week, the windy city collided with the elements when Chicago + Earth, Wind & Fire played Rogers Arena.

The legendary bands are on their third leg of their co-headlining Heart & Soul Tour, and for the first time bringing their combined talents to Canadian stages.  Between the two bands, they’ve sold more than 200 million albums and amassed countless awards including 20 Grammy nominations.  Over the past 40 years, Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire have performed live before millions of fans and added a few thousand more at Rogers Arena on Monday.

EWF_img_9935The co-headlining show is book-ended by both acts performing together with solo sets of their infinite-seeming catalogues of hits in between.  Earth, Wind & Fire took their turn first with a selection from throughout their 40 years of performing.  Megahits and fan favourites brought soul to the arena as fan got moving to the unmistakable Earth, Wind & Fire sound. With a dozen performers on stage the energy was incredible as the three remaining original members; Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, lead the charge.  Verdine is all over the stage with his trademark eccentricity, Philip’s massive vocal range was hampered by some audio distortion but he’s still a force at 65 years.  With the loss of founder Maurice White earlier this year, a reminder of the hands of time, the ‘younger’ members of the band, including Bailey’s son Philip Jr show that the band is in good hands for years to come.

Chicago_img_9948After a short intermission, Chicago returned to the stage with their hit-filled set.  The 2016 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, haven’t let a little thing like time set them back. Original members; singer / keyboardist Robert Lamm, and Lee Loughnane, James Pankow, and Walter Parazaider the uber-energetic horn section players, are still front and centre while temporary lead singer Jeff Coffey (replacing Jason Scheff during a hiatus) ably fronts most tunes.  Throughout the set, filled with sing-along tracks, the feeling that these performers genuinely still enjoy the live experience. The horn section appears especially animated and energized by the live interaction and still look impressed by each other even after 49 years in the business.

And the audience was still suitably impressed as well, for both the solo sets and when the 21 performers regrouped for a closing set.  After years of friendship, camaraderie, and tours together the acts perfectly blend to make the combined efforts on closing hits; September, Sing A Song, Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Shining Star and 25 or 6 to 4, seem like they were always written with these arrangements in mind.

The Heart & Soul 3.0 tour continues through mid-November and from the energy of the bands and audience, this doesn’t feel like it will be the last time we see these friends touring together. If you haven’t caught them before, go see the show!

Picks of the Week – November 9, 2016

If you’re nursing your US Election hangover, be thankful a long weekend is upon us but while you’re busy with the picks of the week, let’s not forget to honour our veterans with Remembrance Day ceremonies…

Beach: At The Orpheum tonight, the Beach Boys bring their legendary sound to the Vancouver stage

Trio: At The Cultch, celebrate Asian Theatre with Empire of the Sun until November 13th and the sexy, dance All Hell Is Breaking Loose, Honey

Danes: The Vogue Theatre hosts Danish pop/soul act Lukas Graham on Thursday night

House: At XY YVR visiting DJ Rafael Calvente from RIO brings the tunes to House Thursday

Stage: The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Bakersfield Mist continues until November 20th at Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

Country: “Bro-Country” duo Florida Georgia Line pack Rogers Arena on Saturday night.

Rock: Canadian rock faves The Trews play Commodore Ballroom on Saturday

Onyx: Saturday night, join DJ Nick Bertossi with Mila Dramatic for ONYX XY YVR

MissBard: At the Firehall Arts Centre, the Richardson Award Winning Miss Shakespeare runs from November 5 – 26th

Joseph: At the Michael J Fox Theatre in Burnaby, Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat plays until November 19th.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks hope to put another one in the win column when they take on Dallas Stars on Sunday

Ballet: On Sunday Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, the Holiday classic at Queen Elizabeth Theatre

2016 Polaris Music Prize Shortlist Revealed.

Polaris_400x400Last week, the 2016 Polaris Music Prize shortlist was announced. The top 10 artists vying for the title of the best Canadian album of the year are Andy Shauf, Basia Bulat, Black Mountain, Carly Rae Jepsen, Grimes, Jessy Lanza, Kaytranada, Pup, U.S. Girls and White Lung.

This year marks the highest number of female/female-fronted acts ever to have made the short list, with seven. For the only the second time in Polaris history the short list does not include any R&B or rap artists however, Kaytranada’s 99.9%  features both rap and R&B artists. While this year’s long list boasted some of the country’s biggest names in the genre, including Drake, and the Weeknd, among others, none of them made it to the top 10.

There are six artists on the 2016 short list that are newcomers; Andy Shauf, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kaytranada, Pup, U.S. Girls, White Lung.  The remaining four are returning short list nominees;  Basia Bulat, Black Mountain, Grimes and Jessy Lanza.

The Polaris Music Prize gala takes place September 19th in Toronto to be hosted by CBC Radio 2 Morning’s Tom Power, and Amanda Parris, of CBC Radio 2’s Marvin’s Room and Exhibitionists on CBC TV. The event will be live streamed on CBCMusic.ca/polarisprize.

The list was adjudicated by 194 journalists, broadcasters and music bloggers across Canada. A smaller group of 11 grand jurors will now be selected to convene on the night of the Polaris gala to vote for the winner. The Polaris Music Prize winner takes home a $50,000 grand prize and the other nine nominees will each receive $3,000.

Visit the polarisprize.ca for more information on the short listed artists and the Music Prize Gala.  While you’re there check out the great new posters created for each of the nominees, like those above by Ally Jaye Reeves for Carly Ray Jepsen and Jonathan Dyck for Andy Shauf.