I am so proud of Sam Smith! In August of 2013, he was playing to 250 people at Mercury Lounge and less than one year later, he headlined the legendary Apollo Theater! The very sold out show took place in Harlem on June 17, 2014. The blue-eyed soul singer is 21 years old and in this important year of his life, he’s traveled around the world and back, had a few club hits by lending his voice to songs by dance duo Disclosure, was outed by the media after he matter-of-factly mentioned that the songs on his album were about a guy that didn’t love him back (how come the media doesn’t make straight people do this?), and of course on June 17, 2014 his debut album “In The Lonely Hour,” was released officially in the USA and will be battling with Lana Del Rey for the #1 spot this week.
During the show, Sam Smith thanked the crowd multiple times and mentioned how mind blowing it was to share the same stage that so many of his heroes (including Luther Vandross and Michael Jackson) have performed on. He told the stories of the songs before they were played with his tight band (that featured 3 backing singers and a string section), and he played nearly every track from “In The Lonely Hour” whilst also throwing in “La La La,” a stripped down version of “Latch,” “Nirvana” from the EP with the same name (and below, you can see a video of it) and for the final song of the night “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith brought out Mary J. Blige to perform the song as a duet, which of course was the perfect cherry on top to a fantastic evening. Apparently the show was being recorded, so let’s hope for a DVD or live album because the show was EXCELLENT!
Mary J Blige and Sam Smith
I wish Sam Smith tremendous success and I have no doubt that he will be a name you won’t be forgetting. And now… let Sam Smith take you to Nirvana!
The setlist was:
Intro / Nirvana / Together / Leave Your Lover / I’m Not the Only One / I Told You Now / Like I Can / Restart / Good Thing – Berlin / La La La / Lay Me Down / Money On My Mind
Latch / Make it To Me / Stay With Me (with Mary J. Blige).
On the first day of June 2014, I attended the New York City premiere of Jellyfish Eyes, the directorial debut of artist Takashi Murakami at the Film Society at Lincoln Center. It had long been a desire of mine to meet Murakami and the universe gave me a freebie as I arrived for the premiere to find Murakami standing in the lobby of the venue meeting fans, signing autographs and taking photos! (and see below for a really awesome photo of Gail getting Murakami’s autograph). Thanks Universe! Murakami was wearing a Kurage-Bo hat and after seeing the film, you realize that Kurage-Bo (translated into English – “Jellyfish Boy”) is one of the main characters of “Jellyfish Eyes.”
Kurage-bo and Geoffrey Dicker. Photo by Gail.
Set in a post-Fukushima world, “Jellyfish Eyes” follows young Masashi who, after his father’s death, moves with his mother to a small city in the Japanese countryside. But when he discovers that their new apartment is already inhabited by a pint-sized, gravity-defying creature that he names Kurage-Bo, Masashi begins to pull back the curtain on this sleepy town and finds that very little is what it appears to be.
Luxor and Geoffrey Dicker. Photo by Gail.
The kids all have cellphone like devices that control these strange creatures called F.R.I.E.N.D.s and before long, you realize that a battle of good vs. evil is about to unfold. I won’t tell you what happens, but I will tell you that during a Q&A with Murakami after the screening, he revealed that this story will be part of a trilogy, so look out for those to hit theaters in the future.
Without further delay, an awesome photo of Gail getting Murakami’s autograph!
One of the most reclusive figures in music came out of hiding last night on May 21, 2014 as the Red Bull Music Academy hosted “A Conversation with D’Angelo” at the Brooklyn Museum. The auditorium was packed with fans, like me all who thought we’d finally get some of our questions answered – namely “WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST 14 YEARS?!”
Nelson George and D’Angelo
Music critic Nelson George moderated the conversation and it was super fascinating, even though extremely light on subjects such as the two solo albums D’Angelo has released over the last 20 years, 1995’s “Brown Sugar” (which was mentioned very briefly) and 2000’s “Voodoo” (which was discussed for much less time than D’Angelo’s first band – I.D.U. which stands for Intelligent, Deadly, Unique). Name-checked during the conversation were Jesse Johnson, Alan Leeds, Prince and Questlove (who came up to the stage twice to help fill in D’Angelo’s stories). It was also amusing that D’Angelo smoked cigarettes on stage inside the auditorium of a museum! This is the second time I’ve seen someone smoke cigarettes near art (the first being Courtney Love).
D’Angelo and Questlove
The most fascinating fact of the night had nothing to do with D’Angelo’s music and instead it was about Sly Stone (of Sly and The Family Stone). D’Angelo mentioned that he’s met with Sly and Sly’s played him some of the “vast amounts” of unreleased music that he’s consistently recorded over the years including Sly’s experimentation with Auto-Tune, but D’Angelo said that he takes the vocal enhancer to a whole new level of weirdness – and could we expect any less from Sly? Will those Sly songs ever see the light of day? We have no idea. Will any new studio material from D’Angelo ever see the light of day? We have no idea. Though I thoroughly enjoyed watching the talk, I learned less about D’Angelo than is on his Wikipedia page, which was not just disappointing, but it left me scratching my head wondering why “the elephant in the room” (aka “why has there been no new music in 14 years aside from a surprise concert here and there over the years”) was not the focal point of this discussion.
Until there is new music, at least the world has the classic “Voodoo” and “Brown Sugar” albums to help us groove and make babies to. Any time you want to release music, the world is ready, willing and waiting!
Apparently the conversation was streamed live over the internet and I am not sure if it will be archived for later viewing, so check Google.
Gaga ooh la la! On May 13, 2014 Lady Gaga made her return to New York’s Madison Square Garden with a sold out “ArtRAVE” as part of her ArtPop Ball Tour. For nearly 2 hours (and for those wondering, she went on around 9:45 pm – doors were at 8), Lady Gaga and her dancers hosted the biggest party Manhattan had to offer for the night.
Lady Gaga featuring Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball
The stage had ‘legs’ where Gaga and her dancers were able to run around the whole of the floor of Madison Square Garden and they didn’t stop moving for the duration of the show, save for when Gaga sat down at the piano. The bad part about the stage set up was that there were large portions of the show where depending on your seat, you only got to see the backs of everyone. My only complaint was that I really didn’t get to see a lot of the visuals that were shown on the screens behind the dancers. As you can see below, this was my view of Gaga for a large portion of the show.
My view for the majority of the Gaga show.
The best part of the show for me was Gaga’s love for her fans. She is truly grateful for the position she is in and she expressed her gratitude to the audience throughout the show. And unlike other superstars who say those things and then when you catch them with the cameras off, their actions are quite the opposite, Gaga puts her money where her mouth is, so to speak, and treats her fans with respect and love. At one point in the show, fans threw gifts and letters to her on stage and she read a few letters to the crowd. She invited those people to come party with her backstage after the show! What other superstar does that? Crickets chirping…
Before a piano rendition of “Born This Way” (not unlike this version that I saw earlier in the year), she mentioned that many of her friends and early supporters were at the show and she tearfully thanked them all for believing in her. She inspired the audience to keep being her inspiration and she told the crowd so many times to be who you truly are without apologies. Clearly, you can’t and shouldn’t compare Gaga’s show to Miley Cyrus’ concert, but for someone with such young fans who don’t know tons about the world, the message Gaga puts out is inspiring and empowering and Miley’s message is basically “please degrade yourself for attention.”
Gaga had a ton of costume changes, including an octopus-like outfit which you can see above, but to be completely honest, after seeing Gaga a bunch of times in concert, I don’t think this was the best Gaga show I’ve been to. Perhaps she’s done so many outrageous things that she is having a hard time topping herself and perhaps because her newer material is not that strong, that made for some lulls in the show.
Lady Gaga balancing chairs on her head.
There were many highs though. She performed all (or bits of) most of her great songs including “Poker Face,” “Just Dance,” “Telephone,” “Alejandro” (of which a video will be coming soon, so stay tuned!), “Paparazzi,” “Bad Romance” and a large portion of “ArtPop” was performed including the title track, “Aura,” “Mary Jane Holland,” “MANiCURE,” “Swine,” “Sexx Dreams,” “Applause” “Do What You Want,” and rapper T.I. came out for a guest appearance on “Jewels N’ Drugs.”
Did you go to the ArtRAVE? What did you think? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.
Lady Gaga – The Merch
The setlist was:
Artpop / G.U.Y. / Donatella / Fashion! / Venus / MANiCURE / Cake Like Lady Gaga / Just Dance / Poker Face / Telephone / Partynauseous / Paparazzi / Do What U Want / Born This Way (Piano Version) / Jewels N’ Drugs (with T.I.) / Aura / Sexx Dreams / Mary Jane Holland / Alejandro / Ratchet / Bad Romance / Applause / Swine
On May 10, 2014, British electronic music gods VNV Nation played their first of 2 sold out shows at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. It was my first time seeing VNV Nation and before I go any further, I must give VNV Nation’s lead singer Ronan Harris my utmost respect for ensuring that the crowd had maximum fun at the concert. By quickly requesting that the audience turn off their camera flashes during the first song (and he rightly pointed out that people will get better pictures anyway with flashes off), it will not distract the band and it will also ensure that people don’t spend the majority of the concert in an iPhone coma. Then he simply instructed the audience to let go, dance our asses off and have fun. I am not kidding you when I tell you that I saw 100% audience participation at the show and as you know, I’ve seen my share of concerts! If only Ronan’s words could be posted at every venue, the overall concert going experience would be improved by leaps and bounds.
And once the concert got going, it was a 2 hour non-stop dance party! VNV Nation have a new album out called “Transnational” and the video you are about to see, “Primary” is a track from their excellent new record. If “try before you buy” is your thing, you can grab a free EP of remixes called “Crossing the Divide” for a limited time at this link (which will open in a new window). The video below captures a tiny glimpse of why you should always go see VNV Nation when they come to your city – first off Ronan Harris really gets the crowd engaged. He moves all over the stage, gives the front row opportunities to sing into the mic and he has funny anecdotes throughout the show. There’s also the amazing light show and visuals that will take you to another realm, and last and certainly not least, all of their songs are anthemic and designed to make you have a great time at their show, whether you are a VNV Nation die-hard or a newbie like me. Thanks to Ronan and company for an awesome night!
And now put all these words you’ve just read to the test by watching “Primary.” You won’t be disappointed!
Just press play.
See the set list and a photo of my brief chat with Ronan after the jump.