Wednesday, November 19, 2014

St. Lucia at Terminal 5

Jean-Philip Grober
Jean-Philip Grobler, known by his stage name St. Lucia, was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and sang in the Drakensberg Boys' Choir, learning everything from Bach to minimalist opera. Grobler experimented with rock music but, after 10 years, he grew bored with it and looked to the 1980s music from his childhood that had first inspired him. He moved to Brooklyn, New York, experimented with these new influences and the synth-pop St. Lucia was born in 2010. St. Lucia's one album, When the Night, was released in October 2013.

St. Lucia headlined two nights at Terminal 5 and turned the cavernous venue into a dance party. After a nearly year-long tour, Grobler acknowledged that this engagement was a special homecoming that most of the songs were either written in New York or inspired by New York. Singing, playing guitar and keyboards and backed by four musicians, including his wife, keyboardist Patti Beranek, St. Lucia was all about lush, dreamy, high-energy, nostalgic pop. The band performed all of its debut album plus a few songs from previous EPs. While the songs were relatively new, the sound was a revisit to decades-old dance-pop music. The songs were driven by simple vocal melodies and layered synthesizer runs that repeated thickly to build crescendos. By the time the confetti canons shot during "Elevate," it already felt like New Year's Eve.

Visit St. Lucia at www.stlucianewyork.com.

In This Moment at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Maria Brink
Vocalist Maria Brink and lead guitarist Chris Howorth met through common friends and began writing songs together in Los Angeles, California. They formed a band called Dying Star, then changed directions and formed the theatrical metal band In This Moment in 2005. The new band built a following and the Revolver Golden God Awards in 2010 named Brink the Hottest Chick in Metal. In This Moment currently is comprised of Brink, Howorth, rhythm guitarist Randy Weitzel, bassist Travis Johnson and drummer Tom Hane. The band's fifth and most recent album, Black Widow, was released on November 17, 2014.

Tonight's concert at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom was a free concert for SiriusXM subscribers and was broadcast live across SiriusXM’s Octane channel. Listeners were unable to witness the spectacle of an In This Moment concert, however. The show opened to the sound of sirens and tribal rhythms. Fog jets were launched and masked dancers moved on platforms before the band came on stage to perform "Sick Like Me" with melodic metal thunder. Brink wore a headset microphone, freeing her to join in choreographed moves with her dancers, but despite all the costume changes, props and other theatrics, this was a far cry from a Britney Spears show. The musicians played searing, scorching metal, though mostly in the dark as Brink, was the ringleader of this circus. "Black Widow" was introduced with a recorded voice narrating the dangers of the spider, followed by Brink appearing on stage in a burlesque-style nurse's outfit and her dancers using giant syringes as props. Each song was packaged with grandiose visuals too numerous to recount, and the musicianship remained consistently rock solid. The 75-minute set mostly featured songs from In This Moment's two most recent albums, but also included a medley of songs from Metallica, Slayer, and Pantera, as well as a full cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Closer." In the end, however, radio listeners only caught half the fun, as In This Moment is a band to both hear and watch.

Visit In This Moment at www.inthismomentofficial.com.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Dina Regine at the Bowery Electric


Depending on the circles you travel, native New Yorker Dina Regine may be known as either a longtime photographer, a disc jockey or a musician. Her photographs have been published in publications, in books, and on record covers, and have been exhibited in museums and galleries. Her DJ credentials include launching the Guggenheim Museum's First Fridays series, Richard Gere’s benefit concert for the Dalai Lama, Keith Richards' surprise 50th birthday bash and the Saturday Night Live 25th anniversary party. Her music career also has had its shining moments, like when she auditioned as a backup singer for Bruce Springsteen and he suggested that she should front her own band. She took his advice. After leading three bands (the Dina Regine Band, Naked Grape and Swamp Honey), Regine went solo. She released two homespun CD's in 1999 and 2005 and will soon release Right On, Alright.

Gene Cornish of the Rascals introduced Dina Regine at the Bowery Electric. Steve Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and Jesse Malin were in the audience. Regine proudly wore her classic rock roots. She is a singer-songwriter, but her arrangements showed that she knows more than a little about blues chord progressions, country harmonies and rock and roll rhythms. Regine's chilling vocal and delivery punctuated her original songs, many of which were about troubled relationships. For most of the set, she played a four-string tenor guitar, rarely seen in contemporary music. The highlight of the evening was when she brought out two of the Uptown Horns for the last two songs of her set, resituating her into what sounded like a mid-1970s Rolling Stones concert. Rock and roll will never die.

Visit Dina Regine at www.dinaregine.com.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ian Mellencamp at the Bowery Electric

Indie-rock rookie Ian Mellencamp grew up in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio. Music is in the Mellencamp bloodline; Ian's father, Joe Mellencamp, is a musician who began bringing Ian on stage when Ian was just five years old; Ian's cousin Eric Mellencamp owns a small record company; and his uncle is a Hall of Fame rocker, John Mellencamp. While working a full-time day job in his father's company, Ian by night wrote songs in his bedroom and soon began playing in local bands. Eventually Ian moved to New York, became a top fashion model and began performing in small clubs like Pianos, first with a band called Isadora. As a solo artist, Ian has released one three-song concept EP, Visions.

At the Bowery Electric tonight, Ian Mellencamp's music was a far cry from the famous Mellencamp. Rather than John's earthy connection to America's heartland, Ian, playing guitar left-handed and backed by a keyboardist and drummer, played indie music that swayed from near-pop to experimental. Sometimes his vocals were jarring. Precisely because creativity was more important to him than adopting commercial or traditional sounds, Ian's performance was captivating.

Visit Ian Mellencamp at www.ianmellencamp.com.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall

David Ryan Adams, known professionally as Ryan Adams, was born in 1974 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. At the age of 14, Adams began playing the electric guitar that his mother and stepfather bought him, and shortly afterward joined a local band named Blank Label. He played in local bands in north Florida and finally started a professional music career recording three albums with the alternative country-rock band Whiskeytown. Adams left Whiskeytown in 2000 to release his first solo album. He also released five albums with the rock band Ryan Adams & the Cardinals and under various pseudonyms recorded punk rock (as the Finger and Pornography), hip hop (various pseudonyms), black metal (as Werewolph) and hard rock (as Sleazy Handshake). Adams published Infinity Blues, a book of poems, and Hello Sunshine, a collection of poems and short stories. He released his 14th album, Ryan Adams, on September 9, 2014.

Ryan Adams first played an acoustic solo show at Carnegie Hall in 2011; this year's itinerary included two acoustic solo concerts at Carnegie Hall and two electric concerts with his current band at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The series began tonight with a 22-song set of hits, rarities and surprises. The selections were an eclectic collection, in that the young and prolific songwriter has amassed a catalogue of a few hundred songs over the past dozen years or so and, performing solo, he was not limited to the songs he rehearsed with a band. Adams opened with his first single in three years, "Gimme Something Good," with dark lyrics pondering the possibility of a new beginning. He followed on acoustic guitar and harmonica with "Oh My Sweet Carolina," his longing-filled ode to his home state. The set included one song, "Avenues" from his Whiskeytown days and three songs from his Cardinals days. Among his better known songs, he performed his "New York, New York," accompanying himself on acoustic guitar and harmonica, followed by "Let It Ride." Between songs, the audience laughed as he bantered free-form about whatever came to mind. He rambled amusingly about the Terminator movies, listening to R.E.M. while tripping, "Ryan time" being impacted by potential overtime charges at Carnegie Hall, and how he felt like “the scuff on a clean shoe” at the prestigious venue. At one point he moved to the piano, improvising a tune about Billy Ocean in a faux Michael McDonald voice before singing "Sylvia Plath." For a newcomer, a two-hour acoustic set might have been too much; Adams' set tonight was designed for fans to hear more nuanced versions of his songs.

Visit Ryan Adams at www.paxamrecords.com.

Butch Walker at Carnegie Hall

Bradley "Butch" Walker grew up in Cartersville, Georgia, and in the 1980s and 1990s played guitar in Southgang, Floyd's Funk Revival, the Floyds and Marvelous 3 and other rock bands. Walker then launched a solo career in 2002, while singing in 1969 and Butch Walker & the Black Widows. Walker has co-written or co-produced songs for Fall Out Boy, Weezer, Anberlin, Saosin, Avril Lavigne, Tommy Lee, Sevendust, Pete Yorn, the All-American Rejects, The Academy Is..., Never Shout Never, Dashboard Confessional, All Time Low, Katy Perry, and P!nk. In 2007, Walker lost all of his possessions, including the masters to every song he had ever recorded, when the home he was renting from Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers burned down in a Southern California wildfire. Walker published an autobiography entitled Drinking with Strangers: Music Lessons from a Teenage Bullet Belt in 2011 and starred in 2012's Out of Focus, a documentary on his life and music. Walker's seventh album, Afraid of Ghosts, produced by Ryan Adams, will be released on February 3, 2015.

Walker has performed on New York stages many times over the years, including shows at the Highline Ballroom and Joe's Pub, but tonight was special in that he was the opening act for Ryan Adams at Carnegie Hall. Performing solo on acoustic guitar, he sang only five songs, but the brief performance was impressive. The opener, "21+," from his forthcoming album, articulated the frustrations of wanting to grow out of a small town life. He closed with "Father's Day," exploring misunderstandings with his father, who passed away last year. Walker sang songs of angst from a wounded place deep within himself, but between songs he was light, personable and humorous. Tonight's singer-songwriter approach served as a revealing insight into a performer who usually rocks a band.

Butch Walker again opens for Ryan Adams both at Carnegie Hall on November 17 and at the Hammerstein Ballroom on November 22 & 23. Visit Walker at www.butchwalker.com.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Rural Alberta Advantage at the Bowery Ballroom

Nils Edenloff and Amy Cole
Indie rock trio the Rural Alberta Advantage (also known as the RAA) came together in 2005 at an open stage in Toronto, Canada. A year later vocalist/guitarist Nils Edenloff, keyboardist Amy Cole and drummer Paul Banwatt released a self-titled EP and began performing a wider circuit. The band's third and most recent album, Mended with Gold, was released on September 30, 2014.

Headlining tonight the second of two nights at the Bowery Ballroom, the Rural Alberta Advantage proved that a Canadian trio perhaps could widen the Americana genre. Led by Edenloff's earnest, unpolished vocals and hard strums on the acoustic guitar, the band often sounded like a folk rock band. His heartfelt, plaintive lyrics pondered universal themes like love and loss, but with a backdrop noting the conditions and concerns of plain folk who experience long, cold winters. In many songs, the words were plentiful, but the easy-going melodies saved them from seeming excessive. Cole's keyboards charmingly magnified the melodies with an indie pop gloss, and Banwatt's energetic drummer gave the songs a driving rock flavor. The collaboration yielded cleverly-arranged music that was delivered with gritty integrity and plain-folk honesty. The band concluded the final encore, a bare bones acoustic "Good Night," by singing in the midst of the audience. By the end of the night a listener could have been convinced that indeed there are advantages to being a rural Albertan.

Visit the Rural Alberta Advantage at www.theraa.com.

Kat Dahlia at the Studio at Webster Hall

Katriana Huguet's parents emigrated from Cuba to Miami Beach, Florida, but her French surname came from her paternal great-grandparents who came to Cuba from Lebanon. Kat performed her first solo at a benefit when she was eight years old and started writing her own songs at age 15, ripping instrumentals from YouTube in lieu of a band. Kat saved money from waitressing jobs and moved to New York in 2010 in search of a music career. She settled in North Bergen, New Jersey, and became Kat Hue. Currently known as Kat Dahlia, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter and rapper will release her debut studio album, My Garden, on January 13, 2015.

At the Studio at Webster Hall tonight, Dahlia showed an impressive range of music, including lively pop-rock, smoky soul stirrers and excursions into reggae, Latin and rap. Several of her story-songs originated from her life experiences, both from being raised in a poor and fractured family and from later living in a toxic romance as a young adult. Her songs revealed that she remains somewhat broken and vulnerable but has emerged strong and confident. Part of her appeal live was that these sentiments are universally relatable and also inspire hope. The rest of her appeal was that she sang with a strong, sultry singing voice that subtly said both "get into my life" and "get out of my life." Her concert was therapy for the broken-hearted.

Visit Kat Dahlia at www.katdahlia.com.

Echosmith at Webster Hall's Marlin Room

Sydney Sierota
Four siblings born in the 1990s grew up playing musical instruments in a musical household in Los Angeles, California. They formed a pop band called Echosmith in 2009, and their first single, "Tonight We're Making History", was featured in an NBC promotional advertisement for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Lead vocalist Sydney Sierota (17) also plays keyboards. Noah Sierota (18) plays bass. The oldest member, Jamie Sierota (21), plays guitar. The youngest member, Graham Sierota (15), plays drums. Echosmith's debut album, Talking Dreams, was released in October 2013 and spawned a platinum hit in "Cool Kids."

Fresh off the Honda Civic Tour with American Authors, Echosmith tonight was supposed to headline at the Studio at Webster Hall, but the show was moved to the venue's larger Marlin Room. "Last year we played the little room downstairs," Sydney Sierota told the audience. "Not only was it an upgrade … we’re headlining tonight!"

Echosmith's original songs featured melodies and arrangements that recalled 1980s dance-pop bands. The band even covered Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place" and Modern English's "I Melt With You," songs that were popular a decade before anyone in Echosmith was born. Sydney then introduced their closing song, saying "This song has changed our lives." She dedicated "Cool Kids" to "all the outcasts" and "to anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t fit in," affirming that "It's okay to accept yourself for who you are and for who you aren't." The band ended its performance with the reggae-tinged "Nothing's Wrong" as an encore. Throughout the night, the band performed with youthful energy and professional showmanship. Safe and simple pop music is not for everyone, but Echosmith did it well.

Echosmith will perform at the Fresh 102.7 Holiday Jam at the Beacon Theater on December 10. Visit Echosmith at www.echosmith.com.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Anberlin at Irving Plaza

Stephen Christian
While still in high school in 1998, vocalist Stephen Christian formed a punk band called SaGoh 24/7, which released two albums. Eventually changing direction to alternative-rock, the band evolved into Anberlin in 2002, based out of Winter Haven, Florida. There were a few personnel changes, but since 2007 the band has consisted of vocalist Stephen Christian, guitarists Joseph Milligan and Christian McAlhaney, bassist Deon Rexroat, and drummer Nathan Young. After 14 years and seven albums, Anberlin released it final album, Lowborn, on June 23, 2014.

Yahoo! Live streamed Anberlin's concert from Irving Plaza tonight, as the band shared its first of three New York farewell concerts with the world. Shouting out a cry of "New York," Christian and crew ripped into a career retrospective beginning with "Never Take Friendship Personal" and "We Owe This to Ourselves." On the third song, "Paperthin Hymn," Christian hopped across the photo pit and stood on the rail of a barricade, holding a microphone to his mouth with one hand and balancing himself with the other by holding the outstretched hands of the fans below him. Throughout the 20-song, 90-minute set, Anberlin honed its refined sound, which blended an energetic power-chord-driven hard rock base with sweet melodies and Christian's soaring vocals. The pace slowed mid-set with "(The Symphony of) Blasé", "Take Me (As You Found Me) and "The Unwinding Cable Car," the latter song performed acoustically and dedicated to the musicians' wives. Beyond that, Anberlin returned to its muscular radio-ready rock, finally ending with Christian crowd surfing at the end of "Feel Good Drag" and an appropriate encore of "(*Fin)." Anberlin ends its tour and its career in two weeks, and the band made every second count.

Anberlin performs again at Irving Plaza on November 16 and will perform the album Cities at the Gramercy Theatre on November 17. Visit Anberlin at www.anberlin.com.