Thursday, March 31, 2016

Concert Review: Father John Misty - Opening Night in the OC

I've never seen so much PDA in a concert crowd as I did tonight at the opening show of Father John Misty's new tour at The Observatory in Santa Ana. The guy just exudes so many pheremones that he's like a giant living, breathing bottle of Axe Body Spray. People can't help but respond in kind. 

Tess and Dave opened the show and seemed like a likable and fun duo, although I only saw their last two songs.  They are also in Father John's band.

Misty strutted through most of his catalog to the delight of a crowd that hung on and sang along to his every word.  He had a couple technical problems and said it was due to it being the first night. At one point, he had to stall, so he encouraged fans that this would be the time to take cell phone pics if they must, and he posed like a rock god. He even took one woman's phone and took a selfie and handed it back. Many times he approached the folks in the front row, who must have waited many hours to nab those spots at the sold out show, and he grabbed their hands. Yes, love and lust were in the air. When someone yelled out "I love you" during a break in the action, Misty said he loved us too, but then qualified the statement to say perhaps it was just infatuation. 

The dude has a lot of sex appeal, although the songs are about love and marriage almost as much as boning. I'm not normally into skinny guys with beards, but tonight I made the connection of why I dig him so much. He reminds me of my soft rock heroes of the 70s - Dave Loggins, Harry Nilsson, Herb Alpert, Gordon Lightfoot, Bertie Higgins, Gerry Rafferty. His voice has that richness and perfect tone and the melodies have an easy listening vibe along with a sharp sense of humor. I heard one girl in the crowd describe him as being "like a dreamy Charles Manson." 

We were treated to two killer covers - "Because the Night" by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith and "Kiss It Better" by Rhianna.

Misty played 90 minutes. He closed the set with a rousing rendition of "I Love You Honeybear" and then returned for a three-song encore. 

You can see the setlist here.  

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Friday, March 25, 2016

American Idol: And Then There Were Four

This compressed American Idol season is flying by, while I wish it would linger a bit. Tonight the Idols were mentored by Steve Van Zandt on classic rock songs and then by Sia on her songs. Sia let them see her eyes but this was blurred out for the TV audience.  

LaPorsha Renae -  LaPorsha's classic rock choice was "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi. Although she doesn't seem like much of a cowboy, she delivered a strong vocal, circled the stage with swagger, and hit the big note at the end. The judges felt it was an odd song for her, but J Lo said she could sing the phone book and it wouldn't matter. It reminded Harry of Tina Turner. They also complimented her braids, which she said took 15 hours to do. She did look awesome and she has such confidence now. It's been a great evolution to watch and if there's any justice she will win the show. Her Sia song was "Elastic Heart" and it was another good performance. J Lo said she is a fully realized artist and they just don't have much to say to her, but I wonder if the lack of effusive praise and the fact that she had to sing first tonight might cause people to forget to vote for her. 

MacKenzie Bourg - His classic rock song was "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick. He slowed it down a lot and it kind of lost its rock edge, Keith hated the arrangement. Harry thought he could have sung it the same and kept it double time as the original was and would have kept the energy up more.  Mac's Sia song was "Titanium." This was a typical performance but he did stretch for a high note. Harry thought it was nice but it shouldn't all be about one note. Keith liked that he made it a singer/songwriter moment and stripped it down. I feel like Mackenzie is sticking with what he's good at but not stretching enough, and this may be his downfall. 

Trent Harmon - Trent's first song was "Sharp Dressed Man" by ZZ Top. He delivered it as a rock song with a bluesy edge. We got to see a more rocking side of him, and he got the crowd into it. J Lo said it was fungal - dirtied and muddied up.  Harry thought it was brilliant. His Sia song was "Chandelier" and it was impressive, with the high notes. Sia told him he picked her most difficult song. Keith thought it was exquisite. J Lo said he can do anything. Harry gave it 100 out of 100. The judges really laid it on thick for Trent. I think they want a Trent/LaPorsha finale. 

Dalton Rapattoni -  Dalton sang "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys, and I don't really view this as a classic rock song. However, it's one of my favorite songs and Dalton gave a heartfelt rendition and really connected with the audience. We've seen him rock quite a bit this season, so I won't hold the song choice against him. Harry said it was the most complex song he's sung so far and it showed his vulnerability. His Sia song was "Bird Set Free" and he wore a cool neon spatter paint jacket. He sounded a bit flat to me, but he sang with feeling and got choked up at the end. The crowd went wild. J Lo cried too and said everyone was cheering for Dalton's bravery. Keith said he pushes through his limitations. 

The Bottom Two were Sonika and Dalton and Sonika was sent home. This reinforces my feeling that the judges were wrong to save Sonika two weeks in a row. Now she was in the Bottom Three for three weeks straight and finally was sent home. I think she has a lovely voice but she just didn't connect with the audience well enough to motivate people to vote for her.  

I was definitely surprised to see Dalton in the Bottom Two.  I have been partially basing my prognostications on Twitter. Dalton and Mackenzie both have @ 130,000 followers.  LaPorsha and Trent have about 30,000, and Sonika had about 15,000.  With that huge advantage in Twitter fans, I felt Dalton and Mackenzie would sail through these middle of the competition weeks.  Of course, voters can become complacent. Dalton had a good week last week but he did mention his struggles with bipolar disorder and that may have unfortunately turned off some of his fans.  I also think he and Mackenzie are drawing from the same pool of teen/tween Tiger Beat type voters.  With that being said, I predict Mackenzie and Trent will be the Bottom Two next week and Mackenzie will go home.  It could be Dalton, but I think he will benefit from all of his fans being scared because he was in the Bottom Two this week and they will vote, vote, vote.  

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Friday, March 18, 2016

American Idol: Top 5 Revealed

Last night, American Idol revealed its Top 5 and Adam Lambert came back to entertain us. 

I've officially lost my patience with the judges' save. They haven't even told us the last couple of weeks that they would be continuing to save people, but last night they used their last save of the season to save Sonika Vaid. Sonika had been in the bottom last week and this week. In my view, that means America has spoken.  While she has a strong voice, she is clearly shy and just doesn't connect that well with the audience. She comes off a bit like a Disney princess.  In the conversation segments, she does seem more likable, but somehow there just isn't a big personality radiation when she sings. And yet, with a bottom two of Tristan Macintosh and Sonika, the judges saved Sonika for the second week in a row. Of the two, I'd say Sonika probably does deserve to be there more than Tristan, who is very young and not quite ready, but I still think America should have the final say by this point, as we are only a few weeks away from the end of Idol - forever! 

Here's a recap of the performances. The contestants had to sing songs suggested by America via Twitter and other social media outlets.

Trent Harmon - His first song was "Counting Stars" by OneRepublic. This seemed kind of uncomfortable for him, and afterward he admitted he didn't really know what was going on. J Lo felt he engaged the audience well. His second song was "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd and this was the perfect song for him. By the end, he had J Lo in tears, waxing rhapsodically about how she would miss the show for moments like this that showed the perfect collision of song and singer.  Trent cried too.  He's a talented and likable guy. We also learned he had a good friend who designed his guitar that died young, and he plays on to honor his friend. 

Dalton Rappatoni - America suggested Dalton sing "Numb" by Linkin Park and he delivered the tune with emotion but dulled the rock edge a bit too much.  Harry said he poured his guts into it, but the judges felt it was an uneven performance. His second song was "Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel and that was much more in his wheelhouse, allowing him to focus on the lyrics and deliver a haunting performance with lots of eye contact with the camera from those big dreamy eyes. Keith said he liked how Dalton connected with the words. Dalton reminds me of a Walter Keane painting and I just want to spoon with him, especially after we learned he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 9 and that his grandma runs a beauty shop where all the little old ladies are rooting for him while getting their shampoo n' set hairdos.  

La'Porsha Renae - Her first song was "Ready for Love" by India Arie and I thought it was good but not as mind-blowing as her usual performances. Harry thought it was phenomenal. Her second song was "No More Drama" by Mary J. Blige and she really brought it. This was the perfect song choice, especially after they played clips of her talking about emerging from her abusive relationship. She was in tears at the end and so was J Lo and probably many viewers at home.  La'Porsha poured her heart and soul into the performance and the judges were pretty much speechless. I feel this is the best of American Idol - finding someone as downtrodden as La'Porsha and giving her a platform to excel. If she doesn't win this show, it will be because of tons of tween girls voting for Dalton and Mackenzie, and it will be a damn shame.  But I'm sure she will have a career after this, no matter what.

Mackenzie Bourg - His first song was "Wild World" by Cat Stevens, and it was the perfect song for him. He could fit in well with my 70s easy listening heroes like Dan Fogelberg, Dave Loggins, Paul Davis, Al Stewart.  Harry said he was glad to see Mackenzie do something more up tempo. His second song was "Billie Jean." I thought the lyrics didn't hold up to the dramatic slow interpretation he gave the song, but the judges praised him for making it his own. J Lo said she was riveted. We also learned he has made a full recovery from congestive heart failure but it nearly killed him in high school and forced him to give up sports. So he found solace in music. 

Sonika Vaid - America asked Sonika to sing "Let It Go" by Demi Lovato, probably to instruct her to do as the song says and emote more. I thought her performance was too subtle and not bombastic like this song requires. But the judges liked it, and J Lo said Sonika is shy but fierce. Her second song was "Clarity" by Zedd and her performance was strong, but it still felt hollow. There's none of the emotion one feels watching La'Porsha, Trent, and even Dalton and Mackenzie to a lesser degree. Yet, she remains. 

Tristan Macintosh - Before being eliminated, Tristan sang "Independence Day" by Martina McBride and played the piano. It was a strong vocal but the judges felt it was very similar to her other performances and she needs to stretch more. Harry said she just needs to get older. Too bad he couldn't tell her to come back next year. 

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Friday, March 11, 2016

American Idol: Top 6 Revealed

Tonight our Idols were reduced to only 6, as the final season is adopting a fast and furious pace. The show began with duets.

LaPorsha Renae and Trent Harmon - "See You Again" - Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth - Very good duet - this was a lot of fun to watch. Trent sang higher than her. They had nice chemistry and good eye contact with each other. Both seemed so comfortable on stage. J Lo said it was magical.

Avalon Young and Sonika Vaid - "Rise Up" by Andra Day - Nice harmonies. They are Idol roommates, and you can tell they have a good rapport. Keith complimented Sonika's tone and Avalon's natural singing.

Dalton Rapattoni and MacKenzie Bourg - "I Want It That Way" by Backstreet Boys - The two heartthrobs took on a classic teen idol song, with Mac on guitar and Dalton showing his softer side. But it's pretty ordinary, and the judges peed all over it. Harry didn't think it was a good song choice because the lyrics don't make sense, and the guys admit they didn't understand what they were singing. Keith and J Lo felt they didn't change it from the original enough. 

Lee Jean and Tristan Macintosh - "Don't Want to Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith - Lee lamented that Tristan is taller than him, and they did seem a bit of an odd couple on stage together. It was nice to see Lee belt for a change. Harry thought it was boring and bland.

For the solo performances, they had to take songs from the American Idol songbook. This leaves it pretty open for about a zillion songs, but The Beatles were the most popular choice tonight.

LaPorsha Renae - "Come Together" by The Beatles - We learned that LaPorsha comes from a military family, and her dad said he was glad to admit he was wrong when he tried to push her into the military.  She wore a crazy leather jumpsuit with gold chains. She really has a star persona and a lot of Tina Turner in her. She showed she can convey a rock vibe along with the soul. J Lo said she gives us full diva every time she's up there. 

MacKenzie BourgYou Are So Beautiful" by Joe Cocker - Mac loved sports, but he got into the school musical after singing at a pep rally and being approached by drama teacher. He gave a tender and sweet performance and really feels the lyrics, but sometimes his twitchy faces get on my nerves. Harry said he couldn't have picked a better song. Keith said he made it seem brand new. J Lo said, "You're singing to some girl that every girl wishes she was."

Trent Harmon - "Stand by Me" by Ben E King - Trent said he doesn't want his family to come watch him unless he makes finale, and he kept his audition secret. Once again, he has cleaned up well and looks pretty debonair and delivers a strong, if not particularly original, performance. Keith said he can see a lot of growth in him over the competition. Trent's performance gave J Lo goosies - and there is no higher accolade she can give.

Tristan MacIntosh"A Broken Wing" by Martina McBride - Tristan's grandpa was the first to believe in her, and his health has been failing but he still recorded a video message to cheer her on. I found this performance capable but kinda dull. Keith thought it was the perfect song for her. Harry asked her what the second verse was about and her answer showed she had thought about it. Being an artist who sings timeless songs himself, Harry likes that the singers are thinking about the lyrics, and I like that he cares about that. 

Dalton Rapattoni "Eleanor Ribgy" by The Beatles - Dalton's mom was a high school punk, and he used to wear his mom's trench coat when he started performing. He gave this classic tune a metal edge, but with a string quartet. This is the Dalton I love - making it his own, working the crowd, belting a big finish. Keith said the theatrical side of Dalton brought out the darker side of the song.

Ryan revealed our Bottom 3: Sonika, Avalon, and Lee. And they got to sing for their lives.

Avalon Young"PYT" by Michael Jackson - Avalon as a kid was very much a tomboy (shocker!). She has OCD which causes facial tics but not when she sings. This was a good song for her, and she worked the crowd but was still a little stiff. Keith said he is so confused about why she keeps ending up in bottom three.  J Lo felt this was too typical of her usual performances. Harry said she needs more urgency.  

Lee Jean"Let it Be" by The Beatles - Lee was a shy kid, had to move around a lot, but when people discovered he could sing, he became popular. This was a heartfelt but awkward and pitchy performance. He seemed a bit like a deer in the headlights. The judges noticed the pitch problems and were disappointed. 

Sonika Vaid"I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston - Sonika has a family music tradition. Her mom performs in Bollywood. She picked a tough song and belted it like she wanted to stay. Despite her great voice, she still doesn't radiate much personality. Harry said it's a high risk high reward performance and she nailed it.  J Lo thought she did a good job, but was kind of lukewarm in her praise.

The judges kept Sonika in the competition, and I think that was the right choice. While Sonika needs to connect better with the audience, she does have one of the best voices on the show. Lee's voice is sweet but limited and he's only 16.  When Ryan asked how they were feeling, he seemed like he was making a closing argument for himself, stating how much he felt the song he sang and that it was for his late brother and he didn't care if he was pitchy.  I think it's better to just accept the judges' criticism, as it was warranted, and he didn't do himself any favors with the speech.  I think Avalon being in the bottom 3 for 2 weeks in a row, despite good judges feedback last week, shows that somehow she is just not totally connecting with America. She's definitely cool and talented, but maybe America doesn't love her tomboy style or doesn't find her convincing as a R&B artist. 

Prediction for next week - Sonika and Tristan in the Bottom 2, with Tristan going home. 

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Thursday, March 03, 2016

American Idol: Top 8 Revealed

Dalton Rapattoni - "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons - I'm so sick of this song, and I think many of us are. He worked the crowd well but didn't show us anything new and stayed pretty true to the original. It came off kinda karaoke and lacking in the originality of his other performances. Keith doesn't think it was a great song for him because he didn't tweak it. Harry said he reminds him of Billy Joe Armstrong. Harry felt Dalton wasn't as present in this performance and it lacked electricity. I'm sure Dalton will survive this minor misstep, because he's talented and dreamy!

Lee Jean - "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon - This was his most upbeat performance and it wasn't an Ed Sheeran song - but, unfortunately, it was just mediocre. I think he has a very limited range. J Lo said it was a great song choice, but he needs to stretch and let go. Keith didn't think it was a good song for him, but liked that he played guitar and had more energy.

Sonika Vaid - "Since You've Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson - Sonika revealed that she's never had a boyfriend, but this good girl tries to act like a bad girl in this song and it doesn't really work. She showed more of a pop side and still belted enough to remind us she has one of the best voices on the show. She looked sexy. Keith said he wanted more attitude, "more angry girlfriend". Harry said it felt like she wasn't really feeling the lyrics. 

Mackenzie Bourg - "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" by Whitney Houston - Very clever song choice and he definitely made it his own. It almost had a calypso vibe. The crowd went wild. Keith thought it was really cool. J Lo felt that the switch-up worked but she wants him to let go more. She thinks both he and Lee are holding back. Harry said he could have gone further with making it his own, perhaps should have played acoustic guitar. 

La'Porsha Renae - "Halo" by Beyonce - We learned her hair is named Kokomo and that until Idol, only her mom and she had ever styled or cut it. In her sparkly gown and headband, she looked like some kind of space goddess or disco diva. It was a good song choice with a high degree of difficulty. She had great stage presence and looked at camera at the end the way Constantine used to, except not smarmy. J Lo said she is the one to beat and a hard act to follow. Harry said she is a master at arcing the songs. 

Trent Harmon - "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Michael Bolton - Trent looked slick with a new hair cut and suit jacket, almost as if Seacrest had styled him. The performance started out kind of ordinary but then he hit a crazy long note. Keith thought it was a good song choice but pointed out that worrying about his facial expressions can get in the way of emoting. J Lo had a vision during the performance, not of the Virgin Mary, but of Trent and La'Porsha in the finale.

Tristan McIntosh - "Go Rest High on That Mountain" by Vince Gill - She played piano. She had a breakdown in rehearsal and had to change her song after Scott Borchetta (who looks like a puffy Chuck Zito) critiqued her. This performance brought her back to what the judges liked her for originally, playing piano and being more in an Alicia Keyes mode, although country. Keith said it was a great song choice. J Lo said that was the Tristan that America fell in love with. Tristan revealed another reason to cry - her grandpa broke his back this week. Harry then made a joke asking if her grandpa had been carrying her piano at the time. Ugh. Too soon, Harry.

The Bottom 3 was revealed to be Olivia, Gianna, and Avalon. I really expected Lee and Tristan to be in the bottom 3. Gianna was my only correct guess, although I did rank Olivia fourth from bottom. I think some of the audience may be uncomfortable with Avalon's tomboy style, plus she didn't make a great song choice last week. Olivia had the curse of singing first and although the judges praised her to high heaven, the song wasn't that special.  Gianna has a great voice but her inexperience and youth shows. The Bottom 3 got one more chance to sing and the judges would then decide on one person who would stay. 

Avalon Young - "Earned It" by The Weeknd - Love the braid and her makeup is subtle enough that it doesn't change her style too much. This is a decent song choice. I like her better doing hip hop, but she does show some swagger here. The crowd loved it. Harry said she looks beautiful natural and shouldn't wear makeup if she doesn't want to. J Lo said she did what she needed to do, get back in her comfort zone.

Olivia Rox - "Trouble" by Pink - Cute outfit but the song reminds me of a cheerleading march.  She was energetic. Harry said the song didn't allow her to show much range. J Lo said we didn't feel like she really was "trouble". It wasn't believable. 

Gianna Isabella - "If I Ain't Got You" by Alicia Keyes - Strong opening with only piano before the band kicked in, then it got a little more average. She seemed to feel the lyrics more toward the end, nice finish. She looked beautiful in a red pantsuit with a sheer cape. Keith's heart wanted a little more feeling. Harry said she has an incredible vocal gift.  

The judges saved Avalon which I think was the right choice. I think 2 more contestants get sent home next week and at this point I expect it to be Lee and Avalon, but everyone did pretty good this week so it's a tough call. 

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