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An Elegant Uproar: The National goes all in at the Kimmel Center

The National | photo by Jeremy Zimmerman | jeremy-zim.com

Seven records and almost two decades in, you can’t even begin to accuse The National of phoning it in. While I initially mistook a lower-intensity set for a band beginning to show its age, an unusually lucid Matt Berninger was just slyly taking his sweet old time to hit a crowded Kimmel Center where it counts — and on a Monday evening, no less. Opening with deep cut “Karen,” from 2006’s Alligator was a surefire way to get the crowd of loyalists interested, but the song lacks the hallmark intensity of the band’s many unintentional anthems. It was only after “Nobody Else Will Be There,” from 2017’s just-released Sleep Well Beast, led into “The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness,” that the intensity was ratcheted up a couple of notches. The rest of the evening toed the fine line that the band always has between subtlety and quiet uproar. Continue reading →

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Jazz Legend Herbie Hancock to perform at Verizon Hall

Herbie Hancock | via The Kimmel Center

The legendary Herbie Hancock began as a child prodigy in the 50’s, was sought after by Miles Davis to join his Second Great Quartet in the 60’s, and in the decades since has released 41 studio albums, picked up 14 Grammy awards, and added a star to the Hollywood Walk of Fame while reshaping the landscape of jazz along the way – and these are only the highlights of the highlights. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Hoppin’ John Orchestra at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at Verizon Hall

Hoppin' John Orchestra | Photo by Rocco Peditto | <a href=http://roccopeditto.virb.com/ target="_blank">roccopeditto.virb.com</a>
Hoppin’ John Orchestra | Photo by Rocco Peditto | roccopeditto.virb.com

It’s going to be a chilly Fat Tuesday tonight, but a couple center city jazz shows will warm up your Mardi Gras celebration. Over at Chris’ Jazz Cafe, the regional crew Hoppin’ John Orchesrta will take the stage for their annual throwdown. The New Orleans-style brass band mixes up traditional and vintage numbers with more contemporary vocal tunes and originals in the spirit of the big easy. Listen to their recent appearance on The Key Studio Sessions and get more information on the show here. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Aretha Franklin at Verizon Hall, Television at The TLA

Aretha Franklin | Photo via billboard.com
Aretha Franklin | Photo via billboard.com

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, comes to Verizon Hall tonight with her latest record in tow. Released in October, Aretha Franklin Sings The Great Diva Classics sees her taking on classics from Etta James’ “At Last” and Diana Ross’ “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to modern classics like Adele’s “Rolling In the Deep.” Here’s hoping some of her own signature songs wind up in the mix as well. Tickets are still available, and information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Continue reading →

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Tori Amos dazzles Verizon Hall with a career-spanning set

Tori Amos
Tori Amos | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

On Sunday night, Tori Amos took Broad Street by storm. At the nearly sold-out Verizon Hall, Amos, armed only with her Bosendorfer piano, a keyboard and an organ, unlocked her musical treasure-trove for a stirring 20-song set.

Theoretically touring behind her 2014 album Unrepentant Geraldines (she only played two tracks from the album), Amos dug deep into her catalog and her diverse musical interests. Continue reading →

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John Legend dazzles in a homecoming show at Verizon Hall

John Legend | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com
John Legend | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | michellemontgomeryphotography.com

R&B nine-time Grammy award-winning artist John Legend took the stage at Verizon Hall on Tuesday night. Playing a sold-out stripped-down acoustic set in support of his latest album, Love in the Future, Legend – who got his start as a musician locally while attending University of Pennsylvania – wooed the audience with his soulful, piano-driven performance, accompanied by a guitarist and a string quartet. Despite the large size of the performance hall, Legend’s frequent interactions with the audience made the show seem quite intimate. He was open to song requests, and he encouraged the audience to clap and sing along at points during the night.

Throughout the show, Legend shared several personal stories with the audience in between songs. At one point, he described his method of writing songs, stating that the music comes to him first, followed by gibberish placeholder vocals, and eventually the lyrics pieced together into a story to make a song. In addition to performing selections from his latest album as well as older favorites, Legend performed a couple powerful, yet delicate cover songs. He did Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” revealing that Springsteen requested that Legend perform his interpretation of this song at the 2013 MusiCares event honoring Springsteen himself. After sharing a story about how his grandmother had such a strong influence on his music, Legend dedicated a soulful rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in her memory. After a standing ovation, Legend closed the show with an encore performance of his smash hit “All of Me.” Check out photos from the show in the gallery below.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Mirah at Johnny Brenda’s, John Legend at Verizon Hall, Helms Alee at Boot and Saddle

Mirah | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com
Mirah | Photo by Chris Sikich | countfeed.tumblr.com

Fresh off her On the Hill Series session, Philly-born Portland-based acoustic singer/songwriter, Mirah, will play Johnny Brenda’s tonight. Her latest album, Changing Light, was released on May 13 via Absolute Magnitude.  You can find more info and tickets for the show here; below, revisit “Cold Cold Water” from her second LP Advisory Committee.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Benefit for Boston ft. Shorty Boy-Boy at North Star Bar, Steve Martin and Edie Brickell at Verizon Hall, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin at MilkBoy, Chris Forsyth at Ortliebs Lounge

Shorty Boy-BoyShorty Boy-Boy brings his dance beat, guitar savvy, unique pop sound to the North Star Bar tonight in support of the Benefit for Boston. Sharing the stage with The National Rifle and Cruiser, each $10 entrance fee will be donated to The One Fund for Boston Marathon victims. Learn more about and find tickets to tonight’s 21 and over show here. Listen and download Shorty Boy-Boys single, “New Yng Cute,” below.

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Travel through time with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (kicking off this Thursday, 3/28)

PIFAThe Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts gets underway this Thursday, March 28th and will run through April 27th.  With homebase returning to The Kimmel Center and a new theme of time travel this year, the month-long event will use performances, lectures and exihibitions to explore past moments in history including the discovery of America, the lunar landing and the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Below, check out a few musical highlights that you won’t want to miss, including a selection of free concerts happening in the Kimmel Center’s “Time Travel Plaza” (where you will also find a spiraling time machine).

Last Call at the Downbeat (4/5-4/13, Red Room at the Society Hill Playhouse):  Learn about Philadelphia’s jazz scene in the forties with this staged retrospective of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.  Watch a short video about the play from show producers Jazz Bridge below.

Prima! Rufus! Judy! (4/21, Verizon Hall): Rufus Wainwright reprises Judy Garland’s return to the stage with selections from her 1961 Carnegie Hall performance.  The evening will begin with excerpts from Wainwright’s own opera Prima Donna.  Watch Wainwright perform “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” below.

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Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers with Edie Brickell play Kimmel Center in June

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell have teamed up for an album called Love Has Come for You.  It drops April 23rd, but tickets to see them perform at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall went on sale this morning.  The show isn’t until June 27th, but the highly anticipated collaboration promises to attract a crowd.  As if Steve Martin and Edie Brickell aren’t enough, several other big names make an appearance on the record including Esperanza Spalding, Nickel Creek members Sara and Sean Watkins, and producer Peter Asher.  Tickets and information for the show are available here. Below, listen to a track from Steve Martin’s 2012 album Rare Bird Alert, and watch the music video for Brickell’s “Circle.”

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