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Tonight’s Concert Picks: The Shining Backwards and Forwards w/ live score by Psychic Teens, Tim Motzer and Bart Miltenberger Duo at Boot and Saddle

Photo by John Berry via facebook.com/psychicteensnetwork
Photo by John Berry via facebook.com/psychicteensnetwork

Just when you thought The Shining couldn’t get anymore classically creepy, it does. Tonight at PhilaMOCA as part of the Cinedelphia Film Festival, the 1980 horror classic will be projected forwards and backwards simultaneously on one screen creating an even more chilling experience for the audience. This idea originally comes from John Fell Ryan’s work with Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater and later from a 2012 documentary Room 237. To top things off, Philly goth punks Psychic Teens will perform a live score to accompany the film. Watch their video for “LESS” below and get tickets here.

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We Exist: The arena art-rock of Arcade Fire proves compelling at Wells Fargo Center

Arcade Fire | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com
Arcade Fire | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Could they pull it off? That seemed to be the question on the minds of the music community when Arcade Fire announced a winter arena tour in support of its 2013 double LP Reflektor. Could musicians that got their start ten years ago as a small-scale indie art-rock band with massive ambition finally bring their show to an arena-sized audience? Was the group ready for a production of this scale? Were that many people willing to travel with them down the heady rabbit hole of Reflektor, a surrealist patchwork commenting on modern life in a disconnected world?

Despite an initially positive critical reception to the album’s release, there was a noticeable backlash – Arcade Fire and frontman Win Butler were dismissed in some circles as pretentious. Their SNL appearance had viewers scratching heads. Their tongue-in-cheek “formal attire required” caveat for the tour was viewed (by evidently humorless commentators) as a serious demand. And ticket sales proved slow in venues of this size, with several markets (including Philadelphia) resorting to a Groupon campaign to urge them along.

But when Arcade Fire took the stage at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center last night, all that baggage went away. The band’s two-hour set was compelling, sharply executed and endlessly creative. And the crowd, though not a sellout, was a strong turnout, filling the arena up through the rafters with many taking part in the masquerade ball / formal attire end of things. (More on that later.)

Arcade Fire | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com
Arcade Fire | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Arcade Fire took advantage of the full span of the arena’s floor, with Butler emerging on a mini stage near the soundboard for a sparse rendition of Neon Bible‘s “My Body is a Cage” (illuminated with a human disco ball, the Reflektor of the album’s title). As the full band kicked in on the final crescendo, he scurried around the arena’s perimeter and hit the stage to the disco bump of “Reflektor.” From there, it was a strong opening sequence, with the groovy dub of “Flashbulb Eyes” leading into back-to-back jams from 2004′s Funeral, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” and “Rebellion (Lies),” with thousands of voices singing along to a euphoric conclusion.

A pause for band and crowd to catch their collective breath gave us a chance to reflect (har, har) on what we’d seen. When he wasn’t playing guitar, bass or piano, Butler was working the crowd, grasping hands – but also snatching the smart phones from the outstretched arms of fans attempting to capture the moment. “What if the camera really do steal our soul?” he sang staring straight into someone’s screen during “Flashbulb,” and the point was clear. Put away the phones, put away Facebook; unplug and be here in the moment. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Arcade Fire at Wells Fargo Center, A Winged Victory for the Sullen at First Unitarian Church, and The Internet at the TLA

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Celebrating their fourth album Reflektor, indie rock heavyweights Arcade Fire will light up the Wells Fargo Center stage tonight. With three years separating each of their LP releases, the band hasn’t rushed to maintain momentum due to success and critical acclaim. They take their time when it comes to new material. After releasing Reflektor and scoring Spike Jonze’s Her, the band is bigger now than ever before. Watch them perform “Afterlife” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon below and get tickets here.

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Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 tour dazzles at the Wells Fargo Center

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

Anyone in search of evidence that Justin Timberlake has far surpassed his boy band roots needed look no further than last night’s ecstatic performance at the Wells Fargo Center.

Bringing the tail end of his 20/20 Experience Tour back to the venue that launched it in November, the singer / dancer / style icon / born entertainer dazzled a capacity crowd with a nearly two and a half hour set of theatrical proportions. The show was rich in production value: eye-grabbing projections on a mammoth acoustical shell, a backing band lined up behind sharp “JT” bandstands, a nimble crew of dancers, a catwalk that moved from one side of the venue to the other on a hydraulic lift. But the impressively-crafted setlist was the centerpiece – pop jam after rapid-fire pop jam. Even when it seemed to relent, during the cluster of ballads at the top of the show’s third act, it nevertheless felt like boom, there’s a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” that reels everybody back in.

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

Timberlake released his third solo record – from which the tour borrows its name – almost a year ago, and it made clear his desire to break the pop music mold. If 2002′s Justified was the performer signaling that he could do it alone outside of his formative N*Sync, and 2006′s Future Love/Sex Sounds was his asserting of a nightclub-fuled dance aesthetic to break from his bubblegum past, 20/20 showed that Timberlake wasn’t just some chump with an entourage and a record deal, he was a musician with expansive songs and unconventional sonic-textural ideas, a pop player with a bona fide artistic vision. It’s a point hammered perhaps a bit too hard in the album and tour’s heavy use of Phoropter-related imagery, but still, it’s the songs that do it.

Opening number “Pusher Love Girl” stretched out over ten minutes, Timberlake rising to the stage backed by silhouettes of a string section. It wasn’t totally clear whether the orchestra was real or just projected, but the 15 backing players that rose to the stage with him (trombone, tuba, trumpet, guitar, keys, etc.) were very much real, and totally sharp players to boot.

Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com
Photo by Rachel Del Sordo | racheldelsordo.tumblr.com

As the song played out, Timberlake danced to the front and worked the crowd beneath, then rushed up to either end of the catwalk, greeting fans in the lower-level seats as elaborate choreography with six backup dancers ushered him from place to place. The song cut to silence, and Timberlake stood in a spotlight, basking in a solid thirty seconds of screams. Clearly, this crowd needed no winning over.

But he continued to work it – “It’s about 9.7 rigt now. We’re gonna turn it up to 10″ – dropping the ultra-sexy “Rock Your Body” and melding it into the crackling audio collage of “Don’t Hold The Wall.” Continue reading →

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Photos: Kings of Leon brought rock city to the Wells Fargo Center

KingsOfLeon-31
Kings of Leon | Photo by Michelle Montgomery | www.michellemontgomeryphotography.com

Tennessee rockers Kings of Leon returned to Philadelphia, playing a monster 27-song set at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday night. On tour in support of their sixth album, Mechanical Bull, the Nashville band of brothers showcased music from across their catalog for an amped-up crowd. Check out a gallery of photos from the show below, and read the setlist after the jump.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kings of Leon with Gary Clark, Jr. at the Wells Fargo Center, Anders Osborne at World Cafe Live

Kings of Leon | photo courtesy of the artist
Kings of Leon | photo courtesy of the artist

Kings of Leon take over the Wells Fargo Center tonight, with support from blues rock musician Gary Clark, Jr.  The Tennessee natives (and family band) released their sixth studio record Mechanical Bull in September.  XPN Fest alum Gary Clark, Jr. has been getting a lot of mileage out of his 2012 LP Blak and Blu, winning a Grammy Award for the Best Traditional R&B performance with his song “Please Come Home” earlier this year.  Tickets and information can be found here. Check out Kings of Leon’s video for “Beautiful War” below.

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The New Sinatra: Jay Z captivates a near-capacity crowd at the Wells Fargo Center

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

There are few artists, bar any genre, who can command a stage and engage a crowd like Jay Z. At this point in his career, based on performances like last night, and the breadth of his dozen studio albums, it’s clear that he ranks right up there with the greats like Bruce Springsteen and U2.

Last night at the Wells Fargo Center, undistracted by fancy stage sets or costume changes, Jay relied on the his strengths to captivate the near-capacity crowd. Standing center stage, Jay delivered a handful of songs from Magna Carta Holy Grail, and more than a handful of classics. The man’s got a deep catalogue and hit on classics like “99 Problems,” “Dead Presidents,” “Big Pimpin,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “U Don’t Know.”

One of Jay Z’s smartest career moves was to learn how to play his music with a band (see the MTV Unplugged from 2001 that he recorded with The Roots). The four piece that backed him last night included producer and DJ Timbaland on keyboards and programming, drummer Tony Royster Jr., and Philadelphians Omar Edwards on keyboards and guitarist/bassist Clay Sears. They were stellar, efficient and rocking through out the entire show and really brought to life the new material they played from Magna Carta Holy Grail. Jay turned “Holy Grail” into a massive stadium sing along. They dug deep into the grooves on “Somewhere In America,” “Tom Ford,” and “Picasso Baby.” Their playing on “Oceans,” the song that features Frank Ocean, lifted the song to an emotionally intensity.

Jay Z and Timbaland | Photo by John Vettese

Midway through the show, Jay left the stage, allowing Timbaland to perform a short DJ set that featured a medley of hits that he produced for other musicians and was followed by one of the highlights of the show – a cameo appearance from Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill. Meek performed “Ima Boss” and completely brought the house to an emotional high. His explosive energy lifted the show into high gear and left the stage to voluminous applause.

Jay took over from there, running through material from some of his collaborations including the hip-hop classics “Clique,” (from the G.O.O.D. Music Cruel Summer album) and “Ni**as in Paris,” (from his collaboration with Kanye West, Watch The Throne). Just a couple of minutes after the lights went down, Jay came out and encored with some of his most popular songs: “Encore,” “PSA,” “Empire State of Mind” – during which he kept yelling “Philly!” “Philly!” – “Izzo (H.O.V.A), “Public Service Announcement,” and he ended with “Young Forever,” which he dedicated to Nelson Mandela.

For two and a half hours, Jay more than lived up to his boast of “I’m the new Sinatra.”