Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Concert Review: Phillip Phillips Takes Me Away

All he does is win, win, win...

(WEST PALM BEACH, FL) So, the lovely and talented Mrs Poo and I went to see our boy Phillip Phillips in concert with John Mayer at the Cruzan Amphitheater this past Sunday night, and what a kick ass show it was.

Well, that is aside from the ass raping we got from the Cruzan vendors charging $18 for Pina Coladas and $11 for beer. Thank God I had my trusty flask, lest I be writing this review from a local homeless shelter.

Anyway, back to the show.

Chillaxing in lawn seating has always been one of my favorite atmospheres for a concert. Sitting under the stars, enjoying tropical summer breezes with a good beer buzz,, thick plumes of gange providing a nice contact high, the smell of freshly cut grass mixed with jasmine providing a natural high... ahhh, it don't get no better than that, people.

Phillip seems to feel the same way, as he endearingly told us during his 55 minute set about how last time he was at the venue he was with us in the lawn, and can't believe he's now on the stage performing for us. Humble dude, and it seems very genuine.

Of course, he has plenty of temptations to be cocky, what with two multi-platinum singles (Home & Gone, Gone, Gone) from his newly certified platinum debut album, World From The Side Of The Moon. Thing is, he's still the "don't care do yaaaa" guy he was called back on his winning run on American Idol, and I highly doubt that grounded, regular guy will ever go away.

Speaking of Idol, make no mistake: Phillips has utterly OBLITERATED the bubble. In fact, my favorite story of the night personified this with an exclamation point. You see, in the beer line during the intermission after his set, a group of big, 20-something drunk guys were all singing Home together, beer cans aloft, and then high fiving each other about how Phillips ROCKS!!

Mayer wasn't kidding when he said Phillips blasted out of the Idol bubble in record time back on the opening night of the tour. I guarantee those beer line drunk dudes had no clue Phillips was ever on American Idol, and certainly weren't giggling because he was cute.

Fact is, the P2 flat out rocks the house live, and those who've bought his album, especially the Target Deluxe version, understand how far Phillips' style is from being just a Mumfordian folk picker. He's stylistically more of a blend between Bruce Springsteen in his prime (yes, I wore my "The New Boss" Phillips t-shirt to the show), Dave Mathews (with more growl and snarl), a rocked out Eminem and Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.

What was interesting to see is how into him the crowd was for an opening act. Usually, openers play before sparsely filled stands to a mingling crowd that hardly notices them. At best, they are given a smattering of polite applause. By the end of the set, the crowd is usually anxious for them to finish so they can see the headliner.

That was NOT the case at this show. Phillips and his band commanded the crowd's attention. People walking in to get situated were stopping to see what was going on, because the crowd was REALLY into him. Even in the casual lawn area, all eyes and ears were on Phillips. Very few minglers not paying attention, and if they were it wasn't for long. The "Mayer-Stan" girl in her very early 20's sitting next to us had never heard of Phillips, and when I saw her head bouncing along to his songs I asked her what she thought of him. She said, "I didn't know him before, but I guarantee I'll be getting to know him now. He's really good."

For me it was a perfect song list, opening with an energized Get Up Get Down, a KILLER, crowd pleasing version of Man On The Moon (why is this song not a single?), his very popular single Gone, Gone, Gone, his brand new (but secret) single Where We Came From (with a great, jazz jam finish), his now famous rock mashup of rap songs Lollipop/Lose Yourself/All I Do Is Win, and my favorite song of them all, Take Me Away, which he just SMOKED!

BTW, little ol' Kenny Poo twitter requested Phillip play Take Me Away, a song he doesn't perform live very often, and he came through for me. No clue if PP did so with Poo in mind, but I couldn't be happier that he did.

Of course, he finished with Home, which is I think the new National Anthem, or at least it should be. EVERYONE knows it and loves it, no matter how old or young. I can't think of another modern song with so many people of so many ages and backgrounds who love it and know every word.

After Phillip was done, we really enjoyed John Mayer's show and came away thinking the time is coming soon that Phillip will be headlining venues like these. Perhaps next spring/summer, when his 2nd album is released, he'll get to do a major venue headliner tour.

If so, maybe he can have my favorite jazz and blues rock babe, Miss Haley Reinhart, open for him? She just rocked out the Buffalo Grove music festival fronting one of Chicago's best blues/rock bands, Midnight, (which happens to be her parents band), and they really impressed (see: Haley and the Reinharts Rocked The Grove). Also, she already opened for P2 at a Hard Rock gig last year, and should have her new EP/album out by the spring. Her sexy, down to earth style would perfectly mesh with Phillip, so consider this a seed planted.

To finish up, I'll post two videos from the show to check out, one of which I self recorded from the lawn (Take Me Away) and the other a partial of his unbelievable mashup.

 Poo out!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Haley And The Reinharts Rock the Grove

My girl Haley Reinhart performed with her family band "Midnight" at the Buffalo Grove Days music festival near her hometown of Wheeling, Illinois last night. I wasn't there (it's a bit far from South Florida), but many of her most devoted fans (Haliens) from far and wide were in attendance, and generously uploaded videos of several performances from her set.

Now, I know what some people are thinking. I've read it on message boards and twitter, and it goes something like this: "Performing with her parents at small, local summer festival? What the hell happened to her. This is nothing to write about, it's just pathetic."

Well, pardon my French, but fuck you. You're making a snap judgment about her and this gig without knowing what the fuck you're talking about, so STFU and GTFO, you hateful, spiteful, negative, nasty, worthless piece of shit.

Too much? Sue me.

Haley's family band unquestionably brings out the best in her. Better than Casey, better than her other full band incarnations, better than the Idol band, and better than everything else she's done with a band, period, end of story.

Why was she so good with them? What made it different or special? It goes beyond nurture and love, also has a lot to do with rehearsal, repetition and preparation.

Haley's parents have had their own band for over 30 years, and are consummate professionals. Her father, Harry, is an expert blues rock guitarist whose musical influence on Haley cannot be overstated. Her mother, Patti, has always been the lead vocalist of the band, and inspired her incredibly talented and gorgeous daughter to follow the same career path. Even little sister Angie got in on the act, singing backup and no doubt providing comfort to her big sis. With this family support, Haley has been able to take her natural gifts to incredible highs, and that was evidenced by the brilliant show at The Grove.

To consistently gel and perform at the top of her game with confidence, Haley, like everyone else, needs practice and discipline. However, being free spirited by nature, she often seems to procrastinate and rely on talent to bail her out. Because of this, she's had mixed results on stage, at times looking like a star, and others appearing awkward, flustered and prone to gaffs. Only when performing jazz, a genre that rewards improvisation, and is her natural vocal element, has she been able to find comfort zone and get lost in the music.

That all changed at the Grove. She was a pro. She sounded great. She had confidence. She was prepared. She knew the cues. She knew the words. She knew her shit. That released her to be Haley at her very best, because she didn't have to think too much. She just let loose, trusted herself, trusted the band, and it really helped restore my belief in her that she has what it takes to become a highly respected artist in the music world.

Contrast that when Haley performs with her BFF Casey. While I love the chemistry they perform with together, and enjoy that she has fun on stage with him, and like the jazzy musical influence he provides, she frequently seems like she's joking around and winging it with him on stage instead of digging in and delivering like a pro. Fun on stage is great when it's about getting lost in the music and jamming out, and sometimes they have that, but when they don't it's a distraction that can make her appear unprofessional.

Look, I think Casey is a great guy, a great friend, and a great musician, but he seems equally free spirited and unstructured, and I don't think that helps Haley. I really dig them together in doses, but not as a career path.

The ideal scenario for Haley is finding a team around her that gives her the necessary nurturing, structure and discipline she needs to be great. A small label that's very hands on would help. Until that time, maybe she should do some touring with her parents band. She badly needs to gig more, so how about Haley and The Reinharts hit the road, Jack? Not sure if that's doable financially, but Haley really thrives with them, so why not?

RECAP: Great show, great band, and Haley proved without a doubt that she's the real deal with star power when in the right environment. Below is the video of her new song "Better", which she debuted at the concert. I seriously dig it, especially the a Capella intro and intense finish, and think you'll see what I mean about the killer job Haley and the Reinharts delivered gigging at the Grove. Let it loop and you'll get to enjoy a full playlist of Haley music from HaleysTusk, a superfan who has become Haley's unofficial videographer.