Friday, June 21, 2013

Worldwide Warriors: The Party and the Jack

Time for a special edition from yours truly. I say special edition, because this isn't something I was actually going to write about. But enough people have asked me, so here it is. Time for my take on last nights concert! From the get go, I have to admit this isn't my style of music as many of you know. So I'll do my best to remain objective.
Ticket to the show!
So my wife is a fan, and really wanted to go see Pitbull. Being the kind of hubby that I am, I bought tickets. The headliners for this tour of course being Pitbull & Kesha. The people that are touring with them are Justice Crew and Jump Smokers. So before I get into Pitbull & Kesha, let me get the negatives out of the way.
Isleta Amphitheater, Albuquerque, NM on the lawn
The show opened with Justice Crew. For those who don't know, myself being one until last night, Justice Crew is a hip-hop/dance group out of Australia. Holy cow! I cannot explain how far up the ladder of garbage this group is. First off, they didn't come out to a song of their own. They looked like a group of wannabe strippers concentrating more on remembering their choreography, than actually trying to dance. It was horrible. Not only that, but the lack of commitment was sad. They'd poorly perform through a section of a song, then stop for some unpracticed banter that came off like they were reading it from a cue card for the first time. While I'm sure they have some sort of talent somewhere in there, it just wasn't seen at all last night. The dancer on a sheet of cardboard outside the local Walmart is more entertaining than this group of aspiring artists. Keep practicing guys, you need it! To end the pain, they finally performed a single of their own. It sounded like a rip off that was stuck between Nsync and Justin Bieber. Aside from the teenage girls who don't know any better, the audience just didn't care by that point. Everyone was looking for a new drink, or waiting in line for the restroom. For this segment I give it two thumbs down, and a huge yawn. 

Next on the list of, "What were you thinking?" is the filler that came out between Kesha & Pitbull. A couple of DJ's that call themselves Jump Smokers. I'm still trying to figure out how the heck these idiots are classified as a band. They came out and did a club set that was 100% was I hear on the local radio stations at night. Original? A far screaming cry from it. Aside from a couple of record scratches here and there, and one of them wanting to talk about a dance party like they were at a middle school dance, it was literally just a radio set. I mean, I paid good money to see a show. Where's the show? A couple of lights, and laptop next to a turn table while some idiot is blabbing away to put your hands in the air is not a show, let alone a band. This was the set that really showed who the school kids were. I honestly believe this actually took away from the show. We're not talking about giving a break to some up and comers to try to do something like Justice Crew. We're talking about bonafide DJ's. They belong in a local dance hall, not the big stage. If they truly wanted some decent DJ's to act as a filler, I'd have recommended they take a look at EDC, Ultra Music Fest, etc to see who could actually keep the energy pumping and not sound like a radio jockey on the AM band. Not only do I give this segment two thumbs down, but a flaming bag of dog poo!

Now, on to the our headliners!

Kesha came out first of course. Lighting was good. Sound was pretty solid. Props were good. Costumes were well done. What took away from it was the fact it was still so bright out. It really toned down the lights, glitter, props, etc. And there were a ton. Her costume revealed a lot of skin, but was still a prop in itself which is a nice change from the typical hooker look that so many go for anymore. You could tell she gained a little weight, which is definitely to her benefit as she looks a lot better with it. I hope she keeps it. What's more is that when she actually opened her mouth, you could tell it was her. You could tell when she was actually singing, opposed to her background vocal tracks. And she did try to get the audience engaged. Some dialog here, some actual engagement there, some story telling to set the stage for the next song. It was there. You could tell she's still working on fully getting the audience involved, but the effort was there. In a nice twist she'd insert something random into some of her songs, such as flat out saying what something was instead of using the metaphor that her lyrics actually used. Sometimes it hit the mark, other times not so much, yet others I think was more to try catching the audience with their guard down and shocking them. You could tell that once she warmed up though, she and her dancers were having some fun. It added some comedy when a couple of her props didn't work quite right, and when a dancer, who was probably blinded by the big mascot style head he was wearing tripped, and took her down with him. She laughed it off and was back into the song quickly, which was great. She even had good fillers while changing her costume. 

Kesha nearing the end of her set
While not her fault, I think where her set fell flat is that the audience had already used up its first wind with the disappointing opener and hadn't quite gotten it's second wind when she took the stage. Also, there were bits where she was playing guitar that just didn't seem right. To explain you had this "recording" perfect jam that seemed more like she was pretending to play over a pre-recorded track. While everyone is used to her being totally auto-tuned as well, the sound mixers had their work cut out for them trying to keep her sounding just right as well. Other than those couple of things, she did well and will get better moving forward. Two thumbs up. 
Now for Pitbull. The audience absolutely had its second wind when he made it to the stage. I was actually very surprised by his live performance, and have to give him big kudos for it. His energy alone actually reminded me of Angus Young's as there was no stopping him while he was out there. He was moving, dancing, jumping, the stage was a playground, and he owned it. He was all over the place. His voice was obviously not a recorded track. When he sang you knew it, just like when he rapped you knew it. And he stayed engaged with the audience. Story telling, knowing where he was, etc. He was in the moment and you could tell in was genuine, which isn't always seen in any genre of music. Lighting was amazing, lasers, strobes, LED's on the stage, props, and more. And in a bright rainbow of colors. His dancers were changing costumes faster than Las Vegas show girls, at a pace that even Bette Midler would have gasped at. Which brings us to an area of concern I had going in. As many of you know, he has few songs that are just him. Most are collaborations with other artists. Artists that are not on the road with him. The recordings of those artists spots were crisp, clear, and amazing. Sometimes he'd even have their parts from the music videos up on the Jumbotron. Other times, he'd have his actual video's playing on the screen, such as his Men In Black 3 track, but he still performed his part live, not giving over to the lip syncing. It was done so well, that you would have actually thought those artists were there. In addition, for the most part he didn't use his videos, but rather had different effects, lighting, and visuals playing instead. Confetti flew all over. And the biggest pop I could give is for his use of actual musicians. It wasn't just the dance beats that comprise so much of his work. Instead, he had a different feel altogether. A guitarist, percussionists, keyboardists, and even a sax were put to use creating a better sound than you'll find on his albums. They even riffed a few riffs paying tribute to the likes of GNR, Ozzy, Survivor, and the Beastie Boys. A pleasant surprise indeed. Two thumbs up, and a standing ovation. 
A blurred shot of Pitbull. My phone just couldn't keep up with the lighting changes and flashes.
With the lights, lasers, glitz and glam, the venue was wrong. Overall it should have been an indoor venue. Even after dark, the lights were just absorbed and lost by our desert. Had it been at an indoor venue, it really would have added that extra something to the experience. But overall the headliners did well and made me feel like I got my money's worth. Good job guys.

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