Tag Archive | "concert"

Music Recap: Chance The Rapper and Hoodie Allen

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Music Recap: Chance The Rapper and Hoodie Allen


Throwback! Chance The Rapper and special guest Hoodie Allen took the stage at the MSU Auditorium on April 28. The event was organized by the MSU Residence Halls Association.

Keep an eye out for performers coming to East Lansing during the 2015-2016 academic year with the MSU University Activites Board and the MSU Residence Halls Association.

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Timeflies at the MSU auditorium

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Timeflies at the MSU auditorium


On December 6, Timeflies took the stage at the MSU auditorium. View photos here:

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Photos: Easton Corbin and Jana Kramer rock the auditorium

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Photos: Easton Corbin and Jana Kramer rock the auditorium


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Rich Homie Quan concert made MSU feel some type of way

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Rich Homie Quan concert made MSU feel some type of way


“Some Type of Way” has been the MSU football team’s anthem all the way to the Rose Bowl and back, but on March 11, Rich Homie Quan brought the feeling to East Lansing. At the MSU Auditorium, Rich Homie Quan and Kid Ink took the stage and gave students a show—he even got Coach Mark Dantonio to up on stage and dance.

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RHA concert brings together local and not-so-local bands

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RHA concert brings together local and not-so-local bands


The Residence Hall Association provided MSU students another rocking night on Nov. 17 with a free concert performed by the California band Mansions on the Moon. Students were also able to enjoy performances by local bands In Satori and Wayne Szalinski.  In case you missed it, check out Rachel Tang’s exclusive shots of the performance!

 

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Esperanza Spalding: Pop Goes Beauty and the Beast

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Esperanza Spalding: Pop Goes Beauty and the Beast


I don’t know if Esperanza Spalding is real. Surely the bassist-singer is real in the sense that I saw her and her badass band play the Wharton Center on Jan. 20th.  And surely she’s the “real deal,” attesting to any avocation of her sizable skills.  And yet, someone seemingly capable of anything cannot be, forgive me, genuinely real.

All bad jokes aside, it’s true that musically she’s got an unbelievable amount to offer (and her looks and personality don’t hurt either).  So like jazz guitarist George Benson in the 1970s, she has great crossover appeal.  But regardless of her being 26-years-young, or the fact that she’s played for the Obama White House and has taught at the prestigious Berklee College of Music since the age of 20 – making her the youngest faculty member in the history of the college – nor that she buoyantly sings in three languages (Portuguese, Spanish and English) and flirts with the music of Stevie Wonder and Wayne Shorter as much as she does with her audience, it could be said that Esperanza Spalding’s talent is almost too pronounced.  This is the only criticism I can give after coming away awestruck from her performance with a quartet that included pianist Leo Genovese, the Brazilian guitarist Riccardo Vogt and John Davis on drums.

They were absolutely superb, and her ebullient charisma was infectious.

Before anyone even played a note, her band mates already seemed to recognize the brilliance they were backing.  Silently they strolled onstage without her. The audience was at first coolly receptive.  Mr. Vogt began to quickly groove on three chords, and the piano and drums fell in line.  Esperanza entered after about a minute of this and sang to the crowd with open arms – “GOOD-EVENING.”  It was indeed a bold entrance, but one that taught us all a lesson – this was her show.  And why not?  If you can’t stop a shooting star, how do you stop a rising one?

The groove that Mr. Vogt had started developed into “I Adore You,” a composition from her 2008 album Esperanza. Essentially a Latin shuffle, the song was so ridiculously funky, with her soaring flute-like voice scatting up, down and around a beat that Mr. Davis began to stop and start at will; it ultimately exemplified her propensity to see what a musical neighborhood of Latin music, jazz-funk fusion and r&b/soul actually resembles. This neighborhood doesn’t yet have a name. Not that Esperanza cares.

Now hybridity can definitely be problematic, especially if it’s being touted as the “next-step” in, or “savior” of a musical genre.  All the same, Esperanza Spalding cooks up something different, something edible and indeed delectable; something with pop music plans.  Songs from Esperanza like “I Know You Know” and “Precious,” if not for their inherently syncopated rhythms, are sophisticated pop songs about love learned and love lost.  The grooves in these songs, and a new one called “Cinnamon Tree,” are ripped right from the fabric of popular music.  They aren’t simple, per se, but they’re laid-back and easy to digest as something other than the often fussy and stuffy jazz. Esperanza wants you to forget that she is a jazz musician. She is fresh. She doesn’t worry about boundaries because, as she told the audience, good music is “just about soul.”

All but one song off Esperanza and all but two songs from the two-hour live set had vocals. On record her voice is flawless, as if she is singing through a crystalline pipe, like on her version of Milton Nascimento’s Brazilian flavored “Ponta De Areia.” Live, she isn’t flawless; she’s fearless, and the difference lets her personality shine like the sun. The constant presence of her bona fide sirens’ call of a voice – high pitched, silvery and seductive –fluently beacons her irresistible personality. It juts out and cries. It simmers but doesn’t simmer down, and it never ever lags. So this is where her crossover appeal lies. She can be the next great bassist if she wants to (her stint with top-notch saxophonist Joe Lovano demonstrates this), but I think she’d rather be listened to as a soul sister able to thwack a bass figure than be revered like any first-rate 26-year-old Ron Carter or Dave Holland acolyte.

Esperanza prefaced her song “Precious” by mentioning that she had great aspirations to write a pop song. A pop song that would be sung by teenyboppers round the world and make her a millionaire from royalties.  A pop song for someone like Jay-Z or Beyoncé. Except her jazz upbringing kept getting in the way of this perfect pop song. For those of us who like their music to have a little bit of finesse, or be a little bit brainy (or dare I say jazzy?), we can be thankful for the verve and virtuosity of Esperanza Spalding.

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The Static Beauty Of Grizzly Bear

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The Static Beauty Of Grizzly Bear


On the heels of a two-month early album leak and the bubbly single, “Two Weeks,” Brooklyn indie rock band Grizzly Bear’s latest album, “Veckatimest,” burst into 2009 with an amount of praise comparable only to Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavillion.” The band played to an anxious Ann Arbor crowd Sept. 26 at the Michigan Theater.

Their previous album, “Yellow House,” was released in 2006. It was complex, stubborn and demanding; simultaneously a relic with a tale to tell and a newfangled toy completely engrossed in itself. Subtly subverting the pastoral music of a sepia-tinged backwoods past, “Yellow House” was a technological breakthrough, an album that could have only sounded like the past because it was made in the present. It is furthermore one of the most beautiful recordings I have heard in a long time.

Grizzly Bear ambled onto the Michigan Theater stage enclosed in a mock forest: large metal crosses hung lights in periodically twinkling glass jars, acting as dancing fireflies for the band’s spacious, open-air music. They then tore into ‘Southern Point,’ the lead track on “Veckatimest,” taking what was on record a knotty shuffle and shaking it laterally. It was off kilter, so close to surrendering to stability that I was positive someone had missed their cue. But no, this was how the band was going to play it live. And, even if they didn’t entirely stabilize, they found common ground to steadily wobble and occasionally soared. I enjoyed the lopsided arrangement tremendously. It felt bizarre and ready for a nosedive that it never actually took.

The rest of the performance of their “Veckatimest” material did not live up to that first song. This is not to say that their rendering of the album was inadequate or unconvincing. On the contrary, it was perfect. For music so insistent on a sort of innovative perfection, the band’s uphill grind through the album was note-for-note. It was flawless.

“Veckatimest” isn’t that much different than “Yellow House.” The haunting folk melodies in principal songwriters Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen’s songs, the psychedelic sonic trickery deployed by bassist/producer Chris Taylor and the wondrous group vocal harmonies are all still in attendance.

But despite my previous love of the band, I’m wondering now if they and the album are worthy of all the massive praise.

The beauty in Grizzly Bear’s music appears at first immanent; it’s practically impossible to escape from. Cascading melodies are stacked on top of each other like a puzzle. Sometimes sunny, sometimes celestial, but always bewitching harmonies are then affixed to the melodies like puzzle pieces. While nothing on “Yellow House” felt really precious or strained, look at those descriptors again. They don’t sound natural at all, and only after repeated listens to “Veckatimest” and a sitting through their Ann Arbor concert did the music become as tired and as a predetermined as a nap two weeks in the future. And their lyrics, even if they sparkled, were just worthless byproducts surrendering to all that was stringently tuneful. It’s in Grizzly Bear’s exacting efforts to be beautiful, or at the very least impressive, that they grow weary and I jaded.

Dubbing the band methodical doesn’t do them or the term justice. How about calling “Veckatimest ‘a brilliantly systematic venture to be brilliant.’ Too convoluted? Regardless, the album’s sizable proclamation of artistic importance requires numerous – all the way through – listens in order to retrieve Grizzly Bear’s gospel; the utter certainty that their faith in craftsmanship and perfectionism, while intellectually astounding, is physically and emotionally unfriendly. They sound like a band that felt obligated to make a masterpiece after an intriguing artistic statement. “Veckatimest” even seems to call attention to itself for doing so; in which case the band unquestionably tried way too hard.

And the concert: one big quasi-experimental, overly ornate, immaculate recreation of their albums (and my god was it as disadvantageously impressive as this sentence). With lofty intellectual objectives lacking any outspoken bodily ambitions, there was no wriggle room. It’s now virtually a prerequisite that each piece of the puzzle be kept relatively stationary so that all their ideas are made monstrously lucid. Live and on record, Grizzly Bear’s musical movement comes from their melodies and tacked on harmonies, not Chris Bear’s drumming; more used as an apostle of the band’s democracy, rather than a participant in it. Bear’s superbly adept drumming doesn’t conjure motion, or even rock the boat. Live, on “Veckatimest” track “Ready, Able” there was an unmistakable boat being rocked, but the spark of musical movement was exclusively gestured forward by shimmering guitars advancing and retreating, and a chorus constructed like a carousel (up and down we oscillate); not the drums, the bearer of the beat. Written in ¾ time, it was the most rhythmically propulsive song of the night, and also the most emblematic of Grizzly Bear’s thorn in my side because it went absolutely nowhere.

A few of the band’s other songs just plain wear out their welcomes in alike musical configuration. The minor key tunes “Little Brother,” “Fine For Now” and “I Live With You” are as impressive as anything Grizzly Bear has done, but they’re all structured in almost exactly the same fashion. (It should be noted that the version of “Little Brother” I am referring to is the live, electric version, and that the “Yellow House” version is much, much different.) Each begins pensively with Rossen’s strumming a darkened, smoky guitar; then enter some lyrics chiming and lifting from his tenor, and then a cacophonous to and fro chorus with gnarled, reverb-drenched guitars riffs restating the melody, only noisier, spelling out c-l-i-m-a-x. Once more, the rhythm in these songs is so overpowered by the blaring to and fro that Bear becomes just an opportunity to make the crescendo louder.

It just cannot be said though that these songs – or any of their songs – are bad in the same evaluative sense that one can say a song on the radio is ‘bad.’ There is too much forethought in every single thing the band attempts.

So then are any of my criticisms really knowing? If I can unequivocally state that quality has found its way into everything the band has produced, what does that mean for my assessment? What does it musically represent to declare Grizzly Bear’s performance amazingly dull? “Veckatimest” will most definitely be on a boatload of year-end best-of lists for all the same reasons I denounce it. Hell, I thought it was the best album of the year for about two weeks! I guess some other questions we need to be asking here is if it’s fair to criticize music for being too beautiful? too formal and inflexible as an assertion of artistic purpose? I say yes if that music is ostentatiously dressed for a wedding. In Ann Arbor, it was mostly the “Veckatimest” and not “Yellow House” tracks that were all dolled up but not prepared to dance. And just like a wedding, Grizzly Bear really is the best day of your life until you remember about tomorrow, and then it’s an indifferent blur. I still don’t know how to quantify that day. It simply left me cold.

Maybe I’m the one who’s too serious.

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