Year in Concerts 2015

I had fun doing a little recap of all my concerts last year, that I wanted to do another one for this year’s many concerts.

1. PENTATONIX – On My Way Home Tour

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When I went to see these guys, I went with an old friend of mine and he said something along the lines of “Isn’t it funny that we’re seeing a group who will sound exactly like the CD?” Legit question because of course, these guys are acapella. What else were we supposed to expect from them at a live concert? And you know what? They delivered a concert, as if they were any other musical act, and just doing their thing. Unfortunately, short people problems so I had a tough time actually SEEING them but still a fun time. I hope next time to come to Toronto, they do the show at Massey Hall, which would be SO PERFECT for them with the acoustics and everything.

2. MAROON 5 – V Tour

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Can you believe this was my 8th time seeing these guys in concert? As always though, the concert never felt long enough, especially considering they are five albums in. I love them dearly, but I’d be happy if they went back to basics on their next album/tour. They put on a great show regardless and makes me a happy fan every time I see them (even if they don’t play my favourite ‘non-M5 but still sung by Adam Levine’ song, “Lost Stars”)

3. JESSIE J – Sweet Talker Tour

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A sign of my skills lacking this year in the concert department, I totally didn’t hear about Jessie J touring. When I finally found out, tickets to the Toronto show was sold out. As luck would have it though, the venue released more tickets a week before the show. DONE! First time seeing Jessie in concert and she did not disappoint at all. I mean, the girl was battling a cold and still KILLED IT with the vocals.

4. THE SCRIPT – No Sound Without Silence Tour

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It has been four years since I last saw The Script in concert. Partially my fault because I didn’t particularly like their #3 album. But in my opinion, No Sound Without Silence was a return to form and I couldn’t miss them coming through Toronto. Great guys, putting on a great show.

5. KELLY CLARKSON – Piece by Piece Tour

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I made it a point to avoid all Toronto traffic this summer because of the PanAm games and knowing that traffic was going to be crazy. My exception was to see Kelly. Not to mention, Pentatonix was opening for her. I thought I was safe heading into the city on the last day of the games but no such luck there. I missed PTX and made it JUST in time to see Kelly. Also, because the show was at the Molson Amphitheater, concerts have to end at a certain time, meaning judging by the setlists of other cities, we got gypped of three songs. Besides all the crummy stuff, it’s effin’ KELLY CLARKSON; she kills it every time. AND she did “Heartbeat Song” with PTX, so I didn’t miss them entirely.

6. KATE VOEGELE & TYLER HILTON

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What’s a year without seeing Tyler Hilton these days? This time, he was joined by another One Tree Hill alum, Kate Voegele! Both very chill music artists and as much as I love the big shows with full band and all that, sometimes all I need is an acoustic show like this one.

7. JANET JACKSON – Unbreakable Tour

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Janet is a complete legend, so who am I to miss out on seeing her perform her greatest hits and new material?

8. MATT NATHANSON

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At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s obvious how much I love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert. Even moreso when he does an acoustic show like this one. For added fun, Matt brought along a Wheel of Songs (see picture)! Songs from all his albums, as voted by fans, were put onto the wheel and fate (sometimes with a little help from Matt lol) decided some of the songs Matt would play. Like I said, fun times!

9. JAMES BAY 

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I got to end off my year going to see one of my favourite new artists this year, James Bay! I once again suffered through going to the Sound Academy (a terrible Toronto concert venue) to see James, only because I had missed him coming through town twice before this year. Again, short people problems, and I couldn’t fully enjoy the concert as a result.

It was once again a great year for concerts; majority of them being relatively inexpensive ones at that! With such a busy concert year, I’m surprised I still got in some travel, two Cons (SDCC and Heroes/Villains Fan Fest), TIFF, and two other shows (Shaping Sound, Cinderella the Musical). Now it’s still too early to call, but I’m guessing that next year won’t be so concert-busy. Trust me though, that’s a good thing, as I’m still planning to do SDCC (even though I didn’t get pre-reg badges) and I’ve got a New York trip on deck as well. So lots of fun times are still to be had in 2016!

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Music Monday: My Year in Concerts

As a music fan, I’ve always loved going to concerts. There’s just something about hearing music live that just makes me so happy and feels like everything is right in the world, if only for a couple hours. So for this Music Monday, I thought I’d feature the concerts I went to this year.

1. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience Tour

JT 2020 Tour

I wrote about my thoughts on this tour back when I saw it, but let me repeat – my dancer’s heart loved every single minute of it.

2. Lady AntebellumTake Me Downtown Tour

Lady Antebellum Take Me Downtown Tour

I’m very limited in my tastes when it comes to country music. Country pop I can deal with to an extent; I can’t handle real southern country twang. When I first heard Lady Antebellum, it was when they released ‘Need You Now’ and I remember thinking these guys are really cool and sound really great. I quickly became a fan, to say the least. After missing out on their Own the Night tour (which I’m still kinda bummed about because I absolutely LOVED that album), I had to make sure I got to see them the next time they were in town, which was for this tour. Though to be honest, I felt really out of place at the concert. Being a minority and a generally awkward person, I’m typically used to feeling out of place. For some reason, I felt VERY odd being one of few Asians at a country music concert (and not wearing plaid – believe me, there was A LOT of plaid). My being-out-of-place aside, Lady A are wonderful live and it was a great concert overall.

3. Gavin DeGraw

Gavin DeGraw

For years, a friend and I had complained about Gavin not doing a show in Toronto. Lucky us this year, he did 2 separate shows. This first show he did was a solo show in support of his Make A Move album. I remember still being sick/jet-lagged from my trip, but I still had so much fun seeing Gavin perform. His opening acts were Rozzi Crane (signed to Adam Levine’s label) and Parachute (a pop-rock band I’ve followed for some time now), both of whom were really solid.

4. Justin Nozuka

Justin Nozuka

It had been years since I’d last seen Justin Nozuka in concert and when I found out he was releasing a new album and coming back to Toronto, I jumped right on it. Personally, I don’t really like the new album; it’s a little too mellow for my tastes. And most of the concert was comprised of the new material so I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more of the old stuff. I still cherished him performing ‘After Tonight’ midway through the show; it was quite a pick-me-up that got everybody grooving and singing along. I just wish there was a little more of it.

5. Michael Buble – To Be Loved Tour

Michael Buble To Be Loved Tour

I love seeing Michael Buble in concert. I always say this but when you go see him, you get a little bit of a comedy show as well. It’s his natural sense of humour and self-deprecation. Once again, he brought out Naturally 7 (a very cool acapella group) as his opening act, and who later returned to do a couple songs acapella with Michael. And one of my favourites parts of the show was actually when Michael performed part of a song by himself, with no accompaniment and no mic – a feat all in itself considering he was playing in a huge arena.

6. Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw

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I always love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert (this was my 5th time seeing him) and add to that, getting to see Gavin for a second time within 3 months? Yeah, it was a no brainer. Despite the fact that the show was at the Sound Academy, a venue in Toronto I have associated with bad memories. Even so, I had to go see this double headlining tour of two of my favourites. My friend and I actually got lucky and received a VIP upgrade when we got there, allowing us to go to the second floor of the club. But after about 20 minutes upstairs, we made our way back down to stand with the masses; it just felt weird standing up top and what’s the point of VIP if you don’t even get to meet the artists? Regardless of that, it was a fantastic show!

7. Tyler Hilton

Tyler Hilton

It wasn’t that long ago that my friends and I complained about Tyler never playing a show in Toronto, despite the fact that he was constantly in the area (his now fiancé, Megan Park, is from London, Ontario). Since seeing him in 2012 for the first time, this was show number 5. I remember Tyler was actually battling a bit of a cold and kinda losing his voice, but he powered through his (albeit shortened) set. AND to make up for the fact that he didn’t do as long a set as he normally does, he agreed to do a meet and greet, taking pictures with fans.

8. Jason Mraz and Raining Jane

Jason Mraz & Raining Jane

For his new album Yes!, Jason Mraz worked exclusively with a wonderfully talented female band, Raining Jane. It was more a collaborative album than a simple Jason Mraz album. That being said, the two took the album on the road, and I got the chance to see them at the historic Massey Hall. Massey Hall is a venue that is known for its amazing acoustics and ended up being a fantastic place for Jason and Jane.

9. Kris Allen and Boyce Avenue

Kris AllenTechnically, it was Boyce Avenue’s show, with Kris Allen supporting, but I was there to go see Kris since I had yet to see him live in concert. Plus, I wasn’t going to say no to a $30 concert ticket. Kris’ set was a short 45 minutes but he managed to squeeze quite a number of songs from all three albums, plus a couple cover songs (Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ and Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me’). ‘Monster’, a song from his 2nd album, is one of my favourites from Kris, but man, to hear it live? Kris and his band took it to another level. I even went so far as to compare it to hearing Maroon 5 perform ‘Sweetest Goodbye’ (my absolute favourite M5 song) live. Pure perfection. As for Boyce Avenue, I was familiar with their cover songs but not their original material. Honestly, I thought their originals were a little blah, and I actually got a little bored hearing them perform. Talented guys, just not into them.

10. Justin TimberlakeThe 20/20 Experience Tour (again!)

JT 20/20 TourIt only seemed appropriate that I end my concert year the same way I started it – seeing JT. The guy never ceases to amaze me and I always have SO much fun at his shows. I feel like I’m just gushing at this point, but what can I say, I’m a dancer at heart and loved singing/dancing along.

With 10 concerts, I feel like that’s the most shows I’ve ever been to in a year, and that’s not even including theatre shows, plus TIFF and SDCC. At this point, concert-going is like my life, so I can’t even keep track anymore. Here’s to another fun-filled, musical year in 2015!

Pop Cultured Summer 2014

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Summer is officially upon us. Sure, by the time May rolled around, Hollywood had already deemed it as summertime, based on the number of blockbusters we already got treated with. (For what it’s worth, how AWESOME was X-Men: Days of Future Past?!) For this avid TV fan, May marked the end of the regular TV season, so summer tends to slow down just the slightest bit, but there’s still so much to watch/see/do. So here is what I’m looking forward to this summer in movies, music, and yes, TV.

JUNE

  • 22 Jump Street: LOVED the first movie and seriously could not wait to watch this one.22 Jump Street
  • Suits S4: The student becomes the master and now it’s Harvey versus Mike. It’s undoubtedly weird to not see the two working alongside each other, but man have they set up some interesting dynamics to work with now that Mike is no longer with Pearson Specter.
  • Graceland S2: From Mike Ross to Mike Warren. I loved watching this show last summer and so happy to see it back this summer. This time, Mike’s got the whole house working to help him on a case.
  • Covert Affairs S5: What happens now that Annie Walker is no longer a “dead” rogue agent? I can’t wait to find out.
  • Michael Buble concert: I last saw Michael Buble in concert about 4 years ago. It was actually the first time I had seen him and was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had at it. Come for the music, stay for the added comedy show.

JULY

  • San Diego Comic Con!: SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED! I had so much fun last year with it being my first time, I am determined to have even more fun this year.
  • Matt Nathanson & Gavin DeGraw concert: After having complained before about not having seen Gavin DeGraw in concert, this will be the 2nd time this year that I get to see him. The fact that he’s touring with one of my personal concert faves Matt Nathanson is just icing on the cake. Guaranteed to be a great show.Matt&Gavin
  • Jason Mraz “Yes!” album: Why wouldn’t I be excited about a new Jason Mraz album? This one just happens to be a little extra special in that he worked on the album with a group of supremely talented female musicians, Raining Jane.
  • Lucy: The one movie this month that I’m quite excited about is this one, starring Scarlett Johansson as a woman who is accidentally caught in a dark deal that has turned her into a superhuman. Every once in a while it’s nice to see a movie that isn’t a remake, adaptation or sequel.
  • Extant: Halle Berry makes her foray into TV this series, starring as an astronaut who is trying to readjust to life on Earth after a year in space. Her experiences in the past year however, might now change the course of history.
  • Witches of East End S2: What happens to the Beauchamp ladies now that Dash and Killian’s powers have reappeared after the death of their mother and Joanna’s son has crossed realms? Frankly, I can’t wait to find out.
  • The Strain: Guillermo del Toro’s take on vampires is going to be interesting and probably scary horrifying.
  • Begin Again: I saw this movie, when it was called Can A Song Save Your Life? at the Toronto International Film Festival last September. Since then, I have been waiting anxiously to not only see the movie again but finally own the soundtrack. I LOVE the music in this movie and it’s been killing me not having the songs. Soon enough…

AUGUST

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon, Vin Diesel as Groot – what’s not to get excited about? Previews for the movie make it seem a lot more light and fun than all the other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and here’s hoping it’s as good as it seems.Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Movie-Production-Art
  • The F-Word (aka What If? in the U.S.): Daniel Radcliffe stars in this Canadian-made romantic comedy about a guy who seemingly meets the love of his life. The catch? She’s already got a boyfriend so they strike up a friendship instead. See, the F-word in question is friend, as in “the friend zone.” Silly Americans changing the name of the movie for nothing.
  • Step Up All In: Yes, this is the 5th movie in the Step Up series. This one includes actors/dancers from all the previous ones, though don’t be expecting to see Channing and Jenna (unless of course they do a super secret cameo). And let’s be real, I’m just a sucker for amazing dancing.

That’s what I’m looking forward to this summer, in a nutshell. What is everybody looking forward to?

Justin Timberlake Brings It on The 20/20 Experience Tour

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I am an unabashed Justin Timberlake fan. Musically, he can do no wrong. His concerts are top to bottom amazing and they are my reason for going to concerts in the first place. The first real concert I attended (and by that I mean non-Vietnamese) was the Justin Timberlake & Christina Aguilera – Justified + Stripped Tour, which also had the Black Eyed Peas as the opening act. To this day, that is still my favourite concert line-up: LOVE JT, BEP were getting popular thanks to “Where Is the Love?” and their album “Elephunk”, and this concert is what made me a Christina fan. The second time I saw Justin was during the 1st leg of the FutureSex/LoveShow Tour. The show was over 2 1/2 hours with a short intermission that consisted of Timbaland DJ-ing; in total, 3 hours+ of almost non-stop music. I mean, there was maybe a 10 minute break between the opening act (Pink) and Justin – that rarely happens these days. That show just blew my mind that I went to see it again during the 2nd leg of the tour; it is also the standard to which I judge all other concerts I go to now. Last summer, I saw Justin team-up with Jay-Z for the Legends of the Summer Tour, and though I had problems with the staging (particularly from where I was sitting), they put on such a great show – performing together, mashing-up each others’ songs – that I forgot about it and just enjoyed those 2 1/2 hours of music.

Which brings me to this past Thursday, where I got to witness The 20/20 Experience Tour in person at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. That entire day leading up to the concert, nothing could get me down because I was just so freaking excited to see Justin do his thing, knowing that he was mixing up the old songs with tracks off his past two albums, and getting to see some amazing dancing. And seriously, as much as I love the music, I LOVE the dancing. Inexplicably, dance has always been a part of me and I have always loved it. I am not a great dancer by any means, but I’d like to think that I’m at least decent (I was a part of my high school dance crew and they must’ve had reason to keep me or even let me on in the first place). Every once in a while I’ll even find myself making up choreography in my head for songs I love, even though I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Anyways, back to the point, I was just SO excited to see everything and man, Justin really does not disappoint. I don’t know why I say that like I’m surprised because I know I always have a good time at his concerts, but he just brings it every single time I see him.

[Of note: Justin doesn’t have an opening act for this tour, opting instead for a DJ freestyle prior to the show. It’s a shame though, especially considering he has a record label and probably should’ve used this tour as a platform for whatever artist he has on his roster.]

Justin starts off the show with Pusher Love Girl, the first track off part 1 of The 20/20 Experience album. It’s not a typical party starter song but it’s still a great song to begin the proceedings with The Tennessee Kids backing him up and the wonderful throwback groove. Part way through the song before he gets to the “interlude” part, Justin stops for dramatic effect, though after it went on for too long we knew something was up. Turns out his mic stopped working! “You broke the mic! Y’all were so loud, you broke the mic!” Justin hilariously laments after tossing the dead mic to the side. And so the show goes on.

"Y'all broke the mic!" Ahaha whoops! Sorry JT!

“Y’all broke the mic!” Ahaha whoops! Sorry JT!

After the staggered start, the rest of the show went off without a hitch as Justin made his way through new and old songs seamlessly. I’ll admit, I took a peek at the setlist beforehand so I knew Gimme What I Don’t Know was coming up next; unfortunately, it was only the intro. It’s not a GREAT song, but again, I was just really looking forward to seeing the choreography for it! Justin, how could you deny me the chance to see world class choreography from Marty Kudelka for this song? I didn’t have much time to be mad because he went right into Rock Your Body, which we can all agree is a total crowd pleaser. But you wanna know what was great for this dance-lover? What JT and his dancers did on TKO. The choreography was on point and they were giving it all to me – so completely into it.

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Four JTs are better than one?

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Justin’s verse on Jay-Z’s Holy Grail, leading into Cry Me A River was genius, and ended off the first half of show. A short 10 minute intermission later and we were back with the second half. It was a relatively low key start to the second half with Only When I Walk Away (this one did include a fair amount of lasers) and Drink You Away. The fun really amped up once Justin got into Senorita (again, a total crowd pleaser) which naturally led into Let the Groove Get In; it was here that the audience got a real treat as part of the stage got raised up and slowly moved across to the end of the arena. Justin stayed at the other end for a good 6-7 songs, and even making his way down from the breakaway stage to the mini-stage located in the bar area. Also keeping up with the dance theme, you have no idea how much I wanted to see some choreography to Groove. To be honest, I’ve been imagining a straight-up Latin Ballroom routine to this song, every time I hear it so I was invariably going to get disappointed.

The stage breaking off and heading our way!

The stage breaking off and heading our way!

Something that I hadn’t seen Justin do before during concerts, and is something that I personally love when I go see any concert, was the fact that he added some covers into the show. The man has two new albums for which he’s touring, plus two previous albums chock full of hits and crowd favourites, and he STILL put in some covers. Touching on his Memphis roots, JT covered Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel; he also did a very nice cover of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature (a music inspiration to all). And just for some added fun, we got a little Jungle Boogie and Bell Biv Divoe’s Poison (complete with awesome 80s/early 90s dancing).

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Performing from the mini-stage in the bar area.

Unfortunately, at some point, the show had to end. For the encore, Justin gave us his two biggest hits, SexyBack and Mirrors, and then it was over. Nearly 2.5 hours later, my voice was cracking from singing along all night and walking was only slightly an issue due to all the dancing. I love seeing my bands and regular singers + musicians, but just because of what I grew up on, I just completely LOVE a well-produced and well-choreographed show, and that is what this show was. From top to bottom, beginning to end, Justin Timberlake had us all in the palm of his hands, and all of us fans in the audience were more than happy to oblige, reciprocating the energy that he was putting out. Let it be known though that he also had an amazing group of people backing him up. The Tennessee Kids, his band and backup singers, were as energetic as ever trying to match the energy and enthusiasm of JT. And because I can’t say enough good things about them, the dancers are EVERYTHING; Dana Wilson, Ivan Koumaev (again, so proud of how far he’s come from SYTYCD), Nick Bass, Natalie Gilmore, Lyle Beniga, and Lindsay Richardson – just the best! I don’t know what the chances are of them doing another go-round of North America (probably not), but I sincerely hope they at least release this show on DVD so I can add it with my FutureSex/LoveShow DVD that I watch ALL THE TIME. If The 20/20 Experience Tour hits your town, go see it if you can because I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

The amazing Tennessee Kids

The amazing Tennessee Kids

The equally amazing and talented dancers

The equally amazing and talented dancers

FULL SETLIST:

  1. Pusher Love Girl
  2. Gimme What I Don’t Know (Intro)/Rock Your Body
  3. Don’t Hold the Wall
  4. FutureSex/LoveSounds
  5. Like I Love You
  6. My Love
  7. TKO
  8. Summer Love
  9. LoveStoned
  10. Until the End of Time
  11. Holy Grail/Cry Me A River
  12. Only When I Walk Away
  13. Drink You Away
  14. Tunnel Vision
  15. Senorita
  16. Let the Groove Get In
  17. That Girl
  18. Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley cover)
  19. Not a Bad Thing
  20. Human Nature (Michael Jackson cover)
  21. What Goes Around…Comes Around
  22. Cabaret
  23. Take Back the Night/Jungle Boogie (Kool & the Gang cover)
  24. Murder/Poison (Bell Biv Divoe)
  25. Suit & Tie
  26. SexyBack
  27. Mirrors

Pop Cultured Summer 2013 – August

Summer is usually a time reserved for sunshine, beaches, and vacations. For pop culture fans like me, it may mean the end of my regularly scheduled TV programming but the start of a batch of other summertime shows. It also means the air-conditioned movie theaters are filled with the latest blockbusters, and live music abounds at stadiums/arenas/amphitheaters everywhere. So as we continue on with what summer brings us, here’s what I’m looking forward to in the next few months.

AUGUST

After all the excitement of July, the month of August winds down the summer. This year for me, it will be a music-based month. John Mayer announced not-so-long-ago that his new album Paradise Valley will be released on August 13th. Lucky for me, the very next day John makes his way to Toronto on his Born & Raised tour – his first in three years. I haven’t seen him in concert since his promotional album release show for Battle Studies (and boy, was that an experience I’ll never forget. We may have feared for our lives, either by being trampled over or lack of air). Another concert that I’m VERY excited about is the Honda Civic Tour featuring a double headliner in Maroon 5 & Kelly Clarkson (Technically, they call it Maroon 5 with special guest Kelly Clarkson, but come on.) I mean, TWO of my favourite music artists/acts on the same bill?! I’m not imagining it right?! SO OF COURSE I’M EXCITED!

On the movie front, there’s really only one movie coming out this month that I’m interested in, and that is The Spectacular Now. The film, based on a 2010 novel, stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller as Aimee and Sutter, two teenagers who could not be any more different, yet find themselves falling for each other. On the outset, it doesn’t seem like the movie is breaking new ground, but the trailer gives off a sense that there is more to the movie than your typical teen drama. The movie was also incredibly well-received after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival.

 

And that’s about it for what I’m looking forward to this month. Most summer TV is in the middle of their seasons and will be wrapping up soon, so there’s nothing really new until the official start of the fall TV season. It’s rare to see a new show premiere in the late summer, but I was just reminded that on August 5th, it will be the 10-year anniversary of The O.C. premiering on FOX (can’t believe it myself). It’s a slow month to say the least, but it’s a sign that summer is almost over. Before I know it, fall will be here and September will bring forth the start of a new TV season, along with the Toronto International Film Festival. More fun is still to be had!