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

Matt Nathanson Gavin DeGraw

 

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 fianc√©, 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!

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Music Monday: Maroon 5 Edition!

In honour of Maroon 5 releasing their 5th studio album, V, tomorrow, I felt it was only appropriate to do an ultimate Maroon 5 playlist for this Music Monday. 20 songs whittled down from four full albums plus bonus tracks, remixes, unreleased songs, live and/or acoustic versions of songs; this playlist will contain some songs released as singles and some of my personal favourites (sometimes it’s one and the same). From this M5 fan, I don’t know how I’m going to do this (especially considering how much I LOVE Songs About Jane and Hands All Over as full albums), but I am. And just because I wanna say it…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

  1. This Love – It’s the song that really started it all for them and it established their signature sound.
  2. She Will Be Loved
  3. Shiver
  4. Sweetest Goodbye – My absolute favourite song from them!
  5. Take What You Want
  6. Wasted Years – First heard back in 2005, the guys performed this song on tour between their first and second albums. It was a song that was a great transition to what expect to expect in their second album. Funny enough, a full studio version didn’t even appear until Overexposed, which sounded almost entirely different from its original incarnation.
  7. If I Never See Your Face Again – The original version that appeared on It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, before they released it as a single with Rihanna, and then it was labelled as “Rihanna & Maroon 5” not the other way around.
  8. Wake Up Call
  9. Little of Your Time
  10. Won’t Go Home Without You
  11. How
  12. Give A Little More
  13. Hands All Over – The most ‘rock’ the band has ever sounded on a song.
  14. Just A Feeling – I always say this is a great song to drive to. There’s just something about it that feels like it’s good cruising music.
  15. Get Back in My Life
  16. Last Chance – They had already started on their Police sound with this song, featured as a bonus track on the deluxe edition of Hands All Over. I really shouldn’t have been surprised when they revisited that sound for Maps.
  17. One More Night
  18. Sad – It’s funny that these days, the more understated the song, the more it stands out. Especially on an album like Overexposed, which I was upset about for being almost too overproduced on a majority of the songs.
  19. Tickets
  20. Maps – First single of their new album, and if this is an indication of what the rest of the album sounds like, well, I already like it more than Overexposed.

Just for good measure, some of my favourite live performances from Maroon 5 of a few songs above.

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

Kelly Clarkson in Concert!

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From day one, I have always been a Kelly Clarkson fan. I absolutely love her music. But for some reason or another, I have never had the chance to see her live in concert. Which is incredibly weird and totally awful of me as a fan, seeing as how she is one of my favourite artists. That all changed this past Tuesday when I finally got to see her perform in London, Ontario at the John Labatt Centre, on one of the stops of her Stronger Tour.

Kelly is just absolutely amazing live. It certainly helps that for my first time seeing her, I was sitting in the 2nd row (the beat seats I’ve EVER gotten for ANY concert). We all know that she’s a great singer – she did win Idol after all. You watch any performance of hers on TV, on YouTube, etc. and you can tell how great of a vocalist she is. But to see her sing live in person is something else. I’ve always considered a lot of her music to be like the soundtrack of my life; they’re just so relatable. Standing there watching her sing ‘Dark Side’, the first song in her set, I’ll admit I got a little emotional. It was a mix of “I love this song!” and “I can’t believe I’m actually HERE seeing her!!” Don’t even get me started about when she sang ‘Because of You’ because that song gets me teary-eyed everytime.

I probably could go on and on about how much Kelly Clarkson rocks, but I won’t. It is worth mentioning though that Matt Nathanson was the opening act for Kelly. I’ve said it before, but Matt is totally hilarious and such a great musician. I definitely do prefer it more when he’s playing at smaller venues or at least shows with age restrictions because he’s so much funnier when he’s not censored. But that’s besides the point. As far as concert lineups go, I’d certainly say that Kelly Clarkson and Matt Nathanson is a pretty awesome pairing. Actually, come to think of it, Kelly and Matt should totally do a song together!

Matt Nathanson Setlist:
Mercy
Gone
Modern Love
Bottom of the Sea
Run
Room @ the End of the World
Faster
Come On Get Higher

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Kelly Clarkson Setlist:
Dark Side
Behind These Hazel Eyes
Since U Been Gone
You Love Me
Heavy In Your Arms (Florence + The Machine)
Perfect (Pink)
Einstein [Acoustic]
I Forgive You [Acoustic]
I Know You Won’t (Carrie Underwood)
Don’t You Wanna Stay
Already Gone
Breakaway
You Still Won’t Know What It’s Like
Stronger
My Life Would Suck Without You
Never Again
Because of You
Mr. Know It All
Miss Independent

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