Performing in front of a crowd of 18,000 at the Staples Center sounds like a daunting task. Performing in front of a crowd of 18,000 alone? I think it would take a little more than imagining the crowd naked, no matter how good looking, to get over the nerves I would probably have. Ed Sheeran, with just his guitars, did it with the ease of a seasoned pro.
Though I probably would have enjoyed seeing him perform in a smaller venue more, there was absolutely nothing I could criticize about the performance that I saw. His voice, his musicianship, his stage presence … it was on fully display, revealing to me why his hordes of fans (mostly young girls/women) love him so much.
Whether it was his playful banter with the audience, mesmerizing use of his loopers and pedals to create percussive instrumentals for rousing numbers, or his thoughtful lyrics coupled with his mellifluous tenor voice during tender moments, he had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
Perhaps the most tender moment was before his performance of “Afire Love”. He reflected somewhat jokingly about the often times futile effort to get a rowdy person in an audience to be quiet with a “Shhh.” He asked the audience to be absolutely quiet for the following song, a request that was relatively acknowledged, save but the one or two overzealous fans who thought, I suppose it was the most opportune time to profess her (or his … I really couldn’t make out the gender of the voice) love for Ed. It was the first time I’ve ever heard the Staples Center so quiet … you could hear a pin drop.
Another highlight was during Ed’s encore, when he surprised the audience with a special appearance by Gary Lightbody, the lead singer of the British alternative rock band Snow Patrol. Together, they performed Snow Patrol’s hit song “Chasing Cars”.
I’ll be honest, I’ve always shrugged Ed Sheeran off as a Jason Mraz knock-off. I mean, I’m not really his target audience … and there are plenty of singer-songwriters who I grew up that have had the same kind of musicality and/sound, but Ed Sheeran’s performance really opened my ears up … opened them enough to give his music a chance with a clean slate.
I wasn’t approved with a photo pass for this concert, so all of the following photos were taken with a Sony Cybershot G, point and shoot camera.
Opening up for Ed Sheeran was a band that blew my mind earlier this year when I caught their performance at Coachella. As it would be unfair to call Ed Sheeran a Jason Mraz clone, it would be unfair to call Rudimental an electronic dance music. Though they use a significant amount of production tracks in their live performance, they also perform with a full band, and multiple vocalists. Their performance opening for Ed Sheeran was entertaining, however, I did feel like it wasn’t as raw and as drum’n’bass heavy as what I saw at Coachella, but I’ll be following their development because their music is just to fun to ignore.
It took me about 5 seconds to regret my decision not to dress up for Lady Gaga. I’d actually started – putting on a shiny velvet tank top, digging out costume jewelry, and getting out my lime-green faux fur jacket – but then I decided I was showing a lot of skin. Clearly, I had no idea what “a lot of skin” meant. The standard Lady Gaga audience look (for both genders) seemed to have required a stop at a West Hollywood “adult” store: cheek-bearing booty shorts, tiny bikini tops, teddies, and either 5-inch heels or shoes my friend called “tie-dyed Yeti.” I could have taken off my shirt and still had on more clothes than the people around me. Actually, I could have taken off my jeans, too, and stayed more conservative than a lot of the audience. Instead, I doubled down and put on my two coats, staying warm but looking ready to attend a Midwestern football game in November. As the lights dimmed I found myself wishing my recent visit to the specialty light bulb store had focused less on my halogen lamp and more on wearable lighting.
We’d arrived to hear the end of a DJ set that involved so much flashing light that I wasn’t sure if I’d end up hypnotized or developing epilepsy. It felt like we’d walked into an early-90s rave – all we needed was a whistle and a mini backpack (and the Teletubby-esque dancers later on were sporting exactly that). Just in case we hadn’t made the connection, “ArtRave” flashed wildly on the screens above the stage.
Overall, the production values were low for an ostensibly lavish tour. As Dolly Parton says, “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap.” The lighting washed out the performers, and props included beach balls like the ones the ushers confiscate at Dodger Stadium. Inflatables that popped out of the stage seemed like a cross between Russian onion domes and those cheap paper Christmas trees that grow crystals when you get them wet. The stage curtain looked like it had been stitched together from white garbage bags, and the main set reminded me of the design my friend once cobbled together when all the director would tell her was that it should be “puffy and white.” With its lumpy blobs and ring-shaped piano, it also bore more than a passing resemblance to the Mos Eisley cantina. In the end, the whole evening felt like a cross between a visit to an upscale S&M club and an acid trip.
The costuming ran the gamut from the powder blue, tentacled Ursula look to a style my friend compared to Mufasa but that I thought made Lady Gaga look like she’d run off with Amy Winehouse’s (bleached) beehive. Though she had some impressive footwear, she managed to avoid falling off of her shoes this time. Throughout the evening, there was a long string of elaborate costume and wig changes, including a time she dramatically tore off her wig onstage and another point when she did the full change in full view of the audience.
Over and over, there were moments that were supposed to celebrate the “authentic self” but instead reeked of artifice. Each gesture and comment seemed forced and almost robotic: the double-middle-finger to the audience, calls to “grab a glow stick or get the F*** out,” and comments about how “looking good and being successful are two different things” ended up falling flat. At one point, it looked like she was trying to reenact the balcony scene from Evita. And who knew you could spend an entire evening doing butt poses? My friend summed up the evening perfectly, riffing on one of Lady Gaga’s lines: “Tonight we celebrate love. Tonight, we celebrate pretentiousness (oh sorry, ‘being our authentic selves’ by swearing and flipping people off). Tonight we celebrate Lady Gaga’s a**.”
Overall, it was hard to shake the impression that she just wasn’t having fun. Like Rihanna had done, she smashed some of her biggest hits into one power medley – getting over with “Just Dance,” “Poker Face,” and “Telephone” as fast as she could. There weren’t backup singers, so the backing track was glaringly obvious: often, she didn’t bother holding the microphone near her face or pretending to sing. She’d apparently lifted a page from Kanye – her small-stage piano looked like a mini Fortress of Solitude, she wandered around in white outfits on a white stage (making her hard to see), and she launched into a series of increasingly pretentious rants. Like Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake, her production team had included a VIP bar area (complete with highly visible branding). We kept expecting her to jump into the bar and join the crowd for a cocktail, but she never did anything that felt remotely spontaneous or – for all her talk – genuine.
At the end of the evening, the crowd spilled out of the (very smoky) Staples Center, highlighting the fact that the people watching was the best part of the event. Surrounded by drag queens and a wide range of fabulous fans, it was like we’d walked into an all-night pride parade. The crowd obviously had more fun glamming up that Lady Gaga did performing. I love cheese and all things artificial, but in the end, Lady Gaga was outperformed by the Kia hamsters.
It’s never a good sign for an artist’s career when you can get $25 tickets (plus Evil Fees, of course) for a concert at the Staples Center 2 days before the show. In the case of Cyndi Lauper and Cher, it may also be indicative of the fact that the tickets went on sale in something like October. Now, I’m all for advance planning, and I understand that it helps the promoters figure out if they need to add extra show dates, but who can predict what they’ll be doing that far in the future? I’d crossed it off my list as too difficult to schedule & then completely forgot about it until a “don’t miss your chance!” email arrived just a few days prior to the event. The tone of desperation made me take another look, and given my great love of cheese, it seemed like it would be a pity to miss it at that price.
Arriving at the venue, I cracked up when I saw the sidewalk was emblazoned with ads for an upcoming event: “Walking with Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular: They’re Back!” Seemed a fitting welcome for legends from the last century. Mean? Perhaps, but still funny.
One glance at the line confirmed what I’d suspected: this was an evening that was as much about fashion as about music. Sparkling body suits, rhinestone-studded 4-inch heels, glittery tank tops – and that was just the men. Since I hadn’t anticipated ending up at the concert, I was dressed like I’d spent the day going to the dentist and cleaning out the garage, which I had. Let’s just say I didn’t quite fit in – next time, I’ll invest in a bedazzler. The audience was full of lots of “girls’ night out” groups, guys on dates, and people who were accompanying their aging parents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were also swaths of empty seats. Even Cyndi Lauper commented on it, saying it was the emptiest she’d ever seen. The guys next to me expressed their shock: “How is this possible? It’s *Cher*!” We had to abandon a plan to sneak down to a lower tier, but we clearly should have carried through with it.
As for the show itself? It was a hoot. The ladies wore huge wigs, sang their biggest hits, and took long pauses between numbers to tell lengthy, crowd-pleasing anecdotes (and, in Cher’s case, to do elaborate costume changes). Both still had strong voices. They knew their audience & were happy to ham it up. This was also a crowd where Cyndi Lauper’s reference to Prop 8 sucking got an even bigger cheer than her Kings jersey. It was a feel-good evening.
Cyndi’s “She’s So Unusual” album was one of the first that I remember being aware of as an actual *album*, not just a song or two on the radio, so the whole set was a massive flashback to the days when I’d sit by the radio with my cassette recorder so I could try to record my favorite songs for later. She was pretty much exactly how you would expect: belting out hits while wearing a wild outfit and a huge red wig, then rolling around on the stage, constantly dropping F-bombs, and just generally seeming like someone who would be great fun to hang out with. Fans twirled glowsticks and bathed in the light of her disco ball. Cyndi also embarked on a love-fest, talking about how she met Cher because their moms had become friends, giving raspy-voiced impressions of Harvey Fierstein, and telling the crowd how great they were.
Cher, by contrast, was in full diva mode. Or, rather – icon mode. As she described herself, “I used to be a diva, but then I graduated.” She constantly poked fun at her age, referring to the AARP, talking about how soon she’d be “taking a dirt nap,” and following up on one outlandish production number by saying “What’s *your* granny doing tonight?” Considering that my grandma was most likely watching baseball and talking about her digestion, you have to concede her point. The overall set could be described as “Cher Through The Ages.” She went through most of her hits roughly chronologically as a video montage on a massive screen behind her showed us Sonny-era Cher, Bob Mackie Oscar dress Cher, actress Cher, and of course the infamous “Turn Back Time” outfit that she proudly announced she still could – and did – wear.
Long pauses in the set featured Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics and dancing so that Cher could switch from one over-the-top outfit to the next: massive Vegas showgirl headdresses, bordello fashion, a floor-length “native headdress,” the ass-tacular variation on the “Turn Back Time” outfit, and more. She also inexplicably popped out of a massive golden Trojan horse. Her final look was Cher-as-Virgin-Mary, complete with a dinner-plate-sized halo, which hysterically came on the heels of another look that consisted of strategically placed strings of rhinestones and pink heart pasties. In her Holy Finale, she also played into this concert season’s hottest trend for female soloists: flying across the arena. Unlike Pink! and Beyonce, though, she sailed over the audience in her own spangled gothic arch. Subtle it was not. The show could have done with fewer ramblings about her love/hate relationship with Dr. Pepper and a lot more dancing in the audience, but it was overall one of the most entertaining concerts I’ve seen this year.
A Level: “A lot of the merchandise could be described as ‘younger, hotter Cher and her backside.'”
A Level: “Cher, larger than life. Massive screen in consideration of the failing eyesight of the older audience members?”
A Level: “Staples Center rolled out the red carpet for Cher and Cyndi Lauper.”
A Level: “There was no discernible reason why she came out in the Trojan horse. Perhaps it’s that they’re both epic?”
A Level: “It’s not easy to get a decent focus on a flying, bedazzled Gothic arch.”
Could you please fire your entire production design team? Honestly, who thought it was a great idea for you to perform in a series of masks for virtually the entire concert? And why did you steadfastly refuse to stand *in* the spotlight? If there’s a pool of light and you stand 15 feet off to the side – wearing black clothes and a black mask – you are invisible. When I’ve paid a good amount of money and trekked out to the Staples Center to see you, I’d like to actually *see* you.
It’s a good thing that your ego is so large that it has its own gravitational pull. That at least gave you enough stage presence to compensate somewhat for the completely bizarre (and not in a good way) staging. For most of the show, you were standing on an island that looked like a slice of cheesecake, periodically surrounded by a dozen women in nude body stockings and what looked like beekeeper masks. Then, there was the guy who followed you around from time to time, wearing a get-up that may have been stolen from Sweetums from the Muppets.
Later, you moved onto a main stage that my companion was calling the Fortress of Solitude but that I thought looked like either one of those volcanoes that 3rd graders make out of papier-mâché or like an ice cream cake. The sparker-style fireworks at the end of the show did nothing to dispel those images.
Oh, and rather than having any sort of design, it looked like they’d just turned on the house lights for the back ¼ of the arena. That meant that while you were invisibly perched on the cheesecake, all the techies around the main stage were bathed in harsh, white light. I couldn’t even figure out where you were part of the time, but I had a great view of the quasi-naked acolyte ladies roaming around in the wings and of the dj off to the side. Oh, and nice job on the spike tape – glad to know that your crew uses fluorescent yellow to mark where the equipment should be.
While I’ve sat in what seems like every possible area of the Staples Center over the years, these were also the seats with the worst acoustics I’ve ever experienced there. Was it the location, or was it the sound crew? It’s not clear, but I couldn’t understand a word you said all night. When you add in the incomprehensible Confederate flag merchandise (which I didn’t see firsthand but my companion told me about), this was definitely one of the weirder Odes to One’s Own Greatness. While I can’t say I was at all surprised by your sense of self-importance, I was massively disappointed by the show – when the music is completely forgotten in the process of putting on a show, it’s time to rethink your approach.
“Pretty Hate Machine” was a very important part of my teen years. Believe it or not, I used to play football – granted it was 8 man football, rather than the traditional 11 man game. Before every game, for the four years I played in high school, my Discman played the the same 3 CDs to get me pumped up to lay the smack down on opponents: Pearl Jam’s “Ten”, Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” and Nine Inch Nails‘ “Pretty Hate Machine”. There was something about the visceral, industrial, aggressive sound of “Pretty Hate Machine” that got the adrenaline running in my viens. “Down in It“, “Head Like a Hole“, and “Sin” … yeah … you listen to those songs enough times, I guarantee it’ll get you amped as well. I saw Trent Reznor‘s band How to Destroy Angels at Coachella in 2013, but it wasn’t the Trent Reznor that I grew up with, and I left the set a little wanting. When Nine Inch Nails announced their Staples Center’s gig in support of their latest album “Hesitation Marks“, I jumped at getting tickets. The seats I and my friends got weren’t close to the stage. In fact, our seats were on the opposite end of the venue from the stage. That, however, wasn’t an issue … at all.
The show was amazing. It was an auditory and sensory experience. The music was played and performed expertly (you can find the setlist by clicking on THIS LINK), but it was the presentation which really, and literally, caught my eye. I won’t wax too poetic about how impressive the lighting was, because critics have already written about it. An article that I appreciated claimed that this tour is “at least a decade ahead of its time”, and I’m hard pressed to disagree. The article quotes Trent Reznor as saying that he “want[s] to make you hold your pee because you won’t want to miss something.” Mr. Reznor was right.
I usually love being up close to the stage for shows, but in this instant, I didn’t mind having seats in the rafters. It gave me the chance to take in the entire lighting effect, and it was truly glorious. As it turns out, Nine Inch Nails recorded their show at the Staples Center to release as a DVD, and 90 glorious minutes of that show is online on their VEVO channel for anybody to watch. I shot some video with my camera, but why bother putting that up when the video below is available.
The setlist covered everything from their big radio hits to rare b-sides. Perhaps what was just as impressive as the lighting for the show was my buddy that came with me. I love friends who are passionate about bands. My buddy knew the lyrics of all of the songs performed (including the b-sides) and expressed surprise and excitement when a rare song was played. My only regret was that they didn’t play “Sin”, but I can’t complain. I think everybody got their monies worth.
Photos of the show are posted below, but if you want to see them as a large slideshow on FLICKR, click THIS LINK.
Years ago, back in 2009, I got to see one of my favorite bands growing up, Depeche Mode, perform at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a concert that I hadn’t purchased a ticket for, but I was lucky enough to have friends who, for one reason or another, couldn’t go, and I was the lucky recipient. For that show, I literally had the “last seat” in the house (Section X2, Row 4, Seat 3), but it is still one of the handful of concerts that I have ever been to that I am sure will always be somewhere in my top 10 of all time. I’ll have to admit though, I could be a little biased simply based on the fact that Depeche Mode’s music was such an integral part of my growing up.
I remember how I got introduced to their music. While I was in elementary/middle school, I had a cool cousin who graduated from college and was trying to get a job in the film industry. During her job search, she spent a few years living at my parents house, and with her came her music collection. Though I only got to listen to her music in her car, when she found a job and moved out, she left a handful of albums behind. The Fleetwood Mac LPs were cool. The Billy Joel cassette was cool. But all of a sudden, I noticed a black double cassette (the first double cassette I’d ever seen), of some band I thought was named “Depeche Mode 101”.
When I popped in the first cassette, the first thing I realized was that it was a live recording (recorded at the Pasadena Rose Bowl). When I pressed play, I didn’t hear any music. Rather, it was the sound of an audience cheering like crazy. I was enthralled. Each song was something new to me, and whenever a song ended, and the crowd roared with cheers, I truly felt like I was at that concert. I would eventually find out that the band’s name was just Depeche Mode, and the live album was titled 101. The title of that album was fitting, as that album was basically my beginner’s course for a band that I would come to love so whole heartedly.
For some reason, I failed to purchased tickets to any of their shows at the Staples Center when they were released to the public. I checked online for tickets, but they were all exorbitantly marked up. It was a sad oversight, and I figured that I would miss out this time around … but again, the music gods must have been looking over me as another friend messaged me on the 28th about having an extra ticket for the 29th. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes”.
The seats were in the rafters of the Staples Center, but if I learned anything about Depeche Mode from the last time I saw them, seats anywhere in the venue would have been fine. Like the first time I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl, Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan and Martin Gore did not disappoint. Their live performance was grand and filled with adrenaline rushing moments, contrasted with emotionally charged darkness. Dave Gahan strutted across the stage throughout his songs with such a bravado that one would never guess that he’s over 50 years old.
Though the tour is in support of their latest album, Delta Machine, they performed songs from every stage of their careers. Crowd, and radio favorites, “Personal Jesus”, “Enjoy The Silence”, “World In My Eyes” and “Just Can’t Get Enough”, and “classic” Depeche Mode favorites like “Behind The Wheel”, “A Question of Time” were performed, but what really stood out in my mind were the songs that Martin Gore sang solo. Subdued, acoustic and intimate versions of “A Question of Lust” and “Condemnation” were performed during the encore that moved me immeasurably. Those two songs, for me, epitomize Depeche Mode’s ability to reach into the listeners soul to question, consider and forgive all of the intricacies and follys of love. Where Dave Gahan is the bravado, Martin Gore is the soul. Their pairing is what keeps the yin and yang of Depeche Mode in harmony.
I woke up Saturday morning still in a daze from The Mrs. Carter World Tour performance that Beyonce put on at Staples the night before, but I still had two more full days of music ahead of me.
BET set up an outdoor venue they dubbed the “Music Matters Stage” where “the stars of tomorrow shine today”. Some of the acts in years past have included Miguel, Melanie Fiona and J. Cole, so I decided to take a look at the schedule to see who was performing that day. Ummm… Marsha Ambrosius at 1:15pm? Damn. I was actually a bit surprised to see her scheduled to perform because in my mind she’s already a Grammy Award-winning star of today, both as a member of Floetry and her solo career.
I checked my emails and noticed that there were some items that needed some attention, so after spending a greater portion of the morning and early afternoon slaving away at the computer, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it in time to see Marsha Ambrosius perform.
After I had pushed “send” on the last work email that Saturday, the Scorpio in me made a rather impulsive decision. “Gee,” I told my self, “it’s such a nice day! Why don’t I try taking public transportation from West Los Angeles to downtown Los Angeles? I could use the exercise”. I threw on my clothes and my credentials, and started the journey. One bus, one train without air-conditioning and an hour and a half later I got to my destination. Wasn’t so bad, but I did take a little longer that I had anticipated.
The area around the heart of the BET festival was buzzing with activity. I looked at my watch, and noticed that I probably could catch one or two acts before I had to head over to the restaurant for dinner. I walked to the Music Matters entry area and flashed my credentials, and thereafter made a b-line to the main stage where Bridget Kelly was performing. I wasn’t too familiar with her catalog, but I seemed to be the only one who didn’t as it everyone at the stage to watch her in the blazing summer heat were singing along. She did sing a respectable cover of the Lauryn Hill classic “Ex Factor”. I knew that song.
The next artist who graced the stage was K. Michelle. I never watched and episode of Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta , but apparently K. Michelle is a featured cast member. After gaining media exposure through the reality show, she was able to land a deal with Warner Bros. Records. Like Bridget Kelly, K. Michelle’s fans were there in full force, standing in the sun, and singing along with almost all of her songs.
I had to leave the Music Matters Stage before K. Michelle finished up her set, but I was glad that I was actually able to make use of the “Event Staff” pass I had been wearing around my neck to enjoy some of the non-featured music being offered during the weekend.
At dinner, I was given an “Artist Pass” for the Staples Center shows that evening. Forty-Five minutes later, the powers that be asked for the pass back. Apparently, a real artist needed it, so I had to surrender the laminate for the evening. I guess someone else was “Derrick” for the evening. Lol. I wish the team had told me who it was.
Dinner took a little longer than expected, so by the time I got inside of the Staples Center, Schoolboy Q and Miguel had already finished their sets. By the time I had made my way to my seat, J. Cole took the stage.
I know very little about J Cole, other than the fact that his latest album was released the same week as Kanye’s “Yeezus”, and that his record sales for that week second only to Kanye’s. I tried to get into the music, but I found myself being easily distracted with people watching or trying to figure what samples were used in his songs. It seemed that a lot of his crowd pleasers relied on familiar melodies. A few songs into his set, J. Cole looked around and wondered aloud, “Is this how Kobe feels?” The crowd went nuts and he continued his eloquent, if not somewhat monotonous, flow.
After J. Cole’s set, I quickly made my way to the “Chairman’s Lounge” (at least they didn’t take that ticket away from me) to get free drinks. I was sober the night before, but tonight I wasn’t driving, so I decided to double up on the beverages.
I was getting excited to seen Kendrick Lamar take the stage. For anybody who has asked me recently, I’ve been saying that my two favorite hip-hop album purchases in the past year have been Killer Mike’s “R.A.P. Music” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”. I remember the first time I popped in “Good Kid”. It was the first CD I unwrapped in the Amoeba records garage, I popped it in, and started a weekend commute. I didn’t have to fast forward over any tracks. After the disc restarted, I listed to the tracks 2-4 at least two more times: “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe”, “Backseat Freestyle” and “The Art of Peer Pressure”. Solid production. Solid lyrics. Super dopeness.
I saw on the stage monitors that Kendrick was starting his set, so I asked to get my scotch topped off, and I head back to my seat. I had heard from various people that Kendrick’s live show could be, at times, boring, but I would have to beg to differ. Based on what I saw that evening, I saw Kendrick perform with a sense of immediacy. Maybe it was because he was performing in front a hometown crowd, or maybe he’s just evolved his stage presence through the relentless tour he’s been on this so far this summer, but whatever the impetus, he was deep into the performance, spitting out lyrics and meaning with every breath. With the live band providing solid support, Kendrick killed his set. The comedic highlight when Mike Epps danced around on stage had everybody rolling off their seats.
I again went back to the Chairman’s Lounge to get another drink. By this point, I’ll admit, I was pretty tipsy. As I was ordering my drink, I saw Warren G. I’ve been around him before, but I think the scotch may have gotten to me. I approached him and started to blab about how much I loved his music. I told him that I was a huge fan of his album “In The Mid-Nite Hour” and that the tracks with Nate Dogg, “I Need A Light” and “In The Mid-Nite Hour” were, in my mind, classics. I fumbled around with my camera and we snapped a picture when he looked up to the stage monitor and noticed that Snoop had taken the stage. Looking at the TV he announced, “I got to go,” and with that he left the lounge in a hurry. He made it back in time for “Regulate”… that was a relief.
Snoop. He closed the night, and closed the night right. There’s not much I can say about Snoop’s sets. I mean, when you open up with Dr. Dre and perform “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang” and “Next Episode”, you can seriously turn the lights up and leave, but Snoop knows how to keep a party going, and he brought onto the stage guest artist after guest artist while going through the most popular songs from his hip-hop hall of fame repertoire.
He performed “Same Damn Time” with Future. He brought up Ace Hood for “Bugatti”. DPGC staples Daz Dillinger and Kurupt were on stage for “Ain’t No Fun” and “Who Ride Wit Us”. Trinidad James and Problem also performed their own current hits. Snoop invited Wiz Khalifa up to the stage to perform Wiz’s newest single, and also slipped in a mention of “High School 2”.
It was the perfect way to close the evening. Snoop is one of the few hip-hop artists who can bring that much star power for an hour and a half set. It was probably more that most of the crowd expected, and Snoop made sure every damn of them got their money’s worth. Chuuuch.
It was during my college years when Destiny’s Child released their first album. At the time, I was more invested in learning (and buying) R&B music from Motown’s “Golden Age”, I didn’t pay too much attention to that album, even though it had tracks produced by Wyclef Jean and Jermaine Dupri (big time producers at the time). After I had graduated from undergrad, they released their second album, “The Writing’s on the Wall”, and you really couldn’t avoid them.
With songs like “Bills, Bills, Bills”, “Bug A Boo” and “Say My Name” on constant rotation on terrestrial radio (I don’t think digital radio existed at the time), and with their videos consistently on Total Request Live on MTV (back when they still played music videos), their music was hard too miss. I liked their sound, but truth be told, I suffered from, at the time, what I call “SGS” (Stubborn Guy Syndrome). After all, Destiny’s Childs songs tended to be anthems for women’s independence and solidarity. It may have also been more difficult for me to enjoy their music when dates (at least one that I can remember) actually sang to me the hook of “Bills, Bills, Bills”. I seem to recall the dates with that particular person ending that night. But if there was one thing I could take away from that album, it was that Beyonce was the group’s focal point and so long as she was focus of the group, they would have a healthy career making records.
Three albums after “The Writing’s on the Wall” (which includes a holiday album), and with a slew of other hits including “Bootylicious”, “Survivor”, “Say My Name”, etc., the group disbanded and each member embarked on their solo careers. Each member of Destiny’s child has had success as a solo artist, but Beyonce’s success casts a very large shadow by comparison.
Beyonce’s first notable foray into her solo career was a feature on her husband’s, Jay-Z’s, “’03 Bonnie & Clyde”. As a quick aside, one cure for SGS is a feature on an extremely hot rappers, huge, summer, single. And four-studio albums later, Beyonce has created an empire and fan base that matches her partner’s. Time passes, and we (hopefully) become more the wiser. I finally bought my first Beyonce CD in 2011 after hearing the song “1+1” on the radio during a late night drive.
I wasn’t expecting to get a pass to see Beyonce for her BET Experience “Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” concert on June 28th, 2013. I had a feeling that I’d get a ticket for the Snoop show on Saturday, but I when I was informed that a ticket would be held for me, I willingly decided to become a member of the “Bey-Hive”.
Beyonce works hard for her fans, and her show was sensational. It’s interesting to note that all of her band members and performers were women, except for two male dancers known as Les Twins. Having been on tour internationally for over a month, her team was more than ready to wow their first States-side audience. Beyonce first acknowledged the audience after “Till The End of Time” when she told the Staples audience that she was, “looking forward to bringing this show to America.” Well… she did … with the lighting, pyrotechnics, choreography, staging, costume changes, set changes, video interludes … Beyonce was definitely ready for America.
My highlight, and low light, of the evening was when Beyonce started singing “1+1”, the song that made me buy her album “4”, sensually writhing on a grand piano. As a fan of music, I started to sing along with her and audience. As a music fan who thinks he knows more about music than he really does, sang the wrong lyrics to my friend who was standing next to me. Yeah, she got a nice laugh out of my embarrassing, mistake. I refrained from singing anything the rest of the night. After all, I think that the Bey-Hive had that on lock regardless. But to top the beautiful singing, Beyonce got strapped into a harness and “flew” to the center of the venue, two rows away from me and my friends, WHILE singing. Amazing.
Another aside, I recently purchased a new camera that I used for the show. Ironically, the worst pictures that I took were when Beyonce was right in front of me. Go figure.
While at the center of the Staples Center she sang a few more songs, then gave thanks to Michelle and Kelly who I assume were in the audience. Everybody was looking around as you could feel the anticipation of surprise reunion, but alas, Beyonce sang “Survivor” before flying back to the main stage to close her set with big hits “Crazy in Love” and “Single Ladies.” She encored with a brief tribute to Whitney Houston (“I Will Always Love You”) and closed with “Halo”.
Beyonce’s show was a big-budget, theatrical experience that was truly inspiring and on a grander scale than any concert that I have ever attended. Ticket prices for the show, especially where I was sitting, cost a pretty penny, but I can assure you Mrs. Carter puts on a show that makes it worth it. If you were going to spend big bucks to see Mrs. Carter do her thing, I wouldn’t hate on that at all. And since I’m no longer suffering from SGS, I could be persuaded to see her perform again when she’s back in Los Angeles.
Below are Instagram clips of some of the songs from Rudimental’s at Staples Center. Instagram’s embed settings are, unfortunately, too large for WordPress, but hopefully, you’ll still be able to click through to watch the video clips. Enjoy.