Live Reviews

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kendrick Lamar Gives an Eclectic DAMN in Charlotte

Posted By on Wed, Aug 30, 2017 at 5:10 PM


Kendrick Lamar's DAMN Tour gave Charlotteans three very different hip-hop concert experiences at the same damn time Tuesday night at the Spectrum Arena. Hip-hop heads of multiple hues and ages took to Uptown to fill the seats and feel the music of Lamar, along with D.R.A.M. and YG.


From 7:30 to 11 p.m., a variety show of lyrical content, rap styles, and show production took over the arena's stage, serving as a reflection of the diversity in the crowd. The night transitioned from the party-rap, sing-song stylings of D.R.A.M., to the gangsta party lyrics and visuals of YG, to the socially conscious, thought-provoking stanzas of Lamar, paired with an elaborate performance-art stage production.

With each performance an inverse musical correlation became more and more obvious. As onstage instrumentation decreased, other variables increased with great intensity. The visuals, props and crowd engagement escalated as the performances crescendoed to headliner Kendrick Lamar.


ACT I: D.R.A.M. Party

Charged with helping to get the party going while raise excitement levels, D.R.A.M. brought playfulness and color to the stage. As his show started, many concert -goers were still sitting down and lots of seats remained empty, but by the end of the set this scene would drastically change.

As people still navigated their way to seats, D.R.A.M. warmed up the crowd with big smiles and words of gratitude between each song as he bombarded the arena with hits like “Broccoli,” “Gilligan,” “Cash Machine,” and “CHA CHA.” The crowd was on its feet dancing and rapping as multi-color visual backdrops, with a heavy emphasis on neon lights, painted faces in a kaleidoscope flickering of ROYGBIV lighting.

D.R.A.M.’s set relied heavily on the power of instrumentation. The rapping singer was accompanied on stage by a keyboardist, drummer and DJ. The determining factor of what would bring the crowd to its feet was in direct correlation to the drummer’s sticking and D.R.A.M.’s dance moves. Whenever the drummer switched from sticks to mallets and stood up from his throne to hammer down on the heads like a wild man, the energy increased.

Toward the end of his set, during the song “Broccoli,” D.R.A.M. made his way into the crowd at the floor level as his keyboardist, drummer and DJ held down the stage. The artist skipped and bounced his way through the first section aisle and then looped back on stage.

D.R.A.M. brought the energy, but now the crowd was primed and ready to party ‘n bullshit with Y.G.

ACT II: Party ‘n Bullshit

YG brought the Bompton attitude to the Charlotte masses with a straight-shot, no-chaser vibe that one has come to expect from a gangsta rap act. He kept it G-rated in a the non-conventional sense — Girls, Guns, Gunja, and Gangstas.

Before YG ever stepped on stage, the gangsta life party ‘n bullshit vibe was set with the sound of a voice. A streetwise narrator with that 70’s vibes pimp talk in his bravado set the scene for the gangsta shit we were about to experience.

The multi-color of neon lights was no longer the visual cue. It was now a more minimal All Red Everything approach. Backdrop: red. Outfit: red graphic-tee framed in black. Props: red. And, if all the red still left someone in the audience questioning what set he repped, the gang hand sign visuals backdrop clarified why he was repping Bompton and not Compton.

YG’s onstage instrumentation was a combination of keyboard, DJ, and hypeman. The crowd energy level amplification would now rely less on the innate connection to the live drum. The energy level of the crowd was now connected to the bass levels controlled by the soundboard operator, the amount of props on stage, and how much time YG spent in the crowd connecting with the people.

There were two distinct moments during YG’s show that took the crowd to peak level energy. There was the Ass & Titts moment and the Donald Trump moment.

YG’s on stage set transformed from the minimalist red and black backdrops to a full set red and black strip club stage set — two stripper poles, a red plush couch filled with YG’s cronies, & “Girls, Girls, Girls” signage for the backdrop. Two strippers proceed to shake ass & titts for the men on stage and the sea of mobile phones aimed at the stage.

Phones were aimed at the stage once again when another ass (depending on your politically leaning) made its way to the stage. An impeccably tanned orange Donald Trump impersonator made his way to the stage. Homophobic and xenophobic banter spewed from the impersonators mouth. Just as the booing started to come to a roar, YG stepped in and started a chant that the crowd latched on to immediately — ”Fuck Donald Trump!” The red hatted MAGA character scurried off stage as the red banned rapper proceed to through the verses of “Fuck Donald Trump.”

During Y.G.’s set, the crowd stood the entire time. The seats were filled. They were at peak desire and ready for the DAMN Kendrick Lamar experience.

D.R.A.M. started the party, Y.G. stirred up the id brain of the crowd, and now they were ready for the heavy content. They were ready to get cerebral with Kendrick.

ACT III: Get Cerebral

The Kendrick Lamar experience began when the DAMN Tour curtain dropped in front of the stage as it was transformed from YG’s Bompton set to the DAMN set.

The curtain fell and two screen backdrops now faced the crowd. The lights turned down and the story of Kung Fu Kenny began to roll on the screen. The Kung Fu Tale of Black Turtle finding “the (inner) glow” in the darkest place was a common thread throughout Lamar’s on stage production The Kendrick Lamar Kung Fu tale vignettes had the look of Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” and a storyline similar to Barry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon.”

When Lamar rose to the stage through the stage floor and emerged from the smoke in his all yellow outfit with hints of black accents the vibe of Bruce Leroy was actualized as he exploded with intensity and pyrotechnics into the track “DNA.” No instrumentalist, no DJ, just Lamar and powerful imagery plastered on two screens.

Throughout Lamar’s show the new moveable secondary screen acted as a secondary plan bringing deeper visual emphasis to the lyrics pushed out of Lamar’s body. With each song, as Lamar got lost in his flow, his noticeable rhythmic jerk brought even more emphasis to his lyrics. It was another visual cue that signaled to the cerebral superego brain that what Lamar was saying will move you.

Lamar move the Charlotte DAMN crowd with artistic visuals performed onstage by trained martial artists and solo dancers. He moved them with juxtaposed visuals of artistic imagery placed beside inner city imagery. He moved them with light shows on stages and creating a light show in the crowd with mobile phone lights. But, it was the passionate delivery of verses by Lamar that seemed to pull the crowd in the most.

With every lyric Lamar spit, a sea of mouths moved in unison with him. The final song of the offical set was the chart topping “HUMBLE.” Lamar started the first few bars of the track and the beat cut out. He continued rapping and the crowd continued with him. He eventually faded out and allowed the crowd to take over the show. No beat, just an a cappella recitation from a Spectrum Arena choir conducted by Lamar. The track restarted and Lamar then performed HUMBLE in its entirety for the crowd.

With the end of the track and the darkening of the stage, the crowd chanted Kung Fu Kenny’s name to bring him back out for a final encore. He obliged and bid the crowd adieu and encourage them to find a designated driver.


The DAMN Tour was damn good. What made it so good was the juxtaposition and sequencing of the rap subgenres displayed on the stage that night. It was not all light hearted party rap, it was not all gangsta rap, it was not all socially conscious and introspective. It was just the right dose of each rap subgenre at precisely the right time. The ability to go from CHA-CHAing in your aisle, to seeing a strip show, to exploring the richness and power of self-actualization by connected with and celebrating your connection to black culture, it just left me saying one word — DAMN.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Magpie Salute smashes expectations

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 9:55 PM

The Magpie Salute
Neighborhood Theatre
Aug. 16, 2017

If you walked into the Neighborhood Theatre on Tuesday night expecting to simply hear a Black Crowes cover band playing hit after hit, you were in for a rude, yet exciting, awakening. Sure, the former members of the Black Crowes played a good number of cover songs, but they were mostly off-the-radar tracks. Their set also included originals, a couple of Rich Robinson covers and a Marc Ford song. The end result was a sonically charged-up band that's forging down a path of its own. It's partly thanks to three talented guitarists, including Rich Robinson and Marc Ford, a trio of backup singers adding fantastic depth and the vocal lead of John Hogg (Moke, Hookah Brown). The 10-piece rock band cruised through a rock-heavy set that enticed the crowd with hints of Southern soul and blues. Sure, the Crowes songs are always nice to hear, but this outfit might just have solid footing on its own.

No Speak No Slave
A Conspiracy
Cosmic Friend
Idle Time
Which Way Your Wind Blows
I Don't Know Why
Don't Say You Love Me
Better When You're Not Alone
Go Tell the Congregation
Walk Believer Walk
Rebel Music
Badge of Descension
Gone Away
Black Cloud
Grows a Rose
Thorn in My Pride
Thick 'n Thin

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Descendents satisfy every punk fan's dream

Posted By on Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 9:56 PM

Descendents, The Bronx, Late Bloomer
The Fillmore
Aug. 4, 2017

Skate rats (like me) and punk music fans (also like me) have been waiting a long time for legendary punk rockers Descendents to descend on the Queen City. Needless to say, they didn't disappoint while playing plenty of crowd favorites. They were the icing on the cake for a night that was started with Charlotte trio Late Bloomer, a group that adds excitement to any bill they're on. The Bronx held up their end of the bargain in the middle. Singer Matt Caughthran is incessantly energetic and has a paradoxically shit-eating-yet-genuine smile which permeates the crowd into celebration.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Logic whips young Charlotte crowd into a frenzy

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 9:46 PM

Logic w/ Joey Bada$$, Big Lenbo
Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
Aug. 1, 2017

"Peace. Love. Positivity. But also, no fuckboys allowed." Those hard and fast rules were set by Logic the moment he came onstage Tuesday night at the Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater. It was a beautiful and odd sentiment. Beautiful, because there was such a nice vibe to the crowd. Odd, because most of his crowd consisted of underage white guys. Several times throughout the set, Logic would ask the crowd if they were ready to go home — and, in a call-and- response facilitated by Logic himself, they would scream back “Fuck no!” Interesting considering 80 percent of the audience appeared to be there with their parents.

Logic’s two-hour set consisted of a variety of songs from his mixtapes, Under Pressure and The Incredible True Story and his latest release, Everybody. Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, otherwise known as Logic, has created a rap legacy at just 27 years old. He released his first mixtape in 2009 before signing with Visionary Music Group, eventually landing a contract with Def Jam Recordings.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Clutch shines, Primus cruises at CMCU Amphitheatre

Posted By on Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 9:54 PM

Primus w/ Clutch
Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
July 17, 2017

Kicking off their summer run right here in the Queen City, Primus and Clutch appeared like a great matchup of energetic tour mates. However, the balance just wasn't there. Clutch hit the stage running thanks to energetic frontman Neil Fallon. Fallon's vocals were spot-on and the singer commanded attention for the duration of the blues-rock band's 75-minute set. Primus followed with a 90-minute set of its own and while the alt-rockers extended jams and enthralled fans with a hit-heavy set, the overall performance felt flat. There was a time when the hits were hard to come by as bassist Les Claypool focused on a solo career. These days, with the reunited lineup, even Claypool's effortless bass playing feels a bit soulless at times. Guitarist Larry LaLonde continues to push the boundaries, but one new song isn't enough to entice longtime fans. While the band remains sonically solid, they need to breathe more joy into it and not look like they're in it for the paycheck.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Elonzo Wesley brightens up the U.S. National Whitewater Center

Posted By on Sun, Jul 16, 2017 at 10:13 PM

Elonzo Wesley
U.S. National Whitewater Center
July 15, 2017

While a passing thunderstorm might have scared some people away, those who showed up for Elonzo Wesley's Saturday night River Jam session were in for a treat. While it was plenty humid, the rain was gone and the weather was cooler by the time the band took the stage. Not only that, the Charlotte band sounded fantastic. What started out as an indie-rock band called Elonzo some years ago has developed into more of a solo project by that band's singer/guitarist, Jeremy Davis. Davis still performs solo, but there's gorgeous musical and lyrical depth when the string band is present. A stand-up bass, fiddle and mandolin create solid sonic layers, while four-part harmonies only enhance Davis' personal and emotional lyrics. Cover songs blended in seamlessly with the band's originals providing an outstanding backdrop for the outdoor, riverside setting.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Rain doesn't dampen My Morning Jacket's thunderous performance

Posted By on Sun, Jul 9, 2017 at 10:33 PM

My Morning Jacket w/ Gary Clark Jr.
Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
July 8, 2017

Whenever My Morning Jacket comes to town, the rain finds a way to try and dampen the night's events. Once again, however, the crowd and the Kentucky rock band were undeterred. Sure, the show might have been delayed by 30 minutes, but everyone present was as energetic as ever throughout the night's performances. The night was started by a shortened, soulful set by Texas blues-rocker Gary Clark Jr. The guitar slinger was stunning in his Queen City debut, hammering the crowd with heartfelt riffs and lyrics. The headliners sparked the crowd from the first notes with fan favorite after fan favorite. A set-closing "Victory Dance" was followed by a five-song encore that left the crowd satisfied but always wanting more.

My Morning Jacket setlist
Compound Fracture
Off the Record
Spring (Among the Living)
I'm Amazed
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Steam Engine
In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)
State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)
Victory Dance

Wordless Chorus
Evil Urges
Lay Low
Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2
One Big Holiday

Gary Clark Jr. setlist
Bright Lights
Ain't Messin 'Round
When My Train Pulls In
Our Love
Travis County

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dispatch serves up a stellar summer concert

Posted By on Sun, Jun 25, 2017 at 9:21 PM

Dispatch w/ Guster, Jake Shimabukuro
Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre
June 23, 2017

While it typically takes bands a few songs to get warmed up, Dispatch had no problem hitting its stride just moments into the band's first song. With an audience full of backup singers, the indie-roots band fed off the crowd and cruised through a lengthy set of 18 songs. Look, we can't tell you why Dispatch isn't a household name, but a large Charlotte crowd could give you plenty of reasons to give them a listen. The band found plenty of moments to let loose for jams, spurring on the summer night. It was one that started with a short set by ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro. Guster's lackluster set was satisfying for fans and spotlighted by the band's efforts to get the crowd involved - including a brief jaunt into the crowd to take some selfies and swig some beer. The night, however, belonged to Dispatch.

Dispatch setlist
Here We Go
Be Gone
Open Up
Skin the Rabbit
Painted Yellow Lines
Bang Bang
Flying Horses
Rice Water
Only the Wild Ones
Circles Around the Sun
Curse + Crush
The General
Bats in the Belfry
Out loud >Time (Pink Floyd) > Out loud

Guster setlist
The Captain
Doin' It By Myself
Come Downstairs and Say Hello
Airport Song
Long Night
This Could All Be Yours

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Banks fuses artistry and style at Fillmore concert

Posted By on Sun, Jun 11, 2017 at 9:45 PM

Banks, Toulouse
The Fillmore
June 9, 2017

From the moment singer Banks hit the stage until the last notes rang out, the Fillmore crowd was completely enthralled. From the electropop tunes to the stellar vocals to the hypnotic visuals, Banks captivated everyone in attendance from the moment she walked on stage. Her dances were choreographed, yet artistic. The music had pop-sensibilities and poetic phrasing. The stage setup was simple, but enchanting. For all of the simplicity of the bare stage, Banks proved she didn't need anything flashy to impress. Those in attendance danced, stared and never, ever got enough.

Fuck With Myself
Gemini Feed
Waiting Game
This is What
Mind Games
Weaker Girl
Mother Earth
Begging for Thread

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Chance the Rapper thrills packed PNC Music Pavilion

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 11:56 PM

Chance the Rapper
PNC Music Pavilion
June 8, 2017

Five years ago, Chance the Rapper opened for Childish Gambino at the then Uptown Amphitheatre. What a difference five years makes. On Thursday night, throngs of fans crammed into PNC Music Pavilion and watched a nearly two-hour DJ set in anticipation of one of this year's hottest rap artists. When Chance hit the stage, that long wait was forgotten instantly. Fresh of his multiple Grammy wins, Chance the Rapper hit the Charlotte stage and offered a quick-paced set filled with nearly 20 songs. The crowd rapped along to every line as Chance paced back and forth on the stage. A massive LED screen behind him, Chance's stage performance was a reminder of his life right now - full-on in the spotlight.

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