Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Steve Grand, Ricky Rebel concert review: Santa Ana, Calif.

photo by Mindy Schauer/OC Register
This past Saturday in Santa Ana, Calif., Steve Grand made his first Orange County area appearance and definitely impressed the crowd by taking an organic approach.

The singer/songwriter/keyboardist came to prominence with 2013’s self-financed viral hit video “All American Boy.” It drew major media coverage and has since attained more than 5 million views.

Last year, Grand, 26, put out his terrific debut release of the same name, which was co-produced by San Clemente-based Aaron Johnson (The Fray). The album bowed at No. 3 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart and is among Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns (not released on a major label) to date.

A celebratory, summer-themed “Stay” launched the captivating 50-minute set at the Yost Theater. "Soakin' Wet" and "Whiskey Crime" were both playful fun, while the stripped down "Boy" single gave Grand a chance to display his sultry vocals and instrumental prowess with a piano solo.

Citing Elton John as a big influence onstage, he did a spirited cover of “Bennie and the Jets.” Although it only seemed to register with older patrons, some latter day remakes went over better with younger crowd: a dramatic “Pillow Talk” (Zayn Malik), the tender “Sorry” (Justin Bieber) and riveting “Style” (Taylor Swift), the latter containing some shrewd, male-oriented word changes.

Elsewhere, the dramatic, smoldering “All American Boy” was a sing along highlight. Grand previewed his next album (likely to be “more acoustic based and no guitars,” he said, in a pre-show interview) with the promising intimate ballad “Don’t Let the Light In.”

Cloaked in a rainbow flag during the EDM-leaning closer, "We Are the Night," Grand sang lyrics which resonated deeply for many people following the recent Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida: “today could be our last/we’ll just live as we are/unmoved by the darkness we face.”

Overall, the performance was well worth the wait.

Also on the bill was Ricky Rebel. He brought the house down with an exciting half hour set that featured choreographed dancers. A former member of late ‘90s boy band No Authority - which was discovered by Michael Jackson, signed to Madonna’s Maverick Records and toured with Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child – Rebel was more recently associated with My Chemical Romance.

Backed by the three piece band, the blue-coiffed vocalist did some acrobatic (and sexually suggestive) moves. His glam rock/dance style frequently brought to mind Adam Lambert, Orgy and Marc Almond.

Adding a theatrical flair, Rebel donned a crown and cape for the hard-hitting “Savior.” Other songs from 2014’s “The Blue Album,” such as “Star” and "Boys and Sometimes Girls,” were equally vibrant.

But the true standout was the cover of David Bowie’s (what else?) “Rebel Rebel,” where he sported a Ziggy Stardust-inspired outfit and mimicked the infamous Mick Ronson making-out-with-guitar move.

A version of my review appeared in the OC Register.

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