Sunday, November 9, 2014

Train, Christina Perri, Magic!, Mary Lambert, Nico & Vinz concert review: Anaheim

Mary Lambert talks about unrealistic beauty
A version of my review originally appeared at All photos by Kelly Swift.

In one sense, “My Big Night Out” lived up to its name Saturday night.

The concert, put on 104.3 MYFM, featured five top names in adult contemporary radio. Four currently have top 20 singles on the genre’s Billboard chart.

But the Los Angeles station didn’t draw too “big” a turnout at Honda Center. Though it was supposed to be a half house configuration, the only curtain was behind the stage and those seats aren't always sold anyway. High ticket prices were probably a factor and resulted in major empty gaps.

DJ Valentine said the show wouldn’t be like some others, in which an act does one song and leaves (no doubt a reference to KIIS FM’s “Wango Tango”). While that was true, a couple of early performances included only four songs. Radio gigs typically don’t pay, so the incentive for the bands to play long sets just wasn’t there. The rest of the DJs were surprisingly MIA. Valentine himself left midway through Train (granted he had a young son in tow).

Despite a slick sound and several hits, headliner Train’s 50-minute set in Anaheim was permeated by a nagging sense that the group was going through the motions. 

Upbeat opener “Cadillac Cadillac” (the current single off its impressive latest album, Bulletproof Picasso) and “Give It All” (a new piano-based ballad in which Pat Monahan displayed fine falsetto vocals) were both soulful. He offered the usual fan selfies amid “If It’s Love” and brought up some fans to dance on a spirited “Hey, Soul Sister.”

New drummer Drew Shoals injected more expressiveness into older selections “Drops of Jupiter” and “Meet Virginia.” Then founding guitarist Jimmy Stafford did some searing solos for the latter and “Calling All Angels.” Train filled its classic rock cover slot with Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” in which Monahan even attempted Steven Tyler's original ending howl (with effects) to close the evening.

Christina Perri enthralls on piano
Whether playing piano or bounding across the stage, Christina Perri brought plenty of drama.

Sometimes recalling a young Alanis Morissette (minus the affectations), she started her 35-minute set alone for “Jar of Hearts” before being joined by musicians. Perri provided background to several tunes.

Highlights included a sprightly “Be My Forever” (sung with Ed Sheeran on latest album Head or Heart), the elegant swell of “A Thousand Years” (heard in the film Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Pt. 1), 
a dynamic “Burning Gold” and a totally heartfelt “Human.”

Mary Lambert also registered high on the emotional intensity scale. From the lush “She Keeps Me Warm” (repurposed from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis gay-rights smash “Same Love”) to the riveting spoken-word “Body Love” about accepting yourself, Lambert was riveting. Talkative and playing keyboards throughout, she eased things up on the humorous “Secrets” - from the just released full-length Heart on My Sleeve - and appended an operatic run.
Magic! easily gets the crowd on their feet
Canada’s Magic! defined laid-back with its reggae-leaning tunes. Singer Nasri rarely stood still, but didn’t seem to be having much fun – even when the band did a slowed-down Cyndi Lauper cover (you can guess which one).

Still, “Stupid Me” was highly infectious and standout “Don’t Kill the Magic” was enlivened by strong harmonies.

After summertime chart topper “Rude” (a real crowd-pleaser), the frontman acted as if he couldn’t wait to leave.

Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz’s brief yet energetic blend of Afro pop and hip-hop fared well with early arrivals. The mini-dance contest between the two was a time killer, but the guys’ breezy harmonica-driven “Homeless” and spirited hit “Am I Wrong” came across fine in the cavernous arena.

Nico & Vinz put a smile on everyone's faces

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