13 September 2009

Concerts, concerts...

I am in Las Vegas, having just walked away from a special Mariah Carey concert - my fourth time seeing her in a concert setting, and my fifth encounter with her overall. She becomes the fifth major act I see in 2009, and I don't expect to see another concert for the rest of the year, so I want to go ahead and do some recap.

Mariah Carey tonight. Her hair is curly - a throwback to her early days. This show, part of a special run of four at The Palms in Las Vegas, is in a very intimate setting, a departure from her normal big arena shows. Who knows, this may be a test run for a long-term headliner residence that Celine Dion pioneered back in 2003.

Most of the numbers performed were the catchier ones that Mariah's main fan base - twentysomethings - prefer. However, her last two numbers were to my liking. One was a remake of Foreigner's "I Wanna Know What Love Is," which is to be released in a few days as Mariah's newest single, and it sounded far better than my expectations. The absolute last number was "Hero," a very sentimental song that always leaves me in tears. Any Mariah Carey concert I walk away from in tears (that's all that I've been to so far) is a good one in my books.

Although no photos were allowed, many fans did sneak digital cameras in, and before the ushers started cracking down, lots of photos were taken during the first number or two. I was one of those fans - that's how I managed to have a photo at all.

A few weeks prior. The Grove, a posh mall in Los Angeles, likes to feature talented artists every Wednesday night in August for a free concert for shoppers. And Michelle Branch was there on the night I went to the Grove. Great show! I got a good mix of different numbers - some from her early pop days, one from her later work doing a country duo called The Wreckers (the other half of The Wreckers, Ashley Monroe, was present as well), and a few from a new album still to come that is country-flavored pop.

This was my second time catching a free show at the Grove. The first time was in 2006, when I experienced another excellent singer-songwriter, Anna Nalick. While I hung out with Anna and walked away with an autograph, I did not bother to go that far for Michelle.

Backtracking to June and the San Francisco LGBT Pride. The San Francisco Pride has lots of great entertainment, especially at this stage located in Civic Center Plaza, and the entertainers are often supportive heterosexuals from out of the area, or even out of the country. And here is the proof.

BoA, the Korean pop sensation who's moved millions of records in Japan, is making her first US-market appearance at the San Francisco Pride. While she had performed in the US previously, those occasions were for the Korean-American community using her Korean singles, but this is the first performance for the general American public involving English-language singles specifically for US and worldwide consumption.

I loved seeing BoA in this setting. Anything that connects San Francisco's LGBTs to the good everyday people of South Korea who made the last few months of 2008 special for me, rather than the theocrats of South Korea's government and the Korean-American community who worked so hard to take away California's marriage equality at the same time, is a good thing in my books.

And backtracking even more to March. I am at Honda Center in Anaheim. This is a special double-feature concert featuring Sir Elton John on the left and Billy Joel on the right. It's my fourth time with Sir Elton, and first with Billy.

I loved this show - a friendly duel of two top-notch piano men! They often made fun of each other in unusual ways. For example, when Billy Joel sang "We Didn't Start the Fire," the overhead screens displayed whatever world event he was singing about, and when he sang "England's got a new Queen," which actually refers to the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1952, the screens showed a photo of Elton John instead!

As my previous Elton John shows were very recent - 2004, 2005, and 2008 - parts of this show felt like a routine to me, rather than something to be excited about, even though the show itself was top-notch.

And back to tonight, I walked away with that same "routine" feeling when it comes to Mariah Carey. Again, it was my fourth show with her as well. Even with new songs and playlists, there is only so much change a given artist, especially one with decades worth of hit repertoire, can do. While I will continue to attend shows of my proven favorite artists, I will have to look for some new favorites to enjoy as well.