Wilson Phillips: Toledo 7/19/14

A night at The Palace (Detroit) with Queen

I have seen a lot of concerts over the past decade or two. But, it's not every day that I get to see a band so legendary, so unbelievably massive as Queen, who performed at The Palace of Auburn Hills near Detroit this month.

With the obvious absence of the late Freddie Mercury, Queen got quite possibly the best available stand-in to put a voice to their songs - Adam Lambert. While Freddie is completely irreplaceable, Adam undeniably has the vocal talent, the stage presence, the confidence, the charisma and the "camp" mastery to ensure that the show go on ... because it must.

It has been more than 20 years since Freddie Mercury tragically passed away, but original Queen band members Brian May (guitar) and Roger Taylor (drums) have kept the band, and Freddie's memory, alive through performances with singers such as Paul Rodgers (2004-2009) and most recently, Adam Lambert. At The Palace, the band played a 27-song set that started just a few minutes after 8 p.m. (no opening act needed) with "Now I'm Here;" from the moment the opening chords played and Adam's voice sang "Here I stand," I had chills. Those chills continued for the more than two hour show as the band played one of the best songs of all time, following by another one of the best songs of all time, and another and another.

To hear songs like "Somebody to Love," "Killer Queen," and (!) "Bohemian Rhapsody" (shout out to the 20-something guy in the row behind me wearing a Wayne's World hat. I see what you did there) live is just an other worldly experience.

And while Freddie was physically absent, he was there in spirit throughout the show, like when Brian May sang lead vocals on "Love of My Life" with a tape of Freddie playing behind him. And when Adam performed a "duet" of "Bohemian Rhapsody" with Freddie. If you closed your eyes, you could almost believe Freddie was in the room. 

Please check out all my photos here.

Queen Bareilles in Cleveland > King James

On July 11, royalty officially came back to Cleveland. No, I'm not talking about "King James"; I'm referring to queen of everything, Sara Bareilles, who performed at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica* as part of her Little Black Dress Tour just hours after Cleveland began celebrating LeBron's return. In an "I'm so excited. I'm so scared." moment even Jessie Spano wouldn't envy, the city got some of its best news in a long time. (He hurts us because he loves us).

As Cleveland began healing from four years of PTSD, many of its residents came out to enjoy a few mid-tempo jams from Ms. Bareilles, who joined in on the excitement of the day by wearing a Cavaliers hat with "Cleveland" in big block letters under the brim. As she introduced her two opening acts, Emily King and Hannah Georgas (a tradition that illustrates just one of the ways Sara is unlike any other artist in the business right now. How many other pop stars would come on stage before their headlining set - sans makeup - to introduce their opening act(s) and give a short description of why she picked them to join her tour? None that I've ever seen), she joked "I made a call...You're welcome, Cleveland."

After the two openers, Sara came on stage once again to perform a 19-song set that included tracks from all three of her albums as well as a couple cover songs, a haunting take on Sia's "Chandelier" (<-- click for YouTube link) and an upbeat "My Lovin' (Never Gonna Get It)" by En Vogue. Sara's stage and production were bigger and flashier than any of her previous tours, a testament to her hard work and success over the past several years, culminating in several Grammy nominations and future plans that include an autobiography and penning the score of a Broadway musical based on the film, "Waitress."

One of the most touching moments of the show involved a young girl named Carly (sp?) and a series of interactions that she'll probably remember for the rest of her life. After wearing her Cavs hat once again while performing her current single "I Choose You" (LeBron chose us, guys. He didn't mean what he did), Sara gave the hat and her guitar pick to Carly in the front row.

Then, a few songs later, Sara commented on Carly's adorable dancing throughout the show and brought her on stage for a hug and a few pictures. Clutching the hat and guitar pick for the rest of the evening, Carly was clearly the star of the show.

*Special shoutout to this gorgeous venue, which I'd never been to before. The stage sits just in front of Lake Erie, and you can even see boats pass by behind the show. However, make sure you aren't in the front row like I was; the stage, about 10 feet high, really blocks your view. You are much better off farther back. There are really no bad seats in this intimate venue - except front row center. But hey, the side of Sara Bareilles' piano is really shiny.

Check out all my photos here.

Pop in the 21st Century: Neon Trees in Detroit

Neon Trees recently brought its Pop Psychology Tour to The Fillmore in Detroit, putting on a show as colorful and unique as its name. The Utah band - known for hit songs "Animal," "Everybody Talks," "Sleeping with a Friend," and "Text Me in the Morning" (a "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" for the 21st century) - are a truly underrated group of artists. Led by singer Tyler Glenn and his undeniable charisma, Neon Trees is one of the best live bands out there right now. Fans discover them through their killer hooks (like the brilliant, "It started with a whisper," from Everybody Talks) and stay for their relatable lyrics (such as "Four chords and a beat keep me alive," from Living in Another World).

Two opening acts I had previously never heard of performed in support of Neon Trees, Nightmare & the Cat and Small Pools. In a case of "that's the point," I fell in love with the former and their brand new debut album, "Simple," which just came out last week. Lead singer, Django Stewart, has his own unique distinctive style that evokes a touch of (Jeff) Buckley and maybe even a little bit of (Rufus) Wainwright while still bringing something new. The band also includes Stewart's brother, Sam on lead guitar, etc.; Claire Acey on guitar, background vocals, etc.; Scott Henson on bass; and Spike Phillips on drums, etc. While Django and Sam come from famous parents Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), they're forging their own path (lyrics in their album's title track include "Mother, tell me is this what you wanted/I have tried my best to keep away from the privilege in my father's name"), and I'm really looking forward to what this group will do over the next few years.

To heir is human
Check out all my photos of Neon Trees, Nightmare & the Cat and Small Pools here.