Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Concert Review: MADONNA’s Rebel Heart Tour 2016

Filed under: Performing Arts,Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:15


So by now I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about The Material Girl’s bad reputation earned for her making of her fans wait an extended period of time before she decides to take the stage. And while that may certainly be a worthy criticism (and for my partner, a deal breaker to ever seeing her live again), it shouldn’t distract from her enormous talent and ability to put on one hell of a show. On Wednesday, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing MADONNA’s Rebel Heart Tour, which featured about a 65%/35% split between performances of tunes from her 2015 Grammy-less nominated album Rebel Heart and her classic defining hits at Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA

After a horrific opening by a DJ whose name I cannot nor wish to recall and about an hour break, Madonna finally took the stage around 11:05pm. Her opening number “Iconic,” featuring a guest appearance by former boxer Mike Tyson (yes—that Mike Tyson, whose collaboration has resulted in many women’s rights groups to hurl some shade Madge’s way), was energetic and fantastic! Surrounded by 15 dancers clad in Asian warrior uniforms flailing choreographed fight sequences using large cross-like staffs, Madonna made her way down from the ceiling in a cage, where she was ultimately “freed” by her enormously talented dance squad.

The show included essentially every number from Rebel Heart. Luckily for me, I find most of that album tolerable (unlike Madonna’s last album MDNA, 70% of which I disliked). But fans wishing to hear Madonna perform the older mega-hits from her catalog probably left the concert a little disappointed. But many of those classic and artist defining hits like “Material Girl,” “Like A Virgin,” and “La Isla Bonita” remained in the set list. The highlight of the performance of Madonna”s older material for me was definitely “True Blue.” The True Blue album spawned many of Madonna’s biggest hit singles (“Cherish” and “Express Yourself” for example) and was certainly nostalgic for her longest-term fans to hear. She performed the number bathed in a blue light, surrounded by her dancers. It was also different from the poppy original version, sung to a more acoustical arrangement of the music.

The staging of the show was truly amazing. Screens rose from the stage floor, shifted in the background, and complimented the performances perfectly. Large set pieces, including a three-story staircase descended mid show, providing a great set for Madonna to perform some of the more slower songs from Rebel Heart. Madonna also showed off her talent on the guitar, playing along with her band to several ballads, including the title track from Rebel Heart, which I believe is the strongest song on the album.

While Madonna was certainly the star of the show, her dancers weren’t far behind. Of all the Madonna tours I’ve seen (and I’ve seen about 6 now), I have never seen her dancers play such a prominent role in the staging.  Countless numbers featured amazingly and well-choreographed sequences ranging from steamy HOTT simulated sex acts on several beds lining the stage to acrobatic stunts played out on poles that bent dancers down just feet in-front of audience members on the floor. And while the dancers were absolutely gorgeous (one female dancer even goes topless for most of the show), they are also dripping with talent! And the closing number, punctuated by “Holiday,” one of Madonna’s biggest hits, was so fun and full of energy that the entire arena remembered why their love for Madonna was worth the price of the $800 ticket.

Despite the three-hour delay, the crowd was raucous and enthusiastically supported Madonna throughout the performance of every number. And while Rebel Heart is not my favorite Madonna album, I do believe the music to be much stronger than her previous outing, MDNA. Consequently, I really enjoyed this concert more than her last concert tour, MDNA. This particular performance was also one in which Madonna interacted with the audience more than I’ve ever seen. She spoke candidly and joked about the mistakes she’d made in her life and marriages; and she really looked as if she was enjoying her time on stage and appreciated just how much her fans cherish her.

While her Re-Invention Tour will remain my favorite Madonna concert-going experience, this Rebel Heart experience isn’t far behind. Below, take a front row look at some fan-recorded footage of Madonna performing “Rebel Heart” from her show in Turin in November 2015:

MADONNA: “Rebel Heart” Live From Turn

Thursday, May 29, 2014

ERASURE Concert Dates Announced, New Album Teased

Filed under: Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:35


Pop-synth superstars Andy Bell and Vince Clark, AKA ERASURE, announced this week that they will be releasing a new album entitled The Violent Flame in September. The duo also released a slew of international tour dates, including a show on September 13th at the House of Blues in Orlando, Florida. Take a look at the short video promoting the new album below. Click this link for tour dates: http://www.erasureinfo.com/concerts/.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Theater Review: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder

Filed under: Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:22


A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder (Walter Kerr Theatre): This show has been nominated for more Tony Awards than any other Broadway show this season. Coming in at 10 nominations, there was no way I could miss it. And I am glad I didn’t. Now–does it deserve that many nominations when there are others who were completely snubbed? No. But that shouldn’t distract from the fun experience this show provides. The story is simple–a man who is down and out on his luck finds out he is actually a member of a wealthy family and is only 9th in line to inherit everything they own. Thus, he proceeds to murder all those standing in his way. While the story is simple (as are the sets), the two main lead actors are not. Monty Navarro (the murderer) is played beautifully by Bryce Pinkham while the ENTIRE D’Ysquith family is portrayed masterfully by Jefferson Mays. You read right–he plays the ENTIRE family during the show. And that adds an incredible amount of hilarity as he plays both the males and females of the family. This show is hilarious–I was sore from laughing through most of the 2 hour and 23 minute running time! And it is a classic British farce that earns its laughs from slapstick silliness and ridiculous one liners that make the show’s book writer, Robert L. Freedman, rightly deserving of his Tony nomination. But in the end, the show is light-hearted entertainment. I didn’t walk out of the theater with the impression this was some incredible and groundbreaking work. But I certainly enjoyed my time.  Check out video highlights from the show courtesy of Playbill below:

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Bridges of Madison County: The Musical Soundtrack Debuts at #1

Filed under: Performing Arts,Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 16:08


The absolutely beautiful, gorgeous, and powerful music from the Broadway musical The Bridges of Madison County, immortalized on soundtrack from Ghostlight Records, was released this week for digital download on iTunes. And while sadly the show is struggling to attract an audience in New York, the soundtrack debuted as the #1 most purchased Broadway Cast Recording on the digital downloads chart, #2 most purchased soundtrack (behind Disney’s mega-hit Frozen), and landed at the #14 spot overall. The music and lyrics for the show are written by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown, the masterful composer of the musical Parade, which also features incredibly moving, melodic, and lush orchestrations and lyrics.

The Bridges of Madison County soundtrack can be digitally downloaded from iTunes now; and it will be released to retailers nationwide on May 29th. Tickets for The Bridges of Madison County can be purchased directly from the show’s Web site at: http://bridgesofmadisoncountymusical.com/tickets/. If you’re going to be in NYC and are planning a trip to Broadway, THIS is the show to see. To read my review of The Bridges of Madison County The Musical, click here: Theater Review: Bridges of Madison County The Musical, ROCKY: The Musical, Machinal, and All The Way . Below, watch footage of stars Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale recording the absolutely beautiful song “One Second And A Million Miles.” You’ll quickly see just why the music from this show is one of the best Broadway scores you’ll ever hear.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Carole King Visits “Beautiful”

Filed under: Performing Arts,Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 18:26


Carole King saw the new Broadway musical that tells the story of her life for the first time last night in New York. The show opened several months ago; but King said she was afraid the show would be too painful for her to watch given the ups and downs of her personal life, all of which are depicted in the musical, and opted not to see it. But last night, she decided to quietly sit through the show and came up on stage to praise the cast and help raise money ($30,000!) for Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS. See also gave a loving performance of her hit song “You’ve Got A Friend” to say thank-you to the donors. Take a look at her performance in the video below. She released the following statement after watching the production:  “It was an honor to see Beautiful for the first time last night,” King said. “And I was thrilled to help the cast raise a fast $30,000 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Jessie Mueller and company are fantastic, and it was so joyous to be there. I couldn’t be more proud.” I was able to see the show several months ago and I absolutely loved it.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lady GaGa Wants to Be Your G.U.Y!

Filed under: Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:04


WOW! Take a look at the AMAZING new video for Lady GaGa’s new single “G.U.Y.” from ARTPOP. Enjoy!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kylie Minogue Looking Great in New Video

Filed under: Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:10


Last week international pop superstar Kylie Minogue released her new album Kiss Me Once. And if the album performs as well on the charts as Kylie’s looking in her new video for the single “Sexercise” from the album, she’s going to make millions. Take a look at the fun, hot, and steamy video below. Kiss Me Once from Parlophone Records Ltd. is now available for digital download through iTunes and other digital retailers nationwide. The album releases in retail outlets on March 25th. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Backstreet Boys Premiere “In A World Like This”

Filed under: Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 23:07


While their new album doesn’t street until June 30th, the Backstreet Boys gave the world a listen to their new single “In A World Like This” today by placing the song in an audio video on YouTube. Take a listen to the awesome new single below. “In A World Like This” releases from Legacy Records on June 25th while their new album releases just 5 days later on June 30th.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

NKOTB “Like the Remix”

Filed under: Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:02


The New Kids on the Block have released their new single from their forthcoming album Ten. Entitled “I Like The Remix” the song is a catchy and fun tune featuring lead vocals by none other than Donnie Wahlberg. Take a look at the fun video for the new song below. Ten releases from the Block/Boston Five label to retailers nationwide and for digital download on April 2nd. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Once Wins Grammy

Filed under: Performing Arts,Popular Music — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:15


The Tony-Award winning Best Musical Once can add yet another accolade to its list. The show won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album on Sunday. Once beat out Newsies, Porgy and Bess, Follies, and Nice Work If You Can Get It to take home the gold! Congratulations to the talented actor-musicians and everyone else who worked on the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Once. The album is available in retail outlets nationwide from Masterworks and for digital download through iTunes and Amazon.

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