Counting Crows at Bayou Music Center, 7/29/2014

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Photos by Francisco Montes
Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket
Bayou Music Center
July 29, 2014

It would be easy to assume that a Counting Crows concert featuring Toad the Wet Sprocket would be a nostalgia-laden '90s throwback showcase, but that would be highly inaccurate. There certainly was some pre-millennial love in the air Tuesday night, but the Crows did not come to remind Houstonians that they were a great band two decades ago. They came to remind us that they are a great band, period.

Back in 1993, when his dreadlocks and fame were both considerably smaller, Crows lead singer Adam Duritz told the world (and his pal Mr. Jones) that he wanted to be Bob Dylan. That statement was seemingly based on the desire to write deeply meaningful lyrics that connect with audiences; in this case, Duritz and the Crows have succeeded.

Dylan rarely plays his best-known songs in concert, and the Crows did not play "Mr. Jones" Tuesday. They simply didn't have to, as Bayou Music Center's audience was completely invested in the band's performance, top to bottom.


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Austin Mahone at NRG Arena, 7/26/2014

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Photos by Francisco Montes
Austin Mahone, the Vamps, Fifth Harmony, Shawn Mendes
NRG Arena
July 26, 2014

It was in 2011 when I first came across Austin Mahone's YouTube channel. I remember watching a few of his singing videos and forming a pretty vacant opinion of the then-brace-faced 15 year-old. To me, he was another teenage boy who could stay on pitch but mostly relied on his baby-faced looks to see if he could make it.

In fact, out of all the young guys during that time who were trying to make it as a singer on YouTube, I'd say Mahone had one of the highest rates of WPV (winks per video). However, it did seem like the San Antonio native was one of the few who had that certain something record labels could work with.

Since then, the budding teen idol has released four successful singles and an EP through Young Money Cash Money records, but the bulk of his success should be indebted to his legion of loyal fans who call themselves "Mahomies."


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Robbie Fulks at the Mucky Duck, 7/26/2014

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Photos by Jason Wolter
Robbie Fulks
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
July 26, 2014

Chicago songwriter and flatpicker extraordinaire Robbie Fulks made it look easy before an almost sold-out crowd at the Mucky Duck Saturday night. In spite of several quips about how hot Houston is in July, Fulks didn't even break a sweat as he rolled through 90 minutes of tunes from his 11-album career.

At 51, Fulks has been at this professionally over three decades, so he has the drill down; so much so that it would be easy to say Fulks mailed it in Saturday night were it not for his virtuoso picking, a grab-gab full of songs any writer would kill for, and a voice that hits every note.

Much like Hayes Carll, Fulks sprinkles his shows with wit and wry wisdom and tells a few "stories behind the song," which is de rigueur for solo acoustic shows these days.


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John Legend at The Woodlands, 7/23/2014

Categories: Last Night

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Photos by Violeta Alvarez
John Legend
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 23, 2014

As the crowd's applause subsided following Wednesday evening's first song, "Made to Love," John Legend leaned down toward the crowd from the his piano bench onstage at the Woodlands Pavilion. He had a coy, even mischievous look about him, as if he was about to divulge a secret.

"Houston," he whispered into the microphone, "I want to be the best you ever had."

Legend then raised a single eyebrow and smirked as the crowd resumed its cheering.

"I don't want to brag," Legend sang, "but tonight, I'll be the best you ever had."

Does it really constitute vanity if it's true?


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Stone Temple Pilots & Blue October at The Woodlands, 7/19/2014

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Photos by Francisco Montes
Stone Temple Pilots
Bud Lite Weenie Roast
Feat. Stone Temple Pilots, Blue October, 10 Years
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 19, 2014

When it was first announced that Chester Bennington would be singing with the Stone Temple Pilots, the public raised a collective eyebrow and even avid Linkin Park fans wondered if he possessed the chops for the job. But Bennington slowly won over fans, both old and new.

With an appreciation for the band's original sound but also a swagger all his own, he strode out onto the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion stage Saturday night alongside the rest of the band's original lineup to the elation of the crowd.

Unlike many contemporary rock concerts, Bennington's vocals were subdued, set alongside the bass and guitar levels instead of high above them. As fans gleefully sang along to the likes of "Sex Type Thing," "Vaseline," "Big Empty" and "Dead & Bloated," it became clear that Bennington had resolved himself not to reinvent the wheel.

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Beyoncé & Jay Z at Minute Maid Park, 7/18/2014

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Photos courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Beyonce & Jay-Z
Minute Maid Park
July 18, 2014

When the downtown lots were charging upwards of $80 for parking, could there be any doubt that the biggest tour of the summer had hit Houston with all the force of a summer lightning storm on Friday night? Beyonce, our very own homegrown megastar was in town, and she brought her hit-making hubby along for the ride. By 8 p.m., the air outside the ballpark was absolutely crackling with anticipatory energy as legions of ladies in their club-ready best lined up with and without the men who love them to bear witness to the spectacle cooked up by the closet thing we've got to a modern-day musical monarchy.

It was the biggest assembly that Minute Maid Park has seen in years, and the stadium staff seemed more than a little overwhelmed by it all. Huge crowds clustered at every entrance waiting as patiently as they could to get inside as harried security tried to check everyone as thoroughly as time allowed. With thousands still outside the gates as the show began, staffers finally gave up on the metal detectors and began sending everybody through, narrowly avoiding what felt like a riot in the making.


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The Crystal Method at Stereo Live, 7/17/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
The Crystal Method
Stereo Live
July 17, 2014

Over the past two decades, the Crystal Method has cleared the way for electronic artists to flourish today. Their debut album, Vegas, was released in 1997 and today is iconic in the world of electronic music, while Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have remained relevant by releasing five more studio albums, multiple collaborations with mainstream artists, a large number of commercials and contributed to a vast array of video game and movie soundtracks.

This year the duo is celebrating their 20th anniversary together with a tour supporting their latest, self-titled album that stopped at Stereo Live Thursday night. It was the third time that I have attended a Crystal Method show, the most recent being in 1998 when the music media was hyping up electronica as the next being thing. One Houston Press article described their music as a bunch of beeps and bloops that created melodies.

I remember going to purchase the tickets at the Record Rack on Shepherd Drive. I also recall either a radio interview or a local article that warned concertgoers to expect something different than a normal concert - you would be disappointed if you attended expecting to see people playing instruments and moving around on stage, it said.

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Lady Gaga at Toyota Center, 7/16/2014

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Photos by Barry Brecheisen-WireImage/Courtesy of Live Nation
Note: media photography was not approved for Houston. These photos are from Gaga's artRave at Chicago's United Center.
Lady Gaga, Lady Nightshade, Crayon Pop
Toyota Center
July 16, 2014

For a good handful of years there, there was no question who reigned as pop music's auteur supreme. Arriving as if from some stranger, sillier and downright gayer dimension than our own, a chameleonic diva calling herself Lady Gaga took the charts by storm by bidding the planet to "Just Dance," and dance we did.

She hatched from an egg at the Grammys. She wore a dress made of meat. And her music went into heavy rotation at discos and shopping malls the world over. A new pop icon -- the talented, mutant spawn of Michael Jackson and Madonna -- seemed to be emerging, and it was exciting breath of fresh, Rihanna-free air.

That was then. A couple of middling albums and a few world mega-tours later, and Gaga seems to have been bumped down the pop pecking order a notch or three, teetering on the brink of becoming old hat. While no one doubts her talent for singles and spectacle, could yet another big arena tour from Mama Monster really still compete with Miley's bizarre Bangerz staging, or Beyonce's mechanized perfection? Worse yet, might she actually be committing the unforgivable sin of trying too hard? Reviews (and predictions) have been mixed.


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Lionel Richie & Cee-Lo Green at The Woodlands, 7/13/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Lionel Richie, Cee-Lo Green
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 13, 2014

It's not a stretch to say that many of my peers could have possibly been conceived thanks to Lionel Richie's body of work. The legendary R&B singer's sexy-meets-soulful approach, both with the Commodores in the '60s and '70s and solo since the '80s has provided the soundtrack for lovers everywhere for quite some time.

The incredibly preserved Richie is the performer that you never knew you wanted to see until you were there seeing him, singing along to his hits. And hits there were. Advertised as "All The Hits -- All Night Long," Richie's show didn't let down the crowd in that category, as for a little more than two hours he brought his all to the hot and steamy Woodlands summer night.

To be honest, I didn't really expect much going into the show. I figured on a phoned-in performance from a guy just trying to turn his past into a few more bucks. Thankfully, it was anything but.


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The Cro-Mags at Walters, 7/10/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
The Cro-Mags, Die Young, Black Coffee, BLUNT, H.R.A.
Walters Downtown
July 10, 2014

When the Cro-Mags arose from the streets of New York City in the mid-'80s, punk and heavy metal were hardly the best of friends. If there's one thing that singer John Joseph and company have proved over their tumultuous career wrecking stages together, though, it's that the tight bonds of friendship aren't necessarily a prerequisite to do some groundbreaking damage.

After more makeups, breakups and lineup changes than anyone cares to count at this point, the 'Mags have reemerged as proud hardcore elder statesmen in the 21st century, recognized far and wide for their thrashing, crossover sound's indelible influence on both sides of the once-deep punk/metal divide.

On a rare stop in Houston on Thursday night, the band drew a crowd ready to show out for the scene legends who wielded such a heavy hand in crafting the modern underground's sound and aesthetic.


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