2011 Year in Review: Concerts

Minaj-89

Nicki Minaj

The ladies ran the world this year — or at least the concert stage, whether dives or arenas.

1. Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae (Verizon Theatre). These two crashed the venue with the year’s most amazing live performances. Monae, in all her spastic glory, ran across the stage and into the audience, proving why she is the next Prince. And with her futuristic-themed album Archandroid, her band was loud and live minus any apparent electronic help. Mars did the same but recalled old-school showmanship, channeling Marvin Gaye, James Brown and Smokey Robinson as he and his own band filled the place with raucous horns, slamming percussion and Mars’ charisma.

2. Nicki Minaj (American Airlines, pictured). Britney sputtered before her concert hit its stride halfway through, but Minaj brought it from the get-go. With military precision, she and her troupe marched and danced while the audience roared, spanking the American Airlines Center as if she were the headliner, making everyone in the crowd her bitch. And all were on board. Her ovation with Spears was proof that Minaj’s star has arrived.

3. Jackie Hall (Lakewood Bar & Grill). A surprise at the May edition of Twist LGBT, stepped in with local band One Night Stand to end the night with a bang. Even as the crowd dwindled, Hall went full bore, working up those left into a frenzy with powerful covers. This lady sings the blues and rock and pop, but turns them out like no other.

4. Scissor Sisters (American Airlines Center). There is no way to steal a show from Lady Gaga, but the Sisters didn’t need to, giving a workout of a show. Ridiculously pumped Jake Shears burned a million calories with his high-energy antics (and that ass-reveal, a great bonus). Ana Matronic held her own as Shears’ equal with funk and sass. True fans were breathless.

5. Brandi Carlile (Granada Theatre). Without much fanfare, Carlile and her legions of fans in the mid-sized Granada were like one entity fused together. Her fans gave her space to sing softly, to go unplugged and to simply love her. She gave it right back with both grit and tenderness that were triggering all the ladies’ pheromones.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

— R.L.               

—  Kevin Thomas

Sonic bookends: Scissor Sisters and White Widow

Scissors Sisters and Texas-based White Widow span a spectrum of styles

RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

4.5 out of 5 Stars

Night Work • Scissor Sisters
Downtown Music

It’s hard to believe Night Work is only the third album from Scissor Sisters. They made an impression with their ’70s throwback sounds on their eponymous 2004 debut, followed by 2006’s Ta-Dah. Here, they make a stronger impression.

Sisters have worked with producer Stuart Price, and his synth-pop signature is all over the place. He’s given them a crisp overhaul — the band shines under his light.

They keep their retro sound, but Price flushes it out with an ’80s/early ’90s dance vibe that is also simple. None of the songs are overly complex, but like the title opener, there is a vibrant energy.

CUTTING CREW | Scissor Sisters go to the basics of dance music with success in ‘Night Work.’

Lead vocalist Jake Shears works his Barry Gibb falsetto masterfully in “Any Which Way,” but will recall the robotic vocals of Gary Numan and Devo in “Running Out” and “The Harder You Get.” Over the continual dance beats, the band makes a successful attempt at rekindling the new wave genre.

The Killers catch flak for their radio readiness, but when the Sisters mimic their sound in “Fire With Fire” and “Skin Tight,” they achieve a nice freshness. (The sound shouldn’t surprise — Price has worked with The Killers, too.)

The album’s only weak moment is Ana Matronic’s lead on “Skin this Cat.” The song slows the pace a bit and overall is forgettable. Shears glows so much that I want to get back to his energetic singing against an up-tempo beat quick.

Night Work’s lead single, “Invisible Light,” is worthy of “song of the year” lists. The captivating six-minute saga boasts hypnotic verses and an explosion of an inspired chorus. Throw in an Ian McKellen monologue and it achieves greatness.

Night Work makes you wish for the ideal dance floor: A DJ playing only these 12 tracks.

3 out of 5 Stars

Black Heart • White Widow
IODA

Austin-based White Widow’s album Black Heart is relaxed rock that grooves more than jams. The hollowness of it is so sexy it makes you want to take up smoking.

White Widow is Carla Patullo, who plays all the instruments, sings and produces. The out artist plays with confidence and there are pluses here. She asserts her singing with sublime smoothness in her cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Lady From the Mountain.” “In Your Life” is jarring because its acoustic touch differs from the tone and manages not to disappear into the overall fabric of the album.

But Black Heart also suffers by Patullo’s unwillingness to amp it up. Her songs bubble with harder rock flavor but never combust. Even what should sound edgier isn’t. The blues-tinted “Warriors” trails off into sleepy vocal runs missing the point of her own strong lyrics — we are/we are warriors.

White Widow did make a good album to get high to. Its ethereal attitude does call for some major down time. Ultimately though, Black Heart is one-note even with its bewitching quality.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas