REVIEW: Rihanna (finally) at AAC

IMG_7809Dallas and Rihanna have had a contentious relationship in the past — a point she brought up last night when recalling (1) in the 2011 show, where a fire onstage cut her gig short and of course, (2) this year’s cancellation, which led to Monday’s make-up concert at American Airlines Center. But she worked to make sure Dallas fans got the show she intended them to have. With a solid set of hits, RiRi delivered an expectedly big concert that straddled both old school performances and a karaoke night.

After her prologue of “Mother Mary,” the show exploded big with “Phresh Off The Runway,” setting a fast and furious tone for the rest of the night. Her cadre of dancers and her band surrounded the singer in a fairly minimal, but nonetheless, creative set of architectural columns and obligatory pop-star-concert display screens. But they never allowed eyes to be taken off the star. Or she wouldn’t. And couldn’t. Rihanna seemed to strive hard to win Dallas over and the screams were likely proof she did. The energy from the opening track to “Cockiness” was a nonstop flurry of clipped hits that was both thrilling and disappointing.

Often, she would edit her songs down to (perhaps) manage a quicker flow of her 23-song pre-encore set list, but nonetheless, it felt at times like a convenient medley. This reflects Rihanna’s pop expertise. She’s become a megastar through some respectable talent but more so through a blatant use of force. Seven albums in seven years, constant tours, her new Styled to Rock show on Bravo and that relentless media display of her 777 Tour last year, Rihanna knows that she needs to punch hard to be big and that first act of last night’s show was that on huge display.

But when she stepped away from being Rihanna The Product, she had genuine, even surprising moments that revealed the star she could truly be. Although merely a set-up, her opener “Mother Mary,” with just her on the stage is her frankness about fame. A haunting track where she admitted never thought this many people / would even know my name is one of the most confessional lines in pop and her voice extended that notion through the almost-capacity crowd.

She took the crowd to church as she winded the set down with her dance hits and again, she broke from both her brand and her fuck-it-all attitude. As the first notes of “We Found Love” chimed in, the grooves burst into jams and she enveloped herself in the blasting vibes of the track followed by “S&M,” “Only Girl (In the World)” and “Where Have You Been.” If even an expected move, the suite of songs were akin to a gay dance floor times infinity.

Unfortunately, she’s a fan of the backing track and didn’t shy away from not singing — while still “singing.” As she had even on her small and mid-size venue 777 tour, she would often let the mike drop to either pose or dance in hits like “Umbrella” and “You Da One.” That disregard though was so painfully obvious in her ballads where she practically refused to belt out the majorly dramatic chorus of “What Now,” her upcoming single of Unapologetic. If last night was Rihanna-karaoke, then the entire night would have been stellar.

At 25, Rihanna controlled the stage with rebellious poise. With cameras on her at all times, she almost doesn’t have a bad angle. She’s a stunning woman and can seduce both the stage audience and the camera at the same time. Rihanna then turned that into the party girl she needed to be to wrap the audience up into the show. Although a somewhat pseudo-show at times, she won her way back into Dallas’ graces without being unapologetic (see what I did there) for previous snafus. But when she returned for her one-two punch encore of “Stay” and “Diamonds,” all was forgiven and the crowd chorus wasn’t just a sing along, it was an embrace.

2 Chainz kept the fanfare on low but was nonetheless a monster onstage. Relying on the power of tracks like “Riot” and “I’m Different,” and rousing the crowd even more with “Beez in the Trap,” Chainz’s set had the polish of a pro with the spirit of a rebel.

—  Rich Lopez

On the road with Rihanna

Anyone who has seen Almost Famous knows that it does happen that — sometimes — music journalists get to travel around with rock bands and track their every move. And that’s exactly what has happened to former Dallas Voice staff writer Rich Lopez.

On Tuesday, Lopez flew from Dallas to Los Angeles to begin the first leg on a tour that will, quite literally, take him around the world in a week, flying alongside Rihanna as she promotes her new album, Unapologetic, out Monday. He’ll be blogging about the tour for the online website Queerty.com.

Just how far around the world? Well, from Dallas to L.A., Lopez then goes to Mexico City, Toronto, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris and London, before headed back to the U.S. for a final concert in New York City … then, presumably, back to Dallas — and all in time for Thanksgiving next week.

Lopez touched down in Mexico City just three hours ago, so it’s still quite new to him. But if we know Rich — and after all these years, trust us, we do — he’s both a nervous wreck and entirely exhilarated by the experience. The last trip I sent Rich on for the paper was to Branson, Mo. I guess he’s moved up in the world.

We even have a name for his adventure: Almost Gaymous.

Good luck, Rich!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The Gay Interview: Katy Perry

Our correspondent Chris Azzopardi got a sit-down (well, via transatlantic phone) with pop star Katy Perry, just in time for the release of her concert documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, which comes out today.  The patriotic pop princess talks the film, kissing gay boys and fighting hate with love bullets.

 KATY PERRY IN 3D

It was not really last Friday night, but it still happened: Katy Perry called from London, where it was nearly 1 a.m. If life really does imitate art, she smelled like a mini-bar on a night that’s soon to be a blacked-out blur, right?

“Not tonight,” she insists. “I have to play and be professional tomorrow, but maybe after the show I’ll be having a couple of Shirley Temples with some adult juice in them.”

We spoke with Perry just after she made a surprise appearance in London for a screening of her new film, Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D, a docu-concert chronicling the California girl’s evolution from gospel-singing daughter of two pastors to international pop phenom … with the most lethal boobs in the world.

During our interview, Perry told us what else they shoot besides whipped cream, how the gay community can relate to her movie and why Madonna doesn’t scare her. 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Uh Huh Her’s “Wake to Sleep”

Uh Huh Her dropped a new video for this next single from Nocturnes. There isn’t a lot of fanfare going on with the release of “Wake to Sleep,” but Lezbelib was sharp to point out the guest star in the duo’s video. From the site’s post.

In this video, directed by Justin Coloma, we can see behind Camila Grey and Leisha Hailey, the dancer Sasha Mallory (So You Think You Can Dance) who came out as a lesbian last year.

Good eye, ladies. Mallory has also danced for the likes of Rihanna and Adam Lambert. I can’t say the video is altogether mind blowing, but it’s nice UHH is keeping it in the family. Watch “Wake to Sleep” after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

The Music Issue: The spin doctors

Is Dallas’ gay dance scene what it once was — or can be? A panel of out DJs gives us the back beat

In gay dance clubs, the bartender is crucial, and the doorman keeps the peace, but the hero of the night is the DJ. The DJ works not just as the person bringing the tunes, but also as ship’s captain, leading the dance floor into an open sea of remixes and creating waves of euphoria through matched beats. Rarely, though, do we hear them open up.

Until now. Seven DJs from across the Dallas scene candidly weigh in on the crowds they play for, the state of Dallas’ party scene and just where is it heading. From dance to country to even outside the gayborhood, queer DJs are setting the tone and making their mark, but now they want to be heard.

— Rich Lopez

Blaine-Soileau

DJ BLAINE SOILEAU | ‘If you want to hear your favorite song, go sit in your car then come back into the club.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Dallas Voice: How has the scene evolved?

Alex Guerrero: I’ve been going to Cedar Springs since I was 19 and it hasn’t changed much. The area could explore something more. The music has changed for sure and the lesbian scene embraces trendy genres like dubstep.

Paul Kraft: How we socialize as a community has changed. It’s a real challenge. Younger LGBT members socialize more in non-gay clubs. Clubs should adapt; smart ones are appealing to diverse patrons.

Scottie “Redeye” Canfield: I hear complaints all the time about how DJs can’t play a non-hit. I come from the “trust-the-DJ” era.

Blaine Soileau: I’d like to go more progressive. What I think holds [me] back are the constant requests for Gaga, Britney and Rihanna.

Micah, you are in Los Angeles now. Is the scene different there? 

Micah Banes: The L.A. scene lets me play what I want. They are open to anything. I can play a dubstep track followed by disco and the crowd digs it.

How could the scene be better?

Redeye: I wish there was more diversity. [Back in the day], straight people went to gay clubs because the music was better; now, every place is carbon copy and they don’t have the balls to break out.

Soileau: It’s a challenge to break the migration pattern to Cedar Springs.

Banes: Yes! Blaine hit the nail on the head. I think Dallas is hurting on venues. The worst thing is getting the ’mos to experience different things.

Kraft: Much of the scene is held in hands of few  — namely, the Dallas Tavern Guild. That doesn’t allow for variety. Caven controls much of the Strip and they [seldom bring in outside DJs], and it’s tougher for smaller indie clubs to finance guest DJs. Until we have more club owners like [those at the Dallas Eagle], willing to be innovative, nothing will change.

What is the Dallas gay club scene doing right? 

Micah-Banes

MICAH BANES | ‘I’m excited about where gay music is going. We’re going to see a big change in the next five years.’

Roger Huffman: Our crowd is the same, but we do see more straight people coming in.

Banes: Roger is awesome. He’s got it on lock.

Guerrero: [At Sue Ellen’s], we play to customers and fans. Crappy music doesn’t make us money and the DJs are doing a major part for the night. Great managers help.

How do you keep it fresh?

Guerrero: I know what I do for the lesbian crowd works, but sometimes there is a pressure if they want a different sound. For me, it’s about maintaining focus.

Soileau: I try to change up the music each time I spin locally. I’ll have favorites thrown in but people will definitely hear new and unreleased stuff.

Huffman: We may play some slower country before the faster stuff needs to happen — like the two-steps and the shuffles.

With the Purple Party, MetroBall and the like, how is Dallas as a dance destination?

Redeye: It used to be [great]. I would define the whole scene as kind of stereotypical. It’s the same thing everywhere and there are a lot of people who don’t wanna hear that.

Guerrero: Dallas is lacking in some parts. Station 4 just did the Glow Party and it was cool, but how much better it could be if we had more [of those events]?

Soileau: Bigger events are going by the wayside. Many of the circuit parties from the ’90s have vanished. I don’t think Dallas would support more. We can’t charge a cover because people likely complain.

Erik Thoresen: Yes. Because of one word: Pride.

Banes: Do you think it’s the support or lack of venues for the shrinking of party size?

Soileau: Micah, I think it’s just been done and new things are evolving.

Kraft: Trends change. It was sofa clubs, then bottle clubs, but I’m seeing a trend to dance more.

“]Alex-Guerrero

ALEX GUERRERO | ‘Being the only female DJ in town is a blessing. I hope to spread my wings and make the lesbian community proud.’ (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice)"

Are non-gay clubs surpassing gay ones in innovation with differing offerings like silent discos, guest DJs and live music?

Kraft: I can appreciate out-of-the-box inspiration; incorporating new ideas is always good.

Soileau: Yes, but silent discos were a cute idea, then buh-bye. I would love to see more guest DJs, but try charging a cover to pay for them.

Guerrero: I don’t see a big difference. The clubs I’ve been to are the same, music-wise.

Redeye: You can’t be in this business and be cheap. Clubs are about rep and bringing in someone that’s worth a damn will have more people in spending money at the bar. You have to invest in the bar. Beauty Bar has brought in cutting edge DJs from outside for $1,000.

As DJs, do you think live music options are good or bad for the scene? 

Soileau: I’m not sure about more live music.

Kraft: As a dance DJ, the last thing I want is to build up energy to stop for a live act. Sue Ellen’s has done a great job with live music, though.

Huffman: I wish we had more options. A live band came in on our anniversary and we had requests for live bands but nothing became of it.

Banes: The Round-Up would be great for live music.

Soileau: But I don’t see a gay crowd packing a live venue.

Why is that? 

Redeye

DJ REDEYE | ‘I wish I could play in the community, but play cool stuff. I couldn’t get away with it, so I’ve always been at clubs that were on the fringe.’

Banes: There are not a lot of live acts that can pull in 300 homos to a club.

Soileau: That all would be nice but most of the gay crowd isn’t in-the-know. Back in the ’80s, I would have answered differently. People were thirsty for new stuff.

Guerrero: I know our customers enjoy the bands. There is nothing wrong with more music. What’s wrong with finding gay bands? I’m not a big fan of live music, but seeing them at our club, there is major talent out there.

What has been the best thing to happen to the Dallas club scene? The worst?

Soileau: We haven’t dissolved and faded away. The worst is how the Internet has taken a big bite out of club life.

Banes: Like Blaine said, the Cedar Springs migrations hurt, but the passion is still there.

Huffman: A good thing was the no-smoking ordinance — it made the atmosphere so much better. The worst has been the clubs that have closed.

Redeye: There’s always room for it to get better, but you need a catalyst, a vanguard. Try something out once a month, do something different. Baby steps.

Guerrero: For me, the worst is the drama. It puts people at high risk. Don’t bring the drama out!

Have Scruff, Grindr and social networks affected clubs?

Kraft: You can now order men like pizza. We don’t know how to talk to each other. I think people are getting over that and have more desire to get out.

Soileau: Absolutely. That’s why clubs are promoting alongside these apps.

Thoresen: What hasn’t changed is that people still go clubbing to party and get down.

As DJs on Cedar Springs, how do you respond to that migration?

Guerrero: Working on the block, I’m very lucky, but I know there could be more venues. We work hard to have a presence. I can’t imagine how it would feel if I didn’t get as much visibility.

Thoresen: It’s tough because I’ve been doing solid while other clubs have been up and down.

Huffman: I do like that the clubs are in one location. I think in part, that’s good for us.

Redeye: There is a market for it and I wish I could play in the community, but play cool stuff. I couldn’t get away with it, so I’ve always been at clubs that were on the fringe.

Where do you see the gay club scene heading?

Redeye: Gay clubs feel more segregated than ever. Maybe people think we’re progressing, but we’re really going backwards.

Soileau: It’ll always be in a transitional state. But they’ll be around.

Kraft: It could use more diversity and outside influences. Dallas isn’t known for being versatile. Having been a promoter, I will tell you: It was suicide to deviate. The guys here want what they want. It’s tough from a balancing standpoint.

So what’s your overall perspective on the state of the Dallas gay club dance scene?

Huffman
: It’s good. As long as people still are coming out to have fun, it’ll continue.

Soileau: I do think we are trailing straight clubs [in terms of innovation], but it’s a cycle.

Kraft: It could be more current, innovative. The Cavens, the Okons, the Guild still have a hold and work very much in the old way. The Eagle has adapted and moved forward. Until we have more club owners determined to do that, the scene could stagnate.

Redeye: A lot has to do with the business of it. The DJ is there to educate, but if you think of clubs as a school, it’s like the audience gets to check out one book and everyone’s gotta share it.

What do you say to haters who say Dallas has no appreciation for music diversity? 
Soileau
: You have all these people that are living in a time warp with their relentless requests. If you want to hear your favorite song, go sit in your car then come back into the club.

Final thoughts?
Redeye: I’m not dissing mainstream, but it’s sad when a whole market is ignored. It’s like feeling ostracized in my own community for listening to something different. It doesn’t feel representative.

Guerrero: I feel honored to be in the biggest gay scene;  being the only female is a blessing. I hope to spread my wings and make the lesbian community proud.

Banes: I’m excited about where gay music is going. We’re going to see a big change in the next five years.

Kraft: At the Eagle, you can see everybody having a great time together. That‘s the future. Separately things are weak, but draw a number of groups together and you see the strength.

Soileau: Just keep supporting your local clubs because when they are gone you will miss them.

Huffman: I agree with Blaine. The support is important.

Thanks, all. Now keep the party going.

…………………………

Who’s who on the panel

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Shabby Shriek of the Week: Skylar Grey

Skylar Grey: Shab or Fab?

Every week I get at least one CD or digital track from the next Britney/Gaga/Rihanna and so forth. There are lots of dance diva or pop princess wannabes out there and many of them come my way because they hope to hit the gay market. I don’t blame them. We love our dance music. But with so many aspirants out there, it’s tough to muddle through the mediocre and find who sticks out.

In the new Shabby Shriek column, we’ll take a look at one female singer at a time, post a track(s), maybe a video, some vital info from websites or social netowrks and let you decide if she’s Shab or Fab. We may throw a guy in here and there, but trust me, the ladies outweigh the men big time in this area.

Oh, and thanks to colleague Chance who loves him some dancey divas for days. He assisted with the concept.

This week, I received Skylar Grey’s “Invisible” remixes — seven (count them, seven!) different versions of a song from her upcoming album of the same name. This reminded me that I had received another single earlier this summer. Come to find out, I also have eight remixes of her song “Dance Without You.”

—  Rich Lopez

Rihanna fan Aaron Gifford threatens class-action lawsuit over Friday night’s flame-out at the AAC

We’re late to the news that Rihanna fans won’t be getting refunds for Friday’s fire-shortened show. That’s mainly because I was so sick of this story that I didn’t feel like updating my last post. But after seeing Fox 4‘s report Monday night, I couldn’t resist sharing it anyway — not because you haven’t already heard the news, but because you really need to meet the man behind the “Rihanna Dallas concert refund” Facebook page, Aaron Gifford. (Watch the video below to find out why, although the screen grab above might already have given it away.) According to the Facebook page, it looks like Gifford’s now threatening a class-action lawsuit. “Not everyone is Rihanna and can just sing and make a million dollars. I mean, some of us actually have to work for our money,” Gifford, who spent $300 on his ticket, tells Fox 4. “This isn’t just about me. It’s about everybody that worked hard to come see her and was disappointed. … If they would have had a fire extinguisher up there and someone knew how to use it the concert would have gone on.”

No Refund for Rihanna Fans after Concert Fire: MyFoxDFW.com

—  John Wright

Rihanna fans demand refunds after fire ended show; authorities backtrack on cause of blaze

Fans who attended Friday’s Rihanna show at the American Airlines Center — which was cut short by a fire above the stage — have taken to Facebook to demand refunds, WFAA reports.

As we’ve reported, the fire broke out near the end of the show, after Rihanna had performed for well over an hour, so I’d say a full refund is probably asking a little much. But it’s true that she didn’t get a chance to play some of her biggest hits, and if I had paid for my tickets — and if I really liked Rihanna – I might be demanding a refund, too.

Either way, it’s true that the PA announcer told the crowd they’d be compensated when he announced the concert was canceled and asked people to evacuate. Perhaps he was just trying to get them to comply and avoid a bad situation, but he said it, so I think there should be some form of compensation. A free Rihanna album? A discount to her next show in Dallas? Officials reportedly are meeting today to discuss the matter further.

Also, Dallas Fire-Rescue issued a press release this afternoon backtracking from their initial explanation as to how the blaze started. “Initially, the fire was thought to have started when embers from the pyrotechnics ignited a chair near the stage; however, fire investigators have become aware of new information that contradicts that position,” DFR spokesman Jason Evans said in an email this afternoon. “I am waiting on that information and will update the press release if and when I receive it.”

We will, in turn, keep you posted.

UPDATE: Asked what the new information might be, Evans said the following: “For concern that the new information may not be accurate, I don’t want to tell you what they are considering. However, I did just get off the phone with Arson Investigation and they tell me that, despite new information, they have interviewed some key people and are still leaning heavily toward the originally suspected cause.

“I was told that they should be able to confirm something in the next hour or so. I am waiting on a call back and will send updates as soon as I hear something new.”

UPDATE NO. 2: Evans now says that the cause of the fire was as originally suspected:

“I hate that it took this long just to come full circle, but as it turns out the cause of the fire was as originally suspected,” Evans writes. “However, there are some additional details that are included in the release. … Also, since I received some other questions regarding the Brittany Spears concert, I feel I should let you all know that this incident has in no way effected her concert (at least as far as FD is concerned).”

The press release attached to Evans’ email reads as follows: “Fire investigators determined that the fire started when sparks from the pyrotechnics ignited a fabric chair. The chair was situated to a truss member directly above the pyrotechnics display, where it was being used by a person that was controlling the main spotlight. The person operating the light did suffer a minor burn, but decided not to go to the hospital. No citations were issued.”

—  John Wright

PHOTOS, VIDEO: Rihanna at the AAC

To view a full slideshow, go here.

By now you’ve undoubtedly heard about the fire that tragically cut short Rihanna’s show at the American Airlines Center on Friday night.

It figures that a little news would break out at one of the few shows to which our stingy music guy, Rich Lopez, has given the online editor tickets. Granted, my video of the fire isn’t the best because, I’ll be honest, I was among those scrambling for the exits. I was well aware of the Rangers fan who fell to his death at the ballpark in Arlington the night before, and I wasn’t about to get caught up in another North Texas stadium disaster.

—  John Wright

Rihanna at the American Airlines Center on July 8

Photos by Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice (MarceloMedia)

 

—  John Wright