Friday, November 28, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Friday, July 4, 2014, 11:03 PM

After one more winning Roots jam featuring "The Seed 2.0" and a James Brown funk workout, the 4th of July Jam came to a close with Ed Sheeran, the wildly popular ginger singer-songwriter who hails from the country the United States declared independence from in Philadelphia 238 years ago.

Sheeran, whose new album X (which stands for multiply), usually plays solo, supported by his own foot-pedal-triggered loops. With The Roots behind him, the crafty songsmith and guitarist benefitted greatly, his sound filled out and muscled up, on songs of his own like "The Lego House," "Sing," and the singalong tear-jerker "The A Team," which inspired massive waves of smartphone waving, lighting up the sky in advance of the fireworks explosion to come.

The highlight of Sheeran's show, though, was a loosely funky version of Anthony Hamilton's "Comin' from Where I'm From." Not surprisingly, it proved to be right in the Roots' wheelhouse and, unexpectedly, also in Sheeran's.

POSTED: Friday, July 4, 2014, 10:07 PM

All of the acts were well received, but during pauses in the show, the crowd repeatedly let it be known whom they primarily came to see with chants of "Nick-ee! Nick-ee!"

The pneumatic Trinidad and Tobago-born rapper didn't disappoint, with a five-song set that demonstrated her ability to spit hyper-speed rhymes with rat-a-tat precision on "Super Bass" while also displaying a softer pop side on "Pills N Potions."

"Is Philly in the building? Everybody knows I love y'all, I love your energy," Minaj said. "Happy Birthday, America!"

She then launched into the sentimental uplift of "Moment 4 Life," whose beats some fool in the crowd decided to punctuate by popping off their personal supply of fireworks.
Nicki Minaj performing at the Wawa Welcome America Jam on the Parkway, Friday, July 4, 2014. (Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer)
POSTED: Friday, July 4, 2014, 9:46 PM

Jennifer Hudson chose to play with her own sizable backing band rather than The Roots, and -- once Wayans got through drooling over her in a between-the-music segment -- the slimmed-down singer strutted her stuff in a runway that extended into the crowd. Her big moments were "Spotlight" and her show-stopping, powerfully sung Dreamgirls number "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." After that brought down the house, she went.

The trouble with these Roots-hosted shows is that you often don't get enough of the Philadelphia hip-hop group and Tonight Show Band. They are surely the hardest-working ensemble in show business playing on their own.

On Friday, the band made the most of its time although, in true collaborative spirit, even their solo time featured special guests.

Jennifer Hudson at the Wawa Welcome America Jam on the Parkway, Friday, July 4, 2014. ( Steven M. Falk / Staff Photographer )
POSTED: Friday, July 4, 2014, 8:07 PM

The Wawa Welcome America! Fourth of July music festival opened on a surprisingly soft, clear evening (after a day of lowering clouds), promising a night of celebratory, A-list entertainment.

The show kicked off with the Vicci Martinez Band, the five-piece outfit fronted by 2011 The Voice finalist and CeeLo Green protegée. Sporting a partially bleached blonde faux-hawk, the Tacoma, Wash., singer and guitarist warmed up the crowd with an agreeable enough five-song set of soul-rockers that peaked with her 2012 single "Come Along."

She then thanked the still-assembling crowd for letting her warm up the stage, and introduced a closing power ballad by saying, "This is about not wanting things to end." And in the song, she repeated the words "I don't know how to quit you" like a mantra.

Black Thought sings with The Roots performing at the Wawa Welcome America Jam on the Parkway, Friday, July 4, 2014. ( Elizabeth Robertson / Staff Photographer )
POSTED: Thursday, July 3, 2014, 10:42 AM

This Sunday, my Songs of the Summer playlist story will be in the Inquirer Arts & Entertainment section. 

There you will find astute critical observations and compelling arguments as to why the playlist begins with Michael Jackson and ends with The War on Drugs, and includes the likes of Sam Smith, Parquet Courts and Iggy Azalea. You can read that story here.

Of maybe you'll think I've lost my mind, and wonder how I could not out your favorite Ed Sheeran or Nico & Vinz or Ray LaMontagne song on there.

POSTED: Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 4:41 PM
Robin Thicke's album cover for "Paula"

Does Robin Thicke creep you out? No matter how you felt about the Canadian R & B singer after he broke big in 2013 with the blithe “Blurred Lines” and seemed all too happy to have Miley Cyrus twerk on him at the MTV awards, chances are you’ll be put off by the skeevy aspects of Paula (Universal **).

It’s an album with a clear goal in mind: To “Get Her Back,” as its first single puts it, “her” being his onetime high school sweetheart and now estranged wife, actress Paula Patton, with whom he split earlier this year. In a celebrity obsessed culture driven by seemingly insatiable curiosity about what the stars are really doing behind close doors, Paula manages the difficult task of providing more information than any but the most pruriently curious could possibly want to know. At times, Thicke is stalker-ish (on “Lock The Door”), at times his tone is cluelessly off (on the goofy “Tippy Toes”), and mostly ("Too Little Too Late," Something Bad") he’s abjectly guilt-ridden in a way that’s not entirely convincing. The context makes you want to listen, but you’ll feel dirty once you have.

"Get Her Back" is below. 

POSTED: Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 11:37 AM
Leif Erikson guards the Hallgrimskirkja chuch in Reykjavik. (Dan DeLuca)

Homer Simpson called it "a craphole of an island that looks like the moon and smells like rotten eggs."

David Dye and WXPN-FM's World Cafe went to Iceland anyway, hot on the the trail of cool sounds for it's Sense of Place series. I tagged along and did some exploring of my own. I wrote about it in today's Inquirer. You can read it here.

Here's a few paragraphs of local color that got excised from the print version of the story:

POSTED: Friday, June 27, 2014, 3:00 PM
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 13: Cassadee Pope performs during 'FOX & Friends' All American Concert Series outside of FOX Studios on June 13, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

The final show listed on the calendar of the House of Blues concert venue at the Showboat casino in Atlantic City is Cassadee Pope, the winner of TV reality show The Voice in 2012, who's scheduled to play the boadwalk venue on August 29. 

That's going to be it. On Friday, Caesars Entertainment Corp. confirmed that Showboat will not live to see Labor Day. The casino will close on August 31, and "will honor all room reservations and events until that time," according to a press release.

According to Caesars spokesman Gary Thompson, the House of Blues, the 2380-capacity concert venue that has hosted The White Stripes, Erykah Badu and Elvis Costello, among many others since opening in 2005, will close along with the rest of the Showboat property at the end of August.

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