Review: Darren Hayes at Royal Albert Hall

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Darren Hayes knows how to turn a dream into reality.

After selling millions of records with the now-defunct Savage Garden and dealing with his personal challenges, he decided to take matters into his own hands, independently released a hefty double-disc album and dreamed up an elaborate concert experience that is nothing short of impressive.

Last night's concert at London's famed Royal Albert Hall was a pinnacle moment in the roll-out of "This Delicate Thing We've Made." In many ways, the gig was a culmination of all of Hayes' hard work in the last year.

And Mr. Hayes likes to think big.

He successfully put together an ambitious stage show with designer Willy Williams (U2, George Michael) that was centered around a steel bridge that was moved around the stage to create a unique setting for each song.

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Review: Rufus Wainwright Live

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Rufus Wainwright had two reasons to celebrate on Monday.

Not only was he performing his biggest show in Atlanta to date, it was also the day Karl Rove retired from the White House and the singer gladly dedicated the show to him.

Wainwright kicked his Atlanta gig off in style, looking circus chic in a red and white striped suit, belting out "Release The Stars," the title track from his latest album. For his next song, he turned it down a few notches and sat behind the piano to play a glowing rendition of "Going On A Town," followed by "Sancoussi" on guitar.

He then went on to greet the crowd and to talk about the meaning of the giant black & white American flag that formed the backdrop for the show. He explained that the black & white stripes symbolized everything bad in America, while the glittering stars represented everything that's great about it.

Leave it up to Wainwright to inject some subtle activism into his performance.

A mix of old and new songs followed, including the Brandon Flowers-inspired "Tulsa," "The Art Teacher," "Tiergarten" and "Between My Legs." He noted during the show that his grand mother was raised in Tifton, GA but he added, "I have no idea where that is."

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The singer announced a brief break ("I'm gonna shoot up heroin or something. No, no. I'm just kidding") and he returned 20 minutes later dressed in authentic German lederhosen to continue his set with more new songs. In fact, Wainwright ended up playing his entire new album. How uncommon is it these days for artists to play their entire album plus more? It was truly a treat.

True to form, he played two Judy Garland songs, "If Love Were All" and "Foggy Day." He noted how gay it was to sing Garland in lederhosen. The singer had trouble with "Nobody's Off The Hook" that he introduced as "difficult to play." He slipped up during the song and started over with an apology, but the spontaneity of it all only added to the intimacy of the show.

Wainwright returned for a lengthy encore dressed in a white bath robe, playing "I Don't Know What It Is," "Pretty Things" and an absolutely riveting version of "Hallelujah" that featured his sister Lucy on guest vocals. Truly one of the highlights of the night that sent chills down my spine.

Completely unexpected, Wainwright moved to the front of the stage, put on jewelry and high heels, and painted on some bright red lipstick. He then took off the bathrobe and appeared as a cabaret diva to perform another Garland classic, "Get Happy." A truly amazing, fun and energetic dance performance with his entire seven-piece band wearing black tie.

He finished the show with an acoustic version of "Gay Messiah" that concluded more than two hours of pure Wainwright entertainment.

Bravo, Rufus! Bravo!

(Click here for more photos of the Wainwright's show.)


Temposhark Live @ Canal Room, New York City

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Finally! Temposhark has reached the shores of North America. The London-based group is supporting Darren Hayes on his current North American tour, which kicked off in New York this past Monday. This tour is an ideal opportunity for the band to present the rocky electro-pop from their debut album to a new audience. The record, titled "The Invisible Line," will be released in digital format on iTunes on July 16. (If you missed the amazing artwork, see it here.)

I've been championing Temposhark since late 2005 and I was thrilled to meet Rob and Luke and see them perform live. And thankfully, they lived up to my expectations.

The group of Rob Diament (vocals), Luke Busby (keys) and guest musicians Mark Ferguson (bass) and Mathis Richet (drums) played "Not That Big," "Joy," "It's Better To Have Loved," "Paris," "Crime," "Blame" (the new single), "Little White Lie" and "Joy." I was surprised that the band didn't perform "Don't Mess With Me" as well. It is one the strongest songs on the record with Rob's fast and furious lyrics. A nice touch was when Luke picked up a trumpet to spice up "Little White Lie."

Singer Rob Diament looked very classy on stage in his black pants, black shirt and silver-ish fitted blazer. I totally get this early '80s pop vibe from him. He is like a modern-day Martin Fry with that typical British elegance that is reflected in both his appearance and performance.

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Darren Hayes Live @ Canal Room, New York City

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Darren Hayes is not the man he used to be. After the intense soul-searching on "The Tension & The Spark," he stepped out into the light, came out as a gay man, got married and is dealing with his traumatic past in a positive way.  And I'm glad. Rather then having him miserable making great music, I prefer to have him happy making great music.

Last night, Darren performed an intimate gig at Manhattan's Canal Room that was the formal start of his U.S. tour that will prepare fans for the release of his double album in August.

Darren's performance of old and new songs was simply splendid. There is really no other way to put it. He glowed in the dark (and not just because of that shiny white suit), sounded fantastic vocally and skillfully recreated much of the sophisticated studio production on stage together with three other musicians, including Justin Shave who produced most of his upcoming new album. And on top of that, he was a gifted showman providing brief commentary with some of his songs, quiping with band members and joking around. I had no idea he was so witty.

A hilarious moment came when he shouted out to the audience, "I know that everybody in the audience is gay!" He then even took a stab at Mika, saying is "Is Mika gay yet?" He laughed and then added, "I'm the new Mika and Mika is the new me." You can interpret that any way you like.

The Monarch of Electro Pop performed a bunch of new songs that I recently reviewed including the single "Step Into The Light, "Who Would Have Thought," "On The Verge Of Something Wonderful" and the contemporary disco stomper "Me, Myself and (i)."

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In Concert: Young Love

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American Idol served up some strong competition last night. Only thirty people or so showed up for Young Love's gig at Vinyl yesterday. That can only mean that the rest of the city was either watching the popular FOX talent show or that a lot of lovers of good pop music are completely missing the boat and still have to get hooked on the music of this great new talent.

But Young Love's lead man Dan Keyes is a trooper. He told me after the show he wants to give it his best regardless of the audience size. He danced, rocked, screamed, jumped and entertained himself and the crowd for 60 minutes straight.

Stand out tracks were the hyper-infectious "Discotech," the propulsive ballad "Closer To You" (my favorite) and "Find A New Way"  that is the title song of MTV's new reality hit "Dancelife." Young Love's music is best described as a mix of dance, rock and electronica that is perfect music to dance to.

These songs are featured on his debut disc "Too Young Too Fight It" that was released last month. Young Love is proof that pop aficionados don't always have to look overseas to find good new pop music. (Although, I should add that most of Young Love's album was recorded and produced in Bath, England.)

Young Love is still on tour for a few more weeks. Go see him when you can. He will head to the U.K. later in March to do some promotions and perform.

Do yourself a huge favor and try out some Young Love tracks on iTunes. You will like how it sounds. A lot.