Wednesday, June 04, 2014

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: Danity Kane, Jessi Malay & GoGo Morrow via the #NoFilterTour

On Tuesday night, I returned to the Irving Plaza showcase for the second time in less than a month for the #NoFilter Tour, featuring openers GoGo Morrow and one of my long-time faves Jessi Malay, and headliners in the recently reunited Danity Kane.

Not to start this 'Live from NYC' with a rant but I am less than impressed with this venue. While the time between when the doors opened and when the show began was considerably more manageable this go 'round than with Iggy Azalea, it's not an ideal place to see a concert if you are vertically challenged (like moi). Thinking I'd be doing  myself a solid, my plus one and I headed toward the second level only to be told by security that to stay upstairs would be an additional $30 on top of the ticket price I had already paid months ago. Say what? Pay more money to be further from the stage? Tell me how that makes sense. Unsurprisingly, we headed back into the crowd malay in the general admission downstairs area but I'd be lying to you if I said I won't be thinking twice about heading to Irving Plaza again. (Yeah, I said it!)

The crowd was formidable and that much I was expecting (and hence wanting to go upstairs!). The members of Danity Kane may not be from New York City but the group itself was birthed here via Making the Band -- it should be no surprise that NYC turned up in droves to show their love to Aubrey, Dawn, Aundrea and Shannon. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First up just after 8PM was GoGo Morrow, an indie soulstress from Philly. She set the tone of the event -- three powerful, sexy, female artists who were all currently unsigned --  working the mic and slinging melismas left and right alongside a troupe of four fierce female dancers. GoGo wore a yellow crop-top and matching high-waist shorts made out of a shiny fabric (for her first number, the outfit included a tulle skirt overlay but that was quickly removed). Her voice was very impressive but the center of her set was her stage presence -- managing to sing with power and intensity while flipping her cute platinum blonde, asymmetrical 'do back and forth, matching the choreo with her dancing troupe behind her. At one point, she cued up a medley of Janet Jackson hits ("Nasty" / "Rhythm Nation") as the crowd roared and sung along with her (amusingly, even the security guard near us freaked out and started doing all the iconic moves -- it was bizarre and amazing).

This photo was ten years in the making! Me & Jessi Malay.
Around 8:45PM, my girl Jessi Malay scorched onto the stage, exclusively singing tunes from her recent EP Give Me Life (appropriate). Jessi is a former fifth of early 00's girl group No Secrets (signed to the mother of all pop labels at the time -- Jive), who toured with Aaron Carter and had a few minor Radio Disney hits in "That's What Girls Do" and a cover of "Kids In America". Following the group's demise, Jessi went solo and signed a deal with Reprise/Warner, releasing a series of "first" singles including the ace "Topsy Turvy". Eventually, her label deal also went sour and she opted out in favor of UCLA and pursuing her education. Now a college graduate and a popular fashion blogger via My White T, Jessi finally saw the fruits of her musical labors as well via Give Me Life, released in early May this year via her own co-founded indie label The Coalition Group.

Jessi's sex appeal was on full display during her set, flanked by two female dancers; I was getting all kinds of Janet Jackson influences from her. After opening with "Give Me Life", she ditched her long black robe to reveal a black, dominatrix-y crop top and matching panty set, launching right into the meat of Give Me Life -- sexier uptempo club cuts like "Fetish" and "Beg". At one point, a guy was pulled up on stage (coincidentally enough, he was from our section) and Jessi faux-tied him up during one song. Toward the end of her set, she dusted off a familiar single in "Bougie", a tongue-in-cheek ode to being fashionably fabulous, complete in a white fur jacket.

Following the show, I was able to go say hi to Jessi in person and snag a photo with her -- which was so fun after being a fan since the No Secret days! I told her sincerely I was so proud to finally get to see her perform live in person doing material she loves, it was clear the struggle was real due to lack of label support, etc. It was a real joy to see an artist like her who fights for what she believes in because that's what it's all about. She said, "It's good to be out." Yes, girl! Long overdue!

Finally, around 9:15PM, the four ladies of the freshly rebranded Danity Kane appeared on stage and the crowd went ape. Aundrea, Dawn, Aubrey & Shannon each appeared in various stylings featuring flannel, usually with bare legs and midriffs aside from Drea, who rocked a black corset and flannel robe. And the weave on Aubrey and Dawn! Girl! They entered to a dramatic allusion to "Ride For You" before jumping right in to fan favorite from their debut set, "Sleep On It". This set the tone for the night -- the focus was decidedly not on the on-paper "hits" ("Bad Girl", their final "official" single as a fivesome was completely omitted) but instead focused on the songs that the fans loved. It was a special kind of "Greatest Hits" montage and it was clear all four ladies were loving every minute of it.

Many of the songs were clipped down a bit in order to pack in as many memorable favorites as possible, the majority from their sophomore set, Welcome To The Dollhouse. "Pretty Boy", "Sucker For Love" and "Strip Tease" all got loud screams of approval from the crowd who sang along to every word (myself included). Another DK male fan was called on stage for a four-way lap dance to the tune of "Right Now". Songs that weren't performed in full were alluded to with crowd sing-alongs with each member (chiefly by Dawn & Aubrey), including "Ooh Ahh", "Touching My Body" and "One Shot".

A surprise highlight for me was the full performance of their underrated semi-ballad "Poetry" which could arguably be considered the Danity Kane equivalent to Sugababes' "Too Lost In You". It was introduced by everyone's favorite extrovert Aubrey, who stated this song helped prove the group was different from the other girl groups that flooded the market at the time, and she certainly had a point. The jam was performed complete with an a capella-esque bridge breakdown. I instantly have a new fave in their catalog.

Of course, the singles obviously ensued chaos. "Show Stopper" was called up early in the set to floor stomping approval and chants of "DK! DK!" afterward. Their biggest hit -- the song that took them from "just some girl group to Danity-Mother-F*ckin'-Kane" per Dawn -- the Stereotypes-produced "Damaged" made the crowd downright lose their mind. I almost literally needed to have a first aid kit handy (REFERENCE!) due to the banshee-level screaming that song inspired.

The 'Greatest Hits' Brigade concluded with Aundrea thanking the crowd on her own for being so supportive of her decision to exit the group once more in favor of getting married and starting a family with her fiance. She brandished her ring and gleefully stated "he did a good job, right?" to loud claps and screams. While I am sad she's leaving as her vocals were one of the reasons why I was anticipating this reunion in the first place, I respect that she went through with the tour as planned for one last go-round of all the hits. She finished the night by re-introducing Dawn, Aubrey & Shannon as Danity Kane and the three returned to the stage in new outfits that each featured a black and white jersey-style top. 

DK3 ran through three new songs -- my favorite in "Rhythm of Love", the head-nodding "Rage" (complete with Aubrey successfully crowd-surfing) and finishing with the new single "Lemonade", featuring dayglo neon accent wardrobe pieces for their final bow (Dawn wore a neon yellow-green mesh crop top with a halve of a plastic lemon over each breast). No sign of "All In A Day's Work", which remains to my fave of all of the premiered "new" material from the reunion project. The song ended and they thanked the crowd for being so supportive -- no matter if there's five, four or now three members of the group.

Overall, I left the show so full of energy. It was clear the four (and indeed five counting original member D.Woods) were not chosen to be a part of the Danity Kane project on accident. Drea's killer pipes were stunning, Shannon's warm vocal was given much more attention and her dancing constantly drew your attention, and Dawn and Aubrey both sizzled with sex appeal and charisma. All four came off so genuine and down to earth, genuinely appreciative of the insane crowd response and genuinely loving every second of being on stage -- not only for themselves but together as a team. 

It was also a strong reminder how much fun pop shows can be and that America is in desperate need of a sassy, sexy girl group to rally behind. Should that group be this now trio version of Danity Kane? I say, why not. Haters, to the left -- go sip your lemonade, lemonade.

For more on GoGo Morrow, follow her on Twitter via @GoGoMorrow. She has three tunes available on iTunes/Spotify for your perusal, including the highlight "Potion." For more on Jessi Malay, follow her on Twitter via @JessiMalay and pick up her Give Me Life EP on iTunes. And to follow DK3, hit up @DanityKane on Twitter and buy "Lemonade" on iTunes!

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