Friday, May 08, 2015

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: #SoundOfAWomanTour with Betty Who & Kiesza

Kiesza (left) and Betty Who (right) hug it out.
We're almost midway through 2015 but I've already set the bar high for The Best Concert of the Year. 

On Monday night, I headed to Union Square's Irving Plaza* (where I had also seen Danity Kane and Iggy Azalea perform last year) to see two female acts I'd already seen once before but loved so much I had to see again (with longer sets) -- Betty Who & Kiesza.

Both Betty and Kiesza embody to me the Power of Pop Potential. Both artists have successfully culled a following despite being somewhat under the radar of the mainstream. This is thanks to the fact that both have released stellar full length albums within the past year (Take Me When You Go and Sound of A Woman, respectfully) and both are dynamite live performers. Add to this fact that both ladies are currently NYC residents and you're in for a rowdy night of pop.

Right on time, Betty Who was on deck first with her single "Heartbreak Dream" and the energy was palpable from the start. Gems like "Dreaming About You" and "Glory Days", my personal fave from Take Me..., prompted the audience to jump and dance along -- causing utterly shaky video on my end because the balcony was literally shaking with excitement. The sparse, emotional "Missing You" incited one of the loudest crowd sing-a-longs of the night. She closed her set with her hit "Somebody Loves You" to a roar of screams and applause.

Perhaps it was the crowd that was around me but it seemed that a pretty admirable percentage of attendees were there mainly to see Betty, despite her being the "special guest" to Kiesza's headliner status. Not really surprising, though, since Betty's New York concerts have seemed to be quite legendary the past few years -- she's consistently been an "artist to see", even before I saw her perform live for the first time back in 2013 at CMJ. Oh, I scored this shirt which features lyrics to her song "High Society".

We didn't have to wait too long for Ms. Kiesza to take to the stage alongside her two backup dancers. Both she and Betty are true stars waiting in the wings but while their catalog pairs them well, their stage presences are quite distinct. While Betty is loose, oozing charm and a generally sunny disposition, Kiesza has her jams choreographed to a T like a modern day Janet Jackson-in-the-early-90's, pointing and vouging with an underlining sense of passion and emotionalism.

I've had only a mere teaser taste of what a live Kiesza experience was like when I saw her perform a way too short set opening for Demi Lovato late last year. It was a mere hint of what was to come and I couldn't be happier that I did get the chance to see her really step into the spotlight. Homegirl has a fully realized, tight live set complete with dancers, strobe lighting, choreography, and posing. Oh, the posing! She brings the drama back to Pop Concerts, something that is sorely lacking from today's live music scene given that so many pop artists focus way too much on being taken "seriously" as an "artiste". Both Kiesza and Betty sound incredible on their recording, but even better live. Given that Ms. Kiesza is dancing her ass off while hitting those high notes is worthy of serious legitimacy brownie points. Own it, girl. Own it.

Kiesza opened her set with my current favorite off Sound of A Woman -- "The Love" -- but what followed was like jumping from strength to strength. She brought out a light-up microphone for "Sound of A Woman", light up Tron rings for the "Giant In My Heart" dance breakdown bits, and a keyboard for "What Is Love". As her set wound down and fans anxiously awaited her signature banger "Hideaway", she instead offered up a surprise cover of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature". She breathlessly said that she and her band often would freestyle the song during soundcheck and since she was in New York, she wanted to give it a spin. As the second verse started, she was joined on stage by Betty once again, and the two riffed with each other for the final chorus.

Kiesza had one more surprise up her sleeve, however. Rapper Joey Bada$$ jumped on stage for the two to perform his song "Teach Me", which Kiesza was featured in. She then cued up her Diplo x Skrillex (aka Jack U) dance hit "Take U There" that brought the crowd to a fever pitch during its frenzied chorus. And she of course, closed with "Hideaway".

All in all, it was a great night for pop music. Cheers and back pats all around, I think.


**For those of you who frequent the blog, you may already know about my love-hate relationship with this venue but I was willing to forge ahead simply because I love these artists. With that being said, if you are also vertically challenged as I am (read: short) or also are not enthralled with General Admission "seating" (or lack thereof) that encourages close contact with pushy (and usually drunk) people, please take this #ProTip. Irving Plaza may occasionally offer a "VIP" tier of ticketing which provides you with balcony viewing. The venue is quite small in comparison to other mid-size venues in New York City, so if you can deal with not being on top of the artist while they perform, it is 100% worth the extra $$. Plus there's a bar not even 15 steps away and it's not crowded with people. #endrant

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