Category: Music

Review: The Package Tour


If anyone knew anything about me, it was that I’ve always been a big boy band fan. Well not big in the sense that I would attend concerts in every city, purchase official merchandise or stalk bands outside their hotels when they made special apepearances, but I would listen to their music and learn the choreography for their hit music videos (Backstreet’s Back… whhaaaattt!).

So I actually attenended my first ‘boy band’ concert on July 28th at the Air Canada Centre. It was the second Toronto visit for The Package Tour which featured headliners New Kids On The Block, R&B sensations Boyz II Men, and crooners 98 Degrees. After missing out on a Groupon deal, I got a friend to score some tickets.

Not surprisingly the venue was filled with thousands of 30-something fans, hoping to reminis the musical era that brought them good-looking men who had them swooning at the sound of their love ballads. Thankfully the show started on time and they were right on schedule with all their acts (some artists can learn from this *cough*LaurynHill*cough*).

First to the stage was Philadelphia natives Boyz II Men (comprised of Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman). I have loved this group since they were an original quartet (Michael McCary left the group years ago due to health reasons) . Clad in white suits they had virtually the same vocal ability as they did when they entered the scene with Cooleyhighharmony in ’91. They all had great energy, interacted with the fans near the stage, and even Wanya even broke down in some running-man dance moves. They sung hits including “I’ll Make Love To You”, “End of the Road” and closed their set with an enthusiastic “Motownphilly” (I almost had to school some girl in the row behind me when she was asking was ABC and BBD stood for and she had to data to look it up on her smart phone). Loved it!

Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men hand out a few long-stemmed roses to some swooning ladies in the front row.

Boyz II Men

Boyz II Men break it down during their energetic performance during The Package Tour.

Next up was 98 Degrees. They were on my ‘Top 5’ boy band list back in the late 90s (well, maybe because of Jeff Timmon’s muscles… dammit, I wish I caught the suspenders he threw in the audience). Nick and Drew Lachey, Justin Jeffre, and Jeff Timmons belted out their tracks “I Do”, “Because of You” and my personal fav, “The Hardest Thing”. They even serenaded a few girls after they brought them on stage.

98 Degrees

98 Degrees makes their entrance at The Package Tour.

98 Degrees

98 Degrees singing to some lucky females at The Package Tour concert.

Last, but certainly not least, was New Kids On The Block. I admit that I was more of a MC Hammer fan when these boys came out, but to my surprise I was actually singing along with all of their songs as they were performing them. After a short intro informing the crowd that the next two hours would be a performance to remember, NKOTB graced the stage to a loud chorus of screaming women (an probably some men as well).


The New Kids on the Block debut during the July 28 Package Tour concert at the Air Canada Centre.

Now I knew I ain’t no spring chicken, but when NKOTB kept repeating that “it’s been 25 years”, I felt damn old! Brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood had their first real hit in 1986 with “Please Don’t Go, Girl”.

When NKOTB originally formed in the 80s I was a Jordan fan. But after Sunday’s concert, Donnie is my new favourite member (as man-whorish as he may seem after yet another concert lip-lock with a female fan). The body on him is ridiculous! I still can’t believe these men are in the 40s and singing and dancing like they were decades ago!


Donnie Wahlberg takes it off on stage (those are some nice abs).

NKOTB definitely made my night: Jordan’s high notes, Donnie frequently getting partially nekkid, even Danny’s break-dancing was fun to watch. Jordan and Donnie taking the cameras and filming the audience from their POV was great. All five of them even wandered into the crowd to be more accessible to their fans. The stage set up was done well: from the rotating stage to the rising hydraulic platforms (Joey’s got some good balance, I’ll tell you that much), to the pyrotechnics, smoke and lights. I even liked the cover they did of George Michael’s “Faith”. NKOTB ended their concert with a tribute to their hometown of Boston by wearing Bruins jerseys and belting out “Hangin’ Tough”.


The men looking good in their suits.


New Kids belt it out with yet another wardrobe change.

I can honestly say that The Package Tour was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to (all 3.5 hours of it). Singing tracks from their latest album 10, to stuff from back in the day like “Step by Step” and “The Right Stuff”, they were flawless in their performance. Full of energy from both the artists and the crowd, with hits that sparked the nostalgia that was my youth. It was like strolling down memory lane (minus the screaming female fans). Thank goodness I brought my DSLR and zoom lens to take some of these awesome photos!


The band has a great set of pipes.

Now if only I can finally see a Backstreet Boys concert (yeah, tickets for next Wednesday’s show are sold out :( ).

Jully Black: Made In Canada


The past few days has got to be one of the best event-filled weekends that I ever had to ring in Canada Day.

I headed down to Harbourfront last night in anticipation of Canadian R&B singer/songwriter Jully Black who was hosting a concert at the WestJet stage in promotion of her new album Made In Canada.

As expected the concert was phenominal. The Toronto native belted out selections from her various albums with help from her amazing band.

I was moving to the beat once she sung “Sweat Of Your Brow” from her debut album This is Me. Jully had the whole crowd pumping their fists to “Glass Ceiling”. Her energy on the stage as a performer is contagious. Dancing and marching on stage and in 4-inch heels! She looked amazing as usual.

I can honestly say that Jully Black is one of the most passionate performers I have ever gotten to see sing live. Visibly breaking down with emotion nearing the end of her concert, she was encouraged by an appreciative and adoring crowd with a range of applause and cheers.

I’m lucky to have gotten the chance to work with her while I was a Web Producer at Universal Music Canada. She is a phenomenal woman who inpires change on many different levels, whether it’s music, health, fitness, spirituality, perserverance, beliving in yourself, or simply to dream.

She is proud to be Canadian and truly loves her fans.

Ginuwine’s Still Got It


GinuwineGinuwine rode his pony into Sound Academy in Toronto last night. My friend won tickets to the “For the LOVE of R&B” Concert through radio station G98.7FM, and I was lucky that she chose me to tag along. Headlining the evening, which in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, was platinum recording artist Ginuwine along with Bobby V.

Comedian hosts Jay Martin and Trixx had the audience rolling in laughter with their banter and throwback musical snippets (thanks to DJ Charlie Brown). They even had something for all the “white people” in the crowd: a track from Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, Aqua and my personal favourite–Spice Girls. Surprisingly everyone–including the “black folk”–got into singing along with the latter when “Stop” was played. I’m not gonna lie: I even did a bit of the choreography.

After some great performances from openers Jay Evans, Haley Small and Kim Evans (can she ever sing), we were finally graced the presence of R&B crooner Ginuwine. For 42, this man is looking good! His set was filled with so much energy and his smooth vocals were on point. He had all the women swooning (evidence from several “take off you’re shirt!” hollers).

I truly respect him more as an artist now after seeing him live in concert, knowing that he still went on with the performance even though his family had recently suffered a tragedy, and that he’s keeping the music going strong (I’m looking forward to hearing new things from TGT, an R&B supergroup of Ginuwine, Tyrese and Tank).

What ever happened to real R&B? I miss the days when I used to listen to soulful tracks with romantically powerful lyrics from the likes of boy bands like Boyz II Men, New Edition, 112, Jodeci, and Dru Hill. Everything now seems auto-tuned, repetitive in their lyrics and “pop-y”.

Bobby V's Nike Mag Sneakers

What last night showed me was that there is still a fan-base for R&B music. Everyone who was at that concert was singing along with the lyrics of the tracks that Ginuwine and Bobby V were belting out, and identifying the myriad of old school tracks that were sampled out before that. On a side note, I should also mention that Bobby V was rockin’ a nice pair of kicks, circa 2015 Marty McFly–The Nike Mag.

I truly enjoyed the concert. We managed to secure a good spot right in front of the stage, just behind the photographer’s pit. When Ginuwine jumped the side platform and started walking into the photographer’s pit the crowd started to go wild. He was right in front of me while he was singing “Last Chance” and he actually looked down at me, leaned down, cupped my chin for a few seconds in his mic-free hand and I was in full awe (damn, that man can sing). Moments later he grasped my hand, and then continued to make his way down the rest of the row to get back on stage.

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Talk about up close and personal! Thank goodness I’m not one of those girls who freaks out at the sight of a celebrity and faints. I even caught one of the few towels he used to wipe his sweaty brow (now I can make Ginuwine clones from his embedded DNA).

Ginuwine closed out the show with an impressive showcase of Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves, and his 1996 hit “Pony” (of course my battery had to die on me right at the beginning of the song).  I feel like listening to some of my old mix tapes now.

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Rock The Bells – Toronto (Review)


It was quite the concert at Rock the Bells in Toronto on Thursday night. Memorable, yes… and not necessarily in a good way.  Call it the Miscalculation of Lauryn Hill.

The crowd at the Molson Amphitheatre was eagerly anticipating performances by Nas and Ms. Lauryn Hill, who were to perform tracks from each of their landmark albums (Illmatic and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, respectfully).
Nas at Rock The Bells
My friend and I reached the venue at around 7pm. We weren’t totally upset when Nas didn’t hit the stage until well after 8 (he had a 7:30 call time), because he nailed his performance. I swear this guy is Benjamin Button or something, because at almost 38, Nas is looking as good as ever. I had the pleasure of seeing him perform the last time he was in Toronto, and he did live up to expectations this time around. Backed by DJ Premier and Pete Rock, Nas was full of energy, rapped with passion, used up a lot of the stage, and genuinely looked as though he was happy to be here.

Then comes Ms. Lauryn Hill. I admit, it was Lauryn that I really bought my ticket for, as I missed the chance to see her when she was in town earlier this year at Sound Academy (no complaints though, I heard she was 3 hours late for that one).

The first thing I noticed, besides the fact that she kept the audience waiting an hour and a half (she had a 9:45 start time, Nas was done his set around  9:20), was that the acoustics at the Molson Amphitheatre were terrible when she was performing. I’ve went to a few concerts at the same venue and had no complaints about the sound, so I’m stumped at to what the problem was. Lots of echoing going on.

And then she abruptly left the stage after the third song. I have no idea why, but she came back with a new hat.
Lauryn Hill at Rock the Bells
Practically each of her tracks were virtually indistinguishable renditions of the original. I almost didn’t recognize them until a few bars into the song.

Now I’m not opposed to an artist re-working their own songs, but when a concert bills you for performing tracks from an award-winning album, it would be nice to hear some of it the way it sounded way back when.

And I don’t know if it was me, but Ms. Hill sounded like she was singing really, really fast. When she wasn’t singing in fast-forward she kept on gesturing with her hands to her band or the stage crew, nothing seemed too rehearsed. It was distracting and I personally couldn’t concentrate on the value of the music.

You would think that for a multi Grammy award winner things would go more smoothly. Especially since the reaction from her last show  in Toronto garnered mixed reviews.

Halfway through her performance I noticed people leaving… in droves actually (thankfully those included the row of drunken, loud, smokers behind us). I’m there thinking, ‘This is Lauryn Hill. You can’t just leave a Lauryn Hill concert mid-set!’ Needless to say, I actually left before the concert was over. It was going on 12:30am and my friend and I had to catch the streetcar to get the last subway home.

I was worried I would miss something good. We left just before she broke out with some old Fugees tracks (like “Ready or Not”), and it turns out Nas came back out and performed “If I Ruled The World” with Ms. Hill (dammit!). Oh, well… at least I still have the tracks on my iPod.

I think Lauryn Hill is a very talented artist. But I guess fame gets the best of some people. Time management would be a skill to work on, esp. if headlining a concert on a Thursday night, in a city with a noise curfew of 11pm, and not living up to the expectations of fans who were wishing it was worth the wait.

I got to meet Nelly today… made sure not to step on his J’z


NellyOne of the perks of my job is that every once in a while I get to interview different artists for promotional purposes (last month I got to interview R&B singer, Ne-Yo). Today at the tranquil Cosmopolitan Hotel I got to ask Mr. Country Grammar himself, Nelly, 10 questions on behalf of one of our third party partners.

Nelly’s one friendly guy… very personable. He walked in the room with a huge entourage, and shook hands and hugged those of us who were already in the room (including a “how you doin’, beautiful” to me *blush* ). I’m happy he didn’t didn’t seemed irked at all that we had to interview him before he got a chance to eat (hope his take-out didn’t get too cold!). He answered the questions with a lot of depth, including thoughts on his new album Brass Knuckles, his collaborations, and even his desire to play for the St. Louis Cardinals if he had the choice.

I’ve always found Nelly’s tracks fun, catchy and perfect for any party. I love how he collaborates with different artists (Ron Isley, Christina Aguilera for example) and genres to create hit tracks such as “Over and Over” (with Tim McGraw), “Dilemma” (with Kelly Rowland). Now I don’t know how I didn’t notice this before, but dayyyum he sure is looking deezed! I shook his hand goodbye after the interview and he gave me a kiss on the cheek. It was getting hot in therre. :D

I’ll try to post the link to the transcript of the interview once it’s publicized! Check out Nelly’s official site herre.