MARIAH CAREY TEAMS UP WITH MLB AND NY PHILHARMONIC FOR HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF

IMG_1027Even a broken rib can’t stop Mariah Carey from making a grand entrance.

Emerging through a hidden platform, the 43-year-old diva took to the stage in Central Park’s Great Lawn this past Saturday to sing with The New York Philharmonic for the 2013 MLB All-Star Charity Concert benefiting Hurricane Sandy relief.

Wearing a bedazzled white dress and matching glittery arm sling, Carey performed for the first time since dislocating her shoulder, breaking her rib, and suffering numerous bruises while shooting a music video for a hip-hop remix of current single, “#Beautiful” just a few days prior.

“I am filming this for myself so that I can remember this moment,” Carey said to the roughly 10,000-person crowd watching her as a team of assistants wrapped her sling in white fur. “Is this working? Do we like it? Is it too much fullness? I’m doing the best with what I got. Seriously.”

Mariah Carey

And given her injuries, Carey truly brought it. Launching her 4-song setlist with her timeless ballad, “My All,” the pop star didn’t let the fact that she was struggling with physical pain prevent her from singing her heart out as best she could.

“This song requires some strength, but I’m gonna give it my all,” Carey stated before going into “Looking In,” an incredibly personal track from her 1995 album, Daydream, that she’s never performed live before.

“She smiles through a thousand tears, and harbors adolescent fears,” Carey sang about the perceived notion that success equals happiness. “She dreams of all that she can never be, she wades in insecurity, and hides herself inside of me.”

Whether it was because of the vulnerable lyrical content of “Looking In” or just the physical pain she was enduring, Carey briefly lost her composure during her performance. “I kind of thought I would not get through that one,” the singer candidly admitted when the song had finished, offering her apologies to the audience. It was a genuinely tender moment that continued to prove that the Major League athletes in attendance weren’t the only all-stars present at the event.

When Carey returned to the stage roughly 45 minutes and one intermission later, she kicked off her last pair of songs with “#Beautiful,” the lead single off her fourteenth studio album, The Art of Letting Go (set for release later this year). Her duet partner on the track, Miguel, was unavailable to appear at the concert, but Carey was joined by another special guest: fellow American Idol judge Randy Jackson on guitar.

This time around, Carey donned a black dress accentuated by a feathered sling that looked like it was stolen from the dressing room of one of the Skeksis on the set of The Dark Crystal. Nonetheless, Carey both looked and sounded phenomenal, and in doing so reminded her audience why she’s the best-selling female artist of all time.

IMG_1047For the evening’s biggest showstopper, Carey brought out a choir to assist her in singing her massive hit, “Hero.” Fittingly, she dedicated the inspirational song to all of the men and women who donated their time and efforts to Sandy relief following last year’s tragic super-storm. She also made the point that all of us have the potential to be a hero.

In addition to Carey’s performances, the concert consisted of an extensive and gorgeous array of songs played by The New York Philharmonic. Highlights included the Gershwin staple, “Strike Up The Band,” “Fanfare for the Common Mon,” and the classics, “New York, New York” and “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Former Yankees coach and baseball legend Joe Torre also narrated a rousing rendition of the beloved poem, “Casey at the Bat,” set to the music of composer Steven Reineke.

“Music might be my main game, but I love baseball, and it’s always exciting when the All-Star Game is hosted in New York,” New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert stated in a press release. “It’s a thrill to be conducting on this special occasion. It is particularly gratifying to be part of this event that will help support those whose lives were affected by Hurricane Sandy; they are our neighbors, and we’re glad we can be there for our community in whatever way we can.”

When it came time for The New York Philharmonic to perform the world premiere of Mark Isham’s “Suite from 42” (from the recent motion picture, 42), the crowd roared with applause for Rachel and Sharon Robinson – the wife and daughter of MLB legend Jackie Robinson – who were present in the audience.

Through the MLB All-Star Charity Concert, Major League Baseball made a generous $1 million donation for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. “It was truly an honor to perform with world renowned NY Philharmonic,” Carey posted to her Instagram and Twitter following the show. “In spite of the pain, I wouldn’t have ever missed this moment. Thanks for helping me get through it and sharing it with me.”

IMG_1026IMG_1028charity_concert_logo_400x500IMG_1021 IMG_1046Originally published on PopBytes
All photos and video taken by Alex Nagorski

SARA BAREILLES SHOWCASES NEW ALBUM AT NYC’S MCKITTRICK HOTEL

-2Sara Bareilles is proud to be a New Yorker.

After nearly fifteen years of living in Los Angeles, the 33-year-old singer/songwriter kicked off 2013 by moving across the country. Now an official Manhattanite, Bareilles celebrated next week’s release of her third studio album, The Blessed Unrest (iTunes), by performing an intimate showcase in the city’s trendy McKittrick Hotel this past Wednesday.

But before Bareilles took to the stage at the hotel’s Manderlay Bar, she revisited her theatrical roots by joining the ensemble of Sleep No More, a film noir inspired make-your-own-adventure spin on Macbeth. Playing the part of a nurse, Bareilles had to interact with the (entirely masked) audience members who chose to follow her character’s story line.

“I had to grab people and say ‘It will have blood, they say. Blood will have blood,’” she explained to me afterwards about her role. Talk about intense. But if Bareilles was at all nervous about performing in Sleep No More after only two days of rehearsal, it didn’t show at all.

-3“Does my fucking breath stink?” she asked one of her friends who she was able to recognize within the faceless crowd when the friend offered her a mint. “I mean, of course I never broke character,” the songstress joked.

While the transition from the Eyes Wide Shut-meets-Black Swan world of Sleep No More to the sound of Bareilles’ signature piano pop was a sharp one, it didn’t take long for the audience to become completely immersed in the stunning and confessional tracks from The Blessed Unrest. Plus, the complimentary cocktails (each named after a song on the record) didn’t hurt the crowd from singing along – despite the fact that these were largely brand new songs that most people were hearing for the first time.

The Blessed Unrest is easily Bareilles’ most personal album yet. “This is my darkest hour, a long road has led me out here,” she confesses on one of the record’s many standouts, “Hercules.” And it’s true. Unlike her first two albums, The Blessed Unrest immediately sounds like it was recorded during dark New York winter nights instead of sunny California afternoons.

When introducing the album’s closing song, “December,” the former judge of NBC’s The Sing-Off explained that she wrote the song at a very emotional time. Not only is December Bareilles’ birthday month, but she believes it’s a month that measures time more than any other, offering people the chance to clean their slates and start anew in the new year. Not surprisingly, it was this past December when Bareilles made the resolution to pack her bags and migrate to the Big Apple.

“A winter’s blooming in Los Angeles, the artificial cold is more than I was hoping for, but not enough to consume the darkened state I’m in,” Bareilles vulnerably sang about her decision to change settings.

Keeping with the geographical theme, Bareilles also sang “Manhattan,” another new track found on The Blessed Unrest. A heart-wrenching breakup ballad, the gorgeous bluesy song finds Bareilles sacrificing both the man and city she loves.

What I love about “Manhattan” is that it allows Bareilles to show off her incredible vocal abilities. While she’s easily one of the best singers I’ve ever heard live, Bareilles’ albums don’t always do her remarkable talents justice. Sometimes it sounds like her voice is just too big to be contained onto a recording. And after you’ve heard her sing in person, you’ll never hear her album tracks the same way again. “Manhattan” is the one recording Bareilles has ever done that truly captures the grand scope of her voice the way it comes across in her live performances, making it an immediate must-have track.

“Manhattan” also serves as a fantastic example of Bareilles’ matured songwriting. The imagery she paints is so spectacularly vivid that it’s nearly impossible to listen to the song without feeling like you’re privy to her innermost thoughts and sorrows.

Bringing the audience’s spirits back up, Bareilles sang another new song, the upbeat and charming “I Choose You.” She explained that she was inspired to write the song after she met a fan who wanted to dedicate a song of hers to his wife at their wedding, but was unable to find one that wasn’t “depressing.” As a result, Bareilles wrote what she described as her first true love song.

When Bareilles announced that the next song in her set was The Blessed Unrest’s kick-off single, “Brave,” the audience roared with excitement. Co-written by Jack Antonoff (of the band fun.) and featuring an accompanying music video directed by Rashida Jones (of Parks and Recreation), “Brave” was written for a friend of Bareilles’ who was having a hard time coming out of the closet.

“I think there’s so much honor and integrity and beauty in being able to be who you are,” Bareilles recently told The Advocate about why she wrote the song. “It’s important to be brave because by doing that you also give others permission to do the same.”

“I’ll always internalize it as a real civil rights anthem at a time when there are no civil rights anthems and there’s a giant need for [them],” Antonoff continued to the magazine, which predicted that “Brave” was “destined to become an LGBT anthem for the ages.”

In addition to all of the songs she played from The Blessed Unrest, Bareilles treated fans to previous hits in her repertoire like “Uncharted” and the career-making “Love Song.” To close the show, the songstress channeled another great piano-playing vocalist, Elton John, by singing an entirely flawless cover of the classic “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

With her new album, Bareilles has created a masterpiece. The Blessed Unrest is a combination of mature, honest, and raw songwriting with an experimental pallet of instruments and sounds. This makes it not only her most daring work to date, but also her best.

The Blessed Unrest hits stores tomorrow, July 16th.

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Originally published on PopBytes

1016337_10200357836893125_1271028259_n(Roberto Marin, Sara Bareilles and I)