Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘Kansas City’

All I Ever Wanted

In Music on March 10, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Kelly Clarkson has some pipes. Let me start by saying that.

Her new album is out March 10, 2009

Her voice absolutely blows my mind every time she jumps into the upper register; it just gives me goosebumps. I can’t say that I watched American Idol Season 1, but the past few seasons I have usually watched with some degree of interest. I have noticed that mostly, the competition is a slew of karaoke singers with a few talented people peppered in. Clarkson is one of the best products the show has ever developed.

I’ve been listening to more and more pop music lately–rather, I have been more aware of my enjoyment of good pop music. I spent so much time in college with Indie music that I had forgotten how good some mass-produced material actually is. Every genre has one or two negative stereotypes that stick, and pop music’s is being “fake” or “unauthentic.” I think it’s hard to separate my opinion of Clarkson from the fact that she was literally produced by Fox through the fabricated process of a game show. That being said, there’s always been something I liked about her.

I remember going to see Red White & Boom in what used to beĀ  Sandstone Amphitheatre back in 2003 (now it has a place amongst other sellout venues as “Verizion Wireless Amphitheater” Pshhh). The concert was a mashup of a lot of acts, many I didn’t know, and a few big headliners. The bottom line was that it was $10 to get in, so my girlfriend and I went with some friends. Kelly Clarkson was the last act that year and she had the great fortune of closing the show after some terrible acts like Lisa “Whispermoaning Marie” Presley”–shudder. I remember faintly seeing this girl come out onto stage and pick up the mic (I was far away in the lawn section); she was wearing a Royals jersey. I thought maybe it was another MC coming up to give introductions, but it was Kelly Clarkson. Kudos to her for brandishing my poor-excuse-for-a-baseball-team’s digs! She sang very well live, just as she did on the radio. That impressed me because I’d just watched a whole lineup of moderate to poor performances. She could really sing!

The funniest part was in one of her last numbers. I’d be lying if I said I remember what song it was, but she was just about to start singing when something hilarious happened. The music was keying up and she was just about to put the mic up to her face when she took one step too far backwards and into a monitor.


The crowd sounded with a din of gasps that turn to chuckling when people realize no one is injured. Clarkson jumps right back up and brushes herself off looking like she just stole second in that jersey. “I’m ok!” she announced with a smile, pointing to the band to start the song again.

She went right on as though nothing had happened, taking advantage of a very human moment that made her seem accessible and authentic to me somehow. It reminded me of another concert in that same venue where Counting Crows crooner Adam Duritz had a close encounter of the insect kind. He was coming to the end of Long December–right at the very climax–when his dramatic pause and deep breath were followed by something unexpected. The coda began

…I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell my myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass
And it’s one more day up in the canyon
And it’s one more night in hollywood
It’s been so long since Ive seen the ocean…i guess I should

That’s how it’s supposed to end, right before a chorus of jubilant na na nas. Duritz deep breath came at the wrong place though:

…To hold on to these moments as they pass
And it’s–**THWUNK**
<–That’s the sound of a vacuum sucking up a marble



“Sorry. I swallowed fly.”

Outdoors at Sandstone, you never know what’s gonna hit you. Which brings me back to All I Ever Wanted. You never know when her tone is going to shift from flowing smoothly through the verses to a sharp, double-octave jump into the chorus–really it’s almost screaming, but it sounds so on-pitch, so undistorted.

I will say that whomever did the album design should have their head examined. Hot pink, yellow and orange…wha? I suppose maybe they wanted to catch your eye with it’s barbie vomit shceme and then you’d be pulled in by Kelly’s lovely face. Then again, maybe they wanted to convey the fact that she has two sides to her (pink and orange?), both of which reside in a horrible 1970s colorscheme nightmare.

Bad design aside, I really do like the album. There’s a voice in the back of my head that keeps nudging me in the proverbial ribs saying “defend the fact that you listen to ‘girl music,'” but I got through posting about Taylor Swift, so it’s easy to ignore now.

I still need to listen to the whole album a few times before I write about specific things I like, but in general she still feels very relevant, vibrant, and authentic.

The American Idol Life

In Music, Radio on August 1, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Before this year’s American Idol winner David Cook was crowned, not many people outside of the Midwest, or even Missouri for that matter, had ever heard of a town called Blue Springs. Now the world is abuzz with, well… buzz about this small town’s proclivity for producing even more musicians of Cook-esque caliber.

Let’s take a moment to cross genres from pop-rock to what I’m going to call pop-punktronica.

Enter onto the scene: The American Life, Kansas City’s own octet of punk ambassadors. What tastes David Cook meets with his clean cut charm, powerhouse voice and Seacrest-pleasing boyish face, TAL does so with a rougher-hewn blade; skin-sleeve tattoos, chops, and a general badass nature that escapes anything durrogatorally emo.

Somehow these guys manage to remind me of what I like best about bands like Lit and Marvelous Three while infusing both elements of more hard-edged bands like Pillar and Hawthorn Heights with the occasional Kraftwerkian electronic twist. The synth leed runs rampant behind high-strung guitars while you’re left far away from everything you know about punk rock. Their salutary address Intro comes through loud and clear to herald their arrival onto the scene.

No more are the three-chord filled tracks days of wailing whiners with poorly written anti-establishment lyrics. TAL’s exposition is personal and narrative, giving way to the band’s soul. When was the last time you heard punk rock with a soul? The depth of sound in each chorus and verse leaves you floating in a peaceful state of mind as Coming Home ends. No emo comas here though, a wicked key line snaps you out of any sleepy state you were in and reminds you that We Are Alive.

More surprises await as you surrender your ears to the electronic snare/synth cadence of Wait. Right here is where I knew this album was different; this album was good. You may just have to wait for more yourself.

The American Life’s All the Things I’ve Grown to Miss can be purchased on iTunes

The American Life