Elton John in Vancouver

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On September 13th and 14th, Vancouver embraced music royalty as Sir Elton John brought his Follow The Yellow Brick Road Tour (in honour of the 40th anniversary of his iconic record) to the Canadian west coast. I went to the second of his two sold-out shows at Rogers Arena. The legendary singer/songwriter/piano man played all of his greatest hits from across the four decades of his career, including favourites like “Bennie and the Jets“, “Candle in the Wind”, “Tiny Dancer“, “Philadelphia Freedom”, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, “Rocket Man”, “Your Song”, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”, “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting”, and “Crocodile Rock” and “Circle Of Life / Can You Feel The Love Tonight” (and that’s just half of the hits!). It was a spectacular night of song led by a sparkling supernova of a performer.

Photography and videos by yours truly.

Life Lessons Learned From… August.

August kicked my ass.

The entire month was ridden with death, suffering, anxiety, and pretty much every terrible situation and miserable sensation imaginable. Between saying goodbye to someone who I really cared about and watching the one person who means the most to me face even more health challenges, my heart was broken and my spirit was shattered. The news stories this month were just as depressing, what with racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri and the death of actor Robin Williams. In these trying times, my faith in life was put to the ultimate test. I wondered, why should I have hope for a world, let alone trust in a higher power, when good, innocent souls, including the people I love, are put through the ringer of pain, or are taken away forever? How am I expected to hold on while being ambushed with awfulness all around? What is it about life that makes the sadness, the anger, worth it?

People.

I was saved by people. If it wasn’t for my support system, I would have been consumed by my grief and my fears. My friends were there to lend an open ear, impart words of encouragement, provide the smiles and laughs to lighten things up, and offer to do anything they can to help alleviate the situation. When it comes to shared grief, it’s amazing how people who are hurting collectively come together to give each other love and strength, reminding us all that we never have to experience these worst moments alone. The gratitude I feel towards these phenomenal people is overwhelming.

What did I learn from August 2014?

We may not have control over the bad that comes our way in life, but we can control how we go through the dark days. We are strong on our own, but stronger together, and strongest when we take care of each other, stand together, and fight back together, as one.

See you soon, September. I’ll be coming up swinging.

Image by Leon Biss.

Cheers To You… Summer Night Concerts

When the music meets the moonlight, magic happens. Somehow, setting the concert scene outside makes the whole live performance experience even more captivating to the senses. Over the past two weeks, I was lucky enough to see my trifecta of favourite singer/songwriter dudes – Phillip Phillips, Ed Sheeran, and Gavin DeGraw – at outdoor venues…


Phillip Phillips at the PNE Amphitheater (August 16th)
After a hit show at Rogers Arena back in March, Phillip returned back to his favourite Canadian city to play at the opening night of the PNE’s Summer Concert Series. I’m not even exaggerating with that statement – he REALLY does love Vancouver. And that’s largely because his audience does things like lighting up their cell phones during “Tell Me A Story” (yes, we did it again!). If you have yet to see Phillip Phillips and his band of brothers live, pull the “Trigger” and run (or “Fly“, but don’t walk) to a show near you. You’ll “Unpack Your Heart” and “Lose Yourself” in the music because they are electric.


Ed Sheeran at Ambleside Park (August 23rd)
I had missed Ed the last two times he did shows in Vancouver [first time, I had to choose between him and Carrie Underwood (I'm sorry, but she's my Queen) and second time, he was opening for Taylor Swift and tickets were out of my price range], but the third time was certainly the charm! Within a picturesque beachside park in West Vancouver, Ed busted out an incredible one-man show of his trippy hip-hop infused brand of folk-pop to a crowd of 12,000 concertgoers – a crowd that eagerly contributed to A+ sing-alongs to his hits “The A Team“, “Sing“, and many more. The most memorable part of the night was when he sang my four favourite songs of his – “Afire Love”, “Thinking Out Loud”, “Give Me Love”, and “I See Fire” – all in a row. Boom, nailed it!


Gavin DeGraw at the PNE Amphitheater (August 26th)
With ten years of awesome records under his belt, Gavin DeGraw will be releasing a Greatest Hits album this fall. Does that make you feel old? Because I sure do. In celebration, the Piano Man did a show at the PNE and performed a selection of his best songs (including the anthemic “I Don’t Want To Be” and the uplifting “Soldier“) along with his new single, “Fire“. As always, Gavin’s top-notch musicality, charm, and groove made for an classy, cool, and unforgettable evening.

All photography and videos by yours truly.

Songs of Summer 2014

SONGS OF SUMMER 2014

1. Lana Del Rey – West Coast
2. Haley Reinhart – Show Me Your Moves
3. Sam Smith – Stay With Me
4. Kris Allen – Prove It To You (feat. Lenachka)
5. Phillip Phillips – Raging Fire
6. Paramore – Ain’t It Fun
7. Ed Sheeran – Sing
8. Queen + Adam Lambert – Love Kills (Freddie Mercury)
9. Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood – Somethin’ Bad
10. Didi Benami – Trouble
11. Sara Bareilles – Chandelier (Sia)
12. Gavin DeGraw – Fire
13. Colbie Caillat – Try
14. Blue Swede – Hooked On A Feeling
14. Janelle Monáe – Heroes (David Bowie)
15. Michael Johns – Day Breaks Sun

(For the full playlist, view my list on Quietly)

This mix of fifteen tunes consists of upbeat beats (“Show Me Your Moves”, “Sing”, “Ain’t It Fun”, “Somethin’ Bad”), sensitive ballads (“Stay With Me”, “Prove It To You”, “Love Kills”, “Chandelier”), uplifting tunes (“Raging Fire”, “Fire”, “Day Breaks Sun”), moody beats (“West Coast”, “Trouble”), mood boosters (“Try”, “Heroes”), and some infectious ooga chaka-ing (“Hooked On A Feeling”).

Play on!

Kris Allen’s Horizons

A new horizon has opened up for Kris Allen. The singer/songwriter recently released his third studio album, Horizons as an independent venture, and as a result, it is his most personal and remarkable project to date. The record evokes a soulful-folk sound and consists of a wealth of intimate and introspective material with well-constructed and complimentary production – it is not too far off from Kris’ sophisticated songcraft and signature acoustic indie-pop vibe, but is still a considerable artistic evolution for him. Among the solid songs on Horizons are the bright and breezy opening track, “Young Love”, the sweet and sincere whisper of “Prove It To You”  (a duet with Lenachka), the innocent, fun, and inspirational “Beautiful & Wild”, the encouraging “In Time”, the bluesy piano ballad “Lost”, the soulful and flirtatious “Don’t Set Me Free”, the fun and optimistic “Everybody Just Wants To Dance”, the soaring “Parachute”, the love-driven”It’s Always You”, and the country-esque “Girl Across the Room”.

Without question, Horizons is my favourite release from Kris. His maturity, confidence, and creativity as a musician is strongly showcased throughout his songs. As summer winds down, this reflective, authentic, and harmonious album is the perfect soundtrack to listen to as we transition into autumn.

A portion of the proceeds from the album sales will be given to the Music Empowers Foundation, which awards grants and funding to music education program across the United States.

Download Kris Allen’s Horizons on iTunes, and see him on tour this summer/fall (see dates here).