Concert Review: Molly Ringwald Impresses at the Newmark Theatre

Wow.

Who would have thought that 80’s brat packer Molly Ringwald can sing? And boy, can she.

Ringwald, best known for her roles as a lovesick teenager in several John Hughes films like Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles, rolled off more than a dozen jazz numbers in a 90 minute long set on Friday night at the Newmark Theatre  in Portland that featured many tracks from her debut album Except Sometimes.

Backed by a jazz quartet, Ringwald’s voice was elegant and smooth with a noticeably strong pop presence. She wasted no time after taking the stage immediately jumping into her first song. She wore a knee length, black gown, with black high heels, sported her cropped do a la Sixteen Candles, and looked, well, like Molly Ringwald, albeit just a bit older.

Ringwald’s voice was strong throughout from lower tempo fare like “Exactly Like You” and “The Very Thought of You” to the more uptempo waltz of “I’ll Take Romance” and “Pick Yourself Up.” She also performed several songs best known on Broadway like Westside Story’s “I feel Pretty” which landed her a rousing applause, “If Were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls, and My Fair Lady’s “On the Street Where You Live”

Ringwald spoke often, bantering with the audience a bit and introduced most of the songs with some background. Before starting Billie Holiday’s “Don’t Explain” Ringwald explained she has an affinity for people that are known for something else, an obvious nod to her acting days.

She and her band which consisted of a piano, percussion, bass and saxophone played well together and Ringwald often gave those on stage with her their props when due, like Allen Mezquida who starred on the saxophone and pianist Peter Smith who also doubles as her musical director. Even Clayton Cameron got to break out a bit from the relaxed tap-and-brush and busted out a solid drum solo.

She may be one of the greatest teen stars of all time, but Ringwald got her start in jazz. Her father Robert Ringwald is a traditional jazz singer and daughter Molly started singing at a young age. Her rendition of Fats Waller’s “Mean to Me” was another crowd favorite.

Ringwald joked about whether or not to do an actual encore and poked a bit of fun at the traditional leave the stage for a few minutes while the audience applauses, before returning for one last song. She offered to do just that but Ringwald and the audience were more than content to keep her on stage minus the theatrics.

And, not too ironically, she closed with her jazz rendition of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” the hit song from “The Breakfast Club” and the sound track to the life of anyone who grew up in the 1980s watching the teenage of version of who is now an all grown up jazz singer.

Written By: AndrewT

Concert Review: Adam Ant Delivers Abysmal Portland Show

A lousy venue combined with awful sound and a 58-year old singer near the tail-end of a summer-long tour and you’ve got a recipe for a really bad concert.

Adam Ant

Adam Ant at the Roseland in Portland

Englishman Adam Ant played a 30-song set that thankfully lasted under two-hours on Sunday night at the Roseland Theater in Portland and it sounded nothing like Ant music. Ant (born Stuart Leslie Goddard and officially changed his name to Adam Ant) wore his pirate getup, prominently displayed on the cover of 1980s Kings of the Wild Frontier album, for much of the evening. The showman he still is, with dancing and a stage presence that displayed a performer half his age.

Subtle remnants of the youthful chiseled jaw remained but he’s lost the very feminine look he sported during his heyday. Eye glasses replaced the eye-liner which worked well, but for the most part, he looked more like a man in a pirate costume singing barely understandable songs.

It’s not as if Ant lost his voice with age. In fact, his latest album Adam Ant is the Blueback Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter is a solid effort with some exceptional songs like the single “Cool Zombie” and “Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter.” That familiar Ant voice is clearly evident on all the tracts. However, the Portland show was the third in a row and fourth in five days.

From the start the band sounded more or less like noise. Whether or not Ant’s voice was already shot is certainly debatable as the bass and treble sounded excruciatingly high forcing Ant to try in vain and yell over the guitars and drums. Gone was the vocal charm and melody that made Ant a hit in the early 1980s. None of his songs sounded anything like the studio versions. At times Ant’s voice was nearly drowned out by his band.

“Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter” opened the set and it foreshadowed things to come as the follow-up “Dog Eat Dog,” a popular tune from Kings was barely recognizable. The B-side and very punk-rock sounding “Beat my Guest” managed to be a step-up but “Kick” was audibly worthless.

Ant grabbed the guitar for “Ants Invasion” which was just OK and the hit “Stand and Deliver” started well but clearly showed Ant yelling through the chorus decimating any melody or rhythm that made the song so fun. His more debonair singling style proved no match to the thumping drums and blaring guitars. “Room at the Top,” the single from 1990’s Manners & Physique, was discernible only when Ant sang the title words.

Adam Ant 2

Adam Ant wearing his signature pirate outfit

The best song of the evening was “Wonderful” which it was far from, but it did not require Ant to force so much of the vocals.

Adam Ant deserves credit for banging out 30 songs – an absolute rare feat these days considering 20 songs for most bands is a lengthy setlist. The use of two drummers proved interesting and watching the two keep in perfect symphony with each other showed Ant picked some fine musicians to work with. But seriously, two drummers and not one could play the catchy intro to “Ant Music?” Instead Ant “sang” it.

It’s hard to complain about a generous song performance, however, considering his age and the pace of the tour, but mostly that at least half a dozen songs just were not worth playing live, Ant could have slowed the pace a bit. In a recent interview he said performing his shows was like a marathon and indeed he looked at times like he had just finished a lengthy sprint before stepping on stage. What’s more, the stripped-down set with no synthesizers for much-needed additional effects added greatly to the detriment of the songs as they sounded more like bad covers than those sweet radio-friendly tunes.

This isn’t to say the entire evening was lost. “Strip” and Desperate But Not Serious” were somewhat listenable and “Car Trouble” clearly had potential. But “Whip My Valise”, “Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face), Xerox and Cleopatra added to an already bloated setlist.

It didn’t matter much anyway as halfway through the show most songs simply turned into white noise.

Adam Ant Portland (Roseland Theater) Setlist:

1. Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter
2. Dog Eat Dog
3. Beat My Guest
4. Kick
5. Ants Invasion
6. Hardmentoughblokes
7. Stand and Deliver
8. Shrink
9. Room at the Top
10. Kings of the Wild Frontier
11. Wonderful
12. Whip in My Valise
13. Vince Taylor
14. Stay in the Game
15. Cool Zombie
16. Strip
17. Desperate But Not Serious
18. Cleopatra
19. Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His face)
20. Zerox
21. Viva Le Rock
22. Ant Music
23. Goody Two Shoes
24. Car Trouble
25. Prince Charming
26. Lady
27. Fall In
28. Red Scab
29. Bang a Gong
30. Physical

Written By: AndrewT