All photos: Joy Asico
Wynter Gordon and her band breezed into Rock N Roll Hotel Friday night, introduced by The DTQ and Beyond Modern. Gordon made a name for herself first by being a songwriter (a la Frank Ocean, Ne-Yo), which is fascinating in itself. She wrote for Mary J. Blige, Jennifer Lopez, Flo Rida, David Guetta, Estelle, and she has a track coming out with Shaggy. She’s kept herself busy putting out endless remixes of her own songs, dance hits “Til Death” and “Dirty Talk.”
Striding onstage at the Rock N Roll Hotel in huge wedged sneakers, a cutoff shirt, high waisted jeans and an afro in full bloom she looked like a physical homage to a 1970s rock star. She proved her rock roots with the new material she laid out for us off an upcoming four-EP series of music called The Human Condition. Especially notable was a catchy rock pop number called “Lucky Ones,” catchy enough that the audience sang the chorus “we are the lucky ones” with her midway through the song.
She employed brassy, belting vocals which were natural for her larger-than-life personality. She kept saying, “It was crazy,” or “It’s gonna be crazy,” and other such sentiments, pumping up the crowd. The background instrumentation had varying rock influences, ’80s-style synths and ’90s prog-rockish guitar parts. She used a sweeter sounding Heart/Cyndi Lauper-style vocal as well. After a few songs, she said, “Does anyone like Steve Winwood, ‘Bring Me a Higher Love?’ That is my shit.” I was floored that she sang the song because I had a different impression of her style (dance) and so did her audience, whom she had to encourage repeatedly to sing “Bring Me a Higher Love” with her.
This remark was the first sign something was going wrong. Gordon said, “Who came out here? A lot of my dance fans, right?” Throughout the show afterwards Gordon reminded the audience over and over that this was her EP release party. She seemed frustrated. The songs she played were solidly rock, and not as hook-chorus-hook catchy formulaic as “Dirty Talk” and “Til Death.” As a result, the crowd couldn’t completely get into the newer material. They talked and laughed sometimes way too loudly during and between songs.
After one fan shouted out a request for “Til Death,” she said, “Do you want to turn this concert into Ultra?” (referring to Ultra Music Festival). The problem was a matter of expectation, but it was also Gordon. She said this with a tone that sort of sounded like I can’t fucking believe these people. She did sing “Til Death” and “Dirty Talk,” letting the recording of the chorus play while she either tried to hit those notes or vamped over them. I can’t blame the crowd for being less interested than Gordon expected, because her new music isn’t available for them to acclimate themselves.
Some fans got into it. It’s really hard to ignore Gordon’s energy and charisma onstage, and the songs themselves weren’t bad songs, they were just new. She had a pretty cool song with a chorus in the Zulu language (“Stimela”), that was performed with passion and was easy going down. So, some might call out the audience for not keeping up with Gordon’s progress in her career or for not listening during this show, but I would say Gordon herself didn’t correctly prepare them on Friday for the as-yet-unreleased EPs she was pushing. She didn’t even mention the change in direction until five or so songs in. I applaud her as an artist for branching out, especially since she’s undergone painful personal stuff, but her concert’s attendees were not expecting what she presented.
Her voice was bigger and fuller and brassier in person than it is recorded (it’s evidently processed until rather babyish in the studio). That said, it was difficult to watch her attempt to hit a wider range than she was accustomed to singing, often off-key or strained. I was disappointed she wasn’t a better singer. I almost feel too harsh writing that she can’t sing all that well, but because I know that range and pitch can be improved vastly with practice, and she’s putting herself out there performing as a vocalist, I feel like I can expect better than what she gave us.
The DTQ (or Dave Trichter Quotient) was second up before Gordon, armed with piano-based electric rock with a splash of soft spoken word almost-rap. Trumpet solos, spoken-singing and handstands on the keyboards were all features of the DTQ’s performance. First up were energetic rap duo Beyond Modern, who showed enthusiasm when only 30 or so people were standing around. Clever rhymes accentuated a well-coordinated performance, raps traded off left and right as in a relay, all backed up by a solid DJ with excellent taste.
- more photos of Wynter Gordon
- The DTQ
- Beyond Modern