Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, Aloe Blacc, Ariana Grande to play Philly’s free Welcome American July 4 festival

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Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, Aloe Blacc, Ariana Grande to play Philly’s free Welcome American July 4 festival

Posted on: May 6th, 2014 by tommyj

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A soulful singer-songwriter, a rapping R&B-pop star, an "American Idol" alum star and some hot up-and-coming acts are among the lineup for Philadelphia’s free annual Fourth of July Jam concert, it has been announced.

Jingle Ball Ed SheeranHeadlining the event, which is billed as the largest free concert in America and concludes a day of celebration on Philly’s on Benjamin Parkway, will be Ed Sheeran, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, Aloe Blacc, Ariana Grande, Vicci Martinez and, of course, the fesival’s house band, The Roots.

Fourth of July Jam, which starts at 7 p.m., will conclude Philly’s Welcome America celebration, which starts with the city’s Independence Day parade at 11 a.m., a daylong party starting at noon and a fireworks finale at 11 p.m.

Sheeran had the highest sales ever in the United Kingdom for a male solo artist debut. In the United States, the album, which had the hits "The A Team" and "Lego House," received three Grammy Award nominations.

The 23-year-old singer is now on a headlining a U.S. tour that will stop at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Sept. 8.

Minaj’s debut and sophomore albums both topped Billboard’s Top 200 albums chart, and in 2010 she became the first female solo artist to have seven singles simultaneously on Billboard’s Top 100 chart. Her hits include "Super Bass" and "Starships."

She since has served as a judge on the 12th season of "American Idol" and now has a role in the feature film "The Other Woman."

Hudson, who was a finalist on the fourth season of "American Idol" in 2004, then won an Academy Award for best Supporting Actress in the movie "Dreamgirls." She received a Grammy Award for her gold-selling self-tilted debut album in 2008.

Blacc recently had the No. 1 mega-hit "Wake Me Up" with DJ Aviccci. His new album "Lift Your Spirit" has the hit single "The Man."

Grande played Cat Valentine on the sitcom "Victorious" and the spinoff "Sam & Cat," and made a splash in the music world when her sophomore single, "The Way" (featuring Mac Miller) hit the Billboard Top 10 and sold double-platinum.

"Problem," the lead single from her second album, reached No. 1 on just 37 minutes after its release – a record.

Martinez was a finalist on the first season of the NBC-TV singing competition "The Voice." Her latest single, "Otra Cancion," is now available on iTunes.

Philadelphia-based The Rioots are four-time Grammy Award winners and were the house band for "The Late Show" with Jimmy Fallon.

For more information, go to http://www.welcomeamerica.com.



A singer who has won seven Grammy Awards will perform at Sands Bethlehem Event Center, it was just announced.

Gladys Knight, who has had No. 1 hits on the pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary and Gospel charts in the past 53 years, will play at 8 p.m. Sept. 14.

It will be Knight’s first appearance in the Lehigh Valley in more than a dozen years.

Tickets, at $49.50-$65.50, will go on sale at noon May 9 at http://www.sandseventcenter.com, http://www.ticketmaster.com, the event center box office, all outlets and 800-745-3000.

Known as The Empress of Soul, Knight with her group Gladys Knight & The Pips and in her solo career has compiled 23 Top 15 albums – seven of which went to No. 1 – on various charts. Since the 1967 debut album "Everybody Needs Love" in 1967, nine of those albums have gone gold.

With The Pips and in her solo career, Knight has had 35 Top 10 hits –13 of which hit No. 1 – on various charts, starting with 1961’s R&B chart-topper "Every Beat of My Heart."

Perhaps her best-known hits are 1967’s "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," 1970’s "If I Were Your Woman" and 1973’s "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)."

In 1973-74, Gladys Knight & The Pips had five straight singles hit the Top 2 – four of them chart-toppers – with "Midnight Train to Georgia," "I’ve Got to Use My Imagination," "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me," "On and On" and "I Feel a Song in My Heart."

The group’s last Top 10 was "Love Overboard" in 1987.

Knight as a solo artist in 2006 topped the Gospel chart with her album A Christmas Celebration (with Saints Unified Voices)," and in 1996 had a Top 10 hit with "Missing You" with , Tamia & Chaka Khan. Her most recent solos disc, her eighth, was 2013’s "Another Journey. She’s reportedly working on a new album.

Knight also was part of the chart-topping AIDS-support anthem "That’s What Friends Are For" with Dionne Warwick, Elton John & Stevie Wonder.

Knight lst played in the Lehigh Valley when she headlined Bethlehem’s festival in 2000.

Knight, 69, also has had success on television, with guest appearances on "Benson," "The Jeffersons" and "A Different World," and in 1985, co-starred in the CBS-TV sitcom "Charlie & Co." with comedian Flip Wilson. In 2008, Knight appeared on "30 Rock" as the rest of the cast sang "Midnight Train To Georgia."

Knight also has been a guest judge on "American Idol" and in 2012 competed on the 14th season of ABC-TV’s "Dancing with the Stars" and began a recurring role in the syndicated sitcom "The First Family."

This summer, Knight will join the cast of Broadway musical "After Midnight."

An area casino has announced it will hold an outdoor music festival this summer.

Mount Airy Casino’s outdoor stage summer series, which booked by Stroudsburg’s Sherman Theater, will offer Beers, Burgers, & Badfish, a summer festival on July 26, it has announced.

The festival will feature eight bands starting at 4 p.m., with the headliner being Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime, according to the casino’s website.

Tickets, at $20, are on sale now at http://www.shermantheater.com, http://www.ticketmaster.com and 800-745-3000. Tickets will be $25 on the day of the festival.

The show is the fourth for the annual series, with performances are on an outdoor stage erected aside of the casino at 312 Woodland Road in Mount Pocono.

Country music star Trace Adkins will perform at 8 p.m. June 6, jam band moe., which is celebrating 25 years as a band, on July 18, and a cappella troupe Straight No Chaser at 8 p.m. July 20.

In addition to the bands, the festival will feature beer on ice and food on the barbecue, according to the website.

"This is what a summer concert is all about," the website says.

Sublime, a ska punk and reggae rock band from southern California, had the hits "What I Got," which hit No. 1 on the Modern Rock chart in 1996; and "Santaria" and "Wrong Way," both of which hit No. 3 in 1997.

The group’s 1992 debut "40 oz. to Freedom," sold double platinum, and its self-titled third album in 1996 sold 5 million copies.

But lead singer Bradley Nowell died of a heroin overdose in 1996 and the group disbanded for more than a dozen years before reforming with new lead singer Rome Ramirez in 2009.

Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime, from Providence, R.I., has toured since 2001.



It might be cliche to say it, but bringing rock band Poison front man Bret Michaels to Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks in Bethlehem to headline the annual MDA Ride for Life concert pretty much guaranteed it would be "nothin’ but a good time."

And it was.

Michaels gave a pedal-to-the-floor, wildly energetic performance of Poison songs and covers that the audience clearly enjoyed, even though drenched by rain.

Michaels seemed a perfect choice for the concert, which raises funds to fight muscular dystrophy: He’s battled a lifelong condition, diabetes. He’s an experienced fund-raiser: in addition to his own Life Rocks Foundation, he won Donald Trump‘s NBC-TV "Celebrity Apprentice" competition. And he’s a known motorcycle enthusiast.

Plus, he’s a Pennsylvania native, having been born in Butler County and later living in Mechanicsburg.

He frequently mentioned all that during his kinetic performance, in which he seemed equal parts performer and pitchman and which included nine songs and lasted just over an hour, including a four-minute drum solo as he changed outfits.

That doesn’t mean Michaels, 51, didn’t give tons of effort – and tons on energy – kicking off with a raucous version of Poison’s first hit, "Take Dirty to Me," then a rollicking cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s "Sweet Home Alabama."

"It’s good to be back in Pennsylvania, yes it is," he said, as he danced and darted all over the stage and frequently pointed into the audience, which started with what looked like 900 people but dwindled to about 600 rain set in about 40 minutes into the set. "Good to be home with my friends."

Poison’s "Look What the Cat Dragged in" was equally emphatic. And by the time he finished an impressively ripping and ragged cover of Loggins and Messina’s "Your Momma Don’t Dance" (which he opened playing blues harmonica) Michaels already was hoarse.

"Lord have mercy, we’re getting started now!" he said.

That was an indication of how full-throttle and uninhibited the performance was. Michaels isn’t a classically great singer anyway, and the performance was much more about energy and excitement than musical nuance.

That said, Michaels slowed it down, donning a cowboy hat and acoustic guitar for Poison’s gold 1990 hit "Something to Believe In," which he mentioned was included on his most recent disc, last year’s "Jammin’ with Friends," on which he did solo re-recordings of many of Poison’s hits.

(After the concert, the hat was auctioned off – bringing $500 for the MDA Foundation.)

The mid-concert highlight was Poison’s "Unskinnny Bop," which Michaels dedicated to U.S. military troops. The seven-minute song started with a three-minute intro of ‘ "Give It Away Now," which included a solid bass solo and Michaels rapping over guitar.

The song itself was good, fun and energetic – and musically the best of the night.

A word about Michaels’ four-man band: It was very good, and infused as much energy into the show as did Michaels, and kept the music elevated as Michaels made more of the effort in performance. That even made the long drum solo that followed (as Michaels changed clothes) palpable.

It was during that solo that the rain set in pretty hard. But Michaels rewarded the hardy fans who stayed.

"I knew it was gonna rain," he said. "I don’t care. I’ll sing all night. Everybody, let it rain – we’re gonna rock."

Then the band kicked in to a sludgy but energetic Sublime’s "What I Got," with Michaels singing "Let it rain/I ain’t gonna stop."

After the song, Michaels told the crowd, "Lord have mercy, Ride for Life. I’m gonna stand in the rain if you’re in the rain." And he did, coming to the edge of the stage to play Poison’s biggest hit, the 1998 gold No. 1 "Every Rose Has its Thorn." (He warned that "electricity and rain don’t mix" and said that if the guitar blew, they would fix it later.")

But the song went off without a hitch – rough and ragged, but all the better for it.

Michaels closed the show by bringing out 13-year-old Bryson Foster, MDA National Goodwill Ambassador, for "Nothin’ But a Good Time," with the teen uninhibitedly belting out the song with the rock star.

There was no subtlety, as Michaels pounded on the drum set and did a jump split.

It was nothing but a good time. And it don’t get better than this, indeed.

MDA Ride for Life activities continue today, May 4, at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks in Bethlehem.



Livingston Taylor is endlessly interesting and entertaining. It’s no wonder that students clamor to take the singer-songwriter’s class on stage performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he has been a professor for decades.

His concert Friday night at Musikfest Café was part story time, part performance. And all happy and upbeat.

Taylor, younger brother of James, sauntered onto stage with his trademark grin and bow tie and launched into a story about the steel industry and the life of steel workers and the complicated relationship between the two and with society. He said he was in awe of the sight of the blast furnaces behind him and commented on them frequently during the show.

"Dang, I love the human experience," he said in his folksy way as he ended the story.

Another "dang" came a couple songs later when Taylor remarked, "I can’t tell you how much I enjoy seeing your guys. Dang, this is fun."

His first song was "Call me Carolina," one of several of Taylor’s inspired by his growing up in North Carolina. Another, "Carolina Day," is his biggest hit.

Up next was the sweet "I must be doing something right," quickly followed by "Everybody’s Just Like Me."

Taylor was very expressive while singing and his vocal range was good. At times he sounded a lot like brother James. For some songs he played acoustic guitar; for others he was at the piano.

A number songs were like amusing tales – "I’m Writing a Book," a funny, older song inspired by Kitty Kelly, queen of the uauthorized biography; "I’m Not As Herbal as I Ought to Be," inspired by Taylor’s losing battle to eat healthy, and "The Dollar Bill Song" and "Railroad Bill," which were closer to folk tales than folk songs.

Taylor sang several songs from his new album, "Bly Sky," including "I Shouldn’t Have Fallen For You," which was classic Taylor, with its nice, simple rhythm, Laura Nyro’s classic "Sweet " and the title song, which has a gospel feel.

He also sang several songs from "The Wizard of Oz," including "Over the Rainbow," another song that Taylor is known for.

Taylor talked about his love for pop songs and the American songbook. He sang Jerome Kern’s "Pick Yourself Up,"; "Here You Come Again," popularized by Dolly Parton, and "The Trolley Song," which Judy Garland made famous in the movie "Meet Me in St. Louis."

For "City Lights," which is a duet with James, Taylor brought up Steve (last name I don’t know) to do his brother’s parts. It was fun to watch.

Taylor said he had been to the area many times and had some good shows, but "I can say I’ve never had a better time in your fair community than I had tonight."

He probably says it to all his audiences, but he seemed to have such a good time it was easy to believe it was true.

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