Reviews: Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z & More

This week for your reading enjoyment we have compiled critical reviews of recent live performances from Stevie Wonder in Los Angeles; Lady Gaga in Denver: Jay-Z in Inglewood, Calif.; Janet Jackson in Atlanta; and Bryan Adams in New Plymouth, New Zealand.

Lady Gaga
John Davisson
– Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga piles it on during her headline set at Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif., April 15.

Stevie Wonder @ Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., Dec. 10 – “And though the crowd noticeably thinned as the clock ticked past midnight, Wonder stuck to the program, playing the songs in all their complicated, drawn-out glory rather than cutting them short in a race to the finish line. The result stood out from many of the full-album concerts I’ve seen in that Wonder wasn’t reimagining the material — he was deeply faithful to the old arrangements — but was singing and playing with atypical emotional urgency.” – Mikael Wood / Los Angeles Times

Lady Gaga @ Pepsi Center in Denver, Colo., Dec. 12 – “On Tuesday night Denver witnessed a remarkable performance, but from a Gaga that doesn’t take risks — or maybe not Lady Gaga at all, and rather a new persona from the likes of Stefani Germanotta.” – Tyler Harvey / 303 Magazine

Jay-Z @ Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Dec. 21 – “It isn’t just that Jay has a deep reservoir of hits from which to draw, it’s that few MCs of his era have spent as much time figuring out how to best put those hits over in an arena environment. The band, especially its two drummers, beefed up Just Blaze productions ‘Public Service Announcement’ and ‘U Don’t Know’ into thunderous hard-rock headbangers; ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ and ‘On to the Next One’ were accompanied by a dazzling laser display; and the late run through ‘Where I’m From,’ ‘Empire State of Mind’ and ‘Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)’ was expertly sequenced for maximum underdog uplift.” – Andrew Barker / Variety

Janet Jackson @ Philips Arena in Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 17 – “While Jackson was mostly flawless Sunday, the music sometimes overwhelmed her vocals and the paring of some songs to keep the show manageable rushed some of her best work. It’s doubtful, however, that such quibbles bothered the audience, which was on its feet the majority of the show.” – Leon Stafford / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Bryan Adams @ TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth, New Zealand, Jan. 4 – “He’s never had a lot of luck with critics, who tend to dismiss his style of music, and, yes, some of his ballads are wetter and drippier than the Bowl of Brooklands this evening, but after more than 30 years in the game, when it comes to giving a show, Bryan Adams is hard to beat.” – Andrew Owen / Stuff