Last night I had the privilege of being at the 2nd performance of the Karmaloop Up In The Air Tour at House of Blues on Sunset Blvd. In addition to a grip of solid supporters, including Far East Movement, Bad Rabbits and 2 AM Club, the night was highlighted by one of the hottest acts in the game right now, Mike Posner.
Flying high off his debut release, 31 Minutes to Take Off, Posner soared to new heights last night with his sensational performance. In less than a year, I’ve personally witnessed the MC/singer transform from mixtape maestro to charismatic and fun performer to the NEXT Justin Timberlake pop-star.
He began the night with “Please Don’t Go,” the second single off his record. Immediately you could see Mike’s development because he quickly and easily got the crowd clapping for the majority of the song. Staring down the House of Blues crowd from behind his cooler than you sunglasses – he moved fluidly from the single to his sexy sleeper “Cheated.” To my surprise, it felt like the entire room knew and was belting out the lyrics. Sitting next to a group of college aged women (or possibly younger – it was all ages) during the songs’ chorus, it was almost like I was at a sorority sleepover.
But Posner’s consistent requests for crowd feedback reminded me that I was, in fact, at the House of Blues for his performance. Now backed by a smooth band of brothers (he was not backed by a band at previous performances), Mike is free to spend more time engaging with and massaging the crowd. And Mike certainly took advantage of his new found freedom – he paced from end to end of the stage, reached for the hands of young co-eds near the stage and demanded attendees to move their hands from side to side. So I did….because I basically would have been the only person not doing it if I didn’t participate. I kept waving my hands because he got all Michigan rapper on me and busted out perhaps my favorite song of his “Drug Dealer Girl.”
What I thought would have been the song that helped me identify who in the crowd was a long-standing and true Posner fan (i.e. fan before 2010), I found myself blown away by the number of tweeners in braces who knew the opening lines “Now you may never be on a maybelline commercial…” And I certainly knew I was in California when the entire crowd chimed in for the follow up “but you always let me know when you got some purple.” I bet some of the 15 year olds in the audience probably had never smoked weed, let alone driven a car (he performed “Smoke and Drive” later on), but that wasn’t stopping them from singing along.
Posner riffled through some more of his R & B and ballad type material, including “Bow Chick a Bow Wow” (probably my least favorite) and a little Red Hot Chili Peppers medley as a homage to Los Angeles. Of course, these were part of a sequenced build up to the hot single “Cooler Than Me.”
BUT, before that closer – Posner finished his R&B medley with his take on Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Evil Woman.” A song that I’ve seen him perform alone, it is clearly better with the backing of his new band. Gone is the slightly Fischer-Pricey sounding synth or clavinet or whatever that sound is (or at the very least it is muted out by the other instruments). Posner’s back-up vocalists gave this new live band twist just the right amount of soul and Mike laid his vocals down pretty smoothly too.
Anticipating that it might be the end of his set and knowing the single still had not yet been played, the crowd began chanting Posner before him or the band even made a motion to leave. The band abruptly cued up “Cooler Than Me” and within a few seconds of the beat dropping the floors shook so hard you questioned whether there was an earthquake. Keeping his street level, fan friendly cool, Mike passed the mic over the crowd to get West Hollywood’s version of the catchy chorus before finishing the vocals off himself.
Posner and the band walked off the stage and it easily would have been a perfectly satisfying performance. But, with half the crowd anxiously awaiting a possible encore return and claps and hollers brewing, the man of the evening returned to his piano. He treated the crowd to a short keys solo before doing two songs, the last of which was “Gone In September.”
The show was spectacular , but the increase in the volume and frequency of crowd participation is what really blew me away at House of Blues. Whereas your typical hip-hop show will call for the occasional swaying of hands, and the cliche “all the ladies say, all the fellas say ho,” Posner’s repertoire of tricks to engage the crowd feels considerably larger. Perhaps he studied what more veteran acts were doing all summer on Warped tour? Maybe he just got more comfortable after experiencing some pop success? Or maybe it just takes time for a performer to find their comfort zone? Regardless, it is clear that Mike Posner has come a long way in a very short period of time.
The recent Duke graduate has dramatically improved his stage presence since I first saw him on October 16, 2009 at The Roxy. At that show with Big Sean he certainly was an exciting performer, but he hadn’t quite mastered the art of maintaining crowd participation and controlling the crowd with the simple point of a finger. His next performances at The Roxy (New Years Eve and a brief appearance in February at a Gift of Gab show) exhibited the artist’s maturation on stage – Posner was noticeably more active, energized and comfortable in the now familiar venue. He’d engage the crowd and keep the party moving, eliciting more of a response from the audience at each performance. But, last night was EPIC.
Whether it be calling for hands to go up in the air, requesting people to snap or clap along, encouraging the crowd to sing the hook or simply pointing to sides of the room for their responsive screams – Mike does it – and he has become really good at it. The maturation of his performance is impressive. Simply put, Mike Posner has begun to the master the art of being not just a touring artist, but an entertainer/performer.
It is clear that a hit single, a summer on WARPED tour and the backing of a full band were all this Michigan man needed to vault him into the exclusive category of NEXT BIG THING.
The guy has swagger, charisma, stage charm and talent. He writes creative flows, raps and sings them well enough and he really gets the crowd involved.
With a top I-Tunes single (“Cooler Than Me”) at his disposal, a top 10 Billboard album (I know 31 Minutes to Take Off hit #8…may have gone higher), and now a top notch performance – Mike Posner should be on your radar because he is not going anywhere anytime soon. Check Posner out in a different city on the Up In The Air Tour – tickets are available here. (FYI – they may sell out, so buy them NOW)
Below is the very first ever SUPERGOODMUSIC interview, its an interview we did with Posner in February 2010 before he even knew how much hype the album would receive.