In support of her high-decibel new album, Rihanna kicks off her hotly anticipated LOUD tour with emphatic gusto and a sizzling roster of special guests. Like an art show at a sundae bar, the LOUD tour floods the senses, enchanting audiences with lavishly designed sets, myriad costume changes, move-busting dancers, and Rihanna's songbook of Grammy magnets. Crooner Cee Lo Green augments the songful offerings with his own vocal talents, and Roc Nation rapper and rhythm scientist J. Cole further helps resuscitate ear drums traumatized by the outside world's blaring car horns and shrill howler monkeys.
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Actor and comedian Russell Brand frees chortles from belly prisons with his unique style of manic, irreverent humor. Riffing on the nature of fame and celebrity, Brand regales audiences with edgy observations and outsized characters to delight audiences grown bored with tamer comedians and telephone time-of-day services. Visiting a series of colleges, the tour filters the eccentricities of American universities through Brand's singular wit. George Mason University's recently renovated Patriot Center contains the glee in arena-style seating, ensuring everyone has a clear view of both Brand and the cricket whispering jokes in his ear.
Still emanating fumes from their drag race to the top of the bluegrass scene, Grammy-nominated group The Grascals inspires infectious toe tapping and hand clapping during impassioned performances. Building on roots that trace back more than two decades, the tightly spun sextet fuses harmonious, twang-packed vocals with the plucks of a banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Light-hearted, jovial jams peppered among soul-searching ballads and dramatic diary readings work together to weave a wondrous catalog–an effort that has led to collaborations with country legends such as Dolly Parton and Hank Williams Jr. This year, the group continued their blitz on the bluegrass genre with four more award nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Local favorites the Ramblin Jug Stompers lay the groundwork for an evening of two-steps, as they carry on the tradition of American string bands and air-harmonica solos of the 1960s.
Wine-colored velvet hangs over the Palace Theatre’s vast proscenium stage, completing a picture of elegance sketched out by the ornate cream walls and balconies. Opened in 1931 as an RKO movie house, the theater has survived the century with much of its original furnishings intact, including the huge brass chandelier, the original murals by Andrew Karoly and Jules Zartol, and the pack of hyenas that provided the prototype laugh track for vaudeville shows.