Live: Miguel Takes Control At Joe's Pub
Miguel Joe's Pub Tuesday, July 31
Better than: Watching at home (which was not too bad, either).
The dry-ice machine began covering the Joe's Pub stage floor at 11:22 p.m. By the time Miguel actually arrived onstage, the smoke had made it to the walking floor as well. It wasn't all that would seat itself there, either: After six songs, the Los Angeles R&B singer made a demand of an audience that would probably have done military-drill jumping jacks if he'd asked. "I need more women in the front. Sorry, fellas." He paused. "I'm not sorry."
He needn't have been, though maybe I'd feel differently if I'd been one of those displaced dudes, two of whom kept watching while seated on the floordamn right they were going to see as much of show they'd shown up an hour early to see. Coming out in a black leather jacket and stud-heavy brothel creepers (his pompadour fit the ensemble perfectly), Miguel kicked things off with a blazing "Strawberry Amazing" and kept looking forward from there, switching to a pants-matching dark-olive slim-cut dress jacket for the next one, "Gravity." Not all the material was up to the level of performance, but a lot of it was, and the performance (sent out live via LiveStream and Spin; you can watch it here) was damn impressive.
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"Performance" is the key word. Miguel isn't stagy, but he is very controlled, particularly physically. For "Strawberry Amazing" he broke out a windmill spin without bumping into anythingand space is tight on the Joe's stage for someone performing without a mike stand or keyboard, let alone someone surrounded by bandmates and gear. He was a dab hand with that stand, manipulating it fluidly during "Use Me." Near the end, during "Sure Thing," he perfectly executed a leap into the crowdright where the men were sitting on the floor, no lessand bounded over to the median separating the stage-front tables from the ones near the bar. The many appreciative women had been singing along the minute "Sure Thing" began; now they were clapping, too.
So were the men, including the ones on the floor. It's not like us XY's were underserved: The cheers for "Pussy Is Mine" were noticeably chesty (the women weren't being silent, either). Miguel sang that one like a measured dareI'll blink when you do, expectant rather than coy. When he finished the equally lusty "Quickie," he smiled appreciatively: "Y'all nasty!" he told the women. "Y'all should be ashamed of yourselves!"
Miguel clearly wishes to not be pigeonholed as merely an R&B star; at Joe's Pub, he covered the Zombies' "Seasons of Love" (decent, not great), and this weekend at P.S. 1 he's playing alongside a Resident Advisor-friendly underground- DJ lineup. Miguel also played a new rock tune, "Candle in the Sun," which he proudly announced as his first recorded collaboration with his band. It's a fairly rote protest song, though it was nice to hear the explicitly feminist lens of the lines, "Is there a God? Is he watching? Is she watching?" But the guitarist, drummer, and keyboardist, and laptop guy who backed him up did feel like a band, one that was having a good time as it leaned into the material, taking full flight on the closer, "Adorn." Exciting as both they and their leader were in that small room, it should be just as intriguing to watch them grow.
Critical bias: My plus-one is the biggest Miguel fan I know.
Overheard: [at door] "I'm sorry, but I've got to get in." [repeat x100]
Set list: Strawberry Amazing Gravity All I Want Is You Lotus Flower Bomb Candle In The Sun Don't Look Back Seasons Of Love Use Me Quickie Sure Thing Adorn
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