Share this article

print logo

Garden rocks; Rising stars lend great vocals to outdoor concert

The line of folk waiting to enter "Starry Night in the Garden 2012" was long but everybody there was in it to help raise funds for the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens.

While that in and of itself was a worthy cause, it was the four musical acts whose scheduled presence at the event ensured the crowd's attendance.

It should also come as no surprise that the demographic for Wednesday night's concert skewed heavily female with an emphasis on Generation Y -- just the market segment that WTSS (Star 102.5) hoped to attract when it adopted the Hot Adult Contemporary format a few years back.

The concert was a stripped-down affair with the performers playing either solo (Andy Grammer) or, as in the case of Mat Kearney and "American Idol" winner Kris Allen, with one support person offering backing fills and vocals. Despite the no-show of Graffiti6, whose lead singer (Jamie Scott) passed out onstage at a performance the day before and was told by doctors not to board an airplane for a while, everything came off well.

Grammer has a musical heritage (his father is Red Grammer, an award-winning creator of music for children and once sang in the Limelighters) and began his career as a busker, singing on the streets of Los Angeles and Santa Monica for money. His set showcased the skills he learned while playing for change -- the polished rapport with the audience, the lean arrangements of his tunes and his pleasantly urgent vocals.

Songs like "Fine By Me" and "Keep Your Head Up" displayed his upbeat message while "Lunatic" showed flashes of fire.

Kearney's set benefited from the experiences he's had since he won a Dove Award in 2007 for New Artist of the Year. His vocals, while less chipper than Grammer's, had their own power, one that propelled his well-crafted tunes into a wide variety of styles. "Undeniable" was a story song, heralding back to Woody Guthrie's "talking blues" style but one that could end up, in the right hands, as a hip-hop/rap piece. He tossed out plenty of Buffalo references (ones that rang true because of his Rochester, N.Y. roots) during a set that included up-tempo riffs like "Hey Mama" and the anthemic "Nothing Left to Lose."

Allen, who won the eighth season of "American Idol," was the headliner and, for his set, there was barely room to move in front of the stage as fans took photos, danced and waved their hands in the air for much of his performance.

Like Grammer and Kearney before him, Allen played a lot of material from his new album, displaying his ability to repeatedly reach for high notes and hit them. "The Vision of Love," "Better with You" and the rocking "Monster" all went over well, but the biggest responses may have come for a couple of cover tunes. First up was a medley of songs by Rihanna ("We Found Love"), Katy Perry ("Firework") and Lady Gaga ("Just Dance"), followed in quick order by a truly impressive version of the Tears For Fears classic, "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."


Starry Night in the Garden with Kris Allen, Mat Kearney and Andy Grammer

WHEN: Wednesday night

WHERE: Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens