Mike Posner Lights Up Blender Theatre At Gramercy
by Michael Menachem
Stadium-sized “Posner” chants took over the Blender Theatre at Gramercy while a waft of marijuana emanated its way throughout. Posner emerged sharply dressed in a blue and red leather jacket, kicks and a black button-down, cupping his right ear to the crowd on that side of the stage, then making his way to the other side with his left. He finally made his way to the center while the screaming continued and slowly lifted his hands up over the audience as if conducting their energy.
He played perpendicular to the stage on his keyboard on “Drug Dealer Girl,” and started his anti-girl-next-door anthem with the opening lyric “Now you may never be on a Maybelline commercial.” After singing the first line, Posner stepped away from the keyboard smiling and said “hands up” to the crowd, getting the mostly college-bound and college co-eds bouncing to the beat. “Make some noise New York City,” said Posner.
The singer continued with a remixed Kid Cudi version of Denver duo 3OH!3’s big 2009 hit “Don’t Trust Me,” with Posner’s distinct raspy, kind of sweet yet nasal voice. Posner has an approachable vocal tone that has a sensual essence as opposed to the more aggressive approach of the “college ‘it boy’” of last year, Asher Roth; Mike Posner’s voice may occasionally remind listeners of Robin Thicke or Justin Timberlake, and slightly Adam Levine.
Posner’s vocals connected with the audience and following the cover, he said “New York, how we doin’ tonight? You don’t understand how fucking good it feels to be on stage tonight! It’s gonna get real sexy.”
When “Girl you know I-ah-ah” started the next track everyone knew it was “First Date Sex,” covering Jeremih’s “Birthday Sex,” a nightmare for any father whose rebellious daughter may have been bitten by the Posner bug. “I play the piano and I do it just so I can have First Date Sex,” sings Posner and then coyly continued “Take off your Ugg boots and let me hit it.”
Next up was “Red Button” from the “One Foot Out The Door” collection, which offers more outside production than the first mixtape. Posner’s breathy singing sounded a bit like Justin Timberlake, at times in falsetto and other times partially-rapped singing. Posner’s presence offered a calm swagger and he moved about the stage with ease. Much of the audience clapped in unison before the lyric “Don’t call my phone no more.” It comes across as a more ambient FutureSex/LoveSound track, well-produced, with a vocal that not just anyone could pull off.
During “I Don’t Trust Myself,” a sensual, ethereal cover of JOHN MAYER’s song started with Mike Posner sitting on the stage’s edge for a few seconds looking over at his fans and the beats picked up offering one of the clear highlights of the evening. EMERGENCY ROOM-meets-video game sounds took over most of the song’s energy, but overall, the sound had a Kid Cudi ambiance and a similar mood on this song was captured that could be felt during a Cudi show. Posner’s falsetto here sounded better than his sometimes nasally tone, but his tone sounds more genuine than inexperienced, even though Posner’s only been singing for two years. During one intense moment, he got on one knee and laid back on the stage. The final chorus following the bridge got the girls amped up, and Posner’s falsetto was shining.
Hands swayed in the crowd from side to side during “Speed of Sound,” which offers an introspective, relatable set of lyrics that seemed to connect well. “It’s getting harder not to think about all the things on my mind. Like I remember this time last year I was all alone. I felt like I was two feet tall. And there’s a hundred million numbers in my phone but I still got no one to call.” Opener Chiddy Bang came on the stage, offering a great rap over the beats.
Following the song, Posner asked “Are there any pretty girls in the crowd tonight?” “Still Not Over You” which features Eric Halljes on the recording was intended for the ladies, a cover of The Fray’s “Cable Car (Out of My Head).” Posner played emotive chords on the keyboard, it was pretty and then he stepped away after just a few bars to work the stage. There was a strong response from the crowd when he mentioned the eBay lyric, “Remember babe, I wrote you all of those love poems from 7th grade, and I hope you threw those out when we went our separate ways, cause I don’t wanna see them up for sale on eBay, don’t put them on eBay.”
“I hope everyone can appreciate how amazing this moment is,” shared Posner. He mentioned how he appreciated the mixed crowd, girls, guys and everyone’s smiles.
The next song was a dance track — the crowd smashed their hands together and threw them in the air. It was a re-worked cover of the 1975 piano classic “Evil Woman” by Electric Light Orchestra. On “Smoke N Drive” Posner shared one of his favorite past times, “Roll the windows up when I smoke and drive,” which was recorded with Big Sean, Donnis and Jackie Chain. “When I say Chiddy, you say Bang” commanded Posner. It was one of his harder songs of the night.
“Cooler Than Me” was next which features Big Sean and references Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” It was quite catchy, and here Posner took off his jacket and jumped into the crowd shortly after followed by loud screams.
For his last song of the set the “You Don’t Have To Leave/Save Tonight” medley which samples Australian electro act Miami Horror’s “Sometimes” and EAGLE EYE CHERRY’s “Save Tonight” was playing on the sound system. Posner took off his shirt baring his athletic physique. “Save tonight, fight the break of dawn, come tomorrow, tomorrow I’ll be gone” was sung by Posner and it was fitting since the show was coming to a close.
Posner came back on stage, still shirtless for his encore where he did a cover of Beyonce’s “Halo” where he switches up the words to “take off your Halo” rather than Knowles’ “I can see/feel your halo” and he finally went into the crowd singing the song to completion.
Overall, Mike Posner impressed with a variety of tunes, and though most were covers, the singer offered something new vocally and emotionally from start to finish. His strong production ear was evident as there were positive responses from the audience on many key tracks and though there were few moments at the keys, it would be enjoyable to see more of his skills on the piano. The last curious thought about the show and Posner’s material is that he covers many songs by his SONY label mates (Mayer, Beyonce, The Fray), and though the songs have their own Posner flavor, it’s easy to conclude that these were business decisions. Posner stated after the show that he connected with these songs and stressed that there’s no coincidence.
Chiddy Bang impressed big time with a lively set from frontman Chidera “Proto” Amagege and DJ Xaphoon Jones. The Philadelphia duo kept the energy high with the danceable “Drive Me Crazy” and Drake, Birdman and Drake’s “Money To Blow.” The standout was “Opposite of Adults,” a heavy-beat club banger that has potential to be one of the biggest songs of the spring – Proto’s confidence is infectious and he really entertained on this one (currently a hit on the U.K. iTunes chart). Fly Gipsy was somewhat disappointing, though there was a fun Lauryn Hill mash-up mix as well as of David Guetta’s “Sexy Bitch.” First opener, Brooklyn’s Shinobi Ninja sampled NOTORIOUS B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa” and Mntell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” and the male/female trade-off between Baby Girl (Edara) and DA’s (Dave Aaron) rapping provided a memorable set. Black Sheep made a special appearance on stage for the classic “The Choice Is Yours” sharing the spotlight with Shinobi Ninja.