BWW Reviews: Cee Lo Green Brings More 'Smoke and Mirrors' Than Actual 'Voice' to the Agua Caliente
Cee Lo Green, Agua Caliente, The Voice
Celebrated recording artist and co-star of the TV phenomenon "The Voice" Cee Lo Green brought a technically savvy, high energy rap and rock show to the Agua Caliente Resort Spa Casino's THE SHOW, one of the best concert venues in Southern California, to a "near sold out" and very eager crowd. Cee Lo is definitely a showman – but the concert proved to be more hype than substance. The entertainment factor was high --- the vocal prowess was not. Just like "The Wizard of Oz" --- if you took away all of the special effects that propped him up, the magical "man behind the curtain" was a bit disappointing.
Cee Lo's opening act was the self-proclaimed "hip-house violinist", Svet, who came to national attention on the televised competition "America's Got Talent". Since then, he has opened for the likes of Howard Stern and Kanye West. His new millennium hip-hop style on the violin, performed against pre-recorded trax, is exciting for about the first three minutes – incidentally, just about the time allotted to showcase each act on the afore-mentioned TV talent show --- but after that his act wears thin and is repetitive and somewhat redundant. Cee Lo's crowd grew increasingly impatient with this warm-up act and Svet, as much as he tried, just couldn't connect with or engage the crowd. He kept calling out "How we doing Palm Springs?" in mock rock star fashion to try to get a reaction, but the crowd wasn't really having it. The weakest moment in his twenty five minute set was when he introduced an original song "All The Way", which he wrote and self-produced, that featured him rapping and singing in addition to his violin playing. Unfortunately, he is neither a rapper nor a singer and it would have been better to omit this song from his set entirely. Svet would have been better served as a "guest artist" in Cee Lo's set, stepping in to perform one or two numbers mid show, rather than trying to hold his own as a warm up act with a near thirty minute set where he wore out his welcome with the crowd after five.
Cee Lo took the stage after a long intermission amid a breathtaking light and laser show wearing a burgundy silk track-suit and the expectation was high for something really special to follow. Except for the die-hard Cee Lo fans, the feeling from the crowd where I was sitting was that he didn't live up to the special effects surrounding him. The "die-hards" were on their feet, dancing in the aisles and in their seats, for most of his concert--- but those who were less familiar with his songs were on their feet toward the exit door midway through his set. Cee Lo performed with his dee-jay to all pre-recorded trax --- all of the back-up vocals were pre-recorded and it appeared that some of Cee Lo's voice and the lead vocals might have been as well. He commanded the stage with the savvy and style of a pro, but he only sang a verse or two here and there in almost every number, leaving it to the lights and the pre-recorded trax to carry the show. There were definite glimmers of the quality of his voice here and there and his renditions of "Don't You Wish Your Boyfriend Was Hot Like Me", which he wrote for The Pussycat Dolls, and "Sail Away With Me" had the fans begging for more. But, especially after the brilliantly produced numbers Cee Lo performs on "The Voice", the expectations were higher than he was able to deliver.
The SHOW's technical crew was brilliant, as usual. Kevin Rummel's light show was spectacular and Kirk Zaharris pulled out a perfect sound mix, making even the pre-recorded trax sound live in the house. Cee Lo's charisma can't be ignored and his presence reaches way to the back of the house. On occasion, he left the stage and joined the crowd in the house and created a near mob scene from the almost manic fans. But what he didn't deliver was a stand-out vocal performance --- and the lights and trax and winning smile only go so far. As I walked out of THE SHOW I heard the comments of dozens of fellow members of the audience which echoed my own thoughts --- glad I came, a fun diversion on a Friday evening, but not likely to rush out to see Cee Lo again, Better to buy one of his CD's where the quality of the vocal would definitely be an improvement and I might get to hear a song all the way through.