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Concert Reviews:
Home town emotions drive Mike Posner's Unplugged show

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, April 7, 2014

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DETROIT -- Towards the end of his Unplugged concert at the City Theatre, Mike Posner told fans he "can't wait to sell out that (bleeping) Palace for the first time."

But whenever that happens, it'll be hard to recreate the emotional resonance of the intimate performance he delivered on Sunday, April 7.

We've seen Posner do effective one-man shows before -- at the 2010 Vans Warped Tour just across the street in Comerica Park's parking lot, for example -- but Sunday's concert benefited from a quieter setting and the presence of family and friends (he joked that half of the 400 seats went to his guest list). Playing on a stage set up like the music room at his California home, right down to the carpet he brought with him, Posner presented himself as pop star turned troubadour, revealing a stark and personal depth to his songs that sometimes gets covered up in the gloss of his studio productions.

It was hardly a dour night, however. Posner started the 95-minute (including intermission) show by ordering everyone to stand up and "get the blood flowing" with upbeat renditions of "My Light" and "Top of the World," cueing sounds from an electronic sampler. But the 26-year-old Southfield native and Birmingham Groves High School graduate settled things down quickly, directing fans to turn off their cell phones -- and take a deep breath while doing so -- before settling into "Not That Simple," an autobiographical ballad slated for his upcoming sophomore album "Pages" that Posner played partly on piano, accompanied by guitarist Jake Moses.

He promised that he's "not gonna make a sad-ass folk album," but the new material Posner presented -- including "Still Not Over You, Part 2" and "Took a Pill in Ibiza," certainly dug freely into his psyche and particularly his romantic tribulations, though he took more blame in the lyrics that he assigned. But Posner also poked a little fun at himself in "One Helluva Song," while "I'll Be Buried in Detroit" offered the kind of hometown-loving sentiments that would make Kid Rock proud.

Posner filled the rest of the night with stripped-down renditions of favorites such as "Save Your Goodbye," "Drug Dealer Girl," "Bow Chicka Wow Wow," "Please Don't Go" and his collaborations with Detroit rapper Big Sean ("Smoke 'N' Drive") and Justin Bieber ("Boyfriend"). He also recited two poems: "Gratitude," which took his former Groves band teacher to task and ultimately paid loving tribute to his father; and an equally heartfelt ode to his mother, after which he brought both of his parents and his sister on stage to help him finish the show with "Cooler Than Me."

Posner will likely be back to doing the big pop show -- and maybe getting that Palace shot -- once the long-awaited "Pages" finally surfaces. But here's hoping he returns to the Unplugged format in the future, too, just to remind the world how much heart he really puts into his songs.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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