« Here's how to get Beach Boys pre-sale tickets | Main | You know what I need? »

December 12, 2009

Concert review: Chris Brown at Sonar last night

chris brown at sonar in baltimoreBaltimore Sun writer John-John Williams IV was at Chris Brown's show last night at Sonar. Here are his thoughts:

Of the dozen or so concerts I’ve been to this year, not one artist can hold a candle to Chris Brown when it comes to dancing—not even Beyonce. But when it comes to new music, Chris Brown is dead last.

I suspect the now infamous crooner knows it too. Why else would his Fan Appreciation Tour performance last night at Sonar feature close to a half dozen reminders to purchase his new album, "Graffiti?" His DJ at one point urged the room of mostly screaming teenage girls to buy five copies each.

Um, no. The new cuts on "Graffiti" simply lack the wow factor of his first two albums, 2005's "Chris Brown" and 2007's "Exclusive."  

Last night, Brown was on stage for a little over an hour. And even though many of his songs were lip synced, you didn’t feel cheated.

His choreography, stage presence and live singing more than made up for the pre-recorded vocals. (I suspect he relied so heavily on lip syncing so he could catch his breath.) ...

Brown began his performance by lip-syncing "I Can Transform Ya," the debut single off "Graffiti."  It sounds like the producers synthesized Brown’s vocals, added some of the sound effects from "The Transformers" movies and meshed it with Lil' Wayne's over-exposed auto-tune. But Brown rocked it with great moves and good command of the stage.

Unlike "singers" such as Britney Spears and Co. who routinely lip-sync in the name of "choreography," Brown actually burns up the stage. He is a true dancer. He can actually freestyle, and he and his crew all go full-force through steps that rival any of the moves you would see in a street battle.

Brown truly excelled when he was performing material from his first two albums. It's astonishing by just how many world class hits he's had in his relatively short career.  

chris brown at sonar in baltimoreSpeaking of which, Brown is at a weird point in his career. His voice sounds fairly boyish and immature. That was cool during his first two albums, which were pretty much bubble gum, poppy songs that parents probably didn’t think twice about their young daughters listening to. But Brown’s reputation has been severely tainted by his assault of pop star Rihanna. Couple that with his newer songs that feature lyrics about "panty-dropping" and the end result just doesn’t quite mesh.

Last night, Brown really got the crowd jamming to "Wall to Wall" from "Exclusive" and "Gimme That." He followed with other hits, including "Run It" from "Exclusive" and "Yo (Excuse Me Miss)" from "Chris Brown." Even without collaborator Jordin Sparks, "No Air" was still magical. After urging the crowd to fill in and sing her parts, Brown finished up the song singing a capella to showcase his vocal range.

Brown tried to sprinkle in his newer material in between his older hits and dance sets. (On more than one occasion, Brown allowed his DJ to spit out about five minutes worth of popular R&B and Hip-Hop hits while Brown and his background dancers freestyled and did intricate choreography.)

Brown's new material just didn't resonate as much with the crowd, who had clearly not familiarized themselves with "Graffiti." The slew of fans, who minutes before were harmonizing lyrics with Brown, just stood in the crowd attempting to echo new lyrics that lacked the depth and power of his older hits. Thank goodness Brown realized this, and kept hitting us -- no pun intended -- with vintage Chris Brown chart-toppers. He launched into "Kiss, Kiss" and "With You" from "Exclusive," and "Poppin" from "Chris Brown." All the songs were well received by the sea of screaming young fans crowded around the Sonar stage.  

Brown ended the evening singing the upbeat, poppy "Forever." (Remember? It used to be featured in Double Mint gum commercials before the Rihanna assault.) It was just another reminder of how good Brown was, and how much potential he had.

(Baltimore Sun photos by Karl Merton Ferron)

Follow Midnight Sun on Facebook and Twitter @midnightsunblog
Posted by Sam Sessa at 10:37 AM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Concert reviews


I loved the concert last night and the new album is GREAT. Give it a chance.

Nice review. Most reviewers I see tie his album, performanes, etc. with his incident and then claim not to be bias when it's obvious. You, on the other hand, put everything into perspective, and it seems genuine.

Good article. I attended the Chris Brown concert and definitely felt it was worth the money I spent. He is an excellent entertainer, never disappoints with his shows and you can tell he loves what he does.

The only part of the article I have to disagree with is that his "new material didn't resonate with the crowd." The album just came out on Tuesday! Even though people didn't know the words they were still feeling him and I was surprised how many actually were singing along to some of the new songs. Everyone was definitely feeling his new single Crawl and I like the song Brown Skin.

Overall I just want to compliment the reviewer for being one of the few this week to actually do an unbiased article and just experience the event and the music.

chris jus has to be patient. with the media still fueling the bomb fire about the incident it's hard for him and everyone else to move on. personally i think this is his best album and i already know all the songs on the deluxe joint. given some time chris will definitely be back on top. crawl is already number 1 and graffiti debuted at number 1 in 8 countries so he's still the man. it will jus take some time for people to see his not a bad person he jus made a bad decision and he's young. he needs to grow up and people being negative towards him wont help him mature.

My man killed it. All y'all hater fall back

The new album is GREAT! i don't care what anyone says i love it. People just needs to see his talent and not his past mistake. Chris
Brown is a talent young man.

I bought his new CD and love it! His song "Fallin Down" is just great. I play it over and over. Although I don't like what he did, I do like his music.

although i dont agree with the entire article. I love Graffiti and am a die hard fan. I appreciate at least the author reviewed the concert instead of focusing on the incident. I think everyone is fed up hearing about it weather you are a fan of his or not!

R you all serious? I thought this article started off well, but then spoke out both sides of the writers neck. I went to the concert and I thought that it was his best performance to date. I have the Graffiti album and I love every track. Chris is a TRUE performer and yes he will continue to be with the help and suppor to his fans. (Side not to commentor #2) the article does elude to the incident of which his fans are tired of hearing about it. And to the third commentor, the article was most assuredly biased. Such phrases as
"But when it comes to new music, Chris Brown is dead last." and this whole paragraph hints at the article writers true feelings
"I suspect the now infamous crooner knows it too. Why else would his Fan Appreciation Tour performance last night at Sonar feature close to a half dozen reminders to purchase his new album, "Graffiti?" His DJ at one point urged the room of mostly screaming teenage girls to buy five copies each."
I mean goodness, it is a concert and his album did just come out. This was not a regular concert and trust when he goes on tour this summer, it will be even more hyped. My one wish for Chris is that the media and all the haters would leave him alone. Thanks for making some unbiased comments though.

i love u chris brown!!!

sorry i disagree, this is best cd! every song is solid and has single potential! people get the cd!' i'm 28 and will ensure you will be dancing and bobbing your head the whole time! Pass out and sing like me are his next two singles. Pop and R&b! he's reaching everyone!

Run It wasnt from exclusive it was from chris brown. but good reviews. his new cd just came out so people havent had a chance to familiarize hemselves with it so but i guarantee in a few weeks every word will be sung at every performance of every song. CB fans are loyal!

Great performance, Great review and Great Record. Chris everything is going to fall in place, just give it time and keep on praying for God is able.

Fan for ever.

Get your facts straight! First of all Grafitti is an amazing album! The best new release I've heard in all year. It would be doing even better if stores weren't playin games by not displaying his album among the other new releases which I have seen with my own eyes! it amazes me how accused child molesters i.e. MJ and R.Kelly are forgiven but Chris has to be judged for 1 mistake. Don't get me wrong...I still love MJ and R.kelly but my point is if the industry can forget and forgive them, why doesn't Chris deserve a second chance. Also let me add that before this album, I was never a fan of Chris Brown but my daughter was. This album is so much more mature and you can see he has grown as not only an artist but as a person as well. This album tells a story and you can connect with it because you've seen his demons and how he has paid dearly for not being able to control them but is striving to become a better person. I believe Chris may reach an even wider audience now because older people with more life experience understand what its like to make a mistake and have to accept the things you have done but cannot change. Chris had been with rihanna for several years without incident. He is not a habitual abuser and yes it was wrong that he lost it, the fact of the matter is he had to face the music while he is still young and can change. Most abusers abuse for years and years before they are finally exposed. As unfortunate as it was for his career, luckily for him he had to face at an early age so there is time for him to learn to manage his anger. Being 37 and a female there have been a few times in my life when I lost it and got physical with people. Its similar to road rage in a way. One day you just might lose it! But irregardless I am behind Chris for still holding his head up because the truth of the matter is most of us including the author probably would have crumbled and given up under all the scrutiny and pressure he has endured. His music was popcorn music before, but life experience good or bad has a way of making people grow up and Chris has had to grow up and become a man. Sorry so long, but I feel very passionate about this CD and his road to recovery! America is too quick to judge and condemn our young people and disencourage them when they try to right their wrongs. We are so busy giving out labels and inmate numbers to our young black men. They try to change and we knock them right back down. Its sad! I am very proud of Chris...what don't kill you only makes you stronger. I'm sure his struggles have really made him appreciate his fans from the heart!

U r d best!!keep doin ur ting, they can neva stop u.

Love Graffiti, I listen to it everyday- LITERALLY. Last Night I couldn't listen to it because my parents had an important meeting and I had to attend, I took the CD and played it in the car the whole drive. This is a good album. He's doing good to start off , everyone should at least give him a second chance, and at least attempt to listen to the album. I love what he's doing. Starting off slow, staying away from people who could put a bad light on him, he's starting off small. But i know that in the end, he will do what he's been doing way before this happened, having every girl, fan, and even some none fans saying: We Want More CHRIS BROWN. I love Him and he has my full support in CHICAGO! DO what you do Chris and don't even worry about the media, or Haters.

I love how all the negative reviews come out from every corner of America about the new cd. Well the writers dont know good r&b music if it hit them on the head! Chris your fans LOVE YOU, and will keep responding to this bs the people are constantly trying to break you. That's ok, because we YOUR FANS have got your back. All over America we go out to the stores to make sure your cd is kept in stock, we go to your shows, we buy your the hell what a cornball thinks!

Sup chris,im 1 of ur fans man n i think me n r jst like twin brothers,i also luv ur new album,jst wish 1 day i cn be jst like u man

Look it's obvious you Bias bc Chris Brown pretty girl on his Albulm Forever which you forgot to metioned Pretty Girl and they where panty droping so he has always talk that way. And have you seen the Video ok or the performance with Ciera at Bet award show. Come on that Jewish girl does all thoes drugs write songs about it wins Grammys! Chris has apologized he's a kid working this out. What about all these grown men in Hollywood Terrence Howard woody Allen etc.... Look it up the Cd Graffiti is nice I brought it

Yes my man rocked the stage last night yes I know my man chris brrown is fine I relly think is cd will relly cell but I like all this songs but I relly like fallin down and crawl because fall dowin is saying how he is chriying to start him life over

Sam Sessa, this review was so biased. You clearly don't enjoy his music. Your no pun intended joke about hitting was tacky and clearly pun was intended. Leave music reviews for true music lovers. The Graffiti album has so much new material, I'm not sure what CD you confused it with. Graffiti is a very good CD, if not his best. You need to keep it objective and not subjective. Judge his music not the person. The only thing we can agree on is that Chris still does have a boyish voice. Maybe he'll grow out of it soon, but he still sounds good. He's not just a good dancer but, a good singer.

Kudos to you for 'trying' to keep Chris' talent and the situation seperate. I think this is the most honest review thus far and you deserve kudos for it. Chris Brown will be alright, he has talent so he will be just fine. Now if he didnt have talent then he would have a problem. I am a 31 year old married female and will be supporting Chris' album. And those of you commenting should do the same. I really hope that his first week's numbers out does Rihanna's simply because they hyped hers up to be a big deal and from what I keep reading its not doing too well. The fact that she doesnt have real talent may be why it hasnt done so well. Dont get me wrong I liked some of Rihanna's music prior to the Chrihanna situation and I still like those songs but I am beginning to see that without the pretty face and half naked attire she has no real talent. I am just keeping it real. She should probably consider modeling after this album. But anyhow..keep your head up Christopher Maurice and let these haters be fuel to your fire...thats motivation!

I have chris new cd Graffiti and I Love It! I honestly think the only reason people have been givin it bad reviews is because of the incident with rihanna. He is a great artist, performer, and song writer. I went to his show in ATL and it was amazing! People should give the album a chance. Your really missing out if u dont.

Chris Brown is an amazing Talent, Even my Mother who is 80 yrs old love Chris Brown. I love his music and I love his dancing. He's young and have a long way to go. People give him a chance. Noone is PERFECT. Everyone makes mistakes. How unfortunate for him that he made it in the PUBLIC EYE. If grown folks can change so can he. Youth is on his side, and he is trying. LOVE his new CD "Grafitti" and I pray he is successful in all his endeavors. Everyone deserves at least a 2nd CHANCE.

The guy who worte this article clearly is a anti chris brown guy! That was the best performance I ever seen. Of course the fans wouldnt know the new songs from GRAFFITI THE CD JUST CAME OUT ON TUESDAY! Chris made a mistake like all humans do. we forgive him, Chris album is great! When you are that talented and give 110% in what you do you cant be held down! I drove from DC to see that concert the wait in the cold was much worth it. Chris reminds me of usher but in do time he WILL BE BIGGER than usher. Im tired of the media holding this thing over his head. Forgive, he is a kid, only 20 years old. GRAFFITI IS A GREAT ALBUM!

He just got CAUGHT once. Rihanna has stated that the abuse was an ongoing thing with him. It wasn't an isolated incident.

Instead of going into denial about it, and pretending that it wasn't as bad as it really was, why not just say: "I'm a fan of Chris Brown no matter what kind of person he is." At least then you'd be honest with yourselves.

I'm all for forgiveness, but you have to actually admit what he did and the severity of the assault(s) before you should move (skip-over?) to that point.

Not only did he beat his girlfriend, he kicked her while she was down by downplaying the viciousness of the assault, making up bogus stories about the two of them working on a duet together.

Why the loyalty? Brown and his PR team spun this story every which way they could, lying to you, HIS FANS after he was arrested. Shows what he thinks of you, huh?

Whatever, I guess it's just easier to turn the music-up and pretend he's a good person. Try to drown-out the fact that you're blindly throwing away your money on someone who's a liar, a woman-beater, and a cheat.

Wow-- I love the way some of the comments appear to have been written on a cell phone keyboard and/or by grammatically challenged individuals.
If these are who Chris Brown's fans are, I have no interest in his work as it was obviously not meant for me.
Whatever happened to possesives and the past tense, not to mention spelling and punctuation? I suppose some people do not take pride in displaying the wonders of a proper education.

He is no Ike Turner.

i went to the concert and i LOVED it... it was a great show.... even though i wish it was longer.... Chris Brown is only human no i'm not saying what he did to Rihanna was right but we should forgive him for what he did. I mean its not just going to go away. A lot of people do horrible things, he's just getting even more of a huge shun because he's famous. Let's talk about how a 19 yr. old boy raped his grandmother and then threated her. Or how about the rapist and how he raped a boy, gagged him and killed him in the boy's aunt's closet...

Ok, "Victoria" certainly must be CB himself (or in CB's camp). I've read numerous comments from CB fans but that one just sounds.... a little suspect.
Anyway, in defense of the writer on objectivity vs. subjectivity:
1) [in all fairness] it does say Williams "shares HIS thoughts" on CB's concert, which would allow for him to be more subjective than usual
2) I have a degree in journalism, and IMO, 'review' is understood to be less objective than your basic news story that reports just the facts.

If Williams stated just the facts for this review and not his VIEWS, the article would be quite boring. I don't think he means to predjudice potential CB album buyers. Thanks!

@ Z and other CB fans: is "hater" really the appropriate term for people who are unwilling to overlook what he did (and plead guilty to)?
i don't know... but some people will like you and others wont, especially as a celeb. perhaps these "haters" have not had enough time to digest Chris Brown and his actions (after a mere 10 months) OR perhaps they just feel differently about DV and crime than you?
i've heard Chris refer to non-fans as "haters" but he needs to understand that not everyone can just skip right over what he did in the name of a good song, especially when it means financially supporting him by buying his album.
it's funny how he seems appalled that every person/every company is not on board with him b/c he has since apologized and is doing what the court mandated. he is lucky to have any career at all left. he should celebrate this blessing and be glad that he never had to stay even 1 night behind bars (where he just might've found out how unsympathetic and violent haters can really be)!

btw Cindy:
OJ Simpson(regarding his murder trial), Michael Jackson, and R. Kelly were NOT found guilty nor did they plead guilty like Chris Brown. Chris is a convicted felon. THERE IS NO COMPARISON. The 3 aforementioned celebs are presumed innocent until otherwise proven in the U.S. judicial system.

2) I have a degree in journalism, and IMO, 'review' is understood to be less objective than your basic news story that reports just the facts.

Comment of the week?

I was at the concert and for him just starting his career again he did a really nice job! We all know what he did was wrong but it seems like the only thing people(including news port writer) could say was negative things about him and his performance.Give him a chance we all have to be forgiven and he is one thats needs to be!

Now, many questions have arisen now that she has actually opened up to share the story of what transpired that night between herself and former boyfriend Chris Brown. Why is it that she waited so long to actually make an appearance and speak on the issue?

@ the person who said that the abuse was an ongoing thing, apparently you haven't been paying attention to the 20/20 interview because Rihanna said that SHE TOOK HIM BACK CONSTANTLY! That night was the only time he hit her. But either way i'm glad that they are both getting their lives and careers back together. They will forever be in my prayers.

i luv my future husband all u [chickens] need 2 stop haten on me cause he dont want u he wants me

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Please enter the letter "m" in the field below:
About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

Most Recent Comments
Recent tweets
Sign up for FREE nightlife alerts*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for nightlife text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Weekend Watch newsletter
Plan your weekend with's best events, restaurant and movie reviews, TV picks and more delivered to you every Thursday for free.
See a sample | Sign up

Photo galleries
Stay connected