By Rita Anderson for RIFF Magazine
OAKLAND — Fresh off dropping his sophomore album, Blue Madonna, breakthrough pop singer-songwriter BØRNS kicked off a tour at the Fox Theater Wednesday.
The Michigander, whose real name is Garrett Borns, started off his set in high gear with “God Save Our Young Blood,” the first single from the new album. And from that point on, he played Blue Madonna in its entirety, in order. Brave artists exist who don’t rest on their preexisting hits to make a statement, but BØRNS took a big risk saving all of his older tracks, including hits “10,000 Emerald Pools” and “American Money” for the five-song encore.
Garrett Borns was making a statement that he believes in his new music as much as his older tunes. And he’s right to. Blue Madonna’s pop is perfectly suited for the stage.
The musicality and BØRNS’ vocal theatrics held center stage, but throughout the show, the visuals accentuated each song. BØRNS’ band, three-fourths of whom were female, capably carried the sonic elements, letting the frontman concentrate on the singing and hitting the many falsetto high notes.
He saved his biggest song, “Electric Love,” for last. The track, from 2015 debut Dopamine, is still getting regular radio airplay, speaking to the longevity of the up-and-coming hitmaker.
Louisiana producer Mikky Ekko, still best known for his guest vocals on Rihanna’s 2013’s single “Stay,” opened the show. Ekko was supported by a full band on this night. The first half of his set, which hewed toward R&B was more fluid and stronger than the second half.
Montreal singer-songwriter Charlotte Cardin followed Mikky Ekko with a set of smokey R&B-tinged pop in the vein of Amy Winehouse. Accompanying herself on piano and backed by a band, she simultaneously exuded “cool” and “eerie.”
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