LOS ANGELES, CA- After I first saw Amber Mark perform live more than 5 years ago, I noted in my review that she’d be an artist to keep an eye on. Fast forward to today, and she’s selling out venues like the venerable El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. I think my prediction was pretty spot on.
It may have taken a few years- I’m sure that the pandemic had a little hand in that- but she released her debut, full-length studio album Three Dimensions Deep on January 28th, 2022. The wait was well worth it. Sonically, Three Dimensions fearlessly explores a plethora of R&B/Soul shades. If you had to classify the work, I think Alt-R&B is apropro. There is a sprinkling of textures from all across the R&B spectrum. One second you’re getting Wayne Wonder vibes. The next Timbaland vibes. Sade. 80’s R&B. You get all of it.
But what ties it all together is Amber’s uninhibited exploration of each of those musical elements while simultaneously infusing her own spirituality and ethos into the mix. Whether she gets us dancing with a track like “Buggles” or when she digs deep into pain, she’s able to get us to her level. Particularly, when she digs deep into her emotions, even during some of the slightly over-autotuned passages (i.e. “Healing Hurts”), the listener can’t help but connect, empathize, and commiserate with her and her pain on a personal level when she sings, “but the healing hurts right now.”
Opening for Amber was the Shaun Ross. I was unfamiliar with Shuan and his music, but as soon as he stepped onto the stage, I thought to myself, “I think I know that guy.” I actually did. I’ve seen him everywhere.
Shaun Ross is notably known for his work as a fashion model. He was the first professional male model with albinism, and his unique look garnered tons of attention and work from designers and outlets like Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, and Vogue, among others.
His performance was quite impressive. Dressed in a designer robe with ruffled forearms and gloves that had extended finger sleeves, he slowly strutted onto the stage under the shine of mysterious red lights. As soon as he sang his first note, I was hooked. His sensual approach to singing- tender and in a range that seemed to seemingly float effortlessly back and forth between his chest voice and falsetto- added to the mystery the lighting provided. After singing for a few moments, he asked the audience, “Los Angeles, what’s up? Are you ready to rock with me?” From the cheers in the crowd, that would seem to be the case.
Though I was unfamiliar with his music, I was fully invested in the performance. Shaun was giving me all kinds of Maxwell circa Embrya vibes, and I’m all for that. As someone who participates in the underground ballroom scene (he vogues with the House of Xtravaganza), that dance experience really paid off as every movement he made on stage felt like it was made with a purpose. Even when he stood with his back to the audience staring up into the stage lights while his band played an instrumental bridge, that moment just felt so powerful and mysterious to me.
A very stirring and impressive performance by Shaun. A performance that makes me want to spin his debut album Shift and want to catch him performing again sooner rather than later.
Selling out a venue, let alone the El Rey Theatre, is no small feat. Amber Mark did that and her fans packed the esteemed venue to watch their chanteuse delight them. Amber had a busy day, having wrapped up a taped performance earlier in the day for Jimmy Kimmel Live. Amber even pointed out that she was still wearing the same outfit from earlier in the day.
Let me note that L.A. can be a tough crowd. Don’t know why it is, but Angelinos can oftentimes be quite talkative at shows, ruining the vibe of the people they’re standing next to. Amber didn’t give any rude people the chance to spoil the joy in the room. Her fans were the most engaged crowd I’ve seen at a post-covid show. They were all singing along with Amber throughout the performance, playing along with Amber’s call and response, and dancing out of their minds when the music called for it.
The spirit got into Amber as she performed, as she would dance wildly on stage while her band played her music behind her. She danced so wild, that she had to pause her show for a moment as she knocked her mic pack off her body. And despite performing this show in between performances at Coachella, and the Jimmy Kimmel Show performance earlier in the day, Amber’s voice was in top form. Her voice was butter all night.
She performed many of the songs from her new album, and also threw in two songs from her 2017 album, 3:33am. Thankfully, she performed my favorite song of that album, “Lose My Cool”. She also performed the song she dedicated to her deceased mother, “Monsoon”, telling the audience that it was dedicated to anyone who’s ever lost a loved one. As a quick little side note, I actually scored a copy of her setlist for the evening from someone at the soundboard, but his copy differed from the copy of the setlist that was on the stage. In his copy, “Monsoon” had been omitted from the setlist. Perhaps, it was a last-minute addition?
I loved the way Amber acknowledged the crowd throughout her performance. Notwisthadnig the crowd singing along, and the already mentioned call and the response she instigated, but it was also the way she talked to the crowd, personalizing the whole evening. That personable approach to performance is something that many artists neglect to do. She even acknowledged fans up at the front who she remembered attending her performance at Coachella Weekend 1. Fans mean something to Amber, and that was all too evident.
Seeing Amber perform such a complete show on this night felt so right. She met and exceeded any expectations that I had, and I can only hope that her star continues to rise. I got another 5 on it that it does.
FOUND VIDEO CLIPS