'X Factor's' Chris Rene Hits the Sunset Strip for First Headlining Show: Concert Review

Chris Rene live P 2012
The season one finalist proves to be a consummate showman as he works a legendary room where many dreams were made.

"Dayuuuuuuum!!!" For the uninitiated, that would be Chris Rene’s equivalent of a birdcall -- summoning the faithful near and far to join in his celebration of love, life and music.

Sure, it may sound like a romantic and flowery notion, but in a nutshell, that’s the essence of the 29 year-old X Factor season one finalist, whose boundless faith in his ambition to succeed has not only brought Chris Rene to the national stage, but allowed him to overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles, like drug addiction.

Indeed, his Thursday night headlining slot on the Sunset Strip may have been that quintessential moment that says, “I’ve made it.” Although it had been a year since American television viewers were first introduced to the velvety-voiced singer-rapper -- who ultimately came in third on the X Factor’s inaugural run -- with his debut, I’m Right Here, just released, and his signature song, the original composition “Young Homie,” having made its presence known on radio, Rene stands poised to break through from the reality competition pack and launch a viable career.

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In what seems to be a smart strategy, Rene isn’t looking to bite off more than he can chew. Rather than putting out a full-length, he’s issuing a seven-song EP. Instead of playing rooms large enough for a TV audience, he’s opting for smaller, more intimate venues. Meanwhile, his Roxy set clocked in at just under an hour -- not too long and not too short -- with some of the performance putting the spotlight on his voice (Rene delivered “Chains” and “Same Blood” with his own acoustic guitar accompaniment) and the rest showcasing his incredible knack for working a crowd.

At times hard to hear over the incessant screams of female fans (although there were plenty of men cheering in the crowd, too), Rene put his MC skills on display for “Rockin’ With You” then took down the tempo a couple notches for the reggae vibe of  his own “Where Do We Go From Here” and a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.”

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The show’s highlight came in the final act, however, when Rene rocked out to his new single “Trouble” followed by the Island-inspired grooves of “Love Me Like You” and the song that put him on the map, “Young Homie.” With a shimmy and a karate kick, he returned for the encore, introducing the appropriately named “Back from the Dead” with a brief reflection of his journey. “Seventeen months ago, I was in a different place,” he said from the stage. “I was suffering and messed up … I was ready to give up, ready to die … but I hung on.”

Clearly, his appreciation for life and his place in the world hasn’t waned in the 10 months since he last sang in front of Simon Cowell. In fact, throughout the night, Rene stopped to take in his surroundings -- the famous rock club artists dream of headlining, the industry movers and shakers in the VIP section, legions of loyalists (colliquiolly known as "Reneliens") positioning their hands in the double L formation that is his calling card, “Love life.”

“This is better than any drug I’ve ever done and I’ve done a lot,” Rene cracked. “This is why I’m here.”

Set List:

Gonna Be Ok
Rockin' With You
Where Do We Go From Here
Sexual Healing
Same Blood
Love Me Like You
Young Homie


Back From The Dead

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin