Bruno Mars and Pharrell Rock MSG

Earlier this week, I headed to Madison Square Garden for an evening with two of pop’s biggest superstars–Bruno Mars and Pharrell. The concert marked the first-ever performances for both at MSG, and they each brought their A-game.

Pharrell—sporting one of his trademark hats, of course—breezed through a lively opening set. Backed by hip hop dancers, he charmed with his playful onstage banter and signature hits.

Pharrell

A huge LED screen lit up behind him as he did “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.” Not surprisingly, he wrapped things up with “Happy.” Even after hearing it so much everywhere, I have to say this song is infectious live.

The excitement continued when Bruno Mars took the stage. From the minute he came out, singing “Moonshine” set against a dazzling light show, you knew this was going to be a night of high energy fun.

Bruno Mars

Mars said as much himself, inviting the crowd to stay on its feet—an easy task as he powered through his hour and forty-five minute set. He brought the soulful funk and smooth sounds that have made him a Top 40 mainstay over the last couple of years. He wowed with an irresistible mix of ballads and dance hits like “It Will Rain,” “When I Was Your Man,” “Marry You” and “Treasure.” Two of the evening’s highlights—a slowed down version of “Nothin’ On You” and a showstopping rendition of “Grenade.”

A talented group

Joining Mars on stage were a talented group of backup singers/musicians who ably kept up with him and the huge spectacle behind them (pyrotechnics, colorful lighting).

After a keyboard solo, Mars launched into “Just The Way You Are” before an action-packed encore. He returned to the stage for a drum solo and “Locked Out Of Heaven,” surprising the crowd then with a special guest: Lenny Kravitz.

Bruno Mars and Lenny Kravitz

The two covered Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” before Mars closed out the epic night with “Gorilla.” Truly a concert to remember–and not to be missed if you get the chance.

Bruno Mars’ Moonshine Jungle tour continues through September 6th.

Sakagura: Japanese Delight In Midtown

Some of NYC’s most delightful dining experiences are also hidden gems. I had the pleasure of being reminded of this earlier this week with my first visit to Sakagura.

Sakagura: a delightful slice of Japan in Midtown NYC (photo courtesy: nymag.com)

Tucked away in the basement of an office building in East Midtown, Sakagura is a restaurant that truly transports you. From the bonsai trees to bamboo infused decor and attentive service, it feels like an authentic taste of Japan.

Speaking of flavors, Sakagura is a flavorful treat for the palette, with a delicious selection of hot and cold Japanese tapas.  Fellow foodie Stacy — thanks for the invite my dear friend! — and I savored every bite of our meal. I enjoyed eel vinaigrette with cucumber and Wakame seaweed, grilled Japanese Squid brushed with garlic soy sauce and this decadent confection…

Mashed potatoes in sweet, fried donut batter. Yum!

We had a lot to catch up on. I filled Stacy in on my glorious July 4th getaway to LA while she shared the itinerary for her upcoming European adventure (London-Berlin-Reykjavik). We also talked about how rapidly times goes by once you hit 40 — making it feel even more urgent to follow your bliss wherever it takes you. I’m excited to rededicate myself to doing just that.

By the way, today wraps up NYC Gal’s 14 days of giveaways. It’s not too late to enter to win a stay at The Westin New York Grand Central! Visit this page for more info and heartfelt thanks for supporting my second foray into the blogosphere!

Looking Through A Different Lens

One of my favorite books is Amy Spencer’s inspiring Bright Side Up: 100 Ways To Be Happier Right NowAnd one of my favorite pearls of wisdom in it is about refocusing your perspective.

“Like the camera lens of life,” Amy writes, “We can zoom out from the negative stuff and see the whole picture. Pull back and see what else is there–the good stuff.”

I found myself doing exactly that during a recent photo shoot with my cousin Alexandra and fabulous photographer Andrea Reese.

The afternoon began at my place, with Alexandra working her makeup artist magic to make me ready for my closeup.

Getting all glammed up

After an hour in her capable hands, I felt like a supermodel–especially when Andrea arrived brimming with excitement and effervescence. Her infectious energy put me at ease right away.

Once Alexandra put the finishing touches on my makeup, the three of us went into my room, where Andrea put on her stylist hat to help select wardrobe and accessories for the shoot. We then headed up to my building’s roof deck — a true urban oasis — for the first series of photos. In the background, a swimsuit-clad resident lounging around while a more clothed neighbor read the newspaper. Only in New York.

All smiles on the roof deck

For the next setup, Andrea led us to a series of nearby locations all within a five block radius.

One of my favorites from the shoot. My cousin rocks.

From a townhouse stoop and distressed wall to a nearby playground and the rich red doors of favorite dive bar O’Flanagan’s, Andrea made me appreciate my neighborhood in a completely new way. Seeing how she views everything through a creative, beauty seeking lens helped me reframe my own view–and reminded me it’s never too late to do that.

Two hours and plenty of smiles and sultry poses later, my supermodel moment drew to a close. As I told Alexandra, I really didn’t want to wash my face that night, particularly since the makeup was still completely intact.

You can check out more of the many great photos that Andrea took here. And there’s still one more week of my giveaway extravaganza, including two tickets to the new Off Broadway comedy Get Me A Guy (full review to come) and a one-night stay at The Westin New York Grand Central! Visit this page for info about how to enter.

A New Chapter

I’m excited to begin this new blogging chapter with the above video welcome–and 14 days of great giveaways!

For the next week, I’ll be celebrating the launch of New York City Gal by giving away some great prizes, including: fabulous dating advice books (many written by fellow New Yorkers) and a one-night stay at The Westin New York Grand Central!

The Westin is located in the heart of Midtown NYC–and where I’m so fortunate to spend my workdays. 🙂

I’ll be revealing each day’s prize on Twitter and Facebook. Visit the Seven Days of Giveaways page for details about how to enter!

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