Category Archives: Music

On Stage: Diana Krall

The latest stop of the “See Them Before They Die Tour” that we are currently embarking on featured jazz artist Diana Krall. Now, you may think that Krall isn’t really old enough to worry about her dying any time soon, but then that’s what we thought about Tom Petty — so better safe than sorry.

For those of you who are not jazz aficionados — and judging from the amount of blank stares I got from people when I told them I was going to see Diana Krall, there are a lot of you out there —  Krall is a jazz singer/pianist who has won a lot of awards and sold a lot of albums and you should really be ashamed of yourself if you’ve not heard of her.

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She’s also married to Elvis Costello, which is neither here nor there, but it’s what I bring up when I get the blank stare, in the hopes that the person I’m talking to isn’t totally culturally inept. If you give me the blank stare when I mention Elvis Costello, then I really want to punch you in the face — but then I realize that going through life unaware of the music of Elvis Costello is really punishment enough.

The concert was Friday night downtown at the Peabody Opera House. Rather than make Laurie drive back to St. Charles and then back downtown we decided, since Bob was already watching Andrew for the day, to just let him keep watching Andrew through the evening and I would take the MetroLink downtown and we’d have a nice, leisurely dinner and a show. As opposed to the usual scarf down a Little Caesar’s pizza and rush off to the show.

Bob and Laurie were concerned about me taking mass transit (people get shot on MetroLink on a regular basis) but I figured it was daylight and there was a ballgame going on so I would be safe. Laurie would take me back to the car after dark. The train ride was uneventful.

We had a nice, leisurely dinner at Bailey’s Range — a burger joint with a unique atmosphere. It also had a winding staircase that I didn’t care for, but the food was good. We then made our way to the Peabody. I had never been there before. It’s a lovely venue with far too many stairs, especially when your seats are in the mezzanine. I don’t mind the mezzanine, but I do mind the climb. The seats were uncomfortable and there was no leg room but that seems to be the curse of all entertainment venues in St. Louis that are not movie theaters.

Hey concert venue owners, movie theaters have begun a trend of ripping out their crappy seats and replacing them with leather recliners. Take a hint. Maybe if people had comfortable chairs they wouldn’t feel compelled to stand during the show and obstruct everyone’s view.

The show started promptly at 8:12 (it was supposed to start at 8) and Krall and her impressive 4-man band played an energetic, captivating set filled with standards and more eclectic stuff. In standard jazz fashion, Krall would sing a verse or two and then things would meander musically between the five players. They did a blistering version of Tom Wait’s “Temptation” that went on forever. (Literally. I think they’re still playing it as you’re reading this).

The highlight of the show (at least for Laurie, as it’s her favorite Krall song) was a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” which somehow managed to incorporate Scott Joplin’s “Solace” while making perfect musical sense. It was accompanied by a neat lighting effect that really made the staging stand out.

So, to sum up: Didn’t die on the train, fine dinner, excellent show, nice venue, too many stairs, not enough leg room. I can cross “Diana Krall” off my list although I suspect we will be going back to see her again the next time she comes to town.

 

 

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On Stage: James Taylor

I lost interest in concert-going years ago. The hassle, the cost, the hassle, the crowds, the hassle, the traffic, the cost, the idiots, the hassle, the late night, the parking, the adult-sitting, the hassle. It just wasn’t worth it.

But then many of our musical idols started dropping like flies, and Laurie thought it important that we start seeing the rest of them before they died.

JT_Summer2017Admat_sm (2)James Taylor was not on that list. We saw him a couple of years back when he was touring with Carole King. It was a great show. I figured I could check him off the list. And I haven’t really paid much attention to James since the “JT/Flag” era, and that was the late 1970s.

But he was coming to town and Laurie wanted to see him again and his opening act was going to be Bonnie Raitt and we hadn’t seen her before so I figured, why not? and besides by that point Laurie had already bought the tickets.

One of the 13 reasons I have for hating concerts listed above is “adult-sitting.” That’s when you have a 27-year-old son who cannot be left on his own so anytime you want to do anything without him you’ve got to make arrangements. Another word for “adult-sitting” would be “hassle.”

We have a guy that comes over, but it’s good to have other options. We were recently informed that we could use a “respite house” where we could take Andrew and they would watch him. We left him there for a couple of hours one weekend and three hours this past weekend. He seemed to do fine. But this would be the real test — 6 p.m. until we got back from the show — which could range from 11:30 to past midnight.

 

The show was at the fill-in-the-blank Center, which is in a part of downtown I’m not familiar with, so I made Laurie drive. We dropped the boy off and, after making several strategic changes in route that I could never have made were I driving, we arrived at the center at 6:45. The show was to start at 7:30.

There is nowhere to eat near the center, except a Hard Rock Cafe, and it would probably take at least 45 minutes to get a table and served, so we were left to fend with the culinary options at the center. Dinner consisted of two $6.50 hot dogs (these were not jumbo dogs, by the way. They were “gourmet” but you couldn’t prove it by me) and one $5.50 bottle of water (they wouldn’t give us they bottle, they had to pour it in a cup. What’s up with that?). We were hardly full, but it was sufficient to get us through the night.

When we walked through the door there was a sign: “Bonnie Raitt has CANCELLED. James Taylor will be doing 2 sets with an intermission.”

I hate concerts so much. Bonnie Raitt was a main reason for coming to this show. Are we going to get a partial refund, or a free t-shirt, or a free hot dog as recompense? Is James going to do an extra 45 minutes to make up for it? Not likely.

And intermission? I hate ****ing intermissions.

The show was to start at 7:30 but what are the odds of that happening if the opening act is out? It’s not like James is gonna come out early and piss off everyone who shows up late because they didn’t care about seeing Bonnie Raitt.

To my somewhat surprise, the show started at 7:50, which is still unacceptably late but about par for concerts. Which is another reason why I hate them. The crowd was largely old and stayed in their seats, which made me happy. There was an obnoxious couple behind us who talked too much, which didn’t.

The show itself was pretty darn good. The first set was a mix of popular tunes and obscurities, the second was a cavalcade of hits. He played every song from his classic Greatest Hits album, which is probably the only JT album most people listen to — am I right?

He’s also a pretty good storyteller and his “all-star” band was very impressive. A much better show than I was expecting. And because there was no opening act – and we were near the end of an aisle so we could make a quick getaway – we were able to pick up junior before midnight.

 

 

 

 

On Stage: A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline

Growing up I didn’t listen to much Patsy Cline. My parents were more into Johnny Cash and Roger Miller. So I spent a lot of time listening to Johnny Cash and Roger Miller.

My father-in-law spent a lot of time listening to Patsy Cline and Marty Robbins. Which meant my wife spent a lot of time listening to Patsy Cline and Marty Robbins.

So Laurie was much more excited about going to see “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline” than I was, but I was familiar enough with her music to assume that it would probably be a good show.

Sometimes assumptions are correct.

 

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Julie Johnson as Patsy Cline in “A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline,” now playing at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza. Photo courtesy of Mark Bell Presents

Julie Johnson gives a stellar performance as the country music legend. Backed by a solid four-piece band (Jerry Matheny on electric guitar, Rocky Gribble on acoustic guitar and banjo, John Kerry Huckaba on bass and bass guitar, and D Garrett Roper on drums), Johnson sings and yodels her way through many of Cline’s big hits.

Steve Barcus ties the narrative together as a radio disc jockey hosting a musical tribute to Cline. Barcus plays seven other roles in the course of the show and also serves as the band’s pianist.

Born Virginia Patterson Hensley in 1932, Patsy Cline began her musical career as a teenager, first singing on a local radio show and then in bars and talent shows. She had her first hit with “Walking After Midnight” in 1957 and went on to find success on both the country and pop charts. She died in a plane crash at age 30.

“A Closer Walk” covers all the high points of Cline’s musical career — from radio to nightclubs to the Grand Ole Opry to Las Vegas to Carnegie Hall. It deals with her personal struggles as well. All while performing songs that have become pop music standards — like “I Fall To Pieces,” “She’s Got You” and “Crazy.”

But this isn’t strictly a concert show. Barcus and the band keep things lively with olde tyme comedy bits and classic commercial jingles.

“A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline” is a terrific show. The music is great, the musicians are great, the leads are great and the comedy’s a bit corny — but that’s keeping in the spirit of the times. The Playhouse is also a fine venue for such a program — small and intimate.

“A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline” runs through May 6 at the Playhouse @ Westport Plaza. www.playhouseatwestport.com/

 

 

Gone: Pat DiNizio

I’ll say anything you want to hear
I’ll see everything through
I’ll do anything I have to do
Just to win the love of a girl like you

You told me, baby, you had time to kill
But then you tossed me out like an overdue bill
You left in a hurry with a guy from the band
On a one-way ride to the promised land
Top of the pops

Blue period, black comedy
Such a joke I’ve played on me
I let you go
And now I know a world of uncertainty

She held a bass guitar and she was playing in a band
And she stood just like Bill Wyman
Now I am her biggest fan
Now I know I’m one of many who would like to be your friend
And I’ve got to find a way to let you know I’m not like them

Now I lie in bed and think of her
Sometimes I even weep
Then I dream of her behind the wall of sleep

The blues before and after
I get the blues before and after I’m with you

71nf2Yg9y9L._SX355_This is the house we used to live in
This is the place I used to know
This is the house we used to live in
Where I felt I could always go

House that we used to live in
House where I left my heart
House that we used to live in falling apart

You won’t break my heart
No matter what you do
My love is especially for you

And then it starts all over again

Maybe I won’t be afraid to love somebody new
Maybe I can open up my heart
Then I won’t drown in my own tears
Drown in my own tears

I’ve been waiting for you all my life
And now that you are here I can’t believe
How wonderful it is to be here by your side
To see you in the light

In your evening dress tonight

See me walking with someone new
It makes no difference
‘Cause everything I have is blue

Too much passion is not enough

Smoked my last cigarette
Sat in bed for a while
Thought of your face, and it brought me a smile
Wanted another one
Fell back asleep, instead
Woke and found you sitting there on the bed

Cigarette, cigarette,
Burning up time
Cigarette, cigarette
Watch the smoke climb
Cigarette, cigarette
Wasting away
Just like this cigarette
Our time is running down
Only one hour til you’re leaving this town

Take me away when I’m done with my afternoon tea

On Stage: Evil Dead – The Musical

When I asked The Wife if she wanted to join me for “Evil Dead – The Musical,” I did not get the response I was expecting.

“Sure, I’ll go.”

I’m pretty sure Laurie has never seen an “Evil Dead” movie. I don’t believe that she would like one if she’d seen one. I didn’t mention it was a horror movie, but I figured that was self-evident from the title.

So I could only assume that she was going as some kind of penance for all those years of Shakespeare and opera that I’ve been subjected to.

Hey, works for me.

And so it was that Thursday night we made our way to the Grandel Theatre in St. Louis for opening night of “Evil Dead – The Musical.” We did not have seats in the “splatter zone,” but watching it from the balcony was perfectly fine. I’ve got Laurie this far, no need to push it.

“The Evil Dead” began life in 1981 as a horror comedy by director Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell as Ash, a store clerk who fights demons with a shotgun and a chainsaw. It hellspawned more movies, a TV series, video games, comic books, and in 2003 — a musical.

EvilDeadv2Written by George Reinblatt with music by Reinblatt, Melissa Morris, Frank Cipolla and Christopher Bond, the show mixes and mashes characters and story lines from the various “Evil Dead” movies. The result is a campy, vulgar, bloody, strange brew that is sure to please its target audience. My wife is definitely not the target audience but she didn’t run screaming from the theater and we did stay past intermission so maybe there is some broad, general appeal as well.

Trent Mills stars as Ash, who has decided to spend Spring Break at a secluded cabin in the woods with his girlfriend Linda (Michelle Nash), little sister Cheryl (Saphire Demitro), best friend Scotty (Christopher Fulton) and Shelley (Merritt Crews) — a woman Scotty picked up along the way.

Ash doesn’t actually own the cabin, or even know the owner, they’re just going to break in and spend a few fun-filled days. It turns out the cabin was owned by an archaeologist who had gone to the cabin to study an ancient book — the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, a.k.a. The Book of the Dead.

Unfortunately, during his research the archaeologist lets loose some Candarian demons and now the cabin, the woods, and eventually all of Ash’s companions become possessed by evil. Joining the melee in the second act are the archaeologist’s daughter (also played by Merritt Crews), her boyfriend (Andy Ingram) and their local guide — good old reliable Jake (Jonathan Shaboo).

“Evil Dead – The Musical” wants to be the new “Rocky Horror Picture Show” but it doesn’t have the chops — at least not musically. There are a couple of catchy, clever tunes but the music is the show’s weak link. “Do The Necronomicon” will never replace “The Time Warp.”

The actors are fine and the story is weird, strange, creepy, crude and often inappropriately funny. Just like it was meant to be.

“Evil Dead – The Musical” runs through Oct. 22 at the Grandel Theatre. http://www.kranzbergartsfoundation.org/the-grandel/

On Stage: The Bodyguard

The Fox Theatre launched its 35th season this week with “The Bodyguard,” or as it could be better titled — “The Whitney Houston Musical.”

Musicals based on the catalogue of pop stars is nothing new — the most popular are likely “Mamma Mia!” and “Jersey Boys.” So it was probably inevitable that someone would take the 1992 film “The Bodyguard,” which starred Houston and featured and a number of her songs, and expand it with even more of her tunes and bring it to the stage.

“The Bodyguard: The Musical” opened in London in 2012 and follows the story of the romantic thriller it is based on, with some changes. It includes all the songs Houston sang on the film soundtrack — including the hits “I Will Always Love You,” “I’m Every Woman” and “I Have Nothing.” They are joined by 10 other Houston favorites, such as “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All” and “One Moment in Time.” The show ends with a rousing version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

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Deborah Cox and company in a scene from “The Bodyguard.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Deborah Cox stars as Rachel Marron, a wildly popular singer and actress, who is promoting a new album while also aiming at an Academy Award nomination. When her life is threatened by a stalker, her manager brings in professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills).

Rachel doesn’t want Frank interfering in her life. Frank doesn’t want to deal with Rachel’s diva attitude. It is this kind of manufactured Hollywood tension that will eventually lead to them falling in love.

There’s not a lot of meat to this story. It all plays out as you’d expect, even if you haven’t seen the movie. There’s an interesting subplot brewing with Rachel’s sister Nikki (Jasmin Richardson) but it gets cut short. This isn’t a show to see for its deep character development or intricate plot.

But then, that’s common to many musicals. Where the show works is with the musical numbers and the powerful vocal performances by Cox and Richardson. If you are a fan of Whitney Houston’s music you will probably love this. I am not a Whitney Houston fan but this show gave me a better appreciation of her talent.

Wisely, the show doesn’t try to shoehorn the songs into the plot the way “Mamma Mia!” does. There is a decent balance of drama, romance and comedy. The scene at the karaoke bar is a highlight.

This high-energy musical boasts colorful costumes, pulsating light shows, and some inventive set designs. The story may be weak but the other elements make up for it.

Gone: Tom Petty

There’s a southern accent, where I come from
The young ‘uns call it country, the yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talking, but everything gets done
With a southern accent, where I come from

It’s alright if you love me
It’s alright if you don’t
I’m not afraid of you running away
Honey, I get the feeling you won’t

Oh yeah, all right
Take it easy, baby
Make it last all night

If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Everybody has to fight to be free, you see, you don’t have to live like a refugee

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

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She wore faded jeans and soft black leather
She had eyes so blue they looked like weather
When she needed me I wasn’t around
That’s the way it goes, it’ll all work out

There were times apart, there were times together
I was pledged to her for worse or better
When it mattered most I let her down
That’s the way it goes, it’ll all work out

It’ll all work out eventually
Better off with him than here with me

It’ll all work out eventually
Maybe better off with him than here with me

Now the wind is high and the rain is heavy
And the water’s rising in the levee
Still I think of her when the sun goes down
It never goes away, but it all works out

Don’t come around here no more
Don’t come around here no more
Whatever you’re looking for
Hey! Don’t come around here no more

Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down

Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down

Quit jammin’ me

Two gunslingers, walked out in the street
And one said “I don’t want to fight no more”
And the other gunslinger thought about it
And he said, “yeah what are we fighting for?”

I’m takin’ control of my life,
I’m takin’ control of my life
I’m takin’ control of my life now,
Right now, oh yeah

Well the crowd that assembled
For the gun fight were let down
Everyone hissed and booed
And a stranger told his Mrs.
“That’s the last one of these gunfights
You’re ever gonna drag me to”

I’m takin’ control of my life,
I’m takin’ control of my life
I’m takin’ control of my life now,
Right now, oh yeah

Well the two gunslingers
Went ridin’ out of town and
Were never heard from no more
And there ain’t been a gun fight
For a long time, maybe never
But nobody knows for sure

Oh, my my, oh, hell yes
Honey, put on that party dress
Buy me a drink, sing me a song
Take me as I come ’cause I can’t stay long

Coming down is the hardest thing

People come, people go
Some grow young, some grow cold
I woke up in between
A memory and a dream

So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels to be me

You and I will meet again
When we’re least expecting it
One day in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again

I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’
Gonna leave this world for awhile

And I’m free, free fallin’
Yeah I’m free, free fallin’