Friday, 18 January 2008

What do you get when you combine bowling balls, kerosene, the California desert, and a 2.4 ton industrial robot? You get something like this.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

OK, so here’s the deal: I won tickets to the recent Barry Manilow show in the Twin Cities.

No kidding.

I was at my dad’s place for Christmas and he had the radio tuned for a local adult-contemporary station. (Hey, not my choice, but not my radio either.) They were doing a Songs of the 70’s thing, heavy on the disco and easy-listening classics of the decade. I didn’t catch the prize at first, but they had a trivia thing and the question was “What kind of car did Dantanna drive in the 70’s TV series Vegas?” After a quick discussion with the room at large, I casually called the radio station and actually got through.

The DJ repeated the question and I gave her the answer and I won! Actually, she gave me a second chance on the color because I had everything else spot-on (It was a red Thunderbird convertible, by the way.)

I’m not usually the winner. I don’t win the lottery, I can’t guess the number of jelly beans in the jar, and I’m never caller #10. Yet here I was, the proud owner of two Barry Manilow tickets. I didn’t even know when or where the concert was, I had to look it up.

I’m known among my people for having varied musical tastes and I’ll listen to nearly anything. I’m not big on modern rap or country and I know precious little about classical or Jazz, but I usually peg Manilow as an easy-listening artist. Let’s just say that easy-listening normally come somewhere further down the list. Somewhere above new age (rhymes with sewage) but below heavy metal.

Somehow I felt compelled to go. After all, everyone can name at least three Barry Manilow songs off the top of their head and in addition to his own recordings he’s written tons for other bands. Plus he’s known to be quite the showman. While I might not appreciate it as much as other people, the concert was not going to suck. Heck it’s possible I might even enjoy it.

The show was at Xcel Energy Center (some time I should share my thoughts about corporate sponsored venues) and the tickets were pretty decent. Not on the main floor, but 12th row about half-way back from the stage. The place is usually a hockey arena, so if front edge of the stage was about 20 feet in front of the goal, my seats were about even with the far blue-line. They turned out to be great sight-lines.

I had to invoke some Google-Fu to remember the name of the opening act, Brian Culbertson. With 33-year old Brian on keyboard and trombone, his dad on trumpet, plus a drummer, guitarist, bass player, and another guy on keyboards; he’s described as a Smooth Jazz act. Ugh. Smooth Jazz. As it turns out they weren’t bad, but pretty unremarkable; which is my complaint about most Smooth Jazz. Think Kenny G crossed with John Tesh, but somewhat less somnolent. Their last tune was a kind of funk number that was pretty good.

Then it was Barry-Time.

This tour was called Music and Passion, the premise being music through the decades, 40’s on forward, with stories from his life and plenty of his own songs interspersed throughout. He had an 11 piece orchestra, plus guitar, bass, drums, percussion, backup singers, keyboard, and his own piano. The light rig was huge, with at least 4 arms jutting out 30 feet over the audience, three video screens, and a pair of LED curtains that they could change colors and display patterns on. Even the stage was something else. It had a multi-tier band riser that split in the middle for Manilow to make his entrance, a trap door in the middle for his piano, and a mini-terrace/elevator that he used to come down to the front row.

We left early, just after Copacabana, so I don’t have a full set list, but here goes: Miracle; Daybreak; Somewhere In the Night; This One’s For You; A medly of some boogie-woogie thing (Jump Shout was one of the lines?), Chattanooga Choo Choo, then back to the boogie woogie thing; Moonlight Serenade; When Can I Touch You?; Bandstand; I Made It Through the Rain (mixed with an early music story); Can’t Smile Without You; Looks Like We Made It; Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed?; Even Now; New York City Frame of Mind; a story about Vegas vs. home vs. other cities; Come (Baby I Love You); Yesterday (the Beatles tune); Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You; Where Did Our Love Go (sung mostly by the backup singers); Mandy; I Write the Songs; Copacabana…

If it weren’t for the free tickets, I’m not sure I would have gone. The seats were expensive by my standards, $77 up to $248 (before fees) through that national seller we all love to hate. That said, I have to admit it was a good show. While it wasn’t transcendent I honestly enjoyed myself and I’m glad to have gone. I think that Barry’s fans got their money’s worth.

I took lots of pictures, including the one above, which I hope to have on-line soon.

Thursday, 03 January 2008

Much like last year, here’s my year in review — travel- and concert-wise anyway:

Places I’ve Been

The rules are that I actually slept in the city for a minimum of one night and that it must be outside the Twin Cities area (no crashing at a friend’s house and counting it).

  • Stillwater, OK
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Urbandale (Des Moines), IA
  • Brookings, SD†
  • Denver, CO
  • La Porte, IN
  • Detroit, MI†
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Chicago, IL
  • Madison, WI
  • Kansas City, MO

I’m mildly surprised that I nearly doubled last year’s list with 12 cities in 2007, as compared to 7 cities in 2006.

† Multiple, non-consecutive nights.

Things I’ve Seen

No stipulations here, just a list of all the shows and concerts I’ve seen this year.

  • Sweet Colleens
  • Varttina
  • Honeydogs
  • Lewis Black
  • Klezmatics
  • Bx3
  • Carbon Leaf
  • G. Love & Special Sauce
  • Erin McKeown
  • James Cotton
  • Ditty Bops
  • California Guitar Trio
  • Amiina
  • Roger Clyne (in Phoenix, AZ for the “No More Beautiful World” CD release party)
  • Keb Mo
  • Ceu
  • Seven Steps To Havana
  • Bill Cosby
  • Konono No. 1
  • Air
  • Los Straitjackets
  • English Beat
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Minneapolis, MN w/ Shurman)†
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Urbandale, IA w/ Shurman)†
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Brookings, SD w/ Shurman)†
  • Elvis Costello (finally I got to see him live!)
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Ft. Collins, CO w/ Shurman)†
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Colorado Springs, CO w/ Shurman)†
  • Lisa Gerrard
  • Carrie Rodriguez
  • Chris Thile
  • Buckwheat Zydeco
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers
  • Hookers and Blow
  • Puppini Sisters
  • Crowded House
  • Mina Agossi
  • Lenka Dusilova
  • James Cotton
  • They Might Be Giants
  • Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers
  • Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers (Not only two nights in a row, but two shows each night! Yes, I love them that much!)
  • Nick Lowe
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Toronto, Canada w/ Jason Boots)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Detroit, MI w/ Alternate Routes)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Cleveland, OH w/ Alternate Routes)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Chicago, IL w/ Alternate Routes)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Madison, WI w/ Alternate Routes)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Brookings, SD)‡
  • Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers (in Minneapolis, MN)‡
  • Jose Gonzales
  • Henry Rollins (another person I’ve wanted to see for years — and a personal hero of mine live!)
  • Zap Mama
  • Nickel Creek (“Farewell for Now” tour)
  • Erin McKeown
  • Sia
  • Robyn Hitchcock (another hero of mine)
  • Kansas City Symphony
  • Stellanovas
  • Aimee Mann (Christmas show, which was quite lovely)
  • 2007 CP Rail Holiday Train
  • Robert Randolph
  • Wookiefoot (New Year’s Eve)

That’s 63 events (one every 5.79 days), only 1 of which was not an actual concert. I can’t remember all of the opening acts, but among those 62 shows, there are likely more than 100 bands. Allowing 4 hours per show (30 minutes pre-show, 60 minute opening act, 30 minute stage turn, 90 minute main act, 30 minutes post-show), I spend about 2.88% of my time at concerts — Hmmm, maybe a pie chart is in order here.

† Rock-N-Roll Road Trip #2 (Spring) ‡ Rock-N-Roll Road Trip #3 (Fall)