In Concert

Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses are packed with energy and are – just pure fun. At no point during the show do they let you forget that they are entertainers. For two solid hours, their upbeat show played hits going back to a different time. Every moment was absolutely enchanting.

The City Winery is an upscale restaurant/concert venue with a superb wait-staff. Their food, wine and, decorated tables made a perfect atmosphere for Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses. A well-dressed crowd entered the establishment after using valet parking, ate edible creations that were out of this world, and sipped on delicious wines just prior to the show. Candle lit tables, glass bottles of water and cloth napkins set the scene for one of the best shows on Earth.

For approximately five decades Louis Prima Sr. entertained crowds with his musical show in a positive and comedic way. Performers have been covering his music and style since the 1930’s. Benny Goodman, David Lee Roth, and Brian Setzer are among the most popular names to do versions of the great Louis Prima’s work. His son, Louis Prima Jr., is now paying homage to the music his father wrote and other work from different artists.

The Witnesses came out and started to prepare the audience for an incredible band leader, Louis Prima Jr. The horns were pumping and out walked the man in his striped suit who immediately started to sing the opening number “Jump, Jive an’ Wail.” The music was right on the money with every beat, note, and song performed.

A favorite song for so many people was “Just a Gigolo (I ain’t got nobody)”. The song was performed so well that it was just like the original recording. The Keely Smith role for the evening was covered by the extremely talented Leslie Spencer. Her voice was just as powerful as Keely’s was and she nailed every note with perfection during the concert. The mixtures of the male and female voices were done in the same vein as the original artist to whom this show was patterned after.

Louis took time to speak to the audience like they were friends. He made eye contact with anyone and everyone who was close enough to the stage. He mentioned that recently his son had been sick and was in and out of the hospital a lot over a year and a half. He continued to explain that, “The only thing that held it together was playing with his band and performing on stage for such wonderful people. The people in the band are very important to me.” Without their personal relationships, he would not have been able to go on.

The time during the show was held together by A.D. Adams on drums and Johnathan Frias on bass. These two kept the time so well and paved the road of songs for all the other stand-alone musicians on the stage. On guitar was Ryan McKay with a nice hollow body electric and blended well with the keyboard player Gregg Fox. Their high notes were in sync all night with the sax player Marco Palos and Ted Schumacher on trumpet. Another bottom end performer was the baritone sax player William Pattinson who hit notes that you felt deep down in your soul. Phillip Clevinger was the trombone player and together they all made up an incredible band.

All of them displayed incredible showmanship as they didn’t just come out and play their instruments of choice. They played and moved around without stopping. They aren’t just musicians; they are entertainers.

When “Angelina” began, almost every concertgoer in the place was singing with joy. “Oh, mama zooma zooma baccala” was being belted out at every table during the song about the waitress at the pizzeria.

The comedic number, “Banana Split For My Baby” was a definite highlight during the show. Louis warned everyone that he can never remember all the words of the storytelling song that put a smile on so many faces. He started to fumble the words, but regained himself immediately and laughed. No one seemed to care as he went on with grace describing all he wanted his baby to have.

The Witnesses talent is not just within the instruments they play. They all sing well and proved it throughout the night. Louis took a seat behind the drums and A.D. Admas came out to the front of the stage and they started in with the Chicago song, “25 or 6 to 4.” The horn section played every piece with accuracy. The band also continued to belt out the songs “Evil Ways”, “Proud Mary”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. The entire band was like a jukebox for the evening playing one hit song after another.

Toward the end of the show Louis marched out into the audience with his band members following him in a single file line. They slapped hands, did high fives, and showed everyone how down to earth they really are. They finally made it back to the stage and unfortunately the show was over.

Louis Prima Jr. and The Witnesses laid out such an awesome evening that no one in the entire venue could have been disappointed. The vibe itself expressed from the music and the band’s personality created an overall feeling of warmth. No band could ever leave an audience in a happier mood. The entire evening was just a joy and an honor to see. As people waited in the streets for the valet parking attendants to bring back their vehicles, one man made a comment about the show. “I’m so stoked! I can’t wait to see him again.” Everyone nodded in agreement. It was just a tremendous evening at The City Winery.

 

Published in In Concert
Friday, 07 July 2017 18:13

Buddy Guy is Real

Buddy Guy is real. In a music business where people often portray an image onstage - a persona - Buddy Guy is real. When you go see him play, that’s what you get and nobody walks away not knowing a little something about the man.

Before Guy’s set at Ravinia Festival, we were treated to the music of Booker T. Jones. Some of you might say, “who’s he?” Booker T. and The MG’s were the house band at Stax Records. They were on many songs that you remember, but they were not the faces on the record. Most people do recognize their hit “Green Onions”, but if you asked who it was…

His was a nice short, but effective, set. I had hopes of Buddy coming out and playing a song with Jones but that might have actually taken the focus away from Booker’s music in a way. It was really nice to hear the Hammond Organ being played by the actual person you heard play those melodies. Booker even played guitar and sang…but…that organ, that sound… It’s almost become a lost instrument today. I say almost because you do still see them but we could be witnessing the tail end of the instrument’s impact. I’d love to see bands today bring back the organ.

On the other hand, Buddy Guy was born to play the guitar - to quote his own song. I think that is true. However, he does not play the way your guitar teacher will tell you to play. What does that mean? It means he just plays the guitar. He doesn’t study it. He doesn’t analyze it. He plays the guitar. Guy’s playing has been a huge influence on Rock’s elite but many just don’t get it unless they see the man play live. You cannot capture Buddy Guy on a recording. It’s just not the same. His performances should not be repeated. They should not be recorded. They should be experienced. You need to be there when he walks out into the crowd, and this could not have been truer than at Ravinia the other night.

I don’t want to go off on a tangent here, but go see more live music. Before music turns into a complete corporate clown show, go see more live music. Live music has so many benefits. Musicians pay their bills nowadays largely in part by playing live. Free downloads killed CD sales. We need to support these artists. Maybe the decay of integrity can be slowed down or even repaired if we did this. Go see more live music.

Artists too are to blame. They need to be real. That’s why the music of some people lasts forever. Formulas are for scientists, not musicians. Just be yourself and make some music. Be like Buddy Guy. I do not mean imitation. Just be real.

Guy’s set was amazing. You will never see the same show twice. He starts one song and may finish it or he may jump to anther song. The band needs to be on their toes. I am sure they rehearse most of that but I am sure a huge part of rehearsal is learning how to follow Buddy’s lead. The Blues as a musical form has always involved a lot of improvisation. You actually get to hear music at its point of creation. You can’t rehearse that part of the process, the creation. To witness this is a gift to you from the artist. This leads me back to the reasons to go see live music. It’s like gift exchange. They give you the music. You go see them so they can pay their bills. It’s good for the economy. Go see more live music.

Published in In Concert

Graeme Edge, Justin Hayward, and John Lodge brought a show to the Ravinia stage that knocked out everyone who was in attendance. Two full sets of music packed with hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s were the band’s musical offerings for the evening. Without a doubt, it was a musical setting that was great to see, hear, and feel.


There is nothing like going into a concert venue to see a favorite band. The crowds of people dress in their best going out attire and get all polished up like a pretty penny. They make their way to the seats to see some good music and moments later lights finally fade and the music starts. Excitement runs through the crowd as the first notes begin.

  
It’s just a magical time during the summer concert season at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Illinois. The Moody Blues only add to that magic. The legendary band came triumphantly took the stage and played a no nonsense show, having lost nothing in their fifty plus years as musicians. Their music was absolutely flawless from start to finish.


The first set contained hits from their vast catalog. They opened the show with “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” and grabbed the attention of the audience right away. Hayward and Lodge both have amazing voices and hit every note with perfection. There wasn’t the slightest crack or imperfection in any of the performer’s voice.


Songs from the video age of the 1980’s were a big hit among the fans. “The Voice” and “Your Wildest Dreams” were definitely crowd pleasers. They kept reminding us of their amazing writing capability as their set list unfolded.


“The Story in Your Eyes” was a highlight from the first set that grabbed a few inexperienced Moody Blues fans by surprise. “Oh my God! They’re playing this song too?” If you listen to classic rock, it’s hard to not know The Moody Blues music. It’s still everywhere on the FM dial.

“Steppin’ in A Slide Zone” began with the melodic dynamic build and thrilled the more dedicated fans of this amazing band. The keyboards and guitars were blending so well in what was a great piece of ear candy. For the few that didn’t know the song, I’m guessing it had to impress them as well.


Set two was reserved for the fiftieth anniversary of Days of Future Passed. They played the album in its entirety and this is the reason a lot of people came out to see the famous band. A few people in attendance even gave up their Grateful Dead tickets to witness this once in a lifetime performance.


The monologues were prerecorded by Jeremy Irons and he nailed it. He sounded just like the original recordings. “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin” were the bigger hits from the album. Getting the chance to see this composition from start to finish was a real treat. It was a musical journey that everyone will remember from the orchestral interludes to the psychedelic writings of 1967. Originally released just after the summer of love, the album is a timeless recording that will always stand out as one of the best of all time.  


Graeme Edge was awesome on the drums and kept hitting them with finesse while not missing a beat. Billy Ashbaugh was an additional drummer brought on the tour to help keep the time within the show. Justin Hayward did such an amazing job on the guitar and vocals, the show wouldn’t have been the same without him while John Lodge provided the bottom end with his bass guitar and brought along some sweet vocals as well. Rounding out The Moody Blues sound, Alan Hewitt performed some amazing keyboards and vocals. Everything he did was just like the original recordings. Norda Mullen is a multi-instrumentalist who fills in so many gaps for The Moody Blues, but really stands out with her flute. The tour also included Julie Ragins, another multi-instrumentalist who just seemed to play everything. She quickly proved she wasn’t there to take up space. Together these people are the current lineup for The Moody Blues and they shouldn’t change a thing. These professional musicians stand out within their instruments of choice. They famously blend so well with one another.

The Moody Blues is just an amazing band in a live setting. Age does not seem to affect this band in a negative way, the musicians defying Father Time. Their musicianship seems to keep getting better as the years pass. It’s always a pleasure to see people refine their talents and put them on display for everyone to see. Ravinia was just a perfect setting for this nostalgic display. It was a delight for everyone who was there.

 

Published in In Concert

Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce MUSE 2017: Femmes Noires de la Resistance, July 13 - 23 at Pegasus’s resident home Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen. This year’s MUSE celebrates new works, new artists and new voices with this annual series of theatrical readings, panels and performances featuring female artists intersecting ideas, visions and artistic excellence. Tickets are $10 per performance and Festival passes ranging from $18-35, which allows for access to 2 events or unlimited MUSE events, and performances. All tickets and passes are available at PegasusTheatreChicago.com or by phone at 866.811.4111.
 
This year’s MUSE, Femmes Noires de la Resistance, focuses on black women holding their own power.  MUSE 2017 will feature storytelling duo In The Spirit, spoken word artists Surviving The Mic, Black Feminist Poetics, 3 Arts Awardee Candace Hunter, musicians K’hala Elizabeth and L11 and theatrical performances by Tasia Jones, with excerpts from the plays of Marsha Estell, Loy Webb and Kendeda Winner Tsehaye Hébert.
 
The 2017 MUSE: Femmes Noires de la Resistance, curated by Nikki Patin with Ilesa Duncan and Regina Victor, and hosted by Nikki Patin and guest host Melissa DuPrey. includes:
 
Theatre Showcase
Thursday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m.
The theatre Showcase includes theatre artists Tasia Jones and readings of new plays by Marsha Estell, Loy Webb and Kendeda winner Tsehaye Hebert.
 
Spoken Word Showcase
Friday, July 14 and July 21 at 7:30 p.m.
Featured in this spoken word showcase are Surviving the Mic and Black Feminist Poetics.
 
Storytelling with IN THE SPIRIT
Saturday, July 15 and July 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Starring Chicago’s premier storytelling duo comprised of Zahra Baker and Emily Hooper Lansana of IN THE SPIRIT. 

Music/Performance Showcase
Sunday, July 16 at 3 p.m. and Thursday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m.
These two performances in MUSE 2017 include music and film showcases featuring musicians L11 and the webseries “Seeds,” and on Thursday, July 20th, 3Arts Awardee Candace Hunter (Chlee Arts) and musician K’hala Elizabeth.
 
Panel Discussion
Sunday, July 23 at 3 p.m.
The final day of MUSE 2017 includes a panel discussion focuses on black women and women of color theatre leaders. Guests and audience members will discuss the topic with artists and performers from the Festival.
 
NIKKI PATÍN, HOST/CO-CURATOR
Nikki Patín has been featured in The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, HBO's “Def Poetry Jam” and on international television and radio. A Peabody Award-winning poet, Patín has been writing, performing and educating for almost 15 years. She has taught hundreds of workshops on spoken word, body image and interpersonal violence. Recently, she addressed the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on behalf of Black women survivors of sexual violence. She holds an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. Her work can be found at www.nikkipatin.com.
 
ABOUT PEGASUS THEATRE CHICAGO
Pegasus Theatre Chicago has been a mainstay in the Chicago theater community for nearly 38 years. Its recent rebranded mission is to produce boldly imaginative theatre, champion new and authentic voices and illuminate the human journey. The theatre adheres to the core values of community engagement, social relevance, boldness, adventure and excellence.
 
Pegasus is also committed to initiating important conversations through the arts with strong community engagement and socially relevant programming, including the Young Playwrights Festival for high school-age scribes, which celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2017. Pegasus Theatre Chicago has received seventy-seven Joseph Jefferson Citations since its inception.
 
Pegasus Theatre Chicago is proud to announce MUSE 2017, July 13 - 23 at Pegasus’s resident home Chicago Dramatists, 773 N. Aberdeen. This year’s MUSE celebrates new works, new artists and new voices with this annual series of theatrical readings, panels and performances featuring female artists intersecting ideas, visions and artistic excellence. Tickets are $10 per performance and $25 for a Festival pass, which allows unlimited access to all MUSE events, and performances. All tickets and passes are available at PegasusTheatreChicago.com or by phone at 866.811.4111.

 

Published in In Concert

Saturday night was a night of firsts for Ravinia, hosting its first Hip Hop show that included a lineup of first-time performers on the stage, and featuring the one and only Common. One does not typically think of Hip-Hop when thinking of the outdoor picnic grounds and pavilion of Ravinia, but tonight even with the chance of rain (rain ponchos provided) fans from Chicago and its surrounding suburbs showed up in high numbers to groove and dance the night away.

With sponsorship from United and 107.5 WGCI, DJ Anthony took to the decks, making his Ravinia debut to open the night at this all ages concert. Fans know him from his radio spots on GCI and his current work as a producer on Cody Chestnut’s and the new Gorrilaz album.

Next up, was Tay (Taylor Bennett), another Chicago native from 79th Street and brother of Chance the Rapper, also making his Ravinia debut. With samples of tracks from his album Restoration of an American Idol and Broad Shoulders, the audience got a good feel for this up and coming rapper and his style of music. He was invited by Common as a late addition to the night’s musical lineup.

After twenty-five years in the music business, the Golden Globe and Grammy winner, and Oscar nominated musician for the theme song from Selma (“Glory”), once again took the stage in his hometown Chicago (well, Highland Park, anyway – close enough). This appearance marked Common’s first ever performance at Ravinia. I have seen quite a few shows at Ravinia, there are often a handful of dancers sprinkled throughout the crowd, scattered among the seated in the pavilion and across the grass, many standing on their feet for portions of a show. But the crowd response for Common was the most avid I have personally seen at the festival. The moment, Common stepped onto the stage, the entire pavilion arose from their seats, most remaining on their feet dancing and cheering for the entire show. Those with lawn tickets pressed themselves against the barricades while others danced atop the grass. Common pulled the crowd in, never letting go, playing his award-winning hit "Glory" along with songs that spanned throughout his twenty-five-year career known and loved by his fans. His was a high energy performance, and with meaning, as Common reinforced the purpose behind his Black America Again album. His message is simple in that supporting a community of people working together, enjoying music and life together, we are building a safer and more connected Chicago and world.

There is much more to see and be seen of Common in the future. With Common’s newfound success at the festival, perhaps more Hip-Hop acts will be scheduled for Ravinia. “I wondered if they liked Hip-Hop at Ravinia”, the artist jested to cheers across the venue. Yes, we do. With so much energy and love in the air, it was an unbelievable night of Ravinia firsts. www.Ravinia.org

Set List:
The Corner
The People
The Food
U, Black Maybe
Get ‘Em High (Kanye West)
Come Close
Testify/Darling Nikki (Prince)
I Used to Love H.E.R.
Take It EZ
Go!
Love Is…
The Light
Forever Begins
Be (Intro)
Glory

Published in In Concert

Collaboraction Theatre Company announces Darkest Before Dawn: A Dark Circus of Music, Theatre and Fashion, an immersive event to raise funds for their celebrated Youth Theatre Ensemble, The Peacemakers.

The event's all-star line-up includes the DJ trio Dark Wave Disco, Black Plastic, a fashion spectacle by The Order, Kelroy, DJ Heaven Malone, The Peacemakers and Founding Collaboraction Company Member Sandra Delgado (La Havana Madrid).

General admission is $15. 

Funder tickets are $40 in advance/$50 at the door, and include access to a private balcony, a Darkest Before Dawn gift bag, appetizers and drinks.

Friday, June 30th at The Chop Shop 2033 W. North Ave in Chicago.
The Funders reception starts at 7 p.m. 
Doors open at 8 p.m. 

Black attire encouraged.

For tickets and information, visit collaboraction.org or call (312) 226-9633.

Darkest Before Dawn Artist Lineup 

 
Dark Wave Disco
 
After receiving national attention from big names such as SPIN and BPM, Dark Wave became known as "one of the hottest parties in the country." Big acts like Steve Aoki and New York's notorious MisShapes all dropped in to mix sets with the new kings of the hipster set over the next two years, securing Dark Wave's notoriety and also, stellar guest list. - Chicago Scene Magazine

 

Black Plastic

A self-titled debut album was released last year on Cleopatra Records, its ten tracks filled with an indelible sense of dread combined with manifestations of dark wave and synth pop. Grady is best known as the founder of the award-winning cult magazine Lemon, which has featured collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, Daft Punk and Sonic Youth. This will be the band's first ever performance in Chicago.

 

THE ORDER
Jet-black, rebellious and compelling, THE ORDER is a conceptual women's fashion label that weaves together innovative design, high quality craftsmanship and wearability to create a powerful story that is both dark and feminine. 

 

Kelroy

Kelroy is a five piece rock band from the great Goddess Chicago. Their sound is an intense, thoughtful and unique mix of post rock psychedelia with a whole lot of mood. Dark and raw yet uplifting.

 

Sandra Delgado

Sandra Delgado is a Colombian-American actor, singer and writer born and raised in Chicago. She is a regular on the stages of the legendary Steppenwolf Theater and the Goodman Theater. She is a founding ensemble member of Collaboraction and an ensemble member of Teatro Vista, where she served as Associate Artistic Director from 2006-2008. Delgado is also on the National Steering Committee for the Latina/o Theatre Commons, an advocacy group for Latino theater artists. In 2011 she received the prestigious TCG Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship in residence at the Goodman Theater in Chicago where she developed her solo show, para Graciela. She has since written and starred in her own show, La Havana Madrid, a theatrical, cinematic and musical history of Latino Caribbeans in Chicago.


Heaven Malone

Malone has DJed around the country in New York City at Girls & Boys and the notorious TRASH! party at Webster Hall in New York City, at A-list celebrity poolside hangout, Nightswim at The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, and several Lollapalooza After Parties hosted by Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman of Breaking Bad). As "David Bowie Is...", the multi-media museum fashion exhibition of acclaimed rocker David Bowie came to Chicago, Malone DJed and produced multiple Bowie Ball events sponsored by The Museum of Contemporary Art.


About Collaboraction's Peacemaker Teen Ensemble


Led by Collaboraction Director of Youth Programming Luis Crespo, Collaboraction Peacemaker's Teen Ensemble creates original devised theater focusing on peace in Chicago. Collaboraction works with over 200 Chicago youth per year, with the most committed and passionate students advancing to Peacemakers. The Peacemakers appeared in Collaboraction's 2016 PEACEBOOK Festival and perform throughout the Chicago to promote peace. They return this fall in the second annual PEACEBOOK Festival, launching Saturday, August 26 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.

Published in In Concert

Talk about an interesting night of music at Ravinia Festival. I knew about Gipsy Kings for a while now. I knew there were guitars involved. What I did not know was the rest of the story.

Flamenco is a Spanish tradition. It is a fiery, romantic style of music defined by the Spanish Guitar. It may seem a little strange that The Gipsy Kings actually are from the south of France, but there is no true border to this tradition.

The origins of this band go back to 1978. Some of the members are sons of original members. They are descendents of some of those who fled Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War in 1930. That explains some of the band’s makeup. This also explains the name of the group. The Kings are not just a Flamenco group, however. They have incorporated Salsa and Pop into their repertoire.

The one thing you cannot ignore is the rhythm of the music. The Gipsy Kings gets the audience clapping. You just can’t help it. As a musician myself, this was a study in rhythm. Syncopation is a big part, feeling the “and” of the beat. For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, clap along with a song and count…1,2,3,4…right? Yeah okay, but most people clap either on beat one and three or two and four. Two and four are the “back beat”. With Latin rhythms there can be multiple back beats. You can clap along with the “and” of the beat…1 and, 2 and, etc. The rhythmic accent is not always the same.

Now let’s take eleven musicians, up to six guitars, bass, two percussionists and vocals and play with the rhythm. Some band members accent different parts of the beat creating a texture of metronomic complexity. Now, on paper that sounds like something hard to dance to. The security at Ravinia (whose job in part is to keep a clear pathway to the stage) had to ask people to stop dancing in the aisles. So, they went back to their seats and danced…and clapped…and sang. Concert attendees could not help themselves. I took my wife with me. She does not dance, forget about it. Guess what? The woman I have known for many years was dancing! I couldn’t believe it. This was a party!

I really wish I would have paid closer attention in Spanish class in high school, though not understanding all the words didn’t stop me from enjoying the music of The Gipsy Kings. I was a bit surprised at how packed the place was since the group is well below what I would call “main stream”. But the band obviously has a major following. This proves you don’t need a Top Forty hit to pack seats in a concert environment. You just need to throw a good party. The Grateful Dead proved that for many years but this was not a counterculture event. These were not hippies dancing. These were regular people having the time of their lives.

The set list was lively and very appetizing including such favorites as “Djobi Djoba”, “Bem, Bem Maria”, “Hotel California”, “Bamboléo”, “Vamos a Bailar”, and “Volare”.

If you have a heartbeat I recommend checking out The Gipsy Kings. I am not really sure if their recordings could actually capture the magic of their live performance, but their live show is nothing short of amazing. Their show is a celebration of life, and celebrations seem to require dancing. Escaping a civil war is a good reason to celebrate, or even just a Friday night. It doesn’t matter, let the party start. 

Ravinia Festival is one of the best summer music venues near Chicago and it's always worth getting out there a few times a year. To see Ravinia's upcoming schedule, visit www.Ravinia.org.

Published in In Concert

After a delay in touring due to singer Bruce Dickinson’s bout with cancer, Iron Maiden has finally returned to the Chicago area in tour of their 2015 release, The Book of Souls. Now, fully recovered, Dickinson and company performed in front of a packed crowd at Tinley Park’s Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre along with opening act Ghost.


The concert itself was a mixed bag. It was exceptional in the sense that Dickinson’s vocals were crisp, strong and delivered us to vintage Maiden-dom as only the signature sound of the collective band can possibly do. The 58-year-old Dickinson seemed in prime form vocally and even physically. Guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were riffing as though it were 1985 and madman bassist Steve Harris plucked away at his instrument while channeling the energy of an eleven-year-old kid. Nicko McBrain was still Nicko McBrain, bashing the cans with complexity and power laying down the foundation for each song along with fellow rhythm-mate Harris. Yes, the band was on. So…what was the problem?


Two things.


Janick Gers (whom I have the utmost respect for his musical ability) doesn't really fit in with an Iron Maiden progressive metal live show – at all. Joining the band in 1990 to help finish No Prayer for the Dying after Smith’s brief departure over musical differences, Gers can no doubt play the part musically, but his stage presence makes us think that we may have entered a Poison concert by mistake. While energy-filled Dickinson and Murray run around the stage, it’s just that – running around the stage from end to end, Harris’ head thrashing about and Dickinson just being the cool front man we associate with a serious metal band like Iron Maiden. Gers side-to-side hair flinging, goofy high steps, kicks (reminiscent to the band Kix), guitar spins and cheesy dance moves would have been great – if Iron Maiden was a 1980’s hair band, but they’re not. They’re Iron Maiden. (Sorry Gers fans, I know he's talented but do they even need three guitar players?)


The other issue with The Book of Souls concert (at least the one in Tinley Park) was that the set list. Though The Book of Souls sold well and gave Iron Maiden their highest boost in some time, the band’s current set list was far too dependent on their latest studio release. With six of the fifteen songs coming from The Book of Souls album, fans who went in the hopes of hearing as many Maiden classics as possible were shorted. Left to the wayside were greats such as “Two Minutes to Midnight”, “Aces High”, “Run to the Hills”, “Flight of Icarus”, “Heaven Can Wait”, “Running Free”, “Can I Play with Madness”, “The Wicker Man”, “Flash of the Blade” and so many more. Now, naturally a band that has spanned for five decades that has produced so many amazing songs cannot be expected to cram every hit into a two-hour set, but playing just two or three songs from The Book of Souls would allow for a few more greats that Iron Maiden loyals would certainly appreciate jamming along with.


So that was the disappointing. Now for the good.


As stated prior, musically Iron Maiden was on top of their game. As expected (and always hoped for), the band’s mascot Eddie made a couple appearances, one as he walked across the stage dwarfing over Murray, Smith and Harris while Gers ran between his legs eluding the creature’s grasp until Dickinson fought and defeated the beast parading his severed heart high into the air for the crowd to see, meeting his victory with bloodthirsty cheers. Later an even larger Eddie peered from behind the drums as the band went into “Iron Maiden”.


Iron Maiden classics were sprinkled in throughout the set as Dickinson donned a British coat from the Revolutionary war while waving the flag of his homeland during “The Trooper”. The singer also surveyed the crowd to see how many fans were born after 1982, the year “Children of the Damned” was released, nearly half the hands in attendance being raised as the band went into the song.


Dickinson also made a heartfelt tribute to late actor Adam West, who he called a childhood hero and an inspiration.


Iron Maiden finished strong with a three-encore power play starting off with “The Number of the Beast” before going into “Blood Brothers” and delivering the knockout blow with “Wasted Years”.


Make no mistake. Iron Maiden still rocks and can deliver a fully entertaining arena show infused with enough metal to satisfy the most hard core of fans. Hopefully, the band’s set will have more songs that truly define Iron Maiden as most know their next time around. And there will be a next time around, as Dickinson altered the lyrics in “Number of the Beast” to “We will return (Chicago)!”.


Iron Maiden set list at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park June 15th 2017


If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Wrathchild
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden
Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years

 

Published in In Concert

“You were always on my mind …You were always on my mind”
 
Summer warmth and clear skies are finally here. It is time for summer concerts. Highland Park’s Ravinia was the setting for an amazing show. Willie Nelson and Family were in town and the show was spectacular to say the least.

The beautiful lawns we're decorated up with concert-goers that were excited about the show. Happiness and anticipation could be seen within each fan. The weather predictions were calling for rain and they couldn’t be more wrong; there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Coolers were filled with beverages and the heat was starting to fade into the evening. It was time for a high-class concert, and, with that, Willie Nelson and his family brought several masterpieces to the stage for a nostalgic musical journey.

Ages of the fans in attendance greatly varied as it was a family friendly show. A young girl by the name of Sienna was attending her first concert. She was just learning to walk and was being corralled in by her family with the help of a few others in the lawn. It was a delight to see the smile on her young face and she quite possibly the youngest person there. With pretzel in hand and baby curls in her hair, she was the preshow entertainment with her cute chubby cheeks.

Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real were the opening act for the evening and without a doubt talent runs through the veins of this young man. His voice, writing style, and guitar ability was like seeing a young Willie Nelson. They were nothing less than incredible.

The song “Find Yourself” was a highlight in Lukas’ show. “Find Yourself” is a funky reggae style song that has a groove and feeling to it that just runs through deep into your soul. A ballad type song singing to a love with disappointment with a blues feel that just tore it up. Lukas undeniably has his father’s genes.

The time came for the main act Willie Nelson. A feeling of joy instantly took over the crowd that glazed their faces when the first lyric was sung; “Whiskey river, take my mind”. The opening three songs, “Whiskey River”, “Still is Still Moving to Me” and “Beer for My Horses” were just amazing choices to kick off this Friday evening show. Everyone sang along with every word.

The band was on fire, following the lead of the country genius as he jam-packed his show with a no nonsense approach. “You Were Always on my Mind” was played while the words were coming out of the mouths of the sea of people in attendance. A lady in the audience had tears in her eyes. She said with a joyful heart, “We can go now.” She was truly happy.

“Mamas’ Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, “Crazy”, “On the Road Again”, and “Georgia” were among the set list prompting one sing-a-long after another. “It’s All Going to Pot”, “Shoeshine Man”, and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” were played so well that everyone had to be impressed with the overall performance of each.

Lukas plays with Willie’s band as well and the most powerful moment of the show was during their performance of “Texas Flood”. Lukas took the lead vocal and the pipes were like a gift from the heavens above. The song wasn’t just another cover of a song. He became the song and he did as good if not better than anyone else had ever done. It came time for his guitar solo and the man’s entire body twitched with convulsions with every note played, his soulful rendition seen, heard, and felt. If anyone didn’t enjoy this masterful jam, they’re probably not a fan of music.

Bobbie Nelson, Willie’s older sister, graced the stage on piano. She is always referred to as “little sister” by the band leader and for this show it was no different. She really can just tickle the keys and did so in a dim light to one side of the stage.

Since the early seventies Mickey Raphael has been in the band. It just wouldn’t be a Willie Nelson concert without the man. Some of the greatest moments in music history involved him playing harmonica. Raphael is son entertaining, most people could probably have listened to this man just stand there and play by himself. All the members within the band are stand-alone musicians, each as impressive as the next.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. The show was highly engaging and the atmosphere just perfect. Every note was flawless and carried with it the perfect sentiment. It was priceless to see one of the musical greats of the twentieth century. Ravinia is an incredible setting for a show as always. Having Willie Nelson and Family just goes to show the high caliber of talented acts brought in by the famous concert grounds in Highland Park. The weather cooperated and it was a great start to the summer concert season. It’s a time that will not be forgotten. To see a list of upcoming musical acts appearing at Ravinia, visit www.Ravinia.org.

 

Published in In Concert

Classical Music sounds so much better in person. Music is always better live in my opinion. And hearing magically composed sounds in a hall constructed for the occasion is the icing on the cake. The caliber of the musicians plays a huge part.

Vladimir Spivakov conducted the entire show this past weekend at Orchestra Hall that featured some of Russia’s highly talented musicians working together in a chamber orchestra. A chamber orchestra is a bit different than a symphony orchestra. At times, the music delivered was all strings, violins, violas, cellos and double basses. Some selections had French horn and oboe added.

Spivakov has been a respected musician since the 1960’s. He directed the ensemble with a high level of passion for what he was doing. The dynamics were flat out amazing – something you don’t get with your average Rock band. The softest of piano leads to the loudest of forte, all with a high level of grace.

Another interesting thing about seeing musicians play live is seeing the expression on their faces. Classical Music can on the surface appear stiff. Many might think classical musicians play straight off the page as written. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the notes are already chosen. Interpretation means a lot. The passion of the performance makes the page come alive. When the players do that, it is amazing.

The performance was divided into two sets. The first was mostly the chamber orchestra. Towards the middle of the set, Danielle Akta joined in on cello. She came out, looking like a kid of fourteen-years-old or so. The emotional intensity knocked the room out. I was watching the four other cellists on stage watching her. Two of them were at least double her age, yet she had their full attention. I can understand why. She took it to another level.

The second set featured Hibla Gerzmava. She is a soprano. It takes a strong voice to fill the hall with a microphone. I know there were mics set up, but I don’t believe they were being used as sound reinforcement. I couldn’t really tell from my vantage point. Having said that, I heard every inflection perfectly. Again, dynamics play a gigantic role in this type of music. It was very theatrical. Hibla at one point was singing to the lead violinist, other times to Spivakov. You can see why a good portion of the great Classical Music out there was written in the Romantic period. It is romantic. Almost, I dare say…erotic. Both Akta and Gerzmava had that quality at times. There was even a bit of humor, too. In a real quiet part of one of the songs sung by Hibla, someone dropped a bottle or something. Everyone heard it, but she kept a straight face. After the piece, she was all smiles.

I was impressed by the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra overall. I loved the vibe of the pieces played. There was a playful interaction between performers that truly resonates.

I have heard a lot of amateur chamber orchestras. Violins are very unforgiving in regard to the intonation of the instrument. What a treat it was to hear this group of in-tune stringed instruments. I have also been trying to hear music and not just listen to it. The idea is to listen without analysis, just hear the music. Musicians know this struggle. Sometimes it is easy to forget the joy that art like this brings to our lives. Anyone can be a critic. I would rather be a lover of the arts. From Russia With Love? Yes, I saw that completely.

 

Published in In Concert
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