Frank Sinatra Jr. opened his wonderful tribute show at Ravinia Festival in Highland Park by explaining what he hoped to convey, as he had been writing and collecting the photographs and videos for the last two years.
"In order to know a man’s life there is one word that must supersede everything,” Sinatra says. “And that word is truth. You are going to see the glittering lights. You are going to see the soaring mountain peaks. But you are also going to see the depths. You’re going to see the chasms.”
“There was a time in his career many years ago when his entire world – his work, his movies, his television, his records, his marriage, his personal life – everything fell apart completely,” Sinatra says. “And that is going to be shown in our show.”
First of all I was unaware that Sinatra had a son capable of singing as well as Sinatra Jr. does. Many times I closed my eyes and imagined with no difficulty that I was hearing the original recordings of all these magnificent songs as recorded by Sinatra himself. All of the multimedia pieces were chosen with great care and presented a very moving, well-paced and well-rounded story of Sinatra's life and indeed the life of all New Yorkers' and even all Americans who lived during Sinatra's career ups and downs. The show reminded me of another great father son tribute, the play “Jack Lemmon Returns” by Jack Lemmon's son, Chris Lemmon.
There was an unnecessarily melancholy and almost apologetic air to Sinatra Jr.'s performance and also the fact that he never referred to Frank during the show as his father or "dad" struck me as very sad and the following quote explains why that is.
In interviews Frank Jr. repeatedly speaks of how his own life ‘is immaterial’, adding: “I’ve never been a success. I have never had a hit movie, a hit television program, a hit record. It would have been good for my personal integrity, my personal dignity to have had something like that. I have never made a success in terms of my own right. I have been very good at re-creation. But that is something that pleases me because my father’s music is so magnificent."
But I wholeheartedly disagree with Sinatra Jr.'s summation of his career. Although he may not have received any awards yet, this engrossing and educational tribute to his father stands on its own as a wonderful and well-crafted, musical production.
Sinatra Jr. didn't have much time with his father as a child due to early divorce yet he devoted seven years of his life, working 24/7 to managing his ailing and genius father during Sinatra's last decade on earth. His efforts gave us an additional seven years of Sinatra live performances which is a huge contribution to the history of music and his fans worldwide.
Sinatra Jr. doesn't just imitate his father, or impersonate him, his voice has a rich timbre and phrasing all his own that bleeds through the performance in just the right amounts.
Imagine if Elvis Presley had had a son who resembled him physically to a degree and more importantly was a college music major capable of playing and singing the music Elvis made famous for decades after his death. Wouldn't we consider that a great achievement in its own right?
I heard many people during the intermission say just how much they were enjoying the show and that Sinatra Jr.'s storytelling and choice of photos and video, etc., really surpassed their expectations for the concert - and I felt the same way. We saw an impressive timeline that included the Rat Pack, Nancy Sinatra, various films and private family photos. Sinatra Jr. also flawlessly performed one favorite after another and really hit the mark on his beautiful rendition of "My Way".
Sinatra Jr.'s Centennial Celebration is a wonderful work of art and the amazing choice of talented musicians in his outstanding orchestra made this theatrical experience more than just a trip down memory lane.
Sinatra Jr. has achieved something more in this production than mere imitation or tribute. He has created a highly entertaining and moving audience experience, partly because he is talented in his own right and partly because he has something no Sinatra impersonator will ever have. "The blood of my blood" Sinatra Jr. has the blood of his genius and powerful father - the evergreen Frank Sinatra - running though his veins which makes the whole audience aware they are in Frank Sinatra's presence as he is surely watching his son proudly from the wings at every performance.
I highly recommend seeing this production and hope that Sinatra Jr. will continue to perform it long after this 100th year birthday celebration hype has settled down again, because Sinatra's story deserves to be told to new generations as well as old and Sinatra Jr. is the only one who can tell it the right way with “the real truth" ringing out between every note.
Jackson Browne is a veteran singer/songwriter who has a very impressive resume. He is also known for always having some amazing musicians in his corral. In the musician department, last Saturday night’s show at Ravinia was up to par and then some.
First up is guitarist/vocalist Larry Campbell. Campbell has played with everyone from Levon Helm and Bob Dylan to Sheryl Crow just to name a few. A true country picker from New York, believe it or not, Larry really dug in and played some tasty country licks. He and his wife Teresa Campbell opened the show fronting Jackson’s band. Teresa is a straight up country singer. Together they had and old school hippie country vibe that really got the crowd in the mood.
The rest of the band included Bob Glaub on bass, Mauricio Lewak on drums, Jeff Young on keys and vocals, Althea Mills on backing vocals and Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel guitar and mandolin.
The opening set was short and sweet. Campbell and Williams did a killer duet version of Samson and Delilah, an old Rev. Gary Davis song. I really wish their set was longer. Williams has one of those voices that makes you want to hear more and more.
After a brief intermission, Browne took the stage fronting the band. I can honestly say the band carried the show for the most part. Jackson looked tired and road worn. I don’t know of his performance was reflective of his 66 years or just an off night. I could feel a lack of energy from the crowd as well. The best response was for the players in the band rather than Browne himself.
I also think material choice could have been better. A casual JB fan would have only recognized three songs at the end of the night. After a still somewhat entertaining performance, “The Pretender” and “Running on Empty” concluded the set with “Take It Easy” as the encore. Jackson also went off on a tangent in the middle of the set. He was very passionate about environmental issues but, unfortunately, he lost the crowd for a while.
Overall, the band was great and was filled with some incredible musicians. I think better song choices and a little more energy from the front man would have gone a long way to better the show. I will say I walked away a fan of Campbell and Williams. Their set really knocked me out.
With back-to-back sold out performances, Steely Dan triumphantly returned to Ravinia Festival in Highland Park where their smooth, jazzy and blues influenced rock echoed through the park, causing even the farthest picnickers from the stage to get up and sway to the music. Fronted now by just Donald Fagen (keys and vocals) and Walter Becker (guitar), the two co-founders who met at Bard College and put Steely Dan into action in 1972, the "the perfect musicalantiheroesfor the Seventies", as Rolling Stone Magazine once called them, rolled through each song with expected precision and the same good time feel that fans have become ever familiar with over the years.
Accompanied by what Becker proudly hailed as his “all-time favorite Steely Dan forever band”, the ensemble included a complete horn section, additional keys and guitar, a trio of background singers who impressed more and more with each number, drummer Keith Carlock and Freddie Washington (no, not the one from Welcome Back, Kotter) on bass. The highly talented Carlock and Washington kept the rhythm flowing at a perfect pace allowing the other members to effortlessly glide in and out over their rock-solid foundation. Becker and Fagen allowed band members to highlight their skills, not only during a full on introduction but also in many of the songs. For example, saxophonist Walt Weiskopf, amongst others, would occasionally walk from their designated area to front center stage and rip out some amazing riffs.
The band started the night out with the Oliver Nelson cover “Teenie’s Blues” before Becker and Fagen walked onto the stage to the loud cheers of the pavilion audience and joined in for their first crowd pleaser “Black Cow”. As the show progressed, Steely Dan went on to play many of their classics including “Hey Nineteen”, “Godwhacker” “Babylon Sisters”, the Joe Tex cover “I Want To (Do Everything for You)” and “Peg”. Fagen’s vocals and keys were as sharp as ever – even his occasional piano flute thingy playing was entertaining. The band also played a very inspired version of “Dirty Work” with backup singer Carolyn Leonhart taking over on leads vocals on the track made famous by former member David Palmer.
Trying to enhance the mood of the evening even more so, Becker interrupted the music to address the crowd for several minutes, rambling on about this and that and encouraging everyone to grab their partners on the way home and pull over in the woods for some after show romancing.
Closing out the set, Steely Dan went into what might be considered the band’s biggest hit “Reelin’ in the Years” where Carlock added to the song by going into a blazing drum solo. After a two minute absence the band returned to the stage to finish the night off with “Kid Charlemagne” with Fagen and Becker walking off immediately afterward, Fagen waving and Becker in an exaggerated strut, where the remainder of the musicians provided exit music to the tune of Nelson Riddle’s “The Untouchables”.
With the night was a clear and balmy seventy-eight or so degrees and the music sending fans on a mellow journey down memory lane, Steely Dan provided a night of memorable entertainment that fans can only hope will return next season.
For upcoming Ravinia show information, visit www.ravinia.org.
Chug-a-chug-a-choo-choo! The Wallflowers and Train are about to play at Ravinia, an outdoor venue. Yup not only one grand band is playing, but two!
Over the years I have seen large numbers of people play lots of The Wallflower’s and Train’s songs at bars. Plus teenyboppers blasting their tunes and bopping their heads, and probably even grandmas and grandpas, while riding on their scooters or in their cars. The Alternative Rock band, The Wallflowers, and the Rock group, Train, each have won Grammys, and have had immense success on the charts, proving they are truly stars.
People young enough to be in diapers, as well as individuals old enough to be in them (“butt” depends), made up the huge crowds’ age range. It was a big surprise to me yet pleasantly strange. However Ravinia’s policy of no food or booze in the pavilion was a first for me, when it comes to a concert-going experience change.
The Wallflowers started off quite tranquil. It is a good thing I did not take a dose of Nightquil. But soon enough they were a thrill!
The Wallflower’s, Jakob Dylan, is The Bob Dylan’s chilln.’ And he seemed like an extraordinarily appreciative and gracious person, thanking the audience very often. The highlight of The Wallflower’s performance was when Jakob had Train’s lead singer, Pat Monahan, join him onstage to sing “The Letter,” and they did an awesome rendition!
When Train came out playing “Calling All Angels” for a second night in a row at Ravinia, rose to the occasion. Pat Monahan went out into the audience, gave away a generous amount of photos, auto-graphed t-shirts and drumsticks, creating so much way cool band and audience interaction. He also got the crowd singing and even brought, Julie Schwartz, who Monahan stated texted him over 400 times, asking to sing onstage with him, and he did so, causing another highly exciting crowd reaction.
The largest portion of The Wallflower’s concert included them performing “One Headlight” and “6th Avenue Heartache,” their most popular tunes. Train’s performance did too, playing such massive hits like “Drops of Jupiter “ and “Soul Sister,“ with the addition of mighty “danceable” songs from their new album The Bulletproof Picasso, much of will probably be heard for many moons. The Wallflowers and Train are definitely, greatly talented artists—they are not the least bit a bunch of fly-by buffoons.
The lights started to fade and the crowd was rushing to their seats. Drums began to rumble in a tribal pattern waking your inner soul. Ann and Nancy Wilson were taking the stage for a summer concert at Ravinia in Highland Park, Illinois. The rock band Heart is in town and they had a crowd ready to go.
The drums came to a rest and this female fronted rock band started up the show. Concert goers were happy to hear the first few notes of “Magic Man” and everyone went wild. This 1975 hit single was the first song people ever heard of this great band. What a way to start up then by presenting their first musical offerings. The drums were hot, the music was sweet, and voices of angels were being heard.
“Barracuda” was really the only slight disappointment of the night. The original version was a very upbeat song with very high beats per minute. Heart started out the song in an arrangement that was slower than the original version. Much slower! They did perform the song extremely well, but it just lost a little something by slowing it down.
The hits continued with “Even it up”, “kick it out”, “Crazy on you”, and “These Dreams.” The band just kept pulling out song after song; hit after hit. Kept hearing people say, “Wow! They did this too?” and “I forgot about this song.”
These ladies are so talented, but the performance is not just them. The band they have is just amazing on their own. Key board player Debbie Shair has been with them for such a long time. She has become such a huge part of the band. Just a piece of the backbone and providing so many assists in rhythms and melodies.
Guitarist Craig Bartock made an amazing performance in every solo. During a few songs he had most of the guitar riffs note for note. On a couple of others he went in his own direction. He brought his own flair to the songs at a couple of points. Tremendous player all around.
The rhythm section put down the canvas for these musical artists to paint their songs. Bassist Dan Rothchild had no problem laying down the groove. He just stepped up and nailed every bit as if it was second nature. The low end was not lacking at all.
Drummer Ben Smith!! What else can be said other than phenomenal performance. The way he opened up the show in his rhythmic patterns. It was just amazing.
Ann has just a voice that will never quit. Where other singers lose their voice, it seems like she has gotten stronger over the years. Her voice is just so amazing. Girls everywhere through the place were singing along with her as if it was their voice; watching one of their idols at work.
Nancy is a great singer, but she sings better with her fingers. Guitars, mandolins, it doesn’t matter. This girl knows how to pick out a good song. She can hang with the best of them because she is one of the best.
Some of the favorite moments of the show for attendees were, “The song Heaven. It was just so beautiful. It was a nice tribute, and they just sung so well. Touching really.”
“Let me Roll it was just so amazing for me,” said a Beatle fan. “I didn’t get to see Paul [McCartney] this year on tour cause of his virus. Nice little bonus to see Heart and see some covers. They did it well”
Richard Bilyk stated, “Best part of the show for me was the encore. I love all their songs, but when they do Led Zeppelin it’s so awesome. When they play those songs they hand Page and Plant their hats. They do Zeppelin better then Zeppelin.”
The night unfolded with great classic rock by the coolest female fronted rock band that ever existed. The band Heart just rocked the minds of a packed pavilion and grounds surrounding. A wide range of ages were there to witness greatness.
People got in line for the shuttle bus to go back to the Botanical Gardens. The show was over. Smiles were on the faces of all the fans that came and attended this wonderful show. Ann and Nancy Wilson took the stage for this summer concert and in the process touched your inner soul. These girls know how to rock. What a great show!!!
What About Love
Even It Up
Kick It Out
Let Me Roll It
Crazy on you
What is and what should never be
Misty Mountain Hop
The sun started to settle in the West. The shadows were forming over the manicured gardens. Night was coming and so was the start of a great show at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL.
It’s Saturday Night, the weather is nice, and Crosby, Stills, & Nash are in town. Fans young and old came to sing the songs performed by these greats. This was a tremendous venue for these Woodstock (1969) performers.
The three men came out armed with guitars, backed by a sweet band, and gifted with sweet harmonies. Not too many bands have ever been able to rival CSN in vocals.
“Carry On” was a perfect song to start it up with. All the old hippies dressed in their sixties tie dyed gear began to dance. Colored lights illuminated the musical display being set forth for the sold out show of concert goers.
“Marrakesh Express” has always been known for being a popular song amongst the fans. A great song with it’s up beat patterns and vocals that are just amazing. Always great harmonies.
“Long Time Gone” reminds a lot of people of the Woodstock Movie. It plays in the opening and was just a crowd pleaser. CSN were really hyped up for this show and they were letting it all hang out on a Saturday night.
When “Southern Cross” first started, the place just went wild. Everyone was singing the song throughout almost the entire way. “When you see the Southern Cross for the first time you understand now why you came this way.” When you see it done live by CSN you understand why you came to the show. Now everyone knows what all the hype is about.
Of course the boys had to take an intermission which was very cool for the aging entertainers and concert goers. David Crosby has lived two lives, but he looks amazing and is still harmonizing well. If you ask him, “It’s what I was put on this Earth to do.”
Helplessly Hoping was another great hit and Graham Nash is just still a top quality singer. His vocal contributions have long been present in this band and many others. He has been a full time member or singing backup with Dave for other bands. It’s like hearing a group of musical deities.
“For What It's Worth” was brought out from the Buffalo Springfield library and Stills did a great job as usual. He was a little raspy compared to the other two vocally, but where he lacked in one category he made up for it another. His guitar playing has always been a leading voice within this band since the start.
“Guinnevere” is just an amazingly graceful song. Each time they play this with such emotion and love from one man to this woman. No where can you hear a song like this written today. Sung in such a way it made a young lady cry. “It’s my favorite song by them. By anyone!!”
“Our House” was a sing along with lighters going and people chiming in on every note to this great hit. This song has some of the most children friendly lyrics put out. It just has an innocence about it that makes flowers in the hair of beautiful women mandatory.
“Chicago” a great song performed in honor of the 1968 Democratic National Convention. When they “Won't you please come to Chicago just to show your face” the excitement level went up immensely. Even in a far suburb of Chicago, it still makes many of us warm to hear about the city history in song.
“Teach Your Children” is probably the most known song by this band. Appearing in several commercials, being all over the radio, and possibly on a few kid shows like Sesame Street over the years, you would have to have to live under a rock to not hear this song. This is such a great song that was originally intended as a vocal lesson for The Grateful Dead. They would teach the members of the Grateful Dead how to sing harmony for their upcoming albums, Workingman's Deadand American Beauty.
The sold out show at Ravinia in Highland Park, IL. was just an amazing time for people of all ages. One is really overtaken and just in awe over the beautiful presence of the theater. The grounds surrounding were just filled with very well behaved attendees. No one got too crazy or out of hand. The sight of people enjoying a nice picnic lunch/dinner and beverage of choice just completes the scene of a serene summer weekend.
As the night came to a close, the crowd cleared out by shuttle buses back to the Botanical Gardens parking lot. They carried their chairs and coolers that had their leftover spinach dip and wine. Tie dyed people of all ages headed back to their vehicles excited from such a good show and exhausted because they got their monies worth.
Fans young and old came to sing the songs performed by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Night settled the temperature and set the evening for a memorable time. Alcohol was being consumed, people were dancing, and some of the greatest songs ever written were being sung. What more could you ask for? Maybe a time machine to bring you back to Yasgur’s Farm in 1969? Watch their second show ever and have some fine milk from his dairy?
For more Ravinia events, visit www.Ravinia.org.
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