Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

December 24, 2010 at 11:54 am | Posted in Audio, Ballet, Concert, Dance, Review, Theater/Theatre | 1 Comment
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Moscow Ballet Troupe

This was my first time seeing an actual Russian ballet troupe. I’ve seen plenty of other ballet troupes over the years. I’ve seen San Diego and Phoenix troupes live, and San Francisco and New York casts on television around the holidays. I’ve always wanted to see how the Russians compared, as it has always seemed that all troupes are compared to them.

I can’t expound on the subtleties of just how Russian ballet differs from what I have seen before; as I’m not familiar with the intricacies and technicalities of the art. I can tell you, that it is different; albeit ever so slightly.

The object of the game remains the same. Tell a story through dance, without words. Moscow Ballet did that superbly. The story of The Nutcracker is easy to follow and is loved by children and adults alike.

The choreographer of this show really played well to each athlete’s abilities. Their strengths were showcased very well, whether it was one of the ballerinas running pas de bourrée, or one of the danseurs turning fouetté; each movement was executed very well.

The Moscow troupe itself was joined by a small army of local children for some of the larger scenes, and they also did very well; you could tell they were thrilled with the whole experience.

The scenery was done mostly via backdrops, and the show was well lit. The audio however had an annoying tape hiss. That seemed odd; considering classical music is readily available in some of the highest definition recording formats around. I would like to see this troupe perform with a symphony orchestra, but I understand that’s difficult as most of the cities on the tour have their symphonies doing their own shows around Christmas time and its prohibitively expensive to tour with your own.

I would definitely recommend you check this show out when it comes to your neck of the woods. Its definitely a great time, and is a great way to introduce your little ones to some culture.

What to wear: Dress how you like, within reason. Since there is no symphony involved, formal attire is not required. Most people at the show were dressed nicely. Men wore slacks or khakis with dress shirts, women were in skirts, dresses or slacks with matching tops. No ball gowns or tuxes were present, that I could see. I’d stay a step above blue jeans and t-shirts, but I wouldn’t go overboard.

Dweezil Zappa vs. Roger Waters

December 7, 2010 at 11:33 am | Posted in Audio, Concert, Digital, Jazz, Rock, Theater/Theatre, Vocal | 3 Comments
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I wasn’t going to blog either of these shows, because they are both so epic that you really have to be there to get it. Then, I realized something. I’m not one of those people that uses the word epic on a daily basis; I must have something blog-worthy. So, here we go…

The Music
     Both shows feature decades old music written by highly respected, highly talented composers. Each features complex instrumental arrangements with uncommon instruments. Both feature horns, keyboards (analog and digital). Multiple vocal parts are present in each. Drums were tight, loud and crisply gated at each show. Both drummers were highly skilled. I’d say they are deft at keeping meter in both standard times, and random timings that only people with years of experience, or Master’s degrees in music, even know what it is called. 6/16th time with augmented triplets or some such…but I’m guessing. Guitar players are both highly capable. Dweezil got to show off a few more styles; due to the fluid nature of Frank Zappa’s composition – but the guys in Roger’s band played note for note as the album dictated. Overall music from each was an exceptionally clear sonic wall.

Both Winners.

The Visuals
     Roger Waters brings bleeding-edge projection technology to an arena and projects incredible animations from Gerald Scarfe, superbly edited movies, and pictures of soldiers from fans around the world; onto a giant wall which gets built brick by brick as the show progresses. The video projectors are capable of momentarily transporting you into another dimension, I’m pretty sure. There are video technologies in play at this show that I’m sure originated in Area 51.
     Dweezil Zappa had 3 screens that occcasionally projected time-synced (to the live concert) remastered film footage of his dad. The footage was great, the timing was perfect. The restoration work (or was it just great preservation?) on it was superb.

Winner: Roger Waters. Sorry Dweezil. Roger outgunned you massively on this one, but he was dealing with a much bigger venue. The scale leaned in his favor from the start, and I took that into consideration. Even with the scale handicap – he just plain outgunned you.

The Sound
     Impeccable. I can assure you I am intimately familar with The Wall. I must also admit that I was not very familiar with ‘ Apostrophe. I listen to a lot of Pink Floyd and Roger Waters. I only own one Frank Zappa Album; Quadiophiliac. However, it is in on DVD Audio; remastered by Dweezil in multi-channel surround, as was originally specified Frank.
     Everyone involved in projects by Waters or Zappa is the “cream of the crop”. Whether they be technicians, musicians, vocalists or personal assistants – I am positive they are held to the highest standards of excellence. I’m sure it doesn’t matter if they are making coffee or tweaking a knob on a 96/24 audio console; everything has to be spot on. There are no shortcuts. Dedication to audio perfectionism requires state of the art gear, tweaked by technical experts and massaged by audio artists. Both shows had this in spades. Since Dweezil was playing a much more intimate show, I can’t knock him for not bringing the Qadrophonic rig like Waters did. I’m not even sure Frank envisioned this material as multi-channel. The balls-on stereo imaging present at the Zappa show more than made up for the lack of quad.

Both Winners.

The Emotions
     Roger brings with him a personal tale of fear, regret, disconnectedness and an anti-establishment world view. I can relate to that. I get the story. I love the story. I’ve seen it on the big screen, small screen, mid-sized screens and now on Ultra-Huge screens. Great story. Emotionally charged. Power packed.
     Zappa’s tales are a bit more fun. Uplifting and whimsical at times. Dreamy and surreal. At one point, as Dweezil did a bit of improv on the guitar; he effortlessly played an instantly recognizable Jimmy Page riff. It was a fleeting, joyous moment. I felt a tear well up and roll out of the corner of my eye as I had an epiphany. Concerts at this level of musicianship aren’t always about the spectacle…they are about the music, and how it can transcend time and space.

Winner: Zappa

So, there you have it folks. Big vs Small. Grand vs Intimate. Composer against composer. A tie. All things considered; either of these shows beats out any other plans for the night you might have had. You really have to see them to believe them. I can’t describe just how well both of these guys were able to capture a moment in time, bottle it and preserve it to be released upon an unsuspecting (or anxiously awaiting) public decades later. They are both incredible shows. Zappa and Waters – I salute you both.
 

Paramore? @YelyahWilliams. Hell Yeah, Hayley Williams.

September 16, 2010 at 2:20 am | Posted in Audio, Concert, Rock | Leave a comment
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All I can do is hope that Hayley Williams (known to me mostly as @yelyahwilliams on twitter) reads this.

This is an empire in the making, folks. Really.

I’ve been looking forward to this concert for a long time, and it finally arrived.  Why I looked forward to it, I’m not sure. The songs aren’t on my Ipod, the vids aren’t faved by me, I haven’t had the tunes drummed into my head via radio airplay…I just don’t own this music, yet. However, something inside me kept nagging that this was the concert to see at Dodge Theatre this year. (Frequent readers know I have season tickets to Dodge courtesy of a @LiveNation twitter contest)

Well, I can sum up this concert really fast. GO SEE IT. It’s the Honda Civic Tour 2010. Honda tossed some money into a tour that kicks ass. Period. Mind you, I’m not a car-show kinda guy, but I know Honda has “done their time” in the trenches of promotion, and they understand PR costs cash. Apparently, they also know what good money vs bad money is. Paramore headlining a music tour with their (Honda’s)  logo emblazoned everywhere is great money.  Bottom line.

How can I describe this to you? If you have read my previous reviews; you know I tend to applaud the musicianship (and denigrate lack thereof) whilst leaning towards documenting the technicalities of a show. I try to convey whether a show kicks ass or sucks ass;  giving kudos or criticisms to those behind the scenes.

This show kicked ass. Technically? Yes. Moving lights, check. Smoke, check. CD-quality audio, Check.  Cool video, hi def and lo-def, Check. Risers and interesting layout, check. Crisp highs, discernible vocals, and thundering bass, check.  Pyro, check. What didn’t this show offer from a technical standpoint? Damned if I know.

Okay, technicalities aside – was it any good? Ummm, have you seen Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger and Joan Jett? Imagine if those 3 were to have a crazy love child (yes I know there are problems with that – you are imagining, remember?) Imagine she grew up to front a band. Now, picture that she happens upon a bunch of guys that can play some rock songs really well, and can also play a fantasmagorical acoustic set. Imagine that they are down with things like couches being brought onstage during the set. Imagine that all that is set to awesome lighting with killer sound. Now, try and keep the goosebumps from happening.

Here’s the deal – I don’t know what to tell you… if you are on the fence about seeing this show, I can verify that the openers are worth listening to for sure. New Found Glory made me want to set up a show with them and Black Flag. They are a hot band. Tegan and Sara are like any Canadian group I’ve ever seen….great. The musicians from that country are unstoppable. I did not see the opening band, so can’t give an opinion.

This show rocks, beyond belief. See it. I can’t say much more. All of the stops are pulled out. Paramore Brings It.  Honda is a great sponsor of this tour (no, I did not get paid to say that).

(unfortunately my trusty phone decided to save all my photos as 320*240 images so I wont bother to upload those – lol)

Paramore rocks. I will buy their stuff. You need to hear them and see them. MAny reviewers say Hayley is a firecracker; She is more of a fuse that just doesn’t stop burning.  My reveiw in a nutshell? Paramore is my new favorite band (not counting Queensryche).

Slayer. Megadeth. Testament.

August 28, 2010 at 11:38 am | Posted in Audio, Concert, Metal, science | Leave a comment
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This won’t be my typical review. You have to approach a review of these guys the same way you experience the shows, in my opinion.

This isn’t classic rock. It’s not jazz. This is Heavy Metal. Really, Really Heavy Metal.

As we took our seats at Dodge, Testament thundered onstage. I mean thundered. I couldn’t get a look at how many subwoofers lined the stage due to the number of people in the pit, but I’m guessing close to a zillion. The dual kick drums blazing at about 220 beats per minute kept the amplifiers lighting up red during the entire set, of that I’m pretty positive.

Testament was tight. Really tight. It was literally walls of sound pummeling us at machine gun rates. You know that feeling of walking into a supermarket and getting that blast of air on your head? Think of that initial blast happening over and over, three to four times per second. That was Testament.

Megadeth on the other hand was a bit different. The best way to describe them came from the mouth of a girl I’d say was maybe 22. “They are the scientists of metal.” I couldn’t put it any better. The intricacies of Mustaine’s guitar fury and the depth of his poetry are…well, intricate and deep. He’s a scientist. He’s a scientist that is so metal that he was kicked out of Metallica for being too metal! That’s fuckin’ metal!

Slayer we saw from a different perspective. Literally. Since I had shown up with my tickets that were issued back at the beginning of the year, before the tour got postponed, apparently LiveNation had resold the seats. It was an honest mistake. I had even checked with the box office manager at Dodge a few weeks beforehand and was assured I was good to go. Apparently not. Right before Slayer came onstage, two people showed up with tickets for our seats. The box office quickly remedied the situation by putting us one section over. Dead center stage, eye level with the Araya. Sweet.

Ahhh…Slayer. What can you really say? It’s loud. It’s brutally honest and in your face. It pounds at you faster, I think, than Testament. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 bpm. I think when Slayer is onstage the earth wobbles just a bit. They are really in their own class of metal. You would know that if you were at a Slayer show by looking at the crowd. Close to ninety-eight percent of the people in attendance are wearing their Slayer shirt, or one of them. Not some Slayer shirt they bought at Hot Topic a week ago, but one that they got twenty years ago and there is most likely a story that goes with it. You can bet on that.

So, to sum up. It was Great. Heavy Fucking Metal. What else is there to say?

Oh, yeah…thanks to Dodge/LiveNation personnel for the awesome seat upgrade!

Speedwagon and Benatar; A Serious Rock Concert

July 25, 2010 at 3:39 am | Posted in Concert, Rock, Uncategorized, Vocal | 2 Comments
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REO Speedwagon Pat Benatar Ticket Stub

Rule 1 – Kick ass.

Rule 2 – Have Fun.

Rule 3 – Make sure everyone in attendance knows you are abiding by rules 1&2. (Involving them in the process helps immensely.)

Edwin McCain Review

Kevin Cronin of REO ran out to introduce this guy as his good friend while the house lights were still up. Those house lights were immediately killed and Edwin started to tell stories. Yes, actual stories. He talked to the audience. Why? Because, it turns out the guy is pretty easy to listen to, and his songwriting is awesome. It also tells stories. Good stories. Listenable stories.

Along with his long time buddy, Craig Shields, they told stories and played great songs that kept the crowd engaged the entire half hour that they were in front of us.  This guy grabbed my attention from word one, and captivated me through the last note.

REO SPEEDWAGON REVIEW

What can I really say here? If you  normally read my reviews, you know what it boils down to – they suck or they don’t.

This is different. This should be the encyclopedic definition of ROCK CONCERT.  Okay, aside from the fact that Dodge Theatre isn’t going to allow pyro, nor smoking inside the venue – this was a rock show by definition in any form.

Kicked ass.  Guitars made of solid pieces of wood and sporting fresh steel strings, wailing under fluid fingers. Turned to 11, I’m pretty sure. Drum beats were so solid, so tight that I can’t begin to tell you how great they sounded.

Kevin Cronin, the lead singer, sang the songs just like you always heard them. Whether you heard them on vinyl, CD, or 8-track; it doesn’t matter. That’s how you heard it live, assuming you heard a live version. 🙂

The players played. They interacted with one another like they had been friends for years. Probably because they have. They gave their stage techs a hard time over mis-tuned guitars or the inability to hear something through their stage monitors. It was all casual and fun, like friends ribbing each other over a mis-spelled word in a scrabble competition.

Seriously, the band was incredible. Sound mix was incredible.

The light show was awesome. Finally, a lighting operator that understands you can mix colors. Orange and purple – cool. Red and white – very cool. Move the color zones, very nice. Not everything has to be a wash of one color. Complementary and contrasting colors are put into a wheel in art school for a reason. This operator used those wheels well. Kudos.

I believe the stage and light setup was designed by Paul of Masterworks. Looked awesome, and you should give him credit for that. He is, apparently, a badass that doesn’t subscribe to the front/back  linear truss theories but likes triangular lighting designs married with a clean back line. I like that too. Cheers, Paul.

Bottom Line – REO Speedwagon Kicked Ass. No need to take our names.

Pat Benatar ReviewPat Benatar Logo

What do you want me to say? She subdued the video intensiveness of REO, preferring to go with primal colors and simple objects for the most part. The moving lights, that were so accentuated during REO, became bit players in a choreography that did nothing but drive her vocal abilities home.

Tonight proved that Patricia, as her husband and guitar player calls her, was not an MTV fluke. She didn’t sell millions of records because she looked cute. She sold them because she can belt out lyrics like nobody else, and present a story that is timeless.

Pat is a vocal powerhouse.  She’s a  girl with a voice 50 feet tall. I want to see her do a duet with Rob Halford, or Bruce Dickinson; perhaps Geoff Tate. I don’t know. She is in that class.  The waters where nobody wants to even tread.

Her hubby, Neil, is a guitar master. The two of them together have to be seen to be believed. Well, maybe not. You know the songs. They are just like that in real life, only better. She belts, he makes his guitar scream. It’s awesome to witness. The drummer is surrounded by glass, because his drum kit really is that badass. Of course, the bass player is up to par too. You really have to see the four of them onstage to really understand why MTV made theirs’ one of the first music videos ever aired. They rock.

Summary

Kick ass rock and roll. Go see them. Don’t miss them. Plan on being on your feet for at least 3 hours. This, my friends, is a rock concert. Moving lights, smoke, video, and above all awesome musicianship and vocal abilities that will keep your fists pounding and ass shaking. Rock on.

My Rant on Plant

July 21, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Posted in Concert, Review | 1 Comment
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I have to admit, that I almost didn’t take the time to write this review. It feels almost like treason, or at least a high crime in the rock and roll court of law. I will toss out my fifth amendment right and write it anyway. Before I get into the review itself, however, I would like to cover some concert etiquette. Continue Reading My Rant on Plant…

Chris Botti Trumpeted Into Dodge

February 10, 2010 at 12:34 am | Posted in Concert, Jazz, Review | Leave a comment
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Sound the horns, err…horn…there was a jazz soloist at Dodge Theatre. A trumpet soloist of all things. Yeah, I know – it sounds as crazy as a cello soloist or a guy that plays vibraphone taking center stage for an entire show. Oddly, these things all have something in common. Musicianship.

Chris BottiSoloists like this have come to terms with the fact that these instruments aren’t solo instruments, traditionally. However, if you can establish a rapport with an audience upfront then you can entice them to listen to what you have to say whilst saying it through whatever instrument you choose.

In the case of Chris Botti, that instrument is a trumpet and when Chris plays the audience listens. Then they applaud. Sometimes they yell funny things and Chris speaks back to them. His performance seemed more like sharing music with an audience  than performing it in front of them. That’s jazz for ya.

Chris is a good entertainer. In addition to the great music, he tells back-stories for songs which immediately engages you on a personal level. He also seemed to be a genuinely nice guy. Nice enough that since there were a few open seats right up front he had his crew round up some young musicians that were seated in the back of the venue and escort them to prime viewing and listening area so that they could experience music up close and personal, rather than via the internet. That’s cool. Jazz guys are like that…nice and cool.

Now, I don’t claim to be a jazz aficionado, in fact I don’t even know if jazz listeners like the word aficionado…but this guy is good. His band consisted of Billy Childs (piano), Billy Kilson (drums), Mark Whitfield (guitar), Tim Lefebvre (bass), and Geoffrey Keezer (keyboards). They were all spot on. The guest vocalist Sy Smith, aka @syberspace on twitter, and violinist Caroline Campbell were awesome. The sound man understood the nuances and dynamic range of the band he was dealing with and had the sound dialed in very nicely. The light show was nonexistent, which is par for the course at a jazz show, so no qualms there. However, the follow spot person needs some practice.

Tim Lefebvre, Sy Smith & Geoffrey Keezer

Tim Lefebvre, Sy Smith & Geoffrey Keezer

Aficionado or not, when I get a chance to see a soloist perform, I definitely check it out. No matter what the instrument, you can bet that if someone is backing a nationwide tour that there is probably a good reason. That reason is almost always great music without any frills. You can never go wrong with great music.

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