Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy delays the Boss

Springsteen concert pushed to Wednesday

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 7:28 PM

The Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band concert originally scheduled for tomorrow has been postponed to Wednesday, October 31. You can blame Sandy for that one.

"The limited travel options to safely get Springsteen and his band into Rochester from different parts of New York and New Jersey, as well as thousands of fans from areas east of Rochester has made this a viable option," Jeff Calkins, General Manager for the Blue Cross Arena said today in a press release.

Keep an eye on City for any further updates on the concert.

Concert Review: Rock ’n’ Roll Social Club, Blanco Diablo, Brian Lindsay

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Pineapple Jack’s PA system has two settings: loud and off. And it certainly wasn’t off Friday night as Rock ’n’ Roll Social Club strangled and pummeled its instruments in an intense and fun set of energetic hard rock. This band is essentially BoneYard minus king of the multi-octave wail, JJ Lang, and with the addition of the king of stomp and twang Little Keith. The band is still in its transitional period as far as composition and comfort goes, but has already arrived at the intensity level afforded by the band’s collective experience, even with the new line-up’s stitches still showing.

Charlotte, North Carolina’s Blanco Diablo followed with a blend of hard rock a couple of clicks past Motorhead and Thin Lizzy and into metal territory. For just three cats on board, this band was downright slick and ferocious. By the time the rock subsided and the smoke cleared I stumbled to the door with my head ringing. This was hard rock done right. Right on.

Humped the Chevy across town after that to catch the tail end of Brian Lindsay’s set at Lovin’ Cup. Lindsay and his band were in the home stretch when I rolled up and were nice enough to break out one of my favorite tunes of theirs, “Summerville.” Lindsay’s rock ’n’ roll is rivaled only by his prolific pen. Lindsay is our Boss.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Concert Review: Idina Menzel

Menzel brings Broadway to the Auditorium Theatre

Posted By on Sun, Oct 28, 2012 at 4:08 PM

If we count her opening excerpt from “Over the Rainbow,” soprano Idina Menzel was a thrill last night at the Auditorium Theatre, performing more than two hours of Broadway songs from hits such as “Wicked,” “Rent,” and “A Chorus Line.”

Menzel has a big, huge voice. If you love high notes...if you love sustained high notes...if you love a diva with her arms flung wide open, head laid back and eyes closed, then Menzel is a soprano for you.

But, with the exception of a few songs, Menzel's concert was too much of a good thing. When Menzel performed two of the best songs of the night, one an original (unnamed) song (lyrics anchored to “It is I”) and “Learn to Live Without,” she sang from a different place – emotionally and physically. In these songs, Menzel was tender, vulnerable, and genuine. She spoke a few words, then she breathed out a few more. Her vibrato was dialed far down so that she sang a clear and clean melody, and her voice reflected textures of singing from chest to head.

By comparison, when she sang, “What I Did for Love” (“A Chorus Line”) each separate word of the repetitive “…had to do…” was hit hard and swelled louder, interrupting a simple melody bearing a sad lyric. And when she sang “At the Ballet” (“A Chorus Line”), Menzel was strong and loud throughout, as opposed to building the tension to the point where the character’s obviously broken heart cannot convince herself that the fantasy of the ballet can compensate for the rest of her life.

In a solo show, the singer performing Broadway must rapidly shift from one character to another. If Menzel is going to use props – use them, don’t discuss them. If Menzel is going to wear a long gown and go barefoot – have it hemmed for barefoot height to eliminate all the struggles with fabric getting in the way. And, if Menzel is going to wear a strapless gown – get it fitted so that energy is not wasted on gown yanking that could go into pulling upon the heart strings of the audience.

The reason any of this is even brought up: Menzel talked about all of this while on stage. For the first few songs, more time was spent talking than singing. Menzel’s self-described “raunchiness” that she “needed to get out” before her Monday concert at Carnegie Hall was hilarious, but when the seemingly unscripted humor of the performer picks apart the self, I have to wonder if she was truly uncomfortable on stage or had too many distractions interrupting her concentration? There were missed notes and candid facial expressions that reinforced my question.

When Menzel stripped away the band and the microphone and sang one song a cappella, “Changed for Good” (“Wicked”), she earned the long, standing ovation. For that one song, not only was Menzel grounded physically, but she was listening to herself sing in the specific space of the Auditorium Theatre. If only Menzel could have brought that same approach to the whole night.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Concert Review: Glen Campbell at the State Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 12:40 PM

I kind of wish I didn't know the score last night. I wonder if I didn't know that this was Glen Campbell's final tour, or that the entertainer has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, whether the show would have impacted me as deeply as it did. I guess in the end it added to the achingly poignant sting of his lyrics and this bittersweet goodbye.

For his packed show at the beautiful State Theatre in Ithaca, Campbell came out swinging and strong, opening with "Forever Gentle On My Mind." The song proved that he still has the guitar chops, as he dug in to his neon blue guitar with a terse and tight twang. And at 76, the man's voice -- both range and tone -- are still intact. He rolled out all the hits, including "Galveston," "By The Time I Get To Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman," "Country Boy," "Southern Nights," and of course "Rhinestone Cowboy," along with his most excellent band, which included his daughter Ashley on banjo and keys, son Shannon on guitar, and son Cal on drums.

Ashley and Shannon opened the show with their bluegrass/Americana trio, Victoria Ghost. This group was fantastic in its simplicity, and well worth the price of admission alone. Once Glen came on stage, Ashley was particularly impressive as she kept a constant eye on her dad, feeding him lines, keys, and generally keeping him focused. There were some subtle cracks in the veneer and every now and then it was clear something wasn't quite right, but the audience rolled with it, because when Glen dug in and played, he was there 100 percent. There were a few dropped lyrics here and there, and Campbell accidently started "Rhinestone Cowboy" a second time (hell, we would have gladly sat through it again), but overall the show was strong and dignified. He brought out his wife, and mother of his children, and presented her flowers as last night was their 30th wedding anniversary. I'm so glad I was there.

Campbell is to be lauded for his courage as he faces uncertainty with a smile and a wave. It was an honor to be there to wave back.

Concert Review: RPO's Debussy at 150

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 10:55 AM

Thursday night's Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concert included the orchestra's tribute for the 150-year celebration of French composer Claude Debussy, along with a symphony by Belgian composer César Franck.

First up was the "Petite Suite" (the "Little Suite") of Claude Debussy, the master of our romantic hearts. A lovely 15-minute piece, "Petite Suite" was everything one could hope to hear in a work for small orchestra: a wide range of dynamics, gentle tempi, and enough color to evoke imagery in every note. The performance reminded me of just how pleasant it can be to attend the symphony.

Next was Debussy's "Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra," a work in two movements, with guest soloist Stefan Arnold at the piano. Let me preface my remarks by saying that I caught Arnold's radio interview with WXXI's Julia Figueras, and Arnold's enthusiasm for the work made me curious. In the same interview the guest conductor, Matthias Bamert, said he had not previously conducted the work. Arnold indicated he had performed it several times. I will admit that I was hoping the performance would be an introduction to a lesser-known work for piano and orchestra, like my experience discovering my life-long loves of Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Fantasy" and his "Piano Concerto No. 1 in E-flat Major."

Regretfully, I cannot say that I loved either the Debussy composition or the Arnold interpretation. The program notes indicated that Debussy himself, "...didn't permit it to be performed or published during his lifetime," that he completed two versions of the work 20 years apart, and, as per Debussy, " treat the orchestra differently, otherwise you end up with a slightly ridiculous battle between piano and orchestra."

So, while taking notes during the first movement, "Andante ma non troppo" ("fast, but not so much so"), I had to pull back to use both my ears and my eyes to expend the energy necessary to try to pick out the piano, and to figure out whether Debussy had scored an executable plan for the instrument.

As I started to develop a theory for how a musician might approach the rather ambiguous role Debussy gave to the piano, I then shifted to questions of Arnold's theory of interpretation. Even after the rest of the first movement, and through the second movement marked "Lento e molto espressivo - Allegro molto" ("slowly with much expression - with all due speed"), I could not find Arnold's point of view.

The second half of the program was a fine performance of Cesar Franck's "Symphony in d minor." The piece included three movements and was approximately 40 minutes long. Guest conductor Bamert had a mature understanding of the work. Franck's orchestration was well suited to the RPO, most especially in the first movement's "Lento" ("slow") section. The repetition of viola, cello, and bass in a melody that dipped down, even as it climbed higher and higher, made for a strong union, and then the power of the violins essentially co-opting the stage flooded my emotions.

Special kudos also for the big, lush build-up to the final notes of the symphony's third movement, "Allegro non troppo" ("fast, but not so much so"). The pacing was superbly matched to the dynamic, and Bamert delivered a magnificent experience strongly reminiscent of the grandeur of the ending of Mussorgsky's "The Great Gate of Kiev" from "Pictures at an Exhibition."

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra will repeat the program Saturday, October 27, 8 p.m. at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre. Tickets cost $15-$92. For more information call 454-2100 or visit the RPO website.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Jazz Fest 2013: Club Passes on sale Friday, October 26

Little Theatre also added as official festival venue

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 11:43 AM

The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival today announced that Club Passes for the 2013 edition of the festival will go on sale Friday, October 26. The passes will sell for a "holiday price" of $174 (plus $6 service charge) until midnight on December 31; as of January 1 the cost will increase to $194 (plus service charges) until the passes sell out. (Historically Club Passes have sold out months before the festival begins every year.)

Also announced was the addition of The Little Theatre as a Club Pass venue, which will add an additional 18 concerts to the 2013 line-up, and bring the total Club Pass venues up to an even dozen. The festival clarified that shows will take place in Little Theatre 1, not in the café.

The 2013 edition of the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival is scheduled to take place in downtown Rochester June 21-29. Club Passes can be purchased online exclusively at the festival website.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Concert Review: RPO's Mahler, Grieg, Nakamatsu

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 9:46 AM

The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, led by Musical Director Arild Remmereit, spared no expense last night to pack the stage of Kodak Hall to perform Mahler's Fifth Symphony. By my count there were 26 violins, nine violas, eight cellos, eight bass, harp, seven French horns, four trumpets, three trombones, one tuba, six oboes, three clarinets, four flutes, and five percussionists. The Mahler, particularly in contrast to the pairing to the smaller, lighter Grieg Piano Concerto, demonstrated the extreme range of dynamics available from the RPO.

The Mahler was every bit as dark and heavy as the composer is known to be. The program notes include a quote from Mahler (who was born in Bohemia in 1860) to a friend about the symphony, including the statement, "Neither romantic nor mystical elements belong in it, it's merely the expression of unparalleled power, that of a man in the full light of day who has reached the climax of his life." A funny description for a piece more than an hour in length, considering that the first two movements feel sufficiently tortured to leave one praying for the brief flashes of major keys and simple resolutions.

The highlight of Thursday's Mahler performance was the fourth movement. Marked "Adagietto, sehr langsam" (program-noted as "very slowly"), these notes could have been written expressly for the RPO. I have previously said that the string section of the RPO is the finest there is, and, through this movement, the strings caressed every note as if it were their last. By the time the RPO reached the final two notes of the movement, I wanted nothing more than 30 seconds of silence in which to fully appreciate the beauty of the finish.

While the Mahler was the big work of the night, my own tastes favored the Grieg with guest artist Jon Nakamatsu at the piano. Nakamatsu's rendition of Grieg's cadenza in the first movement was positively brilliant, as clean and clear as this Norwegian composer's style requires. The third movement showcased Nakamatsu's personality and, as technically challenging as the piece becomes, brought smile after smile to Nakamatsu's face. When as seasoned a performer as Nakamatsu can surrender himself to the music without having to think about it, he gives the audience a whole new depth of understanding of the work.

However, I do have two remarks about the performance. First -- and I've said this before relative to other pianists -- mezzo-piano to piano passages tend to lose the left hand in the keyboard somewhere around middle C, descending approximately two octaves. Acoustics where I sit in the upper left balcony? Temperament of the piano? Something to be conscious of, because it can leave the right hand sounding unsupported.

Also, throughout the first movement, with every character change, there was a split-second rushing, as if the final beat of the prior measure was short-changed by perhaps as little as a sixteenth. The oddity about this recurrence was my question whether the opening tempo hadn't dragged just a touch, as compared to how the movement developed and ended, once the pianist and orchestra had melded themselves into a single, working team.

Once again, an excellent program that is a credit to the musicians of our RPO.

Don't forget that if you're looking for an earlier-in-the-day, lighter version of things, you can hear Remmereit, Nakamatsu, and several musicians of the RPO at Hochstein School of Music and Dance on Sunday, October 21, at 2 p.m. Tickets available through the RPO website or at the door.

The RPO repeats the program Saturday, October 20, at 8 p.m. at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St. Tickets cost $19-$92. For more information visit the website or call 454-2100.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Concert Review: Twins of Evil Tour w/Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 12:14 PM

The Main Street Armory loomed ominous beneath a moonless sky Tuesday night as thousands lined up for the benediction within. It was like a scene out of a movie, as the soulless shuffled shoulder to shoulder past the bible beaters, buskers, and street-meat purveyors to the Twins of Evil circus inside, led by Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. All that was missing were torches and howling dogs. Last night the Armory was more of a rock 'n' roll abattoir, a fortress of fear, a genuine highway to hell. And it was Rob Zombie's night as he commandeered the joint like his own castle Frankenstein. It was a positively brilliant show.

Rob Zombie
  • Rob Zombie performed as part of the Twins of Evil Tour Tuesday, October 16, at Main Street Armory.

Don't get me wrong, Manson was good, too. It's just that his darkness seems a little more serious and consuming. It's a scandalous spectacle indeed, with the man challenging decency and deity at every turn. But he seems consumed by it, as well. His sound was a lot more full-on rock than the last time I saw him. But his brand of showbiz lacks Zombie's irony and humor.

Zombie roared out on stage with "Jesus Frankenstein," and I've got to say, the stage set alone was straight out of my teenage dreams. Robots and flaming cauldrons, and confetti, and smoke, and skeletons, all before projected loops of classic horror clips and stag reels (which led me to wonder, when is Zombie going to do a Russ Meyer remake?). The setlist only had two White Zombie nuggets, "More Human Than Human" and the crowd fave "Thunderkiss '65," where guitarist John 5 kicked out the jams at lightning speed before morphing into Alice Cooper's "School's Out." What a mob, what a crowd, what a scene, what a show.

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Concert Review: Trash Wave Fest, All Time Low

Posted By on Mon, Oct 15, 2012 at 12:04 PM

So there I was at the Bug Jar Friday night for the first of what I hope will be many Trash Wave Fests, digging on the Clockmen as the band sunk its teeth into some dangerously fast and loud thinking-man's punk (as I like to call it). This is one mighty trio, softened only by its own self-deprecation and charming goofiness. It was a full-on rock 'n' roll boogie disease that was impossible to avoid, and actually fun to catch.

The individual instrumentation I heard in the sound check with Slug Guts had me jazzed. The sax had some trippy delay on it, the guitar was thick and bright, and the drummer hit the snare with extreme prejudice. But it all got lost a little in the mix when the Brisbane, Australia band mounted the bandstand for real. The energy came on and remained seething with an antagonistic frenzy as the singer split his time between the stage and the floor and the rest of the band split its time between noise rock and post-punk oblivion. It was harsh yet engaging, referential but somehow new and unpredictable. I think I need to see the band again. You should, too.

All Time Low had Water Street Music Hall packed and screaming at an all-time high Saturday night -- so much that you could barely hear the heavy-metal thunder going on next door. All Time Low is poppy and fun with a slightly heavy edge tempered only by its mastery of melody. The funny thing is, the melody was in place during All Time Low's accelerated numbers, where most bands rely on the pound and the beat to carry their somewhat monotone vocal line. Instead, ATL applied this to its slower, lighters-in-the-air tunes. The band was loud, energetic, and animated, as was the predominantly female sing-along crowd. It also had one the best light shows I've ever seen.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Concert Review: Rocket From the Tombs, Billy Hector

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 4:00 AM

It’s simple, really; if you say it’s punk rock, it ain’t punk rock. It’s like shouting to the world that you’ve taken a vow of silence. Sure, Cleveland-based Rocket From The Tombs came and went in an explosion of brutal rock ’n’ roll a few years before the punk-rock moniker was getting thrown around, but its influence, and the influence of musical offspring PereUbu and The Dead Boys, helped shape a lot of bands that were considered punk. But would it be antithetical to say so?

Who cares? It sounds good, and it sounded good at Lovin’ Cup Friday night as the band --- featuring original members, singer David Thomas and bassist Craig Bell --- played virtually everything from its catalogue and songs made popular by its offshoots. Between non-discrete nips from his flask, Thomas wailed nasally on cuts like “Ain’t It Fun” and “Sonic Reducer.” The overall sound came blasting out of the front end in a solid fury for the 100 or so faithful waiting for the benediction.

Mofo’s guitarist Gary Siperko ---one of the three newbies in the current line-up --- added an incredible thrash, slash, and crash, culminating with lead vocals on “Strychnine.” Very punk rock… or not.

Saturday night, New Jersey ’s blues guitar master, Billy Hector, had the packed Dinosaur percolating as he bent, stretched, goosed, and burned the blues with a set full of hot-roddedsonics, arrangements, and lyrics. Hector and his trio took whole sets of lyrics like Bo Diddley’s “I Can Tell” and plugged them into a completely different song style. The best example was while covering Hendrix’s “Hey Joe,” he fleshed out the conversation between the narrator and Joe, calling him an “asshole since second grade.” I laughed my head off.

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