27.11.06

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25.11.06

Culture Vulture, part one

In which our heroine goes to concerts, sees artwork and attends the theatre...

In early October, I learned that Cat Power would be playing at Irving Plaza. Now, usually I don't like to do work-day concerts, but this was an early show and I thought "hey, I can totally do that!" So Thing One and I went off to see her. OGIC and Terry both recommended her music and the albums I'd listened to were pretty good, and after seeing Guns'n'Roses, I figured that I could handle any on-stage meltdowns. Irving Plaza, if you've never been there, is mostly standing room. That's great if you're tall, but I'm not. My view of the stage was obstructed, which was fine while we waited for Cat Power to appear. 10 minutes after the appointed time, a video started. Many were getting a bit edgy after 20 minutes of video... but then the band arrived. Two instrumental songs in, and Cat appeared - arms waving, shuffling, smoking and singing. The Greatest wasn't an album I'd heard (have now!) and the songs on it are pretty good. The concert was pretty good - not good enough for the hippies who kept looking for more movement (and less pantomime), or more rock stuff. Query: if that's what you're looking for, why go to a concert like this? From what I understand, this was a good concert for her, part of a good tour. My recommendation? Go see her if you can.

The next week, I went to see the Festival Chamber Music performance at Merkin Hall. This was a double pleasure: a high school alumnae gathering, coupled with the debut of a new piece by a former student. The first and third pieces were nice, and I've even decided to get a copy of one of them (if you don't know them, please, go listen). The second, by Athena Adamopolous, was... interesting. She said that it was based on her previous summer, influenced by her time in London, Paris and Athens. You know, I could almost hear those disparate parts! There were bits that really (to me) sounded like London and Paris sound; I can only imagine that the other parts were "Athens". Even though this was the second week in a row in which I went to an evening event, I enjoyed myself. Even better? Spending time with school friends and former teachers.

Then it was off to Western Massachusetts and the Eric Carle Museum. LM_NET has been having quiet the discussion about the museum, and all I can say is: what are you fussing over? It's small. It's not got Big Art or pretentions. It's just what it says it is -- a small museum that has one focus, picture book art. The exhibit I dragged Thing Two to was that of 100 years of art related to the Wizard of Oz. Now, I love this series. I have all the Baum texts (but none of the Reilly, Thompson or other continuers). I was a member of the International Wizard of Oz Society for a few years. And this was one of those jewel-like installations: one gallery, with art by Denslow and Neil and others (since the initial books are out of copyright, current luminaries like Sabuda have made free with interpreting the text). The other exhibit, in the other gallery, featured books like Knuffle Bunny coming to life, from original idea to full illustration. Very enjoyable. The next day brought the perfect pancake. What a nice weekend.

Next post... Chicago and beyond...

10.11.06

Don't even have to be there...

Tonight, a friend of mine is going to see G'n'R at Madison Square Garden. We went the last time they played... I suspect my review then will cover this performance (although the opening acts will be different, including Sebastian Blech Bach):
So, despite the bad weather and the transportation horrors, MSG actually sold out last night!

Of course, that wasn't immediately discernable because no one came before 8:30 - 9. Unfortunatly, some of us were there for the first opening act, CKY (Camp Kill You). There wasn't a rock cliche they didn't hit (windmilling the arm, pompous guitar solo, kewl gobo lighting swirling over the logo) and when they weren't playing they clearly thought they were in a fuckin' Mamet play. Very Spinal Tap, without the earnestness. Having seen my kids play over the years, I can tell when they're just phoning it in or when they're really feeling it. This was very much a fuckin' phoned in performance - ROCK AND (fuckin') ROLL!

Then Mixmaster Mike came on. High energy, lot's of "HEY NEW YORK!!!""s and "It's good to be home"s. They had a camera on him so you could see him doing the mixing (Rush, Blondie, Run-DMC and some other stuff I didn't recognize). He even told us to watch him scratch vinyl. Wow. A lot of the audience was doing those silly rap hand movements and it occurred to me that they were air scratching.
Ahhhh.... youth. I actually liked it, but I wouldn't go again to see him. Someone more creative, yes, no problem. But this seemed a bit like a "been there, done that" experience.

After the opening acts it was time for tit shots and lesbian kisses. No kidding. The camera roved the audience checking out T&A and then some of the girls decided to have fun. Two girls kissed (well, ok, there was lots of hair covering their faces so it was probably faked but you never know) and then one girl lifted up her shirt to show us all her silicone, which she was very proud of and wiggled and stroked and licked all for the camera. Huge roar of approval. Some of the girls were - shockingly enough - not thrilled to be caught on camera. Particularly after that performance. Oh - silicon gal? Got an encore.

We also met our seat buddies. To my left were a bunch of heavy metal fans. Black shirts, emaciated, etc.. In front, frat boys. Drunk frat boys. Wouldn't be surprised if they were DKEsters. To Jeff's right, a couple (mid 40s) from Westchester that were major fans. Their wedding album had "November Rain" as the theme/soundtrack.
Jeff's seen Gn'R several times and everyone was very impressed. The FBs asked what he was on when he saw them and were awed that he'd not done anything - like being straight at a concert is some sort of crime or just plain incomprehensible.

Having read that Axl n' the boys didn't go on until close to 11 for the past few shows, I was thrilled when they came out just before 10 (9:57 by my watch). The set was good (Welcome To The Jungle, It's So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Live And Let Die, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Think About You, You Could Be Mine, Robin Solo, Sweet Child O' Mine, Out Ta Get Me, Axl Piano Solo, November Rain, Chinese Democracy, Madagascar, Buckethead Solo, Rocket Queen, The Blues, My Michelle, Patience, Nightrain - and no, I didn't memorise that I got it off the website "Here Today... Gone to Hell..."), and Axl seemed to be in fairly good voice. Lord knows I couldn't run around the stage like that night after night! He did the Davy Jones, there were fireworks and torches and all the stuff you expect from a huge stadium concert.
The rendition of "Live and Let Die" was really good - better than anything Sir Paul could do (and since Sir Paul's on tour, I wonder if one could see competing versions). I didn't really care for the protracted guitar solos (Buckethead is no Eric Clapton) and the juxtaposition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" with Gn'R's "Madagascar" was a bit confusing.

Axl's patter was fun, when it was comprehensible. He brought out donuts (Krispy Kreme) for what we thought was Al Roker, but it turns out it was Conan. Then, later, he mentioned that he'd read reviews saying that "The band's material is dated. No Shit" (not that I'm on a Sir Paul kick, but I wonder if he or the Stones get those comments?!). He mumbled a lot, so who knows what else he was saying. It wasn't that important, clearly.

One good thing - Jeff got the tickets at a low enough level, and MSG is sturdier than Shea, so I got to enjoy the concert not just stand there frozen in fear (which I'd done in '89 at Shea for the Stones... Michael still has the scars!). It was a bit surreal with the ushers and people wandering around selling glasses of champagne (excuse me??? $7.50 for a plastic cup of Korbel with mushy strawberries is just plain wrong, but at a rock concert it's downright unpatriotic!).

Of course, being able to enjoy the concert meant that I also got to take a good look at the stage, etc.. And, being the tech geek I once was, I took a gander at the lighting set up and all the amps and stuff. About halfway through I noticed this box at the end of the ramp leading far upstage right. Could have been an amp. But it looked a little funny for a plain amp. Then I noticed that the design on the front kept changing. Then the light hit: AXL USES TELEPROMPTERS. I spent the next few minutes looking around and finding the other five hidden on stage (hidden might not be the best word, but it's not like they were clearly marked "HEY, I don't know the words to my own songs so I have to read the lyrics" or anything). It was a bit distracting. I started wondering things like, does it say "extended guitar solo" or "wail" or "audience participation" or does the text just stop temporarily?

Then there was the pre-main show debate about Axl and plastic surgery. Part of it is that he's supposedly clean now, and going off herion can bulk one up. And then there's the lithium, which packs on a few pounds. And adding a few years can change a person's face. But in close-ups he just looked bad. So, having some idle brain time on my hands, I tried to figure out what it was. A WIG. Axl's hair is about as fine as mine, if not finer. Which meant that the cornrows (much discussed, apparently, by Axl Aficionados) had to be fake. And if the wig isn't applied properly, an odd line across the upper brow appears, leading to rumours of surgery. He got it fixed by the fourth or fifth song, but the damage to my eyeballs had already been done.

The audience was really up for it - many hands waving in the air, everyone yelling the songs (except the two new ones) along with Axl, some of the ever-popular Bic's flaring, pot and cigarette smoke hazing the air, and what I assume is a new twist, cell phones allowing those less fortunate (or smarter?) to listen along with the crowd. Jeff looked a little silly pumping his hand in the air but he wasn't alone.

Don't get me wrong - I've never really been to a concert like this, I don't mind the music, and I had fun. But once was enough. Particularly since it was on a weekday and I have to get up early and I'm not as young as I once was. Jeff, on the other hand, seems to be in fine shape (of course, he's ten years younger than I). And it's really clear that this isn't the sort of concert you go to to actually hear the group (unlike, say, the Julliard Quartet or kd lang) because often the audience was louder than the band, which, given the amp power of the band, is interesting - this is one of those "I saw them when" concerts.

All-in-all, it was a good night. Just not a "let's do this again soon" night.

4.11.06

Did I disturb you?

Things One and Two often complain that I'm a disturbing reader. It's not just the 1000+wpm. It's not just my addiction to reading (and, some might argue, books).

It's the laughing. Sometimes it's a knowing chuckle - which is not, as they've learned, a hint for them to say "hey, what's so funny". I'll share if I want, but I'm chuckling to myself. Last night, it was out and out hysterics. This isn't the first time (Dave Barry, mondegreens and Terry Pratchett are pretty much guaranteed to get me rolling, and there's plenty more). Maybe it was the late hour... or the wine. But if you were in the hotel rooms adjacent to mine, and my laughing kept you awake. I'm sorry.

But really... you try not laughing as you read this.