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Archive for the ‘Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Category

[ATTENDED: September 6, 2019] Joanna Newsom

This was scheduled to be a busy concert weekend for me–three days, three shows.

I was glad the first one was a seated, relaxed show of Joanna Newsom playing her harp and piano.  The traffic into Philly was light, until I got into City Center.  I had planned to park on the street (you can find it sometimes), but I wound up driving on a street under construction behind a bus and I watched as the time ticked away.  Finally I grabbed the nearest parking garage and sucked up the $22 fee and then hustled over the theater and managed to get into my seat just as the lights dimmed.  Holy cow.

I had never seen Newsom before, and I suspect that I was quite lucky to see her on this limited run tour because I understand it’s her first solo tour in about 15 years–she’s usually accompanied by… someone else, I guess.  It was also her first tour at all in four years.  She said she was very nervous.  And she did make a few mistakes.  But she was always gracious and self-deprecating about them.  And considering she played about 200,000 notes that night, missing one or two isn’t the end of the world.

She came out to much applause.  I gather that her fan base is pretty intense (the kind who laugh and squeal at any comment the musician makes).  However, unlike other similar fans, these were relatively restrained (it was a rather formal setting after all).  But it was nice to be enveloped in so much mutual love.

The strange thing for me is that I didn’t really know any of her songs before this show.  I knew what she sounded like and I’m sure I’ve heard a song or two somewhere, but I was a Newsom novice.  I just knew it would be an excellent evening.  And so it was.

She came out on stage to thunderous applause.  She had on a beautiful floor-length dress, which–when someone asked her–she said was by California designers Rodarte.  And that they had made four dresses, one for each of her albums. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: March 30, 2018] Darlingside

Sarah and I saw Darlingside just three months ago at SOPAC.  I was surprised that they were coming back to the area just a couple months later (even if by the area I mean two cities which are 90 miles apart).  Even my son, who doesn’t always seem to pay attention to what we do said “Didn’t you just see them?”

The reason I was so intrigued to see them again so soon was three-fold.

  1. Their new album wasn’t out yet when we saw them in December.  Now it was and I assumed they’d play more from it.
  2. SOPAC was a quiet, sit down, well-behaved place and I was curious to see if they performed differently in a bar/club.
  3. They are amazing, so why not?

Really the big question for me was the second one.  What would they be like in a noisy club.  Well, they still sounded amazing and just like Darlingside.  They didn’t really change their game that I noticed.  And in fact, the crowd changed for them.  While there was some chatter, the crowd was there to hear them, and we knew what we’d be getting, so we were quiet when we should be (with some exceptions).

The biggest difference was between songs, when people went pretty wild, and the guys responded appropriately–not getting wild themselves, but ramping up their own outgoingness.

The guys have a stage patter in place.  After a couple of songs, one of them will step up to the mic (they only ever use one mic which is magical because it picks up every breath and utterance) and addresses everyone with a story.

After playing two new songs (including using their Septavox, on “Eschaton” which adds a small element of electronics to their otherwise acoustic set).  In SOPAC they talked about this gadget, here they did not.  It was their first time to address us.

Cellist/guitarist Harris came up and was just so full of smiles and goodwill that it really set the mood for the night.  (He raised him arms and shouted Yes!).  He told us that last night they tried “Philadelphia Vanilla Ice Cream” for the first time. Which he was not even aware of this being a thing before then [nor was I].  He tried to describe it and the crowd responded appropriately (with someone shouting “Phanilla.”

And then they he told us that “Go Back” is based on Back to the Future II, which I did know.

They played some flawless songs from Birds Say (they do actually have quite a number of releases even if they focus on the two newest ones).  The harmonies on “White Horses” (and , honestly every song) are just breathtaking.

David, who plays bass and an underrated kick drum spoke about opening act Twain.  All of the bands whom Twain opens for seem to really like his music or at least him.  So he raved about Twain for a bit and then joked about how much fun it is to substitute the word “twain” for other words in sentences.  I can’t help but wonder if we are missing something.  There was also some talk about toilet paper, with David being shocked that not everyone folds it into a perfect square.

The crowd enjoyed the new songs and showed great appreciation for the old songs.  I was amazed at how great all of the songs sounded, but especially the really soaring ones like “My Gal, My Guy.”  And when the smaller more fun songs like “Harrison Ford” began, there was thunderous applause.

It was also cool when Harris sat at cello for “The Ancestor” but you could still hear his vocal contributions even some three feet from the mic.

Guitarist/banjoist Don told us that he had signed up to donate blood marrow and that we could too (I could not, as the requirements are surprisingly strict).  That wasn’t the usual fun banter, but it was perfectly in line with them as decent human beings.  And I say that unironically.  The four of them seem like the nicest guys in the world.  (And when we met them it all seemed genuine).

The band doesn’t “do a lot on stage.”  They switch positions a bunch depending on who needs to be doing what.  I always enjoy seeing Auyon on the mandolin like on “Whipoorwill.” But mostly they huddle around that amazing microphone and sing like four-part-harmonious angels.  I’m amazed that the bass doesn’t clatter against things–they must all be very well used to playing in small spaces.

Auyon is a crowd favorite.  So when he got up to speak there was thunderous applause and he acknowledged it by saying it was appreciated but over the top.  He often introduces the band and he did so tonight by discussing what was on their rider.

They’ve had a rider for a long time, bu only recently are venues starting to look at them.  He says its difficult to make one because what you want when you are sitting on your couch at home making up a rider is not necessarily what you want the night of a show.

He says they try not to be wasteful.  Don overheard the guys at Union Transfer discussing the requests, saying that tit’s all healthy stuff and very very specific.  The phrases” lack of imagination and daring” were thrown around as was the word “restrained” but not in a positive way.

 

He told us that Harris does push ups to stay in shape.  But he is worried that he apparently massive chest will ruin his writs making him unable to play, so he doesn’t really do them, after all.

When he introduced Don, and the crowd roared, Don pumped his arms trying to get the crowd louder which made everyone on stage laugh.  Auyon deadpanned that the first time at a Darlingside show that anyone has done that motion–we don’t even pick things up.  Don confesses, “It felt really bad too.  I’m never going to do it again.”

Auyon told us that Don orders half beers.  He’ll ask to split a beer, which is something no bartender respects.

When he introduced himself, the crowd went over the top with applause which led him to say that he believed that we were just messing with him now.  He said, “I usually have the other half of the beer because I only want half, too.”

There is really nothing like hearing them singing the gorgeous “Good For You.”

I was thrilled when they played their new song “The Best of the Best of Times” which Harris introduced by saying they were writing it in England during Brexit and they thought things would be better at home.  And then look what happened.  We are a long way from the best of the best of times, indeed.

I wasn’t sure what to expect for an encore.  I mean they’d played pretty much everything I wanted to hear.  The set list wasn’t too differet from at SOPAC.  It may have even been exactly the same songs, just in a different order.  I don’t know what will happen when they do another new album and start having to remove songs from the set list, I need my 7 songs from Birds Say!

The first encore was “Orion” a new song (someone shouted for their cover of 1979 which I REALLY wanted to hear, too, but they didn’t play it.

They ended with their sorta rocker (and suitable show ender) “Blow the House Down” which has a raging (for them) guitar solo and some wild violin.

They hung out after the show to meet people, but it was time for us to leave, so we didn’t say hi.  We’d chatted with them just a few months ago.

Amazingly, they will be back in the Philly area two more times before the end of the summer.  May 18 at the Kimmel Center opening for  Brandi Carlisle and then July 29 at XPN Festival.

Setlist
Singularity [EX]
Eschaton [EX]
Go Back [Birds]
White Horses [Birds]
My Gal, My Guy [Birds]
Hold Your Head Up High [EX]
Extralife [EX]
The Ancestor [Birds]
Harrison Ford [Birds]
Whippoorwill [ep]
Futures [EX]
Good For You [Birds]
Best of the Best Times [EX]
The God of Loss [Birds]

Encore:
Orion [EX]
Blow the House Down [Pilot]

What didn’t they play?
From Birds Say: Clay & Cast Iron; Birds Say; Water Rose; Do You Ever Live; She’s All Around; Volcano Sky
From Extra Life: Old Friend; Lindisfarne; The Rabbit and the Pointed Gun; Indian Orchard Road; Rita Hayworth

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[ATTENDED: December 28, 2017] The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses

legend

Last September, we all went to see Symphonic Zelda–the Symphony of the Goddesses.  Out of the blue a few months back, C. said he’d really like to see it again.  I assumed it would be a long time before it came around.  But I checked the site (it’s very rare that C. wants to go and do something) and they were playing right after Christmas.  This time at the gorgeous Verizon Hall.

The website announced that the show would be different.

Brought to Life as never before, witness as 30 years of video game history unfolds, complete with a stirring cinematic video presentation, synced with the games’ sensational, thematic and action-packed soundtracks played live by a full orchestra and choir.  In addition to Breath of the Wild music, the new program also features an all new movement from Skyward Sword, and the return of a classic that just might make some wishes come true!

(more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 2, 2017] King Crimson

I saw King Crimson back in July.  And I had great seats.  It seems excessive to see them again just a few months later.  However, given that at any second, Robert Fripp could decide they were never going to tour again, it seemed like it behooved me to attend once more. Besides, the shows have been amazing.

This time I got very good seats on the left side of the audience.  This meant I could watch Fripp play guitar (he was blocked from my other seats).  I also had a  very clear view of bassist Tony Levin, which was awesome.  And I was close to drummer Pat Mastelotto who is so much fun to watch.

The lineup was pretty much the same as last time except that last time drummer Bill Rieflin was back on keyboards.  This time Rieflin was on sabbatical again, replaced on keys by Chris Gibson.

The lineup: Tony Levin (bass, Stick, more); Mel Collins (saxes, flutes); Jakko Jakszyk (guitar, vocals),  Chris Gibson (keyboards and effects): Three drummers: Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto and Jeremy Stacey (also keyboards).  And of course, Robert Fripp (guitar). (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 13, 2017] Tanya Tagaq performs Nanook of the North

No use burying the lead: I just witnessed something singular.  Something unique and unforgettable.  Tanya Tagaq is a magical performer and I consider myself lucky to have seen her (even if I wasn’t always looking at her). And to have heard her incredible band live.

Tagaq is an Upik performer who incorporates throat singing into her music.  And when she performs, her entire body is possessed by the music. She becomes animalistic, both low and growling as well as high and soaring.

Nanook of the North is considered the first documentary film.  Filmed in 1920 by Robert J. Flaherty, it depicts Nanook, a “happy Eskimo,” and his family as they go about their lives.   For many people it was their first and only exposure to Native culture.  This film has been praised for its documentary techniques, but ridiculed for its patronizing attitude and for fudging reality.

I learned last night that part of the reason some of it was fudged was because his original film was destroyed in a fire and he returned to get more footage–often recreating what happened the first time.  [Some Wikipedia details shed some light on his good intentions and controversies–see bottom of the post for a few details].

I first watched Nanook of the North about 20 years ago in a college film class.  It was fine–less boring than I imagined, with some interesting moments, but not exactly gripping after 80 years of filmmaking.  But with Tagaq’s new soundtrack, the film took on an amazing and powerful component which added intensity, drama and tension to this film. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 28, 2015] Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical

bobI have been a fan of Woody Allen’s movies since I took a class on him in college circa 1991. I loved the movie of Bullets Over Broadway which was a fun period piece (1920s) that starred John Cusack and Dianne Wiest among others.  The script was punchy and funny and addressed issues of morality and art.  And there were gangsters too.

Who would have guessed that the 1994 movie would have been turned into a musical twenty years later.  Evidently Allen did not want it turned into a musical until the idea of using songs from the period was introduced (with modified lyrics) and then he agreed.

The show ran on Broadway for about five months, which seems like it must not have been well received.  And yet, it did garner 6 Tony nominations and there were many positive reviews.  I don’t know enough about Broadway to know if a five month run means anything.  The Broadway version starred Zach Braff and Vincent Pastore (Big Pussy from The Sopranos).

The touring version of the musical is listed as Non-equity (I had to look up to see what that meant).  The long and short of it is that it means that you won’t have heard of anyone in the performance.  The director is also different.  I don’t know if that means things are very different from the original production.  I had read that typically a non-equity show has a lower budget, but I was quite impressed with the sets in this one.  The “train” was amazing, and I really liked the way they created the rooftop and the car and several other scenes. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 7, 2015] The Decemberists

2015-04-07 22.33.06I’ve liked The Decemberists for a pretty long time but never saw them live.  I’m not really sure why I never had.   Sarah has become a fan over the years as well, and they had moved to the top of her must see list.  So when I saw they were playing at the beautiful and acoustically pristine Academy of Music (and it was so close to her birthday), I jumped on the chance to get tickets.

Somehow, the pre-order tickets from the band didn’t pan out, but I was able to get some pre-order tickets from the Kimmel Center and the seats were awesome.  In a box just above floor level about fifteen or sixteen rows out.  The box was very cool, as there were wooden chairs to sit on and there were all of six of us in this box.  Probably one of the best views I’ve ever had a at a show.

2015-04-07 21.01.43The show started with Colin Meloy and his guitar.  He played the opening song from their newest album, “The Singer Addresses His Audience,” a meta- song that seems even more meta when he is actually addressing you.  The song started slowly and then the two backing vocalists came on and sang along with him.  Then some “statues” were lowered behind the stage.  And as the rest of the band came out, the “quilted” cover of the album was lowered into place

I was sure they would play a set heavy with new songs, so I was surprised when they launched right into “The Infanta,” a rollicking song that really got the crowd going.  And then Colin spoke and proved why he is such a good frontman. He was very funny, suggesting that we could sit or stand, it was up to us–the seats did look comfortable, after all.  He advised the people in the way top (where we were seated for Neil Young) to not stand, because he was worried about their safety.  And then he looked over to the side and saw the front box seats–set off from the rest and seemingly very VIP and informed us all that the Duke and Duchess of Pennsylvania were in the house tonight.   On the other side of the stage in those same seats, he told us that the royalty from Pittsburgh could not make it. (more…)

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