Radio City Music Hall

A Wicked Christmas Weekend

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We love so many people that we consider family. However, there are a few full families that are truly our extended family in every possible way. One of those families lives in Leesburg, VA. They (parents plus three children) were supposed to spend Thanksgiving with us in NYC. Unfortunately, life intervened and they had more urgent business to attend. Thankfully, we were able to reschedule to get them up for Christmas.

OurExtendedFamily

On Friday (when they arrived), after having a fantastic meal at Jackson Hole (probably still our favorite burger place in NYC, though there are so many spectacular ones), we did something unusual for us (and them as well). We split up completely!

AtJacksonHole

The parents took the 5-year-old girl to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. They reported that it was fantastic and the girl was mesmerized throughout!

Lois took the 13-year-old to see the new Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Neither was too enamored with the movie. If a 13-year-old boy doesn’t come back raving about such a movie, that’s all I need to know about it. Winking smile

I took the 11-year-old to see Blue Man Group. It was my third time, his first. It’s been quite a while since I last saw it, so I was quite excited to go again. I was really pleased to see that while the basic show was the same, they created a few new acts, replacing some others, while keeping some real crowd pleasers. In other words, even I got to enjoy some new things (I enjoyed the original material as well).

Needless to say, the 11-year-old was thrilled and had many mind-blowing guffaws during the show. The toilet paper part (a staple) will probably live with him forever. Smile

All seven of us met up at our favorite NYC restaurant for dinner: The Peking Duck House. The parents had been there twice before, but this was a first for all three kids. The meal was a huge success (it never isn’t, but I feel compelled to report on it nonetheless). Even though everyone professed to be stuffed to the gills, when offered ice cream for dessert, amazingly, everyone found an extra spot to stick it in. Smile

TheKidsAtThePekingDuckHouse

Not to slight any other activity, because the weekend was 100% incredible, but the main event (and hence the title) was all seven of us going to see Wicked on Saturday afternoon. It was our (Lois and my) 12th time. It was a first for everyone else. I will admit to being a bit nervous as to whether the kids would like it.

PreparingForWickedChristmasFinest

AtWicked

When we looked at our programs and saw that the two leads were the same ones we saw last time: Jackie Burns and Chandra Lee Schwartz, Lois and I knew that at a minimum, we would be enthralled. Thankfully, all seven of us loved the show.

WickedStandingOvation

To be honest, the two ladies were even better this time than last time (and they were amazing last time). The only weakness in either of their performances came in the the last big number, For Good, which they had trouble with the previous time as well. This time it was better. Each had trouble with their solo, but they came together beautifully for their harmonies (not so last time). Otherwise, their acting and singing were pretty much flawless.

There were two other changes in significant characters. Madame Morrible was played by someone we hadn’t seen before. Neither Lois nor I liked her performance. In fact, Lois thought her acting threw Jackie Burns off a time or two (I think she might be right). She wasn’t bad, and if it was my first time I probably wouldn’t have known better. Still, practically every other Madame Morrible we’ve seen was better, including the last one, who we particularly liked.

Fiyero was new to us as well. I think that last time we saw an understudy for this one. I found his acting not quite as loose as some of the others (including the last one), but his singing was good. In particular, he nailed the difficult duet with Elphaba in the woods (As Long As You’re Mine). So much so, that Jackie Burns nailed her part. I dinged her a bit on that number the last time out.

The Wizard (Tom McGowan) was as wonderful as he has been each time we’ve seen him.

So, a huge success (like I said, every activity was, except for possibly Mission Impossible).

TheTimeDragonClock

We walked to the theater, having lunch at Z Deli around the corner. Afterward we walked back and headed straight to The Capital Grille. I like a lot of steak houses, The Capital Grille among them. While I’ve been there many times, this might have been my best meal there. It would be hard to imagine a more pleasant way to spend time with family on Christmas Eve!

LoveIsInTheAirClassingUpTheJointSharingASecret

AtTheCapitalGrille

AfterDinner

After dinner I watched The Matrix with the boys (their first time). We paused a bunch of times early on to discuss the mind-bending plot. Once the real martial arts scenes kicked in, they were done discussing and were more intrigued by the acrobatics. Smile

We got to spend more quality time with everyone on Christmas morning, then they hit the road back to Leesburg. As sad as we were to see them go, our hearts were full from a literally perfect weekend with loved ones.

Rather than collapse, we continued the weekend festivities by meeting another good friend for lunch. I can’t speak for the ladies (each of whom ordered eggs), but my tuna melt was as good as it gets. So was our conversation, which we lingered over long after the meal was done.

P.S. The 11-year-old was enamored with my toy (my You Rock Guitar). He couldn’t put it down the entire weekend. Smile

YouRockGuitarYouRockGuitarContinued

Chuck Mangione at Tarrytown Music Hall

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The minute this concert was announced, many months ago, I bought two tickets. Tarrytown Music Hall is a great place to see concerts (as I’ve reported a number of times before), it’s only four miles from our house, and I have loved Chuck Mangione’s music for decades.

This was the third time that I saw him live. The first time was eons ago at Radio City Music Hall. It was a spectacular show. The second time was two years ago ago at the Blue Note Jazz Club in NYC (briefly mentioned in this very long music catch-up post). It too was terrific, and very intimate, as we sat a few feet from the stage.

Last night we were in the 10th row, dead center. The acoustics were perfect. Chuck was great. His band was/were perfect. With over 40 years of material under his belt, Chuck could play anything he wants to. Unlike some other acts that have survived this long, he tends to give the crowd what they want, rather than cater to his own personal mood.

He played pretty much all mega-hits last night. In no particular order (meaning this isn’t the order he played them in!), he played:

  • Counsuelo’s Love Theme
  • Give It All You’ve Got
  • Bellavia
  • Main Squeeze
  • Children Of Sanchez
  • Land Of Make Believe
  • Dizzy Miles
  • Feels So Good (this was the big encore!)
  • Fun And Games
  • a number of others :-)

Here they all are together on stage:

Feels So Good Band

In addition to playing the Flugelhorn and keyboards himself, Chuck is very generous with highlighting the talents of his band members (as are many Jazz artists), which was particularly appreciated last night, as each member of the band was simply wonderful.

One of the longest members of Chuck’s band (with a long break in-between) is Gerry Niewood. Last night he played Sax, Flute, Clarinet and Piccolo. He was flawless and fantastic. The crowd gave him rousing applause every time he was featured. He played with Chuck at the Blue Note when we last saw him, and we sat two feet from him, so we’re well aware of his extraordinary talent.

Here he is on three of the four instruments he played last night:

Gerry Niewood ClarinetGerry Niewood PiccoloGerry Niewood Saxophone

Continuing left to right (stage-wise) was the keyboards player. Corey Allen (sorry, couldn’t find a good link to him directly, though he gets good credits on other people’s albums) plays beautifully.

Corey Allen

Charles Frichtel Kevin Axt (corrected due to Dave Tull’s comment below) plays the electric bass (also couldn’t find a good direct link, but he too gets credits, including backing up Michael McDonald!). Chuck highlighted Charles Kevin a number of times, including the uber-famous and wonderful song Fun And Games, which starts off with a funky bass solo (of course, he let loose even more live, later in the song, than they do on the studio version). Most excellent.

Charles Frichtel

Dave Tull is the drummer and the only one who sings. He’s been with the band since 2000, so we must have seen him at the Blue Note, but I wasn’t blogging then, so I didn’t pay as much attention to names. :-(

First, let’s get the trivial stuff out of the way. Dave sang lead on two songs, Dizzy Miles (wonderfully) and Children Of Sanchez (amazingly). He has a gorgeous voice. Now, on to the more important stuff.

The fist time I saw Chuck Mangione, at Radio City, his drummer was Steve Gadd. There are many people who believe that Steve Gadd is the greatest drummer ever. Many more who believe he is one of the greatest drummers ever. I’m definitely in the second camp, but I admit that when I saw him that night at Radio City, I was in the first camp, for sure! So, listening to another drummer play the same songs can be an unfair starting point for comparisons.

Dave Tull was so incredible last night (and probably every night), that I truly can’t do justice in describing how awesome he was/is. It’s likely the second best live drumming I’ve seen in recent memory, the other being Chris McHugh, covered here. The comparison between them isn’t really fair, as the style of drumming was radically different. Anyway, Dave Tull was mesmerizing last night. Speed, grace, style, voice, without ever overwhelming any other instrument. Astounding!

Dave Tull

Last, but certainly not least, Coleman Mellett on guitar. Sometimes, the Jazz guitarist in a band like this can get a little lost. Coleman does a great job of avoiding that fate and Chuck made sure to highlight him a number of times. In particular, during the very long and slow intro to Children of Sanchez, while Dave Tull is singing, the only instrument accompanying him is the guitar. Coleman is excellent, and complemented the sound the entire evening, on both lead and rhythm guitar.

Coleman Mellett

So, that covers the band. No small feat, as they are not listed on Chuck’s site (a big shame, which I’ve pointed out as a shortcoming on other artists websites as well). In fact, I had trouble finding any of their names, with the exception of Gerry Niewood, who’s been with him forever. After dozens of various Google searches, I was finally able to (accidentally) stumble on Dave Tull’s name, and with that info in hand, was able to locate this article, which gave me the remaining names. Credit where credit is due, thanks Herald Tribune!

At one point during the show, Chuck gave a moving tribute to Jim KcKay who passed away yesterday. Chuck met him during the 1980 Olympics, when he was commissioned to write the song Give It All You’ve Got for those games. Jim McKay described Chuck as the world’s foremost practitioner of the flugelhorn. After talking about Jim, Chuck and the band played a gorgeous version of Amazing Grace.

Chuck Mangione Speaking

And here’s Chuck on the keyboards:

Chuck Mangione Keyboards

When they ended the main show, Lois and I shot out of our seats in a standing ovation. Amazingly, not a single person in the nine rows in front of us (a couple of hundred people!) stood up. I didn’t look behind me, so I don’t know if we were the only two people standing in the entire place. I can assure you that the crowd was thundering in its applause during and after each song, so it had nothing to do with not liking the show, or sending Chuck a message. It was strange, to say the least.

Chuck briefly left the stage, but the others stayed on. After a minute, Chuck returned. They played Feels So Good (as noted above), and snuck in America The Beautiful woven into one part of it (Chuck asked the crowd to sing while they played, and many did!). It was awesome. When they finished, everyone shot up in a standing ovation (quite rousing). So, either we shamed them, or they don’t stand but once a night. ;-)

If you’re a New Yorker, you have a number of additional opportunities to catch them this year. You can check the Tour Dates link on Chuck’s site, but specifically, they’ll be at the Blue Note for six straight nights starting July 15th, and for four straight nights at the Iridium Jazz Club on December 18th. Don’t miss this wonderful show!

Not much of a back-story here. We live right near the theater, and so we had our normal daily routine at the house. We had trouble finding parking (street parking is legal, it just happened to be very crowded), but finally found a spot two blocks away. We walked into the theater at 7:58pm. I wasn’t worried, as they rarely start their shows on time (I don’t like that part one bit…).

At 8:05, the band wandered out, with the house lights still on. Then the M.C. came out and talked about upcoming shows for a bit. Finally, he introduced Chuck and the show began (roughly at 8:12pm). They played for 40 minutes and took a 23 minute intermission. When they returned, they were on for just under an hour, including the encore. So, just under 100 minutes of music. Fantastic!

Dolly Parton at Radio City Music Hall

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I’ve been a huge fan of everything Dolly Parton forever. Her music is great, her movies are great, her larger than life look and persona are great and she’s an all around fun and nice person. She also comes across as a genuine and caring person, including leading and being involved in a number of worthy charitable efforts.

The above site is coming soon and at the moment is just a cute flash intro to her other properties. On the music front, here is Dolly’s website.

We had tickets to see Dolly at Radio City Music Hall on March 7th, 2008. It’s one of the most beautiful theaters around, with pretty good acoustics for a place that large. We’ve seen a few shows there in the past year, including Martina McBride and Harry Connick Jr. I was way more excited than Lois about seeing the show and was very disappointed when she had to cancel (thankfully, it turned out to only be a postponement) due to health problems.

The show was rescheduled for May 1st (last night), and we hung on to our tickets and sat in the same seats. Very rear orchestra (10 rows from the back, 41 rows from the stage). Not so great seats for seeing, but just fine for hearing and experiencing the entire show.

The show was called for 8pm, and at 7:35pm it started to rain, so getting in was slightly less than pleasant. We were in our seats by 7:50pm and the place was at least 1/2 empty so I knew the show wouldn’t start on time.

The house lights went off at 8:12pm. When the curtain was pulled back, only the drum was playing (keeping a very straightforward beat) and one other musician was on stage, just clapping to the beat. The crowd started clapping along, keeping the same lively beat, with the excitement building. Then, one by one (or possible two at a time, etc.), more musicians kept coming on the stage, each clapping to the same rhythm (meaning, not playing their instruments, except for the drummer).

They kept coming out. Meaning, she has quite a large band. When they were done, there were 11 people on stage! Three back-up singers and eight musicians. Then Dolly came out (from the back of the stage, or even possibly from below or above, but not from the sides like the rest of them, I just couldn’t see). The crowd literally exploded.

All of the photos in this post are terrible, sorry. We were very far back, the lights were dim, flash photography wasn’t permitted (of course, it was going non-stop all night anyway!), and it wouldn’t have made a difference from our seats. The worst part is that Dolly’s outfit in the first set was the brightest white, and the rest of the stage and band were muted, so the contrast makes Dolly look like a cut-out. Anyway, just to give you a flavor, I’ll sprinkle in five photos in all.

Dolly Parton

She burst right into a number. Her voice is/was fantastic. She hasn’t lost anything over the years. The back-up singers were great as well. The band is excellent too, but as opposed to many other shows we’ve seen, they really take a very backseat role to Dolly, with very few if any leads/solos. In a way (though the scale can’t be compared!) this was more like the Joan Baez concert, where the band faded and let her shine.

Dolly Parton Band

For the one person out there who doesn’t know this fact, Dolly writes most of her own songs, brilliantly. She’s been a prolific songwriter for over 40 years, with lyrics and music that span a wide range of topics and styles. If you’re over 20 years old and don’t know the song 9-to-5, then I don’t know what to say to you. That’s one end of the spectrum, purely fun stuff. As a contrast, she also wrote I Will Always Love You (and performed it brilliantly last night!), which was covered by Whitney Houston (earning Dolly a ton in the process).

She’s campy, in looks and personality. Her bubbliness (notorious) and incredible energy level were both in full gear last night. Whatever ailed her, forcing the postponement of this tour, is well behind her now. In addition to singing many crowd favorites (she can’t possibly do them all in one show, given how many she has!), she tells very long and detailed stories throughout the show.

With some acts, you might be screaming inside your head for them to play more music. With Dolly, you are putty in her hands, and are delighted to be taken wherever she wants to take you. Seriously, everyone in the audience was hanging on her every word. She’s funny, warm, interesting, thought provoking, etc.

Early on, she mentioned that they were ready and raring to go at 8pm (Radio City is very good about starting shows on time), but they mentioned to her that because of the rain, it was taking longer to get the crowd seated. By the time her third number was done, the place was jammed (as in full).

Also different than acts as large as hers, playing venues as large as Radio City, there were no big screens, pyrotechnics, razzle dazzle (other than Dolly’s innate razzle dazzle!). On the one hand, we were marginally disappointed that the two big screens on the sides of the theater were dark, because it would have made it easier to see her up close and personal (like they had for Martina). On the other hand, there was something slightly refreshing about a straightforward concert that was about the music and the stories, rather than techno distractions (as cool as they often are).

They played for 55 minutes and then took a break. The break lasted 22 minutes. When they came back out, Dolly had changed outfits (the only change of the night). She then did a romp of partial covers (meaning, cover songs, that they only played parts of). She basically covered big hits chronologically through the years (50’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc.). Just a few examples: Great Balls Of Fire, R-E-S-P-E-C-T, among many others.

She used this mini-set to showcase the singers and some of the band members. Each singer sang at least one solo (really well!). The lead guitarist did Johnny Be Good. Because none of the covers was full length, they were able to get a majority of the 11 singers/band members involved in the showcase. It was very cool and very well done. Afterwards, Dolly introduced each of them by name. I couldn’t have possibly remembered each of their names, and they’re not listed on her site (always a disappointment to me when that happens). Anyway, like I said above, all were excellent, no exceptions.

Dolly Band Left Side

Dolly Band Right Side

Dolly herself is quite an accomplished musician, though for the most part, she sings without an instrument. Last night, she played a bunch of instruments, at least for part of a song, really well! Here are the ones I recall:

  • guitar (acoustic and electric, both really well)
  • piano
  • penny whistle
  • dulcimer
  • harmonica (wailing!)
  • banjo (for just a few seconds, in a very funny bit)
  • fiddle (a little longer than the banjo, but not much)

I don’t think I’m forgetting any other instruments, but perhaps I am. To repeat, we’re talking about an extremely talented lady, in every respect imaginable. Here she is on the piano, though you can’t make her out (other than her figure) at all:

Dolly Piano

The second set was nearly 50 minutes. When she said goodnight, the crowd were all on their feet and clapping wildly. Thankfully, even though she left the stage, they didn’t try to trot off the other 11 people and then trot them all back on for the encore. Dolly came back out a minute later and did one number. When it was all over, she was on stage for 132 minutes, including the 22 minute break. A very nice length indeed.

For each of the two sets, the people in the front stood for the first song, causing a rolling wave of everyone else standing up so that they could see the stage. In other words, for the first song of each set, everyone in the crowd stood up.

When she sang 9-to-5, the entire audience stood and sang along (really well!). When it was over, and the crowd was still going nuts, she made the crowd sing one verse all by themselves. It was pretty cool. The crowd also stood for the entire song during I Will Always Love You.

We’ve seen lots of shows filled with crazed adoring fans (Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, Martina McBride come to mind, but it feels unfair to leave out Jerry Jeff Walker and many others!). That said, there was something qualitatively different last night. The fans seemed overjoyed just to be there. I can’t describe it, other than to give two tiny (insignificant) examples:

  • You could see the gratitude on the face of one person, when it was clear that the other person (of the couple) arranged for the tickets
  • People kept turning to complete strangers (including to us!) and beaming, saying things like “is this fun, or what?” In other words, they just couldn’t help sharing their joy

Ultimately, for me, the proof positive was seeing Lois enjoy the show (and the experience) much more than she (much less I) expected her to. I felt vindicated in insisting we not miss this.

We have good friends across the cul-de-sac from us. The husband is a huge Dolly Parton fan. When Lois realized how big a fan he was, she practically offered her ticket to him. I would have been delighted to go with him, but thankfully, Lois decided that she really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. ;-)

Finally, Dolly played a bunch of songs from her new CD, Backwoods Barbie. The songs were all good. I already have Better Get To Livin’ on my iPod, as it was offered as a free download of the week a while back on Amazon.com. It’s great, as are a number of other songs on the CD that I’ve heard. We’re definitely buying a copy soon!

Martina McBride Rules!

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This could easily get very long, so either settle in, or bail now, seriously! :-)

Last night, Lois and I went to Radio City Music Hall to see Martina McBride perform. From past posts (or if you just happen to know us), you know that Lois is a country music fanatic. However, for all of the live music we’ve seen over the past few years, none of it has been country.

At least two have been bluegrass, which we both like (me probably more than Lois), but it has been a long time (over 15 years) since we saw one show at the Grande Ole Opry in Nashville, and neither of us could tell you who was in it (at least I can’t). ;-)

I can remember when I first discovered that my stereotype of country music was wrong. It was 20 years ago (give or take a year), when my boss’ boss mentioned to us that his favorite artist was Juice Newton. Yup, I thought he was pulling my leg. I can’t remember whether he gave us a copy of her CD or we bought it, but either way, we ended up with a copy. It might also have been one of the first CD’s I ever owned, as I was a little late to the party of adding a CD player to my stereo at the time.

There are lots of excellent songs on the CD, but one of my favorites is “Angel of the Morning”. It’s not that I became an instant country fan after hearing that CD, but it is the case that my mind was opened to hearing more.

I honestly can’t recall whether Lois liked any country artists before that CD, but sometime close to hearing that CD, she went on a much deeper odyssey into the genre than me. For those who know us, you know both of us can be compulsive. Mine are usually gambling or gaming oriented, with an occasional tech project thrown in. Lois’ are generally more noble (or at least useful, and for certain less destructive).

Lois’ obsession with country music hasn’t faded one bit. It has simply grown and morphed. There are groups that we used to listen to repeatedly, that she has no interest in any longer. However, in all cases, they have just been replaced by someone she is now exploring, musically and lyrically, etc. It was not unusual in the past for us to listen to a specific song five times in a row. Now, it’s rarely more than twice, so some change has occurred. ;-)

Anyway, for a very long time, Martina McBride has been at or near the top of Lois’ favorites. She has a voice that is truly incredible, and even though she doesn’t write most of the songs she records, she is active in selecting and producing the records, and her talent for recognizing and polishing other talent is evident.

Our goddaughter is graduating from William and Mary tomorrow. When I first heard that Martina was coming to NYC, and to Radio City Music Hall no less, I was 99% sure that we’d already be down in Virginia for the graduation and wouldn’t be able to make the show. Through a series of events (some of which were misunderstandings on our part), we decided that we could commit to being in NYC through Friday night (the night of the concert). I bought tickets.

We had seats toward the back of the orchestra, center stage. Even though we were pretty far back, the seats were reasonably good, with one exception. The sound board (which is pretty damn big) was four rows in front of us. In itself, it wasn’t that distracting, but it attracts lots of people (most of whom are working) and they are standing around it, which is very distracting. Oh well.

The acoustics, as usual in RCMH, were outstanding.

RCMH is owned by the same people who own Madison Square Garden and The Beacon Theater. I’ve written about the Beacon twice already (Dave Koz and The Allman Brothers). They run a very impressive technology marketing program. I usually get emails directly from them announcing artists that are coming to one of their venues, and am offered an opportunity to purchase tickets at least two days before they go on sale to the public.

However, what was impressive to me this time, was that I got an email a day before the show, letting me know the lineup for the evening. The opening act was going to be Rodney Atkins, coming on at 8pm. He was to be followed by Little Big Town. Then there would be a short intermission, followed by Martina at roughly 9:30pm, all subject to change, of course.

I can’t ever recall getting this kind of information before (without having to explicitly dig for it myself). It was very nice to know that Martina wouldn’t be on until 9:30, so that expectations are set appropriately.

OK, finally, on to the show. ;-)

We are familiar with both Rodney Atkins and Little Big Town. We own Rodney’s most recent CD (he has three), and both of Little Big Town’s, so it was a bonus that they were both opening for Martina. Rodney came on almost exactly at 8pm (unusual, since most shows start at least 5-10 minutes late, and some much later). He was good, and didn’t disappoint, but he wasn’t amazing. In fact, he’s better on the CD (and the Radio, yes Jamie, including XM). ;-) I don’t mean to imply anything negative about him or his performance, it was all good, just not exceptional in any way.

He only played four songs, all good ones, including two of his big hits: “If You’re Going Through Hell” and “Watching You” (a.k.a “Buckaroo”).

After a short break, Little Big Town took the stage. They are incredible. Two guys, two women. All four can sing well enough to be solo stars. The guys both play guitar, reasonably well, but mostly rhythm. The band behind them are also incredible. Lead guitarist played a number of instruments (including Dobro), drummer, bassist, etc. Their harmonies are not to be believed. They played for nearly 50 minutes, and every second was delicious.

Then the expected “short intermission”, slightly longer than announced.

At around 9:40 Martina took the stage. Wow. Her voice is crystal clear, operatic range, strength, softness without breaking up, in short, she can produce any sound she wants, the way she wants to produce it. In addition, she has a stage presence that all of the greats do.

I realize that if I start describing individual songs, I’ll miss tomorrow’s graduation, so I’ll make some larger points, and then conclude with the encore. ;-)

Martina also has an exceptional band behind her, which includes her brother Marty, who plays guitar and sings really well too. They did a duet where he sang the part that Keith Urban does on her CD. The lead guitarist is amazing, which brings me to my big point.

Many people who profess to hate country (or more likely make fun of country music), do so on the basis of their perception of the lyrics of the genre. That’s my personal opinion. In addition to thinking that the lyrics are predictable (and silly), and that the voices are twangy, I guess that most non-country lovers also think that the musicians are inferior to their favorites.

If I’m right about that, then they are wrong. The top acts all have extraordinary musicians, and the musical productions are first rate as well. Some songs are as good as the best rock bands, other as good as the best pop bands, etc. To me, the genre is most defined by the content of the lyrics, but otherwise, it’s a little harder to categorize the entire genre as different than the others.

I’ll finish that thought in describing the encore.

After a long standing ovation (one of many that Martina garnered throughout her set), she came back with the entire band for an encore. Before the band came out, just the lead guitarist came out, and he played a wild solo electric guitar riff that was definitely rock. When the band joined in, and Martina took the stage, she rocked out with Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”. Of course, Martina nailed it. But, so did the guitarist. He did the solos as well as Pat Benatar’s group ever did, and that’s not to take anything away from Pat’s guitarist (get it?).

Martina has a woman in her band, Jennifer (I missed her last name). :-( She played the fiddle, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and sings harmonies with Martina. She is so talented and has so much stage presence as well, that I will be surprised if I don’t hear about her going out on her own at some point in the future. As Martina said: “She sings like an angel”.

After “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” was over, the band left the stage, and Martina stayed only with her lead guitarist. This time, he only had an acoustic guitar. After telling a story to introduce her final song, she sang “Over the Rainbow”.

Are you kidding me? For Lois and I, accurately accused Wizard of Oz (and more importantly) Wicked fanatics, this was the perfect culmination of the evening. It was an amazing rendition (interestingly, Dave Koz also did a beautiful “Over the Rainbow” at the Beacon). Also, the guitarist was wonderful on the acoustic guitar this time, minutes after rocking RCMH on an electric one.

We walked home on cloud nine, and Lois couldn’t stop talking about the concert all the way down to Fredericksburg in the car this morning.

To sum it all up, Wow!

Harry Connick Jr.

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After going on and on about all of the live music we’ve taken in lately, friends of ours surprised us with tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. this past Saturday night at Radio City Music Hall.

Neither Lois and I were particularly familiar with him. We both knew he had an exceptional voice, and we’ve seen him act as well (mostly in Will and Grace on TV). I thought of him as a “crooner”, a modern-day Frank Sinatra.

We were definitely looking forward to the experience, but neither of us was excited from a musical perspective. We were extremely excited about spending the time with our friends, and weren’t disappointed in that regard.

The evening started at the Peking Duck House. ‘Nuff said about that. :-)

The concert was wonderful. Radio City Music Hall is a fantastic place. We were in nose-bleed territory, but still enjoyed everything. There was an 11-piece “big band” playing with him, and they were amazing. For roughly half the show, two other Jazz stars played with them, Leroy Jones and Lucien Barbarin.

Now for the star. Harry Connick Jr. was great. His voice was as good as expected, but neither of us realized he was such a talented pianist. Moreover, his charm is infectious, and when he talked to the crowd, he was mesmerizing. There were lots of other wonderful touches on the night (including a proposal from one of his trombone players to his girlfriend, now fiancee) ;-) and his daughters dancing on the stage with him during the finale.

Anyway, we’re now officially fans of his, and can’t thank our friends enough!