Friday, July 21, 2017

My Summer of Live Rock & Roll, 2017 Edition Act III – Queen + Adam Lambert


Whenever I provide a review or write up, it means that I have bought and paid for the item or admission costs myself.  In the extremely rare instance when items or admission are being provided free of charge or at a discount, I say so.  This site is non-monetized therefore the opinions provided are truly free of influence.

Queen + Adam Lambert

The start was delayed 45 minutes without explanation. While the concert did include all songs played in previous performances of this tour,  I think the delay at the very least should have been explained to the audience who were told in the pre-concert email to “Be on time there is no opening act.”  We were there –they should have been too.

The lights dimmed, and the familiar opening notes of We Will Rock You brought the entire arena to their feet, and they remained there for the next two hours.   The playlist moved back and forth between new or Adam Lambert songs and older, familiar Queen hits.   Another One Bites the Dust, Fat Bottomed Girls, and Killer Queen was presented back to back to great response.  Adam had several costume changes during the show and aside from stage prancing also road a pink bicycle during one number, Bicycle Race.  

Brian May was the hottest performer of the night.  He was relaxed, in control, and having fun as he rocked with guitar solos and stand out performances during every number.

The performance deco centered around a robot with a face from an Easter Island head.  The figure originally appeared on the cover of the News of the World album in 1977 -- but without a firm tie in to this particular concert.  No explanation was ever provided about the figure other than a vague reference to 3D.  (NOTE: A Brian May penned the biography of the group has recently been released that includes 3D pictures.)   

Somebody to Love & Crazy Little Thing Called Love was followed by a drum battle between Roger Taylor and a drummer who was touring with them (did not hear the name).    Roger backed that up by performing the Bowie part for Under Pressure.  Fantastic, as was Lambert’s take on I Want to Break Free.

No one can ever replace Freddie Mercury – not as a vocalist -- not as a showman.  Adam Lambert put his own style and spin on many of the songs early in the concert and then settled into his role as lead singer for the band.  Really enjoyed his performance of Radio Ga Ga.

The performance of Bohemian Rhapsody was a unique mix that included the use of the 1975 music video along with outtakes for Mercury's original vocals mixed into the live performance.  A wonderful way to include the history of the song and the band within the performance.

The encore was a rousing performance of We Will Rock You & We Are the Champions.  I walked out feeling energized and satisfied.

Evolution, The Thing Darwin Didn’t Think About  - Rock Bands

People change – sometimes by taking a different path and sometimes by departing entirely.  Because of this, rock bands evolve over time.  It doesn't mean the group no longer exists or has suddenly become a tribute band instead, it just means that the band has developed into its next iteration.    After all,  if the Beatles had never evolved,  it would have been John, Paul, George, Pete & Stu.

My own opinion about band evolution changed as more and more of the bands I listened to and enjoyed were forced to make changes in their line ups.  I have never seen Steve Perry live, but I have seen Journey.  Arnel Pineda was fronting the band when I saw them, and he was excellent.  His vocals were powerful and genuine to the music  -- and no it was not note for note, but that is why you go to a live performance to participate in the differences that occur when the band and crowd enjoy a synergy  -- when the music becomes something more than notes on a page.

I will never see David Ruffin or Eddie Hendricks either, but the Temptations are still pumping out a high-level performance of their best music.  In this case, only one original member remains, Otis Williams, but even with an 80% replacement of members, the Temp’s spirit lives on.

Sometimes, a band is lucky enough to have a younger brother to replace a lead singer, as was the case with Lynyrd Skynyrd. It doesn’t guarantee the same level of performance but you start with a good base of similarities that aids in the evolution.  Considering they have also had to replace guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom over the years, the band maintains a remarkably authentic sound and live performance ethos.

The one group that chose to downsize versus replace as their evolution was America.  Dan Peek was an excellent musician but was not something so extraordinary that he could not be replaced – and yes, his absence in the trio was sorely felt by the band and the audience.

So, do you buy the tickets when you know one or more of the members of the band are not the original folks?  Hell yes.  Think of it as the 2.0 version of the band,  the basics are still there and can be recognized.  Sometimes it is better,  sometimes not – you ever know until you try. 

The Venue

The Place of Auburn Hills is quickly becoming my favorite large venue.  Easy in and out,  the staff is friendly and helpful, and the prices (while including the normal markups) were not too outrageous.  

The only wrinkle I encountered was when I left my seat to go to the bathroom.  Upon re-entering the main hall,  I was confronted by a staff member wanting to see my ticket.  No problem there – I produced the ticket, and while she checked it, I took out my phone and took a few pix from the different vantage point.  She then informed me I couldn’t stand there as it was a walkway—Okay – but you stopped me there, and I was still waiting for my ticket to be returned.  If not blocking the passage was the point, she should’ve been positioned elsewhere – feel free to verify my ticket but don’t let it ruffle your feathers if I make use of the time while you figure out that I paid to be there.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Back From My Day Job

Advance look at the book's cover Copyright 2017, All Rights Reserved
The initial draft of my novel is finished and now rests with the Editor for her to do her job. At this point, I am kind of confused.  Not sure if I'm writing this as a break from my day job or if this is my day job and writing my novel was my hobby. Either way, I'm glad to say that after six months of diligent work, the book is finished and a tale that has been playing around in my head for five years is at last on paper -- or sitting in the cloud waiting for publishing.-- and readers.

The most abrupt change that happened from the way I visualized it, to the way it was finished, was the title of the book. Originally I called it Allah's Numbers, a totally appropriate title due to the subject matter – – you can find that out when you read it. After much thought, I shifted that title to From within the Firebird's Nest – – also totally appropriate. For what it's worth, the shift had nothing to do with outside influences – – but what I felt in rereading the entire book during my final edit of the work.

I think that titles are important, for one reason only – – to get someone to read what is written underneath it. I talked all about that in my blog entry entitled  PJ O'Rourke Taught Me How to Drive Fast While Getting My Wing-Wang Squeezed and Not Spill My Drink, if you're curious, read it for yourself -- I will apologize here for again using the words Wing-Wang in this blog after saying I wouldn't.

Anyway, I should have the final edits back from the Editor, in about three weeks or so, and then if there are no major rewrites needed it goes to press.   I am excited and at the same time exhausted from what I've just finished doing.

Here is a synopsis of the book:

Wars are won or lost, but if the loser can still strike back from the ashes of defeat, it is never truly over.

Sergei Kirill Mikhailov, a former KGB Strategic Intelligence Director, has had one goal since his fall from power during the Soviet breakup – revenge on the West. Unlike many who are armed with similar hatred, Sergei is armed with much more thanks to the Crimson Firebird Initiative, a program with a catastrophic goal he conceived and launched while he was in power. Now the time has come for him to take advantage of that tool and to use a young, confused Arab computer wizard to launch the attack which will redirect any retaliation from the West towards the young man’s organization instead of Sergei’s beloved motherland.

Meanwhile Sergei’s deputy in the program, Fyodor Ilyich Maldroski, aware that his former boss is setting events in motion enlists a friend and former Stasi officer to defang the Crimson Firebird, but time is running out. Enlisting the help of an American writer and Fyodor’s son they must all work together to prevent the Initiative from being triggered while working against a host of foes that are still lurking in the dark decades after the Cold War has ended. Standing guardian angel over this group of heroes is Nikki Grey, an intelligent and beautiful Mossad operative who has found herself falling in love with the American, Evan Davis.

A riveting tale that starts during World War II and is still playing itself out today, because wars never truly end.

Please consider this an invitation to read the book as soon as it is released --   It also makes a great Birthday, Graduation, Wedding, Bar Mitzvah, Bachelor Party, Just Because It's Thursday -- gift for all your friends, family, and anyone else you may or may not know.

... and speaking of reunions --  Nah -- that's next week. 


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Best of the Blog – The Deep South

This is the fourth week of reruns and with it the happy announcement that the first draft of Allah's Numbers was finished at 1:30 AM last Friday.  It took 600 pages to tell the story and now comes the arduous task of editing it before it is sent on to a real editor on Friday.

Today there will not be a regular weekly blog post. Instead, I am providing a link to a Best of the Blog entry.  This time, it is my thoughts about the Deep South, in honor of a recent trip to visit my Dad.  But coming soon --  My first stay at an Airbnb;  after the stay, there were rave reviews – for MacBeth.  So,  join me in the Way Back Machine and hope you enjoy my thoughts about the Deep South


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Best of the Blog -- For Father's Day

This is the second week of reruns as I am busily working to finish my latest novel, Allah's Numbers.  As of today, I'm at over 525 pages, and all hell was breaking loose.  To paraphrase Chairman Mao:  There is great chaos at all locales within the novel, and the situation is excellent.

Again this week there will not be a regular weekly blog post. Instead, I am providing a link to a Best of the Blog entry.  This time, it is an entry about my Dad, in honor of him and Father's Day.  I hope you enjoy it and if you haven't already -- call your Dad.

New blog entries will return in about two weeks --


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Best of the Blog -- Batman

As I've mentioned before, I am working on my latest novel Allah's Numbers and it's nearing completion. At present, the book is over 460 pages and I am writing the exciting climax to the story.

Because I am under a deadline to have this to my editor by the end of the month, I won't be writing my normal weekly blog post. Instead, I will take a cue from television and provide a link to a Best of the Blog entry whose relevance relates to current news.

Today, Adam West passed away. He was the first Batman I remember and the one who influenced my love of the character early on. In today's Best of the Blog link I direct you back to a post I made a few years ago regarding my love of the character. I hope you enjoy it.

New blog entries will return in about three weeks -- Same BatTime, Same BatChannel.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

My Summer of Live Rock & Roll, 2017 Edition Act II - Neal Diamond's 50th Anniversary Tour

Whenever I provide a review or write up, it means that I have bought and paid for the item or admission costs myself.  In the rare instance when items or admission are being provided free of charge or at a discount, I say so.  This site is non-monetized therefore the opinions presented are truly free of influence.

This concert was very different, in that the tickets were provided to me as a result of my being a veteran and by someone other than the act being reviewed.  Therefore, I will explain a little bit about Vet Tix before I talk about the concert itself.  

From their website:  

Vet Tix provides tickets to events which reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build life-long memories and encourage service members and veterans to stay engaged with local communities and American life. We support our troops by honoring their service and providing positive family and life experiences, during and after their years of service to our country.

 There are too many details as to how all this works to get into here, but if you are a veteran, I would recommend you check it out and sign up.    Short version:  They go out and seek donations (and ask that you help), they have a fair way to make sure every Veteran gets a chance at what tickets are available and the manage the administration of the distribution of the tickets very well.  This was only my second event for which Vet Tix supplied admission, but they have recently started offering a lot more shows and events in my area.  

As a Cold War Veteran, it is nice to be included in this recognition, especially since (even though we won) we got no parades, medals, or veteran’s hiring preference.

Neal Diamond

I used to consider myself a Neal Diamond fan – his music was big during the time I was most into music in my life.  But, after attending his 50th Anniversary concert, I am questioning that label.  I have decided that I like his hits, but not much else.

Someone at some point decided to maximize profitability by using all the seats in the arena and telling Neal he needed to walk around the provided walkway from time to time –to make those behind the stage feel like they were attending the show too.  It does not work.

Sitting behind the stage is very disconnected.  During the opening, the show used a large diamond shaped screen that completely blocked out the view of the stage.  I considered walking out, but then they moved the lower portion of that screen out of the way, but with the top of the screen still in place – we in the back were left with a slit to watch the show through.  A better idea would have been to not sell the seats behind the stage at all.  Neal used the walkway at the back of stage a total of 6 times,  not for a whole song but just walking through – except for Sweet Caroline when he sang a full chorus from there.

The start of the show was kind of low key, In My Lifetime, Cherry, Cherry, Desiree, Love on the Rocks, and Play Me were mellow tunes – I think too soft for the start of the show.  His voice was excellent though, still had the same tonal quality and he did not rely on tricks to hit the notes.

He moved on to several songs I did not know but did include favorites of mine like Song Sung Blue If You Know What I Mean and Forever in Blue Jeans.  I looked it up later and was surprised to find both Red Red Wine, and I'm a Believer were his lyrics.  I never knew, and he did a great job with both.

Neal next performed more soft stuff, and songs from Jonathan Living Seagull  -- sorry did not like the movie and do not like the music.    This whole section of the concert bored me.

He finished up his standard set with an excellent performance of I Am ... I Said.

The three encore songs (Sweet Caroline, Cracklin' Rosie, and America) were likewise excellent and had great energy – but where was Brother Love?

The Venue

My first show at The Palace of Auburn Hills.  Great crowd handling, fast in and out.  Excellent staff.  Sound balance was a little off for instruments over vocals.  The venue felt much more intimate than its 24,000-seat capacity – this is the largest site I have been to in Michigan but did not feel like it.  The food was mediocre.  Accidentally arrived too early and opted to eat dinner there – selections were many but overpriced (expected) and just average (not expected for the price).


Monday, May 22, 2017

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, You Should Too

I have heard that more antidepressants are being prescribed every day, than the day before. It isn't the people are any more depressed, although I think some of the increase may be improved diagnosis methods for depression, I think it is that people expect to be happy all the time and by happy I don't mean just not sad but actually feeling jubilant.  I am not in any way making light of serious depression or the people that have it -- I am talking about that occasional feeling of blues or ennui we all get.  I don't believe it is in human nature to feel happy 100% of the time; in fact, I believe it is harmful to not feel anything except happiness.

Setting aside the wonderful music that people feeling less than happy has given us, like the blues or melancholy classics, would there have been any creation of the wonderful tales and poems of Edgar Allen Poe if he had not felt anything except happiness? The Taj Mahal was built as a memorial the sadness one man felt at the death of his wife – – suppose he had never mourned, would it have ever been built?  Inventors and engineers creating things to prevent accidents and failures usually has a basis for inspiration in something tragic that is happened. It is how they work through their sadness and back into joy. Would we have seen such marvels if everyone just took a pill when they felt down?

I don't consider myself someone whose writing is considered earth shattering, but recently I was looking back through several entries in this blog and I came across a few that were actually based in sad memories and feelings I was having and wrote about. It served two purposes, it let me share those feelings publicly with people who may be had not found their own voice for their melancholy thereby finding some relief; but also in the end I found I had written my sadness out rather than allowing it to stay inward.

One of my favorite movies is Elizabethtown -- if you haven’t seen it, great chance romance story, I recommend it.  In the movie, Drew has just had a failure of epic proportions at the same time his father dies, then he meets Claire, who is more force of nature than flight attendant and at a pivotal point in Drew's blues -- she sends  him on a guided  journey (with soundtrack) across country so that he can learn to feel and see sights based on things she feels strongly about.  The trip is actually self-indulgent in that it allows him complete immersion in feeling sorry for himself but at the same time shows him new and beautiful things that are meant to allow him to heal. Claire also says what I consider to be one of the most memorable lines from the film that also can serve you well in real life:

I want you to get into the deep beautiful melancholy of everything that's happened.

She wants him to indulge in the sad feelings that he is having rather than trying to immediately drop and get over them – – she knows that somewhere in that deep beautiful melancholy is redemption. 

By the end of the journey, when she guides him to a place where she is waiting – – he is ready to proceed and embrace true joy. From time to time, I am on the highway passing by Elizabethtown, and I am always tempted to take the exit and allow myself to take Highway 60B. 

Life is meant to be a journey of ups and downs, not a mediocre level or only joy existence. It is the downs that make you appreciate and enjoy the ups.

After all, what good would a wonderful Taco Tuesday be without a blue Monday, Monday?