Search This Blog

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Patty Griffin & Mavis Staples @ The Oregon Zoo 7/25/15

The rain held-off for Patty Griffin & Mavis Staples on the beautiful lawn of The Oregon Zoo. This was fortuitous for two reasons: the obvious one being that we were not soaked, as was a distinct possibility earlier in the day. The second reason was, the threat of bad weather was enough to thin the crowd gathered in the standing-room only section at the base of the stage. This provided an excellent viewing experience for the marathon three-act show.

First up was Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers. Amy Helm is the daughter of the late Levon Helm,  drummer for The Band. The Handsome Strangers were her two band-mates. Helm possesses a clear, clean Southern voice. I couldn't help but wish for a duet between her and Patty Griffin, whose voice is equally fantastic, but has a weathered character. The contrast would have been something to behold.

Next was Patty Griffin. Her  set was heavy with Gospel songs, each more stunning than the last. It is shows like these which reinforce my belief that music is quite similar to meditation and prayer

Mavis Staples was last. Her set was straight out of the Civil Rights Movement, songs of defiance, justice and freedom. She ended it with a thundering audience-participatory version of "I'll Take You There" which had me floating.

Mavis announced that not only do the three women plan to reassemble next year, but they also want to produce a record together. I for one am filled with anticipation even now.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Bruce Hornsby and The Noisemakers @ The Oregon Zoo 7/24/15

Bruce Hornsby has been a favorite of mine since childhood, and so it was a fantastic experience to see him on a perfect summer night, outside on the sprawling lawn of The Oregon Zoo. As I understand it, the Oregon Zoo pioneered the concept of zoo concerts and others around the country followed suit. They are one of the highlights of the summer. Hornsby played my favorites, "The Way It Is" and "Valley Road," the latter with a bluegrass twist, developed at Tennessee's Bonaroo Festival. Hornsby is a one-of-a kind piano player with a truly unique and instantly identifiable style.

I also learned a lot from his stage-patter between songs, such as how he toured with The Grateful Dead" in his early career, and he threw in that his son was an Oregon Duck, much to the delight of the crowd.

Also of note was local guitarist Tony Frutado a great fit for Hornsby. They seem to share that aforementioned singular style. Witnessing such artistry from all-involved was an unforgettable privilege.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

John Mellencamp @ Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

It would be nearly impossible to top the second time I saw John Mellencamp, at which I was invited to take the security guard's spot--right at the front of the stage. Praise Be to The Concert God: Dylan & Mellencamp @ The Edgefield Still, that was a hard-won privilege, I looked forward to the intimate Schmitzer, and I thought that surely it would be a different experience than the sprawling lawn of Edgefield.

And in some ways it was. Mellencamp's show is every bit as loud as you'd expect. Now, imagine the loudness of an arena show inside a 3,000-seat venue. My shirt was vibrating. The aspect that remained the same as with the Edgefield show was totally unexpected: People stood the entire time. I was shocked, I figured this Schnitzer date would attract every Mellencamp fan too faint of heart to brave the General-Admission, Standing-Room Only Edgefield throngs. In short, I thought they'd be grateful for their seats.

I squeezed myself into the aisle, and could see pretty well from there. Mellencamp is an artist who doesn't mind playing his Greatest Hits, like "Pink Houses" "Small Town" and "Jack and Diane" (the latter was a tune notably absent from both nights of his Edgefield show. Still absent was "Hurts So Good", a composition which was the favorite of an irate drunk woman who did not appreciate that it was not included in his Edgefield setlist. )  That said,  Mellencamp did manage to include lesser-known songs from his catalogue, such as selections from his stage-musical collaboration with Stephen King.

Despite the standing issue, I found the Schnitzer to be an elegant venue for the show, all's well that ends well.

Amos Lee & David Gray @ Edgefield July 14, 2015

I have been a fan of Amos Lee since first seeing him open for Bob Dylan in '05. In the intervening decade, I have seen all of his Portland Area shows, and even a few radio station sessions. I've watched him grow from a relaxed brand of soul-singer on his self-titled debut, to a rocker with a Springsteenian vibe, to most recently a slightly country-inflected troubadour on his two latest releases, "Mission Bell" and "Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song" He is a marvelous fit in any of those genres, each is so evenly matched that picking a favorite boils-down entirely to personal taste, and not his skill.

It was a particular pleasure to see him perform once again at Edgefield Concerts on the Lawn, a venue which can also claim credit for evolution. Edgefield once ranked among the worst places for patrons with disabilities, as shown in the review of my first experience:Praise Be to The Concert God: Dylan & Mellencamp @ The Edgefield. The wheelchair-seating has greatly improved since that time, and now Edgefield has risen to one of the most enjoyable venues in town. This is quite a feat for an outdoor setting.

Foe me, David Gray was a bonus. I enjoy his music very much, nut in a Greatest Hits sort-of-way. That is not to say that he didn't put on a fantastic show. He did. There are few things greater than seeing two consummate musicians in top-form, something made even better when it's experienced in a venue that has come so far with regard to accessibility. For that, Edgefield deserves all the praise in the world.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Unnecessary Farce"

"Unnecessary Farce" was my first show as an invited critic for Lakewood Theatre, but I have seen similar shows at Lakewood and this is the type of show at which they seem to excel. I love a Lakewood crime/mystery play.

"Unnecessary  Farce" begins as a undercover bribery investigation, (one of the bumbling cops is too excited about her first real assignment to realize it is unwise to dress in full-uniform.), but it becomes much more.

It is a toss-up for funniest character, but I think the lisping head of mayoral "sec-curr-ity" Agent Frank, (Ashton Root) wins the honor, though the thick-accented, impossible to understand Scottish hit-man named Todd (Ethan LaFrance) is a close second.

While there is nothing particularly summery about the play itself, it did feel like the perfect way to spend a summer evening. I suspect you will enjoy this very necessary farce.

Monday, July 6, 2015

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" @ Broadway Rose

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" is an odd show, to say the least. On the one hand, it is very much an old-school show: Big production numbers, with sweeping choreography. On the other hand I was surprised to read that the show premiered on Broadway in 2002, because there is some humor in the show that made me wince just a bit. Further reading revealed that the film upon which it is based is itself based on another film from 1956, which explains the "dated" humor and stereotypes. Plus, it's set in the 1920s. Long story short, I wouldn't have expected human trafficking to be such a hoot. Someone should tell Liam Neeson he can lighten-up a bit.

Millie Dillmount is a "modern woman" making her way in 1920s New York City, with an eye towards landing a rich husband, possibly her boss at the steno-pool. Along the way she meets handsome, young, and poor Jimmy Smith and she must make her choice.

Heath Hyun Houghton and Samson Syharath are indeed hilarious as Ching Ho and Bun Foo, two brothers who assist in the human trafficking subplot, it is the kind of humor for which you are likely to feel a twinge of guilt, but really what's a little guilty humor now and then?

"Thoroughly Modern Millie" continues Broadway Rose's long and strong tradition of providing quality musicals. There's a 12-piece band! And once again, I feel compelled to share a photo in order to capture the largeness of the show.

Performances run through July 26th at Tigard High School.