|A blog for commentary regarding the music of today (and yesterday...and the day before...)|
Click here for a review of Dark Circles by The Devils.
Click here for a review of Bangs...Sounds of the 80s.
The archive format has changed!
If you are looking for old posts, they are archived monthly now; links are in the left-hand column at the bottom.
Comments? Send me e-mail
October 30, 2002
Somethin' to do on Halloween...
I know this is super-late notice, seeing as Halloween is tomorrow, but if you are looking for something fun and entertaining, check out the King of the Damned event at the WOW Cafe down on 4th Street. Am I performing? Maybe. *snicker* I know I am doing a piece with Ian Blakk where I'll be playing a female love interest, and I might be doing my own drag bit...but I'm still waffling on the whole thing. See, I didn't end up starting my drag career last week, so if I do perform tomorrow it'll be my first time, and I'm really nervous about it, and and....
First of all, I hate box seats. I never sat in one before this past Thursday, and I have to say that given the choice, I wouldn't do it again. I am afraid of heights. And sitting in the front of the second tier of box seats in Carnegie Hall does not help to lessen that fear. Carnegie is a resaonably large theater space, and I have sat in the orchestra section and also dealt with the vertigo of the balcony (the "cheap seats"). But there I was, knees pressed up against a precarious ledge that looked like it had seen much better days, in a free-standing chair that wasn't bolted to a damn thing, trying desperately to keep my eyes focused only on the performers on the stage.
I tried not to let my paranoid fear of heights interfere with the show I was attending. I was there to see the 2nd Annual Concert of Excellence, an event to host the Remy Martin X.O.Excellence Awards and also to raise funds for a production company called Second Generation. 2g is a non-profit organization that focuses on bringing issues of Asian-Americans to the stage, in the form of musicals, plays, and other events. They have a musical currently running in Seattle called "Making Tracks", and they purchased the rights to make Ang Lee's film "The Wedding Banquet" into a musical. I am hoping "Making Tracks" has another New York run and I am really excited to see "The Wedding Banquet" (which is still being worked on). I won't rattle off the details of Thursday's concert; you can actually go to any of the links I've already thrown in this post and read all about it. There were some celebrity presenters, some celebrity award-winners, and a kick-ass performance by Tia Carerre (well-knwon for her role in Wayne's World), where she sang karaoke to "Bohemian Rhapsody" with the performers from The Donkey Show (you'll just have to click on that link for the explanation!!). The bit was as an excerpt to a new musical currently in the works called Karaoke of Errors, a redo of Shakepeare's Comedy of Errors.
The evening featured excerpts from 2g's productions, tributes to the award winners, and pieces related to Asian-American theater. For me the highlight was the tribute to filmmaker Mira Nair, which was a traditional Indian dance piece. I also enjoyed the Concert of Excellence children's choir, made up of local school children of Asian descent. Talk about adorable!
Anyway, a good time was had by all. I was there on my roommate's guest ticket; this was a charity event, after all, and there was no way I could afford it. But god bless connections....my roommate was playing her violin in the accompanying ensemble. Score!
On another note, I saw some Bach yesterday. For free!!!! Well, sort of. I had to sit through an entire Lutheran church service.
There is a church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that every other week performs a Bach cantata in the middle of their Vespers service. Remember that the majority of Western music from the Middle Ages all the way to the mid 1800s was composed purely in the name of Christianity. Back then people went to church every day, sometimes many times. A Catholic could start their day with the Matins service (before sunrise) or attend any of the seven other services that the church offerred every three hours or so until after dark. The services adhered to very specific formats, where every single word was sung. Large cathedrals had their own choirmasters (in Italy this person was known as the "maestro di capella") who were responsible for composing all liturgical music.
Bach had such an appointment in the 1700s. He was Lutheran, living in Protestant Germany; just an average guy trying to make some money for himself and his family. He received an appointment in Leipzig from 1723 until his death in 1750. Part of his job, in addition to teaching and conducting, was to write all liturgical music for the town's Lutheran church services.
And thus we arrive at the Cantatas.
Bach wrote two cycles of Cantatas; enough material for two full calendar years of church services. Simply put, Cantata means "song". In the Lutheran church, this meant a chorus of singers and a small ensemble performing a piece of Lutheran text and poetry. The Cantata features chorales (the full chorus) and solo's in the form of recitatives and arias. It is performed somewhere in the middle of the church service; according to my reference book (yup, I have the "History of Western Music" open at my elbow) this occurred after the Gospel and before the Sermon.
Now that we've all had our history lesson (I tried to make it short...really I did), let's get back to the Bach Vespers here in the year 2002. The Holy Trinity church on Central Park West at 65th Street performs Lutheran services in the classic style where everything is sung. Every other Sunday from October to around Easter time, they include the appropriate Bach cantata for that day's service during Vespers (the service that occurred at sundown; these days it is always at 5PM). I for one don't mind sitting through a church service. I am not Christian (I was raised Episcopalian, though, but that's another story), but I can sit for an hour and even join in the hymns once in awhile. In fact I think it is kind of interesting to listen to liturgical music in the context in which the pieces were written. Sprinkled throughout the service there are usually other pieces by German composers; this past Sunday we heard a short motet by Pachelbel.
If you are interested in Bach's cantatas, live in the New York area, and have some time on Sundays, check out the Holy Trinity website and click on "Bach Vespers" for this season's schedule. If you don't live in New York you can always give them money; they survive purely on donations. Even though I am far from Lutheran and not even Christian, I believe the Bach Vespers program is worth it! I told a friend the other day that it was just a ploy on the Lutherans' part to bring people into their church, but really I was just joking. I think they provide a valuable service, by bringing Bach's music to a wider audience. Not everyone can afford concert tickets.....especially in today's piss-poor economny!! So for the price of a few bucks in a collection plate, you can hear a little bit of music from one of the most well-known Western composers of the 18th century.
I'll be there, and so should you. Besides, it's only five measly dollars. And if you don't want to venture out, the Bitter End website has a webcam, so chances are you can catch them with your web browser.
I owe this blog an Elvis Costello review and a mention of the Carnegie Hall event I attended earlier this evening. Stay tuned...more blabbing will come soon...
I venture to say no one.
David Bowie is probably one of the most versatile artists in history. He has gone through dozens of personas, has experimented with many different genres of music, and even performed on Broadway. He is an accomplished writer, musician, producer, and actor. And he has achieved what few other artists have: he's been making music for over three decades, and shows no signs of slowing down.
My first exposure to David Bowie was MTV in the early 1980s. He had some huge hits back then, most notably "Let's Dance", "China Girl", and "Blue Jean". But to be honest I don't remember liking any of those tracks. In MTV's early days their video catalog was not all that big, and I recall seeing older clips from Bowie such as "Fashion", "Ashes to Ashes", and "Under Pressure" (a collaboration with Queen). These were the songs I enjoyed the most, far more than his mid-80s hits. Of course I was young and not old enough to shop for LPs on my own, so the first Bowie album I owned was Never Let Me Down. And in September 1987, I saw him during the Glass Spider Tour.
I couldn't tell you anything about that concert. It was at Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro, MA (home of the Patriots...go New England!!) and we had general admission, which meant we spent the whole concert fighting the crowd that kept pushing closer to the stage. I remember the big glass spider that served as the main set, and I remember not being able to see a goddamn thing. What did he play? I have no clue.
It took me another five years to realize that David Bowie had been around since the early 70s. And it took me until the year 2000 to actually listen to anything from his early albums other than the well-known tracks such as "Rebel Rebel", "Ziggy Stardust", "Space Oddity", and "Heroes". And it took seeing him in concert earlier this week to truly understand what an amazing artist Bowie realy is.
Bowie did a min-tour of New York City, consisting of one concert in a small venue (under 5,000 seats) in each of the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island). The tour was to support his latest album, Heathen, which was recorded in the summer of 2001 in upstate New York. My roommate is a total Bowie fanatic, and lucky for me she did the legwork and scored tickets from eBay (all five shows sold out in half an hour; I can't imagine how anyone actually got tickets from Ticketmaster!). We had pretty good seats; 3rd row center on the Mezzanine level. All we really wanted was to be able to have a clear view and to enjoy the concert as much as possible.
He started off with two tracks from Heathen. I hadn't listened to the album yet, but I immediately liked what I heard. The new tracks sound like classic 1970s Bowie, with a lot of guitar and a basic rock beat. On stage he had three guitarists, a bassist, a pianist, a keyboardist, and a drummer. I immediately noticed how great the band was; Bowie has played with this line-up for a few years and it was obvious that they were extremely tight (on a Duran Duran sidenote, Bowie's drummer, Sterling Campbell, was a member of Duran Duran for a year during the early 1990s, and shame on Duran for letting him go because he's phenomenal!).
Right after the new tracks he played something from 1977, "Breaking Glass". And then I screamed happily as he went right into "Fame", a track I had known about early on because Duran Duran covered it on a b-side in 1981. When he followed it up with "Ashes to Ashes" I nearly fell off my chair with excitement.
The remainder of the concert more or less followed that format: songs from the new album, followed by songs from the 70s. He did sprinkle a few newer tunes throughout, such as "Absolute Beginners" and "China Girl". Besides tracks from the new album, the most recent song was "I'm Afriad of Americans", a 1997 collaboration with Trent Reznor. I had never heard the song before (strange, since in the 90s I was a huge Nine inch Nails fan), but I absolutely loved it, and it immediately went onto my "must buy" CD list.
I could have done without "Let's Dance" during the encore, but his performance of that song served as a testament to his lasting vocal talent. The man is 55 years old, and his voice sounds just as fresh as it did twenty years ago. I elbowed my roommate and told her that Bowie should be on Broadway; his singing was clear, crisp, and perfect on almost every note.
It would be appropriate at this time to mention how good he looked. Bowie is a perfect example of why it would behoove rock stars to quit alcohol and drugs. Don't get me wrong; he definitely looks like a man in his early 50s. But he doesn't look like he's been beaten up and then run over by a garbage truck and then thrown into the East River for ten years, which is exactly what a lot of other older rock stars look like these days (*cough* Rolling Stones *cough*). He had a great deal of energy, jumping around stage and dancing and swinging the mike stand. And he was more than happy to talk to the audience; the guy is a ham, and he talked between songs as if he was performing to an audience of ten ("I have a confession. I was in Ohio and I got on stage and said, 'Akron, it's great to be here!!' I lied."). He looked like he was genuinely having a fantastic time on stage, and the excitement was contagious -- it washed over his entire band with smiles and nods and a great deal of laughing, and extended out to the audience as we danced and clapped and shouted with him.
He also came across as phenomenally human. During his shows he has a music stand next to him with a book of all his lyrics, and he isn't particularly shy about referring to them in the middle of his songs. And these days he isn't using a persona to perform his tunes; he's just a guy in a suit who is having a great time singing.
The grand finale was "Ziggy Stardust", no doubt as a celebration of the 2002 30th anniversary of that album. He kicked it off by crashing his mike stand into his music stand, scattering his lyrics all over the stage. The concert had been two hours long, and none of us were ready for it to end; I could have sat there and listened to the guy for another six hours, and I am sure most of the audience was in agreement.
Amazing. Absolutely amazing. I am so happy that I got a chance to see Bowie in a small venue, where he performed classic songs that I never could have heard live when they were released. This was definitely the best concert I've been to this year, and will probably remain on my top ten list for years to come.
Here is the complete setlist, horked from someone who actually wrote it down as it happenned:
And as a final note, there were some famous faces in the audience; Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and some guy from Bon Jovi. Unfortunately they whisked Bowie out the front door while distracting all of us at the backstage door, so we didn't get any photo ops. I got a shot of the bassist, though -- she's an absolute cutie, and talented, too!
What more can I say? It was incredible. I will post a detailed account tomorrow or the next day; my mind is still reeling from astonishment at just how goddamn good this show was.
I will mention, however, that David Bowie looks absolutely stunning for 55. In fact, he's quite drool worthy. No no...better yet...the man is downright sexy.
And remember my Drag King post? "Opportunities" by the Pet Shop Boys will be performed by yours truly next week. Although I'm not going to tell you where or when. What can I say...first drag performance ever and I'm a little shy. *blush* Meanwhile I'm picking some more songs for future performances, and I swear I will disclose all of the details once I get a little more cozy with the whole idea...