The Police in Concert

Posted by barb on Aug 7, 2008 in Concerts, Travels

This has been a summer of shows for me – The Lion King, Indigo Girls, the NSO’s “Broadway Rocks”, and the NSO’s “Dial H for Hitchcock”. But the highlight for me so far has been The Police. (Followed very closely by The Lion King.) I’ll try to write up the other concerts here later, but I want to say a bit about The Police before it fades too much.

Sting on the big screen

I originally bought 2 tickets for The Police’s concert in Pittsburgh. I wasn’t sure who would go with me to the concert, but suspecting that I would drag along poor Andrew. Then I remembered that my aunt Maggie and I sang loudly to The Police on a drive down to the Keys one summer, so decided to invite her. No sooner did I get the words “I have two tickets to The Police in Pittsburgh,” than Maggie was saying, “I’ll go.”

Skipping ahead over our road trip (we totally got “Pixburghed”), and our fun for half a day in Pittsburgh (we really, really go “Pixburghed”), we made our way to the concert venue relatively early. We figured that we’d rather get there early and twittle our thumbs than get stuck in traffic or parking.

The venue, The Post-Gazette Pavillion, was rather nice. It’s an outdoor venue, and there are several food and drink vendors set up in a couple of cul-de-sacs on either side of the stage and lawn. (Maggie indulged in a glass of wine and a beer; I stuck with a smoothie).

The Police on stage

The concert itself was awesome! I heard later that the earlier concerts a year ago were a bit…er…well, not terribly good. But, this one was great – they seemed to have pulled it together over the intervening year. They played both Maggie’s and my favorite songs (“Wrapped around your finger” and “Don’t stand so close to me”).

Sadly, our seats were behind tall-boy and big-haired-girl, but there were large screens, so we could see most of what was going on. And, they sat down during Maggie’s favorite song, so we stayed standing and were able to see every minute of it.

As with any moment like this – one that you’d always hoped would come, but not sure it would – it ended too soon. Our trip back to the hotel was another little adventure, but I’ll have to decide later if it merits a blog post…let’s just say that this was the one time that having an airport hotel did not make it easier to find (hee hee hee).



Sherlock’s Last Case

Posted by barb on Aug 4, 2007 in Concerts, Travels

Minnesota Showboat

We went out to the Minnesota Centennial Showboat this evening to see Sherlock’s Last Case. This was Andrew’s first time at the Showboat, but hardly mine.

Back when I was in high school, my aunt Maggie would visit once or twice a year. This meant that my Mom was always looking for fun things for us to do when Maggie was in town. I don’t remember what year it was, but one summer Mom found an ad (or review) for the Showboat. We decided that it sounded like the perfect thing to take Maggie to.

Honestly, I don’t remember what shows we saw there. The experience, however, was always fun. The Showboat has generally played melodramas (at least in the summer shows we’ve gone to). This means that the show is generally a little campy, but also that the audience gets to participate by “boo”ing the villain and “yay”ing the hero. More than that, the show is always accompanied by “olio”s between the scenes. These olios often outshine the show itself. They defy explanation that will do them justice, but suffice it to say that they are silly, often hilarious, comedy-musical shorts.

Blurry Showbaot stage

I remember the Showboat being an old-fashioned paddle boat, complete with a large paddlewheel. I was a bit disappointed by the new showboat, which is really just a floating theater. According to the Showboat’s website, the boat I remember was shut down in 1993 for repairs. Sadly, it was destroyed in a fire set by a stray welding spark in 2000. A new showboat was commissioned, and opened in 2002. I suppose I can’t blame them for designing a new venue which would maximize stage and seating over a design with a paddlewheel, but still.

The current play is the first I’ve gone to at the new theater, and I must say that they have upheld the high standards I remember from my youth. The play was very well done, even if it was hard to tell sometimes who, exactly, the villain was. (At one point, the audience actually boo-ed Holmes, and egged on the man trying to kill him.) The olios were, as usual, a highlight, with the “Cover Girls” a personal favorite.

If you happen to be in the Twin Cities area and looking for something to do one evening, I highly recommend a show at the Showboat, no matter what that show might be.



Halloween at the Pops

Posted by barb on Oct 29, 2006 in Concerts, Pictures

Violet Hunter and Sherlock Holmes

The fruit of all my costume-making labor came to fruition this evening at the Marvin’s Halloween Monster Mash concert at the Kennedy Center. Our picture was snapped by someone from WASH-FM, a local radio station, but we haven’t seen the gallery up on their web page yet. There were lots of kids there, many of them in costume. A few adults were in costume, too, though not a huge number. Our costumes, in my humble opinion, were among the best there tonight.

Concert Hall Stage

The concert hall was decorated up for the occasion. All the doors into the Hall were decked with spider webs. The stage had a pile of carved pumpkins, a couple enormous bats and spiders. There was also a skeleton choir. The decorations set a great mood for the concert.

The opening piece was a spooky-sounding string quartet, during which the other musicians paraded through the audience and made their way up to their seats. This was a great chance for us to check out their costumes. The musicians’ costumes were all top-notch. There were the normal suspects: pirates, witches, a punker, a Nat’s player (or fan), etc. Of note, there was a mad scientist, a sumo wrestler, a old, fat Elvis, an Indiana Jones, and a Raggedy Ann with a knife in her belly. There was, however, one witch that looked exactly like the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz (or Elphaba from Wicked). The best costume was the “balloon guy” – he was dressed as a headless guy (i.e. with a jacket that went up over his head), and then in place of a head, he had an enormous, helium-filled, round orange balloon decorated like a jack o’ lantern. Oh, and the best part of the balloon guy’s costume was that he could make the balloon rise or lower, so for a while it was hovering well above the rest of the symphony.

The entire concert was great. Here are a few notes:

  • There were a few movie pieces, from King Kong, Psycho, and Harry Potter.
  • They performed a couple of numbers from Wicked: The Wizard and I and For Good. The soprano who sang the part of Elphaba in the Wicked pieces was fantastic. Sadly, I didn’t really like the other soprano who sang the part of Glinda in For Good – she didn’t sound as natural in the part, singing almost too deliberately for a Broadway song.
  • They played a tango from The Addams Family, after which a girl dressed as Wednesday Addams came out and chided Hamlisch for vilifying ghosts and goblins, her friends. She then sang a sappy love song, which I can’t remember the name of (and isn’t in the program). While the girl did a great job with the song, I couldn’t believe that Wednesday Addams would sing such a song. She’s all about being morbid, and the song didn’t ring true.
  • The finale was two numbers from Phantom of the Opera. The singers did a great job with these numbers, but I’m not sure I’m a fan of Phantom. Maybe I should actually see it one of these days.

Overall, this was a great concert. Andrew and I are going to have to look more closely at the Pops schedule and see if there are other concerts we would like to see.

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Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie

Posted by barb on Feb 5, 2005 in Concerts

We went to see Brad Sherwood and Colin Mochrie at the Warner Theatre tonight. Basically they did a live version of Whose Line is it Anyway?, with some familiar games and some unfamiliar games.

The show featured a lot of audience members — more so than the TV show, since there were only two actors instead of the show’s usual four. They played “moving people” and “Whose Line?” (with lines of dialog provided by audience members). They also did “Sound Effects”, which made me laugh so hard I nearly peed.

The final game they played was also the most disturbing game. It was “Alphabet”, but no ordinary game of Alphabet. No. They played it blindfolded. With bare feet. And 100 live mousetraps scattered about. Yeah. Live mousetraps and bare feet. At first I found this game nerve-wracking, but after a while, when they were both on their hands and knees looking for unsnapped mousetraps to thrust in the direction of the other’s voice, I started to get into it, though I hardly paid attention to the improv itself — just the mousetraps.



A Christmas Carol

Posted by barb on Dec 22, 2004 in Concerts

Another show at the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center caught my eye — Charles Williams narrating A Christmas Carol accompanied by Hesperus. Andrew introduced me to Hesperus shortly after we started dating, and I quite enjoy their music, so we decided to go.

The show was quite enjoyable. The story, of course, was abridged to fit into a one-hour time slot, but the abridgement was well done. I did notice that Marley’s speech about his onerous chain had been cut, and Andrew mentioned it later, as it’s his favorite speech in the story. But that didn’t take away from the story much. The music was, as usual, a pleasure to listen to. Occasionally I found that the volume of the music competed with the text a bit too much, but it generally didn’t last very long.

You can check out the performance yourself, since nearly all of the Millenium Stage shows are simulcast on the web and archived.


Bugs Bunny on Broadway

Posted by barb on Aug 6, 2004 in Concerts

We’ve talked about going to see Bugs Bunny on Broadway for a couple years running, now, but finally went tonight. The concert featured several Bugs Bunny cartoons that use classical music as inspiration, with the National Symphony Orchestra playing along with the cartoons.

The cartoons included The Rabbit of Seville (which I’m not sure I’d previously seen in its entirety), High Note, and What’s Opera, Doc?. They also played several cartoons without the NSO accompanying, presumably to stretch out the show. However, some of these cartoons were quite old, and completely unfunny.

Overall a fun evening; however, I think if we go again, we’ll get tickets in the house. The lawn was full of families with children who could not sit still, even for Bugs Bunny, for the whole concert.


Geeks at a Concert

Posted by barb on Jul 10, 2004 in Concerts

Andrew and I went to the Weird Al concert last night at the 930 Club in DC. I haven’t seen such a gathering of geeks since…well…since the last Star Trek con I went to years ago. (There are probably that many geeks at work, but they don’t congregate in such large numbers at once.)

Before the concert started, I had fun watching the crowd. The only thing funnier than geeks trying to dress up (see one of my entries from the American Astronomical Society meeting for more on that) is geeks trying to look cool. For example, there was one guy fairly close to where we were standing who looked a bit like Screech from Saved by the Bell (the older Screech, not the gangly young Screech). He wore dark pants and a dark polo-type shirt. That would have been a good look for him. But, he couldn’t stop at looking nice; he had to try for cool. His idea of cool was a Mr. T-type chain — just one, but it was fairly thick. Oh, and the pièce de résistance was his sun glasses…inside a dark club. He kept taking off of the glasses, but still.

The concert itself was great fun. Weird Al knows how to put on a good show. He went off for frequent costume changes, but while he was out they played bits from Al TV, so there wasn’t ever any lulls in the concert. He opened with one of his polka-compilations, which are always fun. They also did a montage of several songs (though there wasn’t a discernible theme — at first I thought TV songs, then food songs, then it seemed anything went, including Jerry Springer, Pretty Fly for a Rabbi, Lasagna, and Gump. Among my favorites of the other songs he played were: Amish Paradise, One More Minute, It’s All About the Pentiums.

Oh, and they also did an encore. I remember when I saw him years ago (late 80s…possibly early 90s), he did an encore of Yoda. That was the song for which my best friend, who accompanied me to the concert, and I had won a lip-synching concert (I played Yoda, and she was Luke). We felt like he played that encore just for us. For the encore last night, he first did The Saga Begins and then Yoda. Ah. That was a great ending to the evening.

A couple notes on the venue: The 930 Club is not a seated venue, meaning that everyone just stands around the stage. While this makes for an intimate-feeling concert, it also made for a painful one. About half-way through, my legs started to cramp up, and I really wanted to stretch them. However, we were surrounded by people, close enough that they were constantly bumping into me, so there was no room to really move at all.

Besides that, the 930 Club is in a really rough part of DC. When Andrew told me which Metro stop we’d have to use to get there, I nearly told him we weren’t going…our $80 investment be damned. Andrew managed to calm me down enough that we went (obviously), but I can safely say that we won’t be back anytime soon. I don’t care who plays there.



Posted by barb on Jan 18, 2004 in Concerts

I dragged Andrew to Stomp today. I’ve wanted to see them for years, but was too poor the other times they came through town. When I heard the radio ads last November, I called and got us tickets. Good tickets — we were in row C, which was actually the fifth row, though after the show I was glad we weren’t any closer.

The show was very high energy with rhythms created by various and sundry objects — matchboxes, cardboard tubes, lighters, trash cans, trash can lids. They even threw in kitchen sinks. With water.


The Lion in Winter

Posted by barb on Jan 8, 2004 in Concerts, Travels

I finally was able to get together with Jim and Maggie (my aunt and uncle who live near Atlanta) tonight. They came by the hotel, and whisked me off to the Shakespeare Tavern (a mere 0.5 miles from the hotel) to see their production of The Lion in Winter.

I had never seen this play before (or the movie with Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole), so I went in not knowing what to expect. The basic story is in 1183 King Henry II’s three sons all want the throne. Richard is the obvious choice, being handsome and accomplished in war. John is Henry’s favorite, though, so despite his youth and awkwardness believes he will get the crown. Poor Geoffrey, now the middle child, is often overlooked. During the holidays, Henry allows his imprisoned wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, to come visit. Meanwhile, Henry’s mistress, Alais, is betrothed to one of the sons (though it’s unclear which one). The play is full of scheming, conniving, and witty exchanges.

This production was quite good, though I might agree with Jim that I didn’t like Alais’ performance as much as I could have. I also found John’s portrayal a bit too over the top to be believable.


Alexandria Symphony

Posted by barb on Nov 8, 2003 in Concerts

Some time during Spring 2002, the NSO had a concert featuring Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Tan Dun. I had wanted to go, but it was the first night that all three cats were in my apartment (Andrew’s and my two), so I didn’t know that I should leave them alone. When we found out that Andrew’s cello teacher was playing with the Alexandria symphony, and one of the pieces was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we knew we had to go. The show was originally supposed to be in September, but was cancelled due to hurricane Isabel, so they merged that show’s pieces with the concert originally scheduled for today. Here are the pieces we heard:

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon by Tan Dun
    Excellent piece, of course. I’ve come to the conclusion that the next time the Japanese drum band (Kyoto?) comes through town, Andrew and I are going to have to go. I loved the percussion.
  • Symphonic Dances from West Side Storyby Bernstein
    Many of these pieces sounded familiar to me. My Dad loved West Side Story, so we had a copy of the LP in our collection growing up. This was fun to listen to.
  • The Planetsby Holst
    This is the first time I’ve heard this piece live. I have a CD, but of course it’s always more fun to hear things live. (I hadn’t realized that Mars is always played first, so I wondered by the third piece, which I assumed to be Mars, was so lively. Well, that would be because it was Mercury, the winged messenger.)
    One of the themes of this season for the Alexandria Symphony is “Where does the music take you.” To this end, they had several pieces of original art work on display before the performance. In addition, during Neptune, they played a video done by a local artist to depict where that particular piece took him. Well, the video did not take me to good places — I don’t remember most of it, but there were often these “fish of doom” swimming across the screen. Perhaps reference to Neptune, the god of the sea, but still kind of odd.
  • The 1812 Overtureby Tchaikovsky
    This was played as an encore. Apparently they were supposed to play it at the Fourth of July celebration, but got rained out. Then they planned to do it as an encore at the September concert, which got hurricaned out. So, they finally did it tonight. Frankly I would have been happier if they hadn’t. It’s not a bad piece (though I didn’t actually recognize it until the very end), but it made for a very long evening.

Tonight was also the total lunar eclipse. Unfortunately, totality started at about 8:30 PM, but the concert started at 8:00 PM. We were able to see the moon entering the penumbra. During intermission, though, the moon was behind some wispy clouds, so we could only barely make it out. It looked like the moon was partly out of the umbra. By the time the concert was over, the eclipse was completely over. Oh well. Still a very appropriate night to hear The Planets!

(Concerts to be ususally checked at http://austin-concerts.business.site/).

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