Monday, November 12, 2007

The Best 4 Gigs

I've been saving up my music reviews of the past few months. I have re-entered a cycle in which I can go out and hear live music every couple of weeks. I've been fortunate and daring enough to hear some really great stuff, with considerable variety. Here's the best.

#1 Richmond Symphony Pops & Out of the Blue Radio Revue - This was one heck of a show with the symphony conducted by Mark Russell Smith and the Out of the Blue Radio show hosted by Page Wilson linked. Smith "brought it" with the symphony sounding particularly rich and Wilson "brought it" in the form of the Piedmont Souprize and the Showdogs, along with Wilson's own Reckless Abandon.

I am not an unbiased reviewer since I knew at least 15 of the musicians onstage. For those who tuned in on radio, I could be heard shrieking my support most loudly during the Showdogs set since, unbeknownst to me, I was very close to a live mic. Ooops. But I loved the arrangements with the symphony composed by Doug Richards. I loved the symphony. I loved my bands. Fun night.

#2 The Virginia Opera's production of Tales of Hoffmann was spectacular. One of the greatest shows they've put up in the years we've had season tix. (This is our 13th, I think.) Great stage direction, powerhouse voices, good acting, nice costumes, great cast, coolest set in years.

In our seating area the average age was 55 and that's with my bringing it down about a decade with my presence. Please, people my age: I know how much you spend on eating out. Get a decent seat at the opera so I can talk about the show with you later.

#3 Lucero at Alley Katz. I had waited MONTHS for this show. Wore my boots, stood in the pit, did a little gentle thrashing with the crowd, had a blast and was home by 11. My favorite part of the show was singing along with the crowd who were at times as loud as the band. My least favorite part was the exclusion of 3 or 4 of my fave songs because the set was only 90 minutes.

In my thrashing area the average age was 21 and that's with my bringing it up a few years with my presence. Please, people my age: Buy some boots and earplugs and meet me on the floor of Alley Katz. Lucero is worth it and the beer that appears to rain from the sky in there does wash out.

#4 Hank Williams III and Reverend Horton Heat at Toad's Place. I can't print the name of the opening band here, but they did not thrill me. I had a blast otherwise. I was just trying something new by going to this show. I only have one Hank III CD of his country variety, and knew Reverend Horton Heat only by reputation. The antics of the bass players of both bands was worth the price of admission.

There was one teenage moment of the evening. At the end of their encore, the Reverend Horton Heat himself zinged his guitar pick into the balcony at me. It scratched my arm but I didn't catch it. However, I choose to believe he knew that I was his only colleague in ministry in the house and was giving me props.

THE ONE I MISSED After all my big talk about my friend Rex Richardson in a recent post, I missed his faculty recital due to a church meeting. I sent my mother. She said it was AMAZING. If you haven't seen Rex Richardson live yet, the time is now. I can't imagine he'll stay in our fair river city forever, and I can only coax him into a church gig once every 2 years.

I guess that's my general message. Get out there and hear some music. The seats aren't always great. Sometimes it rains beer and you have to wear earplugs. Other times it seems that no one around has anything in common with you. Who cares? Live music is full of amazing surprises and connection with strangers in a unique way. It is entertaining, instructive, and if you're lucky, inspirational.

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