Guess who had a good time at the Kansas City Crypticon??

PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

A few years ago I wrote a very scathing review of the Kansas City Crypticon Convention.  I felt my review was honest and it was based on not only my own observations but those of people I spoke with, both convention guests and attendees.  While I continued to attend each year, I didn’t write anything about the show because I didn’t want it to look like I was uncaring or that I was just looking to continually kick the organization.

 

 

 

 

Last year the show left the nasty hotel (recently torn down by the city) it called home and headed an hour north up Interstate 29 to the birthplace of Jesse James:  St. Joseph, Missouri.  I wasn’t able to attend last year because of a previous commitment that weekend but this year I decided to check it out.  And what I discovered was a pretty cool con.

The show was held at the St. Joseph Civic Center, and I thought the layout was perfect.  The bottom, open middle section was set up for the dealers.  Whereas in Kansas City the dealers rooms were always cramped and hard to navigate, here they were a breeze to explore.  Plenty of room, and a nice selection of goods.  The upper level was devoted to a few dealers and ALL of the celebrity guests.  The area was bright and clean and every celebrity had a very nice banner, as opposed to the construction paper and magic marker creations from the past.

And the celeb lineup was first class.  As this is mostly a horror-themed convention, the guest list was perfect.  Linda Blair from The Exorcist.  Nick Castle and P.J. Soles from Halloween.  William Kaat from Carrie.  And, for fans of more recent horror, you couldn’t do any better than “American Horror Story’s” Dennis O’Hare.  These guests, and about a dozen more, greeted fans and many of them (especially the Halloween gang) seemed to have a steady line at their tables.  Autograph/photo op prices were pretty reasonable as well, which is always a good thing at one of these events.

One of my “bucket list” celebs – William Kaat. He shared some great stories with me.

Congratulations to the people behind the Crypticon conventions.  You’ve done an amazing job in transforming your show from one of the worse in the Midwest to a destination event.  I look forward to next year.

No hard feelings?  🙂

Win a “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT” prize package

Like cool stuff?

Of course you do!  Our friends at Paramount have given us a “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT” prize package for one lucky reader to win.  Here is all you have to do:

Just comment below what television program you’d like to see turned into a feature film.  Pretty simple.  One random entry will be chosen and that entrant will win the prize package, consisting of a t-shirt, charger, water bottle and poster.  The winner will be chosen at noon (CST) on Friday, July 27 and will be notified by email.  Good luck!

“Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT” opens nationally on Friday, July 27.

Win Passes to the Kansas City premiere of “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT

Media Mikes has teamed up with their friends at Paramount to give (25) readers and a guest the chance to be among the first to see the latest adventures of Ethan Hunt and company:  “Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT.”

The film will be screened at the AMC Barrywoods 24 Theatre in Kansas City on Monday, July 23 and will begin at 7:00.

All you have to do is click HERE.  The first (25) readers to do so will receive a pass for (2) to attend the screening.  This is a first come/first serve giveaway.  Once the allotted (25) passes have been claimed, the giveaway is over.  Good luck!

 

“Mission: Impossible – FALLOUT”

Monday, July 23, 2018 – 7:00 p.m.

AMC Barrywoods 24, Kansas City, Missouri

Film Review: “Skyscraper”

 

SKYSCRAPER

Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell and Roland Moller

Directed by:  Rawson Marshall Thurber

Rated:  PG 13

Running time:  1 hour 42 mins

Universal

 

I can hear the studio pitch now.  “What if we combined “The Towering Inferno” with “Die Hard” and have the Rock play Bruce Willis, Paul Newman AND Steve McQueen rolled into one character?”  My answer?  “Hell yeah!”

 

When we first meet FBI Hostage Rescue Team Leader Will Sawyer (Johnson), he is leading his group in trying to arrange the surrender of a man who is also holding his young son.  Thinking he has resolved the situation, Will and his team are badly injured when the man, feigning surrender, detonates a bomb.  Waking up in the hospital, he is comforted by the reassuring face and words of trauma nurse Sarah (Campbell).

 

Jump ahead several years.  Will and Sarah are now married, with two young children.  They are in Hong Kong where Will, now a safety and security assessor, has been summoned to go over the world’s tallest building.  Without his O.K., the buildings lavish owner cannot get the 200-plus story building insured.  Things go well until Will is attacked by a mysterious person trying to get a computer tablet he possesses that gives him access to ALL of the building’s security protocols.  It seems someone doesn’t want the building to open.  EVER!

 

Full of some amazing set-pieces and some serious “jump in your seat” moments, “Skyscraper” is a film that rides capably on the back of Dwayne Johnson.  Will possesses both Willis’ John McClain’s personality while also embodying the caring about of the situation that Newman’s architect and McQueen’s fire chief did in “The Towering Inferno.”  But while the latter film’s destruction was due to an accident, “Skyscraper” deals with a nasty man by the name of Kores Botha (Moller).  He’s not as smooth as Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber, but he is as vicious.

 

The cast does a fine job in dealing with the situations around them, and I’m giving Johnson extra credit because, due to opening bomb explosion, Will is missing a leg, having to move about the building (and do some extraordinary stunt work) on a prosthetic leg.  And yes, while I realize it’s all CGI, Johnson moves and reacts as if he really is standing precariously on a piece of molded metal.  The story moves smoothly and represents a graduation to a new genre’ for writer/director Thurber, best known for creating the “Terry Tate, Linebacker” series of commercials as well as the film “Dodgeball:  A True Underdog Story.”  The film moves on and the action flows.  A definite hit for the hot days of July.

Theatre Review: “The King and I” – Kansas City

‘The King and I”

Starlight Theater – Kansas City, Missouri

June 14, 2018

 

I can imagine it’s pretty hard to write a Broadway musical.

In 1943, a couple of guys named Richard and Oscar took a popular novel and turned it into one of the most popular musicals of all time; “Oklahoma!”  They followed it up with “Carousel,” “State Fair” and ‘South Pacific.”  Four hits in a row.  What would Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Hammerstein come up with for their next show?

Our story begins with Anna Leonowens (Elena Shaddow) aboard a boat with her son, Louis (Ryan Stout).  They have traveled from England to visit the court of the King of Siam, where Anna has been employed as the new teacher for the King’s wives and children.  Both mother and son are taken by the pageantry that accompanies their journey to the palace, as well as the exuberance of the King (Jose Llana) himself.  The King wishes to have his country adapt more modernist attitudes, and he hopes this English teacher can help him change.  And help him she does.

“The King and I” is a show I’ve been dying to see performed live since I first saw the film in the early 1970s.  The closest I ever got was a touring production, starring Yul Brynner, that came through Baltimore in the mid 1980s.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see the show, but I later did eat in the same Chines restaurant made popular by the fact that, when Brynner visited for dinner, somebody stole his shoes.   And, while it would have been amazing to see Brynner in his career-defining role, this new tour is equally every bit its equal.

Elena Shaddow and Jose Llana in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The King and I.” Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Both leads give amazing, energized performances and I would be remiss if I did not point out that Mr. Llana makes the role of the King his own.  The supporting cast is just as good and the music….well, it’s Rodgers and Hammerstein, for God’s sake!  What’s amazing is that Rodgers and Hammerstein still had “Cinderella” (a perennial favorite on television), “Flower Drum Song” and “The Sound of Music” to follow.  Filled with familiar songs like “Hello Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You” and “Shall We Dance,” the show is easily one of the best productions I’ve seen at Starlight in a long time.

The show plays in Kansas City through June 17th.  For tickets to a performance, either in Kansas City or later in the tour, click HERE.

MEET THE NEW GUY – Media Mikes welcomes writer Michael D. Smith

It is with great pride that we at Media Mikes are able to introduce you to our new film reviewer/writer:  Michael D. Smith.

Michael began his film critic path by writing movie reviews for his college newspaper for a couple years. After graduation, he wrote reviews for his hometown paper in Harrisonville, Missouri for six years before becoming the Arts & Entertainment editor and film critic at a publication in Overland Park, Kansas. a position he held for three years.

Our newest “Mike” – Michael D. Smith

In 2009 was offered an opportunity at KCMETROPOLIS.ORG where he predominately covered independent/art house films.   He will now cover them for Media Mikes as well as contributing commentary when the mood takes him.

Michael is a long-standing member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the second oldest film critic group in America.

You can find his first review for Media Mikes, of the film “Mountain,” HERE

Film Review: “Uncle Drew”

Starring:  Kyrie Irving, Lil Rel Howery and Shaquille O’Neal
Directed by:  Charles Stone III
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hour 43 mins
Lionsgate

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Lew Alcindor.  Nate Archibald.  Wilt Chamberlain.  Dr. J.

All of these basketball legends got their start by playing in Rucker Park in New York City.  But they all pale in comparison to the greatest streetball player ever…Uncle Drew.

Our story begins on the famous basketball court as it is being prepared for the 50th Anniversary Tournament.  Dax (Howery) is the coach of a team entered and he’s got a secret weapon – a big man named Casper (Aaron Gordon).  Dax goes out of his way to let Casper know he is loved, not wanting to lose him to a flashier (or better) coach.  Dax was, at one time, a promising basketball player, but an incident during a championship game, when a potential game-winning shot was blocked, his round-ball Karma hasn’t been very good.  And it gets worse when his girlfriend kicks him out and Casper runs to a team coached by Mookie (an obnoxious Nick Kroll).  At his wits end, Dax has a chance run-in with the infamous Uncle Drew.  He convinces him to get his original team together to play for chance to be the champs.  Go Moneys!

I don’t know why, but basketball players make good actors.  Michael Jordan in “Space Jam.”  Ray Allen in “He Got Game.”  Kareem Abdul Jabbar in “Airplane.”  Lebron James in “Trainwreck.”  Now you can add to the list current Boston Celtic Kyrie Irving.  Playing a character 40-plus years older than he is, Irving gives a strong, soulful performance.  And he is joined by fellow former superstars Chris Webber, Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Aloysius Miller (for some reason, whenever I speak of Reggie Miller I like using his full name), Nate Robinson and Lisa Leslie.  On the non-athletic side Howery, who was so good as the TSA employed pal in “Get Out,” continues his good performance streak here.

But the film is about more than basketball.  It’s about family and friendship, and when those values are discussed the film jumps to another level.  And basketball fans in the know will enjoy the humor (C. Webb’s character is reminded often that there are no “time outs” left, Shaq gets to call a fellow teammate that hogs the ball “Kobe”).  What I found funniest was that, even though past great players like Michael Jordan are referred to often, there is not one mention of Irving’s former teammate, Lebron James.  An error of omission or a quiet dig?  Either way, it’s funny.

Interview with Comedian Eric Schwartz

You may have seen comedian Eric Schwartz in hi

1.  Who in the hell is the OTHER Eric Schwartz and how did he beat you to EricSchwartz.com?  He isn’t near as funny as you are.

THANK YOU FOR ASKING THIS QUESTION AND STARTING IT WITH “WHO IN THE HELL…”

Most people don’t realize we’re two completely different people. Yes, two different people, who happen to have the same name, and who happen to both do comedy and music. It’s beyond frustrating–it’s infuriating! But, I have to admit, “the other Eric Schwartz” is a supremely talented musician and brilliant writer.  It’s hard to be mad at the guy when his only crime is not changing the name his parents gave him. At least he’s not out there bringing shame to the name. By the way, I’m pretty sure he calls me, “the other Eric Schwartz,” too.

To make things even more interesting, we actually know each other.  He moved from the East Coast to two blocks from me in L.A. We’ve actually shown up to the same gig before after the booker tagged the us both on Facebook. He once dated someone I knew and she would sometimes accidentally call me all sultry like, “Baby…did you see the moooon tonight?”  I was like, “Yeah, Suzanne. But I’m not taking my clothes off like the last time we talked.”
And yes, one of my biggest career regrets was not grabbing EricSchwartz.com when I was building my first website in 1999.  For some reason, I chose “SuburbanHomeboy.com,” which now forwards to my current site, EricSchwartzLive.com.
2.  How did you get into comedy?
I got hooked on Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Robin Williams and SNL as a kid. I would do their bits an characters to my friends at school. Everyone already thought of me as a comedian at that point, but I knew I had to start writing material. I was also a DJ, which is where the musical element came in. In college, I put on my own comedy shows in the dorms mixing comedy and music and somehow didn’t get kicked out.
3.  When do you know a joke is working?
Unless my ears take the night off, I can tell right away. The cool thing about a live show is the audience will let you know if it’s working or not.
4.  Follow up – see above
5.  Do you have a good “I put that heckler in his place” story?
Most hecklers are actually having a good time and want to participate. They just go a bit overboard on their approach. But if you ever encounter a mean-spirited heckler, here’s something you can do. Make peace by offering them a free CD. When they thank you, shout, “SEE DEEZ NUTS!”
6.  Besides your tour, what else are you working on.
The Release The Sounds Tour is in support of the audio from my first hour special, “Surrender to the Blender” being re-released to Sirius-XM, as well as digital platforms like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. I’m also working on shooting my second special this year

Film Review: “Oceans 8”

OCEAN’S 8

Starring:  Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Anne Hathaway

Directed by:  Gary Ross

Rated:  PG 13

Running time:  1 hour 50 mins

Warner Bros

We are introduced to Debbie Ocean (Bullock) as she is being released from prison, having done five years for a crime she claims she didn’t commit (she was set up).  Sadly, we soon learn that Debbie was NOT rehabilitated, as she cons her way into everything from cosmetics to a swanky hotel room.  She also takes the time to stop at her brother Danny’s grave, letting the audience know in the first 10 minutes not to look for that assumed George Clooney cameo.  As soon as she’s settled she begins putting into place a plan that she has been perfecting for three years.  And she only needs seven people to help her.

 

Slow and plodding at the beginning, with a mostly satisfying conclusion, “Ocean’s 8” boasts an amazing cast of women with their own amazing list of accomplishments,  Between the eight members of the “gang” are four Oscars, two Emmys, eight Grammys, six Golden Globes and five BAFTAs.  Sadly none of them brought them to work with them, as the plot progresses so slowly that seeing one of the ladies flash their trophies might have added some excitement to the proceedings.

 

In a nutshell, Debbie has decided to steal a $150 million necklace at the annual Met Gala.  She then rounds up a smorgasbord of like-minded associates…everyone from Rhianna’s surveillance expert to Mandy Kaling’s diamond expert.  The actresses are fine in their roles, but, despite attempts to give them some kind of personality, they’re all very similar in delivery and demeanor.  Which makes this film pale against Clooney’s “Ocean” trilogy.  Heck, even the great 60s version with Frank Sinatra was more fun.  The difference is that those films had set characters that did not act the same.  This film could have used the comedy duo of Casey Affleck and Scott Caan or the blustery antics of Bernie Mac.  Gary Ross is a fine director who knows how to keep the action moving, but here his script has conspired against him.

Concert Review: Poison/Cheap Trick – Kansas City

REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

Poison/Cheap Trick/Pop Evil

Sprint Center – Kansas City, Missouri

May 25, 2018

Our Score:     Poison *** out of 5    Cheap Trick  **** out of 5

 

 

Thirty years ago, I wanted to kill a fellow editor at my college newspaper because he went missing the night before the semester’s final edition was due at the printer. When I woke him the next morning, I became even more enraged because he and decided to catch a concert without telling me or my peers, and it was Poison.

 

 

Had he abdicated his responsibility for Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones or The Smiths, I might have excused him. But no, it had to be that silly hair band whose songs about partying were relatively easy to play.

 

Another friend who had seen them play, lamented their musical limitations by dubbing guitarist C.C. DeVille “C.C. Distortion” for his sloppy solos, and an another buddy laughed when he saw concert footage of them on MTV and observed they were playing beginners’ instruments. Because my own musical chops are stunted, I’m not sure what was so embryonic about what axes Poison used to play. Nonetheless, we both felt smug as we continued to watch them perform on television.

 

 

After finally seeing the band play for myself on May 25 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, I think I can now easily forgive the other editor. Of course, we still made our deadline. I can also say I don’t envy him because the performance I caught might have been better than the one he saw. Now that their hair has grayed (where it still remains), the band has actually developed some skill and showmanship that wasn’t in their old videos.

 

 

Lead vocalist Bret Michaels constantly thanked the crowd and rattled off other area venues where he played with the band or as a solo act. It’s always nice when the band knows they’re on the Missouri side of the state line and can recall something about your town other than a stage.

 

Cheap Trick, who played before them, one-upped the headliners by claiming they had written a recent tune after eating at Gates Barbecue, a blue collar eatery when the clerks greet you as loudly as if they were playing the Sprint Center.

 

Unlike the musicians, the clerks don’t need microphones.

 

Michaels and the rest of Poison gave the crowd high fives throughout the set and genuinely seemed to enjoy being in the barbecue capital of the world. The band have had personnel changes and breakups, but the original lineup were all performing that evening. The set seemed oddly touching when Michaels briefly mentioned that drummer Rikki Rockett had survived cancer.

 

Both he and bassist Bobby Dall looked healthy and enthusiastic, so it was a jolt to hear that Rockett, who regularly tosses his drumsticks in the air and twirls them between beats, almost didn’t make it to the stage.

 

 

 

Because I was attempting to photograph the show from a pit at the bottom of the stage, I almost felt sorry for people in the back of the arena who couldn’t see what he was doing. When he later played an extended toward the end of the set, it made Michaels’ revelation all the more touching.

 

Michaels, who had a series of frightening health problems of his own in 2010, is also lucky to be alive. Perhaps that’s why their enthusiasm seems genuine. Playing in front of a house that can hold 19,000 people sure beats lying in a hospital bed or worse.

 

While Poison can play their old hits like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Talk Dirty to Me” with more technical assurance than they used to, they do little more than plow through their old catalog.

 

Their fans didn’t object.

 

They did supplement their set with a large video screen that featured cartoons of the band before they took the stage. Their cover of Loggins and Messina’s “Your Momma Don’t Dance” proved to be a great excuse to feature the late pinup queen Bettie Page shimmying as they played. With Bettie just about any band would sound as good as the Stones on their best day.

 

Following a typically lively set by Cheap Trick requires a masochism few bands have. The three original members are all in their sixties and still have their old skills. Whereas DeVille impressed the crowd by mimicking Eddie Van Halen’s finger tapping and slipping in a bit of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen switched genres, playing styles and even guitars. The 69-year-old ax-man didn’t need a featured solo break because just about every song gave him a workout.

 

 

Oh, and while he was playing tunes like “Dream Police,” he was also tossing out picks at the crowd. Somehow his poses, witty asides to the crowd and acts of violence involving small pieces of plastic, never caused him to skip a note or detract from a solo. How he managed to hit me in the pit with a pick and get through the set at the same time baffles me.

 

Dall treated the crowd to his own version of Henry Mancini’s theme to The Pink Panther, but Cheap Trick bassist Tom Peterson gave his 12-string instrument a thorough workout and even sang a powerful medley of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin.” Nielsen complemented Peterson’s work with some tasteful slide solos, which lead vocalist Robin Zander accompanied with his own acoustic 12 string.

 

 

 

Zander happily took a break because during the rest of the set he still pushed his voice to its limit. Thankfully that limit seems superhuman. If his throat cracked a couple of times, he can still effortlessly reach high notes and make 40 to 30 year old songs sound fresh and committed.

 

If you’ve caught Cheap Trick in the past or have listed to At Budokan to the point where you’ve memorized all the words, their current shows are still worth catching. Daxx Nielsen, Rick’s son, has ably replaced Bun E. Carlos on drums, and Zander’s son Robin Taylor fleshes out the band’s harmonies and played most of the rhythm guitar parts.

 

Thanks to That 70s Show, the band have a few songs (like their version of Big Star’s “In the Street”) that are more recent than anything Poison played, and the samples from their newer albums Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello (2016) and We’re All Right! (2017) fit seamlessly in with their hits. Radio stations may ignore their most recent offerings, and it’s the broadcasters’ loss.

 

 

 

They also surprised the crowd by featuring the Melvins, who joined them for a rousing version of “Surrender.” Drummer Hayley Cramer from opening band Pop Evil even joined the bands as they gave the 40 year old chestnut all they had.

 

As lead singer Leigh Kakaty kept reminding the audience, Pop Evil from North Muskegon, Michigan, have been around for a decade. While Kakaty lamented the empty seats on the floor (that were filled when the headliners arrived), and the rest of the ensemble still approached their set with vigor and enthusiasm.

 

 

He opined that the newer generation should learn, “There is a difference between a Gibson guitar and a motherfucking Apple computer.” Fortunately, he and his crew of analog performers and the bands that followed made an eloquent case for that argument.

The tour moves from Kansas City to Pryor, Oklahoma and continues for the summer.  For more information and upcoming tour dates, click HERE.

 

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An Interview with Music Legend Peter Asher

 

If I mention the name Peter Asher I’m going to guess that the first thing that comes to mind is his musical career as half of the popular 1960s British duo Peter and Gordon.  Teamed up with schoolmate Gordon Waller, Mr. Asher, who already had success as a child actor, placed 10 songs in the US TOP 40, including the #1 hit “World Without Love.”  Other hits include “I Go to Pieces,” “True Love Ways” and “Lady Godiva.”

Mr. Asher’s sister Jane, also an actress, had a boyfriend who was also a musician and even wrote “World Without Love” for Peter and Gordon to record.  His name was Paul McCartney and for a time Macca lived with the Ashers, sharing the second floor with Peter.

Peter Asher (r) and Gordon Waller

When Peter and Godon stopped recording in 1968, Mr. Asher became the head of A&R for the Beatles‘ record label, Apple.    It was here that he signed an unknown singer/songwriter named James Taylor, also agreeing to produce his first album.  Though the album was not a success, Mr. Asher believed in Taylor’s abilities so much that he quit his gig at Apple and moved to the United States, where he became Taylor’s manager.   For 15 years he would produce Taylor’s albums, including “Sweet Baby James,” “Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon” and “JT,” the latter helping him win the Producer of the Year Grammy Award in 1977.

In the early 1970s he took another young singer under his wing;  Linda Ronstadt, who would go on to sell over 30 million albums in her career.  While managing both Taylor and Ronstadt, Mr. Asher also produced classic albums for artists like Cher (“Cher,” ” Heart of the Stone”), Neil Diamond (“Lovescape,” “Up on the Roof: Songs from the Brill Building”) and soundtracks for such films as “The Land Before Time,” “The Mambo Kings” and “Armageddon.”  He also won two more Grammy Awards.  One was for Producer of the Year for Ronstadt’s “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind” album in 1989.  He also took home the award for producing the Best Comedy Album of 2002 – “Robin Williams: LIVE.”

These days you can catch Mr. Asher on Sirius Radio’s Beatle Channel, where he hosts a weekly show called “From Me to You.,” where he spins some of his favorite records (from the Fab Four and others) and shares some amazing stories from his almost six decade career in music.

I recently had the great honor of speaking with Mr. Asher about his career.

Mike Smith:  Most music fans remember you as half of the popular duo Peter and Gordon…

Peter Asher:  The old ones do. (laughs)

MS:  How did you two get together?

PA:  We met in school.  We both played the guitar together and sang.  Gordon was more of a rock and roll fan and I was more of a folkie.  I was singing Woody Guthrie songs while he was singing Eddie Cochran songs.  So we tried singing together to see what it sounded like.  It coincided that we were both huge fans of the Everly Brothers.  They were our original idols and that’s who we were trying to sound like.

MS:  You were an early champion of artists like James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt.  How do you know, as a producer, when you’ve found that rare talent?

PA:  I think you just do.  I mean, when I first heard James, everything about him was remarkable.  He had great songs, he was a terrific guitar player with a unique style all his own.  He combined a sort of folk style of guitar playing with some jazz chords.  An amazing combination.  And he was a great singer.  And the songs he sang to me, the ones he wrote, were just amazing.  I don’t know HOW you know.  You just kind of do.  It’s the same now.  When I hear somebody brand new.  I think it’s just an instinctive thing.  When they’re original and great and a pleasure to listen to.  “Who’s this?  What’s that?”  It’s great.

MS:  Some great music trivia is that both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt appear on Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  Did you have a hand in that?

PA:  i know Neil Young and I’m friends with his manager but I think that was just Neil asking James and Linda to come and sing.  They all knew each other.  I think James also played banjo on one cut.  (he did).

MS:  One thing I always took notice of growing up in the 70s is that the majority of Linda Ronstadt’s hits were covers of previous hit songs.  “That’ll Be the Day.”  “Blue Bayou.”  “Heatwave.”  Was that something that was intentional?

PA:  As a producer we look for great songs everywhere, and that includes songs that other people had done before as well as brand new songs.  And we did some of each.  But, yes, quite a few of them became cover versions.  People seemed to like them and they became hits.  We didn’t shy away from a song just because someone had already done it.  But basically we would look at all songs equally.  And if we found an amazing song that was brand new, something like “Heart Like a Wheel,” or a favorite song from out past, like a Buddy Holly song, we did it.  We look everywhere for great songs, old and new.

Mr. Asher still performs today.

MS:  You’ve also produced a few film soundtracks.  Are they easier to produce as opposed to a musical group’s album?

PA:  It’s very different.  I’ve produced some tracks for a soundtrack that Hans Zimmer has been working on.  Working with Hans is a particular pleasure because he’s brilliant.  But it’s very different then making a song with an artist.  In Hans’ case sometimes it’s a song that I will fit into a soundtrack.  I will work with Hans.  One time he was recording 12 drummers all at the same time.  I was there to just help the session go smoothly and that Hans got what he needed.  But you can’t guarantee which sessions (a soundtrack or a musical group) are going to be easy or hard.

MS:  You’re now hosting your own show on the Beatles channel.  As someone that has been in the business for as long as you have, can you explain their continual appeal?

PA:  Not in any way that adds anything new to the equation.  They’re just better than any other band, before or since.  That’s why.  It’s pathetically simple, I know.  But their songs are amazing.  Their singing is amazing.  Their playing is amazing.  What they came up with as a group was greater than the sum of its parts.  The answer to your question lies in listening to it.  If you listen you know not to turn away from that channel because you know the next song is going to be another song that you love.

MS:  You often mention on your show that you used to share the 2nd floor of your parent’s home with Paul McCartney.  Any housekeeping secrets you can share?  Did he make his bed every morning?

PA:  (laughing)  I don’t really remember.  Sadly, I have no intimate domestic details.

 

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Saying Goodbye to the Middle

 

I don’t watch a lot of television.  Not because I don’t want to.  I just don’t have the time.  I do have some shows that I try to watch each week (thank you DVR), like “Family GuyFamily Guy” and “Brockmire” and “Modern Family,” shows I really enjoy.  Last year my wife and I binge-watched all of “Breaking Bad” over a 6 week period and loved it.  We’ve also gone through three seasons of “Better Call Saul,” which we also binged, and are waiting impatiently for AMC to announce when season four starts.   These last two shows we really enjoyed, but watching them over so short a period you don’t really grow up with them.  This was not true of our relationship with the Heck family, the stars of “the Middle.”

The story of Mike (Neil Flynn) and Frankie Heck (Patricia Heaton) and their three children – Axl, Sue and Brick – “the Middle” was an amazing look into middle class life in middle-America.  Set in Indiana, the show gave an honest look into a family where mom is well intended, dad loves watching his football and each of the kids have their own distinct possibilities.

For nine seasons we watched as Axl (Charlie McDermott) went from cool and confident high school football star to slightly less cool and confident college football player to a young man setting out on his own in the world.  Meanwhile, the always optimistic Sue (Eden Sher) was always cheerful, no matter what life put in front of her.  And then there was Brick (Atticus Shaffer), publicly awkward but an avid reader and someone who never seemed to let the little things life threw at him keep him down, like having to sit in a lawn chair at the dinner table because the dining set only came with four chairs.  As well acted as these roles were, and as well written as the show was, I was shocked to learn that it had only been nominated for ONE EMMY AWARD – for makeup!!!  Hopefully in this last season Emmy voters will realize they’ve lost a classic and honor the show.

(l-f) Heaton, Flynn, McDermott, Sher and Shaffer

We followed the Hecks from highs and lows, through ups and downs, and we felt with them because they underwent pretty much everything every family goes through at one time.  And they usually solved the problem with one word: love.  Despite the unusual reactions to sometimes simple things, each episode would end with an affirmation of the family’s love for each other.  This gave the viewer an emotional bond and I’m not ashamed to say that both my wife and I were crying at the end of the show’s final episode.  We will miss out regular Tuesday night meeting with the Hecks but we won’t forget them.  How can we?  They’re family.

 

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Concert Review – Poison/CheapTrick/Pop Evil – Kansas City

CONCERT REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

 

 

Poison/Cheap Trick/Pop Evil

Sprint Center – Kansas City, Missouri

May 25, 2018

Thirty years ago, I wanted to kill a fellow editor at my college newspaper because he went missing the night before the semester’s final edition was due at the printer. When I woke him the next morning, I became even more enraged because he and decided to catch a concert without telling me or my peers, and it was Poison.   Had he abdicated his responsibility for Todd Rundgren, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones or The Smiths, I might have excused him. But no, it had to be that silly hair band whose songs about partying were relatively easy to play.

Another friend who had seen them play, lamented their musical limitations by dubbing guitarist C.C. DeVille “C.C. Distortion” for his sloppy solos, and an another buddy laughed when he saw concert footage of them on MTV and observed they were playing beginners’ instruments. Because my own musical chops are stunted, I’m not sure what was so embryonic about what axes Poison used to play. Nonetheless, we both felt smug as we continued to watch them perform on television.

 

After finally seeing the band play for myself on May 25 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, I think I can now easily forgive the other editor. Of course, we still made our deadline. I can also say I don’t envy him because the performance I caught might have been better than the one he saw. Now that their hair has grayed (where it still remains), the band has actually developed some skill and showmanship that wasn’t in their old videos.

Lead vocalist Bret Michaels constantly thanked the crowd and rattled off other area venues where he played with the band or as a solo act. It’s always nice when the band knows they’re on the Missouri side of the state line and can recall something about your town other than a stage.

Cheap Trick, who played before them, one-upped the headliners by claiming they had written a recent tune after eating at Gates Barbecue, a blue collar eatery when the clerks greet you as loudly as if they were playing the Sprint Center.  Unlike the musicians, the clerks don’t need microphones.

Michaels and the rest of Poison gave the crowd high fives throughout the set and genuinely seemed to enjoy being in the barbecue capital of the world. The band have had personnel changes and breakups, but the original lineup were all performing that evening. The set seemed oddly touching when Michaels briefly mentioned that drummer Rikki Rockett had survived cancer.

 

Both he and bassist Bobby Dall looked healthy and enthusiastic, so it was a jolt to hear that Rockett, who regularly tosses his drumsticks in the air and twirls them between beats, almost didn’t make it to the stage.

Because I was attempting to photograph the show from a pit at the bottom of the stage, I almost felt sorry for people in the back of the arena who couldn’t see what he was doing. When he later played an extended toward the end of the set, it made Michaels’ revelation all the more touching.

Michaels, who had a series of frightening health problems of his own in 2010, is also lucky to be alive. Perhaps that’s why their enthusiasm seems genuine. Playing in front of a house that can hold 19,000 people sure beats lying in a hospital bed or worse.

While Poison can play their old hits like “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” or “Talk Dirty to Me” with more technical assurance than they used to, they do little more than plow through their old catalog.

Their fans didn’t object.

They did supplement their set with a large video screen that featured cartoons of the band before they took the stage. Their cover of Loggins and Messina’s “Your Momma Don’t Dance” proved to be a great excuse to feature the late pinup queen Bettie Page shimmying as they played. With Bettie just about any band would sound as good as the Stones on their best day.

Following a typically lively set by Cheap Trick requires a masochism few bands have. The three original members are all in their sixties and still have their old skills. Whereas DeVille impressed the crowd by mimicking Eddie Van Halen’s finger tapping and slipping in a bit of Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen switched genres, playing styles and even guitars. The 69-year-old ax-man didn’t need a featured solo break because just about every song gave him a workout.

 

 

Oh, and while he was playing tunes like “Dream Police,” he was also tossing out picks at the crowd. Somehow his poses, witty asides to the crowd and acts of violence involving small pieces of plastic, never caused him to skip a note or detract from a solo. How he managed to hit me in the pit with a pick and get through the set at the same time baffles me.

Dall treated the crowd to his own version of Henry Mancini’s theme to The Pink Panther, but Cheap Trick bassist Tom Peterson gave his 12-string instrument a thorough workout and even sang a powerful medley of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man” and “Heroin.” Nielsen complemented Peterson’s work with some tasteful slide solos, which lead vocalist Robin Zander accompanied with his own acoustic 12 string.

Zander happily took a break because during the rest of the set he still pushed his voice to its limit. Thankfully that limit seems superhuman. If his throat cracked a couple of times, he can still effortlessly reach high notes and make 40 to 30 year old songs sound fresh and committed.

 

If you’ve caught Cheap Trick in the past or have listed to At Budokan to the point where you’ve memorized all the words, their current shows are still worth catching. Daxx Nielsen, Rick’s son, has ably replaced Bun E. Carlos on drums, and Zander’s son Robin Taylor fleshes out the band’s harmonies and played most of the rhythm guitar parts.

Thanks to That 70s Show, the band have a few songs (like their version of Big Star’s “In the Street”) that are more recent than anything Poison played, and the samples from their newer albums Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello (2016) and We’re All Right! (2017) fit seamlessly in with their hits. Radio stations may ignore their most recent offerings, and it’s the broadcasters’ loss.

They also surprised the crowd by featuring the Melvins, who joined them for a rousing version of “Surrender.” Drummer Hayley Cramer from opening band Pop Evil even joined the bands as they gave the 40 year old chestnut all they had.

As lead singer Leigh Kakaty kept reminding the audience, Pop Evil from North Muskegon, Michigan, have been around for a decade. While Kakaty lamented the empty seats on the floor (that were filled when the headliners arrived), and the rest of the ensemble still approached their set with vigor and enthusiasm.

He opined that the newer generation should learn, “There is a difference between a Gibson guitar and a motherfucking Apple computer.” Fortunately, he and his crew of analog performers and the bands that followed made an eloquent case for that argument.

The tour heads to Pryor, Oklahoma for their next gig.  For more information and other tour dates, click HERE.

 

SET LISTS

CHEAP TRICK

Hello There
You Got It Going On
That 70s Show
California Man
Long Time Coming
Baby Loves to Rock
When I Wake Up Tomorrow
The Summer Looks Good on You
Waitin’ for the Man
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Dream Police
Surrender (w/The Melvins)
Goodnight

 

POP EVIL and POISON’s SET LISTS WERE NOT AVAILABLE

 

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Theater Review: “On Your Feet” – Kansas City

 

“On You Feet”

May 22, 2018

Starlight Theater – Kansas City

REVIEW BY JUANITA SMITH

 

They were one of the most popular bands of the 1980s, selling over 100 million albums worldwide.   But before the Miami Sound Machine started, what was the story that brought Emilio and Gloria Estefan together?

With set pieces set in Cuba and Miami, “On Your Feet” is a highly entertaining tale about two people destined to meet and create some of the most popular music of the last century.  It is also a story of the power of love, which comes into play after tragedy strikes and music is the furthest thing.

The show rides along on the mighty shoulders (and voices) of Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades who, as Emilio and Gloria, share the majority of the vocal duties.  Both are well cast and their chemistry is evident.

The supporting cast is equally strong.  The choreography is top notch and the direction keeps the show flowing easily.  And then there are the songs!

If you’re looking for an entertaining night at the theater, you can’t go wrong with “On Your Feet.”

The show plays in Kansas City through May 27th.  For upcoming show information and tickets, click HERE

 

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Film Review: “Solo: A Star Wars Story”

 

SOLO:  A STAR WARS STORY
Starring:  Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson and Emelia Clarke
Directed by:  Ron Howard
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 15 mins
Walt Disney

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

For more than four decades, those words have promised great adventures and memorable characters.  And most of the time those promises were kept.  I crossed my fingers going into this one but I’m happy to report that the new film “Solo,” like Gary Busey in the 1990s, is indeed a promise keeper.

Brash and full of confidence, we meet a young Han (Ehrenreich) and his lady friend Qi’ra (Clarke) right after they’ve been double-crossed while doing a deal at the behest of the evil Lady Proxima (voiced by Linda Hunt).  The good Lady is not pleased but, before she can punish the duo, they make a run for it.  While Han makes his way to safety, Qi’ra is caught.  Knowing he must go away, Han joins the service, determined to become a pilot.  Wonder how that’s going to turn out for him?

Set, in my mind, about 10 years before the events we know as EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE or, simply STAR WARS, “Solo” is an origin story in the true sense of the word.  Taken under the wing of smuggler/thief/jack of all trades Tobias Beckett (Harrelson) we learn many things about Han.  Where he got his blaster.  How he met Chewbacca.  Heck, we even find out where he got his name.  Through the course of his adventures, he meets a young, kindred soul named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), a card cheat who has an almost unhealthy amount of capes in his closet.  Together, the two adversaries begin a cautious friendship that, we now know, will continue for many years.

There is a lot more I could say, but I don’t want to be known as the guy who forgets to yell SPOILER ALERT!  What I will say is that director Howard has set the pace for a film that could easily stand alone.  All in all, “Solo” is a welcome piece in the continuing “Star Wars” saga!

 

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