Kansas City Concert Review – Brian Wilson

REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

 Brian Wilson

Muriel Kauffman Theater – Kansas City, MO

November 13, 2018

Brian Wilson

At 76, Brian Wilson could still make a crowded auditorium happy, even if he didn’t appear to be doing anything at all.

Having co-written and arranged dozens of hits for The Beach Boys and on his own, Wilson can get away with outsourcing songs he originated to other vocalists. He sat behind a baby grand piano as if he were an audience member instead of the star of the show.

Criticizing Wilson for being odd is like chastising the Beatles for being English. It’s essential to his greatness, even if it can be disconcerting to watch. The distinctive harmonies in the songs he recorded with the Beach Boys are the result of defying convention. The fact that Wilson is deaf in one ear only makes his accomplishments seem even more formidable.

It’s also worth noting that many Beach Boy songs like “California Girls” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” sound better in live performances now than they would have when the band and the session players from the Wrecking Crew recorded them over 50 years ago. The amplification to do those songs justice wasn’t around back then, and Wilson’s current band consistently performed them with both fidelity and spirit.

The 11-piece ensemble behind Wilson juggled instruments and skillfully mimicked the harmonies Wilson originally created with his late brothers Dennis and Carl and cousin Mike Love. Fellow Beach Boy founder Al Jardine wound up taking most of the vocal chores that evening and seemed happier with ingratiating himself and the band with the crowd than Wilson did. Then again, Wilson seemed to have had the crowd’s attention by simply uttering “Hello, Kansas City” at the start of the show.

Unlike musicians from the past who might have needed too much chemical help to get on stage, Wilson can at least still read a map.

Rob Bonfiglio

He and the band found a great venue. The Muriel Kauffman Theatre normally hosts classical performances, but Leonard Bernstein praised Wilson’s distinctive compositions as being worthy of the old masters, so they certainly belonged on that stage.

If Wilson seemed only fitfully engaged, the rest of the band were eager to give the songs he had popularized justice. Jardine can still plaintively beg Rhonda to help him forget his ex and can fill in for passages that Carl or Wilson’s cousin and lyricist Mike Love used to sing.

Ben Jones

Wilson’s son-in-law Rob Bonfiglio ably delivers the falsetto portions of the songs that his father-in-law used to sing, and the other instrumentalists in the ensemble change instruments more frequently than most of us change our clothes.

For “Good Vibrations,” the band even incorporated a delightfully eerie Theremin and played acoustic marimbas instead of keyboard samples. Darian Sahanaja, who helped Wilson resurrect long lost Beach Boys album Smile, played keyboards and figured out how to make studio trickery work live.

The set also received a shot of adrenaline when South African singer-guitarist Blondie Chaplin hit the stage halfway through the set. A member of the 1970s incarnation of The Beach Boys, Chaplin tore through “Free Flows,” “Wild Honey” and “Sail On, Sailor,” stopping only to deliver some scorching guitar solos. Chaplin would return to harmonize on later songs, but he left the crowd craving more.

Wilson and Al Jardine

Wilson seemed content to simply let Chaplin, Jardine and Bonfiglio do the heavy lifting. He still managed to deliver moving renditions of “God Only Knows” and his solo tune “Love & Mercy.” If you had written those haunting melodies, maybe you could afford to take it easy during the rest of the set.

Opening band Beat Root Revival offered self-deprecating quips about opening for a titan like Wilson, but delivered a brief energetic set that featured solid covers and some touching originals. Englishman Ben Jones is a remarkably nimble guitarist, while Irish vocalist Andrea Magee provided most of the percussion and found new uses for a pennywhistle in her reinterpretation of Stevie Nicks’ “Dreams.” Her original tune “Forever” may have originated with her parents arguing about a piece of cheese, but it’s catchy and delightful even if you don’t know its origin.

Andrea Magee

Set List (Courtesy of Setlist.fm)

California Girls

Dance, Dance, Dance

I Get Around

Shut Down

Little Deuce Coupe

Little Honda

Surfer Girl

Salt Lake City

Wake the World

Add Some Music to Your Day

California Saga: California

Don’t Worry Baby

Darlin’

Feel Flows

Wild Honey

Sail On, Sailor

Do It Again

Wouldn’t It Be Nice

Sloop John B

God Only Knows

Good Vibrations

Encore

All Summer Long

Help Me, Rhonda

Barbara Ann

Surfin’ U.S.A.

Fun, Fun, Fun

Love and Mercy

Concert Review – Michael McDonald – Lawrence, Kansas

 

REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

 

Michael McDonald

The Lied Center, Lawrence, Kansas

August 12, 2018

 

If there is a way to age gracefully, it might be to simply admit you’re no longer young.

Throughout his 90-minute set at the Lied Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., on August 12, Michael McDonald made no attempt to pass himself off as anything other than a 66-year-old man.

When he introduced vocalist Drea Rheneé, the former Doobie Brothers singer and keyboardist praised her chops and that she relieved the crowd from the “middle-aged ugliness” of the rest of the band. He added, “You’ll notice I said ‘middle-aged.’ Who am I kidding?”

With a crowd that was primarily within throwing distance of that number, that wasn’t a problem. Part of the reason McDonald can still put on a good show is that he and his tunes were always for grownups. In both his solo work and his songs with his former band, McDonald has always sung about heartbreak that’s long removed from the teenage experience. In “Real Love” and “What a Fool Believes,” McDonald softly laments he or someone else has broken up and that it has happened many times before.

This may explain why the songs still sounded good last Sunday night and why people who aren’t trying to recapture their youth can listen to him without embarrassment. McDonald’s smooth as marshmallows delivery doesn’t deserve the label of “yacht rock,” because his roots are in St. Louis where the river vessels look a little different.

As he performed new tunes from last year’s Wide Open album like “Hail Mary” and “Just Strong Enough,” McDonald’s voice cracked just enough to prevent his band from slipping into easy listening. For the latter he even stood up from his piano stool for a few seconds, giving the song a feeling of vitality that wouldn’t occur if he were sitting like the audience.

It also helps that McDonald still has his vocal chops and nimble fingers. When he broke into familiar tunes like “Minute by Minute,” he’d begin them by adding jazzy touches to keep the arrangements from seeming too robotic.

He also avoided hogging the spotlight. He’d usually leave the showiest solos to guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle, sax player Mark Douthit and keyboardist Pat Coil. The three put just enough of a sting in the arrangements to keep the songs from being mellow enough to induce napping.

Rheneé had the unenviable task of replicating Patti LaBelle’s verses during the Burt Bacharach/Carole Bayer Sager hit “On My Own,” which may be most ironically titled duet ever. Fortunately, she easily kept up with LaBelle’s vocal gymnastics.

McDonald’s midwestern drawl is surprisingly clearer than his singing voice, but his stage banter was remarkably sincere. Having grown up in the St. Louis suburb, Ferguson, Mo., his later performance of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” was expectedly moving, and he was clearly aware the issues Gaye lamented are sadly still with us.

Thankfully, so is McDonald, who helped open the Lied Center’s 25th anniversary on a high note.

Set list:

Yah Mo B There

Here To Love You

I Keep Forgettin’

Find It in Your Heart

Just Strong Enough

I Can Let Go Now

Sweet Freedom

On My Own

Hail Mary

Beautiful Child

Half Truth

Minute by Minute

What a Fool Believes

Encore

What’s Goin’ On

Taking It to the Streets

Concert Review: “A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper” – Kansas City

 

A Paranormal Evening with Alice Cooper

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts ,  Kansas City, Missouri

August 6, 2018

REVIEW BY J.R. DEETER

 

 

First off, let me just say that if you get an opportunity to see a concert performance at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City you should absolutely do so…..it is fast becoming my favorite venue to see concerts.

I have always been a casual fan of Alice Cooper and the “hits.”  I admit I really didn’t know many of the album songs….ones long-time fans know, but for this show, it didn’t seem to matter.   I really enjoyed every minute of the entire playlist.

Opening with a non stop barrage of Brutal Planet, No More Mr. Nice Guy, Under My Wheels and Billion Dollar Babies, you could tell this was going to be an awesome night.   As promised, this was to be “ A Paranormal Evening” and the stage set delivered….ghoulish and dark….strange, frightening elements filled the space, everything from small doll sized things….a large box, from which minions provided several props to Alice throughout the night, including a dancing demonic creature, a shocking electric chair and, of course, a guillotine, which eventually was used for the beheading of Cooper, to the screaming delight of the near capacity audience.

The song Lost in America is now one of my favorites….this was one I hadn’t heard before. Same with Woman of Mass Destruction.  How could I have missed those over the years?

Poison…..Feed My Frankenstein….even a bit of a slow down for Only Women Bleed didn’t drop the level of energy of the band, or the level of love from the crowd for this 70 year old Godfather of Shock Rock.

There were a couple of “rest periods” when Alice exited the stage for the obligatory solos by members of the band….every one of them very entertaining and capable on their instrument.  A special shout-out to Nita Straus, kicking ass on lead and rhythm guitar while providing backing vocals.

Wrapping up the show with I’m Eighteen and the confetti filled rousing rendition of School’s Out left my ears ringing and my heart filled with joy.  I had finally experienced Alice Cooper, clearly not in his prime, but certainly still able to deliver a killer performance.

(My .5 deduction is for not playing 1977’s You and Me.  I’m a former 80’s DJ, and that was a staple JAM we played often…great tune.)

Kansas City Theater Review: “Kinky Boots”

Starlight Theater
Kansas City, Missouri
September 29, 2017

Review by: JR Deeter

The stage musical “Kinky Boots” is based on the 2005 British film of the same name. I first became aware of this inspiring story while watching the 2013 Tony awards program. I enjoyed the musical numbers like “Sex Is in the Heel,” “Not My Fathers Son,” and “Soul of a Man.” The performance this evening at Starlight really did those songs justice and really, the entire score of songs was great. Lead actors Lance Bordelon and Joseph N. Banks were perfect in there respective rolls of Charlie and Lola/Simon. The supporting cast did an exceptional job as well, especially the ensemble group known as the Angels. For the musical, written by Harvey Fierstein with music & lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, a strong message of inclusion is brought out, promoting the feeling that everyone deserves respect for who they are.

The story tells of a four-generation tradition of proprietors of a men’s shoe factory, Charlie dreams of something more…and his fiancé, Nicola, is dragging him to the big city of London to pursue that dream. The sudden death of Charlie’s father brings him back into the factory to figure out how to tell the staff, who are like family to him, that the company is bankrupt and going to have to close. On a return trip to London, he encounters what he believes to be a woman being beat up by a couple of guys. He intervenes and meets the amazing Lola, the drag queen star of the club Charlie was visiting. Over time a friendship begins to develop and soon, with encouragement from his factory workers, who do not want to see the factory close, Charlie realizes a change is necessary from the old, stodgy men’s shoes to something more….and that is to provid kinky style boots for the transvestites who perform in the club. They are in need of a better designed boot, one that can handle the weight of a man, and still look fabulous and sexy. Lola brings her ideas and a partnership is born. Everything is going great, until an episode of intolerance shows that there are still those in society who do not accept what they cannot understand, or what is different than what they believe is normal. After teaching the misguided few a valuable lesson, by means of a boxing match (yes, turns out in his younger days, Lola, or Simon was trained by his father to be a prize fighter). Lola and Charlie find themselves at odds over designs, models for an upcoming show in Milan, and just their friendship in general. Lola seeks closure from her failed relationship with her father, who has rejected her for the lifestyle she choose. All seems lost, but like most musicals, everything works out in the end. Charlie and Lola realize they need each other to accomplish their goals and even the former bully comes around and admits his misgivings. The fashion show starts out as a disaster, but Lola and her Angels arrive just in time to save the day, and all is right with their world.

A very entertaining show, with a valuable lesson and and musical numbers that are outstanding. Cyndi Lauper has created memorable songs and music that shine bright all the way through. Not bad for a first timer. In 2013 “Kinky Boots” received 13 Tony Award nominations and won six trophys, including Best Musical and, for Cyndi Lauper, Best Score.

Concert Review: Foreigner, Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience

Foreigner, Cheap Trick and Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience
Starlight Theatre, Kansas City MO
August 15th, 2017

Review By: J.R. Deeter

“KHIT Radio….all the Hits, all the Time!!!” Don’t you just hate it when you attend a concert and the bands give you some of their hit songs, the ones you know from radio airplay growing up. Or from the constant hours you spent listening to the albums and cassettes you bought at Musicland? But instead they also play a bunch of songs you do not know….”Here’s one from our 3rd album”….ummm, yeah….time to hit the bathroom and concession stand. Well, there was none of that for the Foreigner 40th Anniversary tour stop at Kansas City’s Starlight outdoor venue (weather was great – just about perfect). If you got out of your seat at all, you missed out.

The show began with the Jason Bonham Led Zeppelin Experience, appropriately starting with “Rock N Roll,” “Black Dog,” “Over the Hills and Far Away”…straight through for a total of nine of Zeppelin’s biggest hits, wrapping it up with “Whole Lotta Love.” No “Stairway to Heaven” (thank you). I’ve never been a huge Zeppelin fan, but it was entertaining, with lead singer James Dylan holding his own on vocals and of course, Jason Bonham in charge from behind the drum kit.

Up next, in my honest opinion, the best part of the whole evening, Cheap Trick. They took the stage, opening their show as always with “Hello There,” then rocking through classics like “Big Eyes” and “Ain’t That A Shame.” They threw in a couple for the ladies, “If You Want My Love” and “The Flame,” then broke out the BIG HITS including “I Want You To Want Me,” “Dream Police” and “Surrender.” The band wrapped up their set with “Auf Wiedersehen” and “Goodnight.” Robin Zander’s vocals: still got it. Tom Peterson on Bass: doing fine. Rick Nielsen ROCKS and yes, his son Daxx Nielsen is still the drummer. And, yes, I still miss Bun E. Carlos.

40 years is a long time in the world of rock and roll…most bands never see that kind of longevity. Even with a few years of missing from radio, with no new music, if you’ve ever been on top with monster hits your fans will keep those songs alive. Foreigner is just that kind of band. They brought the best of their best for this show, opening with “Double Vision,” “Head Games” and “Cold as Ice.” They kept going and going, mixing power ballads like “Waiting For A Girl Like You” with rockers like “Dirty White Boy,” “Urgent,” and of course, “Jukebox Hero.” They closed the show, assisted on backing vocals by a choir from the local Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, with their biggest hit to date, “I Wanna Know What Love Is” followed 1978’s “Hot Blooded.”

I enjoyed it all…..while Mick Jones is showing his age at 72, his guitar playing is exceptional. Lead vocalist Kelly Hansen, apparently attempting to channel Steven Tyler, can work the crowd well and delivers vocally.

NOTE: Lou Gramm is playing a few shows on the 40th Anniversary tour, but alas, KC was not one.

Athletes to Actor – The 10 Who Did It Best

Article by Adam Walter

There is a long history of athletes turning to acting after their playing days are over. In fact, many of them get a jump start by acting while they’re still in the midst of their careers. Most of them have been forgettable, but some athletes have gone on to become serious actors or at least leave a lasting impression upon the landscape of popular culture. This is the list of the best athletes turned actors.

10. Bob Uecker

Okay, so maybe calling Uecker an athlete is a stretch when you look at his career .200 batting average, but the man did last six seasons in Major League Baseball. He will always most famously be remembered for his hilarious announcing in the Major League movies.

9. Carl Weathers

Weathers is most widely known for portraying Apollo Creed in the Rocky Franchise. Before he became famous for fighting and training Rocky Balboa, Weathers played linebacker for two seasons at San Diego State, 7 games for the Oakland Raiders and a couple years in the CFL.

8. Jim Brown

Brown’s name is often thrown around in the lists of best athletes in history. He is the only man to average over 100 yards per game for his entire NFL career. After his playing days were over, Brown turned to acting. His most famous role was in The Dirty Dozen.

7. Merlin Olsen

Although kids from the 80’s will undoubtedly remember Olsen most from his role as Ingalls’ family friend Jonathan Garvey on “Little House on the Prairie,” he was one of the best defensive tackles in the history of football. He made the Pro Bowl the first 14 years of his 15-year NFL career, which is a Pro Bowl selection streak that is only matched by Bruce Matthews, Tony Gonzalez and Peyton Manning.

6. Johnny Weissmuller

Weissmuller won five gold medals and a bronze for swimming in the 1924 and 1928 Summer Olympics. He then went on to portray Tarzan in 11 films, starting in 1932. Following that, Weissmuller starred in 13 movies as a famous Asian hunter called Jungle Jim.


5. Alex Karras

Karras was a star offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions over 12 seasons in the NFL. He went on to star in many TV shows and movies, most famously as Mongo in Blazing Saddles and George Papadopoulos on “Webster”.

4. Chuck Norris

Most recognizable by Millennials for the Internet memes referencing his legendary feats, Norris was an action star who is most famously known onscreen for fighting Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon and portraying the title character in “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

3. Burt Reynolds

Reynolds was a star fullback coming out of high school, but he hurt his knee at Florida State in his sophomore year and never fully recovered. He turned to acting and became one of the biggest movie stars of the 1980s in films like Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit and The Longest Yard.

2. Bruce Lee

The most famous kung fu movie star ever is also considered by many to be the best martial artist of all time. His most famous films were The Big Boss, Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon.

1. Arnold Schwarzenegger

A star so big he is instantly recognizable from his first name alone, Arnold is one of the biggest box-office stars in Hollywood history. In films such as Predator, Kindergarten Cop and The Terminator franchise, Schwarzenegger delighted audiences. Before he became an action hero, Schwarzenegger initially gained fame as one of the most successful bodybuilders ever. He won the title of Mr. Olympia seven times.

Media Mikes is proud to welcome Adam Walter. Adam is recently out of college and makes his home in New York City. His love of sports led to he and some friends starting an Internet blog. You can read more of his work at www.usssportsmachine.com. Welcome aboard!

Kansas City Concert Review: Elvis Costello’s “The Juliet Letters”

“The Juliet Letters”
Saturday, January 28, 2017
Lyric Opera of Kansas City

Review By: J.R. Deeter

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

As a fan of the music and lyrics of Elvis Costello I have to admit I had never heard of his 1993 release “The Juliet Letters,” a collection of 20 songs for voice and string quartet. I was not sure what to expect from the artist who has written a few of my favorite “pop” tunes through the years, given this performance was certainly not going to fit into the customary mold of his usual offerings.

From the start, this was indeed something different, something not easy to listen to. I kept waiting for the music to gain momentum into what I was used to. I kept waiting for the lyrics to give way to some snappy chorus easy to sing along to, but this was not to be and after my contemplation of the experience, I came away pleased anyway.

The vocalization interpretations of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City Resident Artists of April Martin, soprano; Samantha Gossard, mezzo-soprano; Casey Candebat, tenor and John Viscardi, baritone, were very entertaining. The set was designed with written letters hanging from wire in a crisscross pattern. The artists would remove pages and exchange them from one to another as they lit or extinguished lighting to create an ever changing dramatic atmosphere. The tone and lyrics are dark and brooding. It became clear that these were not to be happy, lovey dovey letters between star crossed lovers, but words of the brokenhearted; Painful, mournful anguished tales of love lost, or missing or refused.

The Fry Street Quartet of the Caine College of Arts at Utah State University provided the music and was the highlight of the evening. The performance of each member as they presented their part of the music really helped to convey the emotions of the selections and left me feeling sad and melancholy, as one should when the desire for love and happiness is not to be.