A review of John Summerson’s “The Classical Language of Architecture”

“The Classical Language of Architecture” by John Summerson was first published in 1966. In this book, the author dwells upon the detailed grammatical workings of architectural language. The reason why classical architecture was chosen as a basis for the detailed analysis is very simple: it is that kind of “language” the grammatical rules of which are understandable to the majority of people interested in the field of architecture.

When you take a look at an example of classical architecture in Italy, it becomes obvious that the so-called ‘Latin architecture’ has existed for a very long time. Those buildings are large and wide. As soon as you start conducting an academic study on the history of classical architecture, you realize that it’s language is rather simple. Yet, this style was considered to be the common language of Western architecture until recent times. These days, creativity and diversity are more significant than the desire to adhere to a set of rules. The importance of unique approach is highlighted in almost every architecture essay.

The purpose of this book is not only to help students dwell upon the language of classical architecture in their architecture essay writing assignments, but also to explain what the grammatical workings of this language are. If you are aiming to get one of the well-paid architecture jobs, reading this book is a must. No essay about architect will tell you more about the rules that are applied in classical architecture that this book. The author mentions ancient Greece and ancient Rome as the places where the development of classical architecture began. However, he is more interested in the ways in which the style has developed during the period of Renaissance.

Before this book was published, it existed in the form of a series of six scripts that were created for BBC Radio. The writing style of John Summerson is not only informative, but also very entertaining. Yet, his main goal of the book remains the same: to provide readers with a clear understanding of what classical architecture is; to explain its impact on the development of architectural design and to present the so-called set of grammatical rules that make up a classical building. The author pays a lot of attention to the way in which classical architectural ideas have progressed over time. Such aspects as proportion and fenestration of facade are discussed in detail. At the end of the book, John Summerson sums up his thoughts on classical architecture saying that this architectural style is all about achieving visible harmony among all parts.

Apart from that, John Summerson dwells upon architectural deviations during the Baroque period and explains the relationship between classical and modern architecture. This book will be particularly useful to architecture students, especially freshmen and sophomores who are currently studying such discipline as the history of architecture. They often find it hard to write a proper conclusion architecture essay, so this book may help them do it better. What is more, mentioning this book will look good on the references page of an essay about architecture. The more useful resources a student has access to, the less often they will have to type something like do my architecture paper into Google search. If the topic of your paper is classical architecture and you do not know how to write a conclusion architecture essay, reading this book may help you come up with a couple of ideas. In general, the whole point of the conclusion architecture essay part is to summarize everything you have already mentioned in previous paragraphs. If you have conducted a research study, your conclusion architecture essay paragraph should contain the results. All in all, “The Classical Language of Architecture” by John Summeson will come in handy to every student who has decided to major in architecture.

Concert Review: The Aquabats! “Holy Guacamole Tour”, Buffalo, NY

“Holy Guacamole Tour”

The Aquabats!, Koo Koo Kangaroo, MC Lars

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY

Our score 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Aquabats! Along with special guests Koo Koo Kangaroo and MC Lars made a stop at the quant Town Ballroom in Buffalo, NY on September 14th as part of their current “Holy Guacamole Tour”.  The family friendly evening was over flowing with energy and laughs as all three groups incorporated crowd participation into their sets making for a truly unique and unforgettable evening.

The cartoon drawing, YouTube creating rapper know as MC Lars would kick off the evening’s festivities with a set of hip-hop infused punk rock featuring songs from all five of the rappers releases. Songs like “Hot Topic Is Not Punk Rock” and “Mr.Raven” incorporated crowd participation call and answer sections with the latter featuring an accompaniment from one lucky young concert attendee who rapped alongside the artist. Easily the most impressive part of the set was when the rapper asked for audience members to hold up random items which were then incorporated into a hysterical off the cuff free style rap.  Dance-pop duo Koo Koo Kangaroo would take the stage next for an energetic set of laughable, dance inducing songs that had the entire venue smiling and gyrating. The Minnesota natives joked with the crowd in between songs like “Dinosaur Stomp”, “Fanny Pack” and “Unibrow” and at several points during the set the duo left the stage to dance and further involve the audience in their laughable performance.

The Aquabats! Would hit the stage next kicking off their set with the song “The Shark Fighter” from the group’s 2011 album “Hi-Fi Soup”. Giant inflatable sharks were tossed back and forth between the stage and crowd as everyone within reach took turns helping their costume clad heroes take out the amphibious baddies. As the night progressed the band who had been absent from Buffalo for quite some time made it up to the crowd with songs like “Red Sweater!”, “Hey Homies!” and the theme from the groups popular television/YouTube series “The Aquabats! Super Show! Theme Song”. Probably my favorite part of the set was during the song “Pizza Day!” when the MC Bat Commander instructed concert goers to return two of the large inflatable pizza’s which had been floating around the crowd to the front of the stage. While this was taking place the Commander brought up two very excited youngsters and once the pizza was in place the youth were thrown on to said pizzas and then passed around overhead as the band played the remainder of the song. You don’t see that every day! After several more songs the band would leave the stage at the close of “Captain Hampton and the Midget Pirates!” only to return after a brief pause to perform their break out hit “Super Rad!”, Also included in the encore was a cover of The Outfields “Your Love” and another Aquabats! fan favorite “Pool Party”.

Needless to say the whole night was a blast. It was great seeing kids and adults of all ages have fun while singing and dancing. Equally enjoyable was the level of interaction that each artist brought to their sets which really made the audience feel like they too were part of the show. The “Holy Guacamole Tour” runs through November so there is still plenty of time to catch one of these shows. Take the whole family you won’t be disappointed!

Aqua Bats Set List:

1.) The Shark Fighter!

2.) Cat With 2 Heads!

3.) Red Sweater!

4.) Martian Girl!

5.) Pizza Day!

6.) The Aquabats! Super Show! Theme Song

7.) Hey Homies!

8.) In My Dreams!

9.) Hot Summer Nights (Won’t Last Forever)!

10.) Fashion Zombies!

11.) Burger Rain!

12.) Look At Me, I’m a Winner!

13.) Caption Hampton and the Midget Pirates!

Encore:

14.) Super Rad!

15.) Your Love

16.) Pool Party!

 

 

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Book Review: “Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness. As Lived By Jon Zazula”

“Heavy Tales: The Metal. The Music. The Madness.  As Lived By Jon Zazula”
Author: Jon Zazula/Harold Claros-Maldonado
Paperback: 193 pages

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Heavy Tales” details the stories of how one Jonathan Zazula better known as Jonny Z who went from living on the streets of the Bronx in New York City to managing and releasing albums by some of the biggest artists in heavy metal music including Metallica, Anthrax, Testament and Mercyful Fate. Together, Jonny and his wife Marsha built a musical dynasty out of modest beginnings unmatched by any other underground heavy metal label. With a foreword written by Testament vocalist Chuck Billy, plus over 100 rare photographs unearthed from the Mega-Vault and photographer friends worldwide, “Heavy Tales” is the definitive American story of a family man with a dream, determined to prove to the world that heavy metal belonged on the stage, in your car, on the radio, and in your living room.

Growing up around the college town of Ithaca, NY you would always hear rumblings of the fabled Pyramid Studios and how all these heavy metal bands from the city would make the five plus hour drive just to record there. A name that was often attached along with that of bands like Anthrax, Testament and Raven was Jonny Z. It wasn’t until sometime later when I myself had the chance to record at Pyramid Studios that I would go back and dig a little deeper in to the lore that surrounds Mr. Jon Zazula. “Heavy Tales” filled in all the gaps, lapses and holes as it is the story right from the horse’s mouth. With the help of Harold Claros-Maldonado, Jon tells you about how his rough upbringing and  keen business sense put him at the fore-front of the heavy metal invasion of the mid-eighties and into early nineties where he help orchestrate the early foundations of cross over Rap-Metal. Just reading the candid stories about Metallica’s early days (Pre-“Master of Puppets”) would have been more than enough for me but Z takes it further recounting numerous concerts, trips and pivotal first time meetings which until now were stories only heard by select few and/or those who lived it.

Counting in at just over 190 pages “Heavy Tales” is a quick read that wastes no time getting to the good stuff. The book and its authors give you just enough background to nicely set the stage for the bulk of each story. I had no problem reading this book in one sitting and the various photographs included in the book were a nice touch. If you grew up during the time period the book covers and was in to heavy metal you undoubtedly have a record that Jonny Z had a hand in and now is your chance to hear his story.

 

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Album Review: Soundgarden “King Animal” 35th Anniversary Vinyl

“King Animal” 35th Anniversary Vinyl

Soundgarden

Republic Records

Producer: Adam Kasper/Soundgarden

2 LP’s

Tracks: 13

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Soundgarden’s sixth and final album “King Animal” is the latest in a series in specially packaged re-releases from the platinum selling band which celebrates the groups 35 year career. Like the previous three releases from this series “King Animal” comes pressed on 180 gram colored vinyl and is packaged in full color, dual gate fold sleeves complete with album liner notes.

The final release from Soundgarden after the group’s reformation in 2010 “King Animal” picks up roughly where its predecessor “Down On The Upside” leaves off. Not it in theme but in stylistic approach as the album features a wide range of textures and sounds giving listeners a smorgasbord of musical ear candy to digest. The latest LP release comes pressed on double white/yellow marble 180 gram vinyl which gives the albums 13 tracks a balanced warmness as it plays through your speakers. Tracks like the rawkus “Non-State Actor” and the eerie “Bones of Birds” were personal highlights as were the fast paced “Attrition” and the fanatical thumping of “Eyelids Mouth”.

Being this is not the albums first vinyl treatment aside from the addition of 180 gram vinyl it doesn’t really offer anything that the previous release didn’t already provide. This seems to be a common occurrence with these anniversary releases as none of them have offered anything extra to help entice buyers to grab another copy. With the various bonus content that was made available previously from this release I think it would have been an ideal time to house it all under one nicely packed anniversary collection however, this was not the case. Don’t get me wrong re-releases can be a really cool thing and like the subsequent 3 the packaging is second to none however they really should have given fans a reason to purchase them and “King Animal” is no exception. If you have this release already you may want to skip this one however if you haven’t gotten yourself a copy and just want the core album with no fancy extras, Then grab this anniversary edition as you won’t be disappointed.   

Track Listing:

1.) Been Away Too Long

2.) Non-State Actor

3.) By Crooked Steps

4.) A Thousand Days Before

5.) Blood on the Valley Floor

6.) Bones of Birds

7.) Taree

8.) Attrition

9.) Black Saturday

10.) Halfway There

11.) Worse Dreams

12.) Eyelids Mouth

13.) Rowing

 

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Film Review: “Tigers Are Not Afraid”

  • TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID
  • Starring: Paola Lara, Juan Ramon Lopez
  • Directed by: Issa Lopez
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 1 hour 23 minutes
  • Variance Films 

While there are certainly enough terrifying elements to make “Tigers Are Not Afraid” a horror film, this 2017 title from Mexican director Issa Lopez is a breath of fresh air for any cinephile. It first taps into the cartel-related violence plaguing Latin America to create an imaginative story concerning a group of orphaned children struggling to survive. Next, Lopez’s engaging script puts a spin on what would have been a tragic drama by inserting the ghosts of that violence and their desire for retribution. At not even 90 minutes running time, “Tigers Are Not Afraid” is a sprint that will leave your heart racing. 

Lopez hooks us right away from a startling statistic: that in the 10 years since the beginning of the drug cartel wars (2006) in Mexico, that an estimated 160,000 people had been killed and another 53,000 had disappeared. Staggering numbers to be sure. However, it is made even more sobering when you are forced to consider how many innocent children in all of it have been turned into orphans with no where to go. If a random bullet does not get them, then human traffickers will. 

We find young Estrella (Paola Lara) attending school and crafting a fairy tale in her class about a tiger when gunfire on the street erupts, causing all classes to be suspended indefinitely. While hunkering down, a teacher gives Estrella three pieces of chalk that represent three wishes for Estrella to use. It is not until Estrella encounters a dead body in the street that things become a little Stephen Kingish as a trail of blood follows her home like a snake. 

After Estrella arrives home, we realize that both of her parents have vanished, and she is utterly alone. The father has apparently been out of the picture for a while, so it is the mother that is the focal point of her mourning. In desperation, Estrella uses one of her chalk pieces to wish that her mother would come back. A natural thing to want, but poorly though out as her mother comes back to her in the form of hushed whispers and ghastly images. 

Estrella, always followed by the blood trail, ends up finding refuge with a group of orphaned boys led by a streetwise kid named El Shine (Juan Roman Lopez). This refuge is no place for a girl, especially since El Shine has recently stolen the gun and cell phone belonging to a notorious human trafficker who has murdered multiple people. As they try to stay one step of ahead of them, Estrella other wishes, compounded by her mother’s requests goes to show to be careful what you wish for, even if you do survive. 

“Tigers Are Not Afraid” is a gripping, intense story that is plenty tragic even without the horror element. The plight of Mexican children entangled by this long war on the cartels and the one between them, is too easily forgotten by a news media starving for the next 24-hour news cycle. As for the horror element, it is done is such a minimalist way that it greatly heightens the story’s tension when it is introduced. The acting by the two lead children is performed well enough, but it is the story itself that is the star. If you have heart issues, then you might want to take your medication first before seeing “Tigers Are Not Afraid.”

 

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Film Review “The House”

 THE HONEST TRUTH ABOUT “THE HOUSE”

Starring: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Jason Mantzoukas
Directed by: Andrew Jay Cohen
Rated: R

Do you want to learn how to play roulette? Then let’s head on to “The House” and teach you a thing or two. Just make sure to head on to the store to buy something as an alibi, then pass the back into the woods. The path should lead you directly to the house. With talents like Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, and Jason Mantzoukas, there is no denying that you would learn more than just roulette games. I for one enjoyed this movie, even though it received a lot of criticism for its downfall in a lot of ways. One of which is their worldwide grossing of $34 million against their $40 million budget.

In the story, Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) turned the house of their gambling addict friend Jason Mantzoukas starring as Frank, with his permission and help of course, into a casino. A house where they made tons of cash in a matter of weeks. This wasn’t their initial intention though. All they wanted was to raise enough money for the tuition of their lovely daughter. The initial plan was to raise as much as was required for the tuition fees, then pull the plug on the casino as soon as possible. But things begin to heat up and get interesting all together, and it becomes harder to pull out. Let’s take a look at the story before reaching a verdict.

The Johansen family visit Bucknell University with their daughter, and warn her about the dangers college comes with. Alex (Ryan Simpkins), their daughter just wants to get their talk over with, and all she’s interested in is studying at her parents’ alma mater. She gets admitted, but they can’t afford to pay for her tuition. They were expecting to receive funding from the Scholarship program of the community. Unfortunately, the city councilor decides that there isn’t enough funding for the scholarship program, and would rather build a city pool with the available funds. A twist in expectations for the Johansens that would spice up the movie even more!

They try to get a loan, get Kate to take back her job, and ask for a raise at work. All fail, and they eventually go to Vegas to have a great time with their friend Frank. They were rolling it hot and winning consistently until they were jinxed by Scott who yelled at frank not to roll a seven. After trying every means possible to raise the money and failing, they finally agree to start a casino at the house of their neighbor after he continuously pestered them to. Their neighbor; Frank, played by Jason Mantzoukas, was going through a divorce with his wife for his gambling addiction.

The fun thing about the movie is that the couple was able to get the majority of the community to be discreet about the house. The house only got better and better, and it was a fun place for everyone to have fun. Things got way more interesting when the fight night was added to the casino, and this got the attention of more people to the house – and the city councilor knew nothing about it, not even the police!

Things got out of hand quickly when they cut off the middle finger of Carl and set Tommy Papouli on fire. The police found out and the city councilor confiscated their stash. Nothing was more heartbreaking than that! But just as I had the desire to get the money back, so did they! They exposed the city councilor of his dirty works and got their cash back. Happy ending!

The love for this movie might be a little more than the storyline, and I can’t deny my interest in movies Will Ferrell stars in.

Film Review: “Rapid Response”

  • RAPID RESPONSE (Documentary)
  • Starring:  Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Bobby Unser
  • Directed by: Roger Hinze and Michael William Miles
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 39 mins
  • Atlas Distribution Company

My nephew loves the Indianapolis 500.  It was an event he could attend each year with his father and, more personally, it’s where he met his fiancé.  I used to watch it on television in the 1970s as a child and I can still remember watching the race in 1973 when a high speed and fiery crash ended driver Swede Savage’s (an awesome name for anyone in sports) day.  Savage died about a month later in the hospital, though it’s unsure if his injuries or a serious illness he had killed him.

In 1966, racing fan (and medical student) Stephen Olvey attended the race only to see tragedy strike again.  After the accident, he questioned why, even though there was safety and fire equipment at the track, there were no medical personnel.  Would a doctor at the Speedway have saved the driver?  Since then Dr. Olvey has put together a team of professionals whose job is to save lives at racing events whenever possible.

Full of some amazing archive race footage, as well as interview with such legendary drivers as Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser and Rick Mears, These are men who risked their lives weekly going 200 miles per hour and it’s obvious that they wish a lot of Dr. Olvey’s innovations were around when they were racing.  “Rapid Response” is an in-depth look at the work Dr. Olvey and his “crew” do almost every weekend of racing season.   A look is also taken at how the team has changed the way races are run, making the time spent on the track safer for everyone.

If you’re a fan of auto racing, this is a film I highly recommend.   

Film Review: “David Crosby: Remember My Name”

  • DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME
  • Starring:  David Crosby, Cameron Crowe, Graham Nash
  • Directed by: A.J. Eaton
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 35 mins
  • SONY Picture Classics

I met David Crosby in 1987.  He was backstage getting ready to perform on a Vietnam Veteran’s concert being taped for HBO.  I accidentally walked into what I thought was the bathroom only to find out it was his dressing room.  He was very nice and we talked for a few minutes.  Later that afternoon he, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash performed in (as always) perfect harmony.

Today, at age 72, Crosby is still on the road.  He has to be.  Though he was very successful during his time with The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN) and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY), he is quick to point out that he is the only member of those bands who never had a solo hit record.  The new film, “David Crosby: Remember My Name” finds Crosby about to head out for a six week tour.  This saddens him, as he would rather stay home with his wife, Jan.  This saddens Jan, as she is aware of Crosby’s health problems and always fears that when he leaves for a show he will never return home.  But if there is one thing Crosby loves as much as his family, it is to sing.  So out on the road he goes.

An excellent combination of archive footage and interviews, “David Crosby: Remember My Names” is an outstanding film which reminds me, in style, of another documentary, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.”  This could be because the director of the Campbell doc, James Keach, is an executive producer here.  The film covers almost every aspect of Crosby’s life, both the highs (no pun intended) and the lows.

The son of an Academy Award winning cinematographer (Crosby’s father, Floyd, won the award for his work on the film “Tabu”), Crosby listened to his mother’s records and soon began playing the guitar.  When he got older, he became a co-founder of The Byrds, a very successful group.  However, due to some of his antics – including telling a concert audience that President Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy – he was booted from the band.  He then teamed up with Stills and Nash to form one of the biggest super groups in music history.   We are shown a

Montage of drug fueled images from the period, including one with my friend Carl Gottlieb expounding on them.  (NOTE:  Carl helped David Crosby write his two volume autobiography, “Long Time Gone” and “Since Then”)  We also learn that Dennis Hopper based his character in the film “Easy Rider” on Crosby.  However, things begin going bad when Crosby’s 21 year old girlfriend, Christine Hinton, is killed when a bus hits her van head-on.  Heartbroken, Crosby finds solace in sailing – and drugs.   Later in his life, his addiction will send him to prison.

One of the best music autobiographies ever written.

The film also allows Crosby to take the audience to Kent State University, where 4 students were killed on May 4, 1970 when members of the Ohio National Guard fired their weapons into a group of students who were protesting the war in Vietnam.  There is a cultural center on campus now, a museum dedicated to the images of that tragic day.  The emotion still wells up in Crosby’s voice as he describes how one leader in the National Guard swore he’d never fired his weapon, when a photo on the wall captures him doing just that.  Within a month of the shootings, CSNY release their song “OHIO,” which Neil Young wrote after seeing a LIFE magazine cover story on the shootings.  Neil Young has said that the event was so emotional that David Crosby wept while recording the song.  That emotion, almost 50 years later, is still obvious. 

The film also includes footage of Crosby on tour, and his voice is just as sweet as it was in the 1960s.  He also shares some personal stories about such fellow musical icons as Cass Elliott, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan.  If you’re a fan of Crosby, or just the music of the period, this film is a must see!

Concert Review: Kiss “End of The Road” Syracuse, NY

End of the Road Tour 2019

Kiss

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater at Lakeview, Syracuse, NY

Our score 4 out of 5 stars

Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Kiss brought their bombastic “End of the Road” tour to the lake side St. Joseph’s Health Amphitheater in Syracuse, NY on August 27th to perform to a near capacity crowd for what very well could have been the last time due to the band announcing earlier in the year that this would be their final tour. With the annual NYS Fair taking place in the background there was already plenty of excitement in the air which the band surely was set to capitalize on.

As the scenic amphitheater quickly began to fill up renowned performance painter David Garibaldi would take the stage to showcase his unique style of splash painting back by remixed version of notable rock tracks which coincided with his subject. Garibaldi painted 3 works including one of Jimi Hendrix and of course one of Kiss complete with the shows location. A painter certainly is not the most traditional of opening acts (a fact which had a lot of concert goers scratching their heads) but given Paul Stanley’s foray into painting over the last few years there was I guess some logic to it. With the giant black and silver Kiss curtain already in place it was only a matter of minutes before it would be dropped making way for the hottest band in the land. As the opening notes of “Detroit Rock City” blasted through the PA the band descended from the roof on brightly lit platforms flanked by numerous backing displays which adorned the entire stage. The veteran rockers wasted no time launching into their catalog as they ripped through classics such as “Shout It Out Loud” and “Deuce” before breaking things up with a newer track “Say Yeah” from the groups 2009 release “Sonic Boom”.

As the evening progressed fans were treated to everything they have come to love about make-up clad band including plenty of fire, explosions, and over the top stage theatrics which included a trip in to the audience via an elaborate flying rig by Paul Stanley for the songs “Love Gun” and “I Was Made For Loving You”. After a brief exit from the stage following the closing notes of “Black Diamond” drummer Eric Singer would reappear for his version of “Beth” which he performed sitting behind a sparkle/mirror encrusted piano. Following the closing of the ballad the full band would return for two more songs including “Rock ‘N’ Roll All Nite” which featured plenty of red and white confetti that in a matter of seconds had nearly the entire crowd covered while they sang along to probably Kiss’s most well know song.  

If this truly is the last time we will see Kiss then the show the band put on for Syracuse, NY was a fitting send off as the band hardly missed a beat. Of course it would have been great to see the band perform with original members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss as well as non-makeup era guitarist Bruce Kulick but sadly that just wasn’t in the cards for this tour. With these three former members not being present for this tour could that possibly leave the door open for future Kiss works? Maybe,  and as we have learned from the bands past you just never know however, if the band does stay true to their word then you owe it to yourself to make it to one of these shows as no other band is out there putting on a show of this magnitude especially one with 40 plus years of history.

Set List:

1.) Detroit Rock City

2.) Shout It Out Loud

3.) Deuce

4.) Say Yeah

5.) I Love It Loud

6.) Heaven’s On Fire

7.) War Machine

8.) Lick it Up

9.) Calling Dr. Love

10.) 100,000 Year

11.) Cold Gin

12.) God of Thunder

13.) Psycho Circus

14.) Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll

15.) Love Gun

16.) I Was Made For Lovin’ You

17.) Black Diamond

Encore:

18.) Beth

19.) Crazy Crazy Nights

20.) Rock and Roll All Nite

 

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Kansas City Concert Review: “Weird Al” Yankovic – STRINGS ATTACHED

  • “Weird Al” Yankovic – Strings Attached Tour
  • August 31, 2019
  • Starlight Theater, Kansas City, Missouri

PHOTOS BY DAN LYBARGER

FINALLY!!

Like many other people, I have a musical bucket list. This is a list of people or groups I MUST see before I die. Over the past few years I’ve been able to cross a few of them off my list. Van Morrison? Check. Tom Petty? Check – and rest in peace. Santana? Check. But tonight I finally crossed of one that has been on my list for almost 40 years when I took in the amazing “Weird Al” Yankovic!

It was September 14, 1980. Two days before my 20th birthday. That night, while listening to Dr. Demento’s radio show, he had a guest in studio that wanted to play a song of his. The guest was “Weird Al” and the song was Another One Rides the Bus, a clever parody of Queen’s current hit Another One Bites the Dust. Something about Al – his personality oozed through my radio – instantly endeared him to me, and I listened regularly, hoping to catch one of Al’s new ditties.

On November 24, 1991 I had planned on seeing him when he came to Baltimore. He had made an appearance at a local record store – wow, I just dated myself – and very graciously signed two of my album. For some reason, if memory serves me, the show was cancelled or moved to another date. The only thing I can remember from that date is that this was the day Freddie Mercury and KISS drummer Eric Carr died. Almost three decades later, I finally fulfilled my plan.

The name of the tour – “Strings Attached” – is to inform you that not only is Al traveling with his band, but he’s bringing a 41-piece orchestra with him. Led by conductor Eric Roth, the orchestra began the night with some classic movie themes, beginning with John Williams’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” As I listened in rapt attention, I couldn’t help but notice one of the violinists having the time of his life playing the music. While many of the orchestra members sat still and stiff, he would move his head to the music and it was obvious that he was that rare person who really loves his job! After a few more themes, finishing with The Throne Room and End Title music from “Star Wars,” there was a 20 minute break before Al and his band joined the orchestra on stage.

I love this guy!!

Dressed in his customary loud Hawaiian shirt, the show began with a quick medley of I Lost on Jeopardy, I Love Rocky Road and Like a Surgeon. He then went into a photo-filled version of The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota. As the show progressed, Al would often play along with the band and the audience. During one break, as the band played a chair was brought out for him to sit in. His brow was then mopped and a glass of wine brought to him. A touching version of You Don’t Love Me Anymore was prefaced by him thanking the Martin Guitar Company for replacing the guitar that was inadvertently broken during their last gig. When the song was over the guitar, which Al never played, was shattered in anger ala Pete Townsend.

As the night progressed, the band also got into the act, sporting everything from Viking Helmets to an impressive collection of “Star Wars” outfits. In between the audience was treated to several videos. One was a compilation of many of the television programs and films Yankovic has appeared in or been mentioned on, including “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons,” 30 Rock” and “The Naked Gun.” Their was also a faux trailer for a film called “WEIRD,” which featured Aaron Paul as “Weird Al.” He also did a nice walk through the audience and had a member of the audience electrify the show with a rousing Oboe solo!

Bass player Steve Jay kept the beat all night.

One thing that I really noticed is that Al Yankovic, weird or not, has an amazing voice. There were a couple of times when he held prolonged notes that made me think if the funny song thing didn’t work out he’d be fronting a metal band somewhere.

The show ended in an amazing “Star Wars” style, with Al and the band dressed as everyone from Darth Vader to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Unfortunately we were only allowed to take photos during the first three songs of the evening so we can’t share the images with you. Just use your imagination.

When the show was over I headed to my car, humming Another One Rides the Bus, smiling and thinking to myself one thing. FINALLY!!

SET LIST: The Orchestra – Main titles from “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Superman: the Movie.” The Throne Room/End Title from “Star Wars.”

“Weird Al” with Orchestra – I Lost on Jeopardy/I Love Rocky Road/Like a Surgeon (Medley), The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Word Crimes, Jurassic Park, Don’t Download this Song, Weasel Stomping Day, You Don’t Love Me Anymore, Harvey the Wonder Hamster, Jackson Park Express, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Dare to Be Stupid, White and Nerdy, Amish Paradise. ENCORE: The Saga Continues, Yoda.

Film Review: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

  • WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE
  • Starring: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup
  • Directed by: Richard Linklater
  • Rated: Rated PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
  • United Artists Releasing 

The question that has haunted America for decades now is where did Jimmy Hoffa go? Rumor had it once upon a time that he was buried in the end zone at the New York Giants old football stadium. If it were true, then it’s too bad that the much-delayed comedy/drama “Where’d You Go Bernadette” was not buried with him under a ton a concrete. Based upon the 2012 novel of the same name by American novelist Maria Semple, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” wanders aimlessly for over two hours and establishes no real emotional connection with the audience. Despite a talented cast, and a long list of cameo appearances and small roles by recognizable faces, it’s not enough to save its unremarkable script and direction by Richard Linklater (“A Scanner Darkly”). 

Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) is an agoraphobic mother of a teenage daughter and was once a trailblazing architect in Los Angeles. Since moving to Seattle with her husband and tech entrepreneur Elgie Branch (Billy Crudup), Bernadette has isolated herself in their home, created from an abandoned church, and devoted all her time to their daughter, Bree (Emma Nelson in her feature film debut). Not only does she refuse to make friends with her closest neighbor, the nosey Audrey Griffin (Kristen Wiig), but she also does whatever she can to make Audrey’s life miserable. The only other interaction she has is with an unseen assistant named Manjula to whom she assigns all sorts of tasks via text messaging. 

We eventually learn more about her past successes, which is where cameos by Laurence Fishburne, Steve Zahn and Megan Mullally come into play, but by the time it does we don’t care. The greatest failure of any story is the inability to hook the audience within the first sentence/paragraph of a book or the first couple minutes of a film. If this doesn’t happen then it’s a monumental task indeed to get the audience to ever give two cents. This is exactly the case with “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” which was originally supposed to be released in the spring of last year. There are brief glimmers of something serious going on with Bernadette’s character, and Blanchett is terrific at fleshing them out, but it’s all overwhelmed with one-dimensional characters around her, boring dialogue, and predictable, Disney-like comedy. 

With their marriage on the rocks because of her hatred of all things, including Seattle, and facing near-financial ruin thanks to a scam, Bernadette freaks out and instead of facing her problems flees to Antarctica where they were supposed to take a family trip. The question is – will the experience turn Bernadette back into being a creative force in the architect world, or will she disappear like so many doomed Antarctic explorers at the dawn of the 20th century? Truth be told, the answer doesn’t matter.

 In conclusion, if you want to be scratching your head wondering where this film is going, while also having to listen to needless and distracting voiceover narration by Nelson, then “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is the story for you. I think Mr. Hoffa would agree.

Film Review: “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

  • THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
  • Starring:  Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried and Kevin Costner
  • Directed by: Simon Curtis
  • Rated:  PG
  • Running time:  1 hr 49 mins
  • 20th Century Fox

There are two kinds of people in this world.  Dog people (guilty) and cat people.  Dog people, please continue reading.

Meet Enzo.  He is an older dog that has lived an amazing life.  And, if you have a couple of hours to spare, he’ll share his story with you.  Enzo (voiced perfectly by Kevin Costner) is chosen as a pup by Denny Swift (Ventimiglia), a race car trainer who aspires to one day drive in Formula One races.  As the years progress, the two are inseparable, sharing adventures both behind the wheel and at home,   Things get complicated when Denny meets Eve (Seyfried) and even more so when they have a daughter, Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong).  Eve’s parents, played by Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan, are well off and not happy with their son-in-law’s profession.  Denny has begun to get some racing gigs, but they take him away from home for prolonged periods.  Things get worse when Eve becomes sick.  Can Enzo save the day?

An entertaining film that’s light on plot points, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is the kind of film Walt Disney would make in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s (think “The Shaggy Dog”), though without such a dramatic backdrop.  Ventimiglia – in the Disney version Denny would be played by Fred MacMurray – does his best with the material he’s given.  I must admit that I’m really only familiar with Ventimiglia as Rocky, Jr. in “Rocky Balboa” and “Creed II.”  I didn’t watch “Heroes” and, though my wife loves the show, I don’t watch “This is Us.”  Considering a lot of his role is playing off of what Enzo is doing, he does a good job portraying a man who loves both his family and the art of going fast.  Seyfried is fine in a very one-dimensional role, making the best out of what she’s been given.  But the true star here is Costner.  He’s always had the kind of voice that you wish your next “Book on Tape” comes with.  It’s his story and he tells it with panache! 

Film Review: “Blinded by the Light”

  • BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
  • Starring:  Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra
  • Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Warner Bros.

I was introduced to Bruce Springsteen when I was 15-years old.  And I wasn’t introduced to the Boss by a school friend but rather by my father.  He had been out and seen Springsteen’s face on both the covers of TIME and Newsweek magazines so, intrigued, he bought me the “Born to Run” album.  When he handed it to me he said, “This guy is supposed to be pretty good.”  He was.

England in the 1980s.  As the decade begins we meet Javid and Matt – two young boys with different upbringings.  For his birthday, Matt got a new bicycle.  Javid’s parents got him a Rubik’s Cube.  Learning over fun.  They also share another difference.  Javid is Pakistani while Matt is white.  Their friendship is color-blind.  Sadly, their neighbors are not. 

We meet up with the two lads in 1987 as they prepare for pre-university schooling.  Javid (Kalra) wants to be a writer, though his father finds that occupation frivolous and wishes him to be a doctor.  Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) is now a musician with his own band.  One day, after a day of bullying, Javid meets Roops (Aaron Phagura) a Sikh classmate who hands him a couple of cassettes and tells him that he needs “the Boss.”  After a few listenings he readily agrees.

An uplifting film with a serious back story, “Blinded by the Light,” like this year’s “Yesterday,” is an amazing combination of words and music that tells a story that is just as vital today as it was 30 years ago.  Javid is questioned by his father about why he is so enamored by this American and Jewish singer (for the record, Bruce Springsteen is NOT Jewish), unable to believe that this man’s words can have any meaning in his family’s life.  Yet Springsteen has always been a poet for the people, putting their daily struggles and triumphs into words that resonate with his listeners.

Director Chadha, whose best known film is probably “Bend it Like Beckham,” fills her lens with amazing images, often featuring Springsteen’s lyrics superimposed over the scenes, giving the songs and their message added meaning.  She has also assembled an amazing cast.  Kalra and Chapman have a great chemistry, facing the ups and downs of being friends.  Phagura is energetic as Roops, a young man who has discovered the music that comments on his life and is happy to share it.  Hayley Atwell has a nice turn as Javid’s instructor.  And I must give a proper mention to Kulvinder Ghir, who plays Javid’s father, Malik.  Malik is a proud man who is dealt a few setbacks yet never falters in his love for his family.  He only wants his children to succeed…to do better than he did…though he is reluctant to accept the paths they wish to take.

Even if you’ve never enjoyed the music of Bruce Springsteen (I guess there may be a few people out there that feel this way), you will be swept up in the way that music is celebrated here.  In this writer’s opinion, “Blinded by the Light” is pure inspiration!

DVD Review “Butterbean’s Café”

Nickelodeon’s latest animated hit preschool series, Butterbean’s Café, makes its DVD debut featuring seven episodes from the series’ first season. I liked this show because it showcases not only creative cooking but also features a curriculum with social-emotional lessons that highlight kindness and gratitude, and leadership skills for kids to enjoy and learn. My seven year old really enjoys this show and honestly daddy didn’t mind it either.

The show follows a fairy named Butterbean and her adventures running her own neighborhood café and bakery. Serving up delicious healthy snacks and sweet treats to the residents in their community of Puddlebrook, Butterbean, her fairy friends-Dazzle, Poppy and Jasper-and her little sister Cricket, combine magic and teamwork to make their cafe the most awesome eatery in town.

Along with the seven episodes, this DVD collection also includes a special double-length episode with a guest voice appearance from celebrity chef Carla Hall (“The Chew”, “Top Chef”). There is also some healthy recipe card included with each purchase, which I can see my daughter and I cooking together giving her a chance to cook just like Butterbean and her friends. 

Episodes include are the following:

  • The Grand Opening! (special double-length episode!)
  • The Sweetest Ride
  • Fluttercakes!
  • Friendship Pretzels!
  • Grandma Nana Banana Bread 
  • Wedding Cake Switcheroo 
  • A Grilled Cheese for the Big Cheese!  

Film Review: “Them That Follow”

  • THEM THAT FOLLOW
  • Starring: Alice Englert, Walton Goggins
  • Directed by: Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage
  • Rated: R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins
  • 1091 Media 

If you are anything like Indiana Jones, then the Appalachian-set drama “Them That Follow” will at the very least make you squirm in your seat. The feature film directorial debut by co-directors/writers Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, “Them That Follow” is an interesting yet not too in-depth look into a branch of the Pentecostal faith that believes handling venomous snakes will prove their devotion to God. With a pace that flows like the mountain streams in the film, this relatively short drama contains a standout supporting performance by Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Coleman, but nothing else much is all that memorable. 

A teenage boy named Augie (Thomas Mann, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) is led into the woods by the girl of his affections, Mara Childs (Alice Englert, “Beautiful Creatures”), to a den of poisonous rattle snakes. It is perhaps not the greatest way to spend a date, but it quickly gives us an idea of what the people of an isolated mountain community are like. Snakes or no snakes, troubled times are brewing when we watch Mara steal a pregnancy test from a local convenience store run by Augie’s sour mother, Hope (Coleman). 

This leads into a brief depiction of a church service led by old school pastor, Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins, “The Hateful Eight”), Mara’s father. Lemuel inspires his small, yet devoted congregation to uplift their arms and wail as he dances about with a rattlesnake in his hands preaching that serpents will not hurt them if they truly believe in God. It all serves to heighten the pressure that Mara feels as she prays for the stain on her soul to be removed thanks to her test turning positive. And while Augie may be the baby’s father, she is squeezed in a vice when she is pressured to marry Garret (Lewis Pullman, “Bad Times at the El Royale”), another local boy infatuated with her but with a seemingly stronger devotion to her father’s church. 

A pregnancy is obviously a difficult thing to hide for long and as such the stakes are raised when Hope discovers her secret as well as her blabber-mouth-of-a-best-friend, Dilly Picket (Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”). The film falters with this storyline to be as tense as it could have been. It feels more like an after-school special on TV with the snakes being more dramatic than most of the actors. Goggins starts off well enough with his performance but his character is soon revealed as merely one dimensional. What could have energized the entire film, and is only barely alluded to, is the cultural struggle between the Pentecosts and the outsiders, especially law enforcement who seems to hound them. 

Colman, fresh off her win for “The Favourite,” is a shining light as she burns up the screen each moment she is in a scene. Her performance ranges from stoic to deeply emotional. Every actor around her is overshadowed by her presence, which is not hard to do as the rest of the cast delivers mundane performances. Overall, “Them That Follow” is predictable fair with nothing to keep our memory of watching it alive for too long.