Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tony Bennett ~ 9/7/15

This concert started a little later than usual with doors opening at 6:30, concert to begin at 7:30. We arrived at 5:45 to do a little tailgating in the parking lot and we found the end of the line further back then we've ever been. One of the volunteers informed us that people were lining up as early as 4:30 - yikes!
At least we got to look at lovely fall flowers!
Getting close in our slow moving line, we finally got in and took what are now our usual seats way right. Shortly thereafter Terri Lynn Land arrived and instead of finding open space, she insisted that the row in front of us move back so she and her party could sit there. Instead of telling her to sit in back of them where there was room, they begrudgingly moved back. Can you say pushy, or maybe entitled?
It's great being at this venue with friends, and running into more friends!
Finally around 7:40, the band appeared on the stage followed by Antonia Bennett. Any relation? A quick lookup informed us that she was indeed Tony's daughter and had been touring with him since the mid 2000s. She had a great voice but again, just like at the Doobie Brothers concert, we weren't there to hear anyone's child perform. It's not what we paid for.
But 15 minutes later, we watched day turn into night as she walked off and Tony walked on.
Starting at 7:55, he plowed through a 20+ song set without an intermission. He's a bit raspy, but then he's always been, and he was a little pitchy here and there while trying out hold out those last notes. But he still has his showbiz style and smile, and he captivated this audience. At the conclusion of each song, he would throw up his arms and smile that smile. He knows he is loved and we were there to enjoy listening to a musical legend.
Tony's band is a group of stellar musicians in their own right ~ Mike Renzi on piano, Gray Sargent on guitar, Marshal Wood on bass, and Harold Jones on drums. When Tony took a few minutes to acknowledge and introduce them, he finished with Harold and announced "Harold Jones, on guitar." Oops. But we all knew who he meant as he was gesturing towards him. Tony is 89 years old, btw.
Here's Terri Lynn Land again, in action. The row behind her is really mad now but she doesn't care :-)
About midway through the performance, Antonia came back to the stage to sing with her father, "Old Friends." Along with a little dance, the number was nice duet.
Since Tony had arrived on stage, we could hear what sounded like a truck motor running next to us through the evergreens. By 8:20 we had had enough and one of our party walked around and found EMS trucks running there. After mentioning to them that we had paid too much money for this concert to listen to Tony accompanied by their engine, they moved. EMS keeping their engines revved ~ were they there for Tony or the older crowd?
Tony did his standards including "I left my Heart..." but it was more of a throw away for him. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Fly Me to the Moon," "I Got Rhythm," and "Smile" had much more of his heart and soul.

Smile, composed by Charlie Chaplin 


By 9:10 he was finished. The audience was expecting more but we saw him carted off down the path behind the evergreens. It was all over. But wait! There were fireworks! We may have preferred a Tony encore but Tony preferred to leave us with fireworks.
We didn't stay for them all and could still see them flying high as we drove home fifteen minutes later. Kudos to you, Tony Bennett, mostly for still being here singing those great songs. We're not sure if we believed you when you said this was the best venue you and the boys have played in but you certainly left your mark, and maybe part of your heart, here in Grand Rapids.   Video Clips from Concert  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Oh What A Night! Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons ~ 8/5/15

When we heard they were coming to Grand Rapids we were hesitant about attending. How old is he anyway? But people who saw him recently attested to a quality performance so we bought in. And how right they were.

We gathered for dinner before the concert at Riverhouse in Ada ~ 8 Four Seasons fans who grew up with their music.
Arriving minutes before the show, we had time for a few goofy pics (notice everyone behind us on their phones) :-)
And then the band started appearing on stage: brass, guitars, drummer, and the new young versions of the Four Seasons. The audience went wild when a very small man walked out and the entire band started in on the "Grease" theme song. It was Frankie Valli, still hitting those high notes.
The new Four Seasons are amazing with their sweet voices, dancing moves, and Temptations-like choreography!
During "Swearin' to God," Frankie and the Seasons moved off the stage while the instrumentalists continued. After a few minutes they returned, and Frankie was in a different jacket.
Patter was a little stilted but we really didn't care because we were there for the music and to see this legend. He told a story about going to see Frank Sinatra as a kid and how he never saw so many women in one place throwing their underwear and hotel keys on the stage. Then he looked around ~ pause for hilarious effect.
At one point he said "we're going to slow it down a bit...because I need to." He then moved into a beautiful rendition of "My Eyes Adored You." At another time he said "we're going back to the 60's, 1460 ~ is that too far?" Not that funny but whatever. He went on to discuss a new CD recently produced that had the group singing other people's songs from the 60's. "Spanish Harlem", "Let It Be Me", and a medley of "My Girl" and "Groovin' " were ok but we wanted to hear Four Seasons music. And "Silence is Golden" was golden.
The classics were all performed: "Workin' My Way Back to You", "Beggin," "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" (his first solo hit), "Who Loves You" (lots of audience participation), "Oh What A Night", "Sherry," "Walk Like A Man", "Big Girls Don't Cry," "Bye Bye Baby," "Rag Doll," and "Let's Hang On," the last three being part of the wonderful encore!
The Seasons were introduced and had short solo parts during "Oh What A Night" and this classic piece came back to close out the show.
Frankie was shaking hands with the front row and we saw a ridiculous person try to hand him a pen and paper, while Frankie was singing and shaking hands. Right. He was brushed off with a shake of the head. During instrumental breaks, Frankie's long time musical director, Robby Robinson, could be seen giving him cues as to when to come in, but he never missed a beat. Frankie mentioned the 10 year anniversary of the smash hit musical, "Jersey Boys," which tells the story of the Four Seasons and the personal losses he experienced during his life. This man is a survivor and proved it here tonight at 81 years of age. And did I mention, he still hits those high notes?



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bill Kirchen & Redd Volkaert, Ada Riverhouse ~ 7/25/15

Doors opened around 5pm and we arrived around 5:30 with our lawn chairs, for our first ever concert at the Ada Riverhouse.
Concert was to begin at 6pm and from 5:50 to almost 6:30 the opening act, Luke Warm and the Not So Hots, played around with sound checks. But the bluegrass/country band finally started in full swing and played for a solid hour.
Luke Gitchel, lead singer in his plaid shirt and baseball cap, was entertaining and incredibly talented. "Here's a song I wrote, 'I got drunk last night'." "My Mom's real proud of this one." But he followed that up with a murder ballad he also wrote, about Sarah May, and his mother is probably a little happier with that number.
Around 8pm Bill Kirchen and Redd Volkaert were up on the stage and doing their own setup work. They don't have "people" and they didn't have a back-up band or musicians. It was sweet and pure music.
Just before they started and intermittently throughout the concert, Jerry the Promoter would make an announcement via his megaphone. We haven't seen one of those in years.
He not only called for another number by Luke Warm but also continually plugged raffle tickets for a guitar, that Bill claimed he was only allowed to play twice. Bill would have liked to win it but thought there would be a whiff of impropriety if he did. He went on to play "One Woman Man."
Bill and Redd started with "Hammer of the Honky Tonk Gods," "Crazy Arms," and "Down to Stems and Seeds Again Blues" (Bill: I told my mother it was an agricultural song). Redd Volkaert then sang "She's Gone Gone Gone" and the guitar playing was magnificent. "Always Late With Your Kisses" was a little long and repetitive but "Oxblood" was rockabilly awesomeness.

Someone from the audience shouted out "Two Triple Cheese" and Bill sang what he could remember from his Commander Cody days.

But the last number before their break was one we were waiting for, more famous than Two Triple Cheese from Commander Cody, "Hot Rod Lincoln." Bill added in a musical history of styles and families (here's the King family) that was hilarious. The only wrong note played was a reference to the Edmund Fitzgerald, asking it to move over for the Lincoln. Growing up mostly in Michigan he should have known there was nothing humorous about the Edmund Fitzgerald going down in Lake Superior.
So a break at 9:05, resuming at 9:25, and finished at 9:45, called on account of darkness. Musicians playing by their cellphone lights to the end. "Wine wine wine do your Stuff." But no amount of wine can undo seeing the cutoff men's sleeves, a confederate flat hanging out of a jean's pocket, cowboy boots and shorts, and the t-shirts.
Ada Riverhouse put out a nice spread with a beer table, a wine & liquor table, and food featuring brats or cajun sausage, beans, and potato salad, for a small price.
We learned to appreciate the concert rules at Frederik Meijer Gardens as we were subjected to high chairs and smoking. A few cigarettes and some pot we could tolerate but cigars wafting throughout the area was revolting.
And no shirt? Keepin' it classy.
Great to have this high chair plunked in front of us. A trainwreck indeed.
Many people had their own labeled chairs.
We loved this concert and venue with its easily accessible food and beverage tables. But it was interesting that there was no security, no rules about smoking, no lights, and no cares about photos or videos.
We had to keep moving to stay out of the sun and this group was huddled early on under the tree.
A friendly neighbor took some group photos of us and was creative in his instructions.
But one person couldn't follow the simple instruction of where to look (you know who you are).
We took great pleasure in moving in front of high chair man later in order to stay out of the sun. And he was very gracious about it, not knowing what an irritant he had been to us. We caught a sunset on the way home and we're happy to have experienced the talent of Bill Kirchen right here in Ada, in spite of the t-shirts & cigar smoke.