Monday, August 27, 2007

All the World's Indeed a Stage...

…and we are merely players, performers and portrayers, each another’s audience outside the gilded cage. (“Limelight,” lyrics by Neil Peart)

Rush took to the stage at Verizon Wireless Music Center last night in Noblesville (Indianapolis), Indiana. The concert marked my third live Rush experience, the best one by far.

The Canadian prog rock trio opened with “Limelight” (Moving Pictures, 1981), a standard on classic rock radio, and didn’t wrap for nearly three hours. There was a 30-minute intermission, but when the band retook the stage, they played some of their newest material with a renewed vigor, surprising for the aging rockers.

And the set list did NOT disappoint. They played B-sides like “Entre Nous,” “Freewill” (Permanent Waves, 1978) and “Witch Hunt,” my favorite song from the Moving Pictures album. Of course, the set was ripe with new material from the 2007 Snakes and Arrows release and crowd favorites, “Tom Sawyer,” “Spirit of Radio” and “Subdivisions.”

The second set included a new instrumental, “Malignant Narcissisim,” from which Neil Peart launched into an incredible drum solo that included his trademark snare rolls, cowbells, synthesized drums and vibraphone, all on a rotating stage. He finished it off with a jazz segment augmented by a video honoring such drumming legends as Buddy Rich. He once again proved that age has not slowed him down one iota.

In fact, Neil, Geddy and Alex all play virtually flawless, but I wouldn’t expect any less from the seasoned vets of rock. Geddy’s basswork now dominates much of the performance as the group has gotten away from their highly synthesized past. He only played a lone keyboard a handful of times. The rest of the show was balls-out, gritty, guitar-driven, rhythm-centric rock.

Verizon is a great outdoor venue and we had great seats to complement the outstanding weather. What made it an absolutely perfect night was sharing it with some old friends, one of whom camped out at Market Square Arena with me for tickets to the 1986 show. All these years later, and Rush just keeps getting better with age. I hope this wasn’t the band’s last tour.

(Click here for a complete Rush discography.)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Doyle Hypocricy

The melodrama on a message board I frequent was only recently eclipsed by the drama surrounding an upcoming family wedding. Let me just say from the start that this is EXACTLY the reason I have a problem with self-righteous people.

This Doyle melodrama, brought to you by the Pharisaical First Holiness Church on the Prairie, revolves around a divorced family member who is marrying his mistress. Yes, the other woman is getting her prize, much to the chagrin of just about everyone in my family.

Can they let it go, already?

Yes, adultery, affairs, divorce, divided families, etc. are not Christian ideals. We all agree on that. However, forgiveness, grace and mercy are the highest of ideals…just browse the New Testament or Google, “Sermon on the Mount.”

We were only alerted to the wayward family member’s second marriage very recently. The celebration takes place in just over a week. That’s hardly enough time for us to trash the couple, badmouth their situation, judge their morals and critique everything from the invitations to the honeymoon. How inconsiderate!

And in the family discourse that has erupted, I’ve learned:
 that an ordained member of my family could possibly lose his salvation if he even drives past the church where the wedding is to occur
 that its okay to attend the wedding for appearance sake ONLY
 that its also okay to shun this family member and the soon-to-be in-law simply because we know their union is “unholy”

Self-righteousness is an UGLY wart on the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, my immediate family does not think so. Because they are right, and they have Scripture to prove it, they can look down their noses at the shunned ones and feign pity, when what they really want is some good Old Testament judgment reigned down by a vengeful God. Okay, maybe only the ex-wife wants that, but many in my family are on “her side,” as if battle lines have been drawn around this wedding.

It’s crazy, I know, but no one has ever accused my family of functionality. And maybe that’s why this is bothering me so. It is MY family, not just some group of hypocritical Christians at a (fill-in the blank) rally.

Now, that I’ve vented, I only feel a tinge of remorse. After all, I’m now the one being quite the hypocrite…but its okay as long as I do it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Smooth Jazz Appreciation

Some people call it the new "easy listening" (read elevator) music, but I call it native music. A great grandchild of New Orleans Jazz, smooth jazz is one of my favorite genres. Thanks to a local radio station and my current employer, I'm treated every couple of months to a concert by some of the best modern artists in this genre. (I blogged about the last smooth jazz concert I attended here.)

Because these semi-monthly concerts are billed as "listener appreciation parties" by the radio station, I decided a blog was in order. Thus, I borrowed for the title.

Now, let me introduce you to a couple of legends in their own of whom I knew nothing about, and the other I had first heard on a Tallahassee smooth jazz station about nine years ago.

Photo by Anita Carlsson/Courtesy

Brian Bromberg
is a straight ahead jazz bassist who feels right at home on a standard upright acoustic bass or a five-stringed electric. He's played with some jazz legends, as you can see from the link (i.e. click on his name). He appeared tonight at the Music Mill along with the artist below...just a duet of keyboard and bass. And while it was billed as a "smooth jazz" event, these guys jammed and improved like a couple of jazz greats from the 60's, a time when this music was simply known as cool. I'll admit that I wasn't familiar with Brian's name or his music, but tonight's performance made me an instant fan.

Photo by Nicolas Zurcher/Courtesy

Jeff Lorber was a pioneer of early jazz fusion in the mid-late 1970's with his self-titled band of which a young Kenny G was a member. Lorber went on to perform with a number of great artists as a keyboardist and drummer, not the least of which was Kenny. He also produced a litany of albums. His list of credits is three pages long on (follow the link by clicking his name if you don't believe me). Like his white sidekick on stage tonight, the guy could hold his own with any jazz musician anywhere. The skin tone of both musicians belied the soulful artistry within. They blew me away.

The venue was small, once again creating an intimate atmosphere where I almost felt a part of the performance. (With my hands and feet constantly tapping, you would've thought I was the percussionist). It was a really solid set that lasted 90 minutes and was ripe with improvised numbers and meaty solos. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the music, sans drums. There wasn't even a sequencer, midi or electric metronome to keep time. These guys didn't need it.

Since moving to Indy, I've now had the pleasure of watching the following musicians perform (in order): Philippe Saisse, Walter Beasley, Spyro Gyra, the Rev. Al Green, John Mayer and the aforementioned Lorber and Bromberg. I'd say its been a pretty good summer musically speaking. I'm topping it off with a Rush concert at the end of this month...which goes to my other favorite genre and a topic for a later post. For now, let me encourage you to find a cd by either artist and learn to appreciate the artistry behind smooth jazz.