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Monday, March 28, 2011

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy
© Lydia Lowe  3/25/2011

      Buddy Guy was the headliner last Thursday night at the Stiefel Theater in Salina, KS.  Moreland & Arbuckle got the crowd going, there was a short break and then Buddy Guy took the stage.  
     What a unique experience!  Buddy Guy doesn't do any pre-set song list planning for his show which makes a concert with the performer an experience not to be missed.  Every song is off the cuff and I just didn't know what to expect.  Sometimes he gets it wrong, but even that becomes part of the act.  
     At one point, Buddy went out into the audience and up the aisle, stopping whenever their was a fan grooving to the tune or someone taking pictures.  He went up the aisle and disappeared, although I could still hear him playing.  The next thing I knew, he had made it upstairs and spent a considerable amount of time in the balcony.  The house lights were on so the folks down front on the floor could turn around and watch him up top.  Then he was back down on the floor and down the opposite aisle.  It was intense! 
     Buddy did an echo duet with his keyboard player where the two mimiced their sound: loud or soft, length of note, and tune, back and forth between the keyboard and guitar.  I know that had to have been made up on the fly and if it wasn't, wow, trying to remember the entire song would have been massive.  It was awesome!
     The show went on for several hours.  Their were soft, sweet songs; hard, loud tunes; blues; rock; hip hop; Buddy Guy covered the spectrum.  He even had his son come out and play, which was a real treat. 
     Another unique thing about this show, was that Buddy Guy kept asking for the house lights to be turned on so he could see the audience.  He seemed to feed off the energy of the audience and when he could see the audience, he kicked it into even higher gear.
      I thought Buddy Guy and his band handled the encore with similar panache.  Buddy finished his final song, received a standing ovation and stayed to take his bow.  Then he exited the stage, while the band played on.  They played a jazzy tune, the keyboard player introduced the other members of the band and they each played a short solo.  Then he mentioned Buddy Guy's name and accolades once again, which drew a round of applause.  The band played on for a few more minutes.  All of this while everyone in the audience is standing at attention.  Finally they ended the rift they were playing and the band took their bows, exiting the stage.  And the audience was satisfied and ready to head out of the auditorium.

Moreland & Arbuckle

Dustin Arbuckle-singer/harmonica
Aaron Moreland-variety of instruments
Brad Horner-drummer
I liked this for the special effects!

© Lydia Lowe  3/25/2011

     Moreland & Arbuckle opened for Buddy Guy this past Thursday night at the Stiefel Theatre in Salina, KS.  I always enjoy hearing this group play.  These guys are very down home and just seem like the guys next door.  Their musical skills are solid.  Before I knew it my toes were tapping and my hands were clapping.  Of course, they played their hit "John Henry".  I'm not sure why this resonates with their fans, but a Moreland & Arbuckle show wouldn't be the same without that song.  They'll still be playing it for their fans 50 years from now.  I hope they're prepared!
     I'll have to say that I was a bit disappointed by one thing.  I've heard Moreland & Arbuckle play in Oakdale Park and a variety of other venues.  I'll have to say that their sound is heard best in an outdoor setting, a bar, a festival, somewhere big and bold.  They have a big sound and they need a big venue.But having said that, Moreland & Arbuckle did not disappoint.  The show was terrific!
      After their set, they took a break and autographed merchandise for everyone who had either bought or brought something for them to sign.  Moreland, Arbuckle and Brad Horner (their drummer) are all very personable and took time to sign whatever was put in front of them (and all three of them signed it), they looked every fan in the eye and took time to speak to everyone.  It was a memorable moment.  All three of them are a cut above the average band.  This group is definitely going places.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Arlo Guthrie--- Featuring: The Burns Sisters

     © Lydia Lowe  3/18/2011

     Legendary.  An American Icon.  National Treasure.  All words that I heard last night to describe Arlo Guthrie, first born son of folk singer Woody Guthrie.
     The show started with the Burns Sisters who sang three high energy songs, two of which were Woody Guthrie songs.  Then Arlo Guthrie took the stage and the music and stories didn't stop for three hours.
     Guthrie opened the show by stating that he had never played the Stiefel before and after all of his years in the business that was a pretty hard thing to find, a venue that he had never played before.
     Guthrie's second song was a spirited toe tapping Leadbelly tune that I really enjoyed, and it would have been great if the Stiefel sound system hadn't been over modulated and I could have actually understood the words.  The performers sang their hearts out and gave it their all but with the instrument amplification up so loud, I simply couldn't make out what they were saying.  That happened to a lesser degree on another song later in the evening.  Thankfully they caught this one and fixed it before the song got to far along.
     The songs ranged from spirited toe tapping folk songs to songs of introspection that drew the listener in to reflect on the deeper meaning within the tune then onto a blues number or two.  There was a lovely hymn which Guthrie had written recently and the Burns Sisters did a back up vocal on that gave me chills, it was so beautiful.  Whether he was playing the piano, or his collection of various guitar's, the music was inspirational and spoke to a universal place inside all of us.  As a performer, Guthrie has amazing stamina.   
     Guthrie also told stories from his life.  I think everyone enjoys the personal story.  These stories bind us together in ways that make us all a part of one family of mankind.  He also spoke to current events.
     One such event, the busting up of the unions in Wisconsin, he said was a crying shame.  He said that he was listening to the coverage on the radio one day and just happened to have his pocket constitution handy as he was also reading at the time.  (laughter)  The beginning of the constitution reads, "We the people in order to form a more perfect union. . .".  Wait a minute, we're all in a union?  So, does the government know this?  What are the ramifications of this union busting if the entire country is in a union?  There are no easy answers for that question and Guthrie didn't offer any, just food for thought.
     As a performer, Guthrie has amazing stamina.  He was on fire, singing and playing for over three hours quite literally non-stop.  The group took a short break at about the two hour mark, and came back with the same high energy that they had before.  But when the show was over, the show was over.  The crowd gave Guthrie and his fellow band members a standing ovation lobbying  for an encore.  Finally, somewhat reluctantly, Guthrie obliged. 
     "Alice's Restaurant", Guthrie's most famous song, was not one of the songs that he sang on this night.  He likened it to the movie Groundhog Day and didn't want to re-live it again and again.  He informed us all that it's 30 minutes long and if the audience wanted to hear it, there were CD's available.  He sang a short two verse song for his encore and let everyone join in when he sang it again.  And that was the end of it.  (Even with a second standing ovation).
     I took lots of photo's but unfortunately, none of them turned out.  So, no photo's this time.  Sorry!  I promise to do better with my next review.  Watch for it next week, on March 25.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Boston Brass

© Lydia Lowe 3/7/2011

        Why do tuba players always seem to be the happiest members of the band?  Perhaps I can answer that question by the end of my review.

     I recently had the pleasure of attending a concert by the Boston Brass at the McPherson Opera House.  This group consists of five guys who play the tuba (Andrew Hitz), French horn (Chris Castellanos), trumpet (Jose Sibaga and Jeff Conner), and trombone (Lance LaDuke).  There was a euphonium and even a ukulele made an appearance.

     Each member of the group got their turn on the mic to introduce the various musical selections that were going to be played, to discuss information relevant about the other members of the group, or to give a band mate a well intentioned ribbing; as Andrew Hitz (tuba) did for Jeff Conner (trumpet), the only original member of the group.  Hitz mentioned something about Conner being the only original member of the group, apparently he'd run everyone else off, and now he was paying big bucks to the new members to keep them with the group.

     Each member  performed a featured selection specific to their instrument.  At one point, the group played “Manteca” a Latin jazz piece by Dizzy Gillespie.  This piece of music features a piano that plays a rift over and over throughout the piece.  This is an all brass group, no piano, so I was intrigued by how the Boston Brass would accomplish this.  It began with the tuba, then the trombone joined in and finally, last but not least, the French horn joined the rift while the trumpets played the actual melody of the song.  Fantastic!  The audience even got into the act as LaDuke sang the Cab Calloway song, “Minnie the Moocher” and the audience joined in by singing the chorus.

     The range of musical genre’s were incredible.  The Boston Brass covered chamber music, classical, big band, swing, jazz, Broadway, and even the movies.  After intermission, they played the ending theme music from “The Three Amigos’ just because they liked it and it was cool!  There were well known pieces and many of their own compositions.

     One of their original pieces was a song that LaDuke wrote for his mother.  It began with “Y. . .is for the many years she gave you”.  If you followed along with the spelling it eventually spelled out “Yo Mama”.  By the time he was done with the song, “Yo Mama” had pulled in “Osama, the Dali Lama, Barack Obama, The Bahamas, and Madonna into the song.  All this while LaDuke strummed a  ukulele and sang accompanied by Hitz on the tuba and wondering why three of his fellow band members had left the stage.

     Needless to say, it was a delightful evening.  I enjoyed myself immensely, as did the rest of the audience.  I never did actually figure out why tuba players always seem to be the happiest members of the band.  But  Andrew Hitz did smile the entire time he played the tuba.  I still haven’t figured out how he did that.