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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Joseph Hall's Rock and Remember Elvis Tribute

The McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
By Lydia Lowe (photos by Bob Hunter)

      Joseph Hall brought Elvis to life on Saturday night at the McPherson Opera House. It was a fitting tribute to the King of Rock and Roll. Last year's show was amazing but this year's show topped it. And next year, Joseph Hall will be back with his full band from Branson and I can hardly wait for that show.

     On this night, the stage lights dimmed, black and white vintage film of girls waiting to welcome Elvis began playing on the screen at the back of the stage, and a giant blue vinyl record spotlight swung around the auditorium as Elvis took to the stage. 

     This year's show was was Elvis through the years. Each of the costume changes depicted another chapter of Elvis' musical career. The evening began with Elvis from the 70's. Some of the songs from that era that Hall performed on stage were: See See Rider, Suspicious Minds (one of my favorite Elvis songs) the version that Hall sang was faster than the original version, and Can't Help Falling In Love.

     Before each segment began, the announcer, Hall's father, Kyle Hall, gave historical context to each segment in the show which along with the costume changes, put the audience into the proper frame of mind for the performance at hand.  

     Then it was time for Elvis from the 50's and the hits just kept coming. Some of the songs in this segment were Shake, Rattle and Roll, Teddy Bear-Don't Be Cruel. Hall through teddy bears into the crowd during this song.

     Before each segment began, the video footage on the screen at the back of the stage changed to vintage footage from the era that Hall was portraying. As Hall took the stage for the GI portion of the concert, black and white footage of Elvis being drafted and prepped for service were shown on the screen.

      Elvis Presley served three years in the army and the next segment covered a few songs from that era. The songs that Hall sang during this portion of the show were Now Or Never which features the music of O Solo Mio with different lyrics, of course, Love Me Tender, and Blue Suede Shoes.

     Then we moved into the 60's and these songs I was more familiar with and they included another one of my favorite Elvis songs, Kentucky Rain which I thought was moving much to fast as Hall sang, but I know that entertainers take some poetic license with their arrangements so that might explain it. Then In The Ghetto, Yesterday, A Little Less Conversation, Rubberneckin', and Viva Las Vegas.

      The evening ended with a few gospel selections as Hall's guitarist joined him on stage to accompany him. Hall sang How Great Thou Art and it was superb!

      Hall does an amazing job of portraying Elvis in this tribute. He encourages audience participation, he interjects humor into the show and his timing is dead on when he does it. It's hard to know at times if it's Hall doing Elvis or Elvis doing Hall. That confusion leads to an amazing tribute to Elvis Presley that can't be missed. April 2016 Hall will return to the McPherson Opera House and no doubt to a sell-out show (his past two shows have sold out) and he's bringing his full band from his Branson show. Mark your calendars now because each show gets better and better. You won't want to miss next year's show.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Arrival-The Music of ABBA

Arrival-The Music of ABBA
The Fox Theatre
Hutchinson, KS
By Lydia Lowe
(photos by Bob Hunter)
      The lights dimmed, the spotlights began swinging around the auditorium, and the sound of a helicopter could be heard in the background. As the lights stabilized and the helicopter sounds faded into the distance, Arrival came onto the stage. 
     I'd never heard the first song that the group sang before, but from then on, it was one hit after another. Knowing Me/Knowing You, Fernando (which the group sang in Swedish and in English) that was a treat. There was an instrumental that the band played while the ladies left the stage for a costume change. It sounded very familiar although the group mentioned that they didn't think the audience would recognize it. There was SOS, Money/Money/Money, Waterloo, Mama Mia, Chiquitita, and the list goes on and on. There were so many songs that both the first set and the second set included medleys of songs, there were just o many hits.
     The group did a lot of audience participation in the both the first set and second set. In fact, when they came back for an encore, ending the night with Dancing Queen, they brought young girls up on stage to dance with them. Unfortunately on this night there was only one young lady in the audience. But even then, it was a highlight.

     All in all there were three costume changes and the costumes were authentic 70's garb that ABBA would have worn which only added to the overall effect. Singing these songs, the stage decked out with a disco ball, wearing authentic garb, with the overall look and sound down, it was hard to believe that the audience wasn't watching the "real" ABBA. All in all, a great night.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sybarite 5

Sybarite 5 
McPherson Opera House
McPherson, KS
By Lydia Lowe
(photos by Bob Hunter)

      I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the group Sybarite 5, who entertained the crowd on Saturday night at the McPherson Opera House. I'm not a big fan of stringed instruments. A lot of the music that stringed groups play are the masters; Bach Beethoven, Mozart, etc. It's more orchestra and stuffy. None of those words describe Sybarite 5.

     This group brings a fresh perspective to the world of stringed instruments. These group met when they traveled from their homes to the Aspen Music Festival. Three are from the United States, one hails from Newfoundland and the other from Argentina. Somehow, these five individuals from different countries and different world views meshed and found common ground through music. Then together as a group they began playing on the streets of Aspen, eventually forming Sybarite 5.

     The audience heard a couple of selections from Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla‘s tango-inspired music,  a bluesy tune by Dan Visconti entitled Black Bend, several tunes done with a classical twist that were written by the British group Radio Head, including Paranoid Android, Weird Fishes, and No Surprises. When the group returned to do an encore they joked before playing the tune that no concert is complete without a Led Zepplin tune. The audience laughed and bassist, Louis Leavitt responded with a vague reference to another Mozart tune. Then the joke was on the audience when Sybarite 5 did indeed play a classical arrangement of Heartbreaker by Led Zepplin tune.

     Sybarite 5 consists of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violinists; Angela Pickett, violist; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bassist. This is string music that rocks! 

Check out the video for Heartbreaker by Led Zepplin: here