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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


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Not the news

A lot of grim things are happening in the world, the sun was awol for much of January, and I succumbed to one of the season’s cold viruses last week. (And now Jean is complaining of chills.)

But hey, instead complaining at length about all that, I’ll list a few things that made me happy in the past few weeks.

1. KW Glee: Redux

Two years ago we were blown away by a KW Glee (show choir) + KW Symphony concert. This year they did it again. There’s just deep entertainment value in watching a huge group of talented, enthusiastic, and attractive young people sing and dance to popular songs, in costume, while accompanied by a full orchestra.

Last time I had mentioned that I didn’t know a lot of the songs performed—they were too current for me. This time they rectified that with a set from various eras. To the point where I felt kind of bad that they were played so little of of their own generation’s music, though there was one Imagine Dragons song and one by David Guetta / Sia, both very powerful performances.

Other highlights were:

  • That old Gap commercial come to life during “Jump, Jive, and Wail”
  • The outstanding youth singer (a girl—don’t know any names) wailing through the Jackson 5’s “ABC” and “I Want You Back”
  • The beautiful contemporary dance accompanying “Falling Slowly”, from Once
  • Not one, not two, but four different lead female singers proving they were up to the challenge of singing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”.
  • “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Performed in full, featuring two lead singers, one male, one female, and treated not as campy fun, but as the somber piece it actually is. Outstanding.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjgbj45yXmA

  • The virtual re-enactment of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” music video.
  • The youth choir’s 80s attire during one segment, some of which looked like it actually dated from that time. The “Frankie Say Relax” T-shirt was my favourite.
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Remember the 80s? These kids don’t, but they’re dressing the part anyway.

  • The youth boys running scared during “Ghostbusters” only to be have the youth girls toughly emerge, declaring that they were “Bad”.
  • The use of sign language during “Imagine”—very touching, somehow.
  • The terrific soul singer who performed “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)”. (It is great that so many of the participants get to try a lead, but with some of them, you do wish for more than one song!)
  • The reprise of “Hallelujah” that blew everyone away last time, performed by the same quartet, back from university for the occasion.

A Spotify playlist of their set list!

2. The Good Place

Holy motherforking shirtballs, The Good Place was good.

This is a half-hour, 13-episode, network TV show starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, debuted this year to very little notice—Jean’s the only other person I know who watches it.

But it’s like nothing else I’ve ever seen. And I’m loathe to even say that much about it, as it was so much fun to go along for the ride. And it’s so full of twists! Also, hilarious! Week to week, it was the show I found myself looking forward to most.

I will give the premise. Eleanor (Kristen Bell), a not-so-stellar human being while alive, is surprised to find herself in “the good place” (yeah, that one) after she dies. They have somehow mixed her up with some good Eleanor! How does she stay in the good place?

Look, I know there’s too much good TV, no one can keep with it all. So I won’t say you must watch The Good Place. I will just point out that if you do, it might make you happy. And that at 13 22-minute episodes, it’s less time-consuming that many series. And that despite mediocre ratings, it has already been renewed for season 2, so you don’t have to worry about being left hanging.

If nothing else, you can watch this Season 1 trailer—just 2:20

3. Sandra Shamas: The Big What Now

We were in Toronto last weekend.

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And by the way, Jean won another photo contest recently. (Not with this photo. Just thought I’d mention it now.)

8875While there, we went to Sandra Shamas’ one-woman show about “climbing mount menopause”. Despite that intro and the predominantly female audience, it wasn’t all about the hormonal challenges of being over 50. She covered a gamut of topics from her life.

Having recently dealt with a series of similar plumbing issues, we could relate to the mix of disgust and determination in which she handled the events that started when she flushed her toilet and it “came up my bathtub”. I took (hypothetical) heart in her discovery—having failed to make herself lesbian (“turns out it’s not a choice!”)—via dating apps, that plenty of 20-something men will seek the attention of women in their 50s. (She can’t bring herself to take advantage. “Does your mother know what you’re up to?”)

I wonder if I, too, will soon be entering my “ranting” years. (“I always talked to myself. Now I do it in public. And I’m angry!”) And it was hard not to be inspired by how she made it through a serious ice storm two years ago: “I was without hydro for 8 days. But I was never without power.”

Toronto Star review of the show

4. Queen + Adam Lambert

They’re back! In North America, back! And they kicked it off with an appearance on the Late Late Show that soon went viral:

Front man battle: Adam Lambert vs. James Corden foronting Queen


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Sounds of 2016

My opinion of this year’s top music? That I probably didn’t hear most of it. Last year, under Adam Lambert’s Spotify / Twitter guidance, I actually heard a fair amount of the top 40. This year Adam had other priorities (tours, movies, TV shows), so I reverted to more typical behaviour for someone my age, and listened more to older stuff.

Still, some audio releases of 2016 managed to grab my attention.

Albums

The Hamilton Mixtape

We went to New York this year, but did not see Hamilton, the Broadway musical. I tried for tickets, but without really knowing much about the play, other than that it was super-p0pular. We did see the New York Library exhibit about Alexander Hamilton’s life, however, and it certainly was a colourful. So on my return, I finally listened the musical soundtrack, and really liked it. I definitely got into the story line, and a lot of the songs are just catchy. They’re not all hip-hop, but I liked those ones, too, generally.

So The Hamilton Mixtape, a collection of covers, re-imaginings, and out-takes from the musical, was the only album I got my hands on the day it came out. It did not disappoint. It just highlights why this story of someone from so long ago resonates today.

Favorite track: “It’s Quiet Uptown” by Kelly Clarkson, though it always makes me weepie

People are already weeping over Lin-Manul Miranda’s Hamilton Mixtape

Carly Rae Jepsen: E*MO*TION Side B

It actually took me a few listens to really get into the original E*MO*TION album, but I had no such trouble with Side B. Why these particular tracks didn’t make the original cut is a mystery, as they seem as strong as those.

Favourite track: “The One”

The Queen Extravaganza: A Night at the Apollo Hammersmith Live

The Queen Extravaganza are the officially sanctioned Queen tribute band, and on this outing they tackle the entirety of A Night at the Opera—something the original band never did. The do an impressive job of it. And then we get some other Queen hits.

What’s particularly striking about this band, though, is just how much singer Marc Martel sounds like Freddie Mercury. You’d occasionally swear this is a new recording by him, which is a mix of awesome and weird. The album is not available for streaming, but must be acquired from Pledge Music.

Favourite track: “The Prophet’s Song”. I dare you to not be impressed by it.

Queen Extravaganza – Seven Seas of Rhye – Live at the Apollo Hammersmith

Alysha Brilla: Human

Not every song is a home run, but this is an uplifting, positive release from this hometown artist.

Favourite track: Bigger Than That (“You put up a wall, but I’ll climb it like a cat. Cause I am bigger than that.”)

(David Bowie’s Blackstar is also worth noting, but you all knew that already.)

Songs

You’ll notice a prevalence of artists of a certain vintage here…

  • Bonnie Raitt: Need You Tonight—Sexy cover of this INXS song
  • Beyoncé: Formation
  • Roger Daltrey: Let My Love Open the Door—Who singer takes on this great Pete Townshend solo track, for charity
  • Brits 2016 Bowie Tribute, featuring Lorde—Fantastic job
  • Paul Simon: Wristband—So funny . Rest of the album is rather good, too.
  • Tanya Tagaq: Rape Me—Haunting cover of the Nrvana song. Her album has made many “best of the year” lists, but I haven’t listened to it all yet.
  • Lady Gaga: Grigio Girls

And I also liked everything Adam Lambert released this year:

  • The two dance track collaborations: “Can’t Go Home” with Steve Aoki and “Broken” with Tritonal
  • The cover of George Michael’s “Faith”
  • His Rocky Horror songs; Hot Patootie (Bless My Soul) and Science Fiction
  • And his single, performed on American Idol and featured in numerous sports broadcasts: “Welcome to the Show”

Gorgeous official video for Welcome to the Show

Concerts

Did pretty well with live shows this year, and since I blogged about each at the time, I don’t have it go on about them again. In order of greatness:

  1. Adam Lambert: Original High Tour (Berlin, Germany)
  2. Tanya Tagaq, Intersections concert with KW Symphony (Kitchener, Canada)
  3. The Who: Who Hits 50 tour (Toronto, Canada)
  4. Alysha Brilla: Album release party (Waterloo, Canada)

(You know it’s quite the year if on my favourite bands of all time is third!)

Via semi-legal webcast, I also enjoyed the Queen + Adam Lambert Rock in Lisboa, and by totally legal national broadcast, the Tragically Hip’s last show of their tour.

Podcasts

It didn’t occur to me to compile a list of particularly good podcasts, but I did spend part of the Christmas break working through Wired’s recommendations. Good list, though I have concluded I’m not really a fan of fiction podcasts, even if well done.

Audiobooks

trevor-noah-book-born-a-crime-stories-from-a-south-african-childhoodEasy, because I only finished one (not enough road trips this year): Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. This book has been well-reviewed and I can assure you, it’s deserved. His life is fascinating, and he tells it well.

Trevor Noah was born in South Africa, during the Apartheid era, of a black mother and a white father. Their relationship was illegal; hence, “born a crime”. He spent much of his early childhood indoors. When out with either of his parents, a ruse was necessary. He’d walk with a lighter-skinned friend of his mother’s, and his mother pretended to be maid. He walked across the street from his father.

Apartheid ending just changed the complications of figuring out where he fit in.

Though it’s his life story (and does not include the tale of how he became a successful comedian in South Africa, and ultimately star of The Daily Show), his mother is the real star here. What amazing woman, to be so strong and independent in a society that gave her no training or support for being so.

Noah does narrate the book himself (unabridged) and does a great job of it. It’s fun hearing him read out the various African languages and to get the proper pronunciation of everything. It wasn’t a very easy life, but as comedians will, he pulls many funny moments out of it nonetheless. One of the best things I heard this year.

 


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Skating’s greatest hits

The KW Symphony’s intersections series was about combining orchestra and… something else. Physics. Fiddling. Food. Heavy Metal. Though Friday’s concert was not part of that series (sadly not offered this year), it was still of that ilk. The partner this time was figure skating.

cover_kurt-browning-bea9d304There was no way I was missing this one. Particularly as it was being hosted by three-time world champion, first man to ever land a quadruple jump in competition, Kurt Browning.

Jean was considerably less enthused about attending.

If wondering, no, they did not somehow bring an ice rink into Centre in the Square, not have the symphony decamp to play at a hockey arena. Instead, most of the skating seen on video.

After an opening performance of An American in Paris, our celebrity host explained that while music was incredibly important in figure skating, it had to go through a certain amount of mangling to fit the sport’s requirements: Cropped to fit into the time constraints. Tempo adjusted to match the tricks. Bit recombined to create certain moods.

This meant that when the symphony played the soundtrack to a video of Browning’s world championship performance of Casablanca, they couldn’t just the pull out the sheet music for “As Time Goes By”. Instead, the conductor had to write a new orchestral score for the Frankenstein version of that piece that Browning skated to.

It was gorgeous.

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Example of Cranston’s art

Browning was so moved by it, he barely knew what was on next, so conductor Lucas Waldin stepped in to explain that it was a tribute to Toller Cranston (who apparently pioneered this whole orchestra / figure skating idea), featuring selections from the ballet Gayane.  This time, the screens showed scenes of Toller’s amazing paintings and decor before showing his Sabre Dance skate with live orchestra. Just fab.

Given the chance to recover, Browning emerged to point out that while artistic, figure skating is still a sporting competition with some serious rivalries over the years. The Symphony played Sing Sing Sing while we saw clips from the battle of the Brians, the battle of the Carmens (though they didn’t mention that both were defeated by Canuck Liz Manley), Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan (remember that?), Virtue/Moir vs. Davis/White, and so on.

We then moved on to a montage tribute to skaters past, when they had to skate outdoors (!), and future, in the form of the youngsters at the KW Skating Club. And Kurt Browning introduced Don Jackson, 1962 World Figure Skating Champion, who was in the audience. Cool! Oh, and the tune played for that piece was Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

The next bit seemed to be interrupted by a badly timed cell phone call—only it was Kurt Browning’s phone, and on the line was Olympic Bronze medallist Joannie Rochette. (Seriously.) She talked about she managed to get through that Olympic performance just days after her mother died. Then the symphony played La cumparsita to a video of it. (Using a few stills so as to not have to cut the piece down to exactly 4 minutes.)

YouTube of Rochette’s Olympic performance from European TV

Kurt then dragged out a collection of his costumes from over the years, selecting a purple velvet hat and robe for conductor Lucas Waldin to wear. We then got a montage of some of the more interesting sartorial choices figure skaters had made (admittedly, many from gala and not competition pieces), to selections from Mel Brooks’ The Producers.

Kurt emerged in his Singin’ in the Rain outfit, and we got a singer! And tap dancer, it turned out: Mr. Geoffrey Tyler. With all that going on live, this song was not played to video footage of that famous skating piece. Instead, via roller blades, we got some live Kurt Browning skating! And the first standing ovation of the night.

The video we didn’t see of Singing in the Rain

At intermission, Jean said we very pleased about high entertainment value of the evening so far.

And he was not being sarcastic!

The second half kicked off with the Symphony playing Phantom of the Opera, on their own. Kurt came out to discuss the fact that many skaters tried to skate to that piece—but none had really succeeded in achieving an iconic performance with it. Too big a song, perhaps, for the white, bright, bare stage of figure skating competition.

Singer Tyler returned to perform What a Wonderiful World, a show piece of Kurt Browning’s. Tyler also talked about how he’s worked with figure skaters. on the dramatic aspects of their performance, on connecting emotionally. We then did a bit of a 180 into an Abba medley (though Abba sounds great orchestrated!), highlighting scenes from the world of professional figure skating.

And then, the hauntingly beautiful Mahler piece, Adagietto from Symphony No. 5. Conductor and Browning discussed how only very special skaters could do it justice. Katerina Gordeeva was one; she skated it solo as a tribute to her partner, Sergei Gringov, after his sudden death.

Ekaterina Gordeeva 1996 Celebration of Life / Mahler – Symphony No. 5 (Serguei Grinkov Tribute)

Another were Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who won Gold with it at the Vancouver Olympics. The video played to this beautiful piece wasn’t either of those performance in their entirety, but compilations of them along with some from Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, who didn’t use the music (that I know of) but certainly brought emotion and drama to their pairs performances.

The next piece didn’t need, and therefore didn’t get, video accompaniment: Ravel’s Bolero, forever synonymous with Torville and Dean. Though Browning informed that Carolina Kotsner is one of the few who has successfully skated to the piece since that team’s perfect performance.

Our finale was the theme of the Vancouver Olympics, I Believe, featuring the adorable singers of the Grand Philharmonic Children’s Choir. And then they gave us an encore! (Note: This is rare at the symphony.) Conducted by Kurt! The Toreador Song.

As a figure skating fan, I was thrilled to bits with the evening.

As a non-figure skating fan, Jean declared that he glad he had been “dragged out” to this performance. (Again, not sarcastically.)

It was a great intersection.

(Thanks to Skate Canada for all the footage they provided they provided for the show. Much higher quality than what you can find on YouTube…)


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Live and on the CBC

I did watch The Tragically Hip show on CBC television last night. It seemed the thing to do, and I was interested enough. I’m of the age where their music formed the soundtrack of my life, whether I realized it or not. I own only two Tragically Hip albums (Up to Here and Road Apples), yet I knew the chorus of almost every song they played last night.

For any non-Canadians who stumble on this: The Tragically Hip’s lead singer and songwriter Gord Downie has incurable brain cancer. He’s in remission, and the band has done a cross-country tour, ending in their hometown of Kingston last night. National broadcaster CBC interrupted their Olympic coverage to bring the concert to everyone, commercial-free.

There’s been a lot of great writing about this band, and this tour, in Maclean’s, the Globe and Mail, The Washington Post, The New Yorker. I can’t compete. It’s not only that I’m not as good a music writer—though that is true—but also that, familiarity with choruses notwithstanding, I’m not a big enough fan. I could observe that the band were quite good, that they mostly pumped through the songs without a lot banter with the audience (hard to know what to say, one thinks), that Gord Downie restricted his talking to thank you’s and a comment on First Nations people up north, that they did three encores, that the show was about three hours long.

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Gord Downie from an earlier Toronto show as, in a very strange decision, the promoter would not allow official photographers at the Kingston show

But I couldn’t truly get into the emotion of it. I’m not sure why, in all these years, their songs have never really touched my soul. They’re catchy, they’re in a genre I like, the lyrics are smart and highly original.

Maybe it’s simply that, until last night, I had never seen this band live.


Friday night Jean and I went to our first-ever CD release party. No, not our CD (heavens!); Alysha Brilla’s. Alysha Brilla is a local artist with some (not Tragically Hip level) national fame.

She once lived in LA, and was signed to a big recording contract. But she couldn’t fit into that little commercial box they wanted to put her in.

“They wanted me to write songs about going to the club. And picking up guys.” she commented on Friday. “And I’m like, but I don’t go to clubs. I don’t pick up guys.”

So she scampered away from that contract, and set up as an independent artist in Canada. And the only reason most of us have heard of her is the CBC Radio often plays her songs. (See her public love letter to CBC Radio.)

Her music has always been a kind of fusion of jazz / world sounds with a touch of pop, but the latest album, Human, has more Indian influences than her past work. I listened to it on Google Music (and yes, heard a couple tracks on CBC Radio) before picking it up on Friday, but I wasn’t sure about it. It has a lot of spiritual themes (one song is actually called “Spiritual”), it’s all peace and love and changing the world (another song is literally called “Changing the World”).

It’s very granola, you know?

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Music, singer, songwriter, producer, artist Alysha Brilla

But after having seen her perform several tracks live, I’m kind of digging it. For one thing, she’s just such a charmer live—gets you in her corner right from the opening, and keeps you there. She was playing the Jazz Room, which has an unfortunate rectangular shape that is not ideal for live music, and was very full, and pretty hot, and during the 1.5 hour or so wait before she started, we actually pondered leaving.

But I’m glad we didn’t; the show was interactive and so fun. We got the stories behind some of the new songs: “Gender Rollz” was inspired by her time in LA, and the strict modes of behaviour expected of both men and women in the big music industry. “Ahimsa” (which means peace) came to her while on vacation in Kenya. The “Bigger Than That” singalong has great lyrics. And her cover of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” was awesome.(“Until Amy Winehouse came along”, she said, “I thought, ‘What hope is there for an olive-skinned weirdo like me?’”) It’s not on the album, but it is on YouTube.

And here’s some more:

Introducing Alysha Brilla (Soundcloud)

 


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Is it live or is it Internet?

My “big plan” for the Friday of the long weekend was to watch the webcast of the opening show of Queen + Adam Lambert’s tour, performed as part of the Rock in “Rio” festival in Lisbon. So it was a bit dismaying when, on Wednesday or so, the webcast company announced that, “at the band’s request”, they would no longer be showing it.

Someone contacted Brian May about it on Twitter. And he actually answered.

Only to come back with:

So then the Glambert hunt was on to find some way to watch Portuguese broadcast TV from the Internet.

The “best” source finally found was a bit of Trojan horse one that kept trying to lure you in with “free” logins and “mandatory” Flash upgrades that actually installed malware on your computer. But with the installation of a browser ad blocker + being very careful not to click anything other than maximize video button, we were in!

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Of course, it wasn’t the full-fidelity video or sound we would have had with the official webcast, but it was still a professional recording of the whole show, not just some fan’s Periscope.

So it’s really too bad the concert itself sucked.

I kid! The show was terrific, as though they’d hadn’t taken nearly a year-long break from performing together. They added a bunch of new songs (truly new to many of the Glamberts): The Hero. Hammer to Fall, Stone Cold Crazy, The Game. They had some new props. And Adam had six costume changes, all of which featured very tight pants.

six-outfits

I do wonder at the promoter’s logic here as well. Surely the number of people who’d decide that, having seen the webcast, they don’t need to an actual show would be outweighed by the number who do see it and decide it’s awesome enough that they want to be there themselves? Certainly that’s been the history of this band (all of which I was there for—watching from my living room):

A great webcast might be the closest to live you can get—but it ain’t live. It’s just not the same as being there.

Ah well. At least I got to see it, since I’m not flying off to Europe for this set of shows. And there is hope that a better-quality version will see the light of day eventually (as the promoter has also been diligent about getting any YouTubes of the Portuguese broadcast taken down). Queen Official did release this one high-quality track from the show today. Enjoy.

Queen + Adam Lambert: I Want to Break Free, Rock in Rio Lisbao


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Adam Lambert live in Berlin

Dig if you will the picture…

A steamy, packed room of 1500 people pressed close together, singing, dancing, screaming. Stripping down as it gets hotter. On stage, an unbearably handsome singer, framed by two gorgeous dancers, playing music with an insistent, irresistible dance beat. Effortlessly hitting notes that don’t seem humanely possible, moving sensually, singing lyrics of want and desire. Keep me on a leash tonight. Lay me down in darkness. My one and own, I want to get you alone.

Sexiest. Concert. Ever.

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Standing rooms shows… I didn’t even know they were still a thing until this Adam Lambert Original High tour. For some reason he did no Canadian dates, and every venue I considered travelling to was no assigned seating / standing room. I hadn’t been to that type of show in decades.

It’s not my favourite thing, I gotta say. If the entry is well-managed and the fans reasonable, they can be alright, even fun. But if not, they are squishy, scary, unpleasant nightmare.

So when VIP “early entry” tickets when on sale, I was willing to quadruple my concert ticket costs for a chance to be among the first group to get in without having to wait in line.

The slightly nerve-wracking thing is you don’t get details of how exactly that’s going to work until you get an email “24 to 48 hours before your event”. It did nothing for my stress level that said email actually arrived more like 23 hours before my event.


VIPing: What we had to do was rudely walk past the people who’d been lining up all day, and head into the box office area ahead of them. There we were divided into two groups: Those who increased their ticket costs even more, such that they could also meet Adam Lambert before the show (those ladies were giddy), and those of us who just didn’t want to wait in line.

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One of the Berlin meet and greeters with some dude

As that group went off for their pictures, we were allowed to enter the venue—warned to not run, push, or pass one another. “There’s no need anyway,” the coordinator said. “Because you’re all going to be in the front row.”

Uh? It actually hadn’t dawned on me to that point that we were small enough in number that indeed, we would be in the front row. (There were more “meet and greet” people, actually, and some of them ended up in the second row!)

But for me (and Jean), there was to be no visual obstruction whatsoever all night long. And we had a barrier to lean on. And it was less hot because of the lack of sticky bodies in front of us. It was awesome!

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Crappy phone picture of me in the front row


The opening act, who started promptly at 8:00, were a German band named Eveline, led by an attractive blonde woman singer. They were pretty good—pop, dance style, good singer. She did all her speaking in German, and all her singing in English.

They finished around 8:30, and then we had a wait somewhere in neighbourhood of 45, 50 minutes, which got kind of long, really.

But right from the opening chords, all was forgiven.


For the benefit of those not steeped in all things Lambert:

  • Yes, he has a full band—guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. And two dancers / backup singers. And a pretty awesome light show.
  • Though he does a few covers, the focus is squarely on “his” music, from his three albums.
  • The show is in three parts: The “darker” songs, the ballads, and the dance party. He wears a different outfit for each.

This tour’s been going on for a while now, so the band was tight. They seemed to really be having a good time this night—it was all very high energy, and the pacing seemed perfect. I honestly enjoyed the whole show, but I’ll note some particular highlights.

As I’ve already said, I had a great, close view of the stage all night, but I wasn’t right in the centre. Fortunately, Adam was kind of enough to regularly stroll (or dance) over to my end of the stage and stand right in front of me. He first did so at the beginning of Ghost Town. Lordy, he’s attractive in person. Every time he came near I was particularly mesmerized by those gorgeous, greenish eyes.

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Instagram photo by Franke G., https://www.instagram.com/xx_frauke_xx/, taken at the Berlin show


For the purposes of maybe getting surprised, or at least avoiding disappointment, I had somewhat backed off on paying as much attention to Adam’s shows that preceded my own. However, I still caught the fact that in Hamburg, the show two days before Berlin, they had omitted the medley that included the song Runnin’.

There’s no reason to expect him to play Runnin’. It was never a single—heck, it was never even a regular album track, but just a bonus on the deluxe edition of his second album. Nevertheless, it’s such a fantastic song, it’s been discovered, just racking up the YouTube views, despite its not obviously not having a proper video accompaniment.

So I was very relieved that it made its return to the set in Berlin.

Runnin’/Chokehold/Sleepwalker live in Berlin (video)

Lucy, by contrast, is not one of my favourite Adam Lambert song, Brian May (Queen)’s presence on guitar notwithstanding. It’s the lyrics I don’t care for, mainly, as they come across as bit male judgmental about the titular Lucy. (Now, I’m no way suggesting that Adam is sexist. Only that this song is. A bit.)

As done live, though, it was saved for me by the dance moves. No, not Adam’s, but Holly Hyman’s, whose interpretation read, to me, as really powerful and defiant. She actually made me like the song for the first time. Which is cool.

Lucy live in Berlin

And at the end of it, Adam did this, while standing right in front of me.

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Adam is not overly chatty in concert, preferring to letting his singing do the talking. Still, we got a “Hello Berlin” pretty early on, following the tidbit I didn’t know, that he had lived in Berlin for three months. “It wasn’t long, but it gave me a taste.

“And it tasted nasty.”

In the ballad portion of the evening, we got the longest talking sequence. Adam’s message here is that we should try focusing more on our commonalities than differences. “There’s one thing that everyone in this audience all has in common.” Pause. “ME!” Hee!


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Photo by Anja Josef Salvat, https://www.instagram.com/anijsf/

Now seems a good time to address what you might be wondering: Given our excellent sight lines, why am I cribbing pictures from other folks instead of featuring wonderful, original Jean photography?

That would be because security took away our camera. Which was very frustrating, as there had been no advance warning that a small camera would be an issue. Even more frustrating? They didn’t seem to take away anybody else’s camera! (Do Germans just like to pick on Canadians?) As my budget cell phone was useless for taking photos, we have none. Which still irritates me every time I think about it.

adam-beauty

Another beautiful Berlin photo by Franke G., who clearly didn’t get her camera confiscated

That said… When you are attending the Sexiest Concert Ever with your sweetie, it’s actually not a terrible thing that his hands and face are free… To fondle something other than a camera…


Ahem. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Adam’s vocals are a thing of wonder: this is not a singer who backs away from the high notes while live. And no auto-tune, either.And the terrific The Original High was quite the showcase for that. He Sings So High in this song.

The big note at the 3:00 minute mark of this video

I also found out later we were very lucky to have David Bowie’s Let’s Dance included in the set, as that’s another number they haven’t been doing so much lately. It was a terrific version. That then led into the super-hot trio of dance songs, “Lay Me Down”, “Shady”, and “Fever”. We especially enjoyed dancer Terrance Spencer’s moves during this sequence.

The audience by now was a sweaty, frenzied mess, but the band wasn’t done with us. They launched into “If I Had You,”—not the weird, reggae version presented earlier on the tour, but the irresistible original. The entire place was hopping to it in unison! So fun!

The encore was Trespassing, which happens to be a favourite of both mine and Jean’s. And got some more talking, including Adam presenting his lucky glitter mushroom (???).

mushrooms

“Want to hear some Queen?” he asked, and on the affirmative, we got some “Another One Bites the Dust”. And a crazy-notes Adam Lambert singalong. (“Some of you are acting too cool to sing. I see you!”) And he concluded with more “Trespassing.”

And what did Jean think? Jean… Actually had a really good time! He’s a people watcher, and he found Adam’s audience mix fascinating. He enjoyed watching me and the other adult woman around regress into teenagers. And he got into it. He danced a bit. He snapped his fingers. He pretended to sing so Adam wouldn’t pick on him.

(But for the record, he still prefers the Queen + Adam Lambert show, because that’s more his music. And also, we had seats for that one.)


Set list:

Anger / Darkness

  1. Evil in the Night
  2. For Your Entertainment
  3. Ghost Town
  4. Welcome to the Show
  5. Runnin’
  6. Chokehold
  7. Sleepwalker
  8. Underground
  9. Rumors
  10. Lucy

Love and longing

  1. After Hours
  2. Mad World
  3. Whataya Want from Me
  4. Another Lonely Night

Party!

  1. The Light
  2. The Original High
  3. Never Close Our Eyes
  4. Let’s Dance
  5. Lay Me Down
  6. Shady
  7. Fever
  8. If I Had You
  9. Trespassing
  10. Another One Bites the Dust
  11. Trespassing (Reprise)

Ratings

Show: A+

I can’t think of a way they could have improved it.

Audience: A

Included a number of uber-fans I actually recognized from their tweets and blogs. And whether uber or not, it was very striking how everyone could and did sing along, with every song, not just “the hits.” They basically screamed instead of clapped to show appreciation. Lively, lively. Only lose + due to some veteran meet and greeters who (I heard) were overly stoic in the front row, which is just a waste. (This did not seem a problem with our VIP half.)

VIP experience: A

Very well-organized check-in and admission procedure, and made this such a great experience for me. Even the included merchandise was better than I expected: Quite a nice poster, and I hadn’t realized it would be signed! (Not that we need two, but…)

They only lose their + for the latish email that basically had the wrong time: It said to be there for 7:00, which made no sense, since that was general admission time. Fortunately, everyone figured that out and was there for the actual required time, between 6:15 and 6:30. Still…

Venue – Huxleys Neue Welt: D.

Apart from my camera problems, I later read on Twitter that this place didn’t have a scanner for electronic tickets! Meaning that anyone with those (like me) had to get out of the line they had likely been standing in for hours to go to an office and switch their eTicket for a “real” ticket. What the…? I also heard they weren’t very good at managing the general admission entry, which can be nightmarish, and I saw the security was really aggressive about removing items like balloons and glow sticks—even though fans had asked in advance and been assured those were fine!

So, I’d definitely see Adam Lambert in concert again, but never at Huxleys.

Links

My compiled Original High Berlin YouTube playlist

Berlin concert roundup

Full show audio:

A footnote about my feet

So before I knew I’d have VIP, I was trying to figure out how to improve my chances of actually seeing something at this show despite being short, and finally concluded that only shoes with wedge heels would work. So I got these:

wedge

Which added, like, 3 inches to my height. Not realizing I’d be ending up in the front row, I wore them.

So I can tell you that for 5.5 hours of straight standing, those suckers were surprisingly comfortable. And though not needed in the front row, they were kind of handy for looking over people’s head at the merchandise table after.

However… During the short walk to the train station, my feet basically had a nervous breakdown. I felt like I would die if I didn’t get off  my feet. Thankfully, the train station wasn’t far, it had a bench, and I was able to find a seat on the train. So I survived the journey back to the hotel room.

So if you try the wedge shoe approach to seeing something at standing room concerts, remember: To survive, you will have to get off your feet every five hours or so. You’re welcome.

 


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So you think you can dance

The email from the KW Symphony on February 18:

Thank you for purchasing tickets to the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony‘s Dancin’ Through the Decades. To enhance the overall concert experience, we have added a dance floor for these concerts. The dance floor will be located between the first row and the orchestra musicians. Since this floor is on one of the moveable lifts, it will be 14 inches lower than where the seating starts, in the first row, and should not obstruct the view of any patrons.

That seemed neat, but logistically problematic.

“We’re not going to go there in our dance shoes,” said Jean, pointing out the snowy climes.

But our early spring meant that we could, in fact, go there in our dance shoes without wrecking the soles.

However, it remained that our seats were right in the middle of the row, meaning we couldn’t get out to the dance floor without disrupting half of the people in said row. (And it was a pretty well-attended show.) Plus, we definitely didn’t want to be the first ones on the floor.

We stayed put during the swingin’ “In the Mood,” as did everyone else—much to conductor Matt Catinghub’s chagrin. But then a few brave souls made their way onto the floor.

“What is this one?“ my husband whispered as they launched into the new tune. And by that he meant what dance beat is it, not what song title. (Which is just as well, as now I can’t remember the song title.)

“Slow fox,” I answered.

Well, slow fox is like dance cat nip to my husband—he just can’t resist. We proceeded to disturb everyone in half the row and made it down the dance floor.

But, that’s about all the disturbing we did, because then we just stayed on the floor for the whole show.

For ballroom / Latin dance aficionados, the first half, with music of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, was especially appealing. Along with a number of slow foxes, we got to tango (I think), waltz to “Unforgettable” (I know), jive to “Twist and Shout”, and cha-cha to “La Bamba.”

I have never danced to such beautiful sound. The Symphony are terrific, of course; the Centre has some of the best acoustics on the continent; and the guest singer (Anita Hall), drummer (Steve Moretti), and saxophone players were also fantastic—and very energetic! (Matt Caringhub also did some keyboards.)

If you do a Where’s Waldo on this tweeted photo, you might be able to spot us

At intermission we drank a lot of water—and received compliments on our dancing from passing strangers, which was nice! (Maybe we can dance.)

The second half was 70s, 80s, 90s, and current. Disco like “Night Fever” is basically a samba, and I actually know the steps (yes, there are steps) to YMCA.

Of course, everyone knows the chorus part of this dance

Then we got some “Hotel California,” “Don’t Stop Believin”, “Africa”, “Vogue”, “Rock Lobster” (featuring KWS Assistant Conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser on vocals), and “Happy” by Pharell Williams. So a lot of really fun songs—but also a lesson in why no one does partner dancing anymore, since that just doesn’t work as well to those beats.

But hey, it was a really fun night, and I’m so glad the symphony offered the dance floor setup. It was totally worth the sore muscles the next day!

(As for the television show So You Think You Can Dance, I find their new gimmick of featuring dancers age 8 to 13 completely mystifying and utterly uninteresting. I do not plan to watch.)