Category: Music

Sasquatch!

Saturday, May 24th, 2008 | All Things, Music, Travel

At the Sasquatch Music Festival. More to come…

Taking in this view, it’s easy to see why Pollstar magazine readers voted The Gorge the best major outdoor concert venue in North America for the third year in a row.

All festival photos up on flickr. Day 2: Rogue Wave, The Blakes, Mates of State, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Death Cab For Cutie, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and The Cure.

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Candide indeed

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 | All Things, Arts, Music

At the New York State Theater tonight for a performance Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. This production returned to the New York City Opera repertoire for fourteen performances in April after a three-year hiatus.

Candide’s journey from page to stage was famously bumpy. Bernstein himself never seemed completely satisfied with the work, which he envisioned as an American version of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. (It’s billed at the NYC Opera as “The Great American Opera.”) He and playwright Lillian Hellman began collaborating on the musical adaptation of Voltaire’s satirical novel in 1954, united in their indignation over the anti-Communist McCarthy hearings. The heavily revised work, which also featured contributions from poet Richard Wilbur and Hellman’s friend Dorothy Parker — opened on Broadway in 1956, and closed after an abysmal 73 performances.

When Hellman refused to work on a rewrite, additional collaborators were brought in; over the next twenty years, six writers contributed lyrics, characters were modified and redrafted, and segments of the operetta edited in and out. Distinguished director-producer Harold “Hal” Prince (West Side Story, Cabaret) revived the operetta in one form for Broadway in 1974, where it enjoyed a 740 performance run, and won that year’s Tony for Hugh Wheeler’s new book.

Yet another Prince production — known as “the opera house version” – debuted at the State Theater in 1982 with lyrics by Wilbur, and additional lyrics by Bernstein, John Latouche and Stephen Sondheim. It restored numerous sections of music that had been previously discarded, in response to requests from opera companies for a more legitimate version of Bernstein’s vision.

Audiences are often conflicted over their response to Candide, unsure of whether to approach it as a musical or as an opera. Although the score is almost universally admired — the original 1956 Broadway cast recording has something of a cult following — as a dramatic work, it loses momentum in the filler-heavy second half before settling into its final, improbably happy ending – banishments, betrayals, beatings, murders, rapes, shipwreck, plague and earthquake all forgotten. (Did I mention that it’s a comedy?)

Stage and screen star Richard Kind led the cast in the dual roles of Dr. Pangloss/Voltaire. Daniel Reichard, who created the role of Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys on Broadway, was set to star as the ever-optimistic protagonist, but shortly before curtain it was announced that he was battling a stomach flu and would be unable to perform that night. His understudy Shonn Wiley stepped into the lead, performing with confident ease, offering not a hint that this was his debut of the role. For his efforts, Wiley received cheers and a standing ovation – the most enthusiastic reception of the night.

And let us try,
Before we die,
To make some sense of life.
We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
Candide, “Make Our Garden Grow

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Nada Surf at Terminal 5

Friday, April 11th, 2008 | All Things, Music

The independent New York City concert-promoters at Bowery Presents opened Terminal 5 in the former Club Exit on far West 56th Street in October 2007. With a capacity of 3,000, this is the newest and largest venue in an empire of club holdings that includes the Mercury Lounge, the Bowery Ballroom, Webster Hall, and the Music Hall of Williamsburg (ne Northsix). The 40,000-square-foot cavern underwent a multi-million dollar industrial-chic renovation by architect Brian Swier, who also led the redesign on the Williamsburg factory space.

The main floor features the performance space, 40-foot ceilings with exposed ductwork (and a disco ball), and two tiers of wrap-around mezzanines. The third floor bar serves empanadas from the swankified Empanada Mama in Hells Kitchen.

We arrived tonight, catching the last 15 minutes of Superdrag‘s opening set (and encountering at least one very enthusiastic superfan in the process.) We had opted for positions near the front on the floor, in full view of the stage set-up, which involved a series of five large round mirrors that reflected back into the crowd. By the time Nada Surf took the stage it was nearly 10.

The band was on tour to promote their fifth studio album, Lucky. Almost improbably it seems, the Brooklyn-based trio has been around for over a decade: back in 1996, their novelty hit “Popular” was on endless rotation on MTV — amusing in its skewering of teenage romance clichés, if not particularly representative of their later sound. (In his intro to the song, lead singer-guitarist Matthew Caws insisted that the band still enjoys performing it, despite rumors to the contrary.)

The multi-talented Martin Wenk of Calexico joined bassist Daniel Lorca and drummer Ira Elliot on back-up horns during a cheerful set that ran over 90 minutes. Caws interacted with his audience affably, inviting several sing-a-longs, and at one point, coaxed the crowd into a jaunty arm-waving two-step during what he called the band’s attempt at a Motown song, “Inside of Love.”

Caws dedicated “Beautiful Beat” off of Lucky to his first boss from a “basement record store on Cornelia Street“ (who was watching the concert from the first balcony — I wonder about the acoustics in the upper reaches). At the same time, he worked in a plug for Record Store Day (April 19) — a day to honor independently owned record stores across the country.

The four-song encore included the familiar “Blonde on Blonde” and “Always Love.” And here’s a video of the show’s “Blankest Year” finale. The tunes are not edgy; indeed Nada Surf’s music has a certain generic indie-poppiness that makes it extremely soundtrack-friendly. But sometimes — what can I say? — I’m a sucker for a competently crafted melodic hook. Judging from the loyal fanbase at Terminal 5 tonight, I’m not the only one.

The following night, Nada Surf continued their tour in Washington, D.C. Listen to a live recording of their entire April 12th performance at the 9:30 Club on NPR.

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