Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rocky Horror 35th Anniversary Show

Thursday's all-star tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a night out that I am going to remember for a long, long time. It was definitely one of those "only in LA" events, and it was all for a great cause - The Painted Turtle, a camp for special needs kids.

Lou Adler, who produced the movie, put the evening together, and called in some favors from many of his famous friends to put together an all-star cast that accompanied the shadow cast. What made this a must-see for me was the inclusion of Jack Nicholson, who shared the narrator role with Danny DeVito. To my knowledge, Jack hasn't performed on stage since his high school plays, so this was really special to see. Jack and Lou have sat next to each other at Laker games for over 30 years, so I imagine that friendship plus the good cause prompted Jack to get involved.

The event took place at The Wiltern. Dave and I were running a bit late so didn't have any time before the show to mingle and check out everyone's great costumes. We came dressed as Time Warp party guests. Upon arrival, we got t-shirts and quickly made our way to the balcony where the show was about to begin.

Adler and director Kenny Ortega (best known for his work with Michael Jackson, including This Is It) did a terrific job of staging the show in a way that paid appropriate homage to the movie and the cult experience of the movie. The movie played on a big screen, and an all-star shadow cast reenacted it on stage (the all-star cast appears on the new blu-ray and is comprised of the best shadow cast members from around the world). Then they'd pause the movie to have the celebrities come out and actually speak the lines or sing the songs live, sometimes on their own and sometimes accompanied by the shadow cast.

Matthew Morrison and Lea Michelle kicked things off as Brad and Janet, fresh from the Rocky Horror episode of Glee. Nicole Scherzinger of The Pussycat Dolls was a sexy usher. Then there was a huge ovation for Jack Nicholson, who came onstage and settled into an easy chair for the opening narration. Listening to Jack read again reminded me of listening to my old audio cassette of him narrating The Elephant's Child - if you can find this, it's really cool, with Bobby McFerrin doing the music. They won a Grammy for it. Personally, I could listen to Jack read the phone book.

The second narrator was Danny DeVito, who instructed us on how to dance the Time Warp. Evan Rachel Wood played Magenta and Lucas Grabeel (High School Musical) was Riff Raff. Melora Hardin was Columbia. Most of the audience got up and tried to do the dance, although it wasn't easy being packed into theater seats.

Julian McMahon (Nip / Tuck) made a great Frank N. Furter. He really got into it and seemed to be totally comfortable in the costume. He wasn't dreaming it; he was being it. My only regret about the evening was that our seats were in the balcony. I wish I hadnt cheaped out and had sat down closer. It was hard to tell who the celebs were from our vantage point, and we weren't able to pick up a program until after the show. We totally missed Ricki Lake, and only noticed her during the curtain call (and I'm not sure who she played).

Jorge Garcia (Hurley from Lost) knocked it out of the park as Eddie. He can really belt. And George Lopez was daring as Dr. Scott, sporting the fishnets. There were some audio issues during his scenes and part of his dialogue was lost.

Jack and Danny returned to the stage to do the final narration together, to another big ovation.

Lou Adler brought everyone out for a curtain call and talked a little about The Painted Turtle. He then surprised us by calling up a couple of notable folks from the audience: Barry Bostwick and Tim Curry. The theater went nuts for Tim and the shadow cast on stage was truly starstruck. Then everybody did the Time Warp one more time, although Tim and Jack slinked off stage.

There was a costume ball afterwards, catered by Wolfgang Puck. Admission was $500, so we passed on that. We had a terrific time. I hadn't seen the movie in a few years, and it's always good to revisit it. I have been feeling a bit down lately about the lack of creative output in my life, and the movie reminded me that I just need to get off my butt and do it. Don't dream it; be it. I've been singing that everyday since the show.

Thanks to Lou Adler for putting together such a spectacular event!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hole is Reborn

I approached the Henry Fonda Theater on Friday with some trepidation. The return of Hole seemed likely to be a trainwreck. I was just hoping it would be an entertaining one, like the one in The Fugitive, as opposed to one where I'd have to avert my eyes.

I caught the last couple songs of the opening act, Little Fish. The singer seemed like she had been cut out of the Courtney Love mold, except British. She had a pretty enthralling barbaric yawp.

Courtney emerged after an operatic overture, right on time, surprisingly. She was backed by the all-new Hole. There was also a guitarist on the side of the stage covering for the notes she missed or when she was too overwhelmed to strum. She introduced the rest of the band but told us he wasn't really there.

The first song was "Pretty on the Inside" which morphed into "Sympathy for the Devil" - quite a ballsy start. The show was less than an hour, which is pretty typical for Hole, but it was packed with classic material and songs from the new album Nobody's Daughter, due out on Tuesday.

At one point, a fan asked for "Gold Dust Woman" and she said they could play it. After some guitar changing, they took on the challenge of recreating the cover tune, and it was awesome. I remembered that it was Hole's version of that tune that made me want to start listening to Fleetwood Mac and now the
Rumours CD never leaves my car's CD changer.

Hearing "Violet", "Miss World", and "Doll Parts" again brought up a lot of memories. I practically wore out my
Live Through This CD in 1994-96. The first time I went to a concert by myself was due to a compulsion to not miss the show when Hole came to town, so I ventured to a small club in St. Louis - Mississippi Nights - by myself. I remember seeing Courtney walk in with Frances Bean in her arms. Both mother and daughter were wearing ratty fur coats. This was less than a year after Kurt's suicide. The set was raw and fierce, and Courtney slammed St. Louis with the comment: "I can see why T.S. Eliot left."

She revisited "Malibu" and "Celebrity Skin" off the
Celebrity Skin album, and I recalled seeing her play at a college in Connecticut in 1998 in support of that album. She was transformed into a smoother, prettier Hollywood wannabe. I didn't like that Courtney as much, although the music was still good.

The current Courtney seems a mix of the two. She looks like she's had quite a bit of work done. Her hair started out as a almost too-perfect bob that made me think of Anjelica Huston's sleek do, but as the show progressed it got mussed and tucked haphazardly behind her ears and she looked like the old Courtney. She joked that the gown she was wearing had originally been intended to be worn to an Oscars show. It was a beautiful gray dress, but she wore a too-small black bra under it and was busting out all over - still a juxtaposition of the glamorous and the trashy.

I have to say I liked some of the new songs. "Skinny Little Bitch" recalled the catty Riot Grrl early Hole songs, while "Pacific Coast Highway" is more of a melodic pop song like "Malibu" although with lyrics like "I'm driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with your gun in my hand" it's not exactly pop. Courtney brought out Linda Perry, who wrote some of the new material, to play keyboard on one of the new songs. The new album promises to include a lot of meditation on Kurt's death and her various struggles with family, daughter, and substances.

I had a great time at the show. It was fun to relive all the old songs with a crowd of rabid fans shouting out the lyrics. There was even some crowd surfing! It definitely felt like a return to the 90s. I'll pick up the new album. I'm not sure how this comeback will go. I can't see her getting through a whole tour, as it seems like it was taking all her energy to complete this 50-minute set. There didn't seem to be much chemistry between Courtney and the new band, and I definitely missed Eric and Melissa. But, hey, good for Courtney for giving it another go.

After ending with an acoustic version of "Northern Star," Courtney commented, "That wasn't so terrible, was it?" No, Courtney, not terrible, but not awesome either.

My review of Hole's 1998 concert

My Courtney Love Choose Your Own Adventure, written in 2000

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Idol - Top Twelve do the Rolling Stones

Rolling Stones night. I was hoping we'd get to see Keith Richards mentor the kids on how to fall out of a palm tree like a rock star, but no such luck.

Michael Lynche - "Miss You"

Big Mike always does it big. Good performance, a bit hokey and theme-park-ish at times.

Didi Benami - "Play with Fire"

We learn that Didi's mom gets too nervous so she can't come to the show to watch Didi sing. If I was Didi, this would really piss me off, but she seems nonplussed. This was a strong performance. Didi came off as confident, not ditzy or fluffy. But it wasn't all that memorable.

Casey James - "It's All Over Now"

Casey brings a bluesy, country vibe. Good guitar work. Simon might be right that's his performance isn't all that special, but it's good enough and mixed with his sex appeal, he's surely safe.

Lacey Brown - "Ruby Tuesday"

It was an interesting arrangement and a quirky performance. I thought it was one of her best, however I don't think it's good enough to keep her safe. It could be Goodbye Lacey Wednesday.

Andrew Garcia - "Gimme Shelter"

This was one odd parental interview. His ex-gang member dad breaks down crying and talks about his son while his mother just stares at the camera stone-faced and doesn't say a word. I imagine growing up in the Garcia family wasn't a million laughs. Andrew frustrates me. I think he's really talented, but his performances continue to suck. He didn't seem to get the emotion, desperation, terror of this tune at all.

Katie Stevens - "Wild Horses"

Katie has a nice voice, but I'm always bored when she sings. It reminds me of how I felt during the Diana DiGarmo year. Blah. She doesn't seem to connect with the emotion of the song.

Tim Urban - "Under My Thumb"

Tim puts a bizarre reggae spin on this one, leaving the judges baffled while lovestruck tweens hit speed-dial and wait for the Bop! magazine pin-ups to appear. I'm pretty sure "The Sanjaya Factor" will keep Tim around for a few weeks - he's a dreamboat.

Siobhan Magnus - "Paint It Black"

Thank God for Siobhan, keeping me awake. She pulls out another weird and wonderful performance, using the Adam Lambert playbook. I did think her look was way overstyled. Nerdia says perms are coming back - say it isn't so!

Lee Dewyze - "Beast of Burden"

I think Lee has a little Springsteen in him. I love the gravel in his voice. He definitely needs some Jagger swagger though. He often has a deer in the headlights look about him, and the judges told him to work on his confidence. But I'm rooting for him.

Paige Miles - "Honkytonk Woman"

Paige belted this one out with panache. We learned after the performance that she had been struggling with laryngitis, but I couldn't tell at all. Interestingly, she seemed like she could pull off a country twang. She could be vulnerable, but the judges mentioned the illness enough that it should earn her sympathy votes.

Aaron Kelly - "Angie"

Once again, I thought the song was a bit old for him, but I give him points for connecting emotionally with the material. It wasn't cheesy, and it easily could have been. His relationship with his mom seems sweet, too.

Crystal Bowersox - "You Can't Always Get What You Want"

The producers clearly love Crystal, letting her sing last. She delivers another strong performance. Great song choice, totally watchable. She avoided being too sassy with Simon when he accused her of thinking she had the competition in the bag. At this point, it does seem to be between Crystal and Siobahn, but a lot can happen. Crystal's dad's emotional interview will help her too.


Lacey Brown

The judges didn't use their save for Lacey. In the tradition of punky haired Idol finalists, she fell short of Amy Adams, Alison Iraheta and Nikki McKibben. In the battle of quirky females, both Lacey and Lilly Scott have fallen, yet Siobhan remains strong. I think it's because Siobhan has serious pipes whereas the other two are really just Lilith Fair side stage caliber singers.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

American Idol: Top Eight Girls

Katie Stevens - "Breakaway"

Katie is the type of contestant that Simon loves: teen, cute, solid voice, bland and easily molded. Unfortunately, her song choice was lame and only showed us that she's no Kelly Clarkson. I think she will be safe though, because she's so likable.

Siobhan Magnus - "House of the Rising Sun"

Wow, I thought this was really cool. I loved the acapella opening and found it to be really smooth and stirring. She felt the emotion of the song throughout the performance. This was a gutsy song choice, and she pulled it off. She's like a nicer Sinead O'Conner. I was surprised Simon was critical of the performance, and I hope that critique - coupled with her quirkiness - won't hurt her chances to advance. Clips of her dad in the audience being all intense brought back memories of Mr. Archuletta.

Lacey Brown - "The Story"

Lacey's makeup was so thick tonight that visions of Tammy Faye came to mind. And she's a pretty girl - she doesn't need to apply the makeup with a trowel. She also shouldn't raid Mrs. Roper's closet when it's time to choose an outfit for the show. I'd agree with the judges that this was her best performance yet. But while Simon praised her knowledge of where the cameras were and her ability to play to them, her calculated stage presence reminded me of her lookalike Nikki McKibben winking at the camera. It somehow rings false.

Katelyn Epperly - "I Feel the Earth Move"

I kinda like Katelyn, but I'm afraid she will be going home. The judges nailed her to the cross for doing this Carole King tune. I thought they were a little overly harsh, but they were right that it was a pretty easy song to choose. She looked cute, but it was a cruise ship performance.

Didi Benami - "Rhiannon"

I was happy to see Didi redeem herself with a haunting rendition of this Fleetwood Mac chestnut. It was a gusty song choice after Lacey was criticized for picking "Landslide." Didi's performance recalled her Hollywood Week "American Boy" audition - lots of style and emotion.

Paige Miles - "Smile"

Paige failed to make the audience and the judges turn their frowns upside down with this performance. It was pretty dreadful, and Ellen was right to point out that she missed the uplifting spirit of the song. I think Paige will have to find a way to smile while her heart is breaking on Thursday when's she sent home.

Crystal Bowersox - "Gimme One Reason"

The judges loved this song choice, but I thought it was kinda predictable. Still, she really belted it out, and she's becoming more likable. Simon said she would sail into the Top 12, and I'm sure he's right.

Lilly Scott - "I Fall to Pieces"

Bjork does Patsy Cline. Apparently it's just me, but I feel like this girl's voice is like fingernails on the chalkboard. I don't get it.

Who's Going Home?

Paige, Katelyn, Lilly, and Lacey all seem vulnerable. I'm gonna ponder a while, but I'm thinking it'll be Paige and Katelyn going home.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

American Idol Week 1: The Top 24

Wow, what a disappointing start to the new season...nobody has knocked my bowersox off...nobody is worth detailed analysis at this point, but here are some quick impressions...

Paige Miles - "All Right Now"

She's got a big voice but she's pretty ordinary in the other departments. Simon said she has the best voice of the girls. It's hard to go first so I give her some points for surviving.

Ashley Rodriguez - "Happy"

She's a pretty girl and seemed talented from clips of Hollywood Week, but this wasn't a great song choice. Her early place in the lineup combined with the lackluster performance could doom her.

Janell Wheeler - "What About Love"

What about love? What about choosing a song you can handle? This was way too much for Janell. She'd need to coast on her coverage from earlier rounds to survive.

Lilly Scott - "Fixing a Hole"

I find her voice kind of irritating, but I give her points for being original and different. The white blond hair isn't flattering.

Katelyn Epperly - "Oh Darling"

She did better than I expected - kinda bluesy tone to her voice. I agree with Kara that her makeup and styling were overdone.

Haeley Vaughn - "I Wanna Hold Your Hand"

I wanna put my hands over my ears. This girl has a terribly annoying, nasally, screechy voice.

Lacey Brown - "Landslide"

I think Lacey is likable, but the judges hammered her. It was an awkward arrangement and she didn't bring anything new to this old chestnut. Stevie Nicks can rest easy.

Michelle Delamor - "Falling"

She's gutsy to take on an Alicia Keys song, and I thought her performance was polished, if not particularly memorable.

Didi Benami - "The Way I Am"

She reminds me of Brooke White, but less annoying.

Siobhan Magnus - "Wicked Game"

Cool song choice. She's quirky but has a frumpy air about her. Could be a dark horse, though.

Crystal Bowersox - "Hand in Pocket"

Looks like Crystal got her teeth whitened. She's a cool chick, and I like that she played guitar and harmonica. Simon has a point though - she's not unlike a lot of subway buskers.

Katie Stevens - "Feelin' Good"

I hate it when young girls sing sexy, adult songs. I hated this performance but I know she will survive another week, backed by all the Diana Degarmo voters.

Toderick Hall - "Since You've Been Gone"

This was a mess, and not a hot mess. Toderick's fame from earlier rounds will carry him through, but Kelly Clarkson can now sing another song about being wronged by a man because Toderick murdered her tune.

Aaron Kelly - "Here Comes Goodbye"

I love me some Rascal Flatts, but what hurts the most is when teens try to sing big people songs. Like Katie, Aaron sang a song that was too adult for him, but he showed strong vocal ability.

Jermaine Sellers - "Get Here"

Get here if you can...Jermaine, how did you get here singing like that? Affected and annoying. His attitude is writing checks his voice can't cash.

Tim Urban - "Apologize"

Meet this year's pen salesman - Jon Peter Lewis reincarnated. Yes, Tim was dreadful. Yes, he attempted a song he doesn't have the range to sing. Yes, Simon tried to axe him by declaring it was a mistake that he got through to this round. Does it matter? Not at all, because tweens will find him dreamy. He could be the lost Jonas brother.

Joe Munoz - "You and I Both"

It seems like Joe might have a good voice, but this performance was very muddled, and I didn't recognize the song. I think his failure to pick a good song coupled with our lack of knowledge of him from previous rounds and his non-dreamy, just average looks will doom him.

Tyler Grady - "American Woman"

Another flop, and I was disappointed because I really like this kid. This was poor karaoke.

Lee Dewyze - "Chasing Cars"

I thought this was kinda cool, but also kinda overdone. He's got a boy next door quality. Simon clearly wants him to stick around, and the show needs a rocker.

John Park - "God Bless the Child"

Another bad song choice. This was nearly incomprehensible. John is cute, but he seemed very nervous.

Michael Lynche - "This Love"

This was OK and he improved as the performance went along. This guy is just plain likable and will be around for a while even if his voice isn't as big as his biceps.

Alex Lambert - "Wonderful World"

I can't decide if tweens will find him dreamy. The mullet is really putting me off. I think they might want to rescue him this week after that "deer in the headlights" performance.

Casey Jones - "Heaven"

Ahh, Casey, I will join Kara in a puddle of drool over you. You just might be the hottest idol since Constantine Maroulis. And if the looks weren't enough, the guy can sing and actually seemed to connect with the material and pick an appropriate song for his voice. Since Paula is not here to say it, let me say it: "Touchdown!"

Andrew Garcia - "Sugar, We're Going Down"

Andrew, you won't be number one with a bullet with performances like this. Not a great song choice, but it's clear he's talented. The judges made sure he'd stick around by reminding us of his "Straight Up" performance.

My predictions for who's going home: Jermaine, Joe, Ashley, Haeley
Actual results: Joe, Tyler, Ashley, Janell

I'm batting .500. I am surprised Tyler was sent home. I thought he deserved another chance and had enough footage from Hollywood Week to get him the votes. But maybe the Jim Morrison/Mick Jagger look wasn't appealing to voters. They should have showed his bathrobe footage yesterday - might have won him some quirkiness votes. I'm stunned we have to endure Haeley for another week! Time to find my ear plugs.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

American Idol: Thoughts on the Top 24

Thoughts on the Top 24

Aaron Kelly - My friend C. Crumpet Swank has coined Aaron: "The depressed Kevin Covais." Now I can't watch him without laughing. Aaron is cute, only 16, with teen idol potential, yet he does seem a bit meloncholy. We'll see if he can bring more perkiness.

Alex Lambert - I haven't been impressed with what I've seen from Alex - just average at best. Plus last year's finalist was Adam Lambert. The names are too similar.

Andrew Garcia - I don't know why they put Andrew in the "Final 2" with Thaddeus, trying to create drama over who would make it. It was no contest. This guy has been a gamer from the get-go and really impressed me and the judges with his funky Hollywood week rendition of "Straight Up." One of the few who truly makes the songs his own, with a good backstory about wanting to make a better life for his wife and kid.

Ashley Rodriguez - Ashley has a strong voice and can belt. She's pretty, seems likable.

Casey James - Casey is definitely a frontrunner. He's got cool long hair and he's dreamy - he reminds me of Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise. Also, he's got a different style - playing blues guitar. Top 12 fer sure.

Crystal Bowersox - Crystal has an awesome name. She's certainly a little rough around the edges and I'm sure Simon would say she doesn't fit the Idol image, but, man, what a voice. She's got a bit of a Janis Joplin thing going on. Plus she's a young mom. If she gets her teeth whitened, she should make the Top 12. She could knock your bowersox off!

Didi Benami - Didi is very likable and reminds me of Brooke White. She seems like a good spirit and has been trying to make it for sometime, while working as a waitress. I like her voice and her style and expect her to make the Top 12.

Haeley Vaughn - I can't imagine why this girl made it over Shelby Dressel and Angela Martin. Her voice has a helium tinge to it. Simon mentioned she could be annoying and I definitely agree.

Janell Wheeler - Janell is pretty, nice voice, but I haven't seen anything special so far.

Jermaine Sellers - Jermaine got in trouble for complaining that the band failed him in his final audition performance. His attitude will probably get in the way. I foresee sassing back at the judges, which is never attractive.

Joe Munoz - I have no impression of Joe. Admittedly, I missed some of the audition shows, but they didn't really showcase him during Hollywood Week.

John Park - I have no impression of John Park either.

Katelyn Epperly - Katelyn is young and cute - she's definitely the type that Simon loves to pick. It remains to be seen if she can run with the big dogs.

Katie Stevens - Katie is only 17, and I'm not sure she's ready for the big stage. She seems very sweet and has a good backstory about caring for her grandmother who has Alzheimer's.

Lacey Brown - Lacey made the top 50 last year before getting cut, so now she gets a chance to perform for America. I don't have much a sense of her talent, but she's got a different, edgy look.

Lee Dewyze - Lee seems like a bar band singer and tough guy. He could fill a rocker slot.

Lilly Scott - Lilly is another frontrunner. With her gray-blond hair, she's got a unique look and her vocal stylings are unusual too. Very cool chick.

Michael Lynche - I don't think this guy would be in the Top 24 if his wife hadn't gone into labor and had their child during Hollywood Week. Big Mike is likable, a bodybuilder, and can sing, but if I was his wife, I'd be really pissed off he missed that moment. He's only 26, so he had two more years to come back and try again.

Michelle Delamor - Nice name, pretty girl, but other than that, I have no opinion.

Paige Miles - I don't remember much about Paige either.

Siobhan Magnus - I'm curious to see how Siobhan does. She's been a bit uneven in her performances, but she brings a fresh approach to her songs. She probably needs a bit of a makeover.

Tim Urban - Tim got the spot relinquished by Chris Golightly, who was kicked out of the Top 24 for formerly having a record contract with a boy band that he hid from the judges. Tim has teen idol appeal and could be a dark horse.

Todrick Hall - This kid has some show biz experience, having performing alongside Fantasia in "The Color Purple." He can do backflips, is good-looking (nice eyes) and can sing. He states that he's more a dancer than a singer, but so far, so good.

Tyler Grady - Tyler is one of my favorites. I love his 70s style. He said he admires Robert Plant and Jim Morrison, but I think of Mick Jagger when I watch him. He's got a sexy swagger about him.

Controversial Cuts

Angela Martin - I actually shed a few tears along with Angela, when she received the news she'd been cut. I don't know what the Idol judges were thinking! Nobody has more sympathy-generating drama in his/her storyline than Angela (father murdered during her first audition, sent to jail for traffic ticket during his second audition, mother missing during third audition, handicapped daughter who has seizures), plus the girl is cute, likable and can really sing. Looks like Kara and Ellen realize they made a mistake, because they put Angela on Ellen's show and offered to produce a single for her. Angela talked about her experience in People.

Thaddeus "I'm not Bubbly" Johnson - This large queeny teen had a lot of likability, style, and a good voice. He also had an endearing storyline with his extremely supportive cheerleader mother. However, he's only 16, and I guess the judges felt he needed more time to mature.

Shelby Dressel - Shelby had the potential to be a big fan favorite, with her story of overcoming facial paralysis. It would have been nice to see someone like her on TV, plus she could sing. I'm not sure her voice or stage presence were strong enough to carry her all the way, but I would have liked to see her try. Shelby gets an "Ellen" appearance too.

Top 12 Predictions

Boys: Andrew, Tyler, Michael, Casey, Todrick, Aaron
Girls: Didi, Crystal, Ashley, Lilly, Katelyn, Siobhan

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

American Idol 2010 - Hollywood Week

This is my favorite stage of the Idol competition and I always wish they would rename it "Hollywood Weeks" and give us two weeks of the high drama, as opposed to 3 or 4 weeks of auditions which I mostly don't bother to watch anymore. But, I will take what I can get.

Last night was the first Hollywood Week episode and Ellen's first appearance as a judge. She had a few funny moments but overall I feel the pace will be slow again this year with four judges.

Here's the highlights and lowlights...

* Andrew Garcia - Andrew is likable and he did a really funky, slow version of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up." Kara called it "genius" (reminding me of how often that word is overused) and said it hearkened back to Adam Lambert's creativity. I really enjoyed the performance and expect him to go far. He's my favorite so far.

Vanessa Wolfe - The nervous country girl proved too nervous and got cut.

Amadeo DiRocco - I was rooting for this Tony Soprano lookalike, but he didn't have the chops to advance.

* Janell Wheeler - Janell broke out her guitar for a funky version of "American Boy". She's pretty and has a really good voice.

Haeley Vaughn - She was nervous about playing her guitar and was a bit awkward with it, but her voice and winning personality carried her through.

Mary Powers - This 28-year-old rocker and mom did a strong rendition of "Sober." She's a bit rough around the edges, but she definitely can belt.

Jay Stone - The Florida beatboxer failed to impress so we won't see a sequel to Blake Lewis this year.

* Lilly Scott - She's quirky, kind of an Amy Winehouse type but less tragic. Judges slobbered all over her.

"Big" Michael Lynche - His wife went into labor while he was at the auditions, but he stayed to see if he could fulfill his dream. So far so good. Very likable guy, but if I was his wife I wouldn't be that supportive.

Tim Urban - He looks like a Jonas brother and his voice is just okay, but the teen idol looks could carry him far.

Justin Williams - He's a cancer survivor and he tried to sing and play the keyboard but the judges found it too loungey.

Maddy Curtis - Aww, I was sorry to see Maddy go home. She's the girl from the big family with three brothers who have Downs Syndrome. But I'd have to agree, she was nervous and not quite ready. She's only 16, so maybe she'll be back.

* Casey Jones - He's cute, has a ponytail, kinda reminded me of Brad Pitt in "Thelma and Louise." His blues guitar sets him apart.

* Didi Benami - She's a waitress who kissed up to Kara by singing one of her songs - "Terrified." Good job and she's pretty.

* Crystal Bowersox - She's a young mom, also kinda rough, but a powerhouse voice that recalled Janis Joplin. I love her name, too.

Asterisks represent who I think is likely to make the Top 25.

Now, onto Group Night!!

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall - Still Swingin'

It was a thrill to get a chance to see Herb Alpert in concert, having grown up listening to my parents' Tijuana Brass albums and having a ton of nostalgia for the Whipped Cream album in particular (see an earlier Ape Culture story on our recollections of growing up with that mysteriously sexy album in our otherwise Christian homes).

I was not familiar with the work of his wife Lani Hall, but she has had an amazing career in her own right, including performing with Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. I discovered she has a great voice and the two of them have adorable chemistry on stage. Joining Hall and Alpert were piano player Bill Cantos, bass player Hussein Jiffry, and drummer Michael Shapiro. They were a tight band but also did a fair amount of improvisation.

Early in the set, Herb commented on how oddly intimate Walt Disney Hall felt, how he could see most of the audience's faces. He then encouraged the audience to yell out questions and comments, but not requests. This led to some chaos that continued throughout the night with comments ranging from one woman who asked how he and Lani got together and then proceeded to tell the story herself since she must have read it somewhere (why do people ask questions when they know the answers?), to a woman wanting to know if Herb graduated from Fairfax High (yes, and his good high school friend was the late Jack Kemp who he said was one of the only gentiles there), to someone asking who his favorite A&M Records (his label) artist was - Tijuana Brass of course!

Sergio Mendes was in the house! Herb gave a shout out to him. Too bad they didn't jam together.

Herb has always been criticized by "serious" jazz artists for being too pop. With this combo, he tries to get away from playing the Tijuana Brass tunes and play more jazz, but it's still mostly bossanova stuff and standards. It's light jazz at best. Still, I found it to be a very enjoyable concert.

Lani Hall has an excellent voice and can handle the Brazilian songs with aplomb. She has great command of the language. They did standards by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Johnny Mercer. Herb stated that he found Porter to be very relevant today and implored us to listen to the lyrics of "Anything Goes" (title cut from his 2009 Album with Hall). They slowed down "That Old Black Magic" and came up with a sexy version.

Herb is 74 now and doesn't look like a heartthrob anymore. His hair is gray and he has Nicholson pattern baldness. Lani looked a lot like my therapist which was a bit hard for me to get over. However, the two of them are clearly in love and have a playfulness about them that was fun to watch. My friend joked that they were like two high school kids who had to end the show quickly so they could go backstage and make out. Herb sang "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" to Lani, and it was a sweet moment. He ended the song with a few notes from "This Guy's in Love with You" which was a perfect end note to a somewhat lovably awkward moment (Like Burt Bacharach who wrote "This Guy's in Love with You", Herb doesnt have a great voice but there is something warm about the way he sings, which he rarely does).

The crowd went nuts for a Tijuana Brass medley that featured snippets of "A Taste of Honey", "The Lonely Bull" and other pop chestnuts. I would have loved to have heard more of this stuff, but I respect that he's got to do his current thing.

This event finally gave me an opportunity to see Walt Disney Concert Hall, and I have to say I was really impressed with the acoustics. It does kind of feel like LA has its own Sydney Opera House. The interior has similar swooping lines, and smooth wood, without feeling as chaotic as the outside of the building would lead you to expect. The pipes from the pipe organ jut out in all directions, but everything else is smooth. We were sitting behind the stage, which wasn't ideal. The sound was fine, but we got tired of looking at the back of Herb's and Lani's heads. We had good views of the drummer and the piano player, but it would have been nice if Herb and Lani could have played to the back a bit more. Oh well - life in the cheap seats.

The encore was a medley of Jobim songs which put a swingin' coda on a great evening. He even threw in a few notes of "Spanish Flea" for fans of The Dating Game. I definitely recommend you catch the show if it comes around. My only disappointment was that I didn't see anyone in the crowd dressed in whipped cream.

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