26th Mar2012

Cheech and Chong Still Smokin’ at The Venue

by rockchicago

“Knock, Knock.  Who is it?  Dave.  [Silence]  Dave’s not here.  No, this is Dave.”  Thus goes the popular “Dave” skit for a popular duo, Cheech and Chong back together live at The Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond IN, Saturday night, St. Patricks Day.

Richard Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong started back together in the end of 2008 after a 20 year separation and have been together since.  They started out the show with a sort of interview done by Chong’s wife where they discussed why they were back together.   Chong joked about the separation that he didn’t even know they quit until while watching their next movie, he wasn’t in it.

This being their “Get it Legal” tour, it obviously included much of their drug based comedy, including jokes about age and prison.  Chong’s knowledge of both seemed intense and provided several skits on the subject.

A highlight of the show was when Cheech came out in a pink tutu, sunglasses and Mickey Mouse ears, ran around and lip synched during Earache My Eye, a single from 1974.  He was covered in tattoos and the audience definitely reacted.

Several skits occurred, including Blind Melon Chiltlin’ where Chong came out acting blind and actually played some blues on the guitar.   Born in East LA, a song based on Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, included Chong on the guitar and Cheech on vocals.  Other skits included Basketball Jones, Santa Claus and his Old Lady, and Dave.

The comedy of Cheech and Chong seems kind of out of date per say, but the crowd seemed to really enjoy all of the show.  I would have liked to see a little more new humor but what they presented was funny and entertaining.  Cheech and Chong show that age does not diminish humor and the duo who laughs together will stay together.

Reviewed by Lee Bishop on 3/17/12

26th Mar2012

Brit Floyd Stuns Rosemont!

by rockchicago

The Akoo Theatre formerly The Rosemont Theatre knew what they were in for. More than a thousand Pink Floyd fans and Classic Rocksters coming to see the premiere of Brit Floyd from London. Brit Floyd is comprised of members who used to be in The Australian Pink Floyd Show that comes around Chicago every year. Brit Floyd is the premiere UK based Pink Floyd tribute band formed in 2010 by Chas Cole, Managing Director of CMP Entertainment, and Damian Darlington, the band’s Musical Director. The split was the outcome of a dispute that some TAPFS directors had with CMP. Three of the four owners of TAPFS appointed new management, resulting in their former management company, CMP Entertainment, together with Damian Darlington, the fourth partner in TAPFS, forming a new band, The British Pink Floyd Show. The name was later shortened to Brit Floyd.

Brit Floyd consists of musicians who have all performed with TAPFS, either worldwide or just in North America. All except two members of Brit Floyd played on TAPFS’s North American tour in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Damian Darlington is the only musician to have performed in every TAPFS show worldwide from January 1994 through to November 2010, including a performance in March 1996 with TAPFS for David Gilmour at his 50th birthday party in London.

Band Members

Damian Darlington: Musical Director, guitar, lapsteel and vocals
Arran Ahmun: Drums
Rick Benbow: Keyboards
Ola Bienkowska: Vocals
Carl Brunsdon: Saxophones, bass guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion, keyboards, clarinet
Ian Cattell: Bass guitar, vocals
Bobby Harrison: Guitar, vocals
Emily Jollands: Vocals
Amy Smith: Vocals
Rob Stringer: Keyboards, vocals
Jacquie Williams: Vocals

From start to finish, these guys breezed through many Pink Floyd classics including “Echoes,” “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” half of Dark Side of the Moon, “Pigs,” “Learning to Fly,” and “The Division Bell”. They also played some Floyd rarities as well, including “See Emily Play” and “The Fletcher Memorial House.”

The light show that these guys put on was incredible. There were all sorts of lasers and lights that followed perfectly with the music. Usually, the element of a light show comes with a Pink Floyd tribute band, and Brit Floyd really knew how to pull it off. I’ve seen a lot of Pink Floyd tribute bands that come through town, and these guy were honestly the best I’ve seen.

The reason why they are the best is Ian Cattell, the bassist and vocalist. I have never heard anyone who sounded more like Roger Waters in my life. If you closed your eyes, you would think it was actually him.

The show was 2 acts. For the second half of the show, Damian told the audience since Roger Water will be touring The Wall Live through Chicago this summer, that they were going to perform a whole set of excerpts from The Wall. With Ian at the mic, it never could’ve sounded better. I saw The Australian Pink Floyd performing The Wall in its entirety in 2008, and it was honestly unbelievable.

Brit Floyd are truly talented musicians and they do not put Pink Floyd’s music to shame. Damian did say they were going to come back to Chicago next year. Be sure to see them if you are a loyal Pink Floyd fan, and you love to hear the music. You won’t be disappointed.

Some text taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brit_Floyd:_The_Pink_Floyd_Tribute_Show

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 3/24/12.

 

22nd Mar2012

ZoSo Rambled and Rocked Durty Nellies

by rockchicago
Matt Jernigan, John McDaniel, Adam Sandling, and Greg Thompson fomed Zoso in 1995 with one united goal. Zoso began touring nationally in 1999 and now play upwards of a 150 shows a year.  They play 40 of the most famous Zeppelin numbers. This now popular triute band drifted into Durty Nellies’ on a wet, snowy Friday evening.  The crowd slowly filed in after battling the elements to attend the gig.
The new Durty Nellies can accomodate a much larger crowd than the original.  I observed people of all ages gather together around and above the stage to claim the best vantage point possible.  By the time the main act took the stage, around 10 pm, the floor and balcony areas were full of Led Zeppelin fanatics.
The colorful, 1970s inspired attire caught my attention immediately.  In particular, there was a one-piece Jimmy Page jumpsuit that was a perfect replica.  Each band mate dressed the part of their respected idle and everyone even dedicated their hair style to match their respective musicians.
The show began with “Good Times Bad Times” which bordered on the latter until the tuning was quickly tweaked.  I noticed right away that Matt Jernigan emulated Robert Plant’s repertoir of movements – roaming about, finger pointing, etc. very accurately.  Throughout the evening, he demonstrated he could hit the high notes on cue while maintaining the proper timing and patience. He commanded the stage with contempt while pleasing the audience.
Adam Sandling took the role of John Paul Jones and began playing the bass for the first set, including the roaring “Heartbreaker.”  This talented musician later played the keyboards for the mind numbing rendition of “No Quarter.”  The visual projections, lighting, and diverse sound made this song one of the most memorable. Later in the evening, Sandling pulled out the Ukulele for acoustic songs like “Going to California.”
Stepping in the spotlight at desiganated moments, John McDaniel ripped up both his single and double guitars.  At moments throughout the show, he tore up the guitar stings.  This was especially true for “Stairway to Heaven,” the Led Zeppelin flagship song.  The sensational play continued later with the famous double guitar. “The Song Remains the Same” was examplory of the precise and patient guitar play.
Greg Thompson plays the drums.  He closely resembles John Bonham and played the drums viciously hard.  He did so while maintaining a cool demeanor.  “The Immigrant Song” was loud and upbeat thanks to the percussion contribution.  The ringing drum beat supported the wrenching collective noises and shreiking moans.  Thompson’s full skillset was best displayed during the “Moby Dick” extended solo which allowed his band mates to take a breather off stage.
The evening closed a bit after midnight with two classics in “Kashmir” and “Rock N’ Roll.”  Zoso remastered the final songs with heart and enthusiasm to the crowds satisfaction.  Audience members sparked their lighters and snapped photos to encapsulate the experience. Clearly they would return as I would I given the chance.
Reviewed by Sean Heraty
Rating: 4/5 stars
Important Links:
22nd Mar2012

Interview with Famed Lyricist Don Black

by rockchicago

Q: What was it like for you to be honored into the Songwriters Hall of Fame?

DB: Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to win quite a few glittering  prizes but  being inducted to the Songwriters Hall Of Fame would have  to be the big one for me. To be included on a list with the likes of Johnny  Mercer and Irving Berlin was beyond my imagination.

Q: What was it like for you working with John Barry, and how did his death affect you?

DB: John Barry was more than a collaborator, we were friends for more than  fifty years. I could probably write a book about John so it’s hard to sum him up  in a sentence or two. I miss his passion for melody and film and his musical  integrity. I guess most of all, although it sounds a little silly, I miss those  long lunches. John would always salivate when ordering and yet he ate like a  ballerina. He was always skinny and I remember Michael Caine presenting him with  an award and saying ” This is the first time the award has been heavier than the  recipient.”

Q: Who were your influences for writing, and what made you decide to be a lyricist?

DB: My influences have always been the giants of the American Song   Book: Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Irving Berlin. I could go on  but you get the idea. I’ve always been a lover of words. I think I was first  bowled over by the simple yet truthful ‘ Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I  gotta love one man till I die’ from Showboat. I could give you a hundred  examples of great lyric writing but there isn’t time or space! I became a lyric  writer because I was working for a music publisher and they were always looking  for lyricists. There was a great demand and very few to choose from. I wrote  quite a few songs before having any success. My first hit song was called Walk  Away and was a hit for the British singer Matt Monro.

Q: I noticed that you originally wanted to become a stand-up comedian. What stopped you from pursuing that?

DB: My brother was a comedy impressionist and I thought I’d try  it. I’ve always felt that there is a strong similarity between comedy and lyric  writing. It’s easy to spoil a gag if you add too many words and lyric writing is  all about compression as well. I tell people that I wrote my first song while  waiting for a laugh in Manchester!

Q: What is your favorite project you’ve worked on?

DB: My favourite project was probably the musical of Sunset Boulevard  because I was raised watching movies and Sunset was one Billy Wilder’s best.  Great story about something the world can relate to; growing older and the  terrifying prospect of being completely forgotten.

Q: What is the difference for you writing for musical theatre compared to film work?

DB: When you write for the theater it’s all about illuminating the character  you’re writing for. Also, you have to move the story forward so that the  audience is a little  wiser after the song has finished. Pop songwriting  isn’t really about clarity, it’s more about getting a catchy hook going and some  fresh sounds. When I first started writing songs for films it was all about  summing up the movie in a three minute distillation. In other words, telling the  audience what kind of movie they were going to see and, hopefully making it  sound irresistible!

Q: What was the most embarrassing thing you’ve done?

DB: I think probably agreeing to write a musical about Romeo and Juliet.  Unlike West Side Story we didn’t set the story in another time and place. We  simply musicalised the original play. It was a huge hit in France and the  producers were convinced that it would work in London. It didn’t. I learned that  you can’t mess with Shakespeare in England.

Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve worked with or met?

DB: It’s an impossible question but if I had to choose one who continues to  impress me it would be Sir George Martin, the man who produced all those Beatles  records. He has had such enormous success as a record producer but he hasn’t  changed one iota since we met over fifty years ago.

Q: I have to say, you’ve written some of the best songs ever heard. Which one is your favorite, Film and Musical?

DB: My personal favourites are not necessarily the most successful. I’m  particularly fond of On Days Like These from The Italian Job. It was sung by my  closest friend Matt Monro and the music was by Quincy Jones – a true life force!  As far as musicals, I would say Billy. This was my first hit show and the music  was by the irreplaceable John Barry and starred Michael Crawford. It played for  three years at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. There can be no better feeling  than to have a hit show in the West End.

Q: What can your fans look forward to from you going on into the future?

I am working on a couple of musical ideas but the next one I think will  be with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Christopher Hampton again. It’s a little early  to go into details but should be announced pretty soon.

22nd Mar2012

Interview with Damian Darlington from Brit Floyd

by rockchicago

Q: How did Brit Floyd form?

DD: Brit Floyd is entirely made up of former members of the Australian Pink Floyd Show (TAPFS). In 2005 I was called upon to tour North America with TAPFS because the Australian bass player wanted to spend more time at home. The following year the Australian guitar player did the same. By 2008, TAPFS was touring North America with none of the original 3 Australians. In late 2010, the 3 Aussies decided to hire new management. The group of musicians that had been touring the US, including 17 year TAPFS veteran, and musical director Damian Darlington decided to remain with manager Chas Cole and take on the name Brit Floyd.

Q: What makes Brit Floyd different from the other Pink Floyd tribute bands?

DD: We endeavor to provide the complete Floyd experience with 9 musicians on stage, a full on lighting rig, and widescreen video projection. While we don’t try to personally look like the actual members of Pink Floyd, we provide the visual experience as well as a note for note musical reproduction. You won’t have to close your eyes to feel like you’re at a Floyd concert – that’s our goal anyway.

Q: How important is the visual aspect to your act?

DD: We are constantly refining our lighting and video projection. Bryan Kolupski our very talented 3D animation artist who is always looking to improve the show with new concepts to accompany the music. The crew works like mad from 9am until showtime to ensure every element is in place and ready to go for the show.

Q: Do you find that some Pink Floyd songs are harder to recreate than others?

DD: Without a doubt. Some songs are straight ahead rockers like Money or Have a Cigar, while others have many moving parts and are more epic in scale like Echoes, Pigs, and many tracks from the Wall that require smooth transitions with sound effects and theatrics.

Q: How often to you mix up your set list or add new material to your repertoire?

DD: For any given tour we usually settle on a single set list, but we have other songs we pull out when we play multiple nights in one venue. We revamp the show every year so we bring something new when we return. It helps keep it fresh for us as well.

Q: How has Pink Floyd been an influence to you in the long run?

DD: Pink Floyd’s commitment to excellence and unwillingness to compromise are what I admire the most. It also never ceases to amaze me when I see absolute joy on the faces in the crowd when they hear the music of Floyd. I think their music is so enduring not only for the quality of the overall production but for the emotional depth of the songs.

Q: What makes Brit Floyd unique?

DD: Apart from the exceptional musicianship which is the core of the band, there is a visual feast in the background. Los Angeles based Bryan Kolupski is the man behind the magic, and a master at everything from animation, and graphic design to video and film production.   Being a true Floyd fan, Bryan’s visuals which support each song are in a word- breathtaking! Alongside having created his own take on the characters which go with the songs themselves, it also stays true to Pink Floyd.   As well as 2D visuals, there is also a 3D experience of the huge inflatable Pig and the infamous Teacher, of which hover above the crowd during the show at various points!   The lighting is state of the art, and is certainly more than the icing on the cake for the average punter. The light show was designed by renowned lighting man Dave Hill, who has worked for 30 years with the biggest names in the music industry, including the Rolling Stones, The Eagles and Led Zeppelin! A conflagration of colours creates the highs and the lows of each song, and thus provides an experience for everyone- ranging from die hard Floyd fans, to first timers…….something which is truly unique!

Here also is a link to a 3 minute concert highlights video from our ‘Live in Liverpool – 2011′ concert which is taken from the DVD- this will give you a first hand look into the show- it’s worth a watch!!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlIVRqU_T3I

If you need further info then go onto the website- www.britfloyd.com

22nd Mar2012

Rock Chicago’s Kevin Pollack interviews Actor Kevin Pollak

by rockchicago

Q: What made you go into acting?

Pollak: Well, I guess it was a number of things. From a very early age, I was quite taken by what I saw on the silver screen. My mom would take me to a movie when I was 5 or 6 years old, and it seemed like an amazing imaginary world. One that I found out that was actually going to be a job that one could do, I guess I became interested. Then I started performing for strangers, lip-synching Bill Cosby’s first album when I was about 10 years old. I did that til I was about 16. And all through those years, I guess I was formulating a fantasy of sunbathing in movies as an actor. I think I suffered from “Hey-look-at-me” disease from an extremely early age.

Q: What inspired you to do impressions?

Pollak: It was just a natural sort of gift, like, I don’t really remember there being a day or one moment when the situation where it was a lightning bolt revelation. I would mock my teachers and whatnot in school, and my friends would laugh, and next thing I knew, I was getting great response from doing the head football coach. I didn’t play football, but he was kind of a mean guy to make fun of. You know, I was in high school, and I was in the quad, the gathering area for my schoolmates and I on campus, and one day I was hanging there with them, and they had this strange look on their faces as they were looking behind me, and before I knew it, I was in a headlock from someone standing behind me. Then, I heard the football coach’s voice in my ear saying, “I heard about it, and I don’t think it’s funny.” And I thought, as I was passing out, I could probably do Marlon Brando. He wouldn’t find me. That’s kind of how it began.

Q: How did you know you wanted to be a comedian?

Pollak: Again, you know, suffering from the “Hey-look-at-me” disease and whatnot, but really, my mom brought home Bill Cosby’s first album. She put it on the Stereo Hi-Fi, this giant six foot wide, wooden piece of furniture, in the living room. Let’s compare that to the Nano, shall we? So she put the album on, and sat down with my dad, and Bill Cosby started talking from the Stereo Hi-Fi, from the album, and I saw my parents laughing uncontrollably. They had laughed so hard, instantly and unnerving, as if they were openly weeping. I mean, to even laugh that hard at this strange voice telling stories, it immediately captured my interest in, “Wow, wouldn’t it be amazing I can make mom and dad do that.” If I can do that, wouldn’t that be great. So, when no one was around, I put the album on, and then slowly memorized it. Then stood in front of the stereo, pretending I was the guy telling the story. Then, I think my mom pointed out Bill Cosby on television, so I can see him. Then, I was lip-synching the album in the living room when nobody was around. Again, I don’t really think I invented lip-synching. I didn’t know what lip-synching was. I was just reenacting this comedian. Then, my mom caught me, and I really was horrified. It wasn’t as if I wanted her to see me doing this. At that point, it has become a sort-of private thing, over many many months of enjoyment. Then, she said, “That’s hilarious. You have to do that for the family at Passover.” It didn’t take too much encouragement from her. Then I thought that would be great. Then, I did it in front of the fireplace at the Zuckers at Passover, amongst cousins, and that was it. I had the bug, and never looked back.

Q: With a movie career going at the same time, why did you decide to do stand-up?

Pollak: Well, I’ve done so many films now, that I really came to appreciate how much more fun it was. I mean, doing movies is an absolute fantasy beyond my wildest dreams, how well things have gone. After a while, it slowly became clear that the actual “doing” of the film, you know actors work 12 hour days. But 11 out of those 12 hours, you’re sitting on your ass, and accumulatively, over the course of 12 hours, you might peak an actual hour of work that you were in front of the cameras, and that hour is magic beyond description. But the other 11 hours is sheer fucking boredom, and then times three months, 5 days a week, times 60 movies, and now you start to realize, “Oh, this doesn’t even come close to standing on stage, live in front of an audience, taking them for a ride of my choosing for an hour.” There’s no comparison. I would never want to give up one or the other. Then, once I started to get touring again in 2001, well I thought, “The magic here is to find the balance between the two.” So, around this time in October, my stand up agent and I will book the next year, and we’ll book probably two dozen dates, and then I’ll reschedule them throughout the year; postponing or canceling, depending if work comes up. I just did two more films this summer, so I had to reschedule some dates. I have a movie coming out this weekend called The Big Year starring Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson. I am in Kevin Smith’s Red State, where I have been touring the world with him, which is now on video and On-Demand. Then, the two movies I did this summer was a Rob Reiner film with Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen. Then, a little independent film, a dark comedy, called Cheer Up, Charlie.

Q: What is your favorite role that you’ve played?

Pollak: I don’t really have a favorite, I mean Avalon was huge, an incredibly important first sort-of dramatic film, Barry Levinson’s masterpiece. It’s a great beautiful film. Ridiculously fortunate for me to work with such incredible actors coming from being just a stand-up comedian, with no real training to speak of. To be an actor, with all those hundreds that auditioned. So, this was the first real step up to the plate sort-of thing. Then, A Few Good Men was being brought up to the majors, and being able to swing with some of the best players in the games, and a legendary hold of my own. That movie came out in 1992, and I crossed the threshold that every actor fantasizes and dreams about, which is going from auditioning to getting offers. Then, of course, The Usual Suspects was almost on its own level of insanity, getting prized, and international credit along with street credit in the independent film world. Playing a sociopath, something I had never contemplated or been allowed to do. That was extraordinary on 17 different levels. It’s difficult for me to really choose a favorite. In Casino, you know, Scorsese, it doesn’t get much better than that. Grumpy Old Men with Matthau and Lemmon. I can go on, unfortunately, for hours.

Q: Who’s been your favorite actor to work with?

Pollak: Oh boy, well, that’s an impossible question. I can’t boil it down to one. I can give you a list, and the list would be: Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Denzel Washington, Tom Cruise, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Sophia Loren, Sharon Stone, Gabriel Byrne, Benecio Del Toro, etc.

Q: Who are your biggest influences?

Pollak: Well, when I got a chance to work with Matthau and Lemmon, that was especially meaningful, because, as a kid, they accomplished something, that I later in life, came to appreciate, which is being a character actor. Being able to portray a wide variety range of people. So I admire Matthau and Lemmon the most. I think, because they are not typical handsome leading men, and yet they became marquee stars, who were allowed within their singular career, to do the most brawd, silly comedy, to drama. Only character actors get a wide range like that. I mean, there’s been a few exceptions, of course, but not many. They had just extraordinary careers. They probably inspired me.

Q: How did your chat show come about?

Pollak: It actually became one of those “careful what you wish” kid of things, because I just walked into the studio space, and before I knew it, these words were coming out of me, that I hadn’t ever thought of , which was, as I was walking around in the studio space, I just blurted out, “I think I wanna do a Charlie Rose, but “fun” from here.” Then, unfortunately, the guy that owned the studio said, “How soon can you start?” And I was fucked. Next thing you know, I was taking over the show, and it has literally taken over my life. It’s been an extraordinary journey. It’s been 2 1/2 years now. Really, on so many levels, just to be a part of a new medium that grows exponentially every six months in such divert ways. To be considered by some, on the forefront of that, in terms of accomplishment. Then, to be able to spend a couple of hours with the people I have. It’s been extraordinary. We’ve got some great ones coming up, Megan Mullally on Sunday, Glen Howerton from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia next Sunday, Ivan Reitman on the Sunday after that, and Ed O’Neill.

Q: If you could meet 3 people in the last 150 years who you haven’t met yet, who would they be?

Pollak: Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), Buster Keaton, and Billy Wilder.

 

Kevin Pollak will be playing:

The Jukebox Comedy Club  Peoria, IL 61604

For tickets call 309-673-5853 or visit www.jukeboxcomedy.com/shows

 

Donnie B’s Comedy Club  Springfield, IL 62707

For tickets call 217-391-JOKE or visit www.funnybonecomedyclub.com

22nd Mar2012

Interview with Movie Actress and Singer-Songwriter Schuyler Fisk

by rockchicago

Q: What made you go from acting to songwriting?

Fisk: It was a natural transition. I started writing songs when I was 14 years old. I had always loved singing, but I had this desire to create my own songs to sing. Professionally, my acting career came first, and then I developed a music career almost by mistake. At 16, I was on the set of a film I was acting in, and the director overheard me playing and singing a song I wrote on my guitar. He asked me to record it so they could put it in the end credits of the film. I did, and that was the first time I had every professionally recorded one of my songs, but it hooked me. After that I sort of pursued it a little more and just got lucky that people started to listen.

Q: Who are your influences?

Fisk: I have so many musical influences – Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Aimee Mann, Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke, Tom Petty and a million more.

Q: What was your inspiration for the album Blue Ribbon Winner?

Fisk: After making my debut record (The Good Stuff) that I loved so much, I felt the pressure of the 2nd record and avoiding the “sophomore slump.” In order to almost trick myself so I wouldn’t feel that pressure, I decided to make the second record more about the experience for me and less about over-thinking if I was making the “perfect” album. Basically, I just decided to go back to my home state of Virginia and surround myself with great people, great musicians and gorgeous countryside and animals. I just wanted to relax and see what we came up with. What we ended coming up with was this record “Blue Ribbon Winner” that I couldn’t be more proud of. It turned out that this record was very cathartic for me about letting things and feelings go that I was holding onto. It was a record that I needed to make, things I needed to say. It is genuine and not forced, and that’s why I think I love it so much. For me, it represents truth. So, that’s how this record came to be.

Q: When and how did you write your first song?

Fisk: I was 14, and I had just learned to play 3 chords on the guitar. G, C, and D. I was upset about this boy at school who called me on the phone the night before. We had this incredible chat and then he ignored me at school the next day. So, I wrote a song about it. It was called “On the Phone.” I wish I could remember the lyrics. I’m sure I have a little tape recording of it somewhere.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters?

Fisk: To let yourself be inspired by other music you love, and don’t be afraid when you are writing to come up with stupid, terrible ideas. That’s part of the process!!

22nd Mar2012

Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam at the Sears Centre: One Truly Weird Circus

by rockchicago

It was a magical evening of music and circus acts at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates for Cirque du Soleil’s latest touring show Quidam. The Sears Centre sort of looks like Allstate Arena from the inside and made this venue a perfect place for Cirque to perform.   When you walk in, there is a large proscenium stage with rails going up to the ceiling. They were used for the amazing aerial artists throughout the show. As the show started, all of the clowns were running around on stage, as a guy in a German Wheel came out and performed his act.   The next act was four young Asian ladies doing a Chinese yo-yo act. That was really interesting. They did some pretty cool tricks with that. I saw that it was all about timing between each other.   As the clowns performed the transition, the next act proceeded to perform. As the silk lowered to the ground, a female aerial artist came down. Next were the jump ropes, which everybody was performing in.   There was clown throughout the show who loved working with the audience. He pulled a girl out of the audience to take part in the routine with him. The clown made it look like a first date with the girl, which was really funny. He came back later on to do a skit where he was the director of a classic silent film with members of the audience, which was also really funny. You can see the clown had great comic skills without saying a word.   But Quidam isn’t just about circus acts performing. It tells a story. The entire show is imagined by a bored young girl named Zoé who is alienated and ignored by her parents. She dreams up the whimsical world of Quidam as a means of escaping the monotony of her life. The show’s title refers to the feature character, a man without a head, carrying an umbrella and a bowler hat. Quidam is said to be the embodiment of both everyone and no one at the same time. According to Cirque du Soleil literature “Quidam: a nameless passer-by, a solitary figure lingering on a street corner, a person rushing past. … One who cries out, sings and dreams within us all.”

After the intermission, there were jugglers, more aerialists, an incredible balancing act performed by a man and a woman. Let me tell you, that was a sight to see. The act was followed by more “clowning” around. Finally, at the end of the show, young Zoé realizes she has her family, and that’s all that matters.   The mysticism of the show made it a lot more enjoyable then a regular circus for me. And the band was fantastic as well. The music of the show was composed by Canadian composer Benoît Jutras. There was, what looked like, a 5-piece band with two vocalists, one male, one female.

Overall, Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam is truly a sight to see, and if it comes to your area, you should definitely check it out. Cirque du Soleil also has a few more shows coming to Chicago as well including Dralion and Michael Jackson: The Immortal Tour, which I heard was the best one yet. Be sure to check both of them out.   Cirque du Soleil’s Quidam runs through Sunday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

Reviewed by Kevin Pollack on 2/9/12

22nd Mar2012

American Idiot at The Oriental Theatre

by rockchicago

Sullen and restless youth invaded the Ford Oriental Theatre last evening and tore the house down with arrival of the national touring company of American Idiot. Inspired by the 2004 Green Day album of the same name, the musical examines today’s youth in the post-9/11 world they’ve inherited – a world they haven’t asked for – a world they want to break away from.

Yes its sex, drugs and rock and roll, but much, much more! Nominally it’s a story of post adolescent angst set in the “recent past”, but essentially it’s timeless in that all teenagers face and make many choices (some good, some bad) on their road to self-discovery.

In this case three young men (Johnny, Will and Tunny) try to find answers to their shallow lives. Johnny is a nihilist who turns to drugs and sex, Will struggles with fatherhood and the pull away from suburban life, Tunny goes to war, and each in his own way tastes love and despair (not necessarily in that order)…as the song lyric states “…innocence can’t last…”.   The American Idiot score, with music by Green Day and lyrics by frontman Billie Joe Armstrong (a poet for his generation), is primarily based upon the Grammy winning album of the same name, but has been expanded to include other Green Day material. The spoken book by Mr. Armstrong and Director Michael Mayer (“Spring Awakening”) is sparse and exists only as necessary to carry the musical and lyrical scenario along.

The power of the score is supported by the equally powerful and compelling direction of Mr. Mayer, and the unique depictions of the restless energy of youth that choreographer Steven Hoggett has designed. The set by Christine Jones is visually spectacular, with pieces that move like organic extensions of the actors. A lighting design by Kevin Adams and video projections by Darrell Maloney contribute vitally to the production.

The orchestrations by composer Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and performed by an on stage six piece rock group, are lean or lush as demanded by the tone of each piece. They’re always played with rock and roll passion, and delivered by the crisp sound design of Brian Ronan.

The music drives the show but it is the people that make it soar. The entire ensemble is superb – yes there are leads, however it would be unfair to single them out for their individual performances when it is the “cast” as a unit that deserves praise for what is a remarkable theatrical experience that should not be missed.

American Idiot – Two week only, now thru February 19th

Ford Oriental Theatre   24 West Randolph, Chicago

Jim Arnold

22nd Mar2012

Time Stands Still at Steppenwolf Theatre: Suffering Chronicles of War

by rockchicago

“Time Stands Still” by former Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Donald Margulies explores the damaged minds and bodies of two former war correspondents and their love. This production, now at Steppenwolf Theatre through May 13th, is based on a dark and troubling script.

In synopsis: photojournalist Sarah Goodwin is brought home to the U.S. by her long time lover, war correspondent James Dodd who suffers “shell shock” from a war zone experience. She too is recovering from life threatening injuries suffered in a separate, roadside bomb explosion. He now desires to live a simple domestic life with her. She is addicted to the drama and chaos of war. Together they struggle with their histories and love for each other, and as she recovers her health, their increasingly conflicting life objectives.

Austin Pendleton’s moody direction combined with subtle, dim (at times interesting) lighting by Keith Parham, has, for the most part, sucked the life from the characters and their dialogue…as the injured Sarah says at one point, “It’s like war at my parents house all over again, only on a different scale”…it’s not terribly interesting. Further, the performances are so low keyed that much of the dialogue is lost and many of those around me in the audience frequently whispered to their seat mates “what did (he or she) say?”

Sally Murphy (Sarah) delivers an atonal, tortured characterization that is one dimensional. Randall Newsome (James) is quite believable as Sarah’s devoted lover and his portrayal grows and builds nicely despite the lack of complimentary counterpoint from Ms. Murphy.  Francis Guninan (Richard Ehrlich) and Kristina Valada-Viars (Mandy Bloom), as May/December lovers, and friends to Sarah and James, both provide agreeable supportive rolls in what is ultimatly an overall uninterestingly presented story.

Time Stands Still – Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 1650 No. Halstead

Performances through May 13th, Box Office (312) 335-1650

Jim Arnold

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