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Archive for the ‘McCarter Theatre’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTILLERS-Very Special Christmas Special, “Baby It’s Covid Outside” (December 18, 2020).

Despite going to many live shows, I haven’t watched a lot of streaming concerts. It’s not the same, and I don’t really like watching things on my computer anyway.

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to buy a ticket for this one.  I saw The Distillers last year and enjoyed the show. But I feel like I didn’t get to fully appreciate it because the crowd was really rowdy and knew the band far more than I did.

So this seemed like a chance to see them “live” up close. The entire special was barely 40 minutes.  This is a bit of a bummer, but at the same time, it was really a perfect length for me.

In addition to the music, there were some skits.  As the show opens, Black Metal Santa unpacks some presents from his sack.  There’s a gun on a stack of presents, he pulls out a squeaking chicken dog toy and then a very adult toy.  He turns around, all Black Metal and says “Merry Fucking Christmas boys and girls, here’s The Distillers.”

On a well-decked-out Christmas-themed set The Distillers start to play.  There’s all kinds of Christmas things–blow up snowmen and giant stocking as well as digital flames.  And a full rig of lights. The band sounds great and the recording is well mixed.  The drums and bass sound huge.

They open with “Sick of It All.”  Brody Dalle is up front playing guitar and singing.  To her right is Tony Bevilacqua on guitar.  To her left is Ryan Sinn on bass.  All three are wearing Santa hats.  They all sing the opening verses and it sounds like a wall of vocals. Drummer Andy Granelli is not wearing a Santa hat, but he does have a knit cap on. The song sounds great–a blast of punk to celebrate the season.

They follow with the outrageously catchy punk of “Oh Serena.”  When I saw them, they opened with these two songs as well.  But this set list deviates somewhat. 

Up next is the quieter “L.A. Girl.”  It starts with everyone playing softly while Brody sings.  Then the whole band kicks in with massive drumming and some tasty bass fills. A martial drum beat opens “I’m a Revenant.”  Both guitarists play the lead riffs before Brody starts singing.  This song has some great sing-along moments as well as a brief part where it’s just Brody before the band marches in again.

“Sunsets” comes next.  They didn’t play this when I saw them.  Brody’s guitar is clean as the song opens.  She sings without a snarl.  The song does not turn into a balls out rocker.  It stays slow but gets very intense.  Bevilacqua makes interesting bendy sounds from his guitar in the middle jam section.  The song slows to a bass rumble before some Christmas music starts playing.

Black Metal Santa comes out and gives Brody a present.  It’s the album Faith by The Cure.  But there’s nothing inside–it’s just the cover. Black Metal Santa says, “Its my ‘Primary’ Christmas gift to you.  A cover.  Now play the damn song.”  It’s an amusing introduction to the song “Primary,” which I did not expect at all.  It sounds fantastic–close to the original, but heavier and obviously with Brody’s vocals sounding very different from Robert Smith’s.  She restrains her vocals until a loud snarling “oh remember” part.

Brody removes the Santa hat for “Dismantle Me” and the lights get brighter so you can see her more clearly.  This song has a great split with really fast guitars from Bevilacqua and slower guitars from Brody. 

The super fast chords continue into “Die on a Rope.”  This song also has some “Oh way oh” parts that are really catchy for such a dark song.  The middle jam is just bass and drums and Bevilacqua’s squeaky feedback while Brody sings.  There’s some thunderous drumming in the end as they jump into “City of Angels.”  This song is really catchy as she and the boys sing together.  There’s another cool middle section of just Brody’s guitar and noisy guitar sounds from Bevilacqua before the band roars off again.

The song ends and Brody looks off stage and says “Jesus.”  Granelli chides, “Brody, it’s Christmas.”  But she points off stage and Jesus comes out.  They ask what he’s doing there and he says it’s his birthday. They ask if he can make it snow.  Jesus says he makes miracles happen–he’s got a guy.   He calls a guy who comes down and the snow starts to fall.  Jesus and the guy get in a fight over who actually makes the miracles happen.  The guy says “ever since cofefe.”  But Granelli stops them, “we’re trying to do a Christmas show here, knock it off.”

Brody takes the mic and says “this year’s been a real ass kicker.  We’re looking forward to the new year.” 

Then they start Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”  It sounds great and is a perfect set ender for a holiday special.

The show ends and they play the Ramones song over the credits.  The band takes bows and makes snow angels.

It’s a fun special and totally worth the $15.

[READ: December 25, 2020] “The George Spelvin Players”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 25.  Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers, could’ve sworn she left that porridge bowl right over there [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I started this story and thought it was so familiar that I was sure I had read it before.  But as it went along, it didn’t seem familiar anymore, so maybe there is a similar component of it that I had read in another story. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHAWN COLVIN-Happy Holidays from Shawn Colvin and McCarter Theatre Center! (December 19, 2020).

On December 19th, I received an email from McCarter Theatre:

Shawn Colvin, a dear friend of McCarter, gave us a special present to share with all of you!

I have enjoyed Shawn Colvin’s music over the years, but somehow was never quite aware that she played McCarter (apparently many times).  At the end of this session, she says that she is arranging something special with the Artistic Director of McCarter for 2021.

I think I’ll certainly have to check that out.

For this special concert, Shawn plays two Christmas songs from her home.

It amuses me that she says she wants to give us a little holiday cheer and then she plays “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  Good grief.

her version is lovely and her voice sounds very good.

The second (of two) songs is “Little Road to Bethlehem.”  I don’t know this song but it’s similar in tone and it suits Colvin perfectly.

This isn’t exactly the holiday pick-me-up it might have been, but Colvin sounds great and it is nice to hear her.

[READ: December 22, 2020] “The Ones We Carry With Us”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 22.  Sara O’Leary, author of The Ghost in the House, puts a bowl of candy on her front step with a sign that says “Help yourself.” [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

This is the second story in this collection which I have read previously (that’s a good ratio 2 out of 22).  Here’s a link to the original post.  This is a slightly edited version of my original post:

This story starts with a fascinating sentence: ” A few years ago, I accidentally midwifed a death.”

This could literally mean many things, although figuratively it makes sense for what she actually means.

The narrator then goes on to tell us about three women whose lives have impacted her.

The woman who died was Agatha. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: June 6, 2020] Acrobuffos

indexS. took her Girl Scouts to see Acrobuffos and said it was great.  I had actually wanted to go to the show but was on a Scout hike that weekend.

So when they announced they were coming to McCarter, I bought us all tickets.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

What are Acrobuffos?

Visual, completely wordless, comedic physical theater. The Acrobuffos present sophisticated image-driven performances, playing games using poetic mime. They are not your typical clowns – they are artists and surrealists – who will not be easily categorized.

Who wouldn’t love that?

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[CANCELLED: May 21, 2020] Chris Thile

indexI got tickets for S and I to see Chris Thile because we both like Nickel Creek.  I’m not even sure that I told her about this show before McCarter decided to cancel their entire season.

Chris Thile is a masterful mandolin player.  I’ve seen him on numerous occasions in various Tiny Desk Concerts and I saw him with Punch Brothers, which was a lot of fun.

I’m not sure what he would have done as a solo artist (or if he was going to have special guests).  I don’t really care so much either, because whatever he did would be great.

I hope he comes back next season.

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[CANCELLED: April 5, 2020] Cirque Éloize: Hotel

indexWe have seen two productions by Cirque Éloize: Saloon and Cirkopolis and they have both been fantastic.  We were really excited to see this third show, Hotel.  [They have six shows in production: ID, Nezha, the Pirate Child and Serge Fiori, Suel Ensemble.

Then my Scout even was scheduled for that weekend which meant that C. and I couldn’t go but S. and T. could.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

 

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[CANCELLED: March 27, 2020] The Peking Acrobats

indexWe didn’t have tickets for this show yet.  I’m not entirely sure we were even going to go.

We have seen many Chinese acrobatic troupes perform; however it has been six years since we last went to such a performance and we were thinking it might be fun to take the kids now that they are a little older.

There always seems to be some kind of troupe coming through New Jersey, so even if this show is not rescheduled, it seems likely we’ll be able to see some amazing acrobats in the near future.

 

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[ATTENDED: January 18, 2020] Richard Thompson

After seeing Richard Thompson back in 2016 (three times in a short span) I decided I could take a break from seeing him a bit.  Although when he announced an electric trio tour I was really excited to check it out.  Sadly, I couldn’t make that show.  But when he announced another show at McCarter (I believe his 20th show there?) I figured it had been four years and was time to see him again.

This was my tenth time seeing Richard Thompson (first time in 1997).  I tend to focus a lot on the songs that Richard plays at every show.  I’m sure I’ve seen “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” ten times.  But in this set he played 13 songs that I hadn’t seen in at least the previous two shows and that’s pretty awesome.

We had some amazing seats (center stage about eight rows back) and we could see his fretwork absolutely clearly. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] I’m With Her

I’m with Her is something of a folk and bluegrass supergroup made up of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  I knew each of them from previous Tiny Desk Concerts and knew I’m With Her from a Tiny Desk Concert as well.

I was pretty excited to see them as both Sara and Sarah were on my list of artists that I wanted to see live (I was otherwise unfamiliar with Aoife).  One thing that always come up is their name–did they name themselves after the Hillary Clinton campaign?  In fact, no, the three got together and named themselves before Clinton used the slogan for her campaign.  Technically the band came first, but the Clinton campaign didn’t take it from them either, evidently–coincidental naming.  The band says that the exposure certainly didn’t hurt–but if it had been the other side’s campaign, they definitely would have fought it.

But on to the music.  The women sing in absolutely gorgeous harmony.  Individually, their voices are wonderful, but as they add one and then a second harmony…swoon.  They also switch instruments constantly–fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, banjo.  Everything sounds a little different. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] Billy Strings

I had never heard of Billy Strings before this show.  But when he was announced, the crowd was really effusive about him, which led me to think that he was well-known.  And I gather he is.  He has some 40,000 fans on his Facebook page, which is no small thing.   (Interestingly, headliners I’m with Her have only 22,000).

So Billy Strings came out and I swear I thought he was 18 (he’s 26).  He said a friendly “Hi, folks” and proceeded to absolutely blown me away with his guitar playing.  He opened with Brown’s Ferry Blues a folk song from around 1930 and proceeded to play the heck out of his guitar.  He also sang the rather amusing lyrics in a good ‘ol drawl (he is from Michigan).

Then he surpirsed me even further by playing a Jethro Tull song (which made S. and I quite happy).   It was a rather fast-tempoed version of “Thick As a Brick” and it was wonderful.  The song segued into a guitar workout called Fishin’ Creek Blues.

He then played “Tom Dooley,” a song I never expected to hear, well, ever.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: April 18, 2018] Jeff Tweedy

I knew I was overbooking myself this particular week (this was my third concert in three days), but how could I pass up Jeff Tweedy playing in Princeton?  He’d never played here before.  Who knew when he’d do it again.  And I could get seats by walking right up the box office.

After seeing Wilco live I knew I’d want to see them again.  And while Wilco is much more than Jeff Tweedy, Jeff Tweedy by himself is pretty great.  Especially if you’re in Row E.

I came to Wilco pretty late in their existence.  I didn’t want to know about any alt-country bands back then.  Who needed to add -country to alt- music?  Well, then I heard “Via Chicago” live and I was hooked.  I have retroactively enjoyed all of their releases.

So how awesome was it that he opened with “Via Chicago” just for me? (more…)

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