Previews & Reviews

November 20, 2007

There are certain things in life that just sit with you. Maybe it's a song, maybe it's a scene in your favorite movie, or maybe it's a painting filled with color and life. Whatever "it" is, it rounds out your life and makes the journey a little easier to bear.

For me, it's an entire musical. Rent, the history-making rock musical based on Puccini's opera La Boheme, came to the IU Auditorium Nov. 13 and 14, and the experience filled a hole in my life that I didn't even know existed.

While I was already familiar with the music and storyline from the movie version that came out in 2005, I knew I needed to see it live to get the full experience. Well, I went, and I fell in love with the production all over again.

November 10, 2007

I'm a Rent fan. I love the music, I love the message, and I love the characters who tell the story through their eyes during "a year in the life." So, naturally, seeing the opera that inspired such a production
was crucial. It would be like seeing the movie without reading the book. For me, it was one of the last pieces of the puzzle to help me grasp the message of the plot: that through seasons, sickness, poverty and even death, love can still hold on.

And I loved every minute of it.

Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme played to a packed house in the Musical Arts Center on Nov. 9, and for good reason. The story of four young bohemians dreaming (and freezing) their way through winter in 1800s
Paris is a tale packed with human emotion and relatable experience, even if not all of us have lived it. The characters are strong, the plot even stronger, and for IU Opera Theater's production, the set just blows your mind.

November 10, 2007

Jerry Lee Lewis
Last Man Standing
Artists First AFT-20001-2
Jerry Lee Lewis, piano and vocal duets with (in order of appearance) Jimmy Page, B.B. King, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger & Ronnie Wood, Neil Young, Robbie Robertson, John Fogerty, Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Merle Haggard, Kid Rock, Rod Stewart, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Eric Clapton, Little Richard, Delaney Bramlett, Buddy Guy, Don Henley, Kris Kristofferson


One of the advantages of being my age is that I had the privilege of growing up in the Golden Age of Rock 'n' Roll, from the mid-1950s through the British Invasion of 1964. One of my fondest musical memories is from when I was 11, and just knocked out by listening to Jerry Lee Lewis pounding out "Great Balls of Fire" on the AM radio, back in January, 1958.

November 6, 2007

Davy Knowles knows the blues. The 20-year-old lead singer and guitarist of British blues-rock trio Back Door Slam has been playing since age 11, and his skill on the guitar has sparked comparisons to such legendary musicians as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton.

"It's incredibly flattering," he said during an interview before the band's Nov. 1 show at the Bluebird, "but embarrassing at the same time. Those people really set milestones. I would never put us in the same league."

Reviews of the band consistently do just that, though, albeit with shock that Knowles, at age 20, could sing the blues with such conviction and soul. George Varga's review of the band in The San Diego Union-Tribune describes Knowles as "the precocious nephew of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn and Rory Gallagher," while others repeatedly describe his talent and vocals as "beyond his years."

November 6, 2007

For several years, I've wanted to attend the famed late-night showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I can't tell you why exactly, but there was always something appealing about dressing up like a nutcase and throwing toast at a movie screen, with die-hard fans shouting and singing along to every campy line.

Well, I finally popped my "Rocky" cherry. Granted, it wasn't a midnight showing, but I dressed up, I threw things, I yelled the appropriate lines during the movie -- and I had one hell of a time. Decadent doesn't even begin to describe it.

In case you don't know the story, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a two-hour long, 1975 camp-fest starring Tim Curry as the transvestite scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter who hosts a stranded couple in his mansion one rainy night.

November 6, 2007

The Kelly Richey Band
Sweet Lucy -- KRB1136

I was first introduced to the Kelly Richey Band in the summer of 2006, when I heard this Cincinnati-based band at Indianapolis's noted blues club, the Slippery Noodle Inn. I was impressed with her vibrant, two-fisted guitar playing from the beginning, and complimented her by quoting what was said of Memphis Minnie: "She plays guitar like a man." This CD, Speechless, by her and her elemental band of only David Clawson on drums and Jimmy V on bass, only confirms and deepens my initial impression.

October 23, 2007

Seven Acres Band
Seven Acres
Seven Acres

Howard Glazer and the EL 34s
Brown Paper Bag
Random Chance RCD-23

“Blues had a baby, and they called it rock ‘n’ roll,” Muddy Waters once noted. Certainly the blues and R&B have been integral parts of creating first, rock ‘n’ roll, then rock, and have been a part of these genres’ history since the mid-1950s, responsible for the genesis of blues/ rock hybrids that have ranged from the sublime to the ripoff. Rock is heavily indebted to the blues, and contemporary blues also indebted to rock, as these two CDs show.

October 9, 2007

Pyeng Threadgill
Sweet Home: The Music of Robert Johnson
Random Chance RCD-16

Pyeng Threadgill is a young African-American woman and jazz vocalist, and she has brought together a multiethnic, multiracial ensemble of talented jazz musicians to join her in rendering eleven of Robert Johnson's classic blues songs into modern jazz. A daunting task indeed, but one in which her CD here, Sweet Home: The Music of Robert Johnson not only achieves successfully, but with soul as well.

September 25, 2007

In the opening moments of Joel Pierson's new play Mourning Lori, the character David has an animated argument with his mother, Lori. At stake is whether or not David is mentally ill.

David tells his mother that he's just been under a lot of pressure lately but that things are looking up for him. His mother counters with the fact that she is dead.

Mourning Lori, which opens Oct. 4, at the John Waldron Arts Center's Rose Firebay, is a family drama in a postmodern wrapper.

The setup is simple. Lori has died - committed suicide, in fact - and her family gathers in Chicago to grieve and plan the funeral.There is the father, Michael (played by James Behmke); Talya, his responsible daughter (Whitney Christiansen); Carolyn, the other daughter (Jenn Robison Taylor); and David (Aaron Moon), Hollywood screenwriter and diagnosed schizophrenic.

September 11, 2007

If Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's had grown up and formed a band in the heart of the Midwest instead of New York, one could imagine that the resulting outfit would sound a lot like Cincinnati-based Heartless Bastards, who rocked Bloomington's own Bluebird on Sept. 6.

While the brazenly unapologetic name might make some a little hesitant, one listen to the trio's brand of bluesy, grungy, down-home rock 'n' roll and you can't get them out of your ears.

Kicking off a late show Thursday night, HB drew a decent crowd for still being relatively unknown and were definitely worth the three-hour wait (for this reviewer, at least). Coming off from a recent appearance at this year's Lollapalooza in Chicago and starting a tour of the Midwest, the band has a lot to look forward to, as evidenced by the hard-stomping show.

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