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Art and Culture  «
Edward Albee's New Play
Life in General
Donald Gavron
Tuesday, 30 August 2016
Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Art and Culture
Two elemental forces in the guise of Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck unleashed themselves July 26 in Holmdel, N.J., with the guitar greats delivering the goods onstage in a whirlwind of musical styles.

Blues legend Guy (who turns 80 on July 30) had the PNC Bank Arts Center crowd in his hands from the start. He kept everyone involved in the action, peppering his comments on the blues with some choice f-bombs in between classics such as his “Damn Right I’ve Got the Blues” and Eddie Boyd’s “Five Long Years.” During a pause, Guy shared his philosophy with the audience: “Be what you want to be as long as you let me be what I want to be.” This prompted some raucous cheers.

Guy continued to milk reactions from the devoted (but far from sold-out) crowd of aficionados. “I’m a bluesman,” he yelled out to the audience, which responded with thunderous applause. “I’m trying to keep the blues alive.” He followed with interpretations of classics made famous by contemporaries Muddy Waters (the Willie Dixon-penned “She’s Nineteen Years Old” and “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man”) and John Lee Hooker (“Boom Boom”).

At one point, Guy strode from one edge of the stage to the other, playing in a spotlight. He then walked through the first few dozen rows of the audience, strumming and schmoozing with the near-hysterical fans.

On a blistering version of the Dixon-written “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” Guy even added a few bars from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “Purple Haze” to the mix. Noting the concert’s time restraints (he could have probably played all night), Guy closed his set with a soulful version of the title tune from his 2008 album, Skin Deep. He’s keeping the blues alive, for sure.

Headliner Beck, at 72, never seems to want to slow down. And on this night, he mixed and fused some brash blues classics with rock, soul and even a soupçon of hip-hop.

Beck began his evening with “The Revolution Will Be Televised,” from his excellent (and at times dark) new album, Loud Hailer, as flashing lights and an illuminated bullhorn (carried through the audience by singer Rosie Bones) set the atmosphere. “Live in the Dark,” “O.I.L. (Can’t Get Enough of That Sticky)” and “Scared for the Children” were also standouts from his first new studio recording in six years.

He swayed the crowd with classic renditions of signatures “Freeway Jam,” “Big Block” and “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers.” A stellar version of the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s “You Know You Know” featured Beck’s guitar pyrotechnics, drummer Jonathan Joseph’s hyperbolic fills and bassist Rhonda Smith’s plucky solo.

Bones was nothing less than stunning on the new songs; she exudes the purring vocal delivery of a young Eartha Kitt merged with a hip-hop sensibility. The other vocalist in Beck’s band was former Wet Willie singer Jimmy Hall, who provided the heavy lifting on covers of Stevie Wonder’s classic “Superstition” and Bonnie Dobson’s “Morning Dew” with a wonderful controlled fury.

Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” was another highlight, with Hall providing soulful vocal embellishment. Beck also performed Lonnie Mack’s “Lonnie on the Move” as a tribute to the blues-rock singer-guitarist who died earlier this year.

“Right Now” closed the set with a funky rap vocal by Bones — an odd choice, but it worked. Beck is not known for playing it safe, and he took some chances with the new material on this night. For his solo encore, he went with a bona fide classic: a touching version of The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”

Guy’s roadhouse-blues flash combined with Beck’s stirring rock-blues-jazz mixture was a heady experience, to say the least.

— By Donald Gavron


Direct Link to 

Posted by dgavron at 1:58 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 6 April 2018 4:34 AM EDT
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Sunday, 17 October 2010
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Art and Culture

Fans of Neil Young have come to expect the unexpected. He’s reached the point in his career (and life — Young will turn 65 on Nov. 12) where it becomes hard not to retreat into the past and repeat himself. Young is not one to stand pat or back down. He’s like the prototypical gunfighter of the old west, still fast on the draw, still on top of his game.

With Le Noise (Reprise), Young once again cheats the ticking clock, changing his frame of reference with a sonic assault that is beautifully structured by producer Daniel Lanois, whose credits include works byPeter GabrielU2 and Bob Dylan.

Recorded in Lanois’ mansion in Los Angeles, Le Noise, according to the producer, "is just a man on a stool and me doing a nice job on the recording." Modesty aside, Lanois brings a palette of sonic textures to Young's compositions that enhances without burying the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's signature guitar sound. Lanois refines but never obscures the bite in Young’s tales, enhancing the performer’s sharp-edged songs and masterful feedback.

Young’s major weapons of choice here are a hollow-body Gretsch White Falcon guitar and Lanois' custom-made electric-acoustic hybrid. Young almost but never quite disappears beneath Lanois’ tape loops, distortion and echo effects. Like a ghost haunting the mansion’s long hallways and cathedral ceilings, the overall sound is ethereal and at times eerie.

Love, loss and war are the main themes here, as the lyrics search for solid ground and stability in a world being torn apart by war and stripped away by the loss of friends (such as sideman 
Ben Keith and producer Larry Johnson). The opening track, "Walk With Me," is classic Young, a love story filled with lament and portent, an ode to lost friends and loves, a hand reaching out for comfort.

"Love and War" is one of the quietest and most powerful tracks here. "There've been songs about love/I sang songs about war/since the back streets of Toronto." Young's sentiments haven’t changed much since his days with Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. War is still the wound, and love is the suture to bind it. It may be Young's most quintessential anthem on the condition of war. In the final line of the song, Young vows to continue to "Pray about love and war."

"The Hitchhiker" is an autobiographical search for wisdom after countless mistakes. "Then came paranoia/And it ran away with me," is just one of the afflictions the narrator encounters. The lyrics "I wish I was an Aztec/Or a runner in Peru/I would build such beautiful buildings/Like an Inca from Peru" are a sly reference to Young's 1982 recording Trans, the experimental album (inspired by the German group Kraftwerk) that bears the most resemblance to Le Noise, in which Young’s use of the vocoder and other electronic treatments probably drove David Geffen to label the singer "uncommercial."

The lyrics of "It’s An Angry World" hold out hope. "It's an angry world and everything is going to be all right." The same sentiment is embraced in "Someone's Going to Rescue You." The album ends with the song "Rumblin.' " The lyrics "When will I learn how to listen?/When will I learn how to feel?" bring a somber and thoughtful conclusion to a powerful album of engaging songs.

Le Noise (a play on Lanois’ surname) is a dance on the edge of a cliff, a concerto played in the heart of a hurricane, a levee valiantly holding off a tsunami. It is another successful experiment produced (along with Lanois) from the laboratory of Neil Young's mind.

— By Donald Gavron

Posted by dgavron at 8:59 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 17 October 2010 9:01 PM EDT
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Sunday, 1 August 2010
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Art and Culture

Sting with the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra


Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Bethel, NY

Friday, July 30, 2010


Sting’s quest to reinvent himself reached new heights in an invigorating concert Friday evening at Bethel Woods. Backed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, he presented a 24-song set in a relaxed and balmy open-air concert that was intimate and compelling.

Sting looked and sounded great (wearing a black dress jacket, vest, and white dress shirt), and his current tour has brought him about as far away from his successful reunion with The Police (in ’07 and ’08) as one can get without switching galaxies. Although The Police catalog of hits were well-represented with five songs, the accent was on both popular and less familiar works from Sting’s 25-year solo career. 

The 45-piece orchestra (“This is the biggest band I’ve ever played with,” Sting said during the introductions) was a wise choice since the violins, cellos, flutes and horns gave depth and texture to “Englishman in New York,” “Fields of Gold” and “A Thousand Years,” among many others. The orchestral arrangements (conducted by Steven Mercurio) were supported (but not underwhelmed) by Sting regulars like Dominic Miller (on acoustic and electric guitar), who pulled out all the stops on hard-rocking tunes like “Next to You” and “King of Pain”; and vocalist Jo Lawry — who offered up a stirring duet with Sting on “Whenever I Say Your Name,” from “Sacred Love,” Sting’s most recent record (2003) of new material. Ira Coleman played electric and upright bass and Cerys Green added clarinet solos on “Mad About You” and “Englishman in New York.” Rhani Krija and David Cossin played a variety of percussion instruments and were particularly effective during a rousing rendition of “Desert Rose.”

 “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” opened the concert and stirred up the near-sellout crowd. The violins and cellos adding a richness and density to The Police classic “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.”

Another highlight was a slow and lush “Every Breath You Take,” (a dual Grammy-winner for The Police in 1984) which seemed to obfuscate the original possessive/paranoid tone of the song, only to give it a more ominous feel.

“Moon Over Bourbon Street,” was given a theatrical Halloween night treatment, with Sting relating how a walk in New Orleans and a call from Mel Brooks (asking the singer to appear in a film called “Dracula Sucks” — “Which was never made,” Sting flippantly stated) inspired his tale of a vampire seeking love. The Stage was lit in blue light except for Sting, who wore a long-tailed Victorian jacket for effect. Over the stage three cube-shaped projector screens rotated and played video of a full moon and clips from F.W. Murnau’s classic horror film “Nosferatu.” The cubes were omnipresent during the concert, adding images by Lillian Bassman, Michel Gondry and Antoine Catala to the numbers. The stage design (by artistic director Robert Molnar) was spare and modernist in a Bauhaus-influenced style.

Sting has become a subtle raconteur on stage, delivering humorous anecdotes on his jobs prior to his music career (one in particular was “the worst f***ing job I ever had” — obviously, considering how things worked out) and a poignant tale about his sea-faring ancestry and late father (a milkman), who wanted his son to go to sea, which Sting interpreted as a wanting for him to do “something exciting” with his life.

One of his best stories concerned the country-tinged “I Hung My Head,” (which Sting proudly stated was covered by Johnny Cash) the origins of which began when Sting was a youngster watching westerns, especially “Bonanza.” Sting held up a DVD collection of the popular 1960s TV show, saying how he wanted to be a member of the Cartwright clan (“Ben Cartwright, Hoss Cartwright … Sting Cartwright”).

“You Will Be My Ain True Love” was given an almost reverent treatment by Sting and Jo Lowry, but reminded everyone present of the simple beauty of the Oscar-nominated song (a duet Sting performed with Alison Krauss for the film “Cold Mountain”).

The show was anything but stuffy and serious.  There were moments when the violin section locked arms and twirled around in dance and the bassists stood up to do “the wave,” a sporting-event tradition. Sting danced and swiveled his hips during “She’s Too Good For Me” and several other up-tempo numbers. The entire atmosphere was light-hearted but not irreverent. “Fragile” (a somber classic that is fittingly remindful of each new world tragedy) was played solo by Sting on acoustic guitar as one of the encores. He closed the show with an acapella version of the intro to “I Was Brought To My Senses.”

“I was born in 1951,” Sting recounted prior to the song “Russians.” “I’m 58 — don’t do the math,” he wryly stated, his trim, youthful presence saying otherwise. By constantly challenging himself one can only surmise that the math will always contradict Sting’s passion and drive for originality. The nearly 2-1/2 hours of entertaining and diverse music produced a fabulous  and memorable evening from a consummate performer and his band.


Set List


If I Ever Lose My Faith In You

Englishman In New York

Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic


Straight To My Heart


Fields Of Gold

I Hung My Head

Shape Of My Heart

Why Should I Cry For You?

Whenever I Say Your Name

When We Dance

Next To You




A Thousand Years

Tomorrow We'll See

Moon Over Bourbon Street

End Of The Game

You Will Be My Ain True Love

All Would Envy

Mad About You

King Of Pain

Every Breath You Take




Desert Rose

She's Too Good For Me


I Was Brought to My Senses (acapella)


— Donald Gavron, July 31, 2010


Posted by dgavron at 12:52 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 27 August 2010 11:55 AM EDT
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Sunday, 27 September 2009
Mood:  chillin'
Now Playing: FRINGE
Topic: Art and Culture

Currently the best show on TV is FRINGE (FOX-TV) on Thursday nights. It just started it's second season and it's worth checking out. If you can rent/buy the first season on DVD then you'll be ahead of the game.

If it sounds like an X FILES rip-off you might be right, but this show has more heart and a better cast. FRINGE is a division of the FBI responsible for tracking unusual incidents that fit a certain "pattern" of abnormal activity. The shows deal with paranormal activity, psychokinesis and a lot of other big words that are splayed across the opening credits of the show. Things get weird and downright scary in some episodes as the agents track a terrorist organization known as ZFT that may be responsible for genetic manipulations in the populace. There's also a sinister corporation called Massive Dynamic helmed by none other than Leonard Nimoy (with an assist by Altered States' Blair Brown). There are a lot of references to old films and TV shows of the past that spark some homages for people with a vast history of television. The cast is wonderful. Australian actress Anna Torv leads the group as Olivia Dunham, an FBI agent who may have been experimented on in the past as a child. The only person who may know is Dr. Walter Bishop, who has just spent 17 years in a mental hospital and is now released uunder the care of his son, a globe-trotting shady entrepreneur who has been enlisted in the group under duress (or maybe it's just a good place to hide from his enemies). John Noble as Walter is a treat to watch. He's so out of touch with social norms that there's a certain naive quality to him, but his past hides a much darker side that he is trying to repress. There are a lot of skeletons in the respective closets of the main characters to explore. Lance Reddick as FBI chief Broyles is benevolent and sinister at the same time and Kirk Acevedo as Olivia's partner is a cornerstone of humanity and Olivia's right hand man until a shapeshifter took over his body. Oh yes, and that's not all ...

Posted by dgavron at 10:37 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 September 2009 10:56 PM EDT
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Friday, 30 May 2008
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Art and Culture
Last week I attended a fascinating show at the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. The artist Cai Guo Qiang exhibited some striking, unusual and brilliant works.

Most of his work is created using gunpowder as an element in forming his art. His politically and socially charged art follows the dictum "No destruction, no construction," a phrase lifted from the sayings of Chairman Mao.

The museum rotunda was consumed by a large structure of 8 ascending cars (white Chevy Cavaliers?) sprouting neon tubes that pulsed, representing a car being launched upward by a land mine or bomb. It was an imposing image, stretching from the bottom floor to the top — a destructive image that also was paradoxically quite stylish and beautiful.

The exhibit is over, but check out the link below for some artistically challenging, uplifting work by a major contemporary artist.

Posted by dgavron at 2:24 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 May 2008
The Wounded Muse
Mood:  don't ask
Topic: Art and Culture
The recent article in Vanity Fair magazine about James Frey has my blood boiling. Here's a kid from a wealthy family who got his foot in the door of the publishing industry and thought he could get away with writing a fictionalized memoir. He lied about his so-called exploits. Let me say this again: He lied. And they weren't little lies. They were big ones. He lied about being in jail while his girlfriend committed suicide. He ws not in jail when this happened. He turned his back on someone who needed help.

He tried to model himself after macho writer Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac and others, and he failed. Mailer and other writers have written fictionalized memoirs in the past, but they acknowledged that they were fiction. 

Frey claims he was led astray by agents and publishers who wanted to release the book as a "memoir" when he claimed all along it was a "novel." The people he dealt with disagree. Frey is just another bored rich kid who had nothing else to do but get high and write a "meaningful" account of recovery.

There is nothing he says that we can believe. And, oh yes, he doesn't practice the rules of grammar because he doesn't know the rules. He's not James Joyce. Joyce knew the rules and broke them.

Frey can't write, but he gets published, and now he's wallowing in all the controversy because he has a new book coming out about low-lifes in L.A. Don't patronize this hack. Whatever muse is speaking to this fraud is a corrupt one.

Buy "Tree of Smoke" by Denis Johnson instead. This guy can write. Life is short, read well.

Posted by dgavron at 9:55 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 6 May 2008 3:09 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Underwater Photography
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Art and Culture
Here's a link to view some of the work of photography Howard Schatz. He photographs his models underwater in these photos. Some of the pieces have a dream-like quality to them. Cool stuff.

Posted by dgavron at 3:45 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008 4:06 PM EST
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Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Art and Culture 2008
Mood:  chatty
Topic: Art and Culture
I'll try not to make this diatribe long. The thing that usually ticks me off at this time of year is the AA nominations. Sure, sometimes they get it right, nominating Javier Bardem and Viggo Mortensen, as well as the Coen Brothers for "No Country For Old Men." NCOM was the BEST film of the year. Well acted and written, it was a dark view of contemporary life (although the film was set in 1980) about a battle of good vs. evil that ws slowly being won by the black hats. Tommy Lee Jones (always brilliant) is the wise old sage sheriff who is more appalled at what has happend to this country than he appears to be intyerested in finding the killer (Bardem).
The movie is twisty (you never know what's waiting around the corner) and dark dark dark. The ending is especially a jolt. It's unexpected, but dead on target given the theme of the film.

Now back to the other nominations. Tim Burton being overlooked for "Sweeney Todd" was a travesty. "Charlie Wilson's War" should have nailed a Best Director nod for Mike Nichols.

But any "Arts" institution that has honored Cher, Tatum, Eminem, 36 Mafia, Anna Paquin, Prince, Bon Jovi, Whoopi, Sofiya Coppola -- is beyond comprehension. Especially when you consider that Stanley Kubrick, Cary Grant, Richard Burton, John Garfield, Robert Mitchum, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Robert Altman have never won awards.
What can you say?

The biggest joke about the AA nominations this year is in the Film Editing category. Let's see how many top-notch film critics and industry people get this one. Roderick Jaynes was nominated in the Best FIlm Editing category. There is no Roderick Jaynes. This is a pseudonym for Joel and Ethan Coen. They edit their own films (and like to joke around a bit). You can look this up on

By the way, can anyone tell me the difference between the Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing categories?

For anyone who cares, here's my list of the Best of 2007:

Many more to see including:
3:10 TO YUMA

The Academy Awards have nothing to do with ART. Once in a great while they get it right, but it's a popularity contest, folks.

Posted by dgavron at 3:09 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008 3:53 PM EST
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