May 6, 2018

Concert #828 - Andre Watts at the Segerstrom Concert Hall (May 3, 2018)

Even though I practically never initiate outings to classical music events, I do not kick and scream when my Better Half asks me to accompany her to such events and, quite often, I find these outings surprisingly rewarding. No better case in point than Andre Watts' appearance last Thursday at the Segerstrom Concert Hall, which turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Andre Watts played Beethoven's Concerto No. 5, also known as the "Emperor Concerto", a piece of music I knew quite well. From our seats we could see Andre's finger-work with great clarity and the sound was outstanding as well. The music grabbed me from the very beginning, so at the end, along with everyone else, my Better Half and I gave Andre Watts a well-deserved standing ovation. There was no encore, though.

Waiting for Andre Watts' arrival

During intermission, I expressed some apprehension about the evening's upcoming second part, namely Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10. Featuring a total of fifty-seven minutes of music I was unfamiliar with, this certainly had the potential of ruining an evening that, up to that point, had been going well. As it turned out, the power of the music, the variety of the instruments that all had their moments in the limelight, and especially the multiple full-orchestra crescendos, got me hooked from the start and kept my mind from wandering away.

I was very impressed with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, its conductor, Carl St.Clair, and the venue itself. The sound was loud and clear, even though there was absolutely no man-made amplification. I know we'll be back for more.

Carl St.Clair
The end of the concert
We went to the concert with our good friends Hans and Valerie, two people who are not only connoisseurs, but also supporters of classical music.
My Better Half (left) and Valerie 
The Segerstrom Concert Hall
The Segerstrom Concert Hall

April 29, 2018

Concert #827 - Benmont Tench at the Largo (April 28, 2018)

This was my second time to see Benmont Tench in a headlining role. Announced as "Benmont Tench and (hopefully!) Friends", the show did not disappoint, not in terms of Benmont's own performance, nor the number and caliber of the "friends" who supported him last night at the Largo.

Benmont, the solo musician, has little to do with Benmont the Heartbreaker, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. That just shows the wide range of his musicianship, and while I count myself as a fan of Tom Petty's work, I can also fully appreciate Benmont's alter ego, the sensitive and occasionally sentimental balladeer that he undoubtedly is.

As expected, Benmont played quite a few songs from "You Should Be So Lucky", his first and, until now, his only solo album. I know his music quite well, so I enjoyed very much listening to live renditions of  "Hannah", "Veronica Said", "Wobbles", "Today I Took Your Picture Down" as well as the album's title track. We also heard lots of newer tunes, but sadly, I don't know their titles.

The only semi-nod to Benmon't work with Tom Petty, was "Welcome To Hell", a song from Mudcrutch's second album. It sounded great.

A few words about Benmont's unannounced guests. While Mike Campbell's appearance was not only anticipated, but almost expected, we all got a thrill when he took the stage along with England's Hattie Webb, who is best known as one half of the Webb Sisters - you may remember them from Leonard Cohen's world tour that kicked off in 2008. Accompanied by Benmont and Mike, Hattie sang "The House Of The Rising Sun", followed by her own number, "River", culled from her 2017 solo album. For the latter, Hattie accompanied herself on harp. Very nice.

Hattie Webb
Mike Campbell

The evening's other guest was Regina Spektor, who was received by the crowd with great enthusiasm. She opened her mini-set with a gorgeous rendition of "Over The Rainbow", the well-known tune from "The Wizard Of Oz". Next, Regina sat down at the piano to perform "The Flowers", a self-penned tune whose coda had elements of Russian folkloric music, or so I thought.

Regina Spektor
Throughout most of the evening, Benmont and his guests benefited from the exceptionally good accompaniment provided by Sebastian Steinberg on upright bass.

Sebastian Steinberg

Benmont ended his set with a free-for-all, as he called it. Together with Mike and Sebastian, he unleashed a rousing rendition of Bob Dylan's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat". 

The entire concert was great, but to these ears, Benmont saved his best for last - his two-song encore, first the traditional "Corrina, Corrina", followed by "Why Don't You Quit Leavin' Me Alone", also from his solo album, were absolutely superb.

I went to the concert with two dear friends, Scott and Odette, who both had a great time, particularly Odette.
My friends Scott and Odette (center), checking in at the Largo
The stage (right side)
The stage (left side)
The stage (left side, different angle)

Concert #825 - Martha Redbone at the Richard & Karen Carpenter Center (April 26, 2018)

Martha Redbone is one of the few performers who can make me attend a concert at a venue other than McCabe's Guitar Shop, so there I was last Thursday at the Richard & Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center on the campus of California State University in Long Beach, to catch a singer that I truly admire. I'm glad I went.

This was not your typical concert. Titled "Bone Hill - The Concert" and weaving together spoken word and music, Martha and her ensemble recreated for us the eventful history of her multi-ethnic family, starting with her Appalachian Cherokee ancestors, a few generations ago, and continuing to her present life. Whether speaking or singing, Martha's delivery was something to behold - even though she was surrounded by a number of musicians who all contributed to the success of the show, it almost felt like I was attending a one-woman show, that's how strong Martha's stage presence was.

Covering multiple genres, the songs Martha sang for us were all thoroughly enjoyable, even though they were all new to me. The ones that instantly stood out were "Caught My Eye" and "Mamah Mason". By the way, all songs were written by Martha and her piano-playing husband and frequent musical collaborator, Aaron Whitby.

The Carpenter Center is a great place to catch a show, but sadly, only about three hundred people showed up for Martha's performance. As far as I am concerned, I will continue to follow her itinerary and whenever she's within driving distance from my place, I'll be in attendance.

Martha Redbone (left) & Soni Moreno at the Carpenter Center
Martha Redbone (center) and her cast
(Aaron Whitby is second from right)

Excerpts from the evening's program
The stage
The Richard & Karen Carpenter Center
On display in the lobby of the venue
On display in the lobby of the venue

Concert #826 - The Deer at McCabe's Guitar Shop (April 27, 2018)

This was my first time to see the Deer in concert. While listening to the band, I tried in vain to come up with the genre that best described their music, so when I got home, I surfed to their web site and here's the wording I found there: "Described as transcendental Texas folk, Cosmic Americana, and stargaze surf-western, the Deer weave psychotropic soundscapes and tranquil, vivid dream-pop". I could not have said it better myself.

The band came out as a quartet consisting of Grace Rowland Park (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Michael McLeod (guitar), Alan Eckert (drums, vocals) and Jesse Dalton (upright bass, vocals). They played mostly their own material, none of which I knew, and as it's always the case with new music, I liked some songs better than others. The inclusion of "Head Over Heals", the song made famous by Tears For Fears in the eighties, was a welcome digression from their own numbers. They also played "Walking In Space", a lesser-known song from Hair, the musical.

Fronting the band, Grace impressed me with her beautiful singing voice and pleasant personality. With their understated playing, the band gave her outstanding support. Some of the evening's best moments came during the band's instrumental interludes, which - with their sometime jazzy and sometime psychedelic tones - had little to do with any traditional genres one could frequently hear at McCabe's.

The evening kicked off with an opening set delivered by Josiah and The Bonnevilles, which turned out to be Josiah without any Bonnevilles. "The Bonnevilles are very small, you can't see them", quipped Josiah soon after he took the stage. Accompanying himself on electric guitar, he sang six or seven songs that did not instantly connect with me, except for his set-ending "Six Dollar Check".

Grace Rowland Park & Michael McLeod at McCabe's
Grace Rowland Park at McCabe's
Jesse Dalton at McCabe's
Michael McLeod at McCabe's
Opening act Josiah at McCabe's
The stage
McCabe's Guitar Shop

April 24, 2018

Concert #824 - Brad Colerick at McCabe's Guitar Shop (April 22, 2018)

In January 2009, I went to McCabe's to see April Verch, an emerging Canadian singer, fiddler and step-dancer. She was good, very good, but it was the opening act, a certain Brad Colerick, who, as far as I was concerned, stole the show - he played his own compositions and they were all strikingly good. Last Sunday, nine years after my introduction to Brad's music, I got to see him once again, this time in a headlining role.

The evening kicked off with an outstanding set delivered by Chauncey Bowers, who looked and sounded like the quintessential folkie outlaw, but - to my surprise - is a Harvard-educated scientist, now retired. with a Ph.D. in cellular biology ... go figure! With songs such as "The Last Thing I Remember" and with the tasteful backing vocals provided by Lisa Turner, Chauncey kept my attention focused on his music for the full duration of his set. 

Chauncey Bowers at McCabe's
South Pasadena's Brad Colerick and his band came out without a formal introduction and for the next ninety minutes or so, they delivered one good song after another, most of them written by Brad himself. Two things stood out for me the most: the quality of Brad's songs and his seemingly effortless singing style. Throw in his sense of humor, friendly demeanor and disarming smile and you have got yourself a fun evening. 

Brad Colerick at McCabe's
Brad's band consisted of David Plenn (electric guitar), Tim Fleming (pedal steel guitar) and Guillermo Guzman (bass). They acted as a true support band - their understated solos were well received by the crowd. Toward the end of the concert, Lisa Turner came back to lend her voice on a couple of songs.

Dave Plenn & Brad Colerick at McCabe's
Picking a highlight is not an easy task, but Brad's gorgeous "Juarez", as well as "Superhero Of The MTA" and "Almost Home" deserve to be singled out. Equally good was "Tucson", a song written by guitarist Dave Plenn. By the way, in addition to being an accomplished musician in his own right, Dave also owns and runs the The Dinosaur Farm Book & Toy Store in South Pasadena.

Brad Colerick & Guillermo Guzman at McCabe's
Brad Colerick & Lisa Turner at McCabe's
The band getting ready for the show
There was nothing I did not like about the show, so the next time Brad plays my favorite venue, you can bet that I will be there, accompanied by a few of my friends.
The set list
Koko Peterson, concert organizer and announcer
McCabe's Guitar Shop - The Listening Room

April 21, 2018

Concert #823 - Peter Himmelman at McCabe's Guitar Shop (April 15, 2018)


It's hard to believe, but thirty-one years have passed since I first saw Peter Himmelman in concert. Back then, in 1987, he did not make an instant fan out of me, but his 1991 album, "From Strength To Strength", was nothing short of a life-changer for me, in a musical sense. Peter's Sunday night appearance at McCabe's was my twenty-third time to see him live, a clear sign that the passage of time has done nothing to dampen my love for Peter's music and his idiosyncratic stage act.

Performing in front of about one hundred loving fans, Peter delivered a set that had quite a few newer songs, but also a healthy dose of oldies, such as "Impermanent Things", Mission Of My Soul", "Measure", "Waning Moon", "7 Circles" and the epic "Been Set Free". The vocal cord surgery that Peter underwent in 2015 must have been a success, as the voice I heard Sunday night was as strong as ever.

There was nothing in Peter's act that appeared to be scripted - there were lots of spontaneous remarks, improvised songs and, of course, the unpredictable crowd response - yet the concert had something I had never noticed before: a predetermined set list!

Peter's set list, featuring his unmistakable penmanship

Peter Himmelman having fun at McCabe's
Peter Himmelman at McCabe's
Peter Himmelman singing "Been Set Free"
Peter Himmelman at the end of his set
Concert announcer Brian Rodriguez
The stage