August 24, 2018

Concert #841 - Tony Joe White at the Grammy Museum (August 21, 2018)


The Grammy Museum opened in 2008, yet inexplicably, Tuesday night was my first time to walk through its doors. I'm glad I did. I paid $26 for my ticket, while parking set me back a whopping 30 bucks. Welcome to the LA Live district of Downtown LA!

Sticking with the venue's typical event format, Tony Joe White and museum executive Scott Goldman chatted on the stage for about fifty minutes, then Tony Joe delivered a set of medium length, I'd say forty minutes or so. This was a thrilling event for me, as I count myself among Tony Joe's earliest fans. Indeed, my love for his music goes back to the late sixties, when I first heard "Groupie Girl".

I listened with great interest to every word uttered by Tony Joe with his delightfully heavy Southern accent. He spoke about his earliest musical influences, Lightnin' Hopkins in particular, as well as his earliest days as an aspiring musician in Corpus Christi, Texas. He also spoke about his subsequent interaction with Elvis Presley and Tina Turner, among others.

Tony Joe White (left) & Scott Goldman at the Grammy Museum
The musical part of the evening kicked off with "Stockholm Blues", played by Tony Joe solo, after which he was joined by Bryan Owings, a drummer with impressive credentials. To these ears, the highlight of the show was Tony Joe's guitar playing and the distinctive sound of his wah-wah pedal.

Tony Joe White at the Grammy Museum
Tony Joe White & Bryan Owings at the Grammy Museum
The Set List
Stockholm Blues
Baby Please Don't Go - Boom Boom
Heartbreak Hotel
Bad Mouthin'
Big Boss Man
The Guitar Don't Lie
Polk Salad Annie
Untitled Instrumental Number

This was a very special evening for me, as I have been idolizing Tony Joe White since my teenage years. I hope and pray that I'll get to see him again.

The stage
The LA Live district of Downtown Los Angeles

August 10, 2018

Concert #838 - Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater (July 21, 2018)

Once a year, my Better Half and I host Sara and Kate, our two Seattle-based granddaughters. While scouring the net in search of some suitable form of entertainment, I stumbled upon what appeared to be a low-budget and most likely amateurish stage production of Mary Poppins. Good enough for my six and seven year old young ladies, I said to myself, so I bought four tickets, which - at $28 each - set us back a little over one hundred bucks. Was it money well spent? Read on!

Not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what was in store for us. From our front-row seats, we witnessed an incredible performance with excellent singing, outstanding acting, dazzling dancing and, overall, lots of pace, color and professionalism - take it from someone who has seen both the Broadway and Los Angeles production of the same musical. From Mary, Bert and the Banks, to the Bird Woman and Miss Andrew, everyone on stage was practically perfect in every way! Mesmerized by the show, our granddaughters remained focused way past their normal attention span and they celebrated with enthusiasm the demise of the terrifying Miss Andrew and her Brimstone and Treacle potion. And just like the rest of, Sara and Kate absolutely loved Sadie Fisher and Ethan Kuwata, whose performance as the Banks children was exceptionally good.

Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater
L to R: Ethan Kuwata, Philip McBride, Sadie Fisher, Amanda Greig

Main roles
Mary Poppins: Amanda Greig
Bert: Philip McBride
George Banks: Spencer Johnson
Winifred Banks: Eileen O’Donnell
Jane: Sadie Fisher
Michael: Ethan Kuwata
Bird Woman: Kelly Gable
Miss Andrew: Kim Peterson

There's nothing like going to a show with low expectations, only to be knocked out by the performance and that was precisely our experience at Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theater. It is obvious that talent is not in short supply in Los Angeles and vicinity!

Amanda Greig as Mary Poppins
Image result for Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater
Philip McBride, Amanda Greig & the Living Statues
Mary Poppins at the Morgan-Wixson Theater
The chimney sweeps
The end of the show
Kate (left) and Sara at the Morgan-Wixson Theater

Santa Monica's Morgan-Wixson Theater

August 7, 2018

Concert #837 - Bob Neuwirth at McCabe's Guitar Shop (July 14, 2018)

This was my first time to see Bob Neuwirth as a headliner, after having seen him a number of times as a participant in events featuring multiple artist. I went to the show hoping to see a few unannounced guests, hear some fun stories, listen to a few good songs and I'm happy to say that, in all respects, my expectations were met.

Anchored by multi-instrumentalist David Mansfield, Bob's band also included Steven Soles (guitar), Tony Gilkyson (guitar) and Bob Thiele, Jr. (piano, guitar). They provided great support throughout the evening. Later in the show, it was time for the band members to have their own solo moments: Tony sang "Rattlesnake Boy", Bob Thiele delivered "What A Wonderful World", a song written by his father and Steven sang a love song whose title I did not catch.

While affected by the passage of time, Bob Neuwirth's singing voice still sounded pretty good for someone in his eightieth year of existence. He played without a set list and even though I was unfamiliar with most of Bob's songs, I could easily tell that his songwriting was and still is top-notch.

The evening's surprise guest turned out to be the legendary T Bone Burnett who was in good spirits and seemed to enjoy himself quite a bit. I first saw him almost thirty years ago, also at McCabe's, and I must say that his voice has remained pretty much unchanged, in spite of the passage of time.

The evening kicked-off with an exceptionally good set delivered by Don Heffington and his small band. I had seen him many times before, but always as a percussionist, so I had no idea that he could write great songs and also deliver them as well as he did. I liked all of his songs and was knocked out by Timothy Young, Don's guitarist for the evening. I enjoyed tremendously watching Tim in action.

Bob Neuwirth at McCabe's
L to R: Steven Soles, T Bone Burnett, Bob Neuwirth, David Mansfield
T Bone Burnett at McCabe's
Tony Gilkyson at McCabe's
Bob Thiele, Jr. at McCabe's
David Mansfield at McCabe's
Bob Neuwirth thanking the crowd
Don Heffington at McCabe's
Timothy Young at McCabe's
Don Heffington's set list
The stage

July 1, 2018

Concert #836 - Gal Holiday, Nocona & KP Hawthorn at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 29, 2018)

This was a triple-header of sorts, with three different acts delivering sets of decent lengths, all this for a whopping twenty dollars ... I wonder how these musicians can support themselves via making music.

KP Hawthorn and her band took the stage just a few minutes after 8 PM. Her set was the shortest of the three. I did not know any of the songs she sang for us and, except for the set-opening "405", neither of them was an instant hit with me, as is often the case when I hear new music. KP's band included Rick Shea on guitar and KP was gracious enough to allow him to sing one of his own songs, "I'm No Good Without You".

KP Hawthorn & Rick Shea at McCabe's
KP Hawthorn's set list
After an intermission, Nocona took the stage and played a set of music that was all new to me. While rooted in Americana, their sound had all sorts of other influences, including psychedelia, believe it or not. Just like KP Hawthorn's set, Nocona's music was not instantly accessible, at least not to these ears. The band included Chris Isom (vocals, guitar), Adrienne Isom (upright bass, vocals), Justin Smith (drums), Elan Glasser (mouth harmonica) and Dan Wistrom (pedal steel guitar). By the way, Chris and Adrienne are married to each other.

Nocona's Chris & Adrienne Isom at McCabe's

While I had some trouble embracing the music of the evening's first two acts, I had an instant connection with Gal Holiday's far more accessible songs. Accompanied by her band, the Honky Tonk Revue, Gal delivered a joyful set of mostly original material and also a cover or two. One of the covers, John Prine's "In Spite Of Ourselves" turned out to be the evening's only song that I knew. I loved Gal's voice and singing style and I was totally taken by her relaxed but confident stage demeanor. She received excellent support from her band, which included Matt Slusher (electric guitar), Justin LeCuyer (acoustic guitar), Rose Cangelosi (drums) and Corey McGillivary (upright bass).

Gal Holiday at McCabe's
Gal Holiday and bassist Corey McGillivary at McCabe's
Gal Holiday's set list
The stage
The merch table
Concert poster
Sign in the window at McCabe's

June 26, 2018

Concert #834 - Steve Poltz at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 24, 2018)


Sunday night I witnessed an amazing show put on by the immensely likable and zany Steve Poltz, the Canadian-born singer-songwriter I had been unwittingly neglecting for years.

My introduction to Steve's music took place in 2005, also at McCabe's, where Steve shared the stage with three other musicians, namely Adam Carroll, Beaver Nelson and Jud Newcomb. The round-robin format of that evening offered a good variety of styles, but was not the right framework for any of the musicians to really show what they could do.

I went to Sunday night's show not really knowing what to expect, but Steve made a fan out of me with his very first song, the hilarious "Born In A Band", featuring immortal lines such as "I'm not Christian, I'm not Jewish, my religion is Jerry Lee Lewis" and "When the doctor put the stethoscope to the womb, my very first words were Wop Bam A Loo Bam Boom". What followed was an avalanche of funny stories, intertwined with songs that, even at first blush, sounded great. The ratio of spoken word to music may have been a little high, but that did not bother me at all, as - without exception - Steve's stories were thoroughly entertaining. Moreover, with a show that clocked in at a little over two hours, music was definitely not in short supply.

Steve Poltz at McCabe's
Quite a few songs stood out to these ears, among them "Windows Of Halifax" and "Folksinger". Another highlight was the appearance of Lisa Sanders, a San Diego-based singer, with whom Steve sang "Rainbow" and "You Were Meant For Me", the big hit written by Steve for Jewell a few years back.

Lisa Sanders & Steve Poltz at McCabe's
In addition to his own songs, Steve also played a couple of covers. John Hartford's "Presbyterian Guitar", the evening's only instrumental number, was an absolute delight, while the Grateful Dead's "Box Of Rain" may have been the evening's only low point. Indeed, I'm yet to embrace the music of the Dead, not even when it's performed by others.

I can't post a set list, as there wasn't any, but I do remember a few other songs that I really liked: "Devices", "Silver Lining" and the set-closing "I Want All My Friends To Be Happy".

As good as the whole show was, Steve saved his best for last: standing on a front-row chair and assisted by Lisa Sanders, he whipped the crowd into a frenzy with his humorous rendition of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land". It was one of the best moments I have ever witnessed at McCabe's, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Steve Poltz & Lisa Sanders - The Grand Finale (Photo 1)
Steve Poltz & Lisa Sanders - The Grand Finale (Photo 2)
Steve Poltz is a truly special performer - I can only think of two other musicians whose live act is somewhat close to what Steve does: Loudon Wainwright and Peter Himmelman.

Shaking hands and exchanging a few words with Steve after the show put an end to an incredible night that I definitely want repeated.

The end of the show

The stage
My friend Steve chatting with Steve Poltz after the show
T-shirts for sale at McCabe's