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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Recently we went to see the current production of Roman Holiday at the Guthrie Theater in downtown Minneapolis. It’s running through August 19th on their McGuire Proscenium Stage. The Guthrie has produced a fine musical leveraging the incredible music of Cole Porter and wrapped it around the famous film that originally starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn won Best Actress and the film won for screenplay and costume. While attending the play, we learned a bit more about the original film. Produced and directed by William Wyler, it was unusual that a film at its time was actually shot on location in Rome. This was not a common occurrence for film productions in or before 1953. Most of the time locations were re-created in sets. By shooting on location movie-goers were able to experience a Roman holiday for themselves. This was as delightful as the CGI used to surprise today’s movie-goers. The location became another character in the movie. Audiences were as much intrigued with the story as with their ability to lose themselves in the piazza’s of Rome with the other actors. It was a novel introduction into american movie making that we take for granted today.

In case you’re not familiar with the story of Roman Holiday, it’s about a princess (Anne) who escapes from her controlled surroundings long enough to spend a fun filled day as a common, normal person with a reporter (Joe) that turns romantic. He figures out early on who she really is, but doesn’t tell her that he knows and he seeks to use the opportunity to “cash in” on getting an exclusive interview and photos with one of Europe’s royals (in this case of an un-named country). Along the way, the princess exposes her own vulnerability in her hopes and dreams of living a “normal” life that isn’t scripted. The tiny bit of friction is introduced as Joe has to eventually decide whether to cash-in on his luck or whether he’ll help Anne keep her holiday and her dreams a secret in the eternal city.  Does being true, loyal, caring, considerate and loving win out over the promise of easy money and getting what Joe’s been hoping for?

The choreography, acting and singing are wonderfully produced in this musical adaptation. Stephanie Rothenberg delivers a fantastic performance as Princess Anne in her first appearance at the Guthrie. And the rest of players have been superbly cast. If you’re looking for a really fun evening, we highly recommend it. If you’ve seen it or if you go, please comment back and tell us what you thought about it as we’d enjoy hearing what you have to say.

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With the Minnesota State Fair just around the corner, it seems rather timely to take a walk down memory lane – back to the early eighties. But let’s get things straight; I’m not proud of all the choices I made back in my youth. Don’t judge my music tastes on this one, because I actually bought a ticket to hear Air Supply at the Grand Stand. The only reason I even ‘fess up to this embarrassing fact is that the story is too good not to share. Believe it or not, it’s one of my most vivid State Fair memories.

If you were there (go ahead and admit it!), you’ll know just which concert I’m referring to. My friends and I found ourselves sitting in the midst of hundreds of young teenie bopper girls. They were screaming and cheering for this sappy, syrupy love song-saturated duo from the moment they entered the stage.

It was only two or three songs into the set when lead singer Russell Hitchcock stepped out onto the ledge in front of one of the oversized speakers at the edge of the stage – just when a throbbing base line pumped through it. Russell, in roughly five-inch heels, lost his footing and went flying off the stage. Really. There he was lying on the cement about 10 feet below.

The band finished the tune and then the second half of the duo came to the microphone and announced (in his very Australian accent), “I’m sorry Russell has fallen off the stage, I cannot go on.”

That was it, concert over. Teenage girls crying into their t-shirts as the ambulance pulled away.

Thankfully, Russell came out of it with no more than a broken bone. And we have a humorous memory of days gone by at the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

I know you’re probably all nostalgic for a little Air Supply now. No doubt this one is a favorite of yours.

That’s one of my more interesting fair memories. What about you?

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Brent & Lisa arrive at the feet of "The Claw"

This was one of our busiest weekends of the year. Our typical agenda was interrupted to dedicate the entire Saturday afternoon and evening to the U2 360º Tour. This came on the heels of my 30th high school reunion on Friday night. I will circle back and blog about that later this week. Two nights in a row where I didn’t get to bed until well after midnight. It’s tough to recover from one late night let alone two in a row as I push closer to the mid century mark.

For those of you who went to the concert this weekend or a previous one on their current tour, or you’re a fan in general please feel free to chime in with your impressions.

This concert has been well covered in the media, much of it delayed by a year as Bono underwent back surgery and recovery. By now you’ve read the facts of the expenses and receipts to generate one of the most intimate major rock experiences in history. With their giant “Claw” or “Spaceship” circular stage, U2 transforms mega outdoor stadiums into a living room experience. It’s very hard to describe in a few words. The band lands themselves exposed on all sides of their circular thrust like stage which is engineered by Belgian company Stageco. The band has purchased carbon offsets in consideration to the environmental impact to transport 3 identical 360° Tour stage sets around the world.

You feel like you can reach out and touch a portion of the setting and the artists themselves. For those who waited in line for general admission floor access, they got intimate enough to have Bono and the band drip sweat on them as they criss-crossed the concentric circles via moving brushed steel bridges that spun around the circumference of the central stage. Fortunately, the rain that eventually drenched the venue halfway through the show washed the masses clean. The rain did not diminish the performance in my estimation. In fact the incredible electronic central video graphics performed well despite the weather. Resembling a large circular scoreboard at a hockey arena, the video screen is made up of over a million parts and descends down toward the center of the stage and over the band for fantastic visual effects. The elongated hexagonal video panels are all connected together and machined to create a truly unique experience.

So you can have all this really expensive machinery, stagecraft and logistics to manage it, but it takes a really outstanding group of performers to

Ready for the Crush!

pull off the complete package. U2 satisfied on all counts, even in a torrential downpour of rain. My reasons for saying this?

  1. The band genuinely enjoys performing together. They smiled at each other, played to each others’ strengths, and had fun with one another during the performance. In the final set, Bono came swinging across the stage on a circular red illuminated microphone hanging from a cable wearing a black leather suit decorated with red lasers. Wild!
  2. The band desired intimacy with their audience. They know where they are. They weren’t confused about which city they were in and they understood unique aspects of the Twin Cities. Hours before the concert in Minneapolis, Bono was meeting with local Somali leadership regarding the famine conditions that desperately need world attention at a time when world governments in the West are more consumed with their own insolvency and budget issues. For those readers who don’t know, the Twin Cities has the largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia in the world.
  3. U2 writes and sings smart, intelligent lyrics with deep meaning and philosophy behind it. And you can understand every line even when Bono’s falsetto cracks a bit.
  4. The band didn’t create this performance around a new CD. They understood that their fans wanted to hear their favorite tunes that spanned the decades from the earliest days like I Will Follow on Boy to Rejoice on the October release to Get on Your Boots from No Line On the Horizon.
  5. The crowd was engaged from start to finish. Concert goers spontaneously sang back at the band without being prompted, singing and tracking through every moment. The band actually stopped playing and listened to the audience sing to them a couple of times. For “With or Without You” the crowd simply hushed and listened.
  6. The band knows who they are and their talent is bigger because they’re comfortable with themselves. The audience understands this. What results is parents bringing their entire family to the concert. A band that speaks to generations of fans that are younger than 10 to well over 60. A friend’s daughter, about 6 or 7, when asked, “What’s your favorite song?” didn’t hesitate and said confidently “El-e-va-tion!”

My favorite song? Until the End of The World.

That song makes me thankful that even though I’m as guilty as Judas, He chose me to His inheritance before the beginning of the world. I don’t know why He did that. The only thing I can do is live up to His choice and be who He made me to be until the end of the world.

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Lisa and I have discovered a small jewel that we think is worth mentioning, especially if you’re looking for a nice “date night”. The place is Urban Olive and Vine in Hudson, Wisconsin. Hudsonis a small bedroom community on the east side of the St. Croix River, but only a short drive from the

Kay Timm has transformed an historic store front into a delightful shop

Friends joined us for Limoncello Marscapone Cake!

Twin Cities. Situated right off Interstate 94, it’s easy to get there and get home without difficulty.

Scattered along the main street of Hudson are several bar and grilles, cafés,  boutiques and art galleries [Art Festival will be in late September]. Running parallel to main street is the water front with marinas and a park with ample picnic areas and beaches.

We think you’ll like Urban Olive & Vine [like their Facebook page here] because the food is terrific and affordable. The ambiance is a mixture of original brownstone merchant store [painted white] in the front and a modern decor in the back. The owner is Kay Timm. She left her corporate job after several decades to pursue her passion and open her own shop. She offers a variety of tea, coffee, custom picnic baskets for a special afternoon stroll near the river, unique treats, several pairings of wine that complement fresh cheese, breads, olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Her menu is deliciously thoughtful and made from scratch. You’ll find surprising specials that are complemented with fresh home grown herbs and served by an attentive staff.

The Antipasta Plate and a local micro-brew

Date night at the UO&V is made special on Friday and Saturday evenings with local, live jazz from 7-10pm. Cleverly billed as “Hudson Unplugged”, it’s a fresh twist when compared to the typical boisterous, blue collar crowds gathering at Pier 500 or the other college-aged venues like Dibbos (yeah, Dibbos is still there.)

Back in our day, the drinking age in Minnesota was 19, but in Wisconsin it was 18. So Wisconsin drew a lot of 18 year olds from Minnesota to drive east. But now that most of us [hopefully] have outgrown venues like Dibbos, the UO&V offers us a new reason to make the trip across the river and rediscover Hudson all over again.

Peach & Strawberry Sangria w/ fresh mint!

Thank you Kay for your creativity and bravery at starting a new business. We hope to be back often!

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Now that the weather is finally warming up in Minnesota, Lisa and I have been reminded that it’s fun to roll down the window and turn up the volume on the iPod and sing songs that make you feel happy. And with temperatures finally over 50 degrees, we are thrilled!

Over the winter we found a duo named Pomplamoose who has been arranging their own tunes at home for a few years. You might recognize them from a Hyundai commercial they did last Christmas. The duo is Natalie and Jack. Natalie does most of the singing and  Jack plays a variety of instruments. They’ve written several of their own and arranged versions of songs you will recognize from Edith Piaf to Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind and Fire. Really. Their arrangements create a repetitive aura to their sound, but for some reason, I don’t get tired of hearing several of them in succession. I appreciate their arrangements and the work to create the mix to layer the tunes together for their YouTube Channel.

In the end, when I listen, I find myself smiling and humming along.

Here’s a version of the popular “Another Day”:

And an example of a creative take on Nat King Cole’s “Nature Boy”:

What are some songs that make you feel happy and want to sing out loud?

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If you think back to some of the deepest transformational seasons in your life, what were the contributing factors? What books, people, music or other influences informed and shaped those pivotal times?

U2 Fanzine-Early 80s

It was my later college years that were extremely pivotal for me. I felt as though I were perched on the edge of a diving board, contemplating the miry waters below, teetering and not quite convinced to take the plunge. While I wasn’t terribly committed in my faith, I did have numerous conversations with God at the time. In the midst of this, I felt drawn to change schools and direction in my junior year. That decision turned out to be a major turning point for me.

One of the backdrops to this time period was my deep love of music. My roommate and I spent hours keeping up on the latest songs and bands, and stories that went with them. Our dorm room had one of the few cable connections, so it became the gathering place when music videos debuted. I followed a number of bands, but U2 unquestionably topped the list.

1981 U2 Fanzine

This group from Northern Ireland seemed to provide a safe place to express and embrace my wobbly spiritual life. We’re talking concerts, posters and joining the U2 fan club in 1981. For a small fee, I got occasional mailings that were likely plunked out on a manual typewriter and cut and pasted into a rough newsletter with the latest concert schedule, news about the band, photocopied pictures and some song lyrics.

The lyrics from “40” became a sort of anthem for what I later recognized to be God’s most profound work in my life. Back then, I was so unfamiliar with the Bible that I didn’t actually realize “40” referred to Psalm 40 and was essentially taken right from this passage of Scripture!

U2 Fanzine

I waited patiently for the Lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He brought me up out of the pit
Out of the miry clay … I will sing a new song

I don’t know if my waiting was quite as “patient” as the Psalmist’s, but I did experience the unmistakable inclination of God hearing my cry and lifting me up. You’ll either highly relate, find it a sacrilege or think I’m goofy, but singing “40” a cappella with thousands of other concert-goers as we exited into the streets was nothing short of a spiritual experience for me. As unlikely a stage for spiritual transformation as a rock concert might be, God seems ready to use just about anything to speak to us.

I imagine some of my current theological and political views might clash a tiny bit with Bono, but I continue to admire his passion and heart and I’m thankful that God even used a rock band to draw me closer to him. An old Star Tribune clipping I’ve held on to since their ’85 tour described U2 as “a band that radiates faith.” Can’t think of a much greater honor to hold than that.

What have been the unlikely influencers in your life?

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