City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A few months into her tenure at the helm of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Elizabeth Sobol explored the venue’s historic stage, the jigsaw pieces of a unique concept formulating in her mind.
“One day I was standing out in the amphitheater and looked up at this massive stage while thinking about this crazy idea,” recalled SPAC’s president and CEO. “I wondered: How many people can we seat up there? As it turns out, it’s 300.”
Earlier this week, the fruition of that “crazy idea” went on full display when the venue hosted the first of four SPAC On Stage events, which spins the performers’ podium 180 degrees and places audience members at the back of the stage to face the musicians. A panoramic of the setting sun. the great lawn of SPAC and the columned architecture of the Hall of Springs lazily recline in the distance.
The four-part series will be staged consecutive Monday nights in August. The grand experiment kicked off Aug. 7 and by all measures of sound and vision was a major success.
“We’re making SPAC history tonight!” Sobol told the audience assembled for the series premiere featuring The Hot Sardines. The ensemble, which boasts triple-horns, sassy vocals and a rhythm section that channels the vintage essence of New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets and New Orleans jazz halls alike, proved to be a perfect choice.
“Tonight, we’re doing this for the first time together, so let’s let our hair down and have a ton of fun,” Sobol announced, the foundation of a rollicking piano punctuated by the brassy horns of The Hot Sardines.
“Tonight, you can take photographs,” Sobol instructed. “Tonight, you can dance.” Some couples did just that, swooning to the sounds of classic jazz interpretations.
The visuals are splendid, with no seat more than a few meters from the stage, and however it was done, the sound on this night is perfect: each musical intonation easily observed, and the volume boosted at an enjoyable level.
The experience is both intimate and surreal. The lawn and amphitheater, absent of patrons, is eerily quiet, and even the venue’s security detail collectively wear perplexed looks. Audience members are directed to their seats via an ascending staircase at stage left, warmly greeted as if entering a gallant eatery, and are directed to their pre-numbered seats by walking across the historic stage where everyone from Jim Morrison to Mikhail Baryshnikov have strutted their stuff.
The U-shape seating configuration cradles the stage, with a half-dozen or so rows flanking the band podium on either side and a bleacher-type fixture housing seats that climbs at its center.
SPAC on Stage takes place Mondays at 8 p.m. in August. Time for Three will perform Monday, Aug. 14, Black Violin on Aug. 21 (tickets for this show are sold out), and three-time Grammy nominated Afro-Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will conclude the series on Aug. 28.
“When the notion of SPAC on Stage was born, there were bands that I wanted to bring in that I thought would do this so perfectly,” Sobol said. “We’re almost sold out of the whole series and 22 percent of our ticket buyers for this series have never been to SPAC before, so that’s huge. I wanted to introduce a type of music we weren’t really touching on at SPAC and this was the way to do it. You’re bringing the audience out of the amphitheater and onto the stage to be with the artists.” Sobol said audiences can expect the series to be revisited in future seasons.
Time for Three will be showcasing a lot of their new material during their SPAC appearance Aug. 14.
“Inviting the audience on stage to get that close to us is going to be awesome,” said Time for Three founding member Nick Kendall. “I think it plays into the unexpected characteristics of Time for Three. You’ll really get to witness the interplay between the three of us. So much of (our sound) seems like it’s being created in the moment and by being a lot closer you’ll be able to see that interplay that sometimes is missed at a big concert hall or a stadium.
“We have played at SPAC before with the orchestra, so iIt’s going to be really cool to turn that on its head, and bring the audience on stage.”
Time for Three and its three classically trained musicians — violinists Nick Kendall and Charles Yang, and double-bassist Ranaan Meyer defy traditional genre classification. The trio performs music from Bach to Brahms and beyond, playing originals and their own arrangements of everything from bluegrass and folk tunes to mash-ups of hits by the Beatles, Brittany Spears, Kanye West, Katy Perry, and others. The group has performed at venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall, to the ABC TV show “Dancing with the Stars.”
The variety of venues well suits the SPAC on Stage series as well as the ensemble’s performance chops. “It reflects the energy of our band. We love the surprise nature of it. We’re just as comfortable playing on street corners as we are in concert halls,” said Kendall, adding that the group’s three co-creators inspire a fusion of sound that creates a larger symphonic fourth.
“At the root of my desire in music is the appetite to create,” Kendall said. “There’s such a reciprocal energy, especially with my bandmates when we perform; I’ll go out, spark an energy and if the energy comes back – well, that’s what I live for, whether it’s with another musician or with the audience.”
Monday night the energy created in that magical place between audience and band will be given a whole new sea of possibilities in which to flourish.
Audience filing in to the U-shaped seating configuration during first of four SPAC on Stage performances Aug. 7, 2017. Photo by Thomas Dimopoulos.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The Ramblin Jug Stompers will perform at Skidmore College at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 17 as part of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery Upbeat on the Roof series.
The band is comprised of banjoist Bowtie Blotto, guitarist Steven Clyde, “Wild Bill” AKA Sergeant Blotto AKA rock journalist Greg Haymes and Renaissance man Michael Eck – whose prolific poetic and songwriting skills have been showcased in the greater Capital Region for several decades. The Stompers’ exuberant style combines the washboard, guitar, mandolin, and banjo in a spirited quartet.
The UpBeat on the Roof concert series, now in its seventeenth season, features an eclectic mix of musicians from across the Capital Region.
The museum is located on the Skidmore College campus at 815 N. Broadway. Due to the popularity of the concert series, visitors are advised to arrive early. Free parking is available in parking lots adjacent to the museum. In case of inclement weather, the concert will be moved inside the museum.
For more information on UpBeat on the Roof, call 518-580-8080 or visit http://tang.skidmore.edu.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Rochmon Record Club gathers once a month under the guidance of music savant Chuck Vosganian, AKA “Rochmon.” Each month the club selects one ground-breaking rock or pop album, and digs deep and wide to create an entertaining, illuminating program of anecdotes, biographical and technical information, and photos. Musical selections include the cuts from the featured album as well as some unexpected selections. Conversation and mingling follow.
This month’s event: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” The event takes place 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15 at Caffe Lena. The kitchen will be open for light food and drinks. Alcohol will not be served during this event. $5 donation is suggested. Donations go to the restoration funds of Caffe Lena and Universal Preservation Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - More than 80 panels, workshops, seminars, networking session and celebrity appearances headline Equestricon – which organizers call the largest program schedule assembled for any fan event in the history of horse racing. Some highlights:
Sunday, Aug. 13:
- Fashion Showcase & Brunch, presented by all-women horse ownership syndicate StarLadies Racing. 10 a.m.-noon. Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/equestricontm-fashion-showcase-brunch-presented-by-starladies-racing-tickets-35490429831.
- Tours of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, and the Fasig-Tipton Sales Grounds. Tickets are limited. Hall of Fame Tours: http://equestricon.com/schedule/2016/12/12/hall-of-fame-tours-with-tom-durkin. Fasig-Tipton Tour: http://equestricon.com/schedulefasigtipton.
Monday, Aug. 14 - Saratoga Springs City Center, doors open 8 a.m.
- Soledad O’Brien Keynote Address on Horse Aftercare. The media icon and retired racehorse owner and rider will deliver Equestricon’s inaugural “Aftercare Keynote” on the main convention floor of the Saratoga Springs City Center at 9:30 a.m. Available to all general admission ticket-holders. A two-day general admission pass to Equestricon costs $25. http://equestricon.com/schedule/aftercare-keynote.
- Team Secretariat Autograph Signing. Headlined by jockey Ron Turcotte, Team Secretariat will sign autographs and meet with fans from 10 a.m.-noon. http://equestricon.com/schedule/team-secretariat
- Racing Trivia hosted by Tom Durkin, starting at 5 p.m.
- 10th Anniversary Movie Screening of “The First Saturday in May” at Bow Tie Criterion Cinemas at 6:30 p.m. Filmmaker John Hennegan will be joined by others who starred in the film for a Q&A following this exclusive screening, hosted by track analyst and TV personality Joe Kristufek. Tickets $25: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/equestricontm-movie-screening-the-first-saturday-in-may-film-poster-tickets-35634322217?aff=es2.
Tuesday, Aug. 15 - Saratoga Springs City Center, doors open 8 a.m.
- Racing Keynote delivered by international racing broadcaster Nick Luck at 10:30 a.m. Festivities at the Saratoga Springs City Center at 9 a.m.
- Triple Crown Jockeys Autograph Signing. Ron Turcotte (Secretariat) and Jean Cruguet. 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. http://equestricon.com/schedule/triple-crown-jockeys.
- Take Your Photo with the Kentucky Derby Trophy. Fans get an opportunity to pose the Derby trophy with the team behind 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. 2 p.m. Photos with the trophy may be taken for a minimum donation of $10 to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. http://equestricon.com/schedule/always-dreaming.
- Meet & Greet and Autograph Signing with Paul Lo Duca, from 3 -4:30 p.m.
- Racing Town Hall & Closing Ceremonies at 5 p.m. Equestricon concludes with a large Town Hall discussion on major issues facing the industry and solutions that can be implemented to solve them. The open-forum discussion is available to all Equestricon attendees and is an opportunity for fans and bettors to ask questions directly to industry leaders.
MECHANICVILLE – Two teens have been charged with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of 19-year-old David Feliciano which occurred shortly before 9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7.
Authorities said Thursday 19-year-old Nikolai Mavashev, of Halfmoon, and 16-year-old Joseph Broscko, of Clifton Park, were apprehended Wednesday night.
The incident took place inside of Feliciano’s house, who was home alone.
Authorities said the parties were acquainted with one another and that there is a motive, but are reluctant to divulge any other information at this time so as to not hamper prosecution efforts.
The Mechanicville Police Department, which was assisted by state police investigators, received as many as 50 leads regarding the case and sought to assure the public, while more arrests may be pending, that those suspected of doing the actual shooting have been apprehended.
Mavashev and Broscko are being held at Saratoga County Jail.
Elevated Levels of Lead Discovered in Drinking Water in Some City Homes
While conducting routine testing of 60 city households, seven households were discovered to have elevated levels of lead in their drinking water. DPW Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco sought to assure residents that the exceedance occurred in a small number of homes with lead plumbing fixtures and that the city’s municipal water supply does not contain lead.
“First and foremost, the water supplied to the city is safe and free of lead,” Scirocco said. Both of the city’s public water sources at the Water Treatment Plant and Geyser Crest Subdivision tested at “non-detect” levels for lead.
It is believed the cause for the exceedance in the seven households – which were built between 1982 and 1986 - is due to older pipes or plumbing materials containing lead. Previous sampling in 2015 and 2016 demonstrated levels below the action level threshold.
Homes built before 1986 can potentially have lead soldering and other fixtures that increase the possibility for lead to enter the water. Lead can enter the water when it remains in contact with pipes or fixtures that contain lead for an extended period of time. To reduce the amount of lead in water, it is recommended the water be run for at least 30 seconds, or until water is cold to the touch or reaches a steady temperature, before using it for drinking or cooking. This process flushes lead-containing water from the fixture, according to the DPW.
“We are conducting confirmatory sampling of the impacted homes and taking action to ensure that every resident in our city has clean water,” said Scirocco, adding that an aggressive plan to adjust the water chemistry to prevent the leaching of lead from older residential pipes and fixtures is being finalized for approval by the New York State Department of Health.
The City has contacted the seven households where testing levels were above the threshold to re-sample the water and offer an alternative water source while awaiting a second round of testing results.
Anita Gabalski, district director at the state Department of Health, was present at Tuesday’s meeting and credited Scirocco with acting swiftly to address the issue and hiring a firm to conduct a corrosion control strategy.
Residents concerned about the plumbing in their homes, or with any questions about their drinking water, can contact the city’s 24-hour water response line established at the Water Treatment Plant at 518-584-1848.
Public Hearing Re: Eminent Domain Procedures for Geyser Road Trail Plan Remains Open
A 90-minute public hearing regarding Eminent Domain Procedures related to the city’s proposed Geyser Road Trail Plan was held Tuesday night at City Hall. Public comments regarding the issue will be accepted through Aug. 15, and the council will not take action prior to its Sept. 5 meeting, Mayor Yepsen said. Contacts via the city’s website is at: http://www.saratoga-springs.org/.
PILOT Plan Approved for West Side Affordable Housing Development
The council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution authorizing a payment-in-lieu of taxes agreement regarding the Intrada Saratoga Springs Affordable Housing Project. The Missouri-based Vecino Group seeks to develop one three-story building and three four-story buildings just east of the Saratoga train station and near the Washington Street post office.
The development proposal calls for the construction of 158 “affordable” multi-family rental units. For renters, the one, two and three-bedroom apartment units break down in this way: 24 will be available for persons with an AMI of 50 percent or less, 109 will be available for persons with an AMI of 60 percent or less, and 24 will be available for persons with an AMI of 80 percent or less. AMI, or the Area Median Income for a family of four in Saratoga County is approximately $84,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The PILOT Agreement calls for the company to make annual payments in lieu of taxes to the city. The tax exemption will begin on the date when the city issues a final certificate of occupancy and extend for 31 years. The annual payment in lieu of taxes will start at approximately $84,000 and increase each year by two percent.
City Adoption of South Broadway Park Remains on Hold
The City Council tabled a vote that would have used up to $20,000 of Open Space Bond Funds in the process of securing a parcel of land at a key intersection on South Broadway donated by the Crown Oil company.
The council was informed at the last minute that funds specific to Open Space could not be used for things such as ground-testing.
“We’ll have to find a different funding source to conduct testing,“ Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan said.
Last month, the city tapped the brakes regarding the gifted parcel, pending a further review pending any potentially lingering hazardous conditions, given its previous standing as a longtime gas station.
The property sits at 209 South Broadway - adjacent to a Dunkin’ Donuts shop - and has been vacant for a decade. In April, David Eshaghian - doing business as the Crown Oil Co. – expressed a desire to gift to the city the parcel, which was recently appraisal set at a value of $340,000. As far back as a decade ago, the city had considered purchasing the 0.2-acre parcel outright to develop a pocket park that would feature equine sculptures.
City costs associated with the donated parcel, outside of testing, include conducting a standard title search and closing costs.
Some suggestions regarding its future use if and when the city does accept the parcel include turning the property into a pocket park, installing benches, constructing a pavilion, or possibly re-routing a nearby spring to flow to the site.
Behind Closed Doors
An executive session was held late Tuesday regarding a lawsuit challenges the permanent siting of the proposed Code Blue homeless emergency shelter on city’s west side, and an unrelated suit involving Mouzon House restaurant and the potential development of a multi-story parking garage behind the Saratoga Springs City Center. No action was taken on either discussion.
State Supreme Court Justice Robert Chauvin at Saratoga County is believed to be hearing both cases, and a decision regarding the Code Blue shelter is anticipated to be delivered in mid-August.
The Planning Board will host a workshop 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7 and a full meeting 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 at City Hall.
The Charter Review Commission will host a meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22 at City Hall.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – What was the first song you heard that opened up a whole new world of possibilities? What was the most memorable concert you attended that remains a fond memory to this day?
Come a share an evening of stories celebrating the history of rock and roll in Saratoga and beyond in a free public forum from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library.
Ever since 1956, when Elvis first shook his hips into the living rooms of America, rock and roll has had a powerful impact in shaping our world.
Where you there the night Phish played at a small club on Caroline Street in 1990? How about that summer night in 1984 when Bruce Springsteen stopped the rain? Were you among the 30,000-plus who saw The Who at SPAC, or in the crowd of 40,000 who partied to the sounds of the Grateful Dead at the venue in 1985? The Allman Brothers at Skidmore College? U2 at the Saratoga Casino?
The Jean Stamm Memorial Event will be held at the H. Dutcher Community Room of the Saratoga Springs Public Library at 49 Henry St., Saratoga Springs and will be followed by an open mic featuring any audience members willing to share their own special moments.
The free event will be moderated by journalist Thomas Dimopoulos and will feature George Demers, Joe Deuel, Mary Ann Fitzgerald, Greg Haymes, Robert Millis, Larry Wies and other guests.
When underground ideas, sounds, or images seep into conventional culture, the status quo itself is altered. Surely, one aim of politically subversive art is exactly that: change the world. When commonly held assumptions are challenged and subverted, a new synthesis is born, whether that be in the art world or politics or everyday life. The subculture’s loss is the mainstream’s gain.
- excerpt from Paul Hockenos' new book “Berlin Calling.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Berlin has long had a reputation for its off-beat mystique and powerful allure, drawing an array of underground artists, punk rock and techno connoisseurs, and DIY political activists into its city limits. From free-love communes to the era of amphetamine-fueled techno clubs, it’s a city of charisma and innovation. So how and why did Berlin become the vibrant world capital of eccentric subculture?
American journalist Paul Hockenos moved to West Berlin in the 1980s and has watched it change over more than three decades. In “Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin,” Hockenos delves into Berlin’s tendency toward reinvention and its ability to “posit itself anew many times over” – a quality he attributes to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Hockenos presents his book, “Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, the Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin,” in conversation with William Lewis, professor of philosophy at Skidmore College, at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 11 at Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, 424 Broadway.
Other notable upcoming events at Northshire Bookstore:
7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 5 - Karen Rogers – “Racing with My Shadow “- signing only with the author, a professional leading jockey at the New York tracks and one of the first successful female jockeys. This memoir shares her personal journey to overcome the negative results of childhood sexual and emotional abuse through her work in the sport.
2 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 10 - Bob Cafaro – “When the Music Stopped: My Battle and Victory Against MS.” The author, a cellist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, will share his personal journey and a brief musical performance.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - Stéphane Denève was 11 years old when he sat inside a darkened movie theater and watched a young boy try to help a loveable alien find its way home. Thirty-five years later, that moment continues to carry a special emotional significance for Denève, and one that he hopes to share with thousands of others on Saturday when he stands atop the stage at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, flanked by four HD screens showing Steven Spielberg’s “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,” and leading the Philadelphia Orchestra in a live musical accompaniment of John Williams’ score.
“I was born in ’71 so I saw the movie when I was 11. I loved it so much I cried in the theater. And during my childhood, I had a poster of ET over my bed,” says the conductor.
When it came to his own daughter, Denève and his wife ensured the first time she saw the film was during the staging of a performance accompanied by the screening of the movie with her father conducting the orchestra. “That was very special, being able to share that with her,” he says. “I was very moved by it.”
Conducting the orchestra in real time while the film is screening is not without its challenges.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m piloting a big plane,” Denève laughs. “The movie is moving forward and so you’re moving forward with it. You cannot stop and say: oh, let me do it again.
“There are hundreds of cues through the movie interpreting the score. It’s fun, of course, but it’s also one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done in my career because you want to be both precise and expressive,” says Denève, who in June was named as the next music director of the St. Louis Symphony.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Orchestra’s August residency, which kicked off Thursday with Tchaikovsky’s famed 1812 Overture, will run through Aug. 19 with a celebratory “A Night at The Opera.”
“It’s an incredible orchestra. It’s home for them, of course. You feel the connection they have with the audience. Some of the musicians even have their private homes in Saratoga,” Denève says. “You put a group together to do something special and I feel we are creating the tension, the rhythm and the dialogue between the instruments.
“When I am conducting I can feel the energy in the room. The energy of the audience, even though I have my back to them, is essential. You really feel when people are listening and the peak of tension, and attention, in the audience. I find that quite magical.”
Elizabeth Sobol, who is spending her first summer guiding SPAC as the organization’s president and CEO, says she is excited about all of it - from the scheduled appearances of Yo-Yo Ma and Marcus Roberts, closing night’s “breathtaking evening with exquisite arias,” and a night set aside to pay tribute to Gershwin.
“At SPAC you want to be presenting the best of all genres. Gershwin was the ultimate composer who brought popular and classical music together on the knife edge that made it such brilliant, amazing, universal music,“ Sobol says.
Saturday, Aug. 5 - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (complete with film). Steven Spielberg's cinematic masterpiece “E.T. The Extra—Terrestrial,” will be shown on four HD screens and accompanied by a live performance of John Williams's Academy Award-winning score.
The Philadelphia Orchestra’s return to its summer home at Saratoga Performing Arts Center features three weeks of performances. The season, Aug. 2 – 19, encompasses wide-ranging classical and contemporary repertoire, world renowned musicians and conductors, family-oriented multi-media offerings and an opera evening. All performances at 8 p.m.
Some highlights: Friday Aug. 4 - Cirque de la Symphonie; Saturday, Aug. 5 - E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (complete with film); Wednesday, Aug. 9 - American Classics Day 1. An icon of classical music and arguably the world’s greatest living cellist, Yo-Yo Ma will grace the SPAC stage with his unmatched artistry; Thursday, Aug. 10 - American Classics Day 2. Maestro Marin Alsop n conducts an evening dedicated to the music of cherished American composer George Gershwin. Also: The Marcus Roberts Trio; Friday, Aug. 11 - American Classics Day 3. Duo Concerto for Vibraphone and Marimba is comprised of several Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays compositions arranged and orchestrated by Principal Percussion Christopher Deviney; Saturday, Aug. 12 - Raiders of the Lost Ark (complete with film). The film that gave the world one of its greatest movie heroes, Indiana Jones, will make its SPAC debut as John Williams's epic score is performed live; Wednesday, Aug. 16 - Sophisticated Ladies; Thursday, Aug. 17 - French Festival Day 1. Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra and Grammy Award-nominee Yannick Nézet-Séguin returns to Saratoga to lead the final week of programs; Friday, Aug. 18 - French Festival Day 2; Saturday, Aug. 19 - A Night at the Opera. Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin will lead singers from The Metropolitan Opera in an evening of glorious arias and sublime ensembles from the opera repertoire.
The full schedule of SPAC’s programming and events is available at spac.org.
Why We Like Him: With his trademark raspy voice and exemplary musical lineage, Rod Stewart is one of the top-selling singers of the 20th century. Of particular note: his run with the Jeff Beck Group in the 1960s and his stint with The Faces, as well as his solo albums, through the mid-1970s.
Heritage: Born of Scottish and English ancestry. Loves soccer. Knighted by Prince William at Buckingham Palace in 2016.
Set List: Twenty songs. Ten originals. Ten covers.
Visually: Sir Rod looks healthy up against the 72 years he has spent on earth: shirt unbuttoned to mid-chest, swatches of blonde zagging across his scalp, and a voice that mostly still manages fine and complemented on stage by a chorus of back-up singers. His shaggy-hair look also inspired more than a few fans to don Rod The Mod hair-wigs, although for the most part the wigs seemed less like the classic rooster-cut of the ‘70s and more like a Long Island housewife’s beehive hair-do that had been violated by a pair of sheep shears.
Memorable songs performed: The Faces’ “Stay With Me” still maintained some of its original joy-filled intensity, and was supplemented by the kicking of several soccer balls into the crowd. Renditions of Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe” and Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is The Deepest” were emotionally moving during the evening’s five-song acoustic set. “Maggie May” and “Ooh La La” were not.
Stewart name-checked blues legend Muddy Waters before performing the Hambone Willie Newbern song “Rollin’ and Tumblin’” – which dates back to at least 1929 - dedicated “Young Turks” to World War II servicemen, covered Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train,” and performed a duet with Cyndi Lauper on The Isley Brothers’ “This Old Heart of Mine.”
“You Wear It Well” brought the crowd to its feet, and “You’re In My Heart” had them swaying, arms waving and taking the lead on the choruses.
Ill-advised: The drum solo during “Forever Young,” featuring two drummers no less, making the most boring thing in rock doubly so. Another low moment occurred when the band, sans Rod, played “Proud Mary” Ike & Tina Turner style - likely meant to be a tribute, but mostly just looked like a foolish parody. Coincidentally, both segments were used to occupy time so that Rod could go backstage and change into another outfit.
Overall: Entertaining, but lacking the emotional passion that set him apart from his peers during the early 1970s when he reigned as king. All the sharp edges were removed from the guitars, the band – in their matching suits and neat styles – looked more like Rod’s wait staff than musical foils, and Rod himself seems destined to grab the title of rock’s version of Wayne Newton. Clearly, he misses Ron Wood, who left to join the Rolling Stones in 1975. It doesn’t look like the Stones are going to give him back any time soon.
Most annoyingly is the known talent that Stewart once promised before he began his descent into the maelstrom of mainstream mediocrity. It was what promptedmusic critic Greil Marcus to proclaim decades ago: “Rarely has a singer had as full and unique a talent as Rod Stewart; rarely has anyone betrayed his talent so completely.” Not much has changed.
Why We Like Her: Fun, talented, and charming.
Heritage: Born at Astoria General Hospital and grew up in Ozone Park - both neighborhoods in Queens whose surrounding environs also spawned Tony Bennett, Simon and Garfunkel, Marty Scorsese, three New York Dolls, all four of the Ramones, and Steinway Pianos.
Set List: 11 songs, covering a span of recordings from 1983’s “She’s So Unusual,” to “Detour,” which was released in 2006.
Visually: The show began with Lauper swinging around an oversized traveling trunk while teetering atop a pair of high heel shoes, her dancing form framed by massive video screens that depicted Betty Grable days and classic Horror film nights. During her singing of “She Bop,” perhaps most appropriately, she shucked off her oversized top hat and her shoes and performed the balance of the set in bare feet, alternating between song and stand-up shtick, including a joke of sorts about a Nashville hotel that merged Dolly Parton with the Dalai Lama. She also name-checked Captain Lou Albano.
Memorable songs performed: The set began a bit rough – including one off-key tune which was halted and re-started for which a missing stage prop was blamed - but hit stride mid-way through the set and absolutely took off with the turbo-charged fury of “Money Changes Everything,” the joy-filled “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – which also included pertinent social messages - a charming rendition of “Time After Time,” and an emotionally charged “Not My Father’s Son.” “True Colors,” Lauper’s beautifully haunting ode to humanity, provided the show-closer.
Throughout her set Lauper alternately whirled like a dervish, shared center stage with a dulcimer, and serenaded like a chanteuse. “Have a beautiful summer,” she told the crowd as she exited the stage. “Take care of each other and remember: diversity makes us stronger.” As one clearly moved row-mate inside the amphitheater expressed after Lauper’s finale: She really leaves it all up on that stage.