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Archive: Music & Entertainment / Spokane and North Idaho

It’s a perfect morning for a bit of Cuban soul

As an aside, I was lax in posting on this site for a couple of weeks. Mea culpa.

But I had a good reason: I was traveling in Cuba and Internet access was a bit spotty.

My wife and I were part of a Road Scholar tour, which took us from Miami on an eight-day excursion of the island. Among the cities we visited were Santa Clara, Trinidad and Havana, with an afternoon stop at the infamous Bahia de Cochines — better known as the Bay of Pigs (more on that at another time).

One of our principal stops, though, was in the port city of Cienfuegos. And, luck has it, one of my fellow travelers found a YouTube video featuring both the city and the music of the late Cuban musician Beny Moré.

I've posted the video below. Enjoy.

Now Streaming: Is “Mrs. Maisel” Marvelous?

There was no question that I would watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” pilot on Amazon Prime. An hour-long dramedy created by Amy Sherman-Palladino featuring a brassy female protagonist? Sold. Oh, and it’s set in New York in the late 1950s, scratching that “Mad Men” itch I’ve had for two years? Double sold.

But after the ups and downs of Netflix’s revival of “Gilmore Girls” last fall (that musical, the fat jokes, Rory in general, etc.), I did have some reservations. ASP (and her creative partner and husband Daniel Palladino) sometimes mistake quirk for personality, and are rather tone deaf to sensitive identity issues.

The period setting, though, helps alleviate some of Palladinos’ weaknesses. They may try to get by some political incorrectness with the lame excuse that “It’s the 1950s!” And their Achilles’ heel – critical commentary on the developments of modern technology verging on Luddism – is no more advanced than a scene with an electric pencil sharpener and a befuddled secretary.

Plus, those costumes, those hairstyles, those settings … it’s a visual delight for lovers of mid-century modern décor and Spoolie hair rollers.

“Mrs. Maisel” is Midge, an Upper West Side, twenty-something housewife and mother who supports her nine-to-five husband Joel in his late night attempts at stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village. Local viewers are in for a treat(?) when, prior to Joel’s set at the Gaslight Café, a dour Beat poet recites an ode to her hometown (“rumble of lumber trucks … robbers of the indigenous … Spokane … man.”).

Spokane poem
"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Pilot (Amazon)

After a (somewhat rushed) series of events leads Midge to a crisis, she ends up on stage herself and discovers that her voice is just what the comedy scene has been missing. Think Joan Rivers, pre-plastic surgery and “Fashion Police.”

Rachel Brosnahan plays the title role with strength and impeccable timing. She has the wit and charisma that Alexis Bledel always seemed to lack as Rory Gilmore.

Rory Gilmore and Midge Maisel
LEFT: "Gilmore Girls" Season 5 Episode 22 (Netflix); RIGHT: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" Pilot (Amazon)

The comparison between the two characters isn’t hard to make, right down to the dual image of the pretty waifs with mussed, brown hair being bailed out of jail in powder blue. But while Rory succumbed to her setbacks, Midge confronts them – with encouragement from ASP mainstay Alex Borstein.

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” is part of Amazon Prime’s original pilot season, which means viewers must vote for their favorite shows before they’re picked up to series. Given ASP’s legacy and enthusiastic fanbase, I look forward to seeing more of Midge’s misadventures in Manhattan in the future. 

TOP PHOTO: "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon)

Indigo Girls know how to carry a show

Above: The Indigo Girls performed Saturday night with the Spokane Symphony.

Showmanship is a skill that separates the best musicians from the crowd. Even a talented crowd.

As an example, I attended a New Year's Eve show sometime in the 1980s that featured Johnny Rivers. A musician who had several hit songs in the 1960s — songs such as "Mountain of Love" and "Secret Agent Man" — Rivers performed that night with a curious lack of energy. He seemed to talk more to his band than address the audience, even if he played and sang competently enough.

Then on Saturday night I experienced the opposite. Watching the duo The Indigo Girls — Amy Ray and Emily Saliers — perform with the Spokane Symphony, I watched a couple of talented musicians play great music, blend their musical skills seamlessly with the symphony and interact with a crowd that might have alienated someone with less patience.

Over the years, Ray and Saliers have amassed a large selection of songs that their fervid fans know by heart. And throughout the evening, some of those fans would shout out a title. Ray, at one point, explained that they were working from a set program. It was necessary to do so, she said, because she didn't think they had enough musical talent to improvise with the symphony.

She made the crowd laugh when she suggested that doing so might make for an interesting experiment. But she'd made her point. They were going to play the songs on the program and that was that.

Fans being fans, though, some kept shouting out their requests. And Ray and Saliers responded graciously, at times simply ignoring the shouts, at times laughing along with them, but overall taking them in stride. As those who know what good showmanship is tend to do.

 The Indigo Girls proved something that Johnny Rivers forgot all this years ago: that good performance is more than merely playing good music.

Saturday night was for Beach Boy Brian

Above: Photo by Mary Pat Treuthart

On this blog, I typically write about things that are upcoming. Particularly things such as movie openings and literary readings.

Today, however, I want to write about something that occurred last Saturday, when my wife and I attended the Brian Wilson "Pet Sounds" concert in Seattle. At the same time, I'll share news of a future event.

First, I didn't have high hopes for the show. Wilson is 74, and his much-publicized emotional and medical issues have left him more or less a shadow of the guy who, in 1962, spearheaded the Beach Boys and basically the whole surf-music movement. Things weren't helped when the show, which took place at the sold-out, 3,000-seat Paramount Theatre, began with Wilson shuffling onstage holding onto the arm of longtime friend and bandmate Al Jardine.

And during the show, which Wilson orchestrated by introducing each song, he sat in the middle of the stage, behind a piano that he occasionally played. He occasionally sang, too, his one-pristine falsetto/tenor far from the perfect instrument it once was.

But the show wasn't so much about Wilson as it was a celebration of him. Quickly paced, featuring a blend of Beach Boy hits (from "Little Deuce Coup" to "Surfer Girl" to "Help Me Rhonda") and the entirety of the "Pet Sounds" LP, the show rocked. Buoyed by the presences of Jardine, with his son Matt Jardine providing the vocals that Wilson himself used to perform, and aided by the presence of Blondie Chaplin (especially on the song "Sail Away"), that old Beach Boys energy was alive and well.

The high point for me? The band's rousing performance of "Good Vibrations." I may have been the only person in the Paramount who sat during the song, closing my eyes and letting the music wash over me the way it did when I listened to it in my bedroom way back in 1966.

At the end, I did stand up and — along with everyone else — sang and clapped and moved to the music that filled the room with such energy and joy. It made me, and this is a Brian Wilson pun, "Smile."

And the news? Wilson will be returning for a Seattle encore. Tickets go on sale tomorrow via Ticketmaster.

I'd suggest you buy some. Wilson won't be around forever, and the chance to celebrate him may soon be merely a memory.

No, 5 Seconds of Summer hasn’t been banned

Calm down, kids. The Australian boy band 5 Seconds of Summer has not been banned from future performances at the Spokane Arena.

The band played to about 4,000 very enthusiastic fans on Tuesday night.  Near the end of the set, drummer Ashton Irwin twice called fans down from their seats and urged them to fill the floor. The problem with that, said arena manager Matt Gibson, is that having too many people on the floor is not only dangerous, but it creates “a bad fire marshal situation where we have the floor over capacity.” When arena staff kept people in their seats, the mostly teenage fans were not happy.

Fans turned to social media to vent their frustrations.

Twitter user castaway (@fivesosaf101) wrote “just gained so much respect for @5SOS putting their fans first and telling them to fill the floor. #SLFLSPOKANE

There are others: 
5sos are such legends for bringing fans onto the floor and getting banned from the venue in spokane
 5sos got banned from spokane for doing a nice thing for the fans? that's ridiculous. i'm so proud of them for doing this for us
ROCK N ROLL WILL NOT CONFORM TO YOU, SPOKANE ARENA! GOD I LOVE
 5SOS being banned from Spokane just adds to the list of proofs that they love their fans so much.

 

And as one father, Clark Peterson, posted on Facebook – a post that has been shared multiple times on Twitter – “I’m sure the boys in the band will get a talking to from their lawyers, but it was the most rock and roll thing I’ve seen at a rock concert in a long, long time. Rock and roll isn’t dead, it lives with a bunch of Aussie boys!”

Irwin himself tweeted: “I always just want the fans too be as close as possible… The concerts are about you. Always. Rock on”

In fact, Gibson said, 5 Seconds of Summer’s security staff had briefed the arena folks earlier in the day, and asked the crew to keep fans safe. “Our staff did exactly what they were supposed to do in their professional manner and held people into their seating sections,” Gibson said. “Young people being as they are, and I have two daughters, so I know how dramatic situations escalate, a lot of tears and a lot of screaming resulted.”

But in the end, Gibson said, 5 Seconds of Summer’s security team thanked the arena crew for doing its job.

“It was a situation in which we were faced with a very difficult situation,” he said. “We want everyone to have a good time, but all that would have needed to happen is one young lady trip on the stairs and she gets trampled by three dozen other kids rushing the stage.”

And contrary to rumors on social media, 5 Seconds of Summer hasn’t been banned from future appearances at Spokane Arena.

“We would be more than happy to have them back,” Gibson said.

No one is more patriotic than The Boss

Today is July 4. As I stress to students who are studying for their U.S. citizenship exams, it marks the day in 1776 when the 13 original colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. It will be a day filled with celebration, underscored by fireworks and many displays of patriotism.

My display will be confined to the embedded video below, which pretty much sums up this Vietnam veteran's feelings in a mere 4 four minutes and 43 seconds:

Cleese, Idle plan Spokane stop in October

Two legends of British comedy are bringing their show to the American West, and will be at Spokane's INB Performing Arts Center on Oct. 28.

John Cleese and Eric Idle, two of the six members of the groundbreaking Monty Python comedy troupe, are "Together Again At Last … For the Very First Time." The show, which toured the East Coast and Australia in recent months, includes scripted bits, improvised moments of comedy and storytelling, and funny songs, according to the duo's website

As Cleese told the Sydney Morning Herald in February, "This is very unscripted … We do do slightly strange things like trying to get reactions out of the audience which they've never seen anyone do before."

Aside from their work with Monty Python - which produced the BBC television series "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and the films "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," "Monty Python's Life of Brian" and "Monty Python' The Meaning of Life - both men have been comedy stars in their own right. Idle created the mock rock band The Rutles and turned "Holy Grail" into the Broadway smash musical "Spamalot." Cleese starred in the BBC series "Fawlty Towers," and in films such as "A Fish Called Wanda." He also played "Nearly Headless Nick" in a couple of the Harry Potter movies.

Monty Python also featured filmmaker Terry Gilliam ("Brazil"), Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Graham Chapman, who died in 1989.

Tickets cost $59.50, $79.50 and $99.50. They go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday through TicketsWest.

For more information, visit cleeseandidle.com.

And now, as they say, for something completely different.

Casino adds shows from Parton, Duran Duran

There's a healthy dose of '80s nostalgia happening in Spokane this summer.

Northern Quest added to its summer concert series this morning with the announcement of two new shows: Duran Duran on Sept. 2, and the legendary Dolly Parton on Sept. 22.

Duran Duran, who last played Spokane on the 2005 reunion tour, is on the road in support of their latest album, "Paper Gods." They join a summer concert season already heavy on '80s britpop bands, including Tears for Fears on June 15 at the INB and Culture Club with the English Beat and Berlin at Northern Quest on Aug. 12. A non-British icon from the '80s, Pat Benatar, will be at the casino on Aug. 27, with Melissa Etheridge.

Parton, meanwhile, is not really considered an 80s act, but she had some of her biggest crossover hits in the decade, including her Oscar-nominated theme to the film "9-to-5" and the Kenny Rogers duet "Islands in the Stream." The country legend, one of the best songwriters to ever come out of Nashville, is billing this tour as her biggest in more than 25 years.

Tickets to the previously announced summer shows at Northern Quest, which also include Dierks Bentley, the Avett Brothers, Goo Goo Dolls and Big & Rich, are on sale through the casino website, here. Tears for Fears at the INB went on sale Friday, and tickets are available here.

Duran Duran tickets are $65, $85 and $105; Parton's show is $89, $109 and $129. Both go on sale at 8:30 a.m. Saturday through the casino box office, (509) 481-2800, or online.

FWIW, we'd be shocked if Parton didn't play this one when she's here in September. And I'd love it if she sang this one.

(Above: Duran Duran perform at Day 1 of the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 in Las Vegas. Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision/AP.)

Springsteen took us down to ‘The River’

The first time I saw Bruce Springsteen was sometime in the 1990s. I'd first heard of him in the early '70s from a couple of guys who'd just moved to San Diego from New jersey. But other than the song "Rosalita," I was underwhelmed. For some reason, Springsteen just didn't speak to me.

Things happened over the years. I left San Diego for graduate school in Eugene (do I have to add "Ore." to that? seriously?), got my first newspaper job in Cottage Grove (yes, Ore.) and then, as the '70s evolved into the '80s, I moved to Spokane, went to work for The Spokesman-Review and settled into a decade of listening to the bands that MTV made famous — but still didn't develop an affection for Springsteen.

Then came the '90s and major life changes. After those changes settled, I met a woman who, having attended the Camden, N.J., school Rutgers University, was well familiar with everything the E Street Band had to offer. She'd attended at last one show of every tour the band had put on. She'd even been to Asbury Park.

So when the opportunity came to buy tickets to a Springsteen show at the Tacoma Dome, I — with a little urging from my friend Leslie Kelly — got on the phone and managed to purchase tickets. Which, as luck would have it, placed us in the 10th row. And gave me the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about: the energy, the showmanship, the poetry of Springsteen's lyrics.

It was those lyrics that spoke to me most last Thursday night when we caught Springsteen at Seattle's KeyArena. We weren't in the 10th row (which was all people standing anyway), but we were seated directly across the arena and so the sound was good, the sightlines were clear — and, in any event, the large-screen TVs made viewing easy.

And for the first two-plus hours, the band played the entirety of Springsteen's "The River" album. Then they went into a greatest-hits set, which lasted for another near-two hours. At least that's what I've heard. We were scheduled to catch a 12:50 a.m. flight to New York, so we had to leave early — and, yes, we missed the appearance by Eddie Vedder.

But I did come to appreciate what I learned that first night that I saw Springsteen at the Tacoma Dome: Nobody works harder than this guy. And after the show, I went back to look at the lyrics of "The River" and was struck by the power of the man's poetry. Especially this line:

Now those memories come back to haunt me
they haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don't come true
Or is it something worse

I came late to Springsteen fandom. But I made it here. And I'll go see him as long as he has enough energy to take the stage.

Chances are that I'll drop before he does. 

Aldean, Church, Urban headline Watershed

Jason Aldean, Eric Church and Keith Urban are on the bill as the annual Watershed country music festival at the Gorge Amphitheatre expands to two weekends for 2016, July 29-31 and Aug. 5-7.

Best things? Fans won't have to choose to see one act over another, or pay to see both weekends. Aldean, Church and Urban will be at both. As will music legend Merle Haggard, not to mention Travis Tritt, Neal McCoy and Kacey Musgraves.

Passes go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday through watershedfest.com, where you can go for additional information on performers and the experience. Weekend passes are $199. This show typically sells out in minutes, so if you want to go, don't delay.

Boz Scaggs coming to the Fox

Boz Scaggs, whose put albums at the top of Billboard's rock and jazz album charts, will perform at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on March 13. Tickets go on sale Monday (Jan. 4) through TicketsWest.

Scaggs, a former member of the Steve Miller Band, broke through as a solo artist with his multi-platinum 1976 album "Silk Degrees," which spawned the hit singles "Lowdown" and "Lido Shuffle." He's released 10 albums since then, including the No. 1 jazz release "But Beautiful."

Tickets will be $38, $49, $59, and $62. For tickets or more information, call the Fox box office at (509) 624-1200 (or stop by at 1001 W. Sprague Ave.) or visit the Fox website.

Tony Bennett booked for symphony gala

According to the Spokane Symphony website, the illustrious Tony Bennett will be in Spokane on June 4 to help the symphony mark its 70th anniversary.

The gala, set for the Spokane Convention Center, will feature the 18-time Grammy winner and American icon performing with a quartet. Tickets are not cheap, costing from $225 and $275, and are on sale now through TicketsWest. Included are dinner, the concert and post-show dancing.

Just to get you in the mood, here's Bennett performing his most iconic hit, "I Left My Heart In San Francisco."

Bowie returns to Earth, and Caruso sticks the landing

The reviews are in for former Spokane actress Sophia Anne Caruso.

Caruso, 14 (pictured at left), is co-starring in "Lazarus" off-Broadway at the New York Theater Workshop. The musical stars Michael C. Hall (of "Dexter" and "Six Feet Under" fame, pictured at right) in a role made famous by David Bowie.

In fact, Bowie's fingerprints are all over "Lazarus," a sequel of sorts to "The Man Who Fell To Earth," the 1976 Nicholas Roeg film Bowie starred in that was based on the novel by Walter Tevis. Bowie wrote the script with Enda Walsh ("Once"), and it uses new material as well as old hits, deep cuts and new arrangements of classic Bowie songs.

"Lazarus," directed by Ivo van Hove, centers on Thomas Jerome Newton, the humanoid alien who left his dying planet to find water on Earth we met in "The Man Who Fell to Earth." It's now 40 years later, and he's still here, trapped, un-aged, filthy rich and depressed.

Caruso plays Girl, an ethereal being who wants to help Newton get home.

The musical opened Monday and has garnered some positive reviews, and some head scratching. It certainly doesn't sound like a breezy night of theater. As Ben Brantley pointed out in his New York Times review, "Listening to the characters talk, your response is likely to be either an irritated 'Oh, please,' or a dumbfounded 'Huh?' But then, the music (performed by a ravishing-sounding band, divided from the stage by a transparent wall) starts up. So do a host of visual effects that mirror and mock the people singing or suggest that they (and you) have tumbled into a three-dimensional television set that is perpetually changing channels."

The Guardian simply called it "a thrilling theatrical odyssey - and almost impossible to understand." In the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney concluded, "Whether or not the outre folly of 'Lazarus' pays off is wide open to debate, but this may well be the nearest thing to a Bowie musical that any of us could have hoped for. At the very least, it's unlike anything else out there and it's certainly not banal." He also wrote: "Many of the new arrangements are gorgeous, notably the final number, 'Heroes,' performed by Hall and Caruso as a duet of healing deliverance. The fact that they're bodysurfing in a pool of spilt milk as they sing is typical of the show's spacey oddity."

Caruso's performance earned positive notices from a number of critics, including Brantley, who described her as "radiant."
Deadline.com's Jeremy Gerard called Caruso "haunting," while Kory Grow in Rolling Stone  wrote, "Caruso breathes just enough drama into the cavemen and sailors of 'Life on Mars' after years of overdramatic cover versions. It's all strange and wonderful and heartbreaking and funny in alternating measure." Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Chris Jones said, "Hall and young Caruso have a palpable emotional connection — weird as it is, this actually is the one relationship in the show that feels rooted in reality, even though neither of the participants are human." And Slate's Chris O'Leary called Caruso "an astonishing young talent, whom I expect will be starring in Broadway plays for the rest of the century."

The initial run of "Lazarus" sold out in minutes, so it was extended to Jan. 20. That sold out, too. Mostly. Looks like there were a few seats left Tuesday morning for closing night. Click here for details.

Since leaving Spokane, where she starred as Annie for Spokane Civic Theatre and as Helen Keller at (the former) Interplayers Theatre, she's pursued an acting career in New York. She appeared as one of the von Trapp children in NBC's live musical "The Sound of Music" in 2013 and was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award as "Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play" for her work in the off-Broadway production of "The Nether." For more information about Caruso, click here.

Binge Watch preview: “Transparent”

Post script to last week's Thanksgiving edition: Amazon Prime released the first episode of the second season of Emmy-winning "Transparent" last night. The remaining seven episodes will be available on Friday, Dec. 11.

The first season followed the Pfefferman family as patriarch Mort (Jeffrey Tambor) comes out as a transgender woman, now Maura, to her grown children and ex-wife. While the half-hour series is darkly comedic, it's primarily thoughtful and sad. It’s also infuriating as the Pfefferman children make the same selfish mistakes in their relationships at every turn.

Nothing appears to have changed in season two, as barely divorced Sarah (Amy Landecker) walks down the aisle with a rekindled college flame, middle child Josh (Jay Duplass) shares a secret against his partner's wishes and youngest sister Ali (Gaby Hoffmann) generally stirs up trouble with her compulsive lies.

We also learn that Maura has not come out to her mother, and is estranged from her sister Bryna (Jenny O'Hara). I'm much more interested in exploring Maura's feelings and relationships—especially regarding her ex-wife and current housemate Shelly (Judith Light)—than her kids', but I think we're in for plenty of lying and cheating between the younger Pfeffermans this season.

If you were able to stomach the family dysfunction of "Casual," you might be ready for an even bigger dose in "Transparent." This uncomfortable second season teaser is merely a taste of the awkwardness that awaits you.

Binge Watch: Thanksgiving edition

One of greatest things about cord-cutting (other than the savings) is that you aren’t tied to your TV and cable box to watch popular shows, which is especially handy during holiday travels. With a Wi-Fi connection and mobile device, you can binge watch on planes, trains and automobiles (non-drivers only).

When you need a break from holiday cheer, check out a few of my favorite newish half-hour shows that don’t quite fit into the sitcom category. I think of them as off-kilter rom-drams featuring eccentric families that will make you really appreciate your own.

"Catastrophe"

"Catastrophe"

While originally broadcast on Channel 4 in the U.K. earlier this year, “Catastrophe” was available to U.S. viewers through Amazon Prime Instant Video this summer. American comedian and writer Rob Delaney co-created and stars in the series with Irish actress Sharon Horgan about two relative strangers who become a couple after a vacation fling leads to a high-risk pregnancy.

With only six episodes, the short series mirrors the brief courtship, engagement and marriage of the two middle-aged protagonists as they grapple with cohabitation, work and anxiety about impending parenthood. It sounds intense, but the good-natured banter between Delaney and Horgan keeps the tone friendly, for the most part.

The second season is currently airing in the UK; its Amazon Prime release date has yet to be announced.

"Master of None"

"Master of None"

If you read comedian Aziz Ansari’s recent non-fiction book “Modern Romance” or watched his stand-up special “Live at Madison Square Garden,” some of the plotlines in his Netflix original series “Master of None” will seem a little familiar.

But that doesn’t make the series any less enjoyable, especially the episodes that embrace bringing up topics that aren’t usually addressed on film—how racism and sexism in media feed prejudice in society, the immigrant experience in America and the realization that old people are just people who got old.

If you’re visiting family over the holidays, I recommend viewing “Parents” and “Old People” in advance; maybe you'll be inspired to instigate some of the same conversations Dev has with his parents and his girlfriend’s grandmother with your own relatives.

A bonus fun fact is that Dev’s on-screen parents are Ansari’s actual parents who have never acted before. Keep that in mind when Shoukath Ansari wins an Emmy for Best Guest Actor in a Comedy Series next year.

"Casual"

"Casual"

For something a little darker, brace yourself for Hulu original “Casual.” Following a divorce, psychiatrist Valerie (Michaela Watkins) and her teenage daughter Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) move in with Valerie’s brother Alex (Tommy Dewey), whose background as a successful dating website founder qualifies him to give his sister jaded and brutally honest dating (or hooking-up) advice, but leaves his own love life lacking.

Watkins’ previous ventures on “Saturday Night Live” and “Trophy Wife” were sadly short-lived, but “Casual” has already been renewed for a 13-episode second season. Her performance is simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious, and reaches some “Office”-level, face-covering, cringe-worthy moments, especially in “…”, as in:

iMessage Ellipsis

Last week’s Thanksgiving episode “Bottles” depicts what might be the most mortifying family dinner imaginable. Proceed with caution. Or, at least, wine.