Readers and Members of the Soul Patrol/Monkbot Division: Our dear Shrewspeaks traveled from her burrow in the Northeast all the way to sunny California last week to experience LMBO and AI live in San Jose.She was kind enough to not only document the event photographically and in written form…but she has generously offered her exclusive story to TALK!
So…I’m handing the reins over for this post to let Shrew speak.
Shrew’s Humble Review
Words and Photos by Shrewspeaks
I promised this review as soon as I returned from vacation. So here it is, I hope it does not disappoint.
(Listening Notes: As I type this I am listening to a customized playlist within iTunes. When a group of note or a particular song comes on, I will make a parenthetical note…I have started listening to the “Greatest of Faces.”)
AI Concert – Aug. 30
We made our way through the electrified crowd from the Poor Boy’s Café around the block from the HP Pavilion. Every which way we looked there seemed to be generations clinging to each other as they charged the concrete stairs to their assigned seats. The AI concert was indeed a family affair. Little girls proudly wore self-styled t-shirts adorned with glitter paint and scribbled names “Chris, Ace, Kelley, etc.” Little boys looked sheepishly at Kat and Kelley posters. And parents looked wearily at us, or in particular, my friend who is close to being eight months pregnant as if to say “why would you be here if you don’t have to be?”
We were giddy with anticipation when we reached our seats and thankfully we did not have to wait long. A quick word about the chocolatey chip mint goodness of freezing the newest flavor of Poptarts and the lights dimmed.
Shadowy figures made their way on the stage and the crowd roared, ”Could it be Ace? No, Chris…wait…is…it…aww, it’s the house band.” Well, yeah to the faceless, talented guys who are the glue of
this aggressive tour schedule.
Then the most craptacular moment opens the show…the chords of hope and fate of Tuesdays and Wednesdays, January to May, reverberate thought the stadium. Yes! The AI theme music and on the jumbotrons, the larger-than-life Robot Idols walk down to the microphone…and visions of past idols flash on the screen, Kelley, Ruben, Fantasia, Carrie… Wait where is Tay’s picture? Dammit!
(For those following the Listening Notes: Please dig out your copy if
Itchycoo Park by Small Faces, “It’s All Too Beautiful.”)
Mandisa takes the stage with “I’m Every Woman”…great opening number. The clarity of her voice is remarkable. Her choreography leaves a bit to be desired…she mostly walks back and forth on the apron of the stage, waving madly at the 17,000 strong who have come out this evening. It is startling to see people hundreds of feet away waving to her as if she can single them out and wave back. The next two songs blend together for me and I start to wonder if Mandisa has the magnetic power she will need to sustain a solo career? As some of you know, I had the good fortune of seeing Etta James perform at the end of June and I STILL vibrate from her charismatic performance…now, I realize it is not fair to compare poor Mandisa to the Goddess of Blues, but I was missing that kind of focus to her performance. I so wanted a connection…oh well…let’s just say I was happy to see Ace join her on stage, ’cause that meant I was closer to hearing Taylor.
Ace, Ace, Ace…great smile, but what is up with the chest move at the beginning of “Father Figure”? Talk about Cheese Whiz? I have a funny feeling if Ace had won AI, TimberLack would have sung the praises of the show and declared that the winner could walk on water. In all honesty, Ace wasn’t as painful as I had expected. The songs just seemed too long to me…ummm…and what is with his “capped sleeves”? Please, either have real sleeves or none at all. Okay, next!!!!
Lisa came out singing her Stevie Wonder song, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”…okay, not bad, but when she sits at the piano and plays Elton…da-yum! That gal is good!
(Listening Notes: “Stay With Me”)
Lisa’s set is the highlight of the first act…I get the feeling an 18- or 20-year-old Lisa would have won AI no contest. She connected naturally with the stadium audience…something that was lacking during the season on the small screen. She sang with all her heart, leaving nothing unused. The San Jose crowd thanked her with as much heart, which deeply touched Lisa. Lap it up songstress, you deserve it, gal!
Lisa’s natural connection was even more evident when she was joined by iParisbot, the wind-up Princess P on “Waterfalls.” Both girls were given the same choreography. Lisa’s movement was fluid and in the moment, while Paris’ choppy versions of the same moves were painfully by rote and held no joy.
(Listening Notes: Parliament’s “Agony of Defeet”)
It was painfully clear by Princess P’s rendition of “Midnight Train” that she has never read the words of this soulful torch ballad. She was crank-up on Happy Party Doll Mode. She giggled and wiggled and said “thaynk ewe.” Standard Paris fare…nothing impressive as far as I was concerned. (Side Note: Butt wiggles should be outlawed where ticket holders are younger than the age of 21…it is embarrassing and in poor taste.)
And now for a little funky Bucky! Who’d have thunk all those months ago that Bucky would open his set with Stevie Wonder? Bucky did just fine, yet his songs seemed just a tad bit long, too. Can they institute a rule that all the runners-up sing the 2-minute versions while just the winner gets the honor of the full-tilt boogie-length songs? Ah well, I can dream can’t I?
Okay, now folks we have a winner for the most awkward moment of the evening…(this includes my dancing later at Angels)…when Bucky and Pickler sang “You’re the One That I Want” from Grease. Words defy the vision of pure schlock that was this moment. Moving on.
Pickler…urgh…do I have to? I was never a fan of hers. I have issue with anyone who tries to gain a higher position out of playing dumb and flirty. Let me just say…she is much better talking to celebrities on the red carpet than walking on the stage trying to sing. (And Timberlake is okay with her vocal stylings?)
(Listening Note: The Gap Band’s “You Drop The Bomb On Me”)
And mercifully it was intermission. I was so damn antsy at this time…I wished there was a real life TiVo remote to pass all this stuff. I was deep in this thought wondering if I could bring this idea over to Stanford U. in the morning and get some brilliant minds working on it, when behind me this little boy of 6 or 7 caught my attention. He leaned over to his mother and grandmother, thanking them for the best time of his life. He found something positive to say about each and every performer. Gawd, to be that innocent again.
Intermission is over…chords…lights…DAUGHTRY!
(Listening Note: “Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool Ya” by Wilson Pickett)
Chris really does have an amazing voice. Do I connect with him…nope. I have tried and tried…he is even playing Led Zeppelin…still nothing. Dammit. Chris shills his tour for next year, asking people to come and pay to see him again…what is that taste in my mouth? Bile, I think.
Then Elliott joins him for “Save Me,” ahhhh much better. Maybe Chris needs a band around him for me to like him. I will keep my mind open for the future. Ah…sweet, sweet Elliott…he is the first performer I can close my eyes and just listen to…okay, maybe that is how I have always listened to him; very sweet sounding tones. The boy is easy on the ears. I would pay to see him sing at a small venue club like Joe’s Café in NYC.
(Listening Note: Wilson Pickett’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”)
Then the boys sing “Patience” and I have just one hopeful moment that there will be no Kat for this show. No such luck…”whoohoo, whoohoo…Blackhorse and the Cherry Tree.” And to think KT Tunstall is Scottish, too! Yadda, Yadda…fast forward, please, fast forward…then the little boy behind me whispers with full awe “She’s so beautiful”…and I feel guilty. Okay Kat sing, but you better do your best for my little friend behind me!
(Listening Note: “Hold On I’m Coming,” Sam & Dave)
I crane my neck, twisting to the rear of the auditorium…where is he? I can’t see! Ah…there he is! TAYLOR! Singing “Jailhouse”! Running, and I mean running, through the crowd to the stage. Zigging, zagging, and KUN-NECT-ING!!! Damn, even my friends were blown away. By now it is known what he sang and how he sang and that he took San Jose to church. My friends…he filled that stadium with his personality. Giving everything, feeding off the love, and dancing as no one has danced before…no choreography turn pivot smile kick one kick two…no…just pure feeling and movement. Can I get an AMEN?
Oh yeah there were two other songs, but I must admit by the time Tay finished “Takin’ It to the Streets” I was already in my mind on my way to the LiMBO Show at Angels. Yes, kids you all lost, but you’re all “Champions”…move it…and we are all “Living in America”…yes, yes, yes…let’s go!
People begin filing out. I’m not above telling people my friend is in labor to get them to move out of our way so we don’t miss a moment of Tay at Angels. Thankfully, it isn’t too bad and we hit the street and get to the car in less than 10 minutes. Zooming along we make it to Angels and see the line outside. My friend’s hubby shows up with my superduper camera and shazam…we are through the line and…waiting inside.
LiMBO After-Party – Aug. 30
Seems LiMBO had sound issues and didn’t open the doors as planned at 9…it is now almost 11. I start to begin to feel bad for those who have been waiting…poor souls…lucky us who did go to the concert.
Angels is the kind of place that I would normally avoid with all my might, given any other circumstance. This is the kind of place that caters to the scantily clad, who are prone to tin ear dance-offs, rather than a hearty gin joint roadhouse band and the whisky-swilling crowd it attracts. Oh well…for this night they will have to deal, ’cause it is all about the soul, baby.
I look at the crowd, wondering which person is LaLuna and who is Denali…but I am so focused to get inside that I don’t ruminate long over it. (Sorry ladies…I am lame!)
The doors open…oh, my god!
(Listening Note: “Soothe Me” by Sam & Dave)
LiMBO comes on and da-yum…these guys are good! Holy shit…now that is a band that is watertight. (Wikipedia, now has LiMBO’s picture under the definition of “tight.”) Talk about the quintessential blues band! They are playing in a few weeks in PA and, after seeing them, I am tempted to drive down! Taylor or no Taylor…Little Memphis Blues Orchestra is worth the $25!!! Not one member lacks the chops! They play as one unit, maneuvering some of the most difficult licks I seen played live!
During the second set…Taylor walked out and stood 4 feet from my spot. Some wise person said to me before I left, don’t get trapped behind your camera lens…enjoy the show. (Thanks, Shelley.) So, I took my pics and then put down the camera and felt the kun-neck-shun!!!
Some reports have said that Taylor was grumpy or less than personable…maybe he wasn’t planning to come down, but then the doors didn’t open so he felt compelled or maybe it was the fact that only 150 people showed at $25 a head and LiMBO could have lost money on the booking.
What I saw was a guy playing his music “making it do what it do”…and he played brilliantly and gave selflessly with a mini-Under The Radar Concert. He played strong and true. Did he want everyone’s drinks that they were buying him…no…did he want major props for LiMBO…yes. I give the man a tremendous amount of respect for supporting these guys the way he does.
(Listening Note: Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”)
It seemed, from all the reports, that Taylor played much longer than he has at any other AI After-Party. Maybe ’cause he came alone…I am grateful for each song. What seems even more impressive is that the band appeared gleeful playing with Taylor again. “What I Say” was fabulous. His final song of the night, “Hold on to Your Love” (including the “Shake, Shake, Senora” section), was also a favorite.
But the moment for me was just before “Hold on to Your Love.” Taylor took a moment to thank the crowd and, being the big mouth that I am, I yelled, “No, thank you.” At that, Taylor looked squarely at me and pointed his finger. He looked inside himself and said in almost a melancholy tone… “I haven’t sung this in…such a loooong time.” Then, slowly drawing each note from a place where real moments are made, Taylor sang, “Thank You for Lettin’ Me Be Myself, Again.” A few astute members gave the man the witness he so richly deserved.
And then he was gone.
Confession time…over the past few months I had been loosing my zeal for the Soul Patrol and some of the zaniness that surrounded Taylor. But seeing the show at Angels has made me a lifetime supporter of not only Taylor, but also the Little Memphis Blues Orchestra. I cannot wait to see those guys again and, hopefully, I will have the good fortune of being as close to the action as I was this time.
Brothers and sisters, this is my humble review…now, can I get an amen for some of the best SOUL players of today bringing back the best reality to music!!!
(Listening Note: “Dance to the Music,” Sly and the Family Stone)