2007 Year in Review: Music and Theatre

One of my new year’s resolutions is to write more frequently, so I’m going to start by working around a format I’m comfortable with, the list.

I love attending live music and theatre performances, and usually make it to at least one a month.  The following are the shows I enjoyed most in 2007, ordered roughly chronologically.

The Flying Karamazov Brothers
The FKB are one of my absolute favorite performing groups.  Their own words best explain who they are and what they do:

We are a continuing experiment in comedy, theatre, music and, of course, juggling. From the beginning, it has been our intention to blend the worlds of performance art, improvisation, word play, harmony, emotion and above all virtuosity into a unique form of theatre and entertainment.

They are amazing jugglers, but beyond that they are also talented comedians and musicians.  I particularly like the way they integrate juggling and music.  They juggle to music, they juggle while playing music, and they even juggle to make music!  For example, one of their classic numbers involves a sort of reverse juggling, in which they bounce balls on top of and underneath a wooden table in time, creating an interesting percussion piece.  For another act they have constructed a unique machine called a “jugglatron” which is like a large circular keyboard in which the players stand inside the circle and play the keys with juggling clubs (while juggling, of course).  I’ve heard them play things on the complexity of Bach inventions this way.  Finally, in addition the music and juggling, they made me laugh harder than anything else this entire year.  They’re sharp-witted, relevant, and heartfelt.

Josh Groban
My mother, sister and I attended Josh Groban‘s “Awake” concert at the San Jose HP Pavilion in March.  I don’t usually go out for big-name performers in huge venues, but this, like the last such concert I saw (Simon and Garfunkel at the Oakland Coliseum), was completely worth it.  Groban has a wonderful voice, which was a pleasure to hear live.  He’s also endearing on stage — slightly awkward but sincere and friendly.  It was far from an intimate show, but he spiced it up a bit by coming out into the upper parts of the audience to sing at one point.  In the past I’ve sometimes found his music too sappy, but his deliverance of the songs from the “Awake” album was fairly breathtaking. I particularly liked the duets with Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The Indigo Girls
Easily my favorite female music group, the Indigo Girls always put on great live shows.  I admire them for a number of reasons.  First, they have great voices.  Emily’s is the higher voice, and it can be mellow or piercing over Amy’s rich, emotional alto.  I love women who sing in my voice range :).  Second, they’re  musicians.  They write, sing, and play their own music, often with little added accompaniment, so there’s not much difference between their recordings and live performances.  Third, they are strong women who stand up for the things they believe in.  Both Amy and Emily are icons of the LGBT rights movement but also champion environmental and political causes — I saw them perform this year at the Power to the Peaceful concert in San Francisco.

Guster
If the Indigo Girls are my preferred lady singers, Guster is definitely my top contemporary rock band (contemporary because I’m not sure they top out the Beatles for all-time).  Like the Indigo Girls, I hold Guster in high esteem, and in the interest of actually getting this post written I present a list of reasons why:

1. The drummer, Brian Rosenworcel, plays hand percussion including bongos, congas, and djembe. Sweet!
2.  They write good music and sing in harmony.
3. They put on great live shows — and I should know, having seen them at least six times.
4. They’re funning and endearing
5. They rewrote a whole album of their songs with “meows” for lyrics, and included a special renditions of the “Carol of the Meows.”  Yessss.

Cirque du Soleil
What can I say that hasn’t been said?  Cirque is breathtaking but also touching and fun.  Their lithe, acrobatic bodies do things that boggle my mind.  It’s like watching really good CG or stunts only real and therefore one hundred times as wonderful.  The performers have all the skill, strength, and flexibility of Olympic athletes but go above and beyond into the realm of artists.  Okay that’s as much as I can muster.

Chanticleer
I went with Sandra and Graham to see Chanticleer‘s annual Christmas concert in Memorial Church.  If you’ve ever heard a recording of theirs you know how virtuosic their voices are.  The purity of tone and perfection of harmony they achieve are beautiful, and the resonance and depth provided by Memorial Church can make it otherworldly.  Sometimes I worry that they set such a high standard that I appreciate other vocal music less.  Highlights of the concert included a piece by Arvo Pärt and Biebl’s arrangement of “Ave Maria” which is one of my favorites.  But don’t get the idea they’re perfect; my only complaint is that sometimes the sopranos’ voices were a little too shrill, and I think women’s voices might have sounded better.

It took me eleven days to get around to finishing this post but it’s done and that’s what counts, right?

Comments 2

  1. gwaldon wrote:

    Thanks for introducing me to Chanticleer via that concert. The Arvo Pärt was definitely my favorite. Haven’t found a recording of it yet that compares.

    I also really want to see the FKB now.

    Posted 16 Jan 2008 at 17:59
  2. anonymous wrote:

    Ok, I just spent an hour writing to you, hit some button, and it all disappeared—-argh!!!

    Quick recap:

    All this talk of performance reminds me of when I went to see The Nutcracker at The San Francisco Ballet with your mummy and Heather. Ceci was about four months pregnant with you, and she was just radiating excitement and anticipation. The sweet fantasy of the production and the magical realism of your imminent arrival combined to make an indelible memory. Then when you were 4 I took you on BART to see A Christmas Carol at A. C. T. You were all dressed up, wearing a little coat with a furry collar. During the show you raise yourself up so you could sit on your feet and watch the lights creat the effect of snow falling, twirling, dancing….

    I’m glad to hear Josh Groban is more than just a saccharine, sweet-voiced package. I’ve only hear him on Oprah! Artists often are only known for their slickest hits. The meat and bones of their work is showcased less often, and we tend to get a mono-dimensional view of them.

    I don’t know Guster at all! But I know you love them, so I’ll have to check them out.

    Can you believe that in all the time I’ve known your mummy I’ve never seen the Flying Karamazov Brothers?! Shameful!! The Indigo Girls are terrific. “Hey Jesus” got me through some tough times. Did you know they are actually IN the movie BOYS ON THE SIDE? Cirque is marvelous, and I love them I think I’ve seen 3 of their shows. No matter how ubiquitous they get, it never eclipses their virtuosity, how evocative they are. And Chanticleer I’ve never seen live, only heard on cd and on tv. They are tremendous, though. They hit the spot and rub it out.

    I don’t get much chance to see live shows here in southwest Georgia. I’ve gotten so out of the loop that I’d almost stopped listening to music altogether. I recently got fed up with this, however, and got my hands on several cds:

    Linda Ronstadt, Ann Savoy: ADIEU FALSE HEART (you’d love the tight harmonies)
    Rosemary Clooney: FOR THE DURATION (she was one of the best, no doubt about it)
    John Legend: ONCE AGAIN (bringing myself into the 21st century!)
    Corinne Bailey Rae: CORINNE BAILEY RAE (happy music)
    Iris DeMent: INFAMOUS ANGEL (well, she just sends me)
    Putumayo Presents: DREAMLAND: WORLD LULLABIES AND SOOTHING SONGS

    How’s that?

    Love,
    rb

    Posted 17 Jan 2008 at 09:35

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