Highlights of a Long Weekend: Oct. 1 – 4 in Los Angeles

October 1, 2015

By Don Heckman

Gustavo Dudamel

Gustavo Dudamel

Oct. 1 – 4. (Thurs. – Sun.) IMMORTAL BEETHOVEN. Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a remarkable, four night tour de force program devoted to all nine of the Beethoven symphonies: #1 and #2 on Thursday; #3 and #4 on Friday; #5, #6, #7 and #8 on Saturday; and a climactic #9 on Sunday. Walt Disney Hall.  (323) 850-2000.

– Oct. 1. (Thurs.) Duran Duran. Stars of the ’80s, this high visibility English rock band was among the leaders of the “Second British Invasion.” At the Hollywood Bowl in a lease event.  (323) 850-2000.

Emily Bear


– Oct. 1. (Thurs.) Emily Bear. Only 14, this talented pianist/composer – a Quincy Jones discovery – has already been applauded on stages around the world. And with good reason. Emily’s at the early stage of what will surely be a memorable career. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.



– Oct. 1 – Oct. 3. (Thurs. – Sat.) Roy Hargrove.

Roy Hargrove

Roy Hargrove

Trumpeter Hargrove has every reason to be included at the top echelon of contemporary jazz. But he doesn’t always receive the attention and the accolades that his talents deserve. Don’t miss this chance so see him with his quintet in action. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Lisa Fischer

Lisa Fischer

– Oct. 2. (Fri.) Lisa Fischer and Grand Baton. Great voices and gripping interpretations don’t always combine in a single singer. But they do with Fischer, who has one of the music world’s most remarkable vocal instruments. And Fischer makes the most of it in programs that also illustrate an equally extraordinary musical versatility. She’s backed intensely by the boldly supportive trio, Grand Baton. Valley Performing Arts Center.  (818) 677-8800.

– Oct. 2. (Fri.) Yosvany Terry and the Ancestral Memories Quartet. Cuban-born saxophonist Terry is in the foreground of leading a new wave of compelling Cuban jazz. A Jazz Bakery event at the Moss Theatre in Santa Monica.

– Oct. 2 & 4. (Fri. &o Sun.) Van Halen. Another revival of the rock ’70s this week. This time it’s the incomparable Van Halen, with singer David Lee Roth leading the way. Holllywood Bowl in a lease event. http://www.hollywoodbowl.com/tickets/lease-event-van-halen/2015-10-02 (323) 850-2000.

Randy Newman

Randy Newman

– Oct. 3. (Sat.) An Evening with Randy Newman. No problem with what to decide about this performance. Basically, every opportunity to hear Randy Newman in performance should be taken. He is, simply, one of a kind, as a songwriter a performing artist and a philosopher. A CAP UCLA event at Royce Hall.

– Oct. 3. (Sat.) Mavis Staples and Joan Osborne. It’s a rare musical booking: Staples, the diva of soul, r&b and gospel music, sharing a stage with Osborne, a singer-songwriting mistress of Americana song. And it should make for a rare musical blending. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8500.

– Oct. 4. (Sun.) Paris Chansons. “From Paris With Love.” Catalina’s is L.A.’s prime jazz destination. But occasionally the spacious but warm room is the host to an unusual but engaging musical evening. Like this one, in which the Paris Chansons will surely transport listeners to a memorable stroll down the Champs d’Elysee. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

Live Music: Snarky Puppy and Kneebody in a CAP UCLA Concert at Royce Hall

September 29, 2015

Mike Finkelstein

By Mike Finkelstein

On Thursday night in a Center for the Art of Performance concert at Royce Hall, Snarky Puppy and Kneebody played a sold out show of what might best be called jazz fusion or simply eclectic music, though trying to label music is probably not a great idea. Still, both units had a similar approach and sound and it made for a good match on the bill. And would you believe, both acts were greeted with the enthusiasm one usually sees for rock ‘ n rollers and pop stars? The audience was clearly familiar with the material and from the moment the lights went down people were pumped up for both sets.

The evening began about half an hour behind schedule with parking traffic outside as thick as molasses, coupled with a similarly long line of ticket holders to enter Royce. But, by the time Kneebody came out to open the show, every one was happily in place, and primed to receive. The anticipation hung in the air for this show.

In the fusion medium one sure thing is that there won’t be much, if any, singing to speak of. The tunes aren’t sung, but in the absence of lyrics and a voice to deliver them, they are advanced by stellar musicianship, and precision changes in tempo and texture. In a musical world that sees most of the focus on guitars, fusion is a place where bands often carve their identities without guitars. That was largely true Thursday.



Kneebody is a 5-piece band with only one stringed instrument, the bass, in their lineup. But they do have Ben Wendel (sax), Shane Endsley (trumpet), and Adam Benjamin (keyboards) to mix things up. They used delay units and a good sense of dynamics to keep the music fresh from moment to moment. In fact, they had a nicely authentic early 70’s sound. This may have been due in part to the prominent voice of Benjamin’s Fender Rhodes. Many of the band’s textures evoked 70’s prog bands like Gentle Giant, early Genesis, and the Soft Machine. While nobody in the band blew the doors off with any one solo, the band instead took us for a nice ride with their dynamics and by regularly changing a tune’s atmosphere.

With the absence of a guitar out front of the mix, the horns had room to experiment and play off one other. In 2015 we are some 40 years past the 70’s. But bassist Kaveh Rastegar took advantage of the advances in bass effects technology, and his bass sound evokes a lot of the mid range of an electric guitar. He also went in and out of guitar mode to let the bass growl and hum as needed. And, Rategar was also a pretty funny guy when filling us in on the band’s background and the program of tunes. He even threw in a Rich Karlis (the Bronco’s barefoot kicker) reference for those in the know.

Drummer Nate Wood also turned in an animated performance in the vein of a light touch jazz drummer. Though he used sticks and not brushes, his accents were subtle and even golden, providing a refreshingly light contrast to some of the heavier changes in the tunes.

Snarky Puppy is on a rising curve. They won a Grammy Award last year for Best R & B Performance and this year has been very busy for them. They played over 200 dates in 2014, and were headed to Japan Friday morning. In LA their path of venues is telling – from the Mint, to the Troubador, to the Hollywood Bowl for the Playboy Jazz Festival, and headlining Royce Hall. They actually have a rotation of players they use to keep up with the demands of their tour schedule.

Snarky Puppy

Snarky Puppy

Their set was a crisper sounding production than that of Kneebody. The horns in particular were remarkably brighter. Same basic instruments, but a different mix through the PA made for much clearer sound. For wind instruments that’s crucial.

Snarky Puppy went with a 3 piece horn section on Thursday. They swelled, muted, and flowed with impressive ease, of course, but could these guys ever solo! … and in the end, that’s what people were waiting for. The Puppies did not disappoint, either. In particular, Jay Jennings, who was just joining the tour and heading to Japan, took several choice intricate and articulate trumpet solos.

The onstage dynamics between drummer Robert “Sput” Searight and both Mike Maher on trumpet and keyboardist Shaun Martin were the highlights of the evening. What we got to see was musical communication on a very high level. Searight had a separate musical dialogue with both players. He would speed up and slow down, get loud and soft, and each nuance and tempo shift of his was heard and responded to. Searight simply drew the best out of the guys in his band, and they drew it out of him. Shaun Martin started the evening subdued at his B-3 organ but by the end of the evening he let it all hang out, and Searight certainly pushed him towards that musical euphoria.

Oddly enough the leader of Snarky Puppy, Michael League, had his bass nearly submerged in the mix. He played interesting lines and accents all night, and he grimaced like a rock n roller might. But it didn’t sound nearly as clear as, say, those horns just to his right did. Because this genre of music is so much about the playing, one has to reflect on where these guys got such amazing chops and the ears to guide them. Of course, they were born with the aptitude and refined it impressively in conservatories, and that is a beautiful thing. The resources for becoming a strong and inspired instrumentalist are there. Being active in music education is a large part of what Snarky Puppy does away from touring and recording. They give back what they got on their way up. But for the night, we left feeling lucky to have caught two rising stars in the field at a perfect venue for this sort of thing. It was an electric couple of hours.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

Live Music: Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals at the Greek Theatre

September 22, 2015
Mike Finkelstein

Mike Finkelstein

By Mike Finkelstein

For years, it seems that I’ve brushed up to a nice bushel or two of “keeper” songs from Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. These tunes are the good stuff, the type of songs people use in their weddings, and the band’s reputation as performers is similarly top shelf. Still, I never did get a chance to see them do what they do live until Friday night at the Greek Theatre. Turns out they haven’t played LA in eight years. But, man, did they deliver a fine show on Friday.

Before Harper took the stage a duo called The Thousand-aires came onstage and did a little bit of beat poetry for us. They were just a bass and spoken word, but their one piece, “The Heat,” was about what percolates below the surface of life in SoCal. It featured some entertaining spoken and musical phrases and surely raised the mood of the evening.

A little after 8 p.m., everyone who was coming had made it into the Greek. Throughout the evening it seemed that there was something different about the audience. They were quiet in the right spots, enthused in others and ecstatic between tunes. While the crowd was huge, there was very little extraneous crowd noise during the songs. People stayed quiet out of respect for the music. It’s rare to see, but it was remarkable and it was definitely appreciated by the band and the audience.

Ben Harper is a unique stage presence. Between his solidly lean look, his edgy yet sensitive presence, and a Les Paul Junior in his hands he evokes Bob Marley in a sincere and original way. For about half the time he sat center stage and played his Weissenborn-style lap steel guitars. Some were solid body, some were acoustic but they all roared and moaned in his hands.

Ben Harper

Ben Harper

Sometimes he cranked them through a wah-wah pedal. The other half of his time was spent on his feet with that Les Paul Junior. On the Greek’s live video feed you could see the words Overdrive Special on his amp head just over his shoulder. Kinda makes sense when you see it right there, because he did have a smoldering sound. Above that amp was a skateboard … with his likeness painted onto the bottom of the deck. He ollie’d/kick-flipped it a few times later on in the evening.

While the Innocent Criminals (bassist Juan Nelson, percussionist Leon Mobley, guitarist Michael Ward, drummer Oliver Charles, and keyboardist Jason Yates) groove and cook like champions, Harper calmly cycled through eye contact with all of them throughout the set and within a song. This band sounded much more concerned with their overall sound than with soloing. That being said, Leon Mobley did just great with his djembe solo, and bassist Juan Nelson did some very tasty work on several solos that were a blend of tasty and funky. These solos only advanced the song, not suspending it for the sake of a solo. It’s interesting to watch a guy like Nelson live all night in the pocket, and then clearly step out of it so smoothly. It is, after all, the mark of a journeyman not to let the seams show.

Ben Harper and Innocent Criminals

Friday’s entire set list was incredibly well received, with several high points. Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” even made it, done their own inimitable way. Songs, like “Homeless Child,” and “Ground on Down,” chugged along as the blues will, with Harper’s wailing steels over the mix. While these songs did boogie mightily, it was the more introspective and beautifully constructed ones that put the crowd into that state of demanding quiet to savor the vibe. It was so good to hear songs like “Diamonds on the Inside,” “In the Colors,” “Take That Attitude to Your Grave,” “Alone,” and “Better Way,” live for the first time.

Ben Harper

Ben Harper

Harper is charismatic when he tells a story. The crowd will hush for him. On Friday, after the song was over, he told the story of how the seed was planted for “Take That Attitude to Your Grave,” when he was less than 10. It had to do with the commanding presence of his dad…a presence that would diffuse a fight, subdue an angry stranger, and even quiet a yapping dog in an alley way. The details of his dad’s silent power were not lost on young Harper. What a great set of chords and words… a special song! And while I’ve heard several great versions of “Walk Away,” the version he opened the encore with transcended the others.

“Where Could I Go, But to the Lord,” was not a Harper original. It’s a traditional gospel song that he collaborated on to record with the Blind Boys of Alabama. But Harper simply owned this song with the Innocent Criminals. When he was singing away from the mic and into the night air, the crowd gave him the quiet to project to the entire venue. “I don’t belong up here, and there are those out there that know it better than most,” he testified. This was powerful and impressive stuff. No put-ons here. I’d have to say that, yes, anyone who brings that much soul and musicality with him certainly does belong up there on stage.

Friday’s program began at a rather hard to reach 6:30pm. I actually got to see some of Gill Landry’s solo opening set. The Greek was maybe 20% full for his bluesy folk music in the classic Dylan format of one guy singing with his guitar and a harmonica in a holder. But, the Greek is gorgeous at dusk and, with so much space for people to relax, it was the place to be. The orchestra pit was open and surprisingly full, so the vibe was super chill, but with enough people to give Landry a boost, everyone who came early clearly dug it.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

Musical Theatre: “A Night With Janis Joplin” at the Pasadena Playhouse

August 10, 2015
Mike Finkelstein

Mike Finkelstein

By Mike Finkelstein

If you have even a kernel of curiosity about the legend of Janis Joplin or if you simply want to see some great rock-related live musical theater, you will want to get to the Pasadena Playhouse and see A Night with Janis Joplin before it closes on August 23. Putting this production into this beautifully restored venue in Old Towne Pasadena is a superb match.

They nailed the hippie esthetic — a classy set in a classy theater. The stage was covered with some of the snazziest hippie tapestries available, an iconic Egyptian-styled chair that Janis made famous, several very groovy, fringed lamps, and of course the velvet, boas, fringes, and beads in the costuming.

This production, created, written and directed by Randy Johnson, is signed, sealed and delivered with the uncanny performance by Tony-nominated Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin.

Mary Bridget Davies as Janis Joplin

To say she becomes Janis Joplin for the role may sound clichéd, but it was downright mesmerizing to watch Davies nail all of Janis’ mannerisms, quirks, and nuances in speech, song, and posture. Her speaking voice had the same giggling, twang and her hair even hung down from her temples just the way Janis’ did when she bent down to belt out a phrase. It seemed to me that Davies didn’t need to stretch much to carry the role of Janis Joplin.

And Davies was hardly in a talent bubble with a supporting cast of similarly powerful girl singers surrounding her as the Joplinaires. The girls also played the part of the girl group the Chantels, whose haunting gem “Maybe” was a huge influence on young Janis’ appreciation of how well music can put across powerful emotions. Yvette Cason (Aretha Franklin/Nina Simone), Sylvia MacCalla (Bessie Smith/Odetta), and Jenelle Lynne Randall (Etta James) all did justice to the luminaries they portrayed.

A Night With Janis Joplin is not a plot heavy show. In fact, the format is more or less like a VH1 Storytellers show, where the performer chooses material, introduces it anecdotally, and then performs it with a band. In A Night With Janis Joplin, Janis affably welcomes us into her life and presents us with the songs and the emotions that powered them for her. Because it’s musical theater, we get to see her talk about Etta James, Nina Simone, Odetta, Aretha Franklin and Bessie Smith, and then have these characters come out and proceed to lay down exactly what Janis is talking about.

The script is cleverly written to allow Davies to welcome us with stories from Janis’ vantage point. She leads with stories like when she and her siblings made their house cleaning chores into a production, performing Porgy and Bess and other musicals to records supplied by their mother as they worked. Following this lead-in is a great comparison of “Summertime,” sung bluesy and powerfully by Jenelle Randall and then rearranged by Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band’s version of this ubiquitous song was an early glimpse of the possibilities in interpreting traditional tunes with a rock slant. The elegantly busy bass lines, the beautiful harmony guitar lines, and the wonderful dynamics of the new version were an innovative high water mark at the time. Janis’ vocal on it was classic and to watch Davies sing it Friday was to know that she has been doing it for most of her life. She owned it. The band gave “Summertime” a real workout as they also did to “Piece of My Heart,” and “Cry Baby.”

A Night with Janis Joplin - Photo by Joan Marcus

A Night with Janis Joplin – Photo by Joan Marcus

Janis brought up the notion that songwriters ask so many good questions…but don’t answer them. The choices of songs like “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Down on Me,” and “Tell Mama,” give us a sense of what rang true to Janis in other people’s music. One major theme of Janis Joplin’s life was that though she yearned for real love, she also needed to be on stage to be whole. And these considerations were often at odds with each other. She made the point that she just might not choose a good man over a good audience. This was a person who would not hesitate to go against the grain if it meant being true to herself.

It’s impossible to think about Janis Joplin without confronting the fact that alcohol and drug abuse led to her untimely death at the young age of 27. There’s no way around the fact that she was one of the founding members of the “27 club,” which also tragically includes mega-talents like Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Though she casually picks up a bottle once in the show, the subject of booze, drugs, and self-medication are just not part of the program. It would have been fun to listen to the spunky and insightful rationale for this behavior that Davies’ Janis could surely have supplied.

Towards the end of her abruptly shortened career, Janis severed ties with Big Brother and took on Full Tilt Boogie as her backing band. It was with them that she made some of her most appealing and tastefully arranged music. Songs like “Half Moon,” and “Move Over,” and “Get It While You Can” would have been worthy of making the cut in the production, even though “Kozmic Blues,” and “Bobby McGee” did. Still it’s six of one and half dozen of the other. The material in the production is top flight, and it’s played and sung impeccably. Davies is a true dynamo as Janis, and transcended the show into something very special.

A NIght With Janis Joplin, photo by Earl Gibson III

A NIght With Janis Joplin, photo by Earl Gibson III

Walking out of the Pasadena Playhouse, I felt like I’d gotten to experience more of Janis than I had anticipated, both musically and spiritually. As I watched people sporting flowers in their hair, bell bottoms, and headbands like it was a costume party, I had to once again realize that the hippie days were, at their purest, a very creative time in history, and Janis Joplin was as iconic a hippie personality as there ever will be. But those days are long gone and a show like this is the closest most people will probably come to connecting with it. I’m delighted to have known her music years before she died and to know that a show like this one does real justice to her legacy. And what could be more important than that?

A Night With Janis Joplin continues at the Pasadena Playhouse through August 23.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

Picks of the Weekend: June 5 – 7 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, London, Paris and Milan

June 4, 2015

By Don Heckman

Los Angeles

Eddie Daniels

June 5. (Fri.) Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway. The clarinet hasn’t been one of the lead jazz instruments since before the bebop era. But when it’s in the masterful hands of Eddie Daniels, lucky listeners have a chance to hear the full potential of the instrument that Mozart loved so much – and with good reason. Add to that the presence of the incomparable pianist/composer Roger Kelllaway and you can expect to hear a transformative evening of musical invention. Vittello’s E Spot Lounge.  (818) 769-0905.

June 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sa. The Oz Noy Trio. Israeli guitarist Oz Noy is a true stylistic virtuoso. With the number of elements active within any given performance it’s no wonder he says “It’s jazz; it just doesn’t sound like it.” But it’s always worth hearing, especially when the trio includes drummer Dave Weckl and bassist James Genus . Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

June 6. (Sat.) The Doobie Brothers. The Doobies have been entertaining us since the ’70s, and they’re still at it. But this’ll be a special event, with the participation of Pat Simmons, Jr., the son of founder Pat Simmons, along with the Eagles’ Don Felder. Be prepared for a show to remember. The Greek Theatre. (323) 665-5857.

Andrea Bocelli

Andrea Bocelli

June 7. (Sun.) Andrea Bocelli. The Hollywood Bowl. The great Italian singer, at home with everything from opera to Broadway classics, performs at the Bowl in a lease event, a production of
Andrew Hewitt and Bill Silva Presents. (323) 850-2000.

San Francisco

Marcus Miller

Marcus Miller

– June 5 – 7. (Fri. – Sun.) Marcus Miller. Bassist/bass clarinetist Miller is a uniquely compelling musical pleasure to hear — and always a creative surprise, as well. Yoshi’s  (510) 238-9200.


– June 4 – 7. (Thurs. – Sun.) Spyro Gyra. Expect to be captivated by the groove when Spyro Gyra’s in action; but there’s also a hard-swinging undercurrent of straight ahead traditional jazz. Jazz Alley.  (206) 441-9729.

New York City

Maria Schneider

Maria Schneider

– June 5 – 6. (Fri. & Sat. ) The Maria Schneider Orchestra celebrates the release of a new CD, the first in a decade, titled The Thompson Fields. Birdland.

– June 5 – 7. (Fri. – Sun.) Tootie Heath 80th Birthday Celebration. Drummer Tootie Heath will star in his own party in a jam with bassists Ben Street (Friday) and David Wong (Sat & Sun); pianists Ethan Iverson (Friday) and pianist Jeb Patton (Sat & Sun); and special guest saxophonist Jimmy Heath (Sun).  Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.  (212) 258-9800.


– June 5 – 7. (Fri. – Sun.) Hiromi: The Trio Project. Always beyond definition in her pianistic encounters, keyboardist Hiromi is especially intriguing in the wide open environment of her trio, with drummer Anthony Jackson and bassist Simon Phillips. The Blue Note.  (212) 475-8592.

– June 8. (Mon.) A Celebration of the Life and Music of Lew Soloff. The New York City jazz community assembles to honor the memory of Lewie Soloff, whose superb trumpet playing was matched by his warmth, amiability and deep capacity for life-long friendships. The celebration takes place at the Borden Auditorium in the Manhattan School of Music. Participating musicians include Wynton Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Jimmy Owens, Cecil Bridgewater, Steve Tyrell, Chris Potter, Ray Anderson, Gil Goldstein, Danny Gottlieb, Mark Egan, Sammy Figueroa, Manhattan Brass, Jeff Berlin, Fred Lipsius, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Pete Levin and Jesse Levy. This event is free to the public and begins at 7:00 p.m.   Doors open at 6:15pm for early seating.


– June 5. (Fri.) Jacky Terrasson Trio. French pianist Terrasson is a jazz classicist, keeping the mainstream vividly alive, and even more so, with the sterling rhythm team of Thomas Bramerie, bass and Lukmil Perez, drums. Ronnie Scott’s.  +44 20 7439 0747.


– June 7. (Sun.) Jazz Pour Le Nepal. A gathering of France’s finest jazz artists perform in an effort to raise support for the survivors of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Call it a jazz version of George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh. Jazz for Nepal. Paris New Morning.


– June 5 & 6. (Fri. & Sat.) New York Voices. The remarkable five part harmonies of the New York Voices are among the most appealing of the many jazz vocal ensembles. Don’t miss one of their rare appearances in Europe. Blue Note Milano.  +39 02 6901 6888.

Live Music: Van Halen Make It Interesting As They Rock Hollywood Blvd. For The Jimmy Kimmel Show

April 3, 2015

By Mike Finkelstein

Hollywood, CA  On Monday evening the buzz was in the air above Hollywood Boulevard. LA’s favorite sons, Van Halen, were shooting a live mini-concert in support of their new live album, Tokyo Dome Live In Concert . This show was in front of easily a thousand or so of their most connected/lucky fans and was to be aired live over two nights on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.

Van Halen with Jimmy Kimmel: Wolfgang Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Edward Van Halen, David Lee Roth

Van Halen with Jimmy Kimmel:
Wolfgang Van Halen, Alex Van Halen, Edward Van Halen, David Lee Roth

Within the camp of Van Halen fans, the dividing line is Van Halen with David Lee Roth or without him – meaning with Sammy Hagar, whom they hired to fill Roth’s one-of-a-kind shoes. Given the band’s gargantuan, top of the world status between about 1977 and 1985, it’s bewildering that they had never done live TV with their original lineup. But Monday they finally did it with Diamond Dave, deservedly so as his voice and antics are as much a part of the band’s legend as its sound. Monday turned out to be a classic night of band drama and the spontaneity that it can bring about.

From mid-afternoon, this gig was an exercise in patience and a testimonial to the patience, endurance, and loyalty of the true fans. I waited with a die-hard fan who had flown out, touch and go, from Baltimore about $1200 ago. To simply access the street was a matter of waiting in a series of roped-off holding-areas and waiting for the blazing sun to go down for the best lighting.

When at long last the sun went down and the band hit the stage at 7:30 everyone was pumped. Van Halen launched into “Panama” and as Roth showed us his martial arts skills with a spinning samurai mike stand…it bopped him square on his beezer less than a minute into the set. One can only imagine being a fly on the wall for the post show band meeting after this. The polarized dysfunction in the band over Roth’s antics, and Eddie’s preoccupation with the music is legendary. Hell, these guys couldn’t even make it onstage to perform together when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Knowing a retake was available, Roth apologized and left the stage to get his nose taped and ready for “Panama – Round 2.” This left three Van Halens on stage, Ed, his brother Alex on drums, and Ed’s son Wolfgang on bass … left them there alone to jam it out until their singer was ready again. These moments are often a magical time, in which a band must really be in the moment and make it happen unrehearsed. It can be the sort of thing that both good and bad legends grow from.

Though only the live audience saw it, Ed did do some tasty leads and effects with his vibrato arm and the rhythm section held it down super steady to give him room and space to work in. Save for the evening’s unplanned spontaneity, this is the Van Halen blueprint. The rhythm section really only gets fancy when Alex sees an opportunity and he doesn’t do it too often.

Early 80’s Van Halen: Michael Anthony, Edward Van Halen, David Lee Roth, Alex Van Halen

The bass, Michael Anthony’s for years and Wolfgang’s now, is there primarily to map out the musical boundaries to feature Ed. For many/most of the band’s fans, it’s all about Ed’s guitar playing (including his noodling) and waiting to hear what he will come up with next.  With his sound and technique Ed basically knocked the rock guitar world on it’s collective ass. People had to really dig in to keep up with him. So, this minute and a half or so of free reign was great to see.

After the festivities, Monday’s gig was 8 songs and one retake long. The band put out huge energy on stage, too, if not in the same fashion as, say, 1980. The athletic jumping around that Ed used to do…gone, it’s why he had hip surgery. Roth’s patented leaping kicks…not like they used to be. Alex still sounds like a well-oiled engine, though. Wolfgang is no Michael Anthony on bass or vocally but there are filters to sing through that can diminish that reality.

Fans of Van Halen still wonder why Michael Anthony was ever canned from the band. His voice was the signature Van Halen harmonies and his bass playing was simple, solid, and by now, it’s actually iconic as an example of how to tastefully showcase a hot guitar player.

In the end, the fans got what they wanted, a glimpse of Van Halen live on Hollywood Blvd, television got what it needed, footage of VH to show the world. And, Van Halen themselves showed (some of us) a living breathing example of the dynamics of show biz

Gotta love live TV!

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.

Highlights of the Weekend: In Los Angeles

February 27, 2015

By Don Heckman

Stanley Clarke


– Feb 27 & 28. (Fri. & Sat.) Stanley Clarke and Friends. Bassist Clarke’s “Friends” aren’t identified in the program for this gig. But Clarke, a world class artist with a stellar resume, can be counted on to surround himself with players capable of functioning at his Olympian jazz levels. In other words, expect the best. Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

– Feb. 28. (Sat.) The Bel Air Wine Festival’s Celebration Day of Wine, Music and Eight Charities. The afternoon gala starts at 1pm and finishes at 5pm. The evening portion of the day is 6pm – 10pm and will include a delectable dinner. The wine festival features wines from all corners of the globe, food prepared by Vibrato’s chefs and world class live entertainment. Hang Dynasty, whose members have worked with everyone from the Steve Miller Band , Stevie Wonder and Elton John to Pink Floyd and Ringo Starr will perform. There will also be a live auction during the evening gala. 100% of the Festival’s proceeds go to eight charities. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.

– Feb. 28. (Sat.) The Los Angeles Ballet performs one of the great classics in their repertoire, The Sleeping Beauty. Valley Performing Arts Center. . (818) 677-8800.

The LA Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty"

The LA Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty”

– Feb. 28. (Sat.) The Venice Baroque Ochestra with mandolin soloist Avi Avital. Call it an evening of Vivaldi, performed by an ensemble, and a soloist adept at the special demands of Baroque era music. Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  (714) 556-2787.

– Feb. 28. (Sat.) The New West Symphony. One of the Southland’s great large ensembles, the NWS once again displays its far-ranging stylistic mastery in a program featuring Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Opus 27, Saint-Sean’s Concerto No. 2 in G minor for Piano and Orchstra Opus 22, and Stravinsky’s Suite No. 2 For Small Orchestra. Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.  (805) 449-2100.

Wilson Phillips

Wilson Phillips

– Feb. 28. (Sat.) Wilson Phillips and Billy Ocean. It’s an offbeat combination, but one with a lot of apeal. The hit-making vocal sounds of Wilson Phillips and the r&b grooves of English born singer Billy Ocean. Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts.  (562) 916-8500.

Julian Lage

Julian Lage

– Feb. 28. (Sat.) The Julian Lage Trio.  Guitarist Lage, a prodigy as a teen-ager, has matured into a world class jcazz artiat.  And here’s a booking not to miss, in which he’s backed by bassist Scott Colley and drummer Eric HarlandThe Blue Whale.    (213) 620-0908.

– Mar. 1. (Sun.) Seth MacFarlane with The Ron Jones Jazz influence Orchestra. Entertainment world multi-hphenate MacFarlane is an actor, writer, producer, animator and, in recent years, a singer. He’s backed by the lush sound and solid swing of Ron Jones jazz Influence Orchestra. Click here to read a recent iRoM review of a MacFarlane vocal performance. Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.  (310) 474-9400.


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