Live Music: Janis Ian At the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts

March 8, 2015

By Kathy Schwarz

Patchogue, N.Y. Friday evening, once again, I had the privilege of witnessing the artistry of Janis Ian. This being her sixth decade, she has evolved into a masterful singer/songwriter/musician. Janis has successfully perfected her craft as well as grow in her artistry. It was quite evident that she is content and comfortable in her own skin. Her voice was on pitch perfect and her musicianship has evolved to the point that she can now be considered among the elite.

She opened her set at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts with “Society’s Child.” Her rendition was both haunting and bone chilling. There has been an evolution of this song and it has taken on a completely different “face,” making it relevant to the times in which we live.

There were many stand out performances in the show, but the one that stands alone, was her beautiful rendition of “Bright Lights and Promises.” It was powerful and her voice soared, piercing through the stillness of the theatre. I’ve seen and heard this song performed many times, but this by far was the best. This is the performance that will stay etched in my being for all time. Her vocals and musicianship on guitar were beyond anything I had ever heard; following the second chorus she mesmerized herself and her audience in an eleven minute soulful, jazz guitar solo….then gently brought us back to “Bright Lights and Promises.” Simply amazing performance.

Another noteworthy moment in the show was her performance of the anthem, “At Seventeen.” It was definitely a crowd pleasing favorite to which the audience gave a standing ovation, one of several through the night. “At Seventeen” took on an entirely different feel. Her comfort with herself at this stage in her life made the song seem lighter than it ever had. She sang it with a conviction of the past, just that, the past.

“Through the Years,” an all time favorite of mine, was sung and played to perfection. It touched to my core and won’t soon be forgotten.

The show closed with “I’m Still Standing.” It summed up six decades of an ever evolving artist who has been true to herself and her craft.

“See these lines on my face
They’re a map of where I’ve been
and the deeper they are traced
the deeper life has settled in….

And I would not trade a line make it smooth and fine
or pretend that time stands still
I want to rest my soul
Here where it can grow without fear
Another line, another year

I’m still standing here

Skin just covers who I am”

As I looked around me, I observed the audience. The greying hair and the lines on the faces of those who were there for the performance and I said to myself…”this is quite a different audience from the first time I saw Janis Ian in 1975.”

And I realized…”Yes, I too, wouldn’t trade a line or pretend that time stands still.”

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.

Live Music: Sally Kellerman at Catalina Bar & Grill

January 17, 2015

By James DeFrances

Hollywood, CA. The Sally Kellerman show came to town in a big way last Wednesday night at Catalina Bar & Grill. The multi-talented Academy Award nominated actress, singer and artist extraordinaire wowed the capacity crowd as they watched her soar gracefully across the stage and through the music with her trio.

SONY DSCIt may have been a while since she brought Hot Lips Houlihan to life in the film M*A*S*H in 1970 and her first album was released in1972. But she’s as dynamic as ever. Stage presence is a word that comes to mind when watching Kellerman perform. She employs every square inch of the platform, leaving no side of the audience unattended to. As I glanced around the room I could see that all eyes were glued on Sally at almost every point of the evening.

In fact, it would have been virtually impossible to avoid being captivated by the magic she was generating at Catalina’s in this mesmerizing performance.

The packed house show’s patrons included notables such as legendary songsmith Mike Stoller, and Kellerman dedicated a segment of the show to his songs with Jerry Lieber. Difficult as it was to single out a high point I would have to say it came when the Leiber-Stoller set began. All of a sudden her otherwise entranced listeners began snapping their fingers and mouthing the words along with Kellerman.

SONY DSCShe sang tunes such as “Love Potion #9,” and what was easily the most poignant song of the night, the heart wrenching Peggy Lee staple, “Is That All There Is?” You could hear a pin drop at the end of the Lieber and Stoller classic, a song whose rich emotional narrative is a challenge to the finest vocalists. But this was where Kellerman’s acting talents were on full display.

On this engaging evening some of the greatest songs from the last half century were on tap, and Sally made sure to pour a tall glass. Other noteworthy tunes in this musical libation included songs like Burt Bacharach’s “Walk on By” and “The Look of Love” and an Atlanta Rhythm Section reminiscent “Spooky.”

When the end finally came, no one was ready to leave, with the instant standing ovation demanding an encore. And Kellerman responded with an additional offering, concluding the show by performing Peter Cetera and David Foster’s 1986 power ballad “Glory of Love.”

Sally Kellerman’s uniquely textured voice, energetic stage presence and undeniable charms are just a few of the many reasons that fans have been sold on her throughout her long, stellar career. And after seeing this show, I too am buying in!

Photos by James DeFrances.

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To read more reviews by (and about) James DeFrances click HERE.


Live Music: Three Dog Night at the Arcadia Performing Arts Center

January 13, 2015

By Mike Finkelstein

Los Angeles.  On a wet Saturday night, Three Dog Night rolled into the beautiful new Arcadia Performing Arts Center to take us back into the early seventies for about seventy-five minutes. Playing live is truly the most immediate strand of being a professional musician. Particularly when the money is there, it’s great work if you can get it. For any seasoned pro, far more often than not, everything goes quite a way beyond “well enough” to call the gig a success. Ever so often, a gig runs into Murphy’s Law, where things just don’t go as planned. I sense that this may have been the case for Three Dog Night’s sold out and eagerly anticipated show at the APAC. They put in a valiant effort while working against a couple of significant handicaps. One lead singer had a bad case of the flu and their regular keyboardist was at home and even more ill.

Three Dog Night is a band with a huge legacy. They lived at the top of the charts in the late 60’s and early 70’s. As a kid, I do remember being very fond of their tunes. When their new single hit the airwaves, you knew it was going to be a good one. With three lead singers the vocals always had a ton of depth, tone, and character. And, they went against the singer/songwriter style of the time in not writing their own material. Rather, they would comb for great songs by upcoming, talented songwriters like Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Hoyt Axton, Paul Williams, and even Elton John. At the time this may have seemed a bit unhip compared to their peers. But the song is the bottom line in pop music. If you don’t have a good song to sing, you have nothing at all. Clearly, they had a keen ear for talent and chose well, racking up 3 #1’s, 11 Top 10’s, 18 consecutive Top 20’s and on and on. They had the tunes working for them.

Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night

The first thing one notices about the current edition of Three Dog Night is that only two of the original three singers, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells, remain. In the aftermath of a laundry-airing, bridge-burning book by former TDN singer Chuck Negron, he no longer performs with the band. Negron’s parts were sung powerfully Saturday by bassist Paul Kingery. Original lead guitarist Michael Alsup and original keyboardist Jimmy Greenspoon still are in the band and that’s not too shabby after 45 years. While Alsup was very animated and rocking out, Greenspoon wasn’t there Saturday night. He is quite ill and Danny Hutton asked the audience to send good thoughts his way. The band’s good friend from Nashville, Eddie Reasoner, filled in for Greenspoon.

When the band played “One” we began to sense that something might be a bit off. Cory Wells, who sang the song magnificently on the record, had most of the vocal spectrum covered nicely for the tune on Saturday. But there were also notes that his voice just would not deliver. At the end of that song we were let in on the details that he had a bad case of the flu and was on steroids to knock it down. The flu even took him right off stage to hurl earlier. Considering that everyone onstage sang harmony throughout the night, it was surprising that they didn’t bail him out and cover the holes in his range on “One.”

The set list was chock full of the hits like “One Man Band,” “Black and White,” “Never Been to Spain,” “Shambala,” “Out in the Country,” and “Easy to Be Hard.” Though the band played these tunes true to the original versions, a crisper, cleaner, more upfront mix on Alsup’s guitar would have been nice as he did play many of the cool, signature licks that galvanized those songs in the first place.

It was certainly a pleasant surprise to learn that, back in the day, TDN had enthusiastically recorded two great tunes that never did hit…for them. But “You Can Leave Your Hat On” (a huge hit for Joe Cocker) and Ron Davies’ “It Ain’t Easy,” (an integral part of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust album) were both instantly recognizable.

The evening seemed to end a little early but all things being equal, they salvaged a good show for a very enthusiastic, even dancing crowd. Perhaps “It Ain’t Easy,” was the defining song of the evening, because touring and performing sick can quickly cease to be easy and become more like work.

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To read more posts by Mike Finkelstein click HERE.


Live Music: Ron Dante and more at Catalina Bar & Grill

December 6, 2014

By James deFrances

A warm nostalgic breeze was ushered into Hollywood last Thursday night by Ron Dante and “his friends.” Patrons at Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunset Blvd couldn’t help but feel the energy and sing along as rock ‘n roll legends of yesteryear performed their hits on stage. The audience was comprised of notable entertainment heavyweights too, ranging from record executive and radio host Jerry Sharell to former California governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Ron Dante

Ron Dante

Sly Stallone

Sly Stallone

On the bill with Dante (of the animated Archies) were the likes of Bo Donaldson (of the Heywoods), John Claude Gummoe (of the Cascades), Dennis Tufano (of the Buckinghams), Kyle Vinson and Frank Stallone. There was a very distinct aura in the club, for this wasn’t merely some cheesy cover show, these were the original arrangements performed by the original artists. I always find it enthralling to see how the bands have aged with their music and how their current interpretation differs from the studio version all these decades later.

Bo Donaldson

Bo Donaldson

As expected, there were many highlights of the night with each classic chart-topper evoking an emotional response among the audience. Songs like “Sugar Sugar,”  “Kind of a Drag,” “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” and “Rhythm of the Rain” to name a few that had the fans on a trip down memory lane.

I could overhear some folks behind me saying: “Oh I remember this song from our high school prom!” and “Don’t you remember when your brother bought that on a 45 RPM single?” These songs and these performers defined an entire generation and it is kind of hard to fathom that they were all together on one stage. But they were, and furthermore still performed with the kind of intensity and quality that made them popular more than 50 years ago.

Dennis Tufano

Dennis Tufano

Each act brought something special to the stage. Dante jokingly remarked that the only reason he wore a blazer was because this performance was at a jazz club, eventually he took the coat off and seemed to be more relaxed. Toward the end of the evening he began a dialogue with the crowd explaining how grateful he was for his fans’ support and how he wanted to talk briefly about some of the highlights of his career.

Ron Dante

Ron Dante

He showed the audience a video montage of his many TV commercial jingles from the 1970s. On the projector roll were commercials for McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Yoplait, Dr. Pepper and more. Dante’s dynamic talents include singer, songwriter, arranger, composer and producer. He also mentioned his production work for Barry Manilow and Pat Benatar which he was particularly proud of.

With Dante’s never ending credit list and his evidently large rolodex, one can’t help but look forward to his next big hoorah. He is still in fine voice, good spirits and apparently great health.

Everyone got their 35 dollar’s worth and then some on this fine evening. I bet each act could have demanded that for a solo show alone. This wonderful event may not have been for the typical jazz fare at Catalina’s jazz room, but from what I could gather, no one seemed to mind!

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Photos by James deFrances.

Live Music: YUSUF or CAT STEVENS? at London’s Eventim Apollo

November 10, 2014

By Ella Leya
(iRoM’s European Correspondent)

London, Engand.  Both names illuminated Eventim Apollo, formerly the Hammersmith Apollo, one of the UK’s largest and best-preserved original Art Deco theaters – a venue that played host to many legendary acts of the past – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Marley. As well as to Steven Demetre Georgiou aka Cat Stevens in December of 1976, just before the free-spirited troubadour grew a long beard, auctioned his guitars, denounced his own songs, and disappeared from the music industry for almost 30 years. All for the sake of his new chosen faith.

He’s back now. Back at Eventim Apollo as an older man who walked cautiously on stage, he turned to his audience and asked: “Who have you come to see? Yusuf or Cat Stevens?”

Cat Stevens

Cat Stevens

“Cat Stevens, of course!” The roar swept through the audience. But unlike the rest of the crowd – Cat Steven’s fans from those crazy ’60s and ’70s – I had no youthful recollections about him. I was there, curious to see both incarnations: the remarkably melodic, gentle and soulful singer-songwriter of “Wild World,” with the lyrics my seventeen year old son can recite by heart; and someone who had supported fatwa, calling for the death of my favorite author and literary hero, Salman Rushdie.

Artists are vulnerable creatures, of course, easily susceptible to sometimes startling changes. That’s what makes them imaginative and expressive. That’s what makes them adopt different images and techniques. Pablo Picasso discarded his creative periods like out of date seasonal fashions. Andy Warhol ran out of prevalent art mediums and kept inventing new ones. George Harrison discovered a sitar, taking the Beatles along on a beautiful West-meets-East artistic journey. And Paul McCartney dismissed twenty years of his pop banality with the symphonic “Standing Stone.”

Steven Demetre Georgiou began his musical quest as a London coffee house bard, then changed his image to a teen pop star and his vowel-thick name to something easier on the ear: Cat Stevens. After contracting tuberculosis and spending over a year recuperating from the illness that had almost taken his life, he emerged with a different sense of perspective, drawn to yoga, meditation, and metaphysics, determined to bring his spiritual revelations to the world of music. A relatively new phenomenon at the time – a folk rock singer-songwriter performing his songs stripped down to bare emotions and minimal instrumentation.

A string of hits followed, with big-hearted lyricism spiced by romantic relationships with Patti D’Arbanville and Carly Simon, his melodies and modulations sublime. With those tunes, intoxicating, mystical, both hippy and intelligent – “Wild World,” “Father and Son,” “Morning Has Broken,” “Moonshadow” – Cat Stevens won the hearts of millions around the globe.



Then came another brush with death when he nearly drowned off the coast of Malibu, California. And he took it as a sign from above to seek the destination for his soul searching. Cat Stevens was no more. Yusuf Islam condemned his music for blasphemy, rejected his armies of loyal fans and disappeared into charity work as a ‘rock star’ of the Muslim community. An immense loss for the world of music and poetry.

In his remarks at the Apollo he referred to his absence from the stage as “taking a short break.” Was he suggesting that his “short break” led to the beginning of a new artistic period?

Hardly. Not with his redundant covers of tunes such as “You Are My Sunshine” and “The Devil Came from Kansas.” Nor with his generic originals “I Was Raised in Babylon” and “Editing Floor Blues”— the latter about the supposedly misreported comments he made following Salman Rashdie’s fatwa.

And if his back catalogue (absent were his most beautiful love songs) generated nostalgic excitement in the crowd, the new material failed to channel the two sides of Yusuf/Cat, instead reflecting the inner confusion of an aging rock star and his convoluted relationship with his art. The audience listened politely and patiently. But when there were occasional cries from fans for old hits, he snapped, “You can wait until the end.”

Standing on the stage at the Apollo against the set of an old western railway station (Oh, so Neil Young), Yusuf/Cat seemed to be extending an olive branch to the U.S. that has had Yusuf Islam on their watch list. And his new release “Tell ‘Em I’m Gone,” filled with blues sensibilities, is clearly a tribute to his teenage musical inspiration: deep south R&B.

But his new material lacks what the audience clearly wanted to hear — the profound lyrics and the memorable melodies of his early career. And timid 66-year-old Yusuf could hardly compete with the memory of the charismatic Cat Stevens – a task that will grow in importance when he encounters the demanding audiences who will greet him during his forthcoming USA tour in December. Telling the crowds to “Wait until the end” to hear his old hits isn’t likely to please his American fans.

Live Music: Hall and Oates at The Greek Theatre

October 28, 2014

by James M. DeFrances

Los Angeles, CA.  No introduction? No problem…Daryl Hall and John Oates commenced their show Sunday night at the Greek theater in Los Angeles after Mutlu, the opening act, without any prior announcement. As a matter of fact at 8:45 they were exactly 15 minutes ahead of schedule. So early that the audience, expecting a 9 p.m. start, was abruptly surprised when the intro from the 1982 number one mega-hit “Maneater” boomed over the sold out amphitheater’s PA system. The lights were quickly brought down and Los Angeles was set for an evening of memories, Hall and Oates style.

Hall & Oates and their band

Hall & Oates and their band

The duo’s 16 song set seemed to go by “in the blink of an eye” exclaimed the woman seated next to me. Daryl Hall did most of the monologue in between songs and mentioned how happy he was to be back in Los Angeles, to which the audience affectionately cooed. Outfitted in black leather jackets and mirrored lens sunglasses, the famed chart topping partners in crime stood side by side on matching carpets at the apron of the stage. On the menu this evening were some songs they “hadn’t done in a while” according to Hall. These rarities included tunes such as “Methods of Modern Love” and “Las Vegas Turnaround.” Concertgoers remained seated until “She’s Gone,” when the majority of the crowd rose to their feet to sing and dance along.

Daryl Hall

Daryl’s voice was clear and present and possessed a rugged “been there done that” quality. His phrasing differed from the studio recordings in a way that gave the lyrics a new perspective.

John Oates followed Hall’s lead vocals harmonizing effortlessly on every song. His voice sounded warm and rich as if it hadn’t aged a day. Throughout the show he maintained a quiet demeanor, smiling and waving to the audience but never directly speaking to them instead leaving those responsibilities to Hall.

John Oates

John Oates

The show was slightly marred by microphone feedback which was audible on more than one occasion. At its worst the squeaky feedback simultaneously matched a note played by a keyboard synthesizer which gave everyone at the venue a quick laugh. The band however proved to be able to outshine any of the minor quirks of the evening. The six musicians behind Daryl and John played exceptionally well and their solos were fresh and exciting. After a long jam session at the end of “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” the band took a bow and left the stage.

But the audience wasn’t going anywhere, this much was certain. Just minutes later the duo and their band reappeared for the first of two encores and went on to play some of their biggest hits including “Rich Girl,” “You Make My Dreams,” “Kiss on My List” and finally ending the night with “Private Eyes.” Very attentive patrons would have also noticed that a pesky fan found her way onto the stage and made a beeline for John Oates during “Kiss on My List.” But all she managed to do was blow him a kiss before being escorted by security.

Hall & Oates

Hall & Oates

In the end, Daryl thanked the audience profusely for coming out and insisted that the fans “made it all possible.” He also mentioned his successful VH1/Palladia TV show “Live from Daryl’s House” and how that inspired him to open a new music venue called Daryl’s House in New York. The club is opening this weekend and Hall and Oates will christen it by playing the first show, which will be available on a free live stream on Yahoo music Friday night at 6. Although they are well into their 4th decade, Hall & Oates still seem to be in a world of limitless possibilities. They are two iconic musical pioneers who are still selling out large venues with ease. Sunday night’s show proved that their induction this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was well deserved. They have staying power and the audience CAN go for that!

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Photos by Bonnie Perkinson. 


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