Category Archives: Music Notes

You’ll find FOUND an original theater experience

Wilson and I recently saw an off-Broadway play at the Atlantic Theater Company called, Found, which we found fresh, original and innovative. It made us laugh… and think.

found musical poster on carpoolcandy.com

It’s a musical and tough to explain, but stay with me. For those of you who cringe when you hear the overture of a razzmatazz show (Annie, Pippen, Chicago)  or a dramatic score (Les Miz, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked) this is a musical that will speak to you. (For the record I love most musicals with the exception of Cats.)

Because it’s not traditional lyrics and music. The star of the story is notes written by real people, cleverly pieced together to create a narrative about a 20-something dude searching for purpose and finding it in the powerful and random words of strangers.

Found’s website describes the show this way:

Found was created from scores of surprising and eccentric discarded notes and letters that have been “found” in the real world by every-day people. Inspired by actual events, the show follows Davy who, along with his two best friends, is lost and broke. When he finds a strangely revealing note on his windshield meant for someone else, it sparks an outlandish idea that finds him and his compatriots on a wild, comedic journey. This raucous and insightful new musical tells a story of ambition, betrayal and loyalty while celebrating the weirdness in all of us.

It’s a true story about a guy who started collecting random notes he and others found on the street or anywhere public. His collection turned into a career as he started the magazine “Found” to showcase the wacky, tragic, angry, and often hilarious things people say to each other.

The set is covered in reproductions of actual notes found all over the world, sent to Davy for the magazine. When a character is speaking (or sometimes singing) the words of a specific note, it’s projected onto the set to emphasize the message.

found musical set on carpoolcandy.com

You can’t believe the things people say to each other.

We laughed a lot. Like deep belly laughs that extend into giggles. As you may know, people are freakin’ nuts. But seeing their words play out in front of you, weaved into stories with catchy tunes, is a unique theater experience.

found musical set on carpoolcandy.com

I loved it, but don’t just listen to me. The Times gave it a great review and the NY Post called it “the best date-night show of the season.”

It’s playing for a few more weeks, unless it gets a shot at moving to Broadway. I hope it does, as the show– and the words of the people– deserve a larger audience.

 

Billy Joel at MSG: the nostalgia’s worth the ticket price

We were all in the mood for a melody… and Billy Joel delivered.

Some friends offered us last-minute tickets to see the Piano Man a few weeks ago, and it happened to be Wilson and my wedding anniversary so nostalgic live music with close friends was a perfect way to celebrate.

I had wanted to see Billy since he embarked upon his Madison Square Garden residency of sorts, and many friends had raved about the concert. I’d seen him once in college, outside Boston and knew he was a terrific live performer.

I grew up on Billy Joel. I’m pretty sure I know every word to his 1977 album The Stranger, probably most of 1978’s 52nd Street, and years of hits after that.

Billy Joel The Stranger album cover on carpoolcandy.com

He had a presence on every mix tape I made in the 80’s and 90’s. I love his music because it’s classic rock and roll, and his songs tell stories with vivid characters. I’ll always crank a Billy Joel tune on the radio, because it inevitably brings me back to the past.

Billy Joel 52nd Street album cover

I remember hearing my dad blaring “Big Shot” in our apartment, as he planted on our balcony or cleaned the tropical fish tank. I often blasted my cassette tape version of “My Life” at top volume on the boom box in my room just to piss my parents off.

If you remember life before MP3 players, Billy Joel in concert is — as comedian Jeff Garlin would say– a big bowl of joy.

May 9th happens to be Joel’s birthday so we got some bonus cameos at the concert. The first was Howard Stern who told the audience how much he loved Billy, not just for his talent but for his generosity because he was donating all the proceeds of that night’s show to the North Shore Animal League, a charity near to the hearts of Stern and his wife, Beth.

Billy Joel concert May 9, 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

The always delightful Jimmy Fallon brought his barbershop quartet onstage to serenade Joel with “Lions Sleeps Tonight” and a rousing version of “Happy Birthday.

Jimmy Fallon at Billy Joel concert May 9, 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

“I’m supposed to retire at this age… or at least not have the name ‘Billy!'” Joel joked.

It’s pretty impressive to be commanding a stage for two solid hours at 65, but he’s no Springsteen. He was clearly sweaty and winded, and that’s after mostly sitting at the piano all night. But he worked hard and he’s entitled to be tired! I hope I have that energy at 65.

He played everything you’d want to hear. It felt like all 18,000-plus people in the audience knew every word to most songs, which always elevates a concert from a performance to an emotional experience.

The crowd went particularly nuts during Scenes from an Italian Restaurant, Movin’ Out, and Piano Man.  I’m a sucker for a man in uniform, so when members of the NYPD and NYFD came out during Goodnight Saigon, goosebumps were abundant.

Set list for Billy Joel concert May 9, 2014 on carpoolcandy.com

Billy Joel will be at MSG once a month from now through December.  I loved the show so much, I’d see it again in a heartbeat, but the ticket price is definitely a deterrent. While the face value of the tickets starts at $150, decent seats are a minimum of $300 and seats on the floor range from $700-$1300.

But who knows how many more chances you’ll have to relive your youth and see a master at work, having the time of his life. Joel said several times during the show that he loved his job. One of the benefits of growing old with your music idols is seeing them mellow and really appreciate their fans.

Our group of friends belted out the lyrics, danced in the aisles, and tangled our arms as we swayed to every tune.  It’s funny how seeing someone old made me feel so young.

What music takes you back? Tell me in the comments.

From Jagger to Jay Z: new book gives readers backstage pass to music history

You don’t have to be a die-hard or wonky music fan to enjoy rock journalist, Lisa Robinson’s new book, There Goes Gravity. If you love music, or ever fantasized about what it would be like backstage, hanging out with your favorite rock star, you’ll live vicariously through Robinson’s 45 years covering rock royalty up close, and often very personal.

there goes gravity cover on carpoolcandy.com

The book is a career memoir– not a personal one– so all the juicy details– from groupies on the road with the Stones to Lady Gaga’s private home life– are about the artists. Robinson started writing in 1969, touring with the Stones and Zeppelin, and has interviewed every big name in the business while writing for several music magazines, the New York Post, and now as the music editor for Vanity Fair.

She was a central figure in the punk rock scene in both New York and London, claiming she got The Clash and Elvis Costello their first record deals after hearing them live.

lisa robinson head shot

The book has only 10 chapters, honing in on only a dozen or so major stars who Robinson thinks have been the most influential. She shares fascinating interviews with artists including Keith Richards, David Bowie, George Harrison, Patti Smith, and Eminem. In many ways, she’s telling the story of American culture through music.

Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Even the most media-wary artists come to trust Robinson because she’s more fan than a critic, able to keep secrets, and industry savvy. One of the few journalists to sit down with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, she offers fascinating quotes, but her rose-colored glasses are off when describing their reclusive, self-centered life in New York.

Robinson has a knack for getting subjects to share revealing personality traits that speak volumes. After interviewing Michael Jackson several times in his rise to stardom, she notices he has two voices: one high and soft for the public, another normal and commanding for his inner circle.

When she asks U2’s Bono how he handles home life after being on tour, he answers candidly. “In a very, very, very deep place I’m secure. And on the surface, secure. But somewhere in there, I need 20,000 screaming people a night to feel normal.” Tracing the evolution of U2, Robinson shows how, despite talent and good intentions, a band can lose its way in the tornado of success. In the group’s ’90s “Popmart” phase, they let celebrity and philanthropy get in the way of the music.

Robinson writes affectionately about most rockers but does get in a few jabs. She describes Lady Gaga as a gifted singer and musician who’s connected to her audience, unlike Madonna, whom Robinson calls driven, humorless and lacking passion.

Ouch!

You can read more of the review here.

Robinson wrote the cover story for last November’s Vanity Fair on the media-wary Jay Z, whom she called “the new Chairman of the Board.”

jay-z-november-2013-cover

In this modern era of publicists and celebrity overexposure, her stories seem even more extraordinary because they came from a simpler time when covering rock was about the music, not the image.

Robinson is a terrific writer whose access and insight make There Goes Gravity a great read. It’s sure to be a staple in many beach bags this summer.

 

 

 

I got my sexy on at the Justin Timberlake concert

Justin Timberlake concert tshirts on carpoolcandy.com

We did not shell out $45 for a t-shirt.

My friend, Alicia, and I had tickets to see JT last Wednesday at MSG in New York. I’d never seen him perform in person and was probably more excited than I should have been for a 40-something mom of three.

I actually stressed about what to wear. I too carefully chose black jeans, a new shirt, boots, and lots of jewelry. I’m not sure who I was trying to impress. Ok, it was Justin. I actually caught myself thinking about what I would want to be wearing if I was hanging out with the pop star, instead of standing very, very far away from him in a dark stadium with 20,000 other screaming girls.

As soon as I got to Manhattan, Alicia emailed me to say that Justin was sick and had postponed the concert until Friday night.

When I got back to Penn at around 8pm Wednesday night to go home, there were dozens of girls standing around MSG in various states of shock and grief. Some were spewing obscenity-laced rants, others were crying. I somehow was able to hold myself together in the face of tragedy.

Friday night we geared up again for the show. Tickets say it starts at 8pm but he didn’t go on until 9pm. Our seats were ok, not great. We were up in the nosebleeds but close to the stage on his right side. We paid $166 each to see him this close.

Justin Timberlake concert MSG NYC on carpoolcandy.com

But the way the show is designed, every section of the venue gets a little piece of Justin at some point. The stage is simple– no crazy sets or props– with split levels for him, his dancers, and his band, the Tennessee Kids. The backdrop is a giant video screen playing mostly black and white photos.

JT came out in a debonair white jacket tux, cut perfectly to his frame. He sang most of his hits — old and new– and glided along the stage looking as cool and classic as Clooney, moving as smoothly and skillfully as Michael.

After apologizing for missing Wednesday’s cancellation, he told the audience, “I love you New York. I can’t give you some half-ass shit tonight!”

He didn’t.

Justin’s one of the most compelling performers I’ve ever seen. He’s insanely talented, and seems authentic in everything he does. He’s working it, but he’s laughing and having fun. He moves with such ease, you can’t take your eyes off him. The numbers didn’t seem choreographed down to the minute. He jumped in and out of moves with his dancers, and they all seemed to riff singing and dancing throughout the show.

He played for over an hour before taking a 10 minute intermission. When he returned after the break, he was singing on one of the levels of the stage– a long bridge-like platform– when it began to rise high above the audience, and proceeded to slowly travel over the crowd from the stage up front to the back of the stadium.

Justin Timberlake MSG concert NYC on carpoolcandy.com

As it moved, Justin danced and strolled from one side to the other so he could wave and shake hands with fans all along the way.

Justin Timberlake MSG concert NYC on carpoolcandy.com

There were no bars on this platform so one false move and he could have been a Timberlake pancake.

Justin Timberlake MSG concert NYC on carpoolcandy.com

There were many highlights. He wooed us with New York, New York with extra swagger. The energy in the stadium was electric during Sexy back and Mirrors, but I also loved his acoustic, slowed-down version of What Goes Around Comes Around, and the fun cover of Elvis’ Heartbreak Hotel.  

Justin Timberlake MSG concert NYC on carpoolcandy.com

He strummed a guitar and tickled the ivories with equal flair, and made me hear pop radio songs with new ears by giving them texture.  I can’t tell you how many times listening to the sultry lyrics of Future Sex Love Sounds blaring in my iPod has gotten me through a long run.

I’m not gonna lie, hearing it live made me tingly.

I guess I’m gushing but I can’t help it. JT puts on a great show and we were all a little lovestoned. (Click here for crappy quality video of TKO taken on my iPhone!)

Alicia and I were completely amused by the 20-somethings smoking pot and pounding beers around us. One hilarious guy clearly came with his girlfriend and started out skeptical. But after just a few songs we heard him say to his male buddy, “I’m as straight as an arrow, but he’s pushing me into the gay center!!”

Amen, brother.

Favorite moments of 2014 Grammys

I don’t usually blog about music awards shows because I don’t know enough to opine on winners and losers. But the Grammys have become a pop culture must-see event, more for the performances than the mini gramophones handed out.

Grammy graphic

The Grammys were presented live from the Staples Center in LA, with L.L. Cool J as host. Let’s start with the red carpet…..

While at the Oscars or Globes we look for elegant couture, the Grammys is the place to take risks. J.Lo’s famous green cut-to-the-navel Versace dress and Lady Gaga’s Saturn-inspired space get-up were previous favorites. But with neither diva there, there was little to turn heads.

OFF THE CHARTS:

Taylor Swift won best dressed with a stunning Gucci metallic short-sleeved sheath with metal detail that was edgy and sophisticated.

–A svelt Miranda Lambert looked amazing in a sexy, black dress and long blond tresses.

Katy Perry won most whimsical in a Valentino dress literally inspired by music.

Jason Merritt/Getty

Jason Merritt/Getty

SOUR NOTES:

Daft Punk guys were wearing face-covering Darth Vader-ish helmets with tuxedos that I’m too square to understand. (More on them later.)

Cyndi Lauper had on a black and gold get-up with a cape, and bright red hair piled atop her head…which prompted my 8 year-old son to ask if she was in Shrek.

–I love Gloria Estefan but her red lace dress made her look like a blood-splattered shooting victim. Maybe the rhythm finally got her?

Kacey Musgrave won for best country music album and sang a cute song, but her bejeweled mini-dress made her look like a Neiman Marcus Christmas ornament.

For more Grammy fashion click here. 

Onto the show…..

Bey and Jay started it off with a sexy duet of “Drunk in Love.” All eyes were on the king and queen of the music prom. Sasha looked fierce with wet hair in a black sheer bodysuit and fishnets in a Flashdance-inspired chair dance.  Jay Z came out in a tuxedo and rapped around her. No sets, no dancers, watching just the two of them singing and dancing felt very intimate.

–Katy Perry never disappoints.  Singing “Dark Horse,” she appeared onstage dressed as a witch inside a crystal ball. Her number had crazy lights, acrobats, pole dancers, a life-size Trojan horse that broke apart to reveal rapper Juicy J, and pyrotechnics burning up the stage. Oh and Perry singing. Over the top? Sure, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.

–Julia Roberts introduced Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr who played together in a rare duet. Not sure why she was there but she made up for her dowdy Globes dress with a hot, black, sparkly mini dress and long bed-head locks.

Robin Thicke teamed with Chicago for a medley that included “Blurred Lines.” Thicke minus twerking Miley and gangster suit = fun to watch.

–One of the coolest moments of the night was when Pharrell, Daft Punk, and Stevie Wonder had the whole crowd on their feet boogying to  “Get Lucky,” I loved seeing Yoko Ono, Beyonce and JayZ, Katy Perry, and Bruno Mars getting jiggy in the aisles.

daft punk grammys

Jason Merritt/Getty

–Jay Z, was the night’s front-runner with nine nominations, including best rap album, rap song and rap performance. When winning for best rap song/collaboration for “Holy Grail,” Jay called Beyonce his “light” and holding up the Grammy, had a message for daughter Blue: “Daddy got a gold sippy cup for you!”

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis won best new artist and pointed out that they made their album without a record label and went on to win a Grammy, giving hope to struggling artists everywhere.

–I had two favorite moments. The first was the amazing Pink. She puts everything into what she does. She sang ” Try” while flipping and doing the splits, dangling from scarves high above the audience. Next she belted “Just Give Me a Reason,” with fun’s Nate Ruess with such passion I wanted to cry.

–The other was the duet with Carole King and Sara Bareilles singing a mashup of “Beautiful” and “Brave,” while playing dueling pianos. King sounds as good as she did in 1985 when I’d listen to “Tapestry” over and over in my friend Debby’s basement. You could tell Bareilles was having a pinch-me moment.

–Taylor Swift got a well-deserved standing O after performing an emotional version of “All Too Well,” from her Red album.  Looking grown up and poised in a dramatic dress and Farrah Fawcett hair with just a piano and a spotlight, she sang better than I’ve ever heard her.

–One of the most talked about moments will certainly be when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sang their hit about tolerance, “Same Love.” Mid-song Queen Latifah came onstage to officiate the marriages of 34 couples in the audience. As the group of gay and straight couples of different ages and races exchanged rings, Madonna appeared.  Channelling the Lone Ranger in a white suit and 10 gallon hat, Madge sang “Open Your Heart” intertwined with “Same Love.” She looked creepy. She’s had too much work done and although her ridiculous outfit proved she can wear anything and still look good, it seems like a wasted opportunity. Don’t get me wrong. I will always love Madonna. But I wish she were aging more gracefully instead of fighting it with everything’s she’s got.

Trending on Twitter:  Pharrell Williams’ giant mountie-inspired hat got its own Twitter feed…. Keith Urban was bashed for his new short haircut and accused of stealing Jennifer Lawrence’s do….and everyone loved Pink. 

The biggest winners of the night were Daft Punk, the French robots who won five awards, but never said a word when accepting because those darn helmets got in the way.

For a complete list of winners click here.

No matter what your musical taste, a night at the Grammys is the coolest concert around. Share your highlights in the comments.

Idol finale recap

Whether you’re a fan or not, the American Idol finale is always entertaining and this year’s did not disappoint.

There was little suspense on the winner…. it’s been clear for weeks that Candice Glover deserved it.  A pretty, immensely talented girl who can belt,  she tried out three times before making it to the top 10.  From a tiny South Carolina town,  her family has struggled, but her adorable parents sat on the edge of their seats nearly every week, cheering like crazy. That combination plus her confident and soulful performances  made her a crowd favorite.

FOX

Idol finalists Candice Glover (L) and Kree Harrison (R)/ FOX

I was pretty certain Candice would win over country crooner Kree Harrison, so the only uncertainty was who would grace the Idol stage for the 2-hour extravaganza.  Here are my highlights:

— The best performance of the night without question was the return of JLo. She sang her new single, “Live It Up,” with Pitbull and danced like she was still a Flygirl. When she hits the stage it’s like an adrenalin shot and I can’t take my eyes off her. The song is pretty good and I love the way she moves.

— Top 10 country girl Janelle did a fiery duet with The Band Perry that rocked and had high hair-flip count.

–Korean star Psy danced up a storm to his new hit and although it doesn’t sound much different from “Gangham Style” I liked it. He’s a dynamic performer and fun to watch.

Keith Urban  sang twice and I loved his new single “Little Bit of Everything,” but was disappointed not to have one Nicole sighting all season.

Candice and Idol legend Jennifer Hudson commanded the stage for a powerful duet. They were a great match and killed it.

–I was a huge fan of Angie Miller who made it to the top 3 so I was psyched to hear her sing an intense version of “I Am Titanium” with former Idol diva Adam Lambert. She also held her own with her idol, Jessie J  on “Domino.” I love her energy and predict we’ll be hearing her on the radio soon.

–There was a goodbye/retrospective piece for Randy Jackson— the only original judge left– who isn’t returning next year.  Besides his wacky jackets and lapel pins,  he didn’t add a whole lot to the show in the last few seasons, but I’ll still miss that old dawg.

FOX

FOX

Lowlights included all the cheesy song and dance numbers with the top 10 Idols. It always reminds me of the old Brady Bunch variety show episodes, with the matchy costumes and phony smiles. This is their last shot at an audience of millions so they milk it, which is part funny, and part icky to watch.

There was a hokey duet with the boys and Frankie Valli– not sure how he’s relevant to an Idol audience but the producers always throw in a throwback. Aretha Franklin also sang a medley of her hits but via satellite, which was odd and didn’t really work as a duet with the girls.

And then there’s Mariah. I said before that she had a tough time putting a coherent sentence together from her sparkly perch at the judge’s table. She seems like a lovely person and was clearly moved by the contestants. But if judging wasn’t her thing, singing should be, no?

She stood still like a statue in a glittery mermaid dress, singing a medley of her songs but it looked to me like she was lip synching or singing on top of a pre-recorded track. It didn’t seem natural at all and her limited movements and stuck smile reminded me of Cinderella waving atop a Disneyland float. Would love to know what happened there.

Twitter blew up with people suggesting she wasn’t singing but The Hollywood Reporter tweeted that Mariah’s rep denied any lip synching. Let the scrutiny and fallout begin!

I’m feeling ambivalent about Idol as season 12 comes to a close. The talent was powerhouse but there was no synergy among the judges and ratings were low so it’s unclear who will be sitting at the table next year.

I’m eager to see how the show will change and wonder if this might be our last season as loyal fans. If so, it’s been a good long run of watching dreams come true.

New book, ‘VJ’: sex, drugs and rock n’ roll at MTV

My kids (ages 13, 9, and 7)  watch music videos on YouTube.  To them, MTV is a channel for reality shows like “Teen Mom” and “Jersey Shore,” which thankfully don’t interest them, yet.

But back in the day I remember watching the “Thriller” and “Billy Jean” videos over and over again after school. Before DVR’s you just had to wait for your favorite song to play again so we would watch for hours. I coveted Madonna videos and often tried to memorize her outfits so I could run to Fiorucci and Limited Express in the mall to copy her clothes.

That’s why I loved reading the new book . “VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave,”  by original VJ’s Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, and Martha Quinn, with rock writer Gavin Edwards.

VJ mtv

The book is a series of interviews with the four original VJs, dishing about the start of MTV, and all the sex, drugs, and rock n roll you expected behind-the scenes. It’s easy to read and fellow pop culture addicts will love the inside scoop on everyone from Paul McCartney to Cyndi Lauper.

There are plenty of crazy stories. The first chapter has David Lee Roth offering a groupie to give Mark Goodman a “happy ending” when Goodman’s marriage was on the rocks.  You find out which VJ’s could do their job wired on coke, and which had crushes on celebrities and colleagues.

And did you know they were never actually watching the videos they introduced? All their VJ segments were recorded separately.

Other surprises include the fight over putting Michael Jackson on the air (management thought he was too urban) and the lamest launch party ever. Imagine the over-the-top launch party for a new network today (open bar, hundreds of guests, celebrities, flat screens galore.)  Now picture a small party of cast, crew and management huddled around a small television set in the basement of a restaurant in Fort Lee, New Jersey— the only place they could see the channel because MTV wasn’t on cable yet in New York!

The book begins in 1981 and captures an interesting time in TV, music, media and American culture. It may also make you nostalgic for shoulder pads.

Check out my review in the Huffington Post here.

My favorite 80’s outfit was a V-neck cotton Firenza sweater worn backwards (what were we thinking?!)…my favorite Sasson baggie jeans…rhinestone earrings and necklaces and dozens of black rubber bracelets…and black ankle boots with leather straps all over.

Can you remember yours? Tell me in the comments.