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Events and Performances

P!nk: Earning her reputation

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

I had the pleasure of watching P!nk perform for the first time at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. Before seeing her, I'd only seen a few snippets of performances she'd done that'd been broadcast on TV, and I saw acrobatics, fierce costumes, and lots of positive energy in general. Even though she's got this solid reputation for the kind of work she does as an entertainer, I still wasn't sure what to expect when I sat down for the show.

I'm happy to report that she not only met these expectations, but exceeded them.

Before P!nk got on stage, we had to sit through the always hit-or-miss opening act. Some of them are forgettable, and some are memorable because of how bad they were or for intense camel toe problems. In this case, I was pleasantly surprised: her special guest was none other than Swedish rock band, The Hives! And they rocked. I think a lot of people were surprised by how great they were as performers, and they were promoting their album Black and White, which led to them dressing all dapper-like in penguin suits and top hats. I loved that.

Once The Hives left the stage, the show's emcee entertained the crowd for a bit before getting on stage and introducing P!nk in a game show-type setting. He interacted with the crowd and provided some funny relief throughout the show. P!nk herself came out guns blazing to her hit song "Raise Your Glass," and the high-paced performance kept everyone entertained for two solid hours.

P!nk did the acrobatic thing, and between numbers she changed outfits often. Actually, she wore ten different outfits throughout her show. Whenever she was offstage changing, one of her dancers (or the emcee) would entertain the crowd for a few seconds with an interpretive dance or a few laughs that went with the theme of the show. Then she'd come out and keep doing her show. She occasionally paused to chat with the crowd a bit, which was always pretty funny because she's a charismatic person.

At one point of the show, she got upset because a few people were fighting over a drum stick she tossed into the standing crowd. It seems to me like someone had caught it, and a nearby person snatched it away from them, or something like that. Either way, she wasn't happy. She called for another drum stick and gave it to the person who'd been ganked, but not before (very briefly) lecturing her audience that she doesn't want fighting in her show. It was kinda cool, actually - it's good to see that she could adapt to random things happening during her show.

During another point, when she sat down for an acoustic bit, she accidentally started singing something from the second verse instead of the beginning. It was pretty cute, actually. After noticing what she'd done, she just laughed about it with everyone and started back over. Not corny at all -- she handles herself with absolute class.

P!nk is a joy to watch live. As I mentioned above, she's a fierce entertainer (and person), and she just showers positivity over everyone around her. Everything about her show had a positive message to it, had something to do with being passionate and independent, or being accepting of all kinds of people. I love that -- and even though I hadn't been too familiar with her latest album, I still enjoyed the numbers. There was a little something for everyone since aside from sitting down for the aforementioned acoustic numbers, she did some throwback stuff and performed older songs she got famous for back in the day. I fully recommend attending!

[Note - images are taken by myself using my handy iPhone. Please don't repost without attribution! Thanks!]

Buy P!nk's latest album on Amazon:

Muse's stop at Sunrise for 2nd Law tour

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

Grabbing tickets to see Muse was pretty much a no-brainer. I'd already seen them twice and, despite the changes they've made with their music, I am still willing to attend their shows. And then, big surprise, they added a night at Sunrise in South Florida (this is kind of a big deal; they don't come down here often).

I'd heard plenty of great things about the show before I even drove up to the BB&T Center. Lasers, strobe lights, crazy set up with lots of display panels, and a set list that varies a bit from show to show. It had the potential for greatness and, in fantastic Muse fashion, delivered.

The first majorly positive thing about seeing Muse live is that their show is on time. We're used to seeing 7:30 on a ticket and resigning to the fact that the show probably won't start until 9 or beyond. At 7:30, the opening act was rockin', and we didn't have to wait too long before Muse strode on stage after that. They wowed everyone with their spaceship-like stage set up, which featured a ring of panels (served as screens) and lights, with the drum kit on a raised platform in the middle and an extra tour member next to that with the synthesizer.

After the first number ("Unsustainable"), we see that the rigging over the stage was another series of screens which, accordion-like, stretched down over Dom and the drum kit at the center of the stage. The screens and the overall feel of the stage with its lights and many panels changed for every song, creating a unique experience every time. At one point, the stage even turned into an elaborate roulette with the song "New Born" assigned to red and "Stockholm Syndrome" to black, as the game randomly chose which song would be played next. "Syndrome" won, but I think the crowd would have still cheered just as loudly for "New Born."

They didn't spend too much time talking, instead inserting lovely little instrumental interludes between chunks of their set list. First, it was Matt Bellamy with an electric "Star-Spangled Banner" to segway into "Bliss," and later Chris took out his harmonica and played a bit before cruising into "Knights of Cydonia." Dom got his spotlight for the first encore, which featured him in a Game of Death-style track suit (except red) on the video screen, banging on a taiko drum to the beat of "Uprising" and fighting off chumps while the band was concealed in a pyramid of screens. The screens eventually rise up again and give way to the players, and Dom actually comes out in the red suit and keeps it for the remainder of the show.

There were lasers, there were lights... even the Baby Grand that Matt Bellamy brought out to play just one song with had some lights on it. It was pretty rad, actually. The lights came up on the piano's lid as he struck the keys! I just wish he'd sat down to play more, but then I suppose there'd have been no point to the fourth band member on stage. That or he'd have to brush up on his piano-and-guitar-together playing skills.

Even if you aren't so hot on Muse's newer music from Black Holes and beyond, I still think they're worth watching live. They never cease to impress, and they always dedicate plenty of show time to their older albums that we all know and love. Here's a look at the set list for the South Florida show with a few notes here and there:

  • 1) Unsustainable
  • 2) Supremacy
  • 3) Supermassive Black Hole
  • 4) Panic Station
  • 5) Resistance (big whoop from the crowd when this started; lots of dancing)
  • 6) Beautiful Star-Spangled Banner interlude - to Bliss
  • 7) Animals (the stage turned into a stock market-looking thing for this one)
  • 8) Chris played a harmonica intro then - Knights of Cydonia
  • 9) Monty Jam
  • 10) Explorers (performed by Matt on the piano)
  • 11) Follow Me
  • 12) Liquid State (sung by Chris)
  • 13) Madness
  • 14) Undisclosed Desires
  • 15) Time is Running Out (everyone lost their minds when this one came up)
  • 16) Stockholm Syndrome (extended outro and stage-exit)
  • 17) first encore: Isolated System played on screens before band returned
  • 18) Uprising
  • 19) second encore: Starlight (cute thing: a girl in the audience was singing and she was put on camera)
  • 20) Survival (the most Queen-like song on 2nd law)

Needless to say, I wouldn't hesitate to grab tickets to a future show if I have the chance to see Muse again. From what I can tell, they still have a few stops in Japan this coming August, so I'm already debating grabbing tickets to see this same show in Japan later this year. How cool is that? I've never "followed" a tour anywhere to see more than one stop of the same show before. I wouldn't mind doing that for Muse.

All images in this post are taken with my handy dandy iPhone! Please don't repost without attribution. Thanks! 

Double Whammy: Enrique Iglesias with Jennifer Lopez

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

This weekend I was able to attend a double-headline show at downtown Miami's American Airlines Arena featuring Enrique Iglesias and Jennifer Lopez. They weren't sold out, and Miami was the end of their tour, which normally wouldn't bode well at all. But I was pleasantly surprised.

Enrique's show blew me away. I'd never seen him live despite being a fan since before he broke through in the U.S., and I hadn't expected to see someone perform who interacted so much with the crowd. He took every opportunity he got to jump off the stage and spread some hugs and high-fives. He brought two people up on the stage with him. He had big bouncing balloons dropped on the audience. Overall his show was fun.

Enrique's charisma took him a long way, and you can tell that he is used to dealing with fans of all kinds. I also learned there is a documentary type thing about him (here's a link to a fan video of the trailer from the tour) regarding his career and all that. From what I can gather, he's had a tough time dealing with fans. I'm not too surprised, all things considered.

As for Jennifer Lopez, this wasn't my first time seeing her live. I got a chance to see her tour together with her ex husband Marc Anthony, and she was pregnant at the time, so her performance was kind of limited. I don't really think much of her as an artist or singer, but as a dancer and performer she is amazing (as I learned this weekend). The Marc Anthony portion of the show, being in Miami and all, was the big highlight for everyone. The last time I'd seen JLo, everyone was in astonished silence watching the pregnant woman bounce around on stage singing her old songs from the 90's.

This time around, she had a couple newer songs that are currently on the radio, and of course her older songs, which she supplemented with guest appearances by the likes of LL Cool J and others. More importantly, she looks amazing and spent her entire portion of the show dancing her butt off.

JLo's show had some themes to it. First it was Jazz/Broadway, then Boxer/Bronx, an interlude with FLO-rida, a Desi Arnaz-style dance club and then her encore - love/fairy tale style ensemble. The themes punctuated her music rather well, and she had a costume change with each one. Thank goodness, because she looked naked with the first outfit she came out in...

Enrique standing on a smaller stage in the back

Enrique and Lopez touring together worked out well for everyone involved. Both of them have a nice arsenal of music they made popular a long time ago, and due to breaks don't have too much in the way of "current" music. I'd say Enrique has been a bit busier, musically, than JLo since she's been doing stuff for TV, raising kids and more in the meantime, so rather than both of them touring separately, they co-headlined and did two shorter shows in one night. It was perfect for the both of them and I'm glad with the way it all turned out.

I would see Enrique again, all that said. JLo is missable, despite being a good performer; and honestly, I was more disappointed that Pitbull didn't make an appearance than anything else with her portion of the show. I think she needed it - the guests were the right kind of highlights for her performance.

All images taken with my handy iPhone utilizing the Hipstamatic and Camera Awesome apps. I didn't get too many images of JLo because the lighting made it near impossible, not to mention with her dancing the entire time I couldn't get any good shots that didn't include a blown-out blur in the middle of it.

For additional reading, check out the write-ups by LA times and The Hollywood Reporter on this same tour.

Symphony of the Goddesses is brilliant, you should see it

Events and Performances, GamesKristina PinoComment

[This post has been updated since it was first published]

Last year, I was able to see the Distant Worlds show during Otakon weekend at Baltimore with Nobuo Uematsu in attendance and everything. This year, I was treated to another beautiful gamer-related orchestra performance based on the music of the Legend of Zelda  series, called Symphony of the Goddesses. Now all I need to do is hit up MAGFest to make my games and music nerd fantasy complete. (update on that: I will  be attending MAGfest!)

Not only was the show based on completely different music, but the style and structure of the performance were different enough that a lot of folks walked out of the auditorium saying they liked it even better than Distant Worlds.

Walking into the auditorium, the stage is set in a simple manner: the seats are there for the orchestra members, two rows in the back for the singers, the platform for the Conductor (Eimear Noone) is in the middle, and a big screen hangs up over and behind them all. When the show begins, starting with a general Legend of Zelda series (including Skyward Sword) medley is played, and then the emcee comes out to introduce the show and tell you what you'll be hearing next, along with some tidbits about the production of the Symphony in which we learn that they are all fresh arrangements. 

The orchestra I listened to were the Orlando Philharmonic, and the singers were the Florida Opera Theater Chorus. I seriously got the chills when they stood up during the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time movement to sing out the notes to the Song of Time. There were many instances throughout the show that the men and women of that opera chorus lent their voices to the music, and the effect was impressive. 

Since the show is still touring and I think that being surprised is part of the experience, I'm not going to provide a set list this time around. I will say that you won't see too many single song performances. Instead, you'll hear whole movements/arrangements based on particular games or aspects of them. During the intermission, you'll also hear more single themes that didn't make it to the concert's bill. 

The screen in the back I mentioned earlier is choreographed to the music. The music is timed to go with it, and there's a smaller screen in front of Eimear Noone so she could time the orchestra. The screen shows footage from the game, displays dialogue and of course, a live feed of the players while they perform your favorite themes. In some cases, you'll be watching cutscenes from the various games while the full ambient theme music is playing in the background; and that's just magical. 

Unfortunately, I don't really have a bunch of images to share of the orchestra in action, mostly because before the show we got that PSA about not recording or photographing the show. And I respect the House when they tell us not to share pictures of their performances. However, I did get a photo of the stage, which is up there earlier in this article, and to the left we've got some cool costumes. 

Quite a few attendees came dressed as Zeldas, Links or just wearing Kokiri hats. There were a few folks just wearing Zelda series-inspired tees and jewelry (in my case, I had these Triforce earrings on). After the show ended and folks were milling around in the lobby area, one person whipped out his ocarina and played his own little symphony for the crowd. Much to my surprise (and pleasure), he actually played well, and each note came out clear as a bell. 

As a gamer, I love that I can go to a concert of all my favorite Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda series music. Seeing and supporting these shows is important, though it's easy when the source material is already great. I'll probably be seeing Symphony of the Goddesses a second time now that a show for Miami has been announced and tickets are going on sale, because I am that interested in supporting the movement. Who knows, depending on how successful this is, we may get a second tour with another set of new arrangements, or have a tour featuring the music from other Nintendo titles.

For any and all gamers who hold a special place in their nerdy little hearts for the Legend of Zelda series, especially if you loved the older titles (there was a heavy emphasis on these), up to and including Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask... and even fans of Twilight Princess - this is the show for you. Show your support for your local Philharmonic and opera chorus, and show your support for the music from the games you love to play (or remember playing). 

Are you in Miami? I'll probably be there, and I'd love to do another post in December when they come around with more pictures together with you. I'll also gladly participate if there is a cosplay group being formed for the show, because that's just fun.

Tickets are meant to go on sale today (at the time of writing - July 18), but I haven't seen them anywhere yet. I'll be sure to update this post with more information when the time comes.

(update: here's where you can learn about the show in Miami on Dec. 9 and buy tickets!)

Side note: If you're a fan of Disney/Pixar, there's a show for that, too!

Unfortunately, it's only at Hollywood and San Francisco for now, but this makes me hopeful for a tour and I want to spread the word around.

Maná: Drama y Luz live in Miami

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

Spanish rock band Maná made waves when they released their single "Lluvia al Corazón" from the recent Drama y Luz album, particularly because it'd been a few years since their last album was released (Amar es Combatir in 2006). I was fortunate to catch them in concert for their last tour and last night I saw them take the stage again for Drama y Luz.

Pretty much everything they played was a hit that everyone could sing along to. Most of the tracks have graced the air waves enough times that even folks who don't buy the albums would be able to keep up throughout the show. Combine that with excellent visuals and a Latino crowd, and you basically had an almost three-hour dance party.

The show opened with Beethoven's 5th Symphony which led into the first song on their set list, "Oye Mi Amor," and flowed through to a few high-energy tunes until they settled right into "Lluvia al Corazón," at which point the veil over the stage had images of rain, a butterfly and a heart projected onto it. The stage itself was set with a few panels in the back and that veil coming up and down as needed. It was simple, but pretty much perfect since Maná doesn't really need a lot of extra trimmings to keep the crowd entertained.

Some of the highlights for me included Alex González's 10-minute drum solo, which is a sight to behold and needs to be experienced. I go to a lot of shows, and I've had people ask me about impressive drummers. Alex has been at the top of my list ever since I saw him the first time. He basically plays on a platform that can move about a little, be raised high over the stage and spin. When he isn't doing his drum solo, he's dancing with his drum kit and doing everything he can to catch your attention while laying on some serious beats. He also chugged about half a bottle of beer halfway through his spotlight.

Everyone else, of course, is a great performer in their own right. Guitarist Sergio Vallín had some delightful solos which were all inspired by classical music. It reminded me of the kind of stuff we hear by Malmsteen or The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He also played beautifully when, after kicking some butt on stage and hearing Alex's drum solo, he and Fher (the frontman) switched over to a platform at the back of the stadium floor to play an intimate acoustic set.

At some point during the first part of the show, Alex introduced someone who is from Miami and won a contest to play live with Maná. He looked very nervous as he joined the stage with his guitar and some of the coolest rock stars I know, but they played a nice, long number to showcase him and make it fun for everyone watching, too. Unfortunately, I didn't catch his name, but it's great to see folks get spotlit like that. He even had a face-off with Sergio. Live. On Stage. How cool is that?

After the acoustic set, they went back to the stage for yet another segment and then, finally, the encore. There were very few points during the entire performance that people had a break to sit down and enjoy a ballad since Maná kept the energy high throughout. It was sad to see them stop, but before we knew it, almost three hours had passed and they'd been playing non-stop. The only break the band got was Alex's solo, and even after that, Alex joined in to the acoustic set a couple of songs in.

Would I see them a third time? You bet. Should you see them live? Absolutely. Even if you aren't too familiar with their music, if you're a rock enthusiast and you enjoy hearing great arrangements and seeing good performers at work, this might be the show for you to get into something new. Seeing them live is not what you'd expect by just hearing their songs on the radio, after all.

Besides, their shows usually have a good message. They're all about equal rights for all, knowing where you come from and conservation in general. I am always happy to support artists that use their influence to spread the word around in a positive way.

(view the entire set list here)

[images taken with my handy-dandy iPhone 4S]

Meeting the Author: Charlaine Harris

Books, Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

Thanks to some sort of divine intervention, I learned that Charlaine Harris (author of Sookie Stackhouse novels turned HBO seriesTrue Blood) would be visiting Miami to kick off her Deadlocked tour this year at my local Books & Books. Ever since I've gotten into this book blogging business I've paid more attention to author appearances and book events around town, and the amount of cool stuff going on is pretty amazing.

About Deadlocked

We've learned that this is the penultimate book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries/Sookie Stackhouse series. When asked about it at tonight's event, Charlaine Harris said her "heart just isn't in it any more." Basically, she's done what she can for the series, she's fulfilling what is demanded of her by contract to the best of her abilities and then Sookie is going to be put to rest.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Of course, the good part is that Harris isn't taking the money-milking route and possibly derailing the whole story. She wants to end the series in a dignified manner in what she believes will be the best ending for Sookie - the kind that she believes would leave her the happiest. Does it have anything to do with romance with vampires? Apparently, Harris herself doesn't even know it yet, and the final book is going to be titled Dead Ever After, so make of that what you will.

About the Q&A Session:

The lighting was not flattering for Harris, so empty podium.

Lots of folks asked Harris questions about her various series, the kind of work she's doing now, her involvement with True Blood  and about the upcoming project with Syfy (in which she plans on being more involved than she had been with True Blood). She had a lot of great responses to everything and kept the room roaring with laughter almost the entire time with her quick and sharp answers.

Right now, Harris has a lot on her plate. She's writing the final Sookie book while having just finished up the writing for a graphic novel, preparing for all the hubbub with Syfy and has just signed another contract with Ace Books for another, new book series. When she was asked how long it'd take her to write these new books, her easy response was "Whatever time it says in the contract is what I've got." While it's clear that she treats all of her work with equal passion and heart, she kept it real with jokes here and there about delivering manuscripts on time and getting paid for it. To the jealous dismay of most of the crowd, she also tossed in a gloat about having met the entire cast of True Blood.

When asked about her favorite characters in True Blood or favorite castings, the first that came up was Jessica. I had read about her feelings on Jessica (played by Deborah Ann Woll) in an interview she did with the Miami Herald, and her response was basically the same: she wishes she'd thought her up because Jessica is such a great character. Harris also made a comment about how beautiful she is in person.

The other cast members that came up were Chris Bauer who portrays Andy Bellefleur and Joe Manganiello who plays Alcide. To the former she said he's a wonderful person and a very fitting Andy, and to the latter of course those familiar with the book series would definitely picture someone like Joe as the grumpy werewolf Alcide, but Harris also interjected he complains that because of her books he's got two-hour workouts daily. Not like anyone minds.

One interesting point of discussion was when someone asked her if the characters Jason (Sookie's brother) and Gran were reflections of people she knows in real life. Her response about Jason is that she thinks everyone has someone like him in their lives. He's a selfish jerk but deep down a good guy that cares about his sister. As for Gran, her comment was, "I think Gran is the best thing that ever happened to Sookie." She sympathized with Sookie's parents who had the hardship of trying to raise a "troubled child," but given the negative atmosphere that was for her, things turned for the better when she went under her grandmother's care.

Besides these things, she was asked some unrelated questions about stuff like, what does she do when she's stumped? What advice would she have for aspiring writers? To these she said the best way to become a writer is to "Sit on your butt and write. You can have a great idea, but if you don't write it down, you've got nothing." When she's stumped and can't figure out how to keep going with a story, if working on some other tasks and coming back to it later doesn't work, she decides she's messed up somewhere and goes back to earlier parts of the draft to fix the hole she wrote herself into. It's pretty apt (and honest) advice, I think.

Finally, there was a question about whether she'd be back next year in order to tour Dead Ever After. Her response to that, before the girl had even properly finished asking the question was a flat-out "No." She has no plans to tour for two rather good reasons. The first is her daughter is graduating from college in May of next year, so that's going to be keeping her busy. The second is that she is aware that by ending the series she won't necessarily please everyone and wants to give it time for the dust to settle. It's probably better that way for her own well being, though I'm a bit sad I'll probably have to wait a long while before I can sit at another talk with her. At the very least, she made it clear that she is under contract (that word "contract" came up various times during the talking session) to participate in a short story anthology each year and that part of it is she had to write a Sookie story. So, while she doesn't plan on writing any more novels, we'll certainly get little morsels here and there.

About the Signing

Woo - dark picture! Rockin' the Batman.

After the talk was over (it was half an hour of straight questions and answers before the audience ran out of things to ask about) everyone mobbed over to the other side of the book shop to get their books signed. This was made quick and painless by the experienced staff at Books & Books. There was one person stationed halfway down the line taking names to put post-its in the books for reference/spelling, one girl at the front of the line preparing books for the author to sign, and a third girl to the side ready to take cameras from guests and clicking away confidently to capture the moment.

While I was getting two books signed by Harris, I remembered what I wanted to ask her. Are the book titles supposed to be unintentionally hilarious? At first, her response was "Well, they could be!" I mentioned that with "Dead" somewhere in the title of every book, some of them just seemed funny to me and kept the tone rather light, outwardly. She told me that actually, the book titles were decided by the publishers and not herself, so she didn't have any control over them. Of course, she added she is glad to know I find them funny, but wanted to assure me they are not her creation.

And with that, I came, saw and conquered my very first author event! Since I never really tuned into that sort of thing before, I hadn't ever met any authors of works I enjoy besides any that happened to be at my university while I was studying. It was a fun experience and now I plan to be more aware of the goings-on so I could meet more cool authors. Harris is a total charmer and well worth a sit, even if you don't read her books, if only for her insight and humorous responses to whatever questions everyone throws her way. I hope I have a chance to meet her again, or even interview her on my own!

Are you in a city being visit by Charlaine Harris? Check her events schedule!

[image of Deadlocked cover via Charlaine's webpage, all others via my mobile]

Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris - Hardcover

Purchase at Books-a-Million!

Deadlocked - Charlaine Harris - Hardcover

Deadlocked

A Night At The Opera with MISO

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

One could go visit the opera and experience a love story with fierce drama and top-notch musical quality throughout the season, but getting not just the drama and quality, but a sampling of music from over ten different scores is a rare treat. "A Night At The Opera" featuring MISO (Miami Symphony Orchestra) and the vocal studio of Manny Perez was just that - a truly delectable treat featuring a different soloist for each aria.

The show was wonderfully arranged both in terms of the order of the performances and the song choices. Everyone was roused at the start of the show with Mozart's Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro , leading beautifully into Rossini's "Una voce poco fa" from Il Barbiere di Siviglia, a show I've seen twice via the Florida Grand Opera that I'm sure is familiar to most who frequent theater (and even those who don't). As the show went on, the audience got a little bit of everything, played to the strengths of each vocal artist, building up slowly, up until the breath-taking finale featuring Susana Diaz on Verdi's "Sempre Libera" from La Traviata and then Marinel Cruz on Boito's "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" from Mefistofele. There was nothing left to top Marinel's performance once she was through.

It felt as though the first half of the show, though solid by its own right, was more soft or light in tone compared with the force that was the second half. It boldly began with Bizet's Prelude to Act I of Carmen, leading straight into "La Fleur que tu m'avais jetée" featuring the fabulous tenor of Martin Nusspaumer. He did a fantastic job, and after Betsy Diaz performed her lovely Soprano piece of Massenet's "Il est doux, il est bon" from Hérodiade, Fernando Fabiaun strode in with Verdi's "La mia Letizia in fondere" from I Lombardi that left the biggest impression on me among the tenors. His voice is clear as a bell and incredibly pleasant to listen to along with the music.

Needless to say, it's a shame that the performance only had two nights as it deserves much more attention and praise. Manny Perez of course should be applauded for finding and fostering such great talent, and it should also be noted that the orchestra played beautifully under the command of guest conductor Hobart Earle. He had lots of energy and led the show splendidly, escorting each soloist on and off the stage in between numbers.

The last point I wanted to make is, I particularly liked seeing the soloists sing on the same platform as the orchestra. When I go to the opera, I usually get the lower seats and have a very limited view of the orchestra, but the vocal artists are very much a part of the arrangement and are guided by the conductor just the same. In this case, we saw them among the musicians, a voice among the instruments meshing together to create the beautiful music we heard that night. As I said before, it's a rare treat and I do hope there is another show like it in the future.

[further reading: Dorothy Hindman of South Florida Classical Review's article on the performance]

[images taken with my mobile]

Elton John: Not slowing down

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

In a display of his total rock star status, Elton John performed a fantastic concert at the Bank Atlantic Center this past weekend in Sunrise, Florida.

Hitting up this show was a rather last-minute deal for me, as I hadn't bought the tickets too far in advance (actually, only about three days prior). I had seen him before together with Billy Joel on their Face2Face tour a few years back, but never Elton solo.

I'm glad I got those tickets.

The show was incredible, and being a "greatest hits" tour it was the kind of performance that made everyone feel good. He played all those hits that everyone wanted to sing along to, wore an awesome purple suit and coat that shone like a disco ball and was accompanied by a smashing band, including mister Nigel Olsson who has been with him since the beginning. That's a damn long time.

Here's a look at the set list if you're interested in seeing what he played for us that night. The show really was non-stop hit after hit, and the band was on stage for a full three hours. He started on time, and he only took one short break to introduce his fellow stage mates and another to walk off stage dramatically before the encore.

What impressed me more than anything was that even after this long (and I do mean long:

Elton John has been performing since we put man on the moon), Elton can put on a performance that keeps everyone, well, entertained. By the end of the show, more than half the audience was on their feet dancing to the Crocodile Rock. Even the tech guys that sit behind the floor audience were dancing along.

Much like other older performers I've seen on stage, he likes to briefly chat in between numbers and introduce what he'll be singing next. Sometimes, he'd give us some background as to where the song came from, or dedicate it. It's nice to connect a bit more with folks on stage, and Elton John even took a quick minute to walk over to the end stage and autograph a bunch of people's stuff.

Overall, Elton's concert was a fun one. Fans of his music, even if you only sort of listen to it but like his style, will absolutely enjoy seeing him live. You're going to get every penny and more out of your ticket because he gives you everything he's got every time. Like I said before, his status is total rock star.

Don't miss this tour if you're on the route!

[image via my trusty iPhone - it's a little fuzzy because I was quite far from the stage - directly across!]

Radiohead: Still rockin' it

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

Last night I sat at the nosebleed section to see Radiohead in Miami. I'm glad I did, since not only did their U.S. tour kick off here, but they debut some new music and delivered some oldies in the mix that we all know and love. As it turns out, they played a song they've never performed, too ("Meeting in the Aisle" from OK Computer). The first link contains a full set list if you're interested in that kind of thing.

Radiohead is a example of a group that sounds great on the home entertainment system, but even better live. Nothing beats enjoying the ambiance a band can create with their music and stage effects, and I've not seen many performers with the energy Thom Yorke has onstage. It's nothing but fun no matter where you are in the arena.

This is my second time seeing Radiohead live and I'll probably go for it a third time if and when they return. I had my reservations seeing them again since their music has changed a bit over the years, and I do much prefer their older stuff, but I was still blown away at the performance.

The show has a theme and a flow to it

that is well crafted and thought out, rather than just a random selection of their music. It's a lot of music, by the way, and Thom mentioned at the beginning of the show that they have something like 70+ songs at the ready for this tour.

The jazzy feel of the show was refreshing and mesmerizing at the same time, not to mention well-complemented by the stage effects. I've mentioned them twice already because they were spectacular. The stage had the full display background as well as several smaller, square displays that would change positions for each number. They'd change colors and all that, but the squares would show the faces of the performers and pulse with the beat of the music.

Everything about the production complemented the music.

While most of the show was concentrated with their more recent albums, they did as I mentioned before mix in older songs that went with the theme and meshed well with the feel of it (and in a way, told us a story). That and, they left everyone on a very good note by closing with "Karma Police" at the end of their second encore. They didn't just close with it, Thom Yorke got everyone singing the chorus after their bow-outs and they walked offstage to the tune.

Radiohead is a performance I'd recommend to anyone who likes the feel of their music, whether they are too familiar with it or not (particularly their recent King of Limbs and In Rainbows). If you're into the jazzy stuff and like rock as well, this is the concert for you.

It's a great show for hardcore and new fans alike. Don't miss it!

[Buy The King of Limbs | In Rainbows]

[images taken with my handy iPhone]

A Night at the Opera: Verdi's 'Rigoletto'

Events and PerformancesKristina PinoComment

Rigoletto is a prime example of an opera I've heard about most of my life, but never looked into the story or anything. It's an opera that, even if you don't know what it is, you've probably heard something from it. I've learned that this is the case for a lot of popular shows that pass through Florida Grand Opera, and I'm happy to be sharing my thoughts on it.

So what is this song that I claim you've probably heard? Just click here and enjoy Pavarotti's voice performing "La Dona e Mobile" while you keep reading. If you've heard this before, you'll know it within the first line.

Rigoletto is about a Duke's fop of the same name who upset a few too many nobles. His promiscuous master has had his way with many of their women, and one of them, fed up, curses both him and Rigoletto. The nobles find out he keeps a young girl at his home, and decide to take revenge against the fop by stealing her away when they assume the girl is his mistress.

We find out posthaste that the girl is actually the fop's daughter, who he keeps secret, and who also has unfortunately fallen in love with the Duke unbeknown to her father. The Duke himself goes to visit her the very night, proclaims his love (claiming he's a poor student) and leaves, just in time for her to be abducted and find herself right in his palace. Betrayed, but still in love, she begs her father to forgive and forget. As opera tend to go, this is where the story takes an awful turn.

Rigoletto wants vengeance. He hires a sword who, together with his sister, lures marks to his home, kills them and dumps them in the river for money. The fop takes his daughter there to witness the infidelity and betrayal, and then tells her to dress as a man and take a horse to Verona where he would meet her the following day. She presumably leaves, and Rigoletto leaves the hired arm to do his work. The sister, however, unwittingly falls in love with the Duke instantly, and begs him to kill someone else, or Rigoletto himself, instead. Simply interested in getting his money, he proclaims he'll kill the next man that walks through the door and save the Duke. Guess who walks through the door? None other than Rigoletto's daughter, come to sacrifice herself for the Duke's life.

You could imagine what happens next: The fop returns to finish the deal, and just when he's about to dump his daughter's body to the water he hears the Duke singing a reprise of "La Dona e Mobile" (the song linked above about fickle women). He then discovers her, mortally wounded, and after a quick duet where she begs him to forgive, he weeps, remembering the curse.

As dramatic and sad opera go, this isn't as depressing as I expected it to be. I felt sad at the end, but not like I might have had I watched Madama Butterfly or something else even more devastating. It's sad, because you watch a father take all the steps to keep secret his daughter, the single most important thing of his life, try to protect her, and then have to avenge her, and fail.

The flip side is although the story is a heavy one, I was completely blown away by the performances of the various players. Throughout the show, you could hear frequent whistles and bewildered exclamations of "wow, incredible!" during each number. Granted, the players cast for these things tend to be quite good consistently, but this performance was exceptional.

Everyone did a spectacular job, particularly the soprano Nadine Sierra who played the role of Rigoletto's daughter Gilda, and had a gorgeous trill to her voice that is most pleasant. The other unexpected (but certainly not unwanted) voice that wow'd everyone (and I'm not mentioning Mark Walters who played Rigoletto or our Duke, Michael Fabiano - they are givens and did a fantastic job) was the tenor of Kevin Langan, the voice of Sparafucile, the assassin. The bass of his tenor is nothing short of amazing, and he got plenty of cheers from the crowd after his number with Rigoletto and at the curtain call.

This show was packed. There were more bodies in the opera house than usual because Rigoletto is such a popular, well-known show. I saw more children in the audience than I tend to, and it was nice to see so many people interested in seeing this beautiful show and supporting our Florida Grand Opera. I definitely recommend it if you could catch the show this season, if only to appreciate the music and performances (example: Mark Walters is someone I've seen before, and it's great seeing familiar faces on stage) regardless of the sad story that accompanies them.

The next (and last) show for me this season is Romeo & Juliette, which isn't until the end of April by my calendar. It's also the "headline" show for the season, and I expect it will be packed to the brim with people. I'll be back with another 'Night at the Opera' after I see that tragedy.

[read what South Florida Classical Review had to say about Rigoletto]