Archive: July, 2011
Even before walking into the Wilma Theater, there were some pretty telling signs that there was about to be a kickass show inside. Because, you know, mimes and a girl on stilts towering above you tend do that.
But rather than being about street performance, No Regrets: A Piaf Affair was about the tragic French singer who rose above the difficulties of being raised on the street to become a cultural icon for her catchy cabaret tunes, lively performances and flirty personality. She was played by John Jarboe (yes, a man), and he brought the spirit of the “Little Sparrow” through wonderfully. His first-person, between-song narrations about Piaf’s life, were witty and laugh-out-loud funny.
The old-time cabaret music, performed in a small ensemble made up of Heath Allen on piano and John Greenbaum lightly plucking a cello. The other actors in the show, including Greenbaum, sometimes filled the rest of the music with a tambourine on stage as it waltzed along with Kristen Bailey’s harp, who also had some great singing parts within the show.
The excellent choreography saw its peak when “Je Ne Regrette Rien,” (I Regret Nothing)” was performed. Confetti was showered onto the audience as the actors playfully handed out handmade hearts with pins glued so audience members could wear them as they left the theater, celebrating the passion Piaf was known for.
U2 play a good game. They know how to cadge nostalgia for the sake of promotion without seeming too cloying. They know how to be corny without eschewing cool and sweet without dismissing simmering sensuality. They know how to beep, burst, kick and scream. They know exactly where the cameras are placed. Mainly, they know how to rock, how to make a stadium of nearly 68,000 people seem as intimate as the Bijou where they first played here thirty years ago.
(1) The 168-foot-tall four-legged stage set "The Claw” reminded me of the monstrosity that filled Vet Stadium for David Bowie’s Glass Spider shows, only now with an all-circling (hence the 360) hi-def video screen at its top. That screen was Bono’s muse and his siren as the singer spent the entirety of his time playing to the cameras like a hairy Norma Desmond. His swagger was pronounced as he stalked the stage like a panther. He arched his back in a Jagger-esque ass-out pose and kept his mouth open in a Munch-like scream throughout. That Bono was posing was no surprise. That he kept it up steadily throughout the the 2+ hours was. Then again, if you’ve got all that tech and tickets cost on average $250, you had better put on a dog-and-pony show for the paying customers and stick out your ass.
Opening for soulful diva Nikka Costa last week at World Café Live, Jesse Dee’s voice was as large and in charge as his hairstyle.
A Boston-natïve, Dee began his set with a solo from Around Here that cut through the crowd, hushing all idle conversation. He progressed through his set, with little interruption, belting out songs from 2009 album Bittersweet Batch, as well as some newer songs from his work-in-progress album. His stage presence and vocal composition is worth noting, conjuring images of Sam Cooke with a bit more modern-day soul. And whether you’ve shared his experience or not, his passion forces you to empathize with him. The audience, who doubled in size halfway through his set, boogied along with the soulful groove of Jesse’s four-piece band and swooned to the shear capacity of his angelic pipes. His haircut … again, also pretty phenomenal.
Costa delivered an action-packed, big-band-meets-Janis-Joplin show filled with audience favorites and songs from upcoming album Pro*Whoa (June 21). Rocking a full band (trombone, keyboards, drums, guitar and bass), Costa’s voice was still the highlight of the night. She nailed high notes left and right, dancing and shaking her hips to the funk the band laid out for her.
Costa, in her metallic blouse, skintight high-waisted jeans and knee-high white boots, rallied the crowds saying, “You know this is the Nikka Costa show, right? No one’s aloud to be lazy at the Nikka Costa show, so clap those hands!”
After ending the set with “Can’t Please Everybody,” Costa and company encored twice, once as a full band for “Loving You” and as a three-piece (Trombone, vocals and guitar) for “Love to Love You Less.” Nikka Costa will be back in the area in the beginning of August, kicking ass again.
Reporter Meg Augustin takes you inside some of Philly's most fab dwellings to showcase our city's unique grasp on design and architecture.
Thanks to Bastille Day, I’ve been thinking about demolition. Sobering topic, I know, but our responsibility to historical buildings and interiors is surely something to think about. Philadelphia is a town of historical artifacts that, thankfully, have been pretty well preserved. But for every home that has made it to the historical registry, there has to be several dozen that are left to fend for themselves. Some are bulldozed for newer homes or neighborhood groceries, others are pieced up into livable apartments while others sit untouched for years. While there are many artifacts that fall into this last category, there is one in particular I want to focus on: the S.S. United States. While obviously not a building, this South Philly-docked ship once offered a nautical home for the height of Hollywood regency interiors, mid-century modern aesthetic, high glamour and opulence.
Monday: A former member of several fiery indie rock outfits, Erika M. Anderson has recently emerged as a solo artist under the moniker EMA. Her noisy, aggressive sound and primal stage presence have been cultivated over the past few years, and her latest outing benefits from this experience. Already hailed as one of this year’s breakout artists, Anderson has presented herself as nothing more or less than herself. It’s honest and slightly terrifying rock n’ roll. w/ Helado Negro, 8 p.m., $10, Kung Fu Necktie, 1250 N. Front St., 215-291-4919.
Tuesday: Half of the current lineup of Seattle’s Big Business were, at one point, members of legendary heavy rock band The Melvins. That should give you some indication as to the bone-rattling, eardrum-marauding night that’s in store. Now that bassist Jared Warren and drummer Coady Willis are back to focusing on their own group, you can be certain that there are big plans in Big Business’ future. w/ Torche & Helms Alee, 8 p.m., $12, First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut St., 215-563-3980.
Wednesday: You can indeed dance to the music of Gang Gang Dance, but you can also glean a lot of information about what various world cultures might groove to in their own lands. The group’s latest album, the mind-bending Eye Contact, features some of the most unusual party music you’re likely to hear in this hemisphere. Add on to that the language-shifting of vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos, who often lapses into indeterminate (perhaps invented) tongues within the same song. w/ Total Freedom & Nguzunguzu, 9 p.m., $14, Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 215-739-9684.
Intrepid CP entertainment reporter Peter Chawaga sets out on a weekly mission to find the best, quirkiest and - most importantly - still operational record stores our town has to offer.
For the first time ever, someone at a record store finally admitted to specializing their inventory. At Tequila Sunrise (525 W. Girard Ave., 215-965-9616) they welcome all wax enthusiasts but hold a particularly enticing collection for fans of psychedelic, folk, dance and world music. They also have a great collection of newer indie releases and always welcome used records of every genre. Tequila Sunrise isn’t just unique for their specialization, but also for their organization and the fact that the owner, Anthony Vogdes, has his own label’s productions for sale on the shelves. Tequila Sunrise Records has put out albums for Jack Rose, Micah Blue Smaldone, LSD March and some artists that I’m told are big in Japan.
The store isn’t that expansive but they’ve managed to cram nearly 10,000 records into the place, with used albums lining the floor and new releases in the boxes on top. The new records are organized by label, psychedelic by region and electronic by genre. Each of these comes with the album’s one sheet printed with Tequila Sunrise’s signature bright pink, to help customers decipher the more obscure releases.
The staff is very friendly, they’ll put whatever you want to hear on the speakers and they’re in a pretty cool location in North Philly. Even though they serve a particular demographic particularly well, their used collection has something for everybody and the chances of finding a new release you’ve never heard of but fall in love with is pretty high. Next time you're in the mood to broaden your musical horizons, check out Tequila Sunrise.
Australian funny man Tim Minchin has his black nail polish-clad hands in a lot of pots. He's a comedian, he's acted in serious stage productions like Amadeus, Hamlet and Jesus Christ Superstar and he's an accomplished musician, with six albums under his studded belt. This week he's appearing at TLA for a show that combines his music and comedic talents — singing jokes while tickling away at a piano. He's offensive, he might be a little cuckoo and we totally think you should check him out. The first three people to email me at email@example.com with the subject line "dude kinda looks like a lady" will receive a pair of tickets. Show details are below:
Fri., July 22, 8 p.m., $31.50, TLA, 334 South St., 215-922-1011, livenation.com.
UPDATE: We have winners! Congrats to Diane, Lori and Melanie. The rest of you have to buy tickets!
Former Dinosaur Jr. album artist and assistant professor of Electronic Media at Indiana's Ball State University, Maura Jasper, has an installation at Vox Populi's Forth Wall. Reserved for video, film, animation or new media, Fourth Wall is currently dedicated to "The Gates," curated by Elisabeth Subrin. "The Gates" is a video projection which pairs Princess Diana's bridal and funeral processions. The videos have been edited for uniform speed and run six minutes in length as they demonstrate these well-attended bookends of her public life.
Jasper says the works were inspired by two wedding chest panels by Renaissance artist Francesco Pesellino: The Triumphs of Love, Chastity and Death, and The Triumphs of Fame, Time and Eternity. Like in Pesellino's panels, Princess Di's "past, present, and future appear to occur in a simultaneous holding pattern."
Three years after its première at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, writer and performer James Braly’s solo show Life in a Marital Institution: 20 Years of Monogamy in One Terrifying Hour has come to Philadelphia for the first stop on a national tour. Though complaining about marriage has become a cliché, Braly's performance is original and insightful — reflecting on how difficult it can be to end a long-term relationship, even one that is seriously flawed.
The show begins with Braly recalling a conversation he had with his sister, Cathy, as she was dying of cancer. Braly tells his sister that he loves her and she asks him if he loves her enough to trade places. He thinks it over and then replies: “Would you want to be married to Susan?”
For the remainder of his 90-minute monologue, Braly alternates between descriptions of his time spent with Cathy in the last days of her life and anecdotes from his married life — starting with the story of how he met his future wife. He was sitting in a New York City café writing a poem when she approached him, only to take the paper out of his hands and proceed to mark it up with red pen.
The set design is minimal — consisting of three chairs placed beside one another at the center of the stage — and props are not used during the performance. As a result, the show’s success or failure rests entirely on Braly’s delivery. Fortunately for audiences, he is energetic and captivating throughout, never losing his sense of humor despite the seriousness of his subject matter. Braly is also remarkably honest and straightforward. He lays bare all the details of his relationship and does not hesitate to critically examine his own reasons for staying in the marriage. Eventually, he admits that he remained with his wife not out of loyalty or devotion but because he was afraid of being alone. Even if this admission does not seem particularly noble, it is impossible not to admire Braly’s willingness to be so candid. Moreover, Braly reminds us of something that is easily overlooked: Ending an unhealthy relationship takes courage.
When asked if he and his wife are still together, Braly responds: “Given what you’ve just heard, do you think we should be?” See the show and decide for yourself.
Through July 16, 8 p.m., $35, Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St., 215-546-7824, wilmatheater.org.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles.
This weekend, Tig Notaro comes performs in Philly for the first time. You may have seen her on Last Comic Standing 4, The Sarah Silverman Program or her own Comedy Central Presents special. Or, you may have heard her new podcast, Professor Blastoff, which debuted at No. 1 on iTunes this May. She shot the shit with me briefly about some assorted cultural interests:
Critical Mass: What do you like to watch on TV?
Tig Notaro: Dust accumulating.
CP: Are there any products you think should be illegal?
TN: Perfume. I like the good natural smell of people who don't naturally smell bad.
CP: What are your favorite Tom Waits songs?
TN: I love "Please Call Me Baby," "Old 55," "The Piano has been Drinking" and "Blind Love" (among many others).
CP: Have you ever performed in Philadelphia? What is your impression of the city?
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