Monday my friend and I went to see Queen + Paul Rodgers at the Bradley Center.
I've been a fan of Queen since my early teens, but it's binge and purge with me. There are times when I love their music, and times when Freddie Mercury's mix of camp and rock get on my nerves.
There was no way I wasn't going to see them tho' - even without Freddie, this was the one and only chance I'll have to see one of rock's greatest groups. Besides, I was a moderate fan of Paul Rodgers, having loved his Muddy Waters tribute album a decade back.
That eliminated (for me) what was probably the #1 reason most people would avoid the concert - Paul Rodgers is no Freddie, after all.
There was no opening act (yay!!) but the concert opened with Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' being played over the loudspeakers. I gather this was to tie in with the 'never quit' atmosphere of the reunion, but some lunkhead 40 yr olds booed the song heartily. F 'em.
On the majority of the Queen songs, at least for the first half of the show, Paul was drowned out by Brian May's guitar. His voice is strong, but not in the same range as Freddie's. Combine that with the fact that, minus Mercury, the band seemed too eager for the spotlight, and sometimes the song itself got lost a tad . .
[One final nitpick: I really detest when bands take a 3 minute song and stretch it to 12 minutes, or twist it into a polka, or spend half an hour on a guitar solo that has nothing to do with the song. I know you can play - I'm paying for the privilege after all - so knock off the show-off crap and keep true to at least the spirit of the song.
That one was for you, Brian. No offense - I think you're great. And in fairness, your 10 minute solo gave me time to use the can. ]
It sounds like I didn't like the concert, but nothing could be farther from the truth.
I sang along to most of the songs, and suprisingly I really enjoyed the Bad Company songs that were sprinkled into the mix. Almost enough to buy a Bad Co. album, I kid you not.
Bohemian Rhapsody was largely 'performed' by a taped video of Freddie, both as a nod to his memory and to the fact that no one will ever do it better. The encore of We Will Rock You was met with thunderous stomping/clapping, and Rogers more than holds his own on We Are the Champions.
Several times in the show references were made to Freddie, and two video montages were shown of Queen's past, and that of Rogers. Kind of gave the concert a justified air of nostalgia, regret, and melancholy.
A concert I'll tell my grandkid's about, should I make it that long.
* * *
Yesterday I took both girls - alone - to see a touring 30th anniversary performance of the musical Annie.
About a year ago, acting on a hunch they'd love the movie, I went to a Blockbuster in the boonies and got a copy of the most recent version.
They fell in love with it.
[little known fact: in 1982 my Mom took her Brownie troop to see the film and dragged me along. I pis*ed and moaned, but wound up liking it so much I begged her to buy me the movie program]
So I couldn't pass up the chance to take them, and all week Middle Child's been telling folks "I gonnasee Annie!" and "Ita hardknock lifeus"
We got them down for a late nap, then doled them up like true theater goers before heading out.
Here's the dissapointing part. The tickets for the allegedly sold-out show (according to Ticketmaster) were in the very last row of the balcony, smack in the middle of the aisle - and here I am with a 2 1/2 and a 4 year old.
I avoided that by taking three aisle seats (sold out my butt) but that still left a problem. To see the stage over the handrail girls had to perch on the upright seat of the chair, a situation which just begged for mischief. And good luck keeping them sitting on my knee for any length of time.
Still, YaYa, the theater vet, was pretty good, save for a 'let's tap dance with our fancy shoes moment' and an exaggerated pantomine when I asked her to stop. Middle Child was good too, and they both ADORED seeing the strong renditions of It's a Hard Knock Life and Tomorrow, but by the seventh scene that was it.
Middle Child had to 'Go Pee!" three times in one scene, YaYa was getting antsy, and threats/bribes/prayers didn't work.
[my apologies to one of the ushers, an old man who had to rise from his chair each and every time I took one of the girls into the lobby. I finally told him to stop. There was no need, and besides,it gets creepy when you walk into a room and four people rise to their feet to wait on you]
So I took the girls down to the atrium, where they tossed some pennies in the fountain, bought some souvenirs, and watched the action on the monitors. I ran into a Mom taking her 5 year old home, which made me feel good. When Easy Street came on YaYa wanted to see it, so we went back to our seats. We missed the song, but caught the last two songs of the Act before intermission.
That's when I called it a night and, hand in hand, took the girls back to the car.
I still felt like a failure, and attributed it to my gender - I was sure my wife coulda made them sit still for the entire play. But when we were walking through the parking structure we walked right past an entire ROW of cars with mom's buckling their kids in to go home.
"You're taking your kids home too?" I asked one of them.
"Yeah, it's just too long of a show at their age." she said.
"Thank God," I said. "I was worried it was just a Daddy thing before I saw all you Mom's driving home."
She laughed and asked me the girls ages. Her's in fact, were a few years older.
"Well," I said. "At least they got to see Hard Knock Life and Tomorrow. That's their favorite party anyway."
She snorted. "It'll be a Hard Knock Life for us for the next few day, having these kids up so late."
I laughed and wished her well. It restored my mood enough to take the kids to the McDonald's by Miller Park for some ice cream. Wouldn't you know it, while we were there someone came up to me and said "Weren't you just at the play? Hey, you had the same idea we did. Now I don't feel so bad."
For the life of me, I don't remember seeing them or their kids, and I hope the reason they recognized me was because of my stunning good looks, not my kids actions.
I took a picture with the girls when we got home, but by then Middle Child was justifiably exhausted, so I won't subject her to posting a picture of it here.
Ok, so I lied. Not sure what's up with my whacked smile either.
Still, a night to remember - and not in the Titanic sense.
MILWAUKEE, WI, BRADLEY CENTER SET LIST It's A Beautiful Day
Tie Your Mother Down
Fat Bottomed Girls
Can't Get Enough
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Love Of My Life
Hammer To Fall
Feel Like Makin' Love
Let There Be Drums
I'm In Love With My Car
Another One Bites The Dust
These Are The Days Of Our Lives
Radio Ga Ga
The Show Must Go On
We Will Rock You
All Right Now
We Are The Champions
God Save The Queen
"PEOPLE OF MILWAUKEE..." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Dave Tianen. 3/27/06
Queen gives a nod to lineage. It honours Mercury but has new sound.
Fundamentally, most of what transpired at the Bradley Center on Monday night was an exercise in nostalgia. On that level, despite the cast changes, the show certainly worked. About halfway through, May took the front of the stage alone to sing Freddie's ballad "Love of My Life." Before he could begin, he had to wait for a prolonged wave of applause to subside.
"People of Milwaukee," he told the crowd. "I wasn't feeling very glam tonight, so you've given me a lift." Clearly, the feeling was reciprocal.
******'Annie' gets boost from grown-ups Supporting cast provides plenty of laughs, heart By CAROLE E. BARROWMAN
Special to the Journal Sentinel Posted: March 29, 2006
Ask anyone who's seen the musical "Annie," including those in the audience Tuesday night at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, and they'll tell you the show is only as good as its Annie.
With her infectious optimism and the best songs in the show, she's the most recognizable character on the stage. Marissa O'Donnell, this 30th anniversary production's Annie, has all the necessary spunk and polish to live up to any audience's expectations of the little orphan girl.
However, despite the fiery-haired youngster's obvious performing strengths, it's the old guys who actually carry this show.
Miss Hannigan, the wicked witch of the orphanage, played by Alene Robertson, and Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks, played by Conrad John Schuck, deliver the evening's biggest laughs and most satisfying characterizations.
Robertson plays the orphan-hating Miss Hannigan as though she's channeling a vodka-soaked Ethel Merman through the body of Mrs. Garrett from the '80s sitcom "The Facts of Life." Her stage presence is formidable and so is her voice.
During the scene in the orphanage where she and her brother, Rooster, played by Scott Willis, lament their departed mother's sage advice to stay on "Easy Street," Robertson's Hannigan easily upstages Mackenzie Phillips' wooden Lily St. Regis. In fact, given the show's overtly idealized tone and clichéd message, Robertson's Miss Hannigan strikes a perfect balance between caricature and character.
Schuck's Warbucks is an equal counterpart, the wizard to Hannigan's wicked witch. In all of his scenes, Schuck's body language, facial expressions and rich bass-baritone are commanding. When he finally embraces his Annie in front of the president and everybody, it's a believable and touching moment. Annie's presence in Warbucks' life may have reminded him that "something was missing," but it's Schuck's presence on stage that humanizes "Annie."
This current touring production's sets are as appealing and oversize as "Daddy" Warbucks himself. Each backdrop reflects the emotional tone of the scene. The orphanage is gray, drab and slightly off-kilter. The interior of Warbucks' house is grandiose and dollar green, Times Square bursts with red lights and painted neon, and the NBC Radio Studio where Annie goes national to plead for her parents pops from the pages of a Norman Rockwell calendar.
Even the orchestration captures the close relationship this musical has with its audience. During many of the songs, "Tomorrow" in particular, a lone trumpet calls and responds to Annie on stage, revitalizing the show's big number.
"Do I hear happiness here?" asks Justice Brandeis during Annie's adoption ceremony toward the end of Act 2.
If you were standing on Water St. at curtain call, the answer was a resounding "yes."