Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Deep Surplus

Author: Lyle

Found this thanks to my RSS feed from “Cool Tools”.  Nice replacement for Radio Shack, now that it doesn’t sell parts any more.

Bulk Cable, Network Cables, Audio Video Cables, Cat5E, HDMI Cables, Computer Cables, Networking Cables and Structured Wiring, Fiber Optic and more!.

The Neville Brothers were at the Birchmere, this was the second time we saw them there and the third time overall.  They always have put on a very fun, high energy performance, and its always great to see someone as iconic as Aaron Neville perform just a few tables away.  They played about 2 hours, and we were really impressed with the solo work Aaron did at the end; he was well warmed up and knocked a few songs out of the park.

Their version of Iko Iko was fun as always.

iPad Has Arrived

Author: Lyle

It’s here, and as cleverly packaged as their other products. However, we’re not using it yet. The first time you turn it on it wants to sync with iTunes, which was unexpected. I would have thought it could do this over the cell network, so we haven’t really used it yet. We’ll see if we get some time to do this over the weekend.

Other obvious gripe: the little manual is printed in a font so small that a magnifying glass is needed to read it. I thought this document might just be the legal stuff which no one ever reads. But, it was the real instructions.

This is a review in absentia. Because of travel, a friend of mine went to the show. Her report made me sorry we missed the show. More than two hours of playing, including an encore with six songs, followed by another with three. Lots of covers of old Elvis tunes with the new band, Stones, country tunes, etc. She reports tremendous music, and a very entertaining presence on stage. The Warner Theater is also a great venue for music.

Aye, Pad!

Author: Lyle

Walked down to the Apple store today and held the new iPad in my hand.  It is a very impressive bit of engineering.  Has enough heft to it that it feels substantial (most likely the weight is all glass and batteries), yet is held easily in a single hand.  The Email and book reader applications were particularly impressive, and using this instead of a laptop for these functions seems like a real step up.

Looking forward to a more extended exploration, once the hordes of teenagers are back in school.

We hadn’t been to the Kennedy Center for a long time.  It’s a great venue to walk around – very recognizable from television (at least in the DC area).  A top tier venue for performances.  The down side is that its about the hardest place to get into if you haven’t been there before.  It’s surrounded by several protective layers of highways with poorly marked entrances like many areas in downtown DC.  It took us three tries to actually get into the parking lot.  We were glad we left plenty of time to get there.

We had great seats, 10th row, and its always very cool to see someone as recognizable as Wynton Marsalis be right on the stage in front of you.

Two sets, first one was mostly Basie tunes. I expected museum pieces, but they were lively and spontaneous. The second set was an original suite inspired by artists (a Monet movement, a Van Gogh movement, etc.). Some were a little too experimental for me, but others were great composition and performance.

The big surprise was how much an ensemble experience it was.  Wynton was the MC for the performance and took a few solos.  But, he was a member of the band and not the star of the show and I think all the players had a chance to solo throughout the night.  It was very cool to see him in this role and we enjoyed the performance very much.

Other perk; the audience was much better behaved than most DC area performances.  Very little moving in and out during the performance and the common distractions of public events.

Brian Setzer at Strathmore Hall

Brian Setzer at Strathmore Hall

After avoiding Strathmore Hall for years (a taxpayer protest), this is the third event we’ve been to at Strathmore in two months.

Brian Setzer was there with his big band for a concert billed as a Christmas Extravaganza.  While there were a number of Christmas tunes done up in that Rock & Roll/Big Band/Rockabilly style he’s been doing for a while, there were also a number of his recognizable hits including a few numbers done with the Stray Cats trio of Brian, Bass, and small drum kit.  And, the stage and costumes were all Christmas themed, including a snow machine for the grand finale.

This was our first time seeing Brian live, and we were real close to the stage for an easy view of his playing.  While the style he plays in is somewhat narrow from an electric guitar standpoint, you’d be hard pressed to find a better player as he effortlessly cruises between vintage rock and roll, rockabilly, surf, and swing styles.  He does this with a beautiful vintage guitar rig and a long cable, moving (sometimes running, sometimes almost duckwalking) all across the front of the stage and making great connection to the audience.

The martini glass backdrop, Vegas style lounge jackets, emphasis on swing music, create a very high energy performance that we enjoyed from end to end.  We really enjoyed the hits like Rock This Town and Sexy and Seventeen, and the swing arrangements of the Christmas songs were a lot more fun and a lot less annoying than the endless repetition that drives you insane by the actual holiday (although it is early in the season).  The swing arrangement of the Nutcarcker Suite was fun and creative, and his tribute to Danny Gatton was a great connection to a local player which we enjoyed.

The crowd was a funny mix which we are seeing for this venue, most likely due to the crowd being a mix of fans and theater patrons who are there on a subscription package and not necessarily familiar with the music.  Vocals were a little muddy and hard to hear, which we’re now seeing as typical for this venue, unfortunately.

Hall & Oates at Wolf Trap, August 2, 2009

Hall & Oates at Wolf Trap, August 2, 2009

From August 2, 2009.

Most likely, everyone from my high school from near my age feels a connection to the music of Hall & Oates.  Daryl Hall went to my high school, and they were becoming famous while I was in school.  They became huge when I was in college with three monstrous selling albums during the early days of MTV when videos had a big impact on music sales and pop culture.

I saw them once before, when I was in college they played at the school’s arena where I worked.  I not only got to see the show promoting their Voices album, but my vantage point was from the left corner of the stage and was able to get tickets for friends from high school.  It was an incredibly exciting show, and had a big impact on me in terms of what large shows were about and the magic creators of music generate when they create songs that are loved by many.

So, here we were 25 years later going to see Hall & Oates again.  I knew I would love the show regardless just based on nostalgia.  So, consider this an extremely biased review.

Hall & Oates Ticket

Hall & Oates Ticket

Here was the cool thing about the show.  They opened up with Man-eater, a huge number one hit.  Most bands would save a song like this for the end, or for the mandatory fake encore.  Hall & Oates are able to open with a song like this because they can follow it up with another dozen top 10 songs.  The only negative about a show like this is that the crowd is filled with people that love and know all these songs and have that urge to sing along with every song.

The only thing that was missing for me was that I hoped G. E. Smith would be there from all those classic albums.  However, nothing was lacking – Daryl and John where there, along with some of the others from those classic albums.  And, the somewhat small lighting production gave the show a more intimate feel, similar to the vibe of the web show Live from Daryl’s House (which is really great, if you haven’t seen it).

(Picture quality poor – must have had the camera set wrong)

We knew some of Chris Isaak’s songs, and knew who he was, and knew he put on a great show.  Now, we know all of this from first hand experience.

IMG_0243Part of what made this event fun was that the band has played together for 20 years or so, and had that tremendous tightness that only comes about from knowing each other well and trying to get to the same place musically.  There were very spontaneous moments that only come about when the band can look at each other and do something that is not on a controlled script.  Whether faked or not, it felt very real for Chris to walk out into the audience with a radio mike, finish the song before he got back, and call out “do an Elvis tune” and continue to wade through the audience.

A lot of his material is dark – sad – melancholy.  But well written and well performed and highlighted with a pretty slick light show.  There was a retro looking TV screen behind the band that played images through some kind of LED display, and those automated lights up top that can do so many things with color and lenses.

We walked away very impressed, and would go see Chris Isaak again when he comes to town.  And, downloaded a dozen or so songs from iTunes the next day.

(Sorry the picture is bad.  Taken with the cell phone camera which is easily fooled by stage lighting)


(Performance was Sunday, August 9, 2009)

Looking for something to do on a Sunday evening, we went to the Birchmere to see the Neville Brothers. We had seen them once before at Merriweather Post, where the acoustics were so had the band was overwhelmed by echos. We had seen Aaron at the Birchmere before, so we knew how cool it was to see him in a small club.

But, to sum up the show in one word, “wow”.

First of all, its somewhat overwhelming to be sitting there with Arron Neville 30 feet in front of you singing.  It’s just a real un — believeable experience.  Then Aaron with his brothers, the whole band lined up.  The set jumps between party songs to hits, to great covers you can’t believe you’re hearing them perform in person.

The Brother John/Iko song is a highlight.  Just puts you right in New Orleans.

We really loved the cover of Bill Wither’s Use Me.  The song has a great groove.  Tell It Like It Is always gets the ladies yelling.

A real surprise – a cover of Hall & Oates Sara Smile (which we heard by the original a few nights ago).  Wow, chills over that one.

We really didn’t want the show to end.  It’s fun thinking about the songs they could do to hear how The Neville Brothers would do them.  So, a few new ones, lots of the ones we love, and some of the ones we don’t know well but are just a great funky groove.  A super show in a great club.  Way better than TV on a Sunday night!