Thursday, June 24, 2010

NYT on Adam's concerts at the Nokia

Jon Pareles, writing for NYT, seems to have felt the same way I did, but he does a better job expressing it:
[W]hile Mr. Lambert has worked in musical theater since the early 1990s, his performance was by turns rushed and sluggish: groups of set pieces punctuated by his band playing in the dark, while Mr. Lambert changed to a different black costume.

His greatest asset is his voice, which is made for melodramatic crescendos and heroic upward leaps. But for many songs, it was all but buried in overeager band arrangements and phantom backing voices — tricks that lesser singers hide behind. Eventually, he calmed the band for a drumless segment, though the singing was more showy than intimate.
There’s a big-voiced showman in Mr. Lambert, ready to surface when he worries less about pleasing everyone or hitting his marks.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Adam's Glam Nation Tour at Mystic Lake Casino, Prior Lake, MN

You know how I love him, so you know that it pains me to say this: the show was disappointing.  Part of the problem is a mismatch between the show's budget and Adam's aspirations.  He wants to create a spectacle, an extravaganza, but the show is apparently on too tight a budget to pull that off.  Yet, Adam doesn't want (and the albums songs don't call for) an intimate, organic, non-staged kind of show.  The result is an awkward in-between sort of presentation.  There are costumes, but no set except a short set of aluminum stairs; dancers, but only four of them; a small screen showing static images instead of showing a live feed of a camera showing Adam close up; recorded backing vocals instead of backup singers. There are cool lasers shooting out over the audience, but I assume that's kind of standard for concerts these days.

His vocal performance was, of course, excellent.  Generally, he avoided the super high notes.  I understand this completely.  He's going to do 70 shows in three months and needs to take care of his voice.  Yet his ability to hit those notes is part of what makes his singing thrilling so I was disappointed to not hear that live.

All in all, I would say that the production values are not equal to his talent.

Soaked, performed with just piano accompaniment, was gorgeous.

The set list was:
1. Voodoo
2. Down the Rabbit Hole
3. Ring of Fire!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
4. Fever
5. Sleepwalker
6. Whataya Want From Me
7. Soaked
8. Aftermath
9. Surefire Winners
10. Strut
11. Music Again
12. Broken Open
13. If I Had You
14. Encore:  uptempo, acoustic Mad World

My favorites songs of his are Voodoo, Down the Rabbit Hole, Fever, Sleepwalker and Broken Open, so the song order was sort of upside down for me, with the best stuff near the beginning.  Ring of Fire live was fabulous and will be a special moment on tour when he sings it at the Ryman in Nashville, after Randy Travis (or was it Simon Cowell?) declared during Idol that Adam's Ring of Fire wouldn't go over very well at the Grand Ole Opry.

Adam has said the set list will change and evolve as the tour goes on.  He's been doing acoustic, jazzy, improved improvised Whole Lotta Love for an encore at most venues.  He sang Madonna's Ray of Light during a sound check recently, and it often seems to be the case that sound check songs turn up in sets later.  He sounded great on it; it's a really good song for him.  (As you may recall, if you actually read my Adam posts, Monte Pittman, Adam's guitar player and musical director, was Madonna's guitar player.)

The venue had horrific sound problems for Allison Iraheta's and Orianthi's sets.  The instruments were so so so loud that the singers' voices were amplified to distortion, so it was as if you couldn't hear them singing at all.  We had to leave the auditorium during Orianthi's set because of this.  The sound was good for Adam's set, though.

The financial aspect of the music business must be so frustrating for artists.  Gaga was reportedly in the red with her tour until a couple months ago, in spite of being the most expensive, most sought-after ticket around the world and in spite of having a slew of hit songs and huge record sales.

Unaccustomed Earth

This is a collection of short stories from Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake (novel; made into a movie) and Interpreter of Maladies (short stories).  Unaccustomed Earth explores the experiences of immigrants from India, their children and grandchildren.  Beautifully written.

Nathan Coulter, Remembering, A World Lost - Three Short Novels, Wendell Berry

I love Wendell Berry's fiction.  I love his concept to tell the intertwined stories of many families, across generations, in a non-linear way in many works each of which can stand on its own.  I love the understated, quiet, calm tone of his writing. I love his appreciation of beauty in the simple.  I love his portrayal of the black sheeps in families.  I love his romantic portrayal of land and family farming and physical labor.  I love that his lawyer character is honest and good.  I love that there's a map and genealogy tree that is a useful supplement to his works. I love his portrayal of drama-free, steadfast marriage.  I love his portrayal of small community life in which there is no anonymity and, except in rare circumstances, everyone must just make do with everyone else in the community. I love his portrayal of a time and place in which parents knew more than their kids about that which the kids were going to do for a living (farm), with parents educating their kids by working side by side while the kids are respectful sponges. I love reading about kids growing-up where they had land and time to explore.

Dreamers of the Day

Mary Doria Russell wrote two novels (The Sparrow (sci-fi) and Thread of Grace (historical fiction)) that we've read for book club that I liked a lot.  She's a fan of Walter Miller and wrote a forward for a recent publication of Canticle for Leibowitz.

The premise is absurd.  In 1921, a middle-aged school teacher from Ohio retires and takes a trip to Cairo during the Cairo Peace Conference at which was born Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan.  On her first day in Cairo, by happenstance, Agnes meets Lawrence of Arabia, Gertrude Stein and their friends.  She hangs out with them and has a fling (her first ever) with some guy who may or may not be a spy.  I knew this much about it before I began reading and recognized the ridiculousness of the premise, but I thought that Mary Doria Russell was so supremely skilled that she could make a believable story out of this.  Alas, no.

Update:  One more thing.  Agnes meets Lawrence because her dog causes a stir at the hotel.  She meets the maybe-spy when he comments on her dog.  Obvious plot device is obvious.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

This was a book club pick. I had pitched it, in part on LJ's suggestion.

The story is a re-imagining of Hamlet (or of The Lion King, if you prefer), set in rural Wisconsin in the mid-to-late 1900s.  The Sawtelle family is in the business of breeding and training dogs, as it has been for a couple generations.  They do not breed according to customary breeding practices, but instead find dogs with remarkable qualities (temperament, intelligence, etc.) and introduce them into the breeding population.  Before their dogs are sold into homes, they spend a year and half training them and recording the results of training, and use that data to better the lineage of the Sawtelle dogs.

The main character is Edgar who is not deaf but cannot speak.  This makes him similar to the dogs in the sense that he has a communication barrier; Edgar and his family develop a custom sign language to be able to communicate.  I appreciated this focus on communication because I find that 70% of successful dog training is about learning to communicate with your dog.  (The other 30% is operant conditioning; good training has virtually nothing to do with dominance or getting your dog to "obey".)

Some of the chapters are narrated by Almondine, an old dog with whom Edgar has grown up.  I think Wroblewski does a beautiful job of presenting dog thought in a unique way.  He makes Almondine something of a poet, and I preferred this to the usual approach in which authors turn the dogs into not-very-intelligent people.

I was hooked from the beginning and didn't want to put it down.  It wasn't slow for me at all.  I do have a couple quibbles with the ending.  Since they're spoilers, I'll slip behind the cut.