We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see blues legend Buddy Guy for the first time at the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center in Madison, WI. Quinn Sullivan was the opening act. He is 18. Check out this YouTube of Buddy and Quinn from ten years ago. He can play and sing. It was a good start. Buddy is already in his 80s so it was time to see him.
Buddy came on in a polka-dot shirt and The Lady said, “Isn’t he adorable.” She has always had great taste in men. He was interesting, entertaining, and musical. His stories, his playing, and his singing were right on. From the big deep blues voice to the falsetto, he was in command of his voice. He had a four-piece band (guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard) backing him. They were ready to solo or back him while he told stories, played the guitar with a towel, or wandered through the audience. He has a great stage presence if you don’t mind a little profanity. He ended up right behind our seats! One telling moment was when he brought Quinn and his son to join him toward the end of the concert. We were watching Buddy while the two youngsters played solo and he really enjoyed watching both of them.
He gave us two great life lessons. The first was “it” is not in the book. This was mostly backed up by the amazing sounds he got out of his guitar in all manner of ways. He’d smile and say it is not in the book. One of the things that he mentioned not being in the book is that Buddy and BB and the rest were really discovered by the British and it led to the British invasion. Buddy could have been upset by that but he was not. He is a positive guy.
The second was keeping out of politics in performance. He had lots of comments on Houston and other events but they were always in a positive manner. He was pure Martin Luther King: “No matter how much you hate me I’m gonna love you.” His comments showed it. We might have missed it or not been open enough to micro-aggressions but we did not detect anything partisan during the performance and Buddy likes to talk. He was a nice change from the partisan comments that showed up in the Graham Nash performance.
Here is his tour. He plays at his club in Chicago during January. You owe it to yourself to see him while he is still great. He is older so there will be some sing-alongs and opportunity for the band members to solo but it is worth your time and money to see this treasure.
We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see Graham Nash at the Capitol Theater at Overture in the 77 square miles surrounded by reality. The Capitol has great acoustics and singers almost always mention it as Graham did several times. We are not sure if it is always part of Graham’s concerts or if the environment caused excessive virtue signaling but most of the denizens enjoyed it.
The show itself was great fun. It was just two guys, Shane Fontayne on electric guitar or mandolin and Graham on acoustic guitar or keyboard and sometimes adding a harmonica.
Sidebar One: Shane Fontayne has an interesting history including a marriage to Mackenzie Phillips. That means their son, also named Shane, is related to Shane, John Phillips, and Peter Barakan. End Sidebar One.
Sidebar Two: Until we were just checking this we always thought that Michelle Phillips, in our opinion, perhaps the prettiest woman in the sixties, was Mackenzie’s mother. We had always thought that genetics had treated Mackenzie unfairly but now we know. End Sidebar.
The two guitars without any drums worked well. Graham had some great stories about himself, the Hollies, and the rest of CSN&Y and he referred to them collectively as the other monkeys. The stories provided some insight to the great With a 20 minute break the show went over two-and-a-half hours. Their cover of the Beatles’ Blackbird was great. It was a nice venue and a great show although we could have done without the rants on Trump. Mercifully, they were short.
Yesterday we accompanied the Lady deGloves to an event at American Players Theatre (APT) and we taught a lesson in a beautiful fashion. We taught a similar lesson, less elegantly, about 20 years ago. To explain why we need to explain the analogy between APT and the university.
Brenda DeVita, the APT artistic director, was meeting with a group of supporters ostensibly to plan a season at APT. The real lesson was: we really appreciate your support but you can’t have the plays you want because of all the constraints.
We faced a similar situation a couple of decades ago when accounting majors were in extraordinarily high demand. Every firm wanted to be the first on campus so they could get the top candidates. The Department worked with Career Services to create Accounting Career Expo (ACE) on Monday evening and Accounting Interview Days (AID) to follow immediately. That way we could avoid no.
The analogy is that APT is very much like a university. The comparisons are
Brenda is the department chair
The Core Company is the (tenure track) faculty
Other actors are academic staff
Directors are deans, albeit of one production
Supporters are supporters
Financial constraints are that seats must be filled
Brenda’s job is more complicated than a chair’s because almost all university performances are one-man shows while her shows are larger and often much larger. The nature of the chair and her position, however, is the same. Both of them have folks with awesome but not unlimited skills and often substantial egos that must be allocated to certain shows. The Core Company or the faculty gets first consideration. Other actors or academic staff fill needs and come and go. Director and deans always have big ideas. Both of them need to fill seats. Both need to add new supporters without alienating continuing supporters. Both need to accomplish much without much authority. Agreements are reached by discussing, convincing, and cajoling. We saw these attributes yesterday.
APT provided us with a nice dinner, plied us with alcohol, and brought in some of the performers to meet us (we met James Ridge who is wonderful as Cyrano) before moving into the Touchstone Theatre to design a season of APT. They encouraged and got lots of input and put together a season. Then they dropped “the math” on us. The plays most folks like have lots of actors. Not every actor can play every part. Actors can only do a few plays a season. There must be a Shakespeare comedy because “it is the gateway drug to the theatre”. We’re not sure if everybody got it but the point was clear: You can’t always get what you want.
We learned the lesson and are more aware of the constraints than almost anyone but still want to see Arsenic And Old Lace at APT. It only has 14 characters and the new stage will give them access to the Panama Canal. Our casting is almost complete but we are have trouble with Dr. Einstein.
We were going to entitle this a Ruthian moment but we did not want to confuse folks into thinking this is a baseball post because this is a book review. The Draining Lake (TDL) by Arnaldur Indridason is an epic book. We suspect he thinks of himself as Arnaldur but to find it you will need to have the patronymic Indridason.
Sidebar: In 1919 Babe Ruth set the MLB record for home runs with 29. That was impressive as it was the most ever. But 1920 was a Ruthian moment when he hit an astounding 54 home runs. The MLB runner up had 19. Arnaldur’s TDL is his Ruthian moment. The other books were really good but TDL is a Ruthian step up for him. End Sidebar.
We had read four of the Inspector Erlendur books, one out of order, and the stand alone Operation Napoleon. We enjoyed all of them but were taken aback by the power of TDL. It weaves together the story of Inspector Erlendur with the insidious impact of Communism. As often happens, Erlendur is connected with an old missing persons case. This time he is trying to identify a body exposed by the draining lake. It connects the Iron Curtain, especially East Germany, with Iceland and the Cold War.
It does a brilliant job of showing the impact of Communism. It gives us vivid specific cases as well as the overall data. What makes it extraordinary, Ruthian, is that it tells us why Communism and socialism is so popular despite its long history of failure. It is a book that everyone should read today.
We are big fans of Iceland: The place, the soccer team, and Arnaldur Indridason.
Sidebar: We saw the Iceland soccer team play a FiFA qualifier in Reykjavik in 2002 or so. They tied an eastern European team, Romania, we think. The echoing cheers of Is-land and the folks that looked like Vikings made the game great fun. We enjoyed, on TV, their success at the recent European tournament. End Sidebar.
Arnaldur has written many books about Inspector Erlendur but we just finished reading a stand alone book: Operation Napoleon written in 1999. All the books are written in Icelandic and translated into British English. It might be described a political fantasy that pokes fun at Americans and Icelanders alike. What got our attention was this on page 50:
“They [American politicians] were always putting themselves centre-stage. Especially Democrats, with their demands for open government, for having everything transparent and above board.”
When we first saw it we thought that Arnaldur was just another clueless European leftist but the rest of the book led us to believe he as capable of deeper insights. We would like to ask him but we think it is tongue-in-cheek. Remember that is was published in 1999 so it was written during the height of one of the Clinton scandals. Democrats arguing for open government would have seem dated by then. Certainly Obama has convinced everyone that the Venn Diagrams of open government and Democrats do not intersect.
We spent the weekend at various forms of the theater with the Lady deGloves and went three-for-three. We went to Madison and saw the touring version of Beautiful- the Carol King Musical. It is interesting because it is not just about Carol King. It is about the music industry of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s. They have great music (and The Loco-motion) to create a story around and they do it well. The singing and dancing is the quality you expect from a national tour.
Sidebar: We sat near a number of young folks and there was laughing when The Drifters first came on. We are not positive but we think they we reacting to the groups choreographed moves. It was a generational thing. End Sidebar.
Beautiful is a beautiful show. It starts with interesting songs but adds characters, sets, and presentations to make it a quality show. We completely enjoyed it.
Our second stop was at American Players Theatre for The Unexpected Man. This visit had the challenge of high expectations as it was a two person play with Brian Mani and Sarah Day, two of our favorite actors. The show still far exceeded our high expectations. It is a wonderful story about characters of roughly our age dealing with opportunities to connect as well as the experiences of death and disappointment that come with being past the midpoint of your life.. Brian and Sarah are perfect and the simple set becomes a bit more with lighting and sound. It is worth the trip to Spring Green.
Our third stop was to see Wonder Woman at the local cinema. It was worthy of its positive reviews. It introduced characters worthy of a franchise. We hope they get back to them. It, almost surprisingly for a summer blockbuster, had an interesting story. And it did have enough action to be an action flick. For us, one of the most interesting parts is the training of Diana (Wonder Woman). Often in movies characters become expert warriors in too short of a time. Diana, on the other hand, wants to become a warrior at a very early age and begins training then despite her mother’s disapproval. It is not epiphany that leads to her lethal skills. It is mostly hard work. You need to see the movie to fill in the missing piece.
It was a great weekend. Our next experience will suffer from comparison.
The second episode of Designated Survivor was immensely disappointing. The first show was a great start with about to be fired HUD Secretary Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) being the title character when the unthinkable happens. It looked to be an exciting show because so much was going on. Kirkman would be under fire from both international positions and domestic positions. He dealt with Iran in the first show. Kirkman’s wife is interesting but his self-absorbed son Leo promises to bring lots of drama to the White House. At the same time the cause of the attack is in question and there is conflict between the investigator Hannah Wells and her boss. There is the unsettled disposition of Hannah’s love interest who on Capitol Hill at the time of the attack.
All this was washed away with hateful cops and hateful Republicans in the second show. Michigan’s governor, a member of AEI, has decided to go the full FDR and imprison all Muslims in Michigan. Oh, and there is an evil surviving Republican woman that seems nice at first but we know will be evil.
Sidebar: the AEI is the American Enterprise Institute. In its own words:
The American Enterprise Institute is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world.
We are committed to making the intellectual, moral, and practical case for expanding personal freedom, increasing individual opportunity, and promoting free enterprise in America and around the world.
It took a hard, and undeserved knock from the show. End Sidebar.
We still like the show. Tom is an interesting guy with enough conflict to make Jack Bauer happy. It is laughably biased during an election year but there are still lots of interesting thinks going on. When the bombers turn out to be white Christians we might rethink our position or we might suspend disbelief again.