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Agnes Obel at Masonic Lodge
Rick Wakeman is the highly regarded keyboardist for the enduring English “prog-rock” band Yes. With solo projects, film scoring and studio sessions, his career is impressive (90 solo recordings and five with Yes).
At Los Angeles’ Theatre at the Ace Hotel, Wakeman presented his Grumpy Old Rock Star Tour. It entailed him playing solely, with funny and racy anecdotes. After a piped-in intro of Verdi’s “Spring” he joined the track. Continuing, he highlighted his session work on Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken” and David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.” Wakeman also displayed classical training through mashes of the Beatles’ “Help” with French composer Saint-Saëns and “Eleanor Rigby” with Russian Prokofiev. He injected jazz with “Sweet Georgia Brown,” in memory of his mentoring piano-playing father.
In regards to the keyboardist’s music, rock/classical “Catherine of Aragon” from 1973 The Six Wives of Henry VIII, “Merlin The Magician” from 1975 The Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table drew strong crowd response. 1999 “The Dance of a Thousand Lights” from Return to the Centre of the Earth with a chorale and orchestrated track closed the concert. Noticeably, Wakeman only played one Yes song, ballad “And You And I.”
Art Garfunkel Art Garfunkel Jr.
In the center and far rear upper section of the Disney Concert Hall is a massive 6,134-pipe organ. Since it’s far from the venue’s stage, Wayne Marshall pianist, organist, and conductor of the WDR Funkhausorchester in Cologne, Germany, and Organist and Associate Artist of the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, played a remotely connected organ onstage. Nonetheless, the sound from the instrument was overwhelming and in the lower registers surpassed movie theatre sound systems. Englishman, Marshall was eager to perform on the organ and quickly commenced to play an extensive and engrossing program.
He began with lengthy “Homage à Lenny, Improvisation on themes of Leonard Bernstein” that was doused with Westside Story themes and the composer symphonic works. Alternately, Marcel Dupré’s Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23 was more somber and intense with movements focusing of the Birth of Christ and the Death of Christ. Also religious oriented was George C. Baker’s slowly evolving “Deux Evocations” movements. Charles Marie Widor’s “Organ Symphony No. 6 in G minor, Op. 42 No. 2” was more inline with traditional organ music and masterfully performed by Marshall. The organist was even more astounding for “Improvisation on Themes of Beethoven,” which concluded the concert and garnered an impressive standing ovation.
Music Reviews… by Christopher J Walker
Quirky genius Brian Wilson has long been recognized and admired for his musical acumen, concepts, harmonies and enduring songs depicting the “California Dream.” One of his creations surprisingly was The Beach Boys Christmas Record in 1964, filled with traditional songs and several holiday originals that have become part of the group’s popular catalogue. However, during that era, nearly 60 years ago, pop, rock, blues, R&B and country artists didn’t devote whole albums to Christmas. In fact, the Beatles, who Wilson considered serious rivals would only record one campy or esoteric Christmas-themed song for their fan club annually years later, and they weren’t for sale (except as booklegs).
In early ‘70s the singer/songwriter/producer unsuccessfully attempted to create another holiday project without the Beach Boys. Remarkably, in 2005 everything came together for his solo recording What I Really Want For Christmas and now he has plenty of his own “holiday cheer” music. At The Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts, Wilson with long-standing supporting players Al Jardine-bass/vocals/guitar and Blondie Chaplin-guitar/drums/vocals will perform both Christmas CDs in their entirety, along with some non-seasonal surprises. For Wilson and Beach Boy fans this show will definitely be fun and memorable on a variety of levels.
Art Garfunkel, former Simon & Garfuel member, performed at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts with guitarist/keyboardist Tab Laven supporting him. During the mid to late ‘60s S&G captured the sensitivity of college youths through mostly poetic ballads. Garfunkel’s son Arthur Jr.9, began the show sweetly singing Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M the title track of S&G’s debut album. Afterwards the senior Garfunkel proudly admitted, “He has the voice, but I have the hits.” His son later rendered classics “Smile” and “Amore” solely, and with him the Everly Brothers “Devoted to You” and vintage “Let It Be Me.”
Senior Garfunkel showcased writing skills through angelic ballads “Perfect Moment” and “All I Know,” along with his book What Is It All But Luminous (Notes From An Underground Man), published in 2017. However, the audience really came to hear S& G music, since their reuniting is extremely remote. Garfunkel obliged with vocally challenging “Scarborough Fair,” easy flowing “Homeward Bound,” passionately sung “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her,” lightly rocking “Sounds of Silence” and lyrical gem “Kathy’s Song” to receive a standing ovation. Notably missing from the concert was S&G’s most popular song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” that recently marked its 50th anniversary.
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For ten years Berlin-based and Danish-born singer/keyboardist/songwriter Agnes Obel has been a critical and commercial success in Europe. Modern classical and jazz influences her indie-rock music, which is both edgy and elegant. At the Masonic Lodge, on the grounds of the Forever Hollywood Cemetery, part of her U.S. tour, Obel showcased songs from her upcoming fourth recording Myopia. With an all-female ensemble, her sound intermixed string quartet and electronica textures. “Words Are Dead” that mostly was her poignant singing and keyboard playing, led things off. With full group Obel continued with a lush electronic backdrop and her own haunting vocals for “Camera’s Rolling.”
“Broken Sleep” was even more engaging and reminiscent of Enya, Kate Bush and Bjork, with strings and keyboards accenting. Going back to Obel’s earlier material was “Dorian” that was stark with classical and pop tendencies merging with layers of vocals. “Island of Doom” returned to the new album and was heightened by the bandleader’s arresting singing and several of her players’ converging harmonies. “Parliament of Owls” though, was strongly classical-tinged, with a rousing string intro, balanced by equally compelling singing and backing harmonies. Not to be forgotten during the show was the bouncy and poppy title track.
A David Bowie Celebration at the Cerritos Center For The Performing Arts is probably as close as anyone will get to resurrecting him. The icon who died in 2016 left a musical vault, and many of the musicians who backed him were present, led by keyboardist Mike Garson. He recorded over 20 albums and performed over a 1000 concerts with Bowie.
Vocally, emulating the legend entailed three singers. Bernard Fowler, known for his work with the Rolling Stones, Living Colour, Bonnie Raitt and others regally sang jazz styled ballad “Bring Me the Disco King.” Other songs highlighting his brawny tenor were hard-rocking “Rebel Rebel” and funk jamming “Fame” featuring Earl Slick’s ripping guitar.
Corey Glover from Living Colour contrasted with unrefined rock and soul urgency for poppy “Young Americans,” arty “The Man Who Sold The World” and shuffling “Ashes to Ashes.” Soulful “Station to Station” and Queen’s “Under Pressure” featured Fowler too, with Slick adding flavor.
Bowie’s friend, Charlie Sexton played acoustic guitar and sang eerie classic “Space Oddity” solely, before the overture body with band. Later he did mega hit “Let’s Dance” featuring Slick. Encore selections “Life on Mars?” and “Heroes” featuring all the band singing closed the show.