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From the blond wigs and the fake nails, to the painted-on face and more rhinestones than should be legal, Parton could easily be a caricature. Because what’s real about Dolly Parton, and what really matters about Dolly Parton, is that she is an unbelievable talent. Not only is she one of the greatest songwriters of our time, she has a voice that sounds as gorgeous and pure as it did when she was recording some of her earliest hits in the 1960s.
Saturday’s concert by the Spokane Symphony – the first of its 71st season – was demanding and auspicious.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis wanted to eliminate the lights and the screens and instead get “face to face” with the fans. It’s a decision that paid off as they launched their eight-city Camping Trip tour with a high-energy set incorporating old fan favorites such as “And We Danced” with the hits from “The Heist” and tracks from their latest album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.”
Seven songs into his Friday night set at the Spokane Arena, Neil Young abruptly stopped a rendition of the “Harvest” album opener “Out on the Weekend” because he realized he was holding the wrong guitar. The audience applauded in support – after all, how often does a rock legend halt a song mid-performance? – but Young had a message for the press.
Eckart Preu, music director of the Spokane Symphony, chose to open the third in this season’s Classics Series at The Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox with “King Tide” (1999), a work for large orchestra by Sweden’s leading contemporary composer, Anders Hillborg (born 1954). As with most of the modern and contemporary works Preu selects, “King Tide” rewards the listeners who arrive with open ears and mind with a refreshing and stimulating experience. Before hearing the piece, the audience watched a video recording of an interview Preu held with Hillborg via Skype. Preu asked Hillborg about the inspiration for “King Tide.” Hillborg answered honestly: “inspiration is for amateurs,” he said, and that he has “deadlines to meet.” That is, as a professional musician and composer, his income depends on his production of quality and appealing works that an orchestra half way around the world is willing to pay for the right to include one on their program.
Elton John gave a sold-out crowd of 10,000-plus at the Spokane Arena exactly what it craved Friday night: An unbroken string of hit after hit after hit, performed with professional polish and high energy. It was a joyous and celebratory two hours and fifty minutes for Elton’s fans. If anyone was on the fence about Sir Elton – although I saw little evidence of that – this concert probably won them over for one simple reason. Elton has more quality hits in his enormous repertoire than almost any other contemporary artist you can name, with the exception of another sir (Sir Paul).
Puff Daddy and the Family Sunday, Dec. 21, the Arena It was a study in contradictions set to a deep thumping beat. In the span of three-plus hours, the crowd gathered at the Arena for Sunday's hip-hop/rap extravaganza was urged to "make noise" for: Sex Drugs and God While Busta Rhymes rapped in lurid detail about the female anatomy (and I don't mean our hands), Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs lectured the men in the audience to "respect all the women." Lil' Kim spent most of her time on stage next-to-naked, and Rhymes mooned a crowd that was later extolled to remember, "No matter what, God is always by your side."
Spokane Falls Brass Band Friday, Dec. 19, The Met Every city needs some tradition associated with Christmas. Some are quite grandiose - building an ice palace on a lake or turning on massive festival of lights. The Spokane Falls Brass Band provides a quieter tradition, a concert that underlines the great qualities of the Christmas season - the beauty, the reverence and the fun. The brass quintet's "Christmas in Old Spokane," heard in three performances last weekend, was a real winner with the group's usual combination of charm, humor and good music making.
Spokane Symphony and Chorale's Holiday Pops Saturday, Dec. 13, Opera House Dressed in their holiday best, throngs of Spokane Symphony fans turned out Saturday night to be escorted musically into the Christmas season. The symphony, along with the Spokane Symphony Chorale and the Spokane Area Children's Chorus, did not disappoint. From upbeat pop pieces such as "Winter Wonderland" to the haunting "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," the three groups delivered both high-spirited holiday cheer and solemn Christmas introspection.
Mick Jagger roars with "Satisfaction." Photo by Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review
Randy Brecker and the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble Saturday, Nov. 22, Whitworth College Cowles Auditorium Saturday night's appearance at Whitworth College was enough to remind a comfortable crowd at Cowles Auditorium why Randy Brecker is in demand for studio work. The jazz trumpeter's command of all the elements of his instrument was consummate.
Pantera/Anthrax Friday, Nov. 21, Convention Center Friday's sold-out metal-fest at the Convention Center is an indication that, even though metal is widely ignored and disrespected, it is alive and well in Hessian Central, Spokane. Pantera's legion of die-hard fans turned out in droves to see their hard-drinkin' heroes deliver their annihilistic anthems and test their mettle in the bone-crunching mosh pits. And deliver they did.
Robert Cray Friday, Nov. 21, Masonic Temple Forget for a moment the clean, soul-piercing voice that has given Robert Cray his rightful place among the ranks of history's greatest bluesmen. Consider Cray's guitar playing. Sure, many of his peers can play faster. Sure, many pickers are blessed with a more complex command of the fingerboard.
Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn Thursday, Nov. 20, at the Arena Country superstars Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn put on a fantastic visual and musical feast Thursday night at the Arena. The seamless production featured split-second timing, a center stage with numerous elevators and a turntable, fireworks and a lively light show of geometric designs. The concert began with a bang. As music exploded, the huge white curtain, funneled around the heart of the stage, lifted while splashed with flickering lights. Reba and Brooks & Dunn descended from the ceiling on a small platform, singing and playing "Travelin' Band."
Allegro Tuesday, Nov. 11, The Met Allegro gave Tuesday evening to the sweet, melodic music by Gaetano Donizetti and a couple of his buddies from the beginning of the 19th century. The Met concert suffered some serious bad luck with the last-minute cancellation of bassoonist Susan Wadsworth, due to a family emergency. This is not to imply that Allegro's directors, David Dutton and Beverly Biggs, and the remaining musicians did not shoulder their musical responsibility admirably. In fact, the burden is quite heavy when the program has to be changed at the last minute. A bassoon showstopper on the Cavatina from Rossini's "Thieving Magpie" and a trio by Stanislas Verroust which has not seen the light of day for a long time both had to be shelved. Replacement selections which fit the program had to be found and rehearsed on short notice.
Spokane Symphony SuperPops with Marvin Hamlisch Saturday, Nov. 8, Spokane Opera House Marvin Hamlisch wrote two songs before our eyes - or is that before our ears? - at his warm and enjoyable SuperPops concert Saturday night at the Opera House. Hamlisch, the Oscar-Tony-Emmy-winning composer, asked the audience to call out a song title. The first one was "A Little Drop of Kindness." To plenty of laughter, Hamlisch sat down at his Steinway and turned it into a full-length story of a man in love with woman, who finally deigns to give him "a little drop of kindness."
Zephyr Friday, Nov. 7, The Met Paris was the city where the Roaring '20s roared loudest. Friday, Zephyr's season-opening concert at The Met gave a sizable audience an entertaining glimpse into Parisian musical life of 75 years ago with a program of jazz-inspired, wackily irreverent chamber music. Typical of the Zephyr series ("chamber music with an attitude," remember), music by Ravel, Milhaud, Satie and Martinu was performed by flappers and tuxedoed gents who looked as though they had walked out of the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. But they played and sang like vibrant musicians caught up in the '20s spirit.
George Winston Thursday, Nov. 6, The Met George Winston opened his Northwest tour in Spokane to two full houses at The Met on Wednesday and Thursday, and did not disappoint his fans. He gave them clean and intimate renditions of the tunes they have come to love. Winston, known for his mellow mood music at the piano, relied on what are now his classic hits to appease the relaxation-starved masses. When he launched into "Carol of the Bells," one of his most popular "Winter" pieces, I heard the exclamation, "I have this one." A similar sentiment almost became a roar when Winston announced that he would close the concert with Vince Guaraldi's "Cast Your Fate To The Wind," from his latest CD, "Linus & Lucy." The title tune and a couple of other selections off that hot-selling album also made their way onto the program.
Jethro Tull Monday, Nov. 3, Spokane Opera House No question about it, Jethro Tull is the world's greatest rock band led by a flute. Of course, they're the only rock band led by a flute, but after their performance Monday night, plenty of people in the sold-out Opera House would be willing to stipulate that they're a great rock band, period. Ian Anderson, as eccentric as ever, led his band through a wildly entertaining two-hour show that veered from Bach-like delicacy to heavy guitar thunder, often in the same song. Heck, often in the same bar.