Archive for the ‘david wilcox’ Tag

jcm’s Best of ’09: A Look Back

In the quieter, darker, colder days of January, in addition to looking ahead to what the year will bring, and setting goals, it’s always especially nice to reflect back on the previous year, to recall and relive some of its finest moments. So, it is in that spirit that I share my Top 10 LIVE Performances List for the year.

1. Hair on Broadway (8/2): I’ve certainly said enough about this love-rock musical on my blog in the past 6 months, but for good reason. Attending the acclaimed Broadway production with CJ and some dear friends was deeply moving, and a wonderful way to further launch me into my ACLO production. Although the singing style was more “pop” than I’d like (relative to the original productions), when seeing it live, any stylistic qualms fell away, and the raw honesty of the production swept me away. Steel Burkhardt was a surprisingly good understudy for Will Swenson, as Berger.

2. Heidi Melton Recitals: (2/4) Her Salon at the Rex featured Purcell, Berg, Messiaen, Debussy, and Bolcom; (10/20) Her LIEDER ALIVE! recital second half at the SF Conservatory featured Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder. Now in Berlin preparing for her Deutsche Oper Berlin debut, and just off her Met debut in Elektra, she thankfully gave San Francisco two satisfying recitals before her departure. The first was very casual in spirit, much like the salons of old, I imagine…a great artist sidled up to the piano, friends and fans with cocktails in hand, and the artist just telling stories, in words and song. Perfect! The second prooved her Wagnerian chops in the demanding Wesendonck.

3. The Cockettes’ Pearls Over Shanghai (8/15): Straight from The Cockettes’ closet and into The Thrillpeddlers’ Hypnodrome…this irresistable tale is told in glitter, technicolor, pasties, and skin, with raw, campy delivery, and a bawdy flavor. I am happy to now be a part of this production, its first revival since its creation in the late ’60s. John Waters just graced our audience. Don’t miss it!

4. David Wilcox at the Swedish American Hall (3/23): First row, perfect intimacy and completely disarming open-heartedness.

5. Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment at SF Opera (10/22): This Pelly production is an example of a fresh take on an opera that enhances a classic, not apologizes for or covers it up. Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Florez struck the perfect balance of bel canto purity and knee-slapping hijinx. It was genuinely funny throughout…true laughter spilled forth from the audience, not just the polite opera-laughter one is accustomed to. Meredith Arwady’s turn as The Marquise de Berkenfeld was beyond her years in comedic timing, and positively ebullient.

6. Next to Normal on Broadway (8/2): Like really good therapy…onstage. Vocal chops for days from all 6 performers. Alice Ripley may be crazy, but she’s perfect in this role, and the show lives up to its buzz.

7. Verdi’s Requiem at SF Opera (5/29): This was a moving farewell for Donald Runnicles. Heidi Melton and Stephanie Blythe melded beautifully. Melton stepped in last minute for an ailing Patricia Racette. The performance just crackled with emotion and commitment. And, how special to experience a sacred choral masterwork in our opera house!

8. Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess at SF Opera (6/12): To finally hear this score performed live in its original operatic context was a true thrill, especially after growing so fond of pop and jazz renditions for decades. Laquita Mitchell and Eric Owens lovingly gave 120%.

9. Rossini’s Semiramide at Caramoor (7/31): In this case especially, it’s hard to separate memories of the setting and journey from the performance itself, but the warm summer air, cultivated audience, and Queer Opera Punk friends in tow helped make it very memorable. It starred bel canto masters Angela Meade, Vivica Genaux, Lawrence Brownlee, and Daniel Mobbs. And, how lovely to discover my old choir friend Heather Meyer in the chorale!

10. Paul Taylor Dance Company at YBCA (5/2): This Program C included Arden Court, (Music by William Boyce: Symphonic Excerpts), Private Domain (Music by Iannis Xenakis: Atrees), and Offenbach Overtures (including La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein and Berbe-Bleue Overtures). Unfortunately, this year held few dance performances for me, but, at least included this one! CJ’s high school acquaintance Rob Kleinendorst is a long-time company member. The Offenbach was absolutely hysterical, not the sort of tone I expected from the company. A real fresh surprise! Last time I saw their tour, I was floored by their dramatic, apocalyptic Promethian Fire. Although not intentional, it felt like a 9/11 tribute. Well, this Offenbach couldn’t be more different, and shows their breadth.

Honorable Mentions: South Pacific Tour, GG Theatre, SF; American Idiot, Berkeley Rep (World Premiere, and Broadway-bound); Kylie Minogue concert, Fox Theatre, Oakland, CA; Pink Martini in concert, Davies Symphony Hall, SF; Souvenir, with Judy Kaye and Donald Corren, Geary Theatre, SF; SF Opera Auditions for the General Director (David Gockley) highlights: Michael Sumuel’s “O! Du mein holder Abendstern”, Ryan Belongie’s “Cara Sposa” and Nathaniel Peake’s “Salut demeure chaste et pure” and “Ah! lève-toi soleil!”.

Overrated/Yawners: In the Next Room: The Vibrator Play, Berkeley Rep (now on Broadway?! I fell asleep.); Billy Elliot on Broadway (some great moments and some great dancing do not a great musical make).

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David Wilcox: Musical Prophet

The Backstory

Shortly after CJ and I met and started dating he gave me a mix tape, YES, that age-old expression of crushing, lust and/or love… take your pick! And, it WAS a tape, NOT a cd. It even had the song ‘Mix Tape’, from Avenue Q on it. Here’s an amusing and relevant excerpt:

A mix tape. He made a mix tape. He was thinking of me, which shows he cares! Sometimes when someone has a crush on you they’ll make you a mix tape to give you a clue.

David in concertAnyways, the most prominent artist on that special mix was David Wilcox, featured in the tracks ‘Fearless Love’, ‘Catch Me If I Try’, and ‘All My Life’. I’ve listened to that mix and those songs for years… and now they are a part of me. Well, thankfully, last night we experienced David’s artistry LIVE, in an intimate concert at the Swedish American Hall, on Market Street. I had never set foot in this space. It is right above Café Du Nord (which we were just at last week), has an acoustically resonant wood interior, and is very warm in its typically swedish decor.

The Concert

Thanks to our friend’s invitation and eagerness (first in line!), we scored front row seats. David sprang out of the rear of the hall, earlier than the start time, and announced that he HAD to start making music. I could immediately see his love for his art brimming forth.

He performed some old fan favorites, and works from past albums:
‘Eye of the Hurricane’, ‘Three Brothers’, ‘Rusty Old American Dream’, ‘Perfect Storm’, ‘Plain View’, ‘Native Tongue’, ‘Start With the Ending’, and ‘Show Me the Way’ (encore).

…As well as songs from his newest album Open Hand:
‘Dream Again’, ‘Red Eye’, ‘Captain Wanker’, ‘Winter at the Shore’, ‘Open Hand’, ‘Modern World’, David Wilcox: Open Handand ‘How Long’ (with a sing-along refrain).

His voice is a beautiful meld of nurturing, paternal, sage-like, hushed, caressing, but with thrust and gravitas when called for. He uses it as simply as when he speaks, not fussing over “technique” or diction. This video of Eye of the Hurricanecaptures him in a vibrant LIVE setting not unlike ours.

His lyrics are like a Bible of truths, offering the kind of quotable insight and revelation that people like to post on facebook and forward around, because they are so real, and hit so close to home. I am drawn most to the songs that speak to the more overtly spiritual aspects of life, and less so to his whimsical pieces (ie: ‘Captain Wanker’), but I enjoy those as a sort of palette cleanser, because who wants to cry through an ENTIRE concert!? Here’s a trailer for an upcoming documentary that gives a hint of what’s behind his art, and the lives he touches.:

His songStart With the Endingis a telling examination of what would happen if we were to start a relationship with the break-up: removing the over-analyzing, perfection-seeking, and fear of loss. In introducing the song, he also used this idea to pose what it might be like to start life with death, thereby removing the fear of it, and being able to life more fully, and actually evolving INTO the simplicity of youth and non-verbal communication. Fascinating!

His facial expressions are of complete gratitude and joy. He is clearly channeling the spirit, without obstruction, and living his bliss! His periodic smile stretches from ear-to-ear, and is very infectious.

Stories & Lyrics

He is a great storyteller, keeping us rapt for long stretches. One of his “stories” was an evolution of seeing things before us that are often considered separate, but really aren’t: his left versus right hand playing his guitar, his hands versus his voice, the performer (him) versus the audience, one’s heart versus another’s, and so on. It was a beautiful and poignant way of seeing the world differently, and all its inter-connectedness. He speaks a lot about listening to his guitar, and which song(s) his guitar is urging him to do next. Coming from another artist this might feel contrived, but not from him.

He spoke of his travels to Sudan, also captured on his website: “The ability to perform solo makes possible appearances such as a recent, last-minute trip to Africa, where Wilcox performed in Sudan at the country’s first national day of prayer. Concern about national and international crises led to songs such as ‘Three Brothers’, a moving, allegory of Middle East turmoil.”

And, on top of all of this, I discovered that he’s from my homeland: Ohio! Wish I had known when I met and thanked him afterwards. You know, we have one of those secret handshakes

“Underneath”:

I know that compassion is all out of fashion,
and anger is all the rage…
Grow up and give in to that cynical spin
that you see on most every page
We all know what’s wrong with the system
how the people are puppets and fools.
If they’re not strong, it will trick them,
they’ll get used up like factory tools:
The kids just give up in those schools…

…yeah, but what is it, really, that’s keeping me
from living a life that’s true?
When the worries speak louder than wisdom,
it drowns out all the answers I knew,
so I’m tossed on the waves on the surface.
Still, the mystery’s dark and deep,
with a much more frightening stillness…
underneath

Hopelessness always comes easy.
But “easy” does not make it right.
Courage can look past that surface,
but fear will still put up a fight.
When I get scared and scattered,
and I don’t know where to begin,
why even care; it doesn’t matter.
Why fight when you know you can’t win?
It’s easier just to give in.

‘Home Within Your Heart’
from Underneath

Too tired to sleep, too angry to pray,
too far down to get back up, too lost to find my way.

Who knows what happened, I’m too confused to say,
and too far gone to turn back now;
it’s too late anyway.

I don’t need a clever confidant to try
to soothe with hollow words,
I’ve heard them all.

What I need is just to know
I have a home within your heart.
Just hold me close. A few words will do.

We don’t have to find the answers now,
it’s enough to be with you.