Old School / New School

As readers of this blog know, I have been a Spotify Premium member since July when my iPod Classic stopped working. Spotify was new to me, as the only streaming service I had used previously was Pandora, but since Spotify allowed Offline listening and the ability to download songs to a Listener Library with just the touch of a button, I joined up, using Spotify as a replacement for my iPod. I eventually got the iPod to work, so now Spotify is mainly used at work since it is convenient to stop/start tracks on my phone while working. 

Very late Saturday night, I found an old album on Spotify, Crystal Gayle’s “Miss the Mississippi” from 1979. 


My dad owned this record on vinyl and it was one he would listen to often, so the songs were ingrained in me, and are inexorably tied to memories of my father and my youth. I remember trying to find the record on CD in the late 90s, and I eventually found the album on CD in 2009 and added it to my iPod.

 

But Saturday night, I wanted to hear this record and my iPod wasn’t close by, so I found it on Spotify and started listening to songs I have known for almost my entire life.

 

And then, I noticed something strange: After the first song finished, I heard that distinct sound of snaps, pops and hiss that is only heard when listening to vinyl. It seems that the only version that Spotify had to make available for streaming was a very well-worn LP, with lots of pops and hiss (but thankfully, no skips).

 

I am all for nostalgia, but I was very surprised that the only version of this record Spotify had to offer for streaming was a digital transfer of an LP, especially since the album has been available on CD for many years. I wrote an email to Spotify support just simply to ask what were the reasons/restrictions that made that LP version the only version available to stream on Spotify.

I’m genuinely curious to learn what rules and/or restrictions led to a vinyl transfer being available to stream. If anyone has any details on the inner workings of Spotify, post a comment below. 

Tonight in response to my email, Spotify Support said they “see what I mean” about the audio quality being less than desired. They say they’re working on it, so…stay tuned. 

–Barry

Alan Doyle Still Has A Smile On His Face (And Four Walls Around Him)

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Doyle play a very small local music venue. Who is Alan Doyle, you ask? He’s best known as one of the founding members of the band Great Big Sea, who tried their best to hit the big time in the US in the late 90s and early 2000’s after conquering their homeland of Canada a few years before. While they would play to stadium sized crowds in Canada, Great Big Sea (GBS) would play small theatres and clubs in America, where the crowds were smaller, but no less enthusiastic.

GBS is pure nostalgia for me. Their music marks a very specific time period in my life, and reminds me of very specific people. I honestly was not aware that GBS had officially split in 2013. When I heard that Alan Doyle was going to appear at Tin Pan, I knew I had to get a ticket to see what he’d been up to since I last saw him fifteen years ago.

Tin Pan is an interesting, intimate venue in the mold of Alexandria’s Birchmere. They offer dinner reservations with your ticket for preferred seating, and the music, not chatting is the most important thing.

 

After a funny, sardonic and brief opening set by Donavan Woods, Alan took the stage to sing a song a cappella, proving that his voice is still in top form,  then his band Beautiful Gypsies joined him and they started with ‘I Can’t Dance Without You’ from Alan’s latest solo effort, 2015’s ‘So Let’s Go.’ The mix was great, the house was packed and I was pleased to see Alan had not lost any of the gregariousness that made him my favorite member of GBS.

The sing-along started early when the band kicked into ‘When I’m Up’ and Alan demanded audience participation. It was around this time of the night when the crowd began buying Alan shots and doubles of Jameson Whiskey, which Alan never refused.

Here’s the set list, and then some thoughts:

Dream of Home (a cappella)

I Can’t Dance Without You

When I’m Up

Come Out With Me

My Day

Where the Nightingale Sings

Sea of No Cares

The Night Loves Us

Lukey

Forever Light Will Shine

I’ve Seen a Little

In The Morning (Guitarist Cory, solo)

Old Black Rum

Roll Me Bully Boys Row

Consequence Free

Testify

1,2,3,4 (featuring verses from ‘Tub Thumping’ and ‘You Can Call Me Al’)

[Encore]

Wave on Wave

Shine On

Ordinary Day

 

No matter the size of the stage, Alan is a showman, making sure that everyone in attendance has a good time. Even though we were seated at tables and the bar, dancers got up and waltzed, reeled and jigged. 

The biggest surprise for me was that, while with GBS, Alan would sing at least one ballad per album. His set Tuesday was more upbeat and, as such, none of the three pop ballads Alan sang (‘Fast As I Can’, ‘Boston and St. John’s’ and ‘Clearest Indication’) were highlighted. Not that I minded, I was just very surprised. 

Bonus: Murray Foster, formerly of Moxy Fruvous and mote recently the bassist for GBS is part of Alan’s band, as is former GBS drummer Kris MacFarlane. 

As the show ended, Alan implored fans to stick around for autographs and selfies. Instead of sitting behind his merchandise table, just outside the venue in an entrance hall, Alan took a seat at the bar and the fans queued up to get a pic, a signature and share stories. Props to Alan for taking time with everyone, including a ten year old girl who got a drumstick from Kris and the setlist. Alan autographed the setlist and got a picture. He also spoke for a bit with your dear author, whom he remembered from a meeting a very long time ago. 

If you’re like me and lost track of Great Big Sea and their members, Alan has two solo albums (“Boy on Bridge” from 2012 and the aforementioned “So Let’s Go” from 2015) and he’s also written a book. If Alan Doyle, the self-proclaimed ‘Prince of Newfoundland’ and his band of Beautiful Gypsies land in your town, go see him and say hello. It’s a good time, I promise. 


Thanks for reading. 

Barry

Shameless Self-Promotion (but it’s for a good cause)

Here is a blog post about two things I don’t normally do:

First, a bit of shameless self-promotion, but it’s for a good cause. On Saturday afternoon, (March 25), The Firehouse Theatre is sponsoring ‘Hamiltunes’, a fund-raiser for The Richmond Theatre Artists Fund Taking place at The Virginia Historical Building, ‘Hamiltunes’ is a unique interactive experience that allows those in the audience to sing their favorite songs from ‘Hamilton’. As of this writing, tickets are still available, starting at $10.00.

 

Which leads to the second thing I don’t usually do: Sing in public! It’s been decades since I last made the karaoke rounds with friends, but I will be singing two songs from ‘Hamilton’ on Saturday, so if you need incentive to buy a ticket, there ya go!

The fun starts at 2pm. I recommend arriving early, because it is going to be packed! Full details here

Thanks for reading. I hope to see you there if you’re in RVA; it promises to be a fun afternoon.

Garth, Trisha & All the Hits (11.12.16 @ Richmond Coliseum)

Garth Brooks is that rare artist that transcends genres, while still seeming to remain true to his roots. He’s a country singer of ‘Cowboy Songs’, he’s a troubadour in the tradition of James Taylor, and he’s a consummate showman onstage. Perhaps what gets lost in the spectacle of his current world tour is that Garth Brooks is one of the best American songwriters of the last thirty years. 

Photo by the author


Brooks and his wife Trisha Yearwood (a top-notch performer in her own right) stopped by Richmond this weekend to play an astounding four sold out shows in three days at the Coliseum. The stage was one that allowed every seat in the arena a view (even behind the stage) and Brooks, sporting his famous cowboy hat and headset mic, was so frenetic, running to all areas of the stage, that it was easy to lose sight of where he was actually standing. Yes, the stage, the presentation and Brooks’ persona were big, but it’s the songs that keep the fans coming back in droves some nineteen years since he last played the city.

Photo by Dana Kiser

In 1991 when his album ‘Ropin’ The Wind’ was released, I was a full blown Metal Head, more likely to be listening to Metallica, Overkill or Danzig. But, thanks to my friend Eddie, with whom I rode to school each morning of the 1991-92 school year, even I had to admit that Garth was one hell of a songwriter and performer. Literally every day for two months straight, our morning school commute music was side one of ‘Ropin’ The Wind’, so I got to know those songs very well, and I liked them.

 

Last night, as I was part of a raucous and loud sold out crowd who knew all the words to every song, I thought a lot about that senior year of high school and about my friend Eddie. Music is memory and the memories were very thick as I sang along to “Friends in Low Places” and “The Thunder Rolls.” I felt very fortunate to see this show, and witness a performer who’s at that age now where he seems to fully appreciate all of the adulation and love his fans give him, and every night (sometimes twice in one day) for two and a half hours, he does all he can to reciprocate.

The setlist (mostly from memory, so apologies if it’s inaccurate):

Man Against Machine

Beaches of Cheyenne

Rodeo

Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House

The River

Two Piña Coladas

Papa Loved Mama

Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up)

Unanswered Prayers

That Summer

The Thunder Rolls

In Another’s Eyes (w/Trisha Yearwood)

Trisha Yearwood Set:

XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)

How Do I Live

PrizeFighter

Georgia Rain

She’s in Love With the Boy

Garth Brooks Second Set

Shameless

Callin’ Baton Rouge

Friends in Low Places

Night Moves

Piano Man

The Dance

Encore

Wrapped Up in You

Mom

Standing Outside the Fire

 

In closing, it was a pleasure to see a performer who was genuinely having a blast on stage. Brooks and his band have been together for 20+ years and the sense of ‘family’ was palpable. This week was one of the most absurd, strangest weeks I have ever had (that did not involve a morphine drip). It was refreshing to simply be able to go out, have a good time, and realize that I had at least one thing in common with 11,000 other people in my city on a Saturday night. Music has a way of doing that, and I thank Garth for being the facilitator of that.

 

As always, thanks to Dana, and thanks to you for reading,

Barry

Elvis Costello Welcomes One And All Into His Imperial Bedroom [Warner Theatre; Washington DC 11.03.16]

Sometimes artists record albums to make a cohesive, singular statement. Sometimes, the LP is simply a collection of what the writer has laying around that he hasn’t used yet, but, for the most part, when an album is released, unless it is a ‘concept album’ like The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ or Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, the artist never intends to perform the entire record in front of a live audience. In early 2016, Bruce Springsteen embarked on ‘The River Tour’ in which he played his entire two-record set from start to finish. By the time the second leg of the tour finished, that idea was abandoned, simply because the pacing of a record does not always make for great pacing in a live setting. 

Which brings us to Elvis Costello’s latest US tour, which stopped in DC last night; entitled ‘Imperial Bedroom and other Chambers’, Elvis and his band The Imposters promised to play the entire ‘Imperial Bedroom’ album, along with other songs from all eras of his career. And, the first thing Elvis got right that The Boss did not is, he chose not to play the songs in running order, which would have made for a very strange live show. Knowing before the show began that I would hear ‘You Little Fool’ and ‘Man Out of Time’, two of my all-time favorite Costello songs, I was extremely excited to see what the evening would bring as my friend Dana and I made our way inside the beautiful Warner Theatre.

 

Elvis kicked things off with a very deep cut, and a song not from ‘Imperial Bedroom’. Instead he started the evening with ‘Town Where Time Stood Still’ from the ‘Punch the Clock’ album. I admit, it was one I did not immediately recognize until the chorus showed up, and even then, the initial sound mix made the lyrics a bit hard to understand. If the audience wasn’t really sure what to make of the opener, that was soon corrected when drummer extraordinaire Pete Thomas launched into ‘Lipstick Vogue’, played at breakneck speed.

Before launching into the first ‘Imperial Bedroom’ selection of the night, ‘The Loved Ones’ Elvis asked the crowd ‘Are we sick of this yet?’ The audience seemed perplexed, as the show was just getting started. ‘I don’t mean the show, you know what I mean! Are we sick of this yet?!’ he clarified, to which the crowd roared their approval.

Photo by Dana Kiser

A word about the album ‘Imperial Bedroom’: It was released in July 1982, only eight months after Elvis had released an album made up entirely of covers of classic country music, which puzzled many of his fans, who expected the ‘Angry Young Man’ of ‘Armed Forces’ or ‘This Year’s Model’. ‘Imperial Bedroom’ is not for everyone, and it doesn’t have many instantly recognizable radio hits that the casual fan would recognize. For all that the album may not be, it does in fact contain Costello’s strongest lyrics to date, perhaps ever. Here is one example, from the standout track ‘Man Out of Time”:

There`s a tuppeny hapenny millionaire

Looking for a fourpenny one

With a tight grip on the short hairs

Of the public imagination

But for his private wife and kids somehow

Real life becomes a rumour

Days of dutch courage

Just three French letters and a German sense of humour

He`s got a mind like a sewer and a heart like a fridge

He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege

 

Almost every track on the album demonstrates Costello’s lyrical acumen, and if the public at large weren’t ready to follow him, he didn’t care. Thankfully the record has been repackaged and rereleased several times over the last twenty years, allowing fans to rediscover and appreciate it, and I think today the album, rightfully so, is considered one of the best in Elvis’ 40+ year career. Playing all of the songs live was no small feat, but for those lucky 1400 fans in attendance, it made for a very memorable evening.

 

Here’s the setlist, then some thoughts:

 

The Town Where Time Stood Still

Lipstick Vogue

On Your Way Down

The Loved Ones

Accidents Will Happen

You’ll Never Be a Man

Tears Before Bedtime

Moods for Moderns

This House Is Empty Now

Shabby Doll

Green Shirt

Human Hands

Watching the Detectives

The Long Honeymoon

Pills and Soap

Hand in Hand

High Fidelity

You Little Fool

Pidgin English

Encore:

Alison

Shot With His Own Gun

Almost Blue

Kid About It

…And in Every Home

Beyond Belief

Man Out of Time

Encore 2:

Town Cryer

Everyday I Write the Book

Encore 3:

Blood & Hot Sauce

A Face in the Crowd

American Mirror

(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea

Pump It Up

(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

 

Photo by the author

Mid-set, hearing, in this order ‘Pills and Soap’ (again, a song that is an acquired taste), ‘Hand In Hand’, ‘Hi Fidelity’ and ‘You Little Fool’ was the portion of the show that seemed to be directed right at me! Hearing those songs all in a row, almost without even a break to differentiate where one ended and the next began, was a wonderful moment for this longtime fan.

 

While the set mostly consisted of material originally performed by Elvis & The Attractions, along with one of his collaborations with Burt Bacharach, the evening wasn’t completely about nostalgia. Costello is working on a musical adaptation of the 1957 film ‘A Face in the Crowd’ which starred Andy Griffith as a man who rises from the gutter to the halls of power. (If you’ve never seen the film, I highly recommend it). Elvis showcased three songs from the production, which definitely gave the proceedings a political undertone.

 A shout out to the mad musical genius that is piano/keyboard player Steve Nieve. His showcase piece of the evening was a charged and tense rendition of “Shot With His Own Gun”. Thomas, Nieve and bass player Davey Faragher (the “new guy” who’s been with the others for about fifteen years) were on point throughout the night, helping to keep things moving. 

The second to last song of the night was the crowd pleaser ‘Pump It Up’ which had everyone dancing, regardless of their politics and then he closed the night with a song written by Nick Lowe and recorded by Elvis in 1978. The song of course was ‘(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace Love & Understanding’ and, I cannot think of a more appropriate song (or question for that matter) given the current climate. It’s quite a feat when a song originally written in 1974 is now, forty-two years later, even more frighteningly relevant than I think its author or the evening’s performer could have ever possibly imagined.

 

As I walk on through this wicked world,

Searching for light in the darkness of insanity,

I ask myself, Is all hope lost? 

Is there only pain, and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,

There’s one thing I wanna know,

What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

 

Thanks as always to Dana for attending this show with me, and thank you very much for reading.

Barry

The Night Adele Left Me Stunned

Part One: How I Got Here



My brother loaned me a copy of Adele’s ‘19’ CD in the spring of 2009, and I immediately loved her unique voice, even if the act of writing about breakups and relationships had been done millions of times. Adele was different. Like everyone, I bought ‘21’ when it was released in 2011, and played it to the point of being burned out on it, having to put it away for a while after listening to it nonstop for months. Then, she wrote and sang the theme for the Bond film ‘Skyfall’ (and her song was the only redeemable thing from a very disappointing film).

 

When ‘25’ was released, NBC was smart enough to cash in by broadcasting portions of a live performance by Adele from Radio City Music Hall Thanksgiving Weekend 2015. I recorded the special and, as I watched, I just remember thinking one thought for the duration of the special: I have to see her in concert!

 

Tickets went on sale in mid-December for a Fall 2016 US Tour. Since I would be attending the show solo, I decided Atlanta was the best city of her planned stops, and she even scheduled two nights, Friday October 28 and Saturday October 29. Amid complaints from fans saying that the shows sold out before they could get a single seat, I managed to snag a floor seat to the Saturday show moments before it became a sellout. All that remained was arranging the travel and accommodations.

 Part Two: I Hate Traveling On Show Day

After much deliberation, I decided to fly out to Atlanta on the day of the show, crossing fingers that I wouldn’t run into any delays that might throw a wrench in my plans. So Saturday around 11am, I arrived at Richmond International Airport for a 1:15pm flight.

Airport security check points are always a crapshoot for me. Sometimes, the TSA Agent is very nice and very understanding and doesn’t cause a big fuss when I explain that I ‘really don’t want to remove my shoes and braces and I know I am going to set off the alarm so you’ll need to wand me.’ This time the agent at RIC Airport was nice, but somewhat shocked that I was traveling alone, even asking ‘Are you sure you’re by yourself?’ All I could answer without laughing was ‘What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ He didn’t have a reply and the testing of my canes was completed without further comment.

 

The flight was uneventful and landed actually ahead of schedule. I was in the airport in Atlanta just before 3pm, and after walking what seemed like the entire length of the building, met the shuttle to my hotel. By 4pm, I was standing at the front desk of my hotel as the clerk told me my room was not already paid for. I knew this to be untrue and said as much as diplomatically as possible, even offering to show her a confirmation email I had from Hotels.com. She didn’t want to look at that, so, pressed for time, I told her I would talk to the morning agent when I checked out. I quickly dropped off my bag in my room, changed my shirt and headed out to meet a friend for dinner.

 

Donna is someone I met while I worked at Kaiser Permanente in 2012 while I lived in Atlanta. She was literally the glue that held the office together, and we commuted together on the same shuttle bus every morning and evening during my brief tenure there. I had not seen her since February 2013. When I was last visiting Atlanta this past June, she was out of town, so, even though my time in the city was very short, I knew the one thing I had to do besides the concert that brought me here was catch up with her. We agreed to meet up at The Vortex, a bar/burger joint that is 21+ only and serves fantastic hamburger concoctions.

 

It was great catching up with Donna. She’s recently retired and loving it. I am convinced that the offices at Kaiser Permanente have now fallen apart in her absence, but she disputes that.

 

After dinner, it was about 6:30 (an hour before the stated show time on my ticket) when I stepped into the Midtown Marta Station. Donna was taking the train north back to her car, and I was taking the train south then west to the arena. Standing on the platform, the air was humid, hot and stagnant. That was one aspect of Atlanta I had not really missed.

 

I boarded a train and found a seat. Two guys were looking over the transit map to figure out which stop they had to get off the train, and they were unsure.

 

“Going to Phillips Arena?” I volunteered.

“Yeah,” one of the two said.

“Three more stops, then change to the westbound train for one stop.”

“Thanks.”

“And, at this point, I am hoping she starts later than 7:30,” I said.

“Well, a friend I know who works at the arena said last night she started at 8:10, so we should be fine.”

Hearing this was a great relief. I suddenly went from having 30 minutes to negotiate the MARTA trains, the lines at the arena, and getting to my seat on the floor to now having at least an hour. I got off the south train and headed up the escalator to the westbound train and an agent was yelling ‘Anyone going to Phillips Arena, your train is to the left. There it is…RUN!’ Then she saw me. ‘Don’t run sweetheart, they’ll hold it for you.’

I stepped on the train, which was very overcrowded, and then we all departed one stop later in front of Phillips Arena.

 

Part Three: Showtime!

This was my very first concert that used ‘Credit Card Entry’ instead of an actual paper or electronic ticket. Now, since I had bought the ticket in December, I was issued a new debit card with the same card number, just a different CCV code. When I asked Ticketmaster about this, they instructed me to bring the card, my photo ID and my confirmation email. I had all of that, but the crush of people was such that as I approached the guy asking for tickets, I simply handed him my card and said ‘Let’s see if that works.’

It did, and I was given my seat assignment. Chalk one up for Credit Card Entry, it was flawless!

 

My ‘ticket’ said I had to enter Portal 2, so that was on the other side of the arena. I made my way around to my entrance and found that I was on the level above the floor. After showing my ticket to an attendant, she directed me to a staircase and, I slowly made my way down to the floor. Thanks to a very nice fan who assisted me with the portion of stairs that did not have a railing. I made my way to the floor and handed my ticket slip to another agent.

‘You wanna go all the way to the left, follow that wall and then an agent will lead you to your seat.’

So I did just that, found another agent beside the wall and he said ‘You wanna keep moving toward the stage. You’re pretty close to the front, so the next agent will show you to your seat.’

Walking toward the stage about another 15 rows down, I found another agent who led me to my seat: About fourteen rows from the stage, on the left side of the floor. I mean, I knew I had a floor seat, but as I sat down, I had no idea I was going to be this close. 


Immediately to my left was Karen, a self-professed Adele super fan sporting an Adele jersey (‘Hello’ on the front and ‘25’ on the back). Like me, she snagged her single ticket at face value. A couple on my row paid $1200 apiece for their two seats on the secondary market. Score one for the single people!

As the clock neared 8:15, I said it was getting close to showtime. The preshow music being played was a strange mix: ‘September’ by Earth Wind & Fire; ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ by Brook Benton and, just before the houselights went down, ‘Sorrow’ by Bowie.

“Holy shit, that’s a deep cut.’ I said out loud to no one.

Moments before the houselights went down, I saw three security personnel wheeling a road case down the aisle toward the ‘B’ stage in the center of the arena. I watched them move toward me, flashlights ablaze even though the arena was still brightly lit. As I watched them pass me, I thought “Oh man, is she in that case? Wow!’ I leaned over to Karen and said ‘Turn around; I think the show starts on the ‘B’ stage’ (which was a few rows behind us). Sure enough as the arena darkened, the eyes on the huge screen opened and a pre-recorded voice said/sang ‘Hello’ a few times. Then Adele appeared in the center of the arena, facing those sitting in the back of the building. I did not see that coming! It was the first of a night full of many surprises.

 

Now, allow this audiophile to geek out for a moment. While Adele was standing in the center of the arena, she belted out the first half of ‘Hello’ but, the monitors for her sound were not at the front of the house, they were behind me, where she was standing on the ‘B’ stage. After singing half the song, she walked down the aisle to the far right of me (flanked by security). When she arrived on the main stage in the front of the arena, someone quite literally flipped a switch and, as she sang the chorus one more time, the sound from the front speakers and monitors hit me like a wall. The difference in volume and mix from my seat was vast.

I had not looked at any setlsts for this tour, knowing only that she opened with ‘Hello’ and closed with her biggest hit, ‘Rolling in the Deep’, so the set was a surprise as it unfolded throughout the show. Her second song was one I didn’t expect, ‘Hometown Glory’ from ‘19’, complete with video footage of Atlanta. Knowing that the ‘21’ and ‘25’ albums would be the showcase pieces, I was happy to hear any song from her debut.

“Are you ready to have a good time Atlanta?” she asked after the second song. The crowd of course roared in approval. “Well, you’ve come to the wrong place I’m afraid. This is two hours and seventeen songs of heartbreak, so if you’re looking for a good time, I suggest you leave now.”

 

Before I go any further, here’s the setlist:

Hello

Hometown Glory

One and Only

Rumour Has It

Water Under the Bridge

I Miss You

Skyfall

Million Years Ago

Don’t You Remember

Make You Feel My Love

Send My Love (to Your New Lover)

Sweetest Devotion

Chasing Pavements

Someone Like You

Set Fire to the Rain

Encore:

When We Were Young

Rolling in the Deep

Adele ‘talks a lot’ in between songs, so much so that she apologized ahead of time for her ramblings. While many performers have everything scripted to the millisecond, Adele could take a full five minutes to introduce a song, or, as she did on this night, she could invite a fan who’s 17th birthday was on the evening of the show and have the crowd sing ‘Happy Birthday’ while posing for selfies with the fan and her mom. The lights and visual cues for her songs are scripted, but everything else in between is totally off the cuff. It made for a very sincere expression of appreciation from a performer to her fans.

 

Now, I am an Adele fan, but usually I know going in if a show is going to be ‘life changing’ or ‘mind blowing.’ Seeing Stevie Wonder sing the entire ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ album last year was a Bucket List show. Leonard Cohen in 2009 was a Bucket List show. It was around the middle of the third song of the night when I realized that the evening was going to be unforgettable and mesmerizing, and an unexpected Bucket List show. I literally stood there watching her sing, no gimmicks, no dancers, no props save for a screen, and I was stunned.

 

Mid-set, she did a two song acoustic set, the first of which was my favorite track from ‘25’, ‘Million Years Ago’. I heard that song in November last year when my life was in upheaval, and while I wasn’t quite as melancholy as the lyric suggests, I related to the sentiment. The week the album was released, I literally played that song on repeat for hours at a time. Hearing that song live was unexpected and I was truly taking in the moment and savoring it.

 

As her ‘two hours of heartbreak’ came to an end with 20,000 people singing the chorus to ‘Rolling in the Deep’, a confetti storm began to rain down. As I watched the white confetti rain down, I thought ‘KISS did this already.’ But then, as I caught one and looked at it, I saw a handwritten lyric.

 

Again, I was stunned. Every single piece of confetti had a stamped message in Adele’s handwriting. I gathered four pieces and tucked them in my pocket as I was being escorted to the arena elevator (stairs were not really an option after standing for two hours). The confetti was the last surprise and one that left me speechless.

 

About an hour or so later, I was on MARTA en route back to my hotel. The train wasn’t as crowded as the trip in, and I sat there, not really able to put into thought or words how powerful and emotional the night was. It wasn’t necessarily sad, but it was a wonder to know I was in the presence of someone who is the best at what she does, but who also doesn’t take herself so seriously that she can’t have fun. My advice to you is, if you ever have the opportunity to see her perform, GO! It will be an unforgettable experience.
I have seen many shows this year alone, but, without question the best show I will see in 2016 is Adele. No one else is even remotely close. It may even be the best show I have seen in the last four or five years. The travel, the waking, the stairs, it was all worth it to experience that event, and it is something I will always remember. I am not even sure if it’s possible for me to convey my feelings accurately even days later, but hopefully you get the idea.

 

Part Four: Epilogue 

The next morning, I awoke far too early afer too little sleep to get my flight back home. The morning clerk at the hotel told me that my bill was indeed already paid, I made it through the security check point without having to remove my shoes and I walked my very sore feet to the other end of the airport to get on the plane. My flight included thirty eighth graders, and I sat beside a three year old little girl who was returning from Disneyworld. Sleep was what I wanted, but it wasn’t going to be an option.

 

Still, all worth it.

 

Thank you for reading.

Barry

 

My Experience with Blue Apron

After hearing the ads on my favorite podcast for a month (Plug: The Tony Kornheiser Show) and already having heard some my brother and some friends rave about it, I decided to dive into the food delivery service known as Blue Apron. My first shipment of three meals arrived this past Friday. 


Meal #1, Saturday: Seared Alaskan Salmon with Fall Country Vegatables

Mom is not a fan of fish at all, but the delivery came with a note advising to prepare seafood items as soon as possible, so I chose to fix the fish first. Let me say at the outset, the two filets that were included in my delivery were two of the prettiest pieces of fish I have ever seen that didn’t come directly from my local seafood shop. I had half a mind to chuck the scripted recipe and simply grill these two filets In my oven and be done with it, but that would’ve been cheating.

 

One bit of advice: Whatever the stated prep time is, double it (at least) to get an idea of how long this meal will take for you to cook. This meal had a lot of chopping (potato, turnip, apple), so I decided to use the Vitamix my mom bought a year ago but (for a lot of reasons I won’t go into here) had not yet been used to assist with the chopping. That helped with time, but it still took a while to coordinate everything.

 

The recipe included one huge turnip, which I diced, a potato and an apple used to make a vinaigrette (which turned out fantastic).

All in all, a lot of work, but the dish turned out very well, and even though I fried the fish in a pan instead of grilling, the protein lived up to the advanced billing. I did realize though as soon as I had finished preparing and cooking the meal that Blue Apron would not be suitable for a weeknight after working until 7pm. It’s great, but it’s for weekends only.

 

Meal #2 Sunday: Spicy Chicken with carrots

This one seemed like a mistake from the get go. Lot less prep time, but I had to change the recipe a bit since I don’t do spicy very well. Even though this had less prep time (and no Vitamix needed for chopping), the dish did not turn out as well as the first evening. The menu included rice with roasted chickpeas (and hence, I learned an excellent way to ruin a perfectly good serving of rice is to dump roasted chickpeas into it), fresh carrots, dates, almonds, Red Harissa Paste and Labneh cheese.

 

I had my doubts but followed the recipe as written, only cutting out the almonds (they were simply a garnish) and using only half of the Harissa paste. I will say it turned out better than I thought it would, but it’s not something I would want again.

 

Sorry, no pictures of the food, because I was so busy chopping, prepping and cooking that, when it came time to eat, I didn’t bother with my phone.

 

Overall, Blue Apron does deliver top notch ingredients that are probably above what I would normally buy at the grocery store (in the case of the fish, that’s a definite), but bear in mind, even though they deliver to your door, it’s a lot of work and it is an investment of time. If you have the time and the energy, these are worth a try, at least once. I still have one meal (Roasted Pork Steam Buns) that I will try this weekend.

Thank you for reading,

Barry