Friday, July 21, 2006

First Show

Curtain's up, introductions are made and we begin to play. The first song is one of the STAR's signature tunes. It would be unfair for us not to play it but after all these years it does become stale. During rehearsals we found a few ways to bring something new to the tired old thing. It is, after all, a very good tune, lively and perfect to open the set. Now maybe they will leave us alone and we won't have to play it again until near the end of the show. I could play this one in my sleep so I use this time to scope out the way things are around me. I'm at far stage right slightly upstage. To my right, downstage is the violinist, a lovely woman from Laurel Canyon with that throbbing gypsy intonation and real fire in her phrasing. I swear there's a whiff of burning sulpher in the air whenever she glares at me over her instrument's neck. To her left and level with me is the ex-pop star who has left a lucrative session career in L.A. to make this little trip with us. He handles not being a star very well, and the years of scuffling for session work have turned him into a solid, steady working, lunchpail kind of player. He was the last addition to our group and so far the chemistry has been great. Our drummer is second generation (he's the kid of the group at 35) L.A. studio wizard. He's everything I love in a drummer, he's got a solid, no nonesense beat. Adding a stroke or taking a stroke away would diminish his performance, only the best drummers are like that. On keyboards we have yet another studio bear who also had a solid hit of his own. STAR is down front center where he should be. I love this guy too. He has one of the finer voices in the business and is, like me, clean and sober for many years. He doesn't make a big deal of it, but it is a huge factor in his surviving all these years. He is also one of my absolute favorite producers to work with. No nonsense, just lots of hard work to lay the ground for any inspiration that might come our way. Three female back up singers round us out and, so far, everybody brought their A-game to the first show.

It's going well enough that I try squinting through the lights to see if some of the people I'm expecting have made the show, or are waiting to come to the midnight show later. My agent is there. Let me say I love this man. I do not deserve him. He was my father's agent and has stuck by me through more shit than he deserved to go through. He's old school Hollywood entertainment industry. He was a solid, working professional actor in westerns for years and years. He ran around with John Wayne, and all those guys. He loves music, especially jazz, and during one of the lulls in the production of western movies he opened his talent agency. His main offices are in Vegas and I'm delighted to see him. There are a few friends scattered through the audience and I make contact where I can. It's also time for me to bring full attention back to the stage because we are ready to start off on another song.

One of the best ways to deal with having a body of work that most of the audience expects to hear and having a long list of tunes that many people would feel cheated if they don't get to hear them is to do a bunch of them hard and fast right at the top of the show. That gets things out of the way and helps to clear some room for anything new that might be on the boards. In our case, there has been a new album released recently and these shows are being done in support of that. First though, we have to get the crowd to a place where they will listen to something new instead of being all restless and disappointed waiting for their favorite.

We finally get to some of the new stuff with about fifteen minutes left in the first section of the show. There haven't been any really noticable rough spots and the crowd is with us all the way. When STAR says "Here's something from the new collection" they get right into it. Whew! That worry's handled for tonight. We give them four new ones right in a row and announce that we're taking a short break and some comedian from the circuit that I've never heard of will be coming out.

Backstage I towell off and chug a bottle of ice water. There is an ice bag for my left wrist (Again, I LOVE THE CREWS IN VEGAS!) and I just sit there icing my wrist and breathing. One of the light crew brings me a note from the audience, it's from my agent and I won't have to be thinking of ways to kill the two hours between ringing this show out and the curtain of the late show. Good. (you might have guessed that I don't have a great track record of dealing with time on my hands, especially in places like Vegas)

The beginning of the second part of the show is my very favorite. Star is sitting on a stool, center stage. I am seated slight up and right on a stool with my harps. We do old Irish and American folk stuff for two or three songs (depending on the crowd and the mood of STAR). Then we are joined by the bass player for some old acoustic blues. As the set progresses, one by one the rest of the band comes out and, almost without the crowd noticing anything we are at full strength. Now we are doing about a one to one ratio of old stuff to new stuff, increasing the tempos, volumes and intensities each time. At ten minutes to final curtain we are at max. Everybody working hard, sweat flying. Hell, I even cut a few moves loose (and I'm a notoriously static player, not big on hopping around) because I am caught up in the energy.

When that song's done, STAR takes a moment to introduce the band and thank everybody for coming out. We take our bows, the crowd's going nuts, standing and jumping and screaming and clapping. Our work here is done.

next installment soon. . .


Blogger Jersey Cynic said...

MB - I hope you're getting a well deserved rest! Your account of the first show was a GREAT READ!!! You sure know how to bring a person right along with you. I really felt like I was there. I wish I was. BRAVO from a fan in spirit.

4:08 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

Resting is definately the order of the day around Rancho Harpo. . .I was actually taking notes and stuff during my down time. I'm glad that you're enjoying the ride. Welcome.

9:48 AM  

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