Back in the 80’s who ever thought the music of Sting and Paul Simon could ever blend so well? Sting and his Police band mates were ska and punk and then pop and Paul Simon, well, he is the master of folk and later global and world music.
But there they were, halfway through their tour at Detroit’s Palace at Auburn Hills, making beautiful music together for 2 hours and 40 minutes and most of the audience – some of us who were moved DOWN a section closer to the magic because the show didn’t sell out (Detroit, you missed a good show if you didn’t get a ticket) – we couldn’t get enough.
Both artists admitted that this was the perfect juncture in their tour, where their bands were really starting to come together as they learned each other’s styles. It was a bit of an adjustment for me to hear Sting sing some lines from Boy in the Bubble or Simon to add his voice to Fields of Gold, but it added a different dimension to each song and worked in the end.
For those of you who are curious about the play list, here it is, courtesy of the Sting fan page. I have to also mention that a friend who was also at the concert, who was close enough to the stage to see the roadies reading from their Kindles between sets, also took notes on the order of the playlist. But her playlist was not made available to me at “press time.”
At one point, Sing took the stage alone and told the audience that songs have a way of taking us back to the times in our lives when we first heard them. He recalled traveling across the United States in a station wagon with the Police during their first tour before singing Simon & Garfunkel‘s America.
The audience went wild when he sang “Michigan seems like a dream to me now…”
To demonstrate my true transplanteness, I alone went wild when he sang “counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
I know that each song carried a memory for everyone who was there that frigid night. I’d love to hear about what memories these songs bring to you. Here are some of mine.
Of all the songs that WEREN’T played, I really wanted to hear Cecilia. Like, dying to hear it. Wished the concert would have closed to it.
My earliest musical memories were nursed on Bridge Over Troubled Water.
My parents playing the album constantly and my Dad belting the song for which the album was named at the top of his lungs in the shower. He could give Art Garfunkel a run for his money. But just in the shower.
I think I was three or four, kneeling by my parent’s ancient stereo speakers as it played (and that’s on a turn table, you young whipper snappers!). As the last bars of El Condor Pasa finished, I knew it was coming. I’d start jumping before the music even started. I couldn’t wait. And then the unmistakably joyful drumming of Cecila would play and I’d dance all over the living room. Sang the words at the top of my lungs. I guess my parents thought it was good thing I had no idea what I was singing. Really, they are nasty lyrics.
Later, much later, I can recall a perfect summer night in 1991 when Paul Simon played a free concert in Central Park. The music from Rhythm of the Saints mixed perfectly with the humid air. You know who you were who were there. I don’t know how we all successfully met up to enjoy the concert – about a mile away from the stage – in the days before our cell phones.
The Police and Sting dominated the air waves during high school. We all sang Every Breath you Take, thinking it was a song about love but later realized it was a song about obsession. High school was the time we began to figure out for ourselves the difference between the two.
The music of the Police affirmed to me that, no dad, musicians were not all stupid junkies. Yes, musicians are intelligent people. Sting was an English teacher after all. Classmates had conversation in the hall about Don’t Stand So Close to Me, after we learned the song was written about an inappropriate interest Sting took to one of his students.
Later, the album Nothing Like the Sun defined my college years. The scorching summer of 1988 and a fall weekend road trip to Boston.
But getting back to the present….
Perhaps even more impressive than Sting and Simon collaborating on each other’s songs was the collaboration and depth of their bands. Members of each band effortlessly switched from instrument to instrument. From drums to guitar. From guitar to electric violin. From cello to piccolo. From the accordion sounds of Zydeco to the bass riff in Call Me Al.
Since my son has been obsessively playing his guitar, I have developed a greater appreciation for these musicians, who should not by any means be considered “backup” musicians. This is why, even though he hates it, I won’t let him quit his clarinet. Lots of musicians play guitar, but how many play guitar and clarinet?
Sing and Simon closed the night with “When Will I Be Loved” It was a night I didn’t want to end and I’m still thinking about Sting in that perfectly fitted shirt and oh, it’s just not fair for a man to look that good at – 62!
…. but I digress.
What is the point of this long-winded blog post written on yet another frigid Michigan day?
Don’t miss out on a great show. Get tickets to this concert when it comes your way.
Last week, my son’s music teacher approached parents like me – parents with kids who love playing music and performing for others- with what he thought would be a big imposition.
Would I mind picking up my child plus a few of their bandmates – and their instruments – at school and driving them around town on a December afternoon to play two different gigs?
Would I mind?
I was delighted!
Ever since the beginning of the school year, my son leaves the house at 6:15 on Monday and Tuesday mornings to make a 6:30 jazz band rehearsal. That’s A.M. That’s ungodly early for most and even harder for teen musicians.
But this is a dedicated bunch. And now they would have the opportunity to bring some Christmas joy through music to the Baldwin House in Birmingham and then play the lobby of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Of course, to me, wearing my Jewish goggles, this was the perfect opportunity for me to help my son and his bandmates perform a Christmas mitzvah. So, with my car loaded with six kids, a guitar, sax, bass, and I think a few brass instruments, we were off.
The Bloomfield HS Hills Jazz Band as well as the Bloomfield Hills HS String Ensemble alternatively played traditional and contemporary Christmas music to the delight of the residents of the Baldwin House. They came in walking, or with their walkers to take in the sweet strings and the bright jazz tunes. The only musician they could not hear, was my son.
Unfortunately, his guitar amp adapter fried out somewhere between the school and the gig. And in the middle of the gig, while the strings played we had the following text conversation.
Mom, can you see if there is a music store nearby to buy me a new adapter?
Yes, my adapter died and no one can hear me.
Sorry, but there is no way I can do that right now. You should have checked this before we left the house.
It was working, don’t make this out to be my fault
Again, I’m sorry there is nothing I can do for you now. Stop fiddling with your amp and stand up. You are performing.
But, they can’t hear me.
Fake it. The show must go on.
So, in this video, you may or may not see a young man on the floor fiddling with his amp and then at the last moment stand up and pretend to play his guitar.
In between gigs, after we loaded up the car with kids and instruments, I did have time to stop and buy some batteries to power his next guitar. I turned instantly from a villan into a hero. They were now playing the big room: the lobby at Beumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Unless you are having a baby, or this is your place of employment, the hospital is a somber place to be. Especially this time of year. So what a nice gift it was for the musicians at BHHS to bring their talents to play in the hospital. The acoustics sounded fantastic. The strings sounded sweeter
and the jazz music sounded happier
Weary doctors and nurses and technicians stopped from their rounds to take a listen. Some caregivers of patients even started dancing in the lobby.
The afternoon gave me the opportunity to socialize with other roadie parents who had devoted the afternoon to driving and listening. One mom of a senior cello player told me that she was getting some ridicule for letting her son consider pursuing music in college. But she said music, and playing the cello is the one thing in school that holds his passion and attention.
As I listened and sipped a cup of coffee from the hospital cafeteria, I thought how lucky my son is to be in a school with such a great music program that thinks “outside the school,” to allow them to play in public places. I also thought about the kids just down the road in Detroit, who may not have a music program in their school. Because when it comes to tight budgets, music is seen as frivolous. A luxury that poorly performing schools with low testing students cannot afford.
The last sentence is the farthest thing from the truth.
I ask those who wish to cut music in schools: can common core make people want to dance? Want to make kids come to school at 6:30 in the morning? Can common core bring joy to a hospital or an assisted living facility the way music can?
This is my final post for 2013. I invite you to listen to these talented young musicians playing some holiday joy. Thank you for following my blog, for reading me and for writing to me.
Have a joyous Christmas and a happy 2014
When my son came home from school today, he proclaimed it was “the hottest day ever” and “it should be ILLEGAL for the weather to be so hot.”
For those of you who live in more southern climates, it’s only 80 degrees here. But to a Rochester kid, this is hot.
Then he shared this interesting bit of news with me:
He was sort of “discovered” by the Marshall Tucker Band.
The scene was last week’s Rochester Lilac Festival. The Twelve Corners Middle School Jazz band, led by the wonderful Mr. Baldwin, performed for the lunch crowd. In this crowd must have been …. the Marshall Tucker Band, who was putting on a free performance that evening.
After this performance, in the video above, shot by a friend and another proud pappa of the baritone saxophonist, a member of the Marshall Tucker Band wanted to know who the guitar soloist was.
That would happen to be MY BOY!
Now, I still don’t want my baby to grow up to be a rock star, but at the very least, to see that ear-to-ear grin on his face, it’s worth bragging about in a blog post!
Rock on, young man, rock on.
This gallery contains 2 photos.
Frolic in the lilacs. Check out some free music from the TCMS Jazz Band this Wednesday at lunchtime!
Jewish mothers brag about their son the doctor.
Jewish mothers praise the accomplishments of their son, the big-shot lawyer.
I don’t know if I will ever have those bragging rights, but thanks to Craig Taubman and his band of gracious musicians, my son rocked the bimah at Temple Beth El in Rochester!!!
Thank you, thank you thank you, to Craig and his band and ALL at Temple Beth El who made this weekend happen!
For myself and most of the audience, we expected to be moved by Craig Taubman and his seasoned ensemble comprised of a pianist, drummer, guitarist and a phenomenal woman violinist.
We had no clue that my 14-year-old son would be bestowed the opportunity to show off his latest slide guitar improvs to an audience of about 200.
Jewish rock musicians were not exactly my son’s “thing” – up until last night. He poo-pooed them in fact. If they play Jewish music, how can they be cool???
Kid, you’ve got a thing to learn.
Last night, after a Friday Night Live service, he had the honor of having Shabbat dinner sitting with the band.
They got to talking, and then they got into some serious talking about music. Two realizations were discovered. My son discovered that, yes, these were real, bona fide musicians even if they played in a Jewish rock band. And Craig’s band, after listening to my son go on about designing a pick up for his guitar for a science project, concluded that my son in spite of his young age is also a real musician.
I didn’t think they would let him jam with them tonight. I mean, they are grammy-winning road-touring musicians. Professionals. And my son is good, but he has to earn his musical chops before he gets to share a stage.
But share they did. And this is how it sounded. Excuse the screams from his biggest fan:
A few days ago, WordPress asked us to write about a rare, hidden talent no one knew we had.
I thought, why should we only blog about ourselves? Who cares about reading about me all the time (except, maybe my mom)? Are bloggers really that narcasistic?
So, I’m dedicating this post on hidden talents to the janitor at a local community center.
On Sunday evenings, as I hone my little-known rare talent (that will go unmentioned in this blog post), I take breaks and wander the hallways of my community center. Not much else goes on in the building on Sunday evenings, so this little group I mingle with has the place to ourselves.
As I strolled in the lobby, I stopped in my tracks when I heard what I thought was a recording of Jazz piano music. It was coming from the darkened, empty senior lounge.
I peered in and it was not a recording, but the janitor. The janitor with the wiry, stringy dirty blonde hair and thin drawn face. The janitor who looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. The janitor who carefully vacuums the lobby was seated at the grand piano in the corner of the room, playing the finest jazz piano I had ever heard without paying for a door cover charge and a two drink minimum.
I asked if I could come in and listen and he nodded to me wordlessly. I was in awe of his playing and told him so. I told him about the column I write and asked if I could intervew him for it, when, with an annoyed look on his face, he told me no. But, he did tell me his story.
He grew up down south and was a pretty serious musican. He was in a jazz group and had regular gigs. They were about to get a recording contract, but something – the pressure of playing before a crowd and the pressure of the music industry – made him snap inside.
Since moving up north, he tried to get his musical career off the ground again, but couldn’t shake the stage fright.
So, there he sits, after he cleans up after us, and plays piano in the dark.
Now, if we travel in the same circles, and after reading this, you may say “ooooooh, I know who she’s talking about! I never would have guessed he could play piano that well!”
But, gentle reader, I beg you not to bring this to his attention. Because he doesn’t want the attention. Just, when you pass him by as you go for your workout or as you see him vacuuming up after a community event, know that you are in the presence of a brilliant, but clandestine, musical genius.
And never look past anyone or underestimate anyone’s talent based on the way they earn a paycheck.
To play an instrument, you have to devote years to practicing scales, learning finger or bow positions, developing your lips to get just that right tone (if you play brass or woodwind), and studying theory.
You have to endure playing simple, nerdy songs like Hot Crossed Buns or Ode To Joy when what you really want to play is the latest song from The Plain White Tees. If you have an ear for music and those songs in your head don’t yet match your ability, it can be all the more frustrating.
But everyone needs to start somewhere. You can’t just pick up a guitar and instantly become Bonnie Raitt or Jimmy Paige, and we all know that playing the Guitar Hero is not the real thing.
What if…. what if, after hearing the opening chords of “Blackbird” by the Beatles, or “What It’s Like” by Everlast, I could just pick up a six-string, start strumming and sound just like that?
So, if I could instantly download a skill into my brain and body ala Matrix style, it would be the ability to play a mean guitar. No, not even a mean guitar. I’d be happy with knowing enough chords to be considered entertaining around a campfire.
I know the guitar is difficult. It takes more than having a garage and knowing a few chords for most to be really good at it. But playing guitar seems to be the most approachable, liberating instrument there is.
The guitar is my son Nathan’s third instrument. Back in the second grade, Nathan was gently fired by his piano teacher after less than two years of lessons. It’s not that he didn’t have an ear for music. He could plunk out a Rachmaninoff tune or the theme to Harry Potter with all its sharps and flats on one finger, but no one was going to tell him about correct hand positioning or posture at the keyboard, or what a C Major scale should sound like.
As she left our house the for last time, this demure woman in a stiff skirt and buttoned up blouse reassured me: “Don’t worry. He has the music inside him. He has to find the instrument he loves. And let him get a little older.”
Or, maybe it was the right teacher that hooks you to an instrument. Nathan is now on the threshold of his teen years. After four months of guitar lessons, Nathan is a little more receptive to taking direction from a guitar teacher than a piano teacher. But he still wants to play the guitar like Johnny Ramone. Now.
One day, Nathan comes into the kitchen.
“Mom, what does this sound like?”
Nathan breaks into a simple guitar riff, than bangs on his guitar quickly two times. As he plays, his brown eyes lock on me, eyebrows raised, mouth hanging open. An expression that reads, is this cool, or what?
“Of course I know what that is. It’s Blister in the Sun by the Violent Femmes!”
A little smile. “Yeah!”
Each week, we get treated to a mini jam session that is Nathan’s guitar lessons. Guitar teachers are a completely different animal than piano teachers.
Tuesday nights go like this: as Nathan wolfs down some dinner straight after two hours of religious school instruction, the doorbell rings. It’s Nathan’s guitar teacher. Nathan’s teacher can’t be more than 26. He works all day with at-risk youth. He has spiked short hair and a pierced tongue and one of those black plug earrings. Nathan’s guitar teacher is definitely not a piano teacher.
My husband has a very healthy, heterosexual admiration of this young man. Also a guitar-playing wannabe, he is in complete rock-star admiration as he listens to him warm up. Now, that’s what years of playing the guitar can sound like. Once a week, for 30 minutes, we have in our midst, a real guitarist who is in a real rock band.
Nathan has a long way to the top if he wants to rock and roll. But he is getting there. He can play the basic chords to Hotel California and I can slowly sing each bar, as he searches for the next chord, as I make dinner. And, he knows – of course – a standard blues riff. And Louie Louie. And Tequila!
I still have to nudge him to practice what his teacher actually wants him to practice, which is Amazing Grace. And I have to wonder: Did Jimi Hendrix’s mother have to nudge him to practice? Or Eddie van Halen’s mom? Or .. did Eric Clapton’s mom bug him about cutting his nails before playing?
Probably not. But they probably didn’t want to play the guitar as badly as I do.