Monday, September 25, 2006

Clapton at Van Andle Arena

It is always great to see an artist put together a top-notch performance. It’s even better when that performer seems to be at the top of his or her game, at a point where they seem to be right on the money most of the time. It is better yet when the performer is legendary. That’s what Bryan and Ron and I got last Thursday night at Van Andle Arena in Grand Rapids when Eric Clapton and his band came to town. Eric has put together yet another first-rate band but this time he has two young guitar-slingers to bounce off of and, with so much guitar talent on the stage, put together a set of tunes designed to let them jam and to show their stuff.

Eric served as host giving both Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II ample opportunity to show what the next generation of great guitars players has to offer. But then, on every song, Clapton stepped up to the front to show that, not only had he not lost a step, but that he was still the guy to beat. His tone was unbelievable. His singing was right on target and he showed himself to be a consummate professional. The tone that he and Doyle got on their unison slide intro to “Motherless Children” was astonishing. His singing on “I Am Yours” was great and the tasteful slide work of Derek was just right – of course, that was true in almost every song. There wasn’t really a dull moment in the program. Clapton put together a program with few of his many hits. This was a program made for the fans with a couple of songs from Layla, a couple of songs from 461 Ocean Boulevard and even one from Money and Cigarettes! I gave the set list in my previous post. The Grand Rapids Press reviewer ended his review by writing “For more than two hours, Van Andel Arena resonated with something beyond the usual rock 'n roll fare, something truly enduring. It was the kind of show some fans will likely tell their friends and kids about for years to come and wish they could have brought 'em all along for the ride. Some artists are that important, some performances are that unforgettable.” I agree and I’m glad I took Bryan along with me! I wish I could have taken the whole family.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Eric Clapton in Grand Rapids

I'll post more soon hopefully but I wanted to mention what an amazing show Eric Clapton put on Thursday night here in Grand Rapids.

Here is the setlist:

I Shot The Sheriff Sheriff
Got To Get Better In A Little While
Old Love (with Robert Cray)
Everybody Oughta Make A Change
Motherless Children

Acoustic Set:
Back Home
I Am Yours
Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out
Running On Faith

After Midnight
Little Queen of Spades
Further On Up The Road
Wonderful Tonight

Crossroads (with Robert Cray)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

'Justice' on Fox

For the last two or three weeks I've watched and enjoyed a new show on Fox called Justice. I will admit that I watched it at first because of Victor Garber who played Sydney Bristow's father on Alias. I have been impressed with his acting in this show - the character is quite different from Jack Bristow but Garber plays him convincingly and he's fun to watch. The rest of the cast also does a fine job but I was not familiar with any of them before this show.

The world certainly doesn't need another crime and lawyer show but this one has a style that is different, the graphics and look of the show are very cool and it's fun to see what sort of things a really high profile law firm might go through to win a case. Not only that but at the end they show you what "really" happened - something the lawyers in this show don't care about.

I really like what I've seen so far. Wednesday's at 9:00 on Fox.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Two exciting media events this week

Two exciting things this week. I finally got to see Studio 60 and it was very good. Hooray for more new Sorkin on television.

Also today marks the release of the DVD of U2's Zoo TV tour from 1993.
I'm picking it up on the way home. Hooray for new U2 (even if it's old.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

When Old Women Attack

I'm breaking my one-post-a-day rule because, this is funny.

Thanks to Bethany for the title for this post.

Rethinking McCartney's 'Chaos and Creation'

It's been a very busy week for me with teaching and other chair-related activities but I've been doing a fair amount of listening to music while driving my car or using the *new* itunes 7.0 (which is pretty cool.)

One thing that has occurred to me this week in listening once again to Paul McCartney's wonderful Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (which I reviewed here just a year ago today, coincidently) is that, in the light of what has gone on in McCartney's life this past year - a pending divorce - maybe listening with that in mind will reveal some new insights. Indeed it has.

Many, perhaps most, of the songs on the album might refer to the sadness and frustration which Paul had been experiencing. Listen to "Friends to Go," for example or, more directly, "Riding to Vanity Fair." Even songs like "Too Much Rain" might be Paul trying to cheer himself up and reminding himself to put a good face on things.

Because McCartney has a long history of playing with words just for fun (remember "Temporary Secretary"?) it is easy for me to dismiss his words as just fun wordplay. "English Tea" might be a prime example on this album. But there are too many songs that reference betrayal and sadness for me to ignore it. I even wonder if "Fine Line" is a reference to his brother's recent legal trouble, although the timing on that one might be off. When he sings "Come home brother, all is forgiven, We all cried when you were driven away" I at first just took "brother" to be generic. Now I wonder if it really is about his brother! I think Chaos and Creation shows Paul telling us a lot more than we first thought about how he was really feeling about a lot of things.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remember when some Irish band played the Super Bowl?

U2 lifted our spirits when we were still reeling from Sept 11, 2001. Note the iconic moment at the end of the song as Bono reveals the lining of his jacket:

Thanks to U2 Sermons for pointing me to it.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

My God and I by Lewis Smedes

Lewis Smedes, former Calvin College professor and later professor at Fuller Seminary in California, wrote a spiritual memoir as his last book before his death. My God and I wasn’t intended as his last book when he wrote it (he died as the result a fall before it was published) but it is a fitting end to a distinguished career. Smedes’ pleasant writing style drew me in as I read about his grandparents and parents. The story of how he grew up and his path to academics was fascinating to me partly because I was familiar with many of the places and names that he mentions but mostly because his story is a compelling one. Smedes is able to see God’s hand in his life in a way that is not at all happy-clappy or syrupy. He talks openly about how his prayers for terminally ill people rarely if ever makes a difference in their healing but yet he continues to do it. He gives an unvarnished look at his own battle with depression and how he praises God for his medication.

Overall I found My God and I a delightful read. Smedes keeps things moving, never dwelling long on any one subject. The first few chapters, outlining how God used a woman who was evicted from her own house because of a pregnancy gives us a concrete example of how God can use a situation in which we see little hope and turn it to good – that woman’s grandson became a world-class theologian and inspiration to many people, including me.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Jars of Clay - Good Monsters - First Listen

The new jars of Clay album, Good Monsters, was released today and I picked it up on the way home and popped it into my car CD player. I'm now giving it a second listen on my computer. So far so good! The first two songs, "Work" and "Dead Man (Carry Me)" were both on the Mini-Monsters EP that was released four weeks ago. Those songs got a lot of listens in my car - in fact, the EP lived the whole month in my 6-CD changer, the only CD to do that the whole time. (The new Sandra McCracken has been there almost as long and still lives in the changer too - it may be there for a while yet.)

The good news about this album is that Steve Mason got his electric guitar out again and, over the last tour, it is clear that he learned how to make it rock over a mostly acoustic backing. This is Who We Are Instead (their mostly acoustic album of three years ago) on steroids. Add guest appearances by Leigh Nash and a few others and you've got a really fine album.

I don't think the mainstream market is ready to listen to Jars of Clay again - they see their first album as a fluke and probably won't give Good Monsters a listen. That's a shame because they're in a good place right now and this album is lots of fun to listen to. I'm looking forward to digging into it more - I liked Mini-Monsters a lot more after repeated listenings.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Phil Keaggy Podcast - September edition

This morning, quite early, I listened to the Phil Keaggy podcast and I really enjoyed it. The September edition of the podcast is Phil giving a tour of his guitar playing over the years. Clocking in at over 50 minutes, Phil plays 60 second snippets of guitar solos from almost every year since 1966. While the podcast is heavy on electric playing (almost but not quite) ignoring the acoustic playing that has been his signature for the past ten years, it is just a lot of fun and makes for great listening.

If you're a fan this one is a no-brainer. If you're unfamiliar with his playing this is a way to give it a listen. It's free!

(I review a recent album here.)