Views on pop culture through my eyes

Pentatonix in Concert
Monday, July 3, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Pentatonix-Bowl

July 4th Fireworks Spectacular with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Thomas Wilkins conductor

Special guest: US Air Force Band of the Golden West

Songs performed: Sing, Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love, Imagine, Take on Me, Hallelujah, Coldest Winter, Daft Punk, Michael Jackson medley, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Bohemian Rhapsody

Comments: Pentatonix, the a capella phenomenon, headlined 3 concerts at the Hollywood Bowl for their July 4th Fireworks Spectacular. I first became familiar with the group on the show “The Sing-Off” back in 2011. This was a reality competition for a capella singing groups. They won that season and have gone on to win 3 Grammys and sell out shows around the world.

I first saw the group in concert when they opened for Kelly Clarkson on her “Piece by Piece” tour in 2015. They also performed with her during the show also. They won the crowd over then, I knew they were on their way to being headliners.

The first part of the evening was just the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under the conduction of Thomas Wilkins. They played a few numbers including “Yoda’s Theme” from “Star Wars” as well as the yearly salute to all the military branches. This the time when service members are encouraged to stand up and be acknowledged when their theme is played.

After a brief intermission, the Orchestra was joined by Pentatonix. Normally Pentatonix do all their shows with just them creating all the sounds. So it was a little different for them and for us — but in a good way. They did do the second song of the night, a capella — just to show the crowd what they can do. Their sound is so full, because they imitate the sounds of instruments with their vocals.

The show started with their original song “Sing” off their self-titled album. But the majority of the show was their interpretations of songs by other artists including those featured on their latest EP — “PTX, Vol. IV — Classics.”

That EP has their take on songs from Elvis, a-ha, the Andrew Sisters, John Lennon, Queen and more. They also performed their medleys of songs from Daft Punk and Michael Jackson as well. One of the more memorable numbers was a pop-operatic number sung entirely in Italian. We also got to hear Avi’s awesome bass vocals. Too bad he is leaving the group after this tour.

After “Take on Me,” the group exited the stage to make way for the fireworks. So the Orchestra was joined by the Air Force Band of the Golden West in a medley of patriotic tunes as fireworks exploded over the Bowl.

The group did come back after the fireworks for the finale of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It was a rousing finale to another fun summer concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Thanks to Scott, Mitch, Kirstin, Avi and Kevin for an awesome show. I look forward to hearing more from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Jason Mraz in Concert
Friday, June 23, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Birthday Celebration and Concert

jasonMrazSongs Performed: Let’s See What The Night Can Do, Make It Mine, The Remedy (I Won’t Worry), Common Pleasure, A Beautiful Mess, So You Think You Can Dance, Chocolate, Coming Undone, Try, Lucky, I Take the Music, I’m Yours/Three Little Birds, Details in the Fabric, You Do You, and I’ll Do Me, Browntown, Unfold, Might As Well Dance, Butterfly, You Matter To Me, Long Drive, 3 Things, Rise, Love Someone, Shine, 93 Million Miles/The Galaxy Song, I Won’t Give Up, Love Is Still the Answer

Comments: Jason Mraz celebrated his 40th birthday with a party and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. He first gained prominence with his debut album “Waiting for My Rocket to Come” back in 2002. Since then, he has released 5 studio albums, and a few live albums also. He has done world tours and played with top musicians. His most recent album was 2014’s “Yes!”.

I think it is pretty cool that an artist can celebrate their birthday at the Bowl. He had a party atmosphere going on with a carnival theme. There was a bounce house for the kids outside the venue; then inside there was a man on stilts and a juggler to greet you. As well as carnival games where you throw balls and swing the hammer. Jason came on stage and greeted the guests at 7:00 PM. He said how grateful he was for people coming out to celebrate with him. His friend took over and roamed the crowd (from the front to the back) getting people excited and interacting with them. Along the way, he made a few balloon animals too.

The show started at 7:30 PM, with Jason and his Superband taking the stage. His Superband included about 15 members including a horn section, a sitar player and a female trio called Raising Jane with whom he worked on “Yes!”. The show consisted of mainly tracks from his third and fifth albums. He did sing his breakthrough song “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry)” early in the show in a new reggae-tinged arrangement. His second album was completely ignored.

What you did get from Jason was a 3.5 hour show that consists of hits, album tracks, new songs and covers too. He had a great band — half of which was female. He had some inspired guest stars too. He brought out Colbie Caillat to sing with him on her song “Try” as well as on Jason’s song “Lucky” (which she appeared on the recorded version of). He brought out Sara Bareilles to sing “Long Drive” from the Broadway show “Waitress.” Both ladies were well chosen as they are female equivalents of his.

Though his most recent album “Yes!” wasn’t my favorite, I still believe in his artistry. In this day of corporate song-writing and cookie cutter artists, he stands out. He is someone who believes in love and in helping the planet. I have to admit I liked the songs from “Yes!” better in their live versions than on the album especially “Shine.”

During the middle of the show, he and his band played songs through the intermission — with instrumental versions of a few songs. I was glad that I could finally get to see Jason live. I had him on my list of artists yet to see. I would have liked some more of the earlier songs for sure, but I still feel that he put on a great show. His voice is very strong, and he is a good songwriter. I look forward to what he does in the future.

For the encore, he sang “I Won’t Give Up” (one of his best in my opinion) backed by a youth choir from a local school. The song describes the positive attitude and can-do optimism that we need more of in the world today. Thanks to Jason and his Superband for a memorable and entertaining evening.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Lady Antebellum in Concert
Saturday, June 3, 2017
Hollywood Bowl

Special guests: Brett Young, Kelsea Ballerini

“You Look Good” World Tour

Merchandise purchased: T-shirt

Songs performed: Downtown , Our Kind of Love, This City, Dancin’ Away with my Heart, Heart Break, Compass, We Owned the Night, American Honey, I Run to You, Good Time to Be Alive, Thy Will, Hello World,You’re Still the One, Just a Kiss, You Look Good, Lookin’ for a Good Time, Something Like That,Crazy in Love,Love Don’t Live Here, Bartender, Need You Now, Allman Bros. cover songIMG_1239

Comments: Grammy-winning country trio Lady Antebellum brought their trademark sound to the Hollywood Bowl last weekend. The “You Look Good” World Tour is in support of their new album “Heart Break” that is due to be released on June 9. The group is composed of Hillary Scott (lead vocals), Charles Kelley (lead vocals) and Dave Haywood (backing vocals, guitar, piano, mandolin). The group was formed back in 2006 in Nashville.

In 2016, the group took on various solo projects including Charles’ solo album “The Driver” and Hillary’s solo album (with the Scott Family) “Love Remains.” The new album is the group’s first since 2014’s “747.”

I have been a big fan of this group since the beginning. I saw them back in 2009 as an opening act for Keith Urban. They were a last-minute replacement for Sugarland, who had to cancel due to illness. I was happy with the change.

After the 2 opening acts, popular dance songs from Bruno Mars, Michael Jackson, Salt N Pepa and Justin Timberlake among others were played. People were shown on the big screens dancing in the audience. It all served as a warm-up to the headliners. In their Hollywood Bowl debut, the group delivered and then some. You got the big hits and album tracks, plus a few surprises too.

The show started with “Downtown” from their “Golden” album. For this tour, the band has added a horn section including a trumpet and a trombone. The horn players were the first band members seen and heard before the group made their entrance at the back of the stage in separate lighted rectangular boxes.

The stage set-up had a large video screen and panels of lights that moved around during the show. They have definitely upped their production values for this tour, which includes stops in Europe and South Africa too. The band utilized the ring around the front seats several times in the night. Charles also made his way out into the audience too for one number. (No where close to me, oh well!)

The 2 trademarks of the group were on full display: the harmonies/vocals plus their hit-making songwriting. This group has 2 excellent vocalists in Hillary and Charles. What is interesting is how often they are flirting with each other in song, and they are both married to other people.

The group did a little unplugged segment in the middle of the show including one of the songs from Hillary’s faith-based solo album, a track called “Thy Will.” No songs from Charles’ album. They also sang Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” during the unplugged segment.

For “You Look Good,” they brought out a full horn section to back them up. Is it country? Not sure, it is a very funky horn-filled number. So there were trumpets, trombones, sax, tuba, French horn and more. The show was a good mix of songs from their six studio albums. They are in the enviable position of having too many good songs to fit in one show. I would have liked to have heard more from the “747” album, but that was featured on the last tour.

There were some inspired cover songs during the last few numbers: “Something Like That” had Charles and Brett Young singing on a song originally performed by Tim McGraw. Then for “Crazy in Love,” you had Kelsea Ballerini and Hillary singing on the Beyoncé classic. It was one of the highlights of the night and there were many that night.

Southern California native Brett Young opened the show. He was wearing a gold Laker’s jersey that showed off his tanned and tattooed arms. The crowd responded well to his short set which included the current #1 country song “In Case You Didn’t Know.” For me, he is another good-looking, but forgettable, country boy in a crowded market.

The second opening act was Kelsea Ballerini. She has broken through in the last year or so on the strength of her debut album “The First Time.” She was also nominated for the Best New Artist Grammy in 2017. She is filling the role of the country-pop female that was left by Taylor Swift. She debuted some new songs from her 2nd album that she is currently working on. She has a nice voice and a good personality. I can see her going further.

Thanks to Hillary, Charles and Dave for a great evening of music and artistry. I look forward to many more years of Lady Antebellum. I waited 8 years to see them in concert — and it was definitely worth the wait.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

 

Summer Reviews Part 2

So what CDs and DVDs am I enjoying this summer? Read on…

Music

Jason Mraz — Yes!
Jason continues to mine the adult contemporary terrain of “I’m Yours.” Honestly, I have heard it about 5 times through, and nothing is sticking to me. What happened to the guy who did fun up-tempo songs like “The Remedy”? Time to mix it up, Jason. Grade: D

Ed Sheeran — + (plus)
I fell in love with him on his second album. So now it is time that I checked out his debut album. You have the hits: The A Team and Lego House. Plus a good collection of tunes that show he is someone to watch out for. Interestingly, radio just played the folk songs, while he has some nice uptempo/hip-hop inspired ones. Grade: B+

Celine Dion — Loved Me Back to Life
Celine’s most recent pop album and her first since “Taking Chances.” It is definitely growing on me. You have pop, uptempo songs, ballads and a few cover songs. Special guests include Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder. She’s been better, but I still like it. Grade: B-

Mary J. Blige — The London Sessions
Mary J. went to London to record this album which pairs her with Sam Smith, Disclosure and more. So you have some dance textures on here. An interesting diversion, but I liked the previous album “My Life II” much more. Grade: B

Pentatonix — PTX, Vol. IV: Classics
The latest EP from the a capella 5-some has them covering songs by Queen, a-ha, Dolly Parton (who guests on here) and more. It is still amazing that they can create such full arrangements with just their voices. Grade: A-

Beauty and the Beast — Soundtrack
The soundtrack to the latest Disney smash movie includes all your favorites from the film including “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” “Gaston” and the title track. Includes bonus songs from Celine Dion, Ariana Grande & John Legend and Josh Groban. Grade: A-

Kelsea Ballerini — The First Time
The debut album from the up and coming country/pop singer. Features the hit songs: “Love Me Like You Mean It” and “Peter Pan.” She reminds me a bit of Taylor Swift. She’s definitely someone to watch out for. She is on the road with Lady Antebellum this summer: Grade: A-

Brett Eldredge — Bring You Back
I became a fan of this man on his second album “Illinois.” This is his first one. The vocals are what stand out for me, even if the songs are not as strong as what he has on his second album. I definitely sensed potential, even if it was not all there. Grade: B-

Blondie — Blondie 4(0)Ever: Greatest Hits Deluxe Redux/Ghosts of Download
Ground-breaking new-wave group Blondie is back for their 40th anniversary. The first half is re-recorded versions of their biggest hits. The second half is all-new songs. Honestly I wish I just could have bought the 2nd half, since I have several greatest hits collections from them already. The new versions bring nothing new to the equation. The second half has Blondie trying on dance and latin textures. Includes their take on Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” Grade: B-

Josh Turner — Deep South
The deep-voiced singer country singer is back with an all-new collection. Highlights include the title track and “All About You.” He has a few beach inspired tunes on this. Not too much different from his other albums. It is a solid collection. Grade: B

Natasha Bedingfield — Strip Me
I was a fan of this singer’s first 2 albums, and am finally getting around to this one. It came out 7 years ago, and it bombed. It shouldn’t have. She has dance, rock, ballads, and alternative music on here. Plus there are some unplugged versions and videos on the deluxe version. Still hoping she comes out with a new album. Grade: A-

Videos

Sing Street
What a pleasant surprise this movie is! A teenage boy falls for an older woman and makes up a lie about being in a band and needing an actress for his music video. This romantic comedy set in Ireland in the 80’s has a great soundtrack, so you get Duran Duran and Hall & Oates. Plus the band that he starts with a few other misfits from school, ends up being pretty good with some catchy songs of their own. You’ll enjoy yourself. Grade: A-

Sully
Ton Hanks stars as the title character “Sully” Sullenberg who landed an airliner on the Hudson river. It is based on Sullenberg’s autobiography and directed by Clint Eastwood. Did he know what he was doing? Did he make the right choice? How did he handle being labeled a hero? Aaron Eckhart costars as the copilot. Grade: B

Southside with You
Otherwise known as the Michelle and Barack Obama date movie. This is the story of the first date between Michelle and Barack Obama in the southside of Chicago. They went to an art museum, and then to a rally at a black church. You could see the sparks flying between them. Grade: B+

Denial
The true story of a Holocaust denier taking a writer to court in England for slander. She was someone who called him out for what he was doing. Yet he had the nerve to try and sue her for slander. Could she prove that the Holocaust really existed? Or would she let the whole Jewish race down? Starring Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. Grade: A-

Miss Peregine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton directs this dark fantasy film based on book by Ransom Riggs. Eva Green stars as the title character. Jake is a teenager who travels to Wales to investigate the school that his grandfather went to. It is the school mentioned in the title. So you have a floating girl, a boy with bees, masked twins, and an invisible boy among others. The movie reminded me of other ones. You take parts of X-Men, Harry Potter and other fantasy films and you have this one. But I still enjoyed myself. Grade: B

Suicide Squad
The 3rd movie in Warner Brother’s DC Universe, brings together a bunch of villians who are tasked with saving the world because no one else can. So you have Dead Shot, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc and a number of other villians you have never heard of. You have the Joker too, but his story line is pretty much about him getting back with Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Again, I think special effects over shadowed the story in this one. It is a pretty forgettable movie. Grade: D

So that’s my take. If you agree or disagree with any of my comments, I would love to hear from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Pride Protest 2017

This June in West Hollywood, there will be no LGBT Pride Parade. Instead there will be a march entitled — #Resist March. This will coincide with the National Equality March in Washington, DC. It will also be the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.resist-la-pride-750x563

I am happy to hear that LA Pride organizers (Christopher Street West) are doing this event at this time. I love Pride… I have been going to the festivals and the parades for over 30 years now. The last year at the Pride Festival was not so cool for us. It was expensive, and there was not much happening other than food, drinks and entertainment. In past years, there was plenty of community organizations and small business vendors. At today’s pride, those things are gone and replaced with more ways to get drunk and party.

The parade too has changed. There used to be more smaller groups too, and not so many corporations. But I always enjoy the men in Speedos and the leather guys in ass-less chaps. But it’s OK to be missing this — this time. There are more important things going on in the world.

Here are the reasons that I am marching this year:

  1. To send a message to Donald Trump. Still hard to believe that this evil, small-minded man is the President. LGBT people don’t seem to fit in his vision of “Making America Great Again.”
  2. To remember those friends that we have lost to AIDS and those elders that came before us in the fight for gay rights.
  3. To protect marriage equality. My partner and I finally got married on August 27, 2016. It was one of the happiest days of our lives. I want to make sure that the government cannot take that away.
  4. To protect and encourage healthcare for all. Everyone regardless of income, race, or religion should have access to quality and affordable healthcare. Republicans don’t seem to think this way… their idea is to just not get sick!
  5. To protect freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. We all have the right to worship as we want (Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.). But I don’t want religion in my politics!
  6. For our youth. I want to live in a world where people can love and marry who they want, dress how they want, and worship (or not) how they want to. I want a world of diversity.
  7. For the women in the world. It is about time that women make the same as a man for doing the same job. I believe in equal pay for women and in funding for reproductive health.
  8. For the planet. I believe in science and global warming. It is very scary that our leaders do not, and want to get rid of anything good that Obama did regarding cutting emissions.
  9. For the world. To let people in other countries know that we will not sit idly by why a fool ruins our country and world. We are fed up and we are going to keep our resistance up.
  10. Because Black Lives Matter. This doesn’t get said enough. I worry that my African-American husband will go out to the store, and not return. Just because he encountered a trigger-happy racist on his trip.

For all these reasons and more, I will be marching on Sunday, June 11, 2017. And yes, the KiltMan will be rocking the kilt while he protests. I encourage you to get involved, stand up and let your voices be heard. We will NOT be silent and we are not going away.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Summer Reviews Part 1

Time for some more entertainment reviews. The first part will feature reviews of movies (some now on video and others still in theaters). The second will feature reviews of CDs and DVDs.

Movies

Kong Skull Island
The latest King Kong movie takes a different approach to the story. So you see Kong in his natural habitat on a just-found island — Skull Island. For some reason the filmmakers chose to place the story in the past, around the end of the Vietnam War. Tom Hiddleston stars as a mercenary for hire. Brie Larson is a photographer. Samuel Jackson is one of the generals who is leading the trip to the island. Besides Kong, there are a lot of weird and large creatures on the island. So you get to see plenty of fights between humans and the creatures, as well as the creatures themselves. Overall, I wasn‘t much for this movie. I say to wait for video. It is just a step above a movie on the SyFy channel. Grade: C+

Get Out
Written and directed by Jordan Peele of Key & Peele fame. This movie concerns Chris, a black man, going with his white girlfriend to meet her family at their home. Chris starts to feel that something is off in this town and with the black people in it. Are the townspeople as accepting as they claim to be? Did Chris get hypnotized by his girlfriend’s mother? Honestly I don’t know what to make of this movie. It is in a genre I am not a fan of (horror) and it is deals with racism and classism in today’s world. What statement was Peele trying to make? I feel a bit lost on it. Not sure how to grade it, since it was not something I would normally see. Grade: C

Beauty and the Beast
Disney’s latest reworking of movies from their film catalog is the live-action version of the classic “Beauty and the Beast.” I thoroughly enjoyed myself. If you loved the original, and the Broadway show, you will love this one too. Emma Watson is winning as Belle. The whole cast is fantastic. The costumes and production design are both terrific. And who can forget all the excellent songs too. I highly recommend it! Grade: A

Logan
The last and final Wolverine movie, at least starring Hugh Jackman. He’s old and broken down, and so is Professor X too. Logan gets contacted by a woman who wants him to take her daughter to a place called “Eden.” It seems the young girl has some special powers just like he does. A huge improvement over the last stand-alone Wolverine movie. They went for a R rating, and it is very violent at times. Parts of it seem inspired by the last Mad Max movie. I liked it. There are some exciting action sequences. Grade: B

The Fate of the Furious
The latest (8th film) in the long-running franchise brings back all the characters we love including Dom, Letty, Hobbs and more. The story seems besides the point in these movies. The action takes place in Cuba, New York, and Russia. Charlize Theron plays a woman named Cipher who blackmails Dom into doing some of her dirty work. You get computer controlled cars falling from buildings in NYC and a Russian sub sending missiles across an icy frozen lake in Russia. Don’t be worried, the principals will all be back to drive another day. Grade: B-

The Circle
This timely movie stars Emma Watson as a new employee at a company called “The Circle” — sort of an internet giant like Google or Facebook. How much of our lives are we sharing or not sharing? Is life better because we are on there? Has technology brought us closer or torn us apart? Tom Hanks costars as the head of “The Circle.” Has big brother made us all safer? It is good to see an intelligent movie, that raises questions about internet privacy and social media. Grade: B

The Lost City of Z
Charlie Hunnam stars as Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who was determined to find a lost city of Zedd in the Amazonian jungle in the early 20th century. Also starring Robert Pattison (Twilight) and Tom Holland (Spider-Man: Homecoming). This true-life tale details the trials and tribulations that befell the explorer during his multiple trips to the region. Grade: B+

Saturday Night Fever (40th Anniversary Director’s Cut)
Back in selected theaters for it’s 40th anniversary is the movie that made John Travolta a star and cemented the impact of disco during the late 70’s. The soundtrack album featuring music by the Bee Gees as well as others won the Grammy for Album of the Year. It was interesting to see again after all this time. The basic story about Tony growing up and trying to make his way in the world (through his dancing) still holds up. I didn’t remember that it was homophobic, sexist and a bit racist too. The dance sequences are as memorable as you remember them. Grade: B+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The first movie was a surprise smash. While I like this movie, it was neither as fresh or as fun as the first one. And that’s too bad. Because the Guardians themselves are at their best when they are together, and unfortunately they spend a good deal of time apart in the latest movie. Kurt Russell costars as Star-Lord’s Dad, Ego. Special effects are more important than heart and jokes in this one. Hopefully the ship will be course corrected for the third one. Grade: B-

Alien: Convenant
The latest in the “Alien” franchise brings back director Ridley Scott and is considered a sequel to 2012’s “Prometheus.” Michael Fassbender stars in 2 roles —both as androids. On a journey to a new planet to settle a colony, the crew has to make a side trip to a new found planet to see if it is inhabitable. Everything looks great until some of the crew start getting sick. You get the thrills and chills you want to see. It is the best “Alien” movie since the 3rd one in my opinion. Grade: A-

Baywatch
Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron star in the latest TV show to big screen update for the campy 90’s show “Baywatch.” This is one of the lamest movies I have seen in a long time. I got a couple of laughs, but too many of them just fall flat. The makers have gone for raunchy action comedy, with lots of f-bombs and dirty jokes. I definitely cannot recommend this one. Grade: D

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for Part 2. As always, comments are kindly welcomed.

IMG_0944Thanks for being a part of this journey for me. I have been writing this blog for 6 years now. In that time, I have written 253 blog posts. They have been seen all around the world, from the United Kingdom to France — all the way to Ecuador. In total, over 50 different countries have visited my blog. That is definitely something to celebrate.

The past year has been an interesting one for me. I have experienced incredible highs — like getting married to my partner. And experienced some lows too having lost my Mom this past year. Then add on all the craziness in the world with all the violence, poverty, and the era of a reality TV president. Life can be overwhelming sometimes. I hope my writing shows that I love life, and want to inspire people to live their lives openly and honestly.

So here are a few of the highlights from the last year. Hard to believe it is almost a year since the massacre in Orlando. The world seems crazier than ever at this point. LGBT rights are still under fire from people who would love to get rid of all of us, and take back marriage equality. So I am glad to see there is a #Resist March happening in early June across the country.

Real men still wear Speedos. I am happy to see a new company called Sluggers out of Australia making some waves in America. I had to ask the question “Are You a Speedo Guy?”. It is time that guys have some option other than boring board shorts.

I got to go to some fun concerts in the past year. I hope I was able to share that joy with my readers. Everything from the triumphant returns of the Dixie Chicks and Gwen Stefani to Boyz II Men and Keith Urban. Plus I even wondered what shows from the past I would have gone to also.

Family played a big part in the past year too. My Dad celebrated his 90th birthday and had a big party in his honor. We also paid tribute to my Mom who passed away after a long illness last fall. I think both of my parents for all their love and support through the years.

I asked the question “Can we be objective” when it comes to arts and entertainment? So much of what we like or don’t like is influenced by our past experiences. I have often said I liked something only because I liked a person’s previous movie, album, etc.

Those are just a few of the highlights for the past year. Thanks for reading. I look forward to many more years of the “Kilt Man” blog.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

As a fan of both music and television, it is not always easy to come up with a winning formula that benefits both mediums. You have had so many reality singing competitions, and a few fabulous duds like “Cop Rock.” But here is my list of the shows that got it right:

Reality Shows

American Bandstand (1952–1989)
Dick Clark was the host for most of the run and is credited with it’s success. You had acts of the day performing, plus good looking young people dancing to the songs too. Who didn’t want to be there?

Soul Train (1971–2006)
Don Cornelius was the host that most people are familiar with (1971–1993). This show focused mostly on soul and R&B performers but disco, jazz, funk and hip hop made their way on it too. Who didn’t want to strut their stuff in the Soul Train Line?

American Idol (2002–2016)
The greatest singing competition show that ever existed in my opinion. It has changed the face of popular entertainment forever, and brought singers and performers we are still enjoying today. They just announced this week it is coming back for the 2017-2018 season on ABC.

Solid Gold (1980–1988)
Dionne Warwick and Marilyn McCoo are the hosts that I remember the most. If you grew up in the 80’s you remember this show fondly. It had a dance troupe, the Solid Gold Dancers, who would dance to the Top Ten tunes of the week. It was tacky, but it was fun.

Dramas

Nashville (2012–current)
This series focuses on the performers, song-writers and music industry people in Music City. The two main stars are Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere. It is basically a good old fashioned soap opera with music. Not a musical, but a drama. There have been concert specials of the stars showcasing their very real musical chops.

Smash (2012–2013)
This behind the scenes look at the making of a Broadway musical never really found it’s way to great success. But those that watched it loved it for what it was: a celebration of Broadway — it’s music and stars. Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty starred as the 2 women who wanted to play Marilyn Monroe in a musical entitled “Bombshell.” Along the way, there was plenty of drama and some great numbers as well as some ridiculous story lines too.

Glee (2009-2015)
This fun show followed the students in a Glee Club at McKinley High School. These kids were all misfits in their own ways… but they found power and success in the music. The early seasons were very successful and they were able to spin off a series of successful albums, singles and concert tours too. Some of the numbers were sung in character, while others were performance numbers. They also created some great mash-ups, where they took 2 or more songs and smashed them together into one great medley.

Empire (2015–current)
This show is Fox’s current hit drama about the going’s on in the world of hip-hop. It follows the Lyon family, ex’s Cookie and Lucious, and their 3 sons Jamal, Andre and Hakeem. Lucious is hip-hop royalty and 2 of his sons are performers, while the third is behind the scenes. The music is executive produced by Timbaland. The soundtrack from Season 1 debuted on the charts at #1, beating out Madonna’s last album.

Special Mention

So You Think You Can Dance (2005–current)
OK, so it is not a music show per se, but a dance show. But music is a big part of the routines, and I have discovered plenty of new music by watching this show. Plus they have had performances by up and coming musical acts too.

So have I missed any? I would love to hear from you.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

 

Idina Menzel in Concert
Friday, April 14, 2017
Greek Theatre

Idina. World Tour 2017

Songs performed: Queen of Swords, Small World, Seasons of Love, Don’t Rain on My Parade, The Way We Were, Everybody Knows, Cake, Black Dog, I’m Not That Girl, Perfect Story, Wind Beneath My Wings, Defying Gravity, I Do, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Rock Steady, No Day But Today, Dear Prudence, Do You Want to Build A Snowman?, For Good, Let It Go, I’ll Be Seeing You, I See You

Idina-MenzelComments: Idina Menzel, star of stage and screen, opened the 2017 season at the Greek Theatre. It was the latest stop on her “Idina.” World Tour.

I knew Idina from her Broadway shows — Rent and Wicked. Plus, of course, her work on Disney’s “Frozen.” Not to mention her turn on Fox’s “Glee” and the remake of “Beaches” from earlier this year. So yes, I am familiar with her powerhouse vocals. Plus her acting chops too. Her recent pop albums though, never heard anything from them.

The show started around 8:40 PM with Idina and her band playing “Queen of Swords” from her recent album “Idina.” Idina even played banged on some drums during one of the instrumental breaks of the song.

Her star-making roles in “Rent” and “Wicked” provided some of the highlights of the night. “Seasons of Love” was performed in a more upbeat version than the original, and the audience was encouraged to sing along. “No Day But Today” was also an audience participation number about the importance of living life and not taking anything for granted.

The numbers from “Wicked” she sang were “Defying Gravity,” “I’m Not That Girl” and “For Good” (which she sang a capella). And yes, she can hit those high notes on “Defying Gravity.” I saw “Wicked” in Dallas last year, and my thought was the woman playing Elphaba was not as good as Idina (but who is?).

She paid tribute to various artists throughout the night with inspired cover versions: Barbra Streisand (“Don’t Rain on My Parade”/”The Way We Were”), Aretha Franklin (“Rock Steady”), Bette Midler (“Wind Beneath My Wings”), Simon and Garfunkel (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”), the Beatles (“Dear Prudence”) and even Led Zeppelin (“Black Dog” during the middle part of the new song “Cake”).

Idina shared that she is in love, and that she is going to be getting married soon. The new song “Cake” is for her fiancé. The chorus goes “One man’s poison is another man’s cake.” What does that say about Taye Diggs — Her first husband and the father of her child?

Idina acknowledged how she can be a contradiction. She knows she has a lot of young fans from “Wicked” and “Frozen.” But then again, she is a Jewish girl from NY whose middle-aged gay fans want to see her be the “sassy diva” and drop a few f-bombs. Which she did a few times during the night.

The stage was sort of simple, with a staircase near the back of the stage. Plus curtains with lights and videos screens on the back too. She had air blowing on her for “Wind Beneath My Wings” with a flying shawl around her (which she later ripped up during another number). She joked how things were lo-tech. Like how she had to move her stool around the stage, how it didn’t ascend through the floor or come down from the ceiling and fly around like some other divas.

She came across as very relatable and friendly. During “Let It Go,” she invited young kids to come up on stage with her and sing the song — mostly girls, but a couple of boys too. Some of the kids were very shy and didn’t want to sing. She dismissed the kids before the end of the song, as she had yet to hit the high notes that the song requires.

The new songs were all enjoyable. “Cake” had a bit of reggae rock vibe. While “Everybody Knows” was a dance song. The closing song for the night was “I See You” (another new song) which she dedicated to her fans (with images from them playing on the screens behind her).

Her band was compromised of top-notch musicians, and included a cellist and a violinist too. They were all given time to shine, including her backing vocalist (who helped out on “Rock Steady”).

Thanks to Idina and her band for a great time. She is a classy lady with a big voice — ready and willing to take on a movie role, a lead in a Broadway musical or just performing as her fun, lovable self for an adoring crowd.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

Spring Reviews Part 2

Welcome back to the blog. It’s time again for my reviews of different entertainment options. Part 1 concentrated on music. Part 2 includes movies, DVDs and TV shows. What have I been watching recently? Read on.

Movies

Hidden Figures
This is the untold story of the women who were behind the NASA astronauts launch into space. It follows 3 African American women who were human computers. They were good at math, and were instrumental in the success of the space program. It is a very inspiring story. Go see it. Grade: A

Elle
Isabelle Huppert plays the title character. She won a Golden Globe for it (plus got nominated for an Oscar). She is good, but the movie itself is not that great. A schlocky tale of a woman who is raped by someone she knows, and acts almost as if nothing happened. Plus trying to figure out who raped her when she isn’t dealing with her job, her family, her ex and current lover. In French, with subtitles. Grade: C+

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Vin Diesel returns as the title character in this action sequel. Xander is a secret agent, who favors extreme sports and unconventional methods of working. The movie has plenty of action: car chases, shoot outs, brawls, even motorcycles on the water. Not much difference between this and the Fast and Furious franchise at this point. So you get a multicultural cast, exotic locales, and sex appeal. I enjoyed it for what it was. A good popcorn movie. Grade: B-

Loving
“Loving” is the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who challenged the laws against interracial marriage in VA. Interesting and moving story with good performances. Grade: A-

Fences
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star in this film adaptation of the August Wilson play. It concerns a working class garbage man who is married with children. He is not an easy man to love or get along with. He treats those around him at arm’s length. The performances are great, even if at times it feels like a filmed play (which it is). Grade: A-

Hacksaw Ridge
Mel Gibson directs and Andrew Garfield stars in this true-life tale of Desmond Doss. He is a conscientious objector during WWII, and serves as a medic during the battle at Hacksaw Ridge. He wants to serve, but will not carry a gun. The first half has Desmond in training and falling in love, the second part is on the battlefield where he saved 75 men. The movie is nominated for best actor, director and picture. It’s an old-fashioned war movie, that reminds us that hero’s come in all types of shapes and sizes. Grade: B+

Jackie
Natalie Portman stars as first lady Jackie Kennedy in this biopic. It follows Jackie during the week after her husband is assassinated. How do you compose yourself after experiencing something so tragic and so public? How do you move forward? I am surprised that this did not get a Best Picture nomination. Her performance may earn her the Best Actress award. Go see it. Grade: A

DVDs

The Purge: Election Year
The third movie in the “Purge” series. It fairs better than the second one, but it is still not as good as the first one. It concerns protecting a presidential candidate who wants to get rid of the annual Purge (the night where all crime including murder is legal). Grade: C+

The Lobster
Colin Farrell stars in this very strange, and at times, disturbing movie. In the not so distant future, everyone must be mated. If you are without a mate, you are turned into an animal. The title comes from the animal that Farrell’s character picks to turn into. At first, he is in some sort of government facility. Then he escapes and ends up in the woods. The first part of the movie I liked, the second half just got very weird and violent. Grade: C

Captain Fantastic
Viggo Mortensen (in his Oscar-nominated performance) stars as a father who is raising his brood of 6 kids off the grid in the Pacific Northwest. The family has to go out into the real world after a family tragedy. This movie raises a number of questions: what constitutes family? What is the best way to raise your kids? There are a few comedic moments in this movie. It becomes a bit of a road trip/fish out of water tale as the family leaves the forest for the city. I enjoyed it. Grade: A-

Ghostbusters
Melissa McCarthy and Kristin Wiig headline the cast of this all-female reboot. The cast is game, too bad they spent more on special effects than they did on jokes. The script and the director definitely let the ladies down. Includes guest appearances from the original stars too. Grade: C

Mechanic Resurrection
Jason Statham returns as the hitman for hire. Jessica Alba costars as his love interest. Jason must get back in the game and perform 3 hits before he can get out of the business and get his life back. Pretty forgettable movie, though I did like the one scene with the pool on the high-rise. Grade: C-

 

TV

Beaches
Another unnecessary remake. I liked it, but the original was better. The original movie has a special place in my heart. It was the movie Rasheed and I saw on our 2nd date. I even have a VHS copy of it. Grade: C+

Riverdale
I enjoyed “Riverdale” on the CW last week. An update of the Archie comics, the show played like a mix of 90210, Gossip Girl and a bit of Twin Peaks. It will be interesting to see how the season progresses. Grade: B+

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Please sound off in the comments, if you disagree or agree with my take on things.

KiltManinSoCal is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. Be sure to check out the latest T-Shirts for sale here, including Marriage Equality and Real Men Wear Kilts lines. They make great gifts for friends, family and loved ones.

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