Friday, November 25, 2016

A Lot of Sumthin', Sumthin"

A tradition since 2010 and Neil Young said "Tonight's the night" ~ Holmes

I broke Thanksgiving eve tradition and Holmes was not going to let it slide. Instead of our usual pre-turkey revelry, I'd been invited to dinner and a big show, necessitating we reschedule our annual standing Wednesday date to post-holiday.

Let's just say he wouldn't commit to a replacement date, but I'm still working on him.

Instead, my fellow music lover and I hoofed it over to Julep, which turned out to be a destination for others show-bound, not just the one we were attending - the king and queen of hearts world tour featuring Mary J.Blige and Maxwell at the Coliseum - but also Joe Bonamassa at the Landmark.

Not a lot of overlap of those two audiences on a Venn diagram, if you think about it.

But everybody's gotta eat, so we wasted no time in getting to the business of ordering because our show began at the ungodly hour of 7:00 and I'd been instructed to skip lunch (easier because I hadn't gotten up until 11:45 after a late night).

A bottle of Sokol Blosser Rose got the evening started right, followed by Hongatonk oysters from Maryland, which came pre-dressed with blood orange mignonette, while the soup special - and it's most definitely suddenly soup season - of duck confit and black bean in a clear broth was a stellar marriage of rich and earthy.

For the main event, perfectly pan-seared scallops were gussied up (and made obscene) with Woodson Mill polenta, oyster mushrooms, drawn paprika butter and hunks of buttermilk bleu cheese, while the larger appetite went with rockfish, although I believe he may have been swayed by the bacon, rice and collards underneath.

We had just enough time for me to get my chocolate fix with a three-layer flourless torte to accompany the last of the Rose before joining the throngs at the Coliseum, a process that involves not only having your bag checked, but a full body wanding to check for the kinds of things nobody should bring to a show.

Granted, I don't think I've been to the Coliseum in a dozen or so years, but this amped-up security was new to me. In fact, it had been so long that I was seeing the Coliseum with fresh eyes and, except for the truly awful concession stands and over-priced beer vendors, it wasn't nearly as big or unpleasant as I recalled.

Or maybe that's just because we arrived moments before Mary J. Blige appeared behind a curtain and began singing long before we could see her. Explosions and a light show announced the moment we finally laid eyes on the queen of hearts.

I'm not going to act like I was a long-time fan, but the woman has been making music for nearly a quarter of a century, so she's pretty much woven into the musical fabric of our lifetime whether you were paying attention or not.

Unlike many people in the crowd, I couldn't sing along to all of her older songs word for word, but that didn't stop me from picking up on MJ's bold-faced message of all pain, all the time, augmented by multiple costume changes that showed MJ is still in fine shape, even if she's yet to meet a man worthy of her.

At one point, she began a pointed lecture directed at the men in the room about treating their woman like a queen and staying faithful, then switched over to the womenfolk for some consciousness raising, reminding us not to take crap from our men.

Pshaw. Clearly that message was intended for some of the younger women in attendance because those of us of an age long ago learned that lesson. I would go so far as to say that it's a woman's perogative to determine the boundaries of a friendship or a relationship, a fact not unnoticed (and often commented on) by the males in my own sphere.

The show was a major production, a well-oiled machine, no doubt intended to justify the expense of the tickets, with elaborately-curated video screens behind the stage as if the performer alone wasn't enough to keep the crowd entertained.

But for me, the real excitement began when Prince's "Kiss" ended on the speakers and the lithe and handsome Maxwell came out in sunglasses and a three piece suit (to me, looking for all the world like a 21st century Harry Belafonte and that's some high praise), singing the opening song, "All the Ways Love Can Feel" from his latest album and showing off his falsetto without delay.

Effortlessly and gracefully sliding down the ramps from the upper stage level to the catwalk level allowed him to be up close with his adoring fans, of which I'm a late-comer. Trying to catch up, I've had his latest album "blackSUMMERS'night" on constant rotation in my car for a while now.

But even for long-time fans, it would be tough to beat Maxwell's take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work," in which he did a duet with Bush's vocal in front of a screen honoring the important musical figures we lost this past year and concluding with a nod to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The song alone is magnificent, Maxwell's cover of it has always been a stunner and the live performance of it - he was on his knees at one point - well, it was enough to make the entire show a must-see.

He got lots of applause when he got political about the challenging times we're living in post-election, saying that we just need to get through the next four years until Michelle Obama can be elected President. Amen.

Hearing "Lake by the Ocean" live was pure pleasure, although I can't say I recognized all the older songs this suave man did, but I'm honest enough to admit that just hearing his soulful croon and remarkable falsetto is enough for me, familiar or not.

Add in thrusting hips, frequent agility moves like splits and drops to the knee, not to mention how he cuts the air with his hand to punctuate what his kick ass band is doing, and I, for one, am not going to look away.

But where he truly won my heart was when he spotted an over-zealous security guard and set out to right a wrong.

"Let them dance!" Maxwell called from the stage. "Let them dance! Let them dance, please!" Finally, the guard who'd been trying to stop people from moving in the most natural way to soul music looked up, realizing he'd all but stopped the show.

"I know you're just doing your job," Maxwell said in his direction. "But these people came here to enjoy the music and dance. Let them!"

Needless to say, the guard did. Other than Mary J. Blige - who likely doesn't obey anyone - who wouldn't listen when Maxwell tells you what to do? I know I would. We're talking about the King of Hearts here.

Not that I think Holmes will take that for an excuse if he's quoting me Neil Young. My, my, hey, hey, we'll see.

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