Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Caped Crusaders "Return" Again

There have been many different versions of Batman since his 1939 debut in the pages of Detective Comics #27, but there’s one that still resonates strongly in the memories of the baby boomer generation: the campy 1966-68 Batman TV series that starred Adam West and Burt Ward. While some “serious” fans dislike the series, many others, like writer-director Kevin Smith, are advocates for and devotees of the show. The colorful series has experienced a renaissance and re-appreciation in recent years. In 2014, the entire series was released on Blu-ray and DVD in a beautifully re-mastered edition. DC Comics (who had distanced themselves from the series in the past) has been publishing stories set in the show’s continuity, in a wonderfully retro digital and print series entitled Batman ’66. Now, they've released a fantastic new animated movie, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders features the voices of Adam West as Batman, Burt Ward as Robin and Julie Newmar as Catwoman, reprising their iconic roles from the show. As the movie opens, we learn that The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Catwoman have once again escaped prison. They’ve teamed up to wreak havoc on Gotham City, and take over the world. Who are the only ones that stand in their way? Why our stalwart heroes, Batman & Robin, of course! But what happens when Batman is given a dose of a strange drug by his arch enemies, and turns into a very different sort of Dark Knight? The story that follows is a loving valentine to the TV series and its unique style, with campy dialogue, cool Bat-gadgets, narrow escapes from deadly death traps, and battles with vile villains. I won’t spoil the fun by giving away any more of the plot, but if you’re a fan of the show, this will be like catnip (pun most definitely intended) for you.

James Tucker & Michael Jelenic’s screenplay hits all the right notes. You’ll definitely feel like you’re watching a lost episode of the original 1960s series. West, Ward and Newmar all have great fun returning to their characters. The supporting voice actors are well cast, managing to give their own spin to The Joker, The Penguin and The Riddler, whose original portrayers (Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith and Frank Gorshin, respectively) have sadly, passed away over the years. There are plenty of visual treats and Easter eggs for fans, and the animation nicely captures the essence of the show’s pop art look. This is a delightful film that pays tribute not only to the classic TV show, but the entire history of the Batman character. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and for digital download. Here’s a link to the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGeQKu8RXDc. By the way, a sequel (Holy follow-up, Batman!) has already been announced, with William Shatner joining the fun to portray Two Face, a member of Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery who never got to appear in the TV series. So, in a sense, we can look forward to Batman vs. Captain Kirk in the near future!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Newton Theatre hosts "The Genesis Show"

Genesis fans all have their favorite period of the bands long history. Some enjoy the progressive rock sound and elaborate costumes & theatricality of the Peter Gabriel era. Others favor the middle period, when Phil Collins took over the lead singer role. That’s when the group moved away from the costumes, but retained the elaborate lyrics & progressive rock style, while adding a hint of jazz into their music. And there are many fans of the band’s third version, as the group re-invented itself yet again and achieved its greatest mainstream success as a trio, with Collins, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford adding pop & R&B sensibilities to their sound. Whatever time period is your favorite (and many fans, like myself, enjoy the band’s entire ouvre) you can find multiple tribute bands out there on the road who play the music of Genesis.

The Genesis Show - photo by John V
One of the best is The Genesis Show, who performed a show at The Newton Theatre in New Jersey on Saturday night, November 19. This band narrows its focus to the 1976-82 period of Genesis' musical output. For this concert, the group recreated music from the “Wind & Wuthering Tour,” which was featured on the 1977 live album, Seconds Out. This was the last recording by Genesis to feature original guitarist Steve Hackett.  The Genesis Show, led by Jeff Giulanni on lead vocals and drums, did a masterful job recreating the elaborate live arrangements & sound of songs like “Eleventh Earl of Mar” and “Supper’s Ready.”  The appreciative audience of diehard fans clearly enjoyed the show, as the group moved its way through classics like “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” and “The Carpet Crawlers,” and a beautiful rendition of “Your Own Special Way,” highlighted by Giulanni’s passionate singing.

The group also managed to sneak in a surprise or two, including compelling takes on “Blood on the Rooftops” and “Unquiet Slumber for the Sleepers...In That Quiet Earth.” Other band members included the nimble fingers of Andre De Champlain on bass, the fluid guitar work of Stephen McQuaid, and the soaring sounds of Matt Thomas on keyboards. And let’s not forget the solid drumming of Vince Corda, who faithfully recreated the double drum sound originally provided by Chester Thompson and Collins, by banging the skins alongside Giulanni. Their skills were especially evident on an energetic version of "Dance on a Volcano" and "Los Endos." The evening also featured a solid light show (a staple of Genesis concerts throughout the years) and a number of slides & videos echoing the art & music of the “Wind & Wuthering” period were projected onto the walls near the stage during several songs.

The band members are very clearly fans of these songs, and their passion & love for Genesis was echoed in their excellent playing. It was a terrific and entertaining night of music, and the band left the crowd wanting more. After two excellent sets, and an encore, we were all clearly basking in the “Afterglow” (pun intended) of a fantastic concert. The Genesis Show is a South Jersey/Philadelphia based band, and many of their shows & appearances are centered in that area. If you’re a fan, and you get the chance to see them, it is truly worth the trip. Here’s a link to their website: http://www.thegenesisshow.com, and some video highlights of their live performances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xfjh2HONWw.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Shaman's Powerful, Moving Odyssey

Have you ever felt the universe was pointing you in a certain direction? Perhaps you’ve thought of changing your life in significant ways and doing something different? In This Trip Will Change Your Life: A Shaman’s Story of Spirit Evolution, Jennifer Monahan tells a deeply personal story of a series of transformative events. It’s a moving & emotional account of a fateful time in her life that leads Jennifer towards her true destiny: becoming a shamanic healer. This mesmerizing book recounts the significant changes in Jennifer’s world as she transitions from living & working in the corporate arena, and shifts her focus to use her inner talents to help others. The results of this journey and how it changes her outlook on life, love & the universe are truly profound.

One of the best things about the book is that Jennifer takes the time to convey the spiritual aspects of what a shaman is, and how their inner light & energy allows them to focus on healing & guiding people. This odyssey of self-discovery takes Jennifer across the world, and unfolds in unique & intriguing ways. Her openness & willingness to share all the details of this amazing story is truly inspiring. It's obvious that this is only the first chapter of her adventure, and that the universe has a lot more in store for her in the future. This Trip Will Change Your Life will surprise you, delight you & move you. Readers just might find this wonderful book will inspire you to reflect on your own life choices, and be open to all the possibilities that are out there for you in the world.

Now, the more secular & rational minded among you may scoff at this sort of thing, but I invite you to keep an open mind and read this beautifully written, deeply felt book. It is a powerful story of love, light & the joy of accepting all the glorious things the world has to offer. Jennifer is an extraordinary person who's bravely recounted a significant and remarkable change in her life. It affected & inspired me, and I think will do the same for you. I heartily recommend This Trip Will Change Your Life: A Shaman’s Story of Spirit EvolutionThe book is now available for purchase on sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Here are links to Jennifer’s author bio on She Writes Press: http://shewritespress.com/portfolio/jennifer-b-monahan/ and her shamanic healing site at Spirit Evolution: https://spiritevolution.co.

Full disclosure: Jennifer & I are friends, and I read & commented on an early version of the book for her. I’m writing this post to help get the word out about this compelling story. I'm glad she shared it with all of us. It took a lot of courage, and I commend her for it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cheap Trick Rocks & Rolls In Ridgefield

Cheap Trick at The Ridgefield Playhouse - photo by John V

Cheap Trick strode onto the stage at The Ridgefield Playhouse on November 1, and proceeded to give the audience an hour & a half of full throttle rock & roll: it was an electrifying show. The band can always be counted on to provide fans with an excellent performance, and this evening was no exception. Lead singer Robin Zander was in fine voice, and guitarist Rick Nielsen was as exuberant as ever, running around the stage, and tossing off his solos with wild abandon. Tom Petersson contributed his usual superb playing on the 12-string bass, and even took a turn on lead vocals for a wonderful cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting For The Man.” Since the departure of drummer &  founding member Bun E. Carlos in 2010, Nielsen’s son Daxx has been behind the kit for the group, and he provided solid & thundering support during the show.

The set list featured songs stretching across the group’s long career, from crowd-pleasing classics such as “She’s Tight” and “Baby Loves To Rock” to the “hits” like “I Want You To Want Me” and the ubiquitous power ballad “The Flame.” The band also treated us to a couple of tunes from their most recent album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy, Hello, which was released in April. Nielsen featured his usual assortment of custom guitars throughout the show, and tossed scores of picks into the audience at regular intervals. The Illinois-based band also kept the audience updated on the score of the World Series game being televised that night, as the (now World Champion) Chicago Cubs were playing during the evening. Of course, almost all of the fans in the near sellout crowd were on their feet for the entire concert, singing along & having a great time. You don’t sit down at a Cheap Trick show.

After being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, and releasing their latest album, the band shows no signs of slowing down after 33 years. I’ve seen them numerous times, and they sound as good now as they did back in the 70s & 80s. They rocked The Ridgefield Playhouse (a fantastic venue to see a show, by the way) and left us wanting more! They're true road warriors and rock & roll icons. If you haven’t seen Cheap Trick before, get out there and attend a show. If you have seen the band, but haven't gone to one of the group's concerts in a while, it’s time to go see this awesome band again. Cheap Trick continues to perform regularly, and they’re currently scheduled to be on tour through June of 2017. Here’s a link to their official site: https://www.cheaptrick.com.

Set list:
Hello There
Elo Kiddies
California Man (The Move cover)
On Top of the World
In The Street (Big Star cover: That 70s Show theme)
If You Want My Love
Baby Loves to Rock
Ain't That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
She's Tight
When I Wake Up Tomorrow
No Direction Home
Waitin' for the Man (Velvet Underground cover: Lead Vocals by Tom)
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Dream Police
Never Had A Lot to Lose