Mewsings from Lowecat (aka Indianacat)

My rants, ravings, and overall 'mewsings' on life, the universe, and everything.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicago Music of the Night

It's rare that this blog will have a review of anything in the entertainment industry.  There's plenty of people more qualified than I to review on a consistent basis.  That's why I don't review a lot of things.  However, this past Saturday, I attended a concert in Chicago that was well worth the time and money.  This is part review, and part sharing of the event. 

As anyone who has read my blogs, my Facebook (FB) page, and/or my twits on twitter know, I am a major fan of Phantom of the Opera in all its' lives.  Except the really graphic horror POTO flicks.  Sorry, blood and gore aren't my thing.  I've been a phan of Andrew Lloyd Weber's musical since it came out in the 80s.  My list of favorite performers who have played the tortured musical genius are Michael Crawford, who originated the role on stage in London and NYC; Ramin Karimloo, Gerard Butler, and Paul Stanley (Gerry used to be #2, until I watched POTO 25 at Royal Albert Hall.  Ramin took that #2 spot from Gerry, much to the dismay of some of my fellow Indiana Tarts and Tartans GB fan group!).

That being said, when Mr. Karimloo announced on his website that he would be performing in the US this year, I decided to move Heaven and Earth  - short of sellin' my beloved motorcycle, Tig, that is -  to go.  Turned out that the closest he would get to Indiana would be Chicago. You can find outo more about his US concert schedule and other things at his websiteL

I couldn't get tickets to the meet and greet before the show, but did get a ticket to the concert.   That's where I went after the disasterous (for me) ride on Saturday.  Tig dropped his clutch cable right at the start of the ride!  It also prevented me from being able to ride to the concert.  Probably a good thing, as you'll find out later.

The concert was held at a venue called Park West, on Armitage Avenue in Chicago.  This was my first foray back to Chitown since 2005 when Gerard Butler's 'Beowulf and Grendel' was shown and I vowed that it would be a cold day in Hell before I'd ever drive solo in Chi.  Well, Hell might not have frozen over, but drivin' on one's own in Chitown is still an adventure! 

Park West is a small venue, able to support 1000 persons in comfort.  It also provides for a very intimate experience between the performer and the audience.  More on that in a moment.  

A friend of mine from the IN Tarts and Tartans did get to do the meet and greet, and reported that Mr. Karimloo was open, giving, and approachable during the session.  She reported that he showed an obvious interest and appreciation in his fans, and spent more than two or three minutes talkin' to the lucky few hundred who got tickets for that experience.  

The concert began just a little past 730, and was enjoyable from the start.  There were seven members of the band, including Mr. Karimloo.  Shelly (?) was the only female in the group and one of the guitarists.  There were four guitarists, a keyboardist, and a drummer.  It was obvious that the band held a great amount of friendship and respect for each other.  Ms. Shelly (?) <Sorry, darlin', I cannot for the life of me remember your last name, which is CRS syndrome in full bloom, as I really loved that song you performed solo!) performed a wonderful solo that I think was written on her own, and truly believe the lyrics originally included Chicago, not just referencing it for the concert.  Though it did get a response from the audience.  She also sang with Mr. Karimloo on 'There's a Place for Us' from 'West Side Story'.  Their voices blended wonderfully, and Mr. Karimloo and Ms. Shelly induldged in some innocent embracing during the song that just added to the ambiance.  

((I hate to put a small negative in here, BUT, the only thing that detracted from her singing was Ms. Shelly's tendency to gestiulate during her singing when she wasn't playin' guitar.  Whether it's nerves or just something she does - such as making a fist and holding it against her face or holding one hand out to measure beats - it's just a wee bit distracting, love.  Course, I'm not a seasoned performer, and can only sympathize with how intimidating an audience can be <my last solo in front of an audience was in State Music competition in high school>.  The gesticulating will probably lessen as y'all grow more comfortable with singing in front of large audiences)).

The set was a pleasing mixture of broadway/show tunes, original Ramin Karimloo creations, music from his Sheytoons group (which you can find on YouTube  He did not performo 'Til I Hear You Sing' from Love Never Dies.  In case you wonder, Mr. Karimloo portrayed the Phantom in ALW's follow up to POTO, Love Never Dies.  It is still going on strong in Australia, but closed in the UK.  More's the pity.  You should check out his work as The Phantom on the LND website, and the CD. 

When he announced that he would never perform "TIHYS' again, the audience reacted with saddness, but I suspect there might be a contractual reason for that.  LND is not yet in the public domain, and performing that song might involve the payment of royalties.  Something that Mr. Karimloo's band might not be able to afford.  Unlike "The Music of the Night" which he did perform, much to everyone's delight.  "TMOTN' has been out for over two decades, and covered by many performers, including past Phantom performers.  Adding that to his set likely didn't cost anything for the band.  I don't know this for a fact, but it certainly makes sense.

Another thing that I found highly enjoyable was that Mr. Karimloo brought his own unique touch to the 'cover' songs - non orignal songs from Broadway and film - that the band performed.  Whether it was additional lyrics or a speeded up tempo, those added touches made the songs refreshing and new to me.  It enhanced rather than dtracted from my enjoyment.  Anyone can perform them as written and make them enjoyable.  Mr. Karimloo's small touches made them unique and memorable while not taking away from the original composition.  Fact is, I've never heard a more joyful and energetic 'Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'" from 'Oklahoma' in my life! 

The Chicago concert was sold out, at least 900 people of all ages were there to support him, to hear him sing (no pun intended) and enjoy the show.  There was one incident outside that shows the dark side to fandom.  Many of us lined up to get in beginning about five pm.  I got there at 430, but needed to get rid of coffee and fill my hungry lil pouch, so didn't get the opportunity to be first in line.  Did see where the bus was parked (and figured that would be the stage door), and was pretty well forward in the line on Armitage.  For some reason, instead of taking her rightful place in line, one woman decided to try to finesse her way into line at the front.  She paused by the area where I was standing with a lady who had brought her college age girls to the concert.  That lady challenged Ms. Cutinline, who walked on down to the very front.  Unfortunately, this person walked nonchallantly into the venue ahead of those who had waited patiently the minute the doors opened.  Some people think they're entitled, I guess.  She certainly didn't get an up front seat, and didn't get to meet the man later, so she got her just desserts in that respect.

However, a nice thing also happened outside.  A young (well, to me, anyone under 30 is young) lady was going down the line asking if anyone had an extra ticket to sell.  The lady in front of me did, as did someone behind me.  A small bidding war started, but the lady in front had answered first, and only wanted $30 for the $50 ticket.  She won the war, and the little lady ran to get cash and ran back in time to get her ticket.  Bravo! 

There was one point of the concert that had me in tears while everyone else was enjoying the fun.  Mr. Karimloo is a very spiritual person.  He made no secret of his being born in Iran, and shared that his family had escaped the country in his youth, eventually winding up in Canada.  He and the band broke into 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee', which he invited the audience to sing along if we knew it.  That's when I broke down in tears, missing my beloved father somethin' fierce at that moment.  Because Jen (my Tart member friend) had gotten us about four rows from the stage, and the lights occasionally highlighted us, I feared Mr. Karimloo would see me cryin' my eyes out and get the wrong impression.

 Bein' a minister, Daddy often sang that in church, and it was one of his favorites.  Not an absolute favorite, but a favorite none the less.    Because of being bent over hiding my weeping from him, I didn't see, but could certainly hear, the good time the band was havin' with the hymn.  The drummer and two of the male guitarists sang in perfect harmony the refrain 'Just a closer walk'  which got laughs from the audience and earned them the title 'The Soggy Bottom Trio' from Mr. Karimloo.  All in good fun, and nothing that I took offense to.  Poor Jen was trying her best to comfort me, knowing why I was cryin' (Hell, I'm shedding tears just writin' about this!).   

That wasn't the only spiritual song that Mr. Karimloo performed, and his witness was all the more effective because he didn't proslytize.  He just witnessed his faith by sharin' his talent.  I challenge any member of the audience to have taken offense at his sharin' like that. 

The size of the venue allowed for an intimate feel to the concert.  The audience members felt able to speak to Mr. Karimloo, and he often answered back!  In fact, yours truly got an opportunity to interact with him when he came out to do a solo encore.  Mr. Karimloo sat at the keyboard to perform his own unique spin on Leonard Cohen's 'Allelujah'.  Before he sang, he spoke of how people got to the venue.  One gentleman called out that he'd walked, and Mr. Karimloo replied that he'd walk with them.  Then I called out, 'How about those who rode?'  Well, he thought I meant 'rowed', then I clarified with 'Motorcycle.'  

"What kind do you have?"  he asked. 

I called out, "1981 Seca 750 Yamaha!" 

He was amused with the way I identified it, saying something about the tendency of bikers to rattle off the whole pedigree of their bike.  That led him to mention his purchase of a Harley while he was starring in 'Love Never Dies'.  "I would be all in leather, riding to the theatre, and people would think I was in the Hell's Angels and clear the way for me.  I'd call out, 'Thank you, darlings!'  And keep on going." 

That kind of interaction with the fans happened throughout the concert.  It was unscripted patter, and I dearly hope he maintains that kind of dialouge with his fans in the rest of his concerts, both in the US and overseas.  Now, he did refer to the audience as 'Chicago', which a lot of performers do whether the venue holds 1000 or tens of thousans.  I'm sure he was aware that fans had come from all over a five state area to see him.  But, since he was performing in Chicago, it certainly made sense for him to refer to his audience in that manner.  That didn't detract from the intimacy of the setting and the audience interaction. 

All things said, the concert was wonderful.  Mr. Karimloo is talented and shared all of his talents with us.  He sings, plays several instruments (guitar, piano, and banjo!), is a more than competent song writer, and has a delightful comic streak.  If you don't get to see his concerts in the Eastern US, then at least try his CDs.  He just released 'Human Heart' in June, and there's also a self titled CD 'Ramin'.  Try his 'Sheytoons' you tube channel, and if you do a search on Ramin Karimloo on You Tube, you'll see a lot of his work in Love Never Dies, Les Miserables, and POTO. 

I've followed Mr. Karimloo on twitter for some time, and he even tweeted to me about my other passion, Sons of Anarchy (Season 5 starts in a few hours from this posting, by the way!).  Naturally, when I arrived at the venue, a tweet went out to him to tell him the biker chick with the kitty cut was present and accounted for, with a present for him. 

Though unable to attend the meet/greet, it was always my intention to go to the stage door after the concert to try to meet him.  I did purchase a pre - authographed picture (and a tee shirt) from his brother at his souvenir table at the concert, but wanted an opportunity to speak to him for just a few moments. 

Well, quite a few other people, maybe less than 50, had the same idea, and were crowded around the stage door the minute the concert ended (maybe even before the second encore with the entire band!).  One couldn't miss the big red tour bus sittin' outside the stage door! 

We began to wait, and it started to sprinkle.  And sprinkle, and then it rained.  Not a hard rain, just a steady Chicago Midwestern drizzle.  It was also cold, and I was glad to have worn long sleeves with my shirt and kitty cut!  We continued to wait, though a few people gave up from the steady rain.  

Now, having had some experience in the entertainment industry, I know that it takes awhile for performers to 'strike the set'.  Mr. Karimloo's band had to pack their own things, they didn't have roadies to do it for them.  Course, there wasn't a major big set to take down, but when you consider all the guitars, amps, microphones, keyboard, the drum set, etc., that doesn't get packed away in five minutes! 

One of the first band members to come outside was the drummer.  The poor little guy was only wearin' a short sleeved tee against the weather, and it caught him off guard.   So did the number of people crowded around the door.   This was the other thing that made me go into 'biker chick' mode.   These fans, in their desire to see Mr. Karimloo, were literally blocking the path from the door to the bus!  It made the progress unsafe for the band, and for the fans. 

Yup, y'all guessed right.  Ole Cat got her tail fluffed up and tried to get these people to use a little common sense and courtesy.  "Hey, folks, can we please clear a path for the band?  This really isn't good!" 

The people who were crowded around the stage door just looked at me.  One of the few men had the balls to tell me off.  "Just because you're dressed like a bad ass doesn't make you one!  We don't have to listen to you!" 

'Wanna bet, fella?'  Was my thought.  So every time the door opened, I continued that same mantra.  And got the same glare from the same guy.  And I continued to call that same request out. 

So Chris, the drummer, picked his way through the mass of fans at the front, calling out, "I'm only the drummer!' and trying to keep his deep dish pizza from gettin' wet.  Once he got through the crowd, I said, "C'mon this way, darlin', just watch the bus's bucket and hoses!'"  He got safely onto the bus with his pizza box, and when he went back, it was through the front of the venue.  Poor guy.

The keyboardist made many forays to and from the bus, runnin' the gamut of the people pressed against the stage door.  I dunno.  Maybe they were just tryin' to stay dry, but from the behavior of the one dude, I'm sorry to say that might not have bene the case. 

After half an hour of waiting, some of the girls that were planted at the stage door started calling out demands for Mr. Karimloo to come out to talk to them.  "We're fans!  He needs to come out!  We're waiting in the rain!" 

"C'mon you guys!  He'll come out when he's done packin' his gear!  Be patient!" 

"Shut the F___ up, bi---h!" 

"No, I won't!  If you're truly a fan, you'll wait patiently and not make demands on the man!" 

Unfortuantely, this same group, Mr. Smart Aleck and his girls kept up their own mantra every time the damn door opened.  They even kept it up when one of the venue staff told us he would be out once he'd finished packing his gear!  UGH! 

This leads me to a rant.  The same one ranted at the time of the Superbowl, when Indianapolis had celebrity visitors.  It seems that this rant needs a rerun here. 

Celebrities do NOT owe their fans a damn thing!  Especially if they've just completed a performance in which they'd given their heart, soul, and energy into givin'!  A two hour set, even with breaks, is as rough on them as an eight hour work day is to us.  When the concert is over, they want nothing more than to be able to kick off the shoes and relax.  

Celebrities who are not performing, but attending an event, whether it's a sports event, a concert, a movie, their child's graduation, or just dinner out, DO NOT OWE their fans an autograph, a picture, or their time! 


'Oh, sure, Myra.  You can say that cause you've met so many celebrities/stars in your life!" 

Yeah, I've been blessed since the 70s, getting to meet people like De Kelley, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy, Mark Lenard, Nichelle Nichols, and other original Star Trek stars during the 70s.  To sit with De during an autograph session, to have an early morning breakfast after Derbycon in Louisville KY with James Doohan. 

I was very blessed and lucky to be picked by Mr. Sutter to attend the first SOA Fan Challenge event last November and meet him, Ms. Sagal, Mr. Rivera, Ms. Renton, Mr. Ornstein, Mr. Reid, and Mr. Callie (and Ms. McNally Sagal as well!).  To be able to call Mr. Emilio Rivera my Seca friend and to have both Ms. Renton and Mr. Ornstein as personal friends gives me joy and is something I would never violate.  

I got to meet blogger extraordinare April Macintyre Neale of Monsters and Critics fame last November as well. Someone else I love dearly as a personal friend. 

During all these meetings, I tried to be respectful of their time, and of them as people.  I didn't demand from them, and hope they remember me fondly for that. 

That's why I feel protective of those in the public eye, and try to look out for their safety and their privacy.   They ARE entitled to a private life just the same as us.  And they are entitled to respect and courtesy. 

Sometimes fans forget this.  They feel that they paid $$$ to see a show and the star should be willing to bend over and kiss the fans' nether regions.  And this 'you owe me' attitude pisses me off, bigtime. 

Many stars/celebs are very grateful to their fans for their support.  But in the back of their minds lurks the fear that someone out there might take it too far.  It's happened in the past, and may happen again.  Look at Teresa Saldana; the actress in 'My Sister Sam'.  Look at the stalkers of David Letterman and other actors/celebs.  Is it any wonder that they hire bodyguards?  That they are a bit cautious?  Hell no! 

OK, rant over. 

Finally, one of Mr. Karimloo's people came out to the door and told the fans crowded around it exactly what I'd been tellin' them from the get go.  He told them they needed to load the bus, the gear was heavy, and they were creating a safety hazard.  He told them he wasn't sending anyone away, just asked us to get behind a tree that was some 10 feet away from the bus.  Which was close enough to see the band, but not so close that they couldn't get to the bus to load their belongings and gear. 

There was some muttering and cussing that met that, but ole biker chick also kinda helped herd the fans to the designated spot, and stood in front of the more vocal ones that had talked back to me to prevent them from crowding the bus.  There was now an open path between the stage door and the front entrance of the bus.  Mr. Smart Aleck did try to get in front of me, and get his harem there as well, which put him beyond the safety zone. 

"Sorry, darlin', but you're blocking the band's path to the bus.  Don't make me have to do somethin' we'll both regret!" 

To my surprise, he moved back.  He muttered a few curses, but he stepped back to where he belonged. 

The crew began packing the bus, and finally Mr. Karimloo came out of the stage door.  He was very surprised at the number of people who had braved the rain to wait for him. 

"Let me get my stuff on the bus, and I'll come back out to talk to you!"  he promised.

He was no more than two feet from me.  I reached out, touched his arm, and said, "Baby, this weather is NOT good for your voice."

"You're right.  There's got to be a better way,"  he replied and went to the bus to deposit his gear. 

"I'm sure there is, and you can tell 'em the biker chick said so!" 

He grinned back at me and said, "Ah, my riding friend!"   He came up with the idea of meeting with us all out in the foyer between the front entrance and the interior of the venue. 

At first, none of the fans moved.  Maybe they feared he was tryin' to fake us out. 

"That's a great idea!"  I piped up, making like a shepherd and tryin' to get the fans to move that way. 

The group finally moved, and I brought up the rear in case anyone tried to run up on him as Mr. Karimloo walked back to the stage door.  I honestly never thought he was fakin' us out.  And he didn't.

By the time I finally got around the corner, he had appeared in the lobby, and naturally the Smart Aleck and his harem of whiners/demanders were the first to glomp on to him and demand (not ask, but DEMAND) his autograph and a picture.   No please, no thank you to him (at least that I recall.  Maybe they did, but I do recall hearin' one of the whiners say 'Sign this!'  GRRRRRR). 

The majority of us who had waited outside the stage door were courteous of him, asking rather than demanding.  He took time to pose for pictures with us, and to sign CDs and DVDs.  He talked to us like he was happy to spend the extra time.  I waited my turn, and asked one of the fans if she'd take a picture of us with my Iphone.  She took two. 

I then got to present him with the present I'd brought and made.  It was a picture of me on Tig, the bike, autographed to thank him for sharing his gift.  The second part of the framed present was a picture of Tig, the bike, on his own, and an autograph from Tig 'Ride to Live, Live to Ride'.  Between the two pictures I'd glued two uncirculated IN quarters, so he could see the front and back. 

"Those quarters might never come off the picture,"  I remarked.

"I know they won't!"  He'd peeked into the bag and commented, "Ride on!" 

"They're superglued!"  I explained. 

He seemed really touched to be given a gift from the heart.  I know he was carrying it the remainder of his time with us.

After retrieving my phone and walking away for a breather, I realized that the apology for cryin' during the hymn didn't get made.  I ventured back inside, where he was talking with a small group of five or six fans.  Instead of pullin' a rude stunt and interruptin', I waited for him to finish talkin' with 'em, then touched his arm and explained why I'd come back.

"Don't ever feel you have to apologize for being moved by the music," he assured me.

I knew he was tired, but it was important to me to explain why I cried.  "I lost my daddy just four months ago.  He was a minister.  That was one of the songs he liked."  It all came out in a rush. 

"Bless your heart!"  and I got a quick hug from him. 

"I just wanted y'all to know that was why I was cryin', and didn't want y'all to think I was offended or anything."

"And to think we were joking around!" 

"Don't worry.  I wasn't offended.  Was more afraid you were by me." 


He then departed through the doors to the foyer, and I walked out to stand with the group of ladies he had spoken with for some time.

My friend had parked at the same garage I had, but I texted her to go on ahead without me, as we were still waitin', and I knew she was tired.  I walked the short distance to the garage and my car, not fearin' the Chicago night streets.  No one bothered me, and I bothered no one. 

Once safe and sound in my car, I tweeted to him of the safe arrival.  Didn't get a tweet back and didn't expect it, just wanted him to know out of courtesy, and started my long drive home. 

Not everyone might get two opportunities in one night to speak with oneof their favorites.  Hell, maybe my ballsy second dip in the pool might've come off the wrong way.  I hope not.   I hope he understood and think he did.