Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Happy 40th, Close Encounters, and thank you


Close Encounters of the Third Kind is my favorite movie of all-time.

That's not a distinction I make lightly. I love all kinds of films -- Oscar winners and independent movies that don't get nominations, big-budget movies and those made on a shoestring budget, black and white or color. I have a laundry list of favorite actors and directors and make it a point to see all their films. But this one ... this is the one that has always stayed closest to my heart.

I don't remember the first time I saw it, I just recall repeated viewings on HBO and ABC. I've seen it in theaters a couple times over the past year and then again in otherwise complete darkness in front of Devils Tower a couple months ago. And even though I can recite all the lines with it, I never fail to be amazed and knocked out by it.

Like Francois Truffaut's Claude Lacombe asks in the movie, "Why?" Well, as a 10-year-old, it was bright and flashy and had a beautiful message. There is other life in the universe, and although the visitors might be a little frightening when they appear, ultimately they come in peace. They even communicate with us through music.

Some 40 years later, debates continue to rage on about Richard Dreyfuss' Roy Neary leaving his family behind to go on his ultimate adventure. How could he do it? Why would he do it? Even director Steven Spielberg has admitted the movie doesn't hold true to the person he became in the ensuing years. But even though he wrote it and helmed it, this is not Steven's story. It's Roy's. Ultimately, Spielberg is just servicing the tale of the character he created.

It says a lot about the time period Neary existed in. Families were starting to fall apart, children were confused by that. They didn't understand why one day everything could look so great and Dad could be the center of the universe, and the next day, all that could change. It happened to me and my family a few years later. It was happening to many others in that era.

Roy Neary is going on a journey. It's one that almost nobody around him understands. He meets Melinda Dillon's Jillian Guiler, she's on her own odyssey. Her son, Barry (Cary Guffey) forges a connection with these creatures. To him, they're playful and exciting. To her, they're something to be feared. But once they "borrow" her son, Jillian's as determined as Roy to buck the system to get to the place where she thinks she can find answers.

Dreyfuss, Dillon and Truffaut are supported by an array of supporting characters and they may not have garnered as much screen time but they're so essential to the film. Bob Balaban as cartographer-turned-interpreter Laughlin can be considered the audience's view. Arriving in the wind-swept desert and seeing the results of an encounter in the opening minutes, Laughlin is wide-eyed and a bit befuddled. He's been at conferences, but he didn't really comprehend the magnitude until he saw Flight 19 planes in perfect condition in the middle of the desert.

Lance Henriksen says almost nothing in the film, but as Robert, the bodyguard for Truffaut, I find myself seeking him out in the frame. When a cavalcade of UFOs of all shapes and sizes descend upon Devils Tower and the mothership later rises into view, I always think on his behalf, "How the hell am I supposed to protect him from this?"

There aren't any typical bad guys in the film, aside from perhaps the Army (led by Warren Kemmerlings' Major Walsh) trying to keep people from seeing what's going on at Devils Tower. OK, they're baddies, they gassed poor Larry, a bunch of birds and some farm animals. But they're only going to sleep for a few hours and wake up with a helluva headache.

You also can't hold anything against Teri Garr's Ronnie Neary. The protypical '70s housewife doesn't understand what's going on with her spouse. She's just trying to protect her children when her husband loses his job and obsesses about lights in the night skies.

Even though I've seen this film in the triple digits. I still discover new things about it all the time. Just recently, I noticed that possibly the oldest character in the film -- the Spanish-speaking sun-burned onlooker in the desert -- and one of the youngest, Barry, describe the mothership the same way: "The sun came out tonight," the elder says in halting Spanish. "Mom, look, the sun's here," Barry echoes when the aliens pick him up for a sleepover.

But the biggest eye-opener for me came on our own recent foray to Devils Tower. Mark and I set out to recreate as many shots as we could. What we found out is that director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond's work was even more impressive than we originally thought. Just the one shot of Roy driving a rental car in Moorcroft, Wyoming, proved to be a tricky matchup. No wonder he won the Oscar for cinematography. Every shot is so precise and distinctive, nothing is thrown away.

One of the surprises on location was that Roy and Jillian's first sight of the Tower is not as far away as it appears to be in the movie. Actually, the hill they climb up is just right around the corner. And not too far away from that, a couple of other scenes from the film were shot. That makes a lot of sense, since at "magic hour" every night during filming, the cast and crew stopped what they were doing so they could get scenes filmed at the monument.

And 40 years later, you know what else is amazing? How the groundbreaking, painstaking practical effects of UFOs whizzing by hold up better than anything on a big-budget, green-screen film. It doesn't look fake or false at all. So many people to commend on this front -- Douglas Trumbull advancing the industry with motion control photography, mothership designer Ralph McQuarrie, effects wizard Roy Arbogast, editor Michael Kahn (on his first Speilberg project) and all their teams.

Don't want to forget production designer Joe Alves, who found Devils Tower (with Jaws co-writer/actor Carl Gottlieb's assistance) and the other locations as well as building the box canyon on the largest set anyone had ever seen at this point in motion picture industry. Credit Alves for the gorgeous brightly colored board visualizing the sounds shared between the humans and the aliens. But, of course, save some accolades for the legendary John Williams. Not only for the five-tone greeting that we know so well, but also for the score that heightens the action and consequences for over two hours.

Most of all, to Steven Spielberg. He might not have made the same film today, but he made it the way it needed to be told at the time. It's Roy's story, and in some way, it's also my own. Not one of building Devils Tower in my living room and boarding a spaceship, not one of meeting aliens, but just taking a journey that has woven its way through the fabric of my life. One I'm immensely grateful for and still get so much joy out of encountering time and time again.

Friday, November 10, 2017

No need to cry on the horsey


Going to pop-culture conventions with my Sestra is a blast. We get to speak with people whose work has really touched us. The risk you run, though, is that over the course of just a minute or two, impressions can be irrevocably changed ... and sometimes not for the better.

Celebs at these functions usually fit into three categories -- ones who really get it, they might have been/still are fan girls and boys themselves. They make you feel like you're the only person they will meet that day. Then there are the ones who are very cordial -- as actors there's probably a reason they succeeded on that career path, right? And then there are those apparently there to rack up some fast cash. They couldn't care less and make you feel that way as well.

With that in mind, we headed to Spooky Empire in Orlando. The big draw for me was Richard Dreyfuss. I love compiling lists -- and Dreyfuss starred in my first three favorite movies -- Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Goodbye Girl. That made me a major fan, I've seen those movies in the triple-digits apiece and the bulk of his work since -- much of it in actual theaters upon release.

But Richard wasn't scheduled to be there until the second day, and we had some great familiar faces to meet the first night. Starting with Daphne Zuniga. We've seen her so many things in movies and on TV over the years with The Sure Thing and Spaceballs at the top of the heap.

Put her in the top celeb category, she was so engaging and attentive. Sestra showed her a Spaceballs magazine she hadn't seen before, and I explained to her that as a journalism major in college, an article on The Sure Thing was one of the first things I had published in the school paper. I tried to induce her to tell me the juicier details of The Sure Thing shoot. But after hypothesizing that I was still in journalism and might reveal tales not for publication, that fell by the wayside.

Daphne did say that the movie was cast perfectly, when she was 19 and co-star John Cusack was 16, and that they both were those characters. "I was like, come on, kid," she said about him joking around on the set. Zuniga remembered director Rob Reiner compelling them to enjoy the experience, because they had no idea how the finished product would fare in the marketplace. "And to this day, after 30 years, I still love it," she added. We do too.

She also talked about being pulled into a fun Twitter exchange with Mark Hamill and William Shatner, who have engaged in a light-hearted social media battle of Star Wars vs. Star Trek. "What would Princess Vespa say?" Bill tweeted at her. Daphne's perfect response? "She'd say whatever Mel Brooks told her to say."

We also spent time with two-fifths of The Breakfast Club. I praised Molly Ringwald for her excellent piece in The New Yorker in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein accusations and said I was really looking forward to the movie's upcoming Criterion Collection release on Jan. 2. Molly said she was too, adding that I should look into Criteron's streaming service, which enables viewers to see all the incredible extras on Criterion releases.

Sestra brought an excellent press booklet for The Breakfast Club she picked up in London to be autographed and Ringwald was so intrigued by it that she painstakingly took pictures of each page of her bio. Anthony Michael Hall -- who introduced himself to us as Michael -- wasn't quite as interested in his, but he was very polite and sweet.

The next day I dressed up as UFO-burned Jillian Guiler from Close Encounters of the Third Kind -- I think I might have been more recognizable if a buddy from the CE3K group who has a Roy Neary flight suit was able to make the event -- and prepared to meet Dreyfuss. I had a spiel prepared for weeks, about how "the fish movie and the alien movie and the Oscar movie made him one of my favorite actors for life." And then that bit about seeing all his movies, many of them in the theaters. It's easy to forget your lines when you get in front of the person, though.


Thanks to Sis, we had the fast pass, which put us behind the VIPs but ahead of general admission fans. That made it roughly a 90-minute wait -- he left for about 20 minutes for a pro photo op -- but I got a little jump-start when Richard animatedly waved at me while heading out for the shoot. I must have exclaimed, "He waved at me!" 10 times.

Usually I'm a quivering mess when it comes to meeting someone who looms so large, but I was able to keep calm enough to take pictures for Sestra, who creatively wished him a happy birthday with a special meme. I got my spiel out largely as practiced for a couple weeks before the event. But I wasn't prepped for his jovial response. Without missing a beat, he said, "You have impeccable taste."

Then I asked Dreyfuss if he knew who I was dressed up as. "I know who I think you are," Richard said. "Who am I?" I responded. "I'd be arrested if I told you what I was thinking," he continued. That might have had something to do with the cleavage and the luscious blonde locks. No wonder I got the animated wave! He penned that sentiment on the Jaws lobby card I brought for him to sign -- I'm pretty sure not many people can say they have something like that in their collection.

When I got to the Close Encounters lobby card, I said it was my favorite film of all and congratulated him on the 40th anniversary. "This is the one I expect to outlive me," Dreyfuss said. With all the films he has to choose from, I was taken aback and sincerely touched by that. We have a whole group of people on Facebook who will eagerly back me up on that sentiment.

I told him Mark and I had just gotten back from Devils Tower, where we spent some time recreating scenes shot by Oscar-winning director of photography Vilmos Zsigmond. Richard said Vilmos was very, very special and had enjoyed his visit to Steven Spielberg so much on the set of Jaws that he stayed in Martha's Vineyard (as his summer home) for the rest of his life. Dreyfuss also let me on a little secret, he had gotten to spend time with another CE3K alumnus earlier in the day -- Cary Guffey who played Barry Guiler in the film at the tender age of 4.

And then on to the third lobby card for The Goodbye Girl, the movie for which Richard won the Academy Award as Best Actor. I told him about how special it was since I watched it many, many times with my mom. "There's something about this one, I've never had more fun," he said. "I've had a lot of fun filming different movies for different reasons, but not like this one. I don't know why..." That was left hanging in the air, so that anyone with half a brain -- like me at that moment -- would know he meant the Oscar, the first one given to a male lead in a comedy. "You sure love a love story," I said off the cuff, echoing Elliot Garfield's sentiment at the end of the film. I wound up having five minutes in his company, a pretty solid amount of time for a man with a healthy line of eager fans.

It was a lot of fun posing for some pictures at the table and then again at the end of the day. Now I was back to my normal hair color (sorta), had washed off my sunburn and donned a Moon Over Parador shirt -- another of my favorite Dreyfuss movies. When it was my turn to take the posed picture by "Jaws," I told him my name again and he said, "I remember." See, he's a really good actor, because I ate that one up, even though I looked entirely different at this point.

Richard rested his head against me and then pulled away, and I immediately said, "No, no, come back!" So he obliged and leaned on me again as the photographer took the shot. But sensing he wasn't looking into the camera -- which proved to be true -- Dreyfuss asked her to take another picture. I got both of them for the price of one.

I added another signature to my ongoing X-Files project at Spooky Empire too. Stan Shaw -- who outside of his guest appearance in the Season 9 episode "Audrey Pauley" I probably know best from Fried Green Tomatoes -- didn't have a picture in The Complete X-Files book, but I wanted to talk with him about the late, great director Kim Manners and one of my favorite shows of the final season of the original run.

In "Audrey Pauley," Shaw's character, Stephen Murdoch, gets trapped with Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) while hanging on between life and death at a hospital. Stan recalled getting a call about the role from Manners, whom he knew from around town. The next day he was on set. "Kim's great," Shaw said. "The scene when I was in (Monica's) arms and disappeared, they had three people pulling me out of the frame as the camera moved around. It was magic."

So now I'll spare as much time for the guest who belongs in that lowest category as he did for me. It may be standard policy for celebs to do a table combo price, but not so John Cusack. It was full price for a photo and full price for a signature. This was after his sister, Joan, bowed out the day before the con opened, squashing our sibling pro photo op.

Anyhow, since I had Zuniga sign my Sure Thing DVD cover, I felt compelled to complete the set with John. It was super quick and he wrote right over Nicollette Sheridan. Sestra wasn't allowed to take a picture of me getting the autograph. "Oh yeah, Daphne's here too," Cusack said to me from underneath his ballcap. That would be the signature next to yours, John, I thought. And that was about it. But if my opinion was irrevocably altered, I didn't even notice. I was somewhere up about as high as the CE3K spaceship climbs after picking up Dreyfuss at Devils Tower.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Jedi strikes back

It was a veritable Star Wars Celebration for us at New York Comic Con this year.

We briefly met the Jedi, experienced Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens with a whole different mindset as a full orchestra fleshed out John Williams' scores and enjoyed Mark Hamill's self-deprecating one-man show. Too bad we missed out on The X-Files panel Sunday, but that really wouldn't have fit into the structure of said Celebration anyway. (And anyway the Con-goers who got in didn't see a preview of the first ep of the season like we did a couple years ago.)

But back to the first day of the con. Getting off the train at Penn Station, we quickly spotted signs of NYCC in full swing, with all makes and models of princesses and superheroes making their way over to the Javitz Center. As we neared the venue, the cosplay increased in direct proportion with the decreased open-mouthed head-shrugging New Yorkers.

For that opening day, Sestra and I donned our latest custom-made obscure outfits -- Team Slesar and Team Matheson shirts (with respective hashtags of #Hitchcock and #Zone). No one asked us about them, although one guy did want to take a picture with each of us. That was bizarre, but you come to embrace bizarre at conventions.

This year, Sis and I tried to win special lotteries from exclusive panels to cast signings for the various shows. Sis was lucky enough to snare inclusion to the Supermansion session, which featured an All-Star cast topped by Bryan Cranston and Seth Green. My lone victory was the chance to go to the Lego store and purchase a Star Wars Con exclusive. But I wasn't willing to give up on the exclusive Lore signing. The Amazon series hadn't gone live yet, but with the pedigree of Gale Anne Hurd producing a show based on Aaron Mahnke's famed podcast and Robert Patrick starring in one of the episodes, I really wanted to be there.

I renewed ties with my Krycek buddy, Kelli, from DragonCon, and we resolved to get into that signing come hell or high water. It helped a bit that the program was misleading, insinuating that we could get into the signing if we made our way to the book seller's booth. We did that and were promptly told to go back to the line. They wouldn't let us in, stating that we could try four free hotspots around the Javitz Center that might have tickets to the event as prizes. We tried all four and didn't win a thing, so back down to the line we went. At some point, they could tell we were really interested in the series -- plus the line wasn't all that long -- so we were queued up with the lucky ticket holders.

It wasn't until about a half-hour later that we realized Patrick wasn't going to be there after all. This proved to be a recurring event for the exclusive NYCC events. (At Supermansion, OK, we weren't too surprised that Cranston wasn't in attendance. But Green -- who was at the con for the weekend -- probably should have been there for Sestra's exclusive signing and wasn't.) Don't register mine as a complaint, though, because it was cool to meet Mahnke and Hurd and tell them and the assembled cast how much I was looking forward to seeing the new show.

Sestra and I spent the bulk of the first day in the vendor room, picking up an array of free, albeit heavy, books -- among other collectibles -- that we wound up toting more than 25 blocks to Lincoln Center to watch the New York Philharmonic brilliantly perform John Williams' iconic score for Return of the Jedi as the movie played behind them. That first show we had amazing seats in the first box, stage right. It gave us such an unusual perspective of the orchestra -- we could even tell which musicians watched the movie and which just sat in their seats to play again. It was a truly unique and dazzling way to watch a film. Plus -- as two of the first 500 attendees -- we both got light sabers as well!

On Friday, we awaited one of the crown jewels of the weekend -- our photo op with Mark Hamill. We knew the drill -- you wait and wait and then get shuffled in for 10 seconds with the man. But it was kind of a delightful 10 seconds. He was doing an array of poses -- Sis was particularly glad we didn't get his trademark point in our sweet shot. Then he shook both our hands and told us to "Have a fun day!" It's gonna be hard to top that part of it, Jedi.

One of the non-Star Wars-related things I wanted to do was meet Nolan North. He was the only non-General Hospital character on the GH spinoff Port Charles who I liked. Since then, he's made quite the career for himself -- largely in voice work in animation and movies (Guardians of the Galaxy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and so much more), but also in Pretty Little Liars and the hilarious Con Man.

When I got to the front of his line, I told him I was a fan from his very first iMDB acting credit -- at present, he has 362 to his name. Looking at it now, I see the video game Interstate '82 before Port Charles, maybe that's why he seemed a little surprised. He told me his son wasn't even born when he was on the soap, and they recently watched clips from the show on YouTube, howling about the frosted tips of Chris' hair. "I look soooo young," Nolan said. "You still look soooo young," I responded. Not surprisingly, he appreciated that.

I mentioned that I had yet to see the two seasons of Con Man -- the crowd-funded show that sort of sends up the very event that we were meeting at -- spearheaded by Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion, which led to a discussion on how the streaming landscape has changed in the past couple years. And then we both waxed poetic on Fillion -- one of his favorite people in the world -- before I departed.

Sestra pre-purchased a book to get the opportunity to meet cult favorite Bruce Campbell. Perhaps "meet" is too strong a word, basically books were being shoveled to him and he signed them and moved on before the fans got much of a chance to get a word in edgewise. I didn't have my X-Files yearbook with me, but since he had guested on the show, I wanted his autograph for that ongoing project. Den of Geek's Con magazine had a preview of The X-Files' 11th season on the cover, and although he wasn't in the article, we decided to have him sign that for me. As Sis recalled it, he looked at it strangely (perhaps bizarre since the official list of what he would sign included marriage licenses), then said, "Oh, I did an episode of X-Files."

We went back to Lincoln Center for the New York Philharmonic's take on The Force Awakens. This time I spent more time watching the movie than the orchestra, probably a byproduct of the fact we were now sitting in the back of the venue and the fact that I don't know that film quite as well as Jedi. It wasn't any less appealing and I probably gained more appreciation for Episode 7 than I previously had. And we added two more light sabers to the tally. I did note that Mark Hamill's screen time was very close to the amount of time he spent with us in the photo op. As Sestra later quipped, he actually said more to us than he did in the film.

Before our con weekend capped with "Hamillstein," Mark's one-man show at the Hammerstein Ballroom, I was looking forward to the panel for Sarah Shahi's new program, Reverie. We got to see the first episode and it seemed to have an intriguing premise -- her character, Mara Kint, is sent to retrieve people who prefer living in an advanced virtual reality program to the real world. Not sure how they're going to be able to sustain that for a season or beyond, but I'm definitely willing to give that one a chance.

It was interesting when Shahi talked about people getting disconnected during the Q&A -- which also featured co-stars Dennis Haysbert, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Kathryn Morris and Jessica Lu."We need to look up from our phones," she said. "Technology is isolating by design." I looked around the room and just about everyone was looking down at their phones, taking pictures and posting on social media. Use it and enjoy it, but don't let it run your life, Sarah said in essence. But her message wasn't really hitting home at that moment.

The cast exited as I was waiting to meet up with Sestra and they went over to take some pictures in front of a huge banner for the show. I wound up riding a neighboring escalator up and down about six times so I could get the perfect picture of them posed in front of it.

Apparently we weren't the only ones unsure of what Mark Hamill's one-man show would be for our grand finale. After making a hilarious entrance that mirrored the scene at the end of The Force Awakens, he tossed off the hood of his robe and cackled. And then proceeded us to just tell us stories about his career for the next couple hours.

Now one might suppose that attendees wanted to hear just about the Star Wars saga, but I'm here to tell you the response to mention of his work as The Joker and The Trickster garnered just as much applause from the assembled crowd. Although his show wasn't part of the Comic Con experience, most of the attendees did come from that direction.

The Star Wars stories were pretty legendary, though. Like how he thought at the outset of casting that he was supposed to the annoying sidekick to Han Solo. But nothing topped his heartfelt tribute to friend and co-star Carrie Fisher, who he loved like a sister -- although she could also irritate him in the way only a sister could as well. "She made everything more fun for me," Mark said. "She was all about having the most fun she could have all the time." A final very special salute was in order and we all joined in.

It was the perfect way to cap off our mini-Star Wars Celebration.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

At the end of the Rainbow


We started the season with an Eric Clapton concert, so it's fitting to close one that really gave me the blues with another even better one. And then to cap off the weekend, we had another ticket for the once- in-a-lifetime experience of Pete Townshend at Lincoln Center with Quadrophenia.

In April, E.C. was illin', on Sept. 8, he was chillin'. There was no reason to cry. We haven't seen Eric this loose and happy in quite a while, and it really showed in his performance. Well all right, he delivered kind of a modern-day greatest hits collection, but it sounded great all the same.

Let me offer a few disparaging words about the setlist before I get back to the effusiveness. When you have all of Madison Square Garden on our collective feet, you probably shouldn't start off with songs designed to have us sit back down. The setlist generator was clearly broken. "Someone's Knockin'" into "Key to the Highway" into the now tried-and-true "Hoochie Coochie Man" is kind of a backless start.



Eric came out from behind the sun with "I Shot the Sheriff," and correct me if I'm wrong, but save a little forgivable flub -- flub, what flub? I don't remember any flub, the solos on that were the best they've been in a while. They do tend to cause flashbacks to the phenomenal shows of the early '90s and just how searing those solos could get, but Clapton's lone No. 1 song -- to date -- shows the resilience and relevance of Bob Marley's tune and the journeyman's way of delivering it.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the crowd's reaction to "Lay Down Sally." Mark was chuckling all the way through over how the audience went bonkers for that song. I reckon it's because three greatest hits compilations have been released in recent years and a sizable amount of the crowd must know the tracks from those releases. Either that or they watch a lot of VH-1.



But there was more evidence for the former supposition, as he rolled out other assorted love songs, the acoustic "Layla" -- now I understand why there wasn't a backup guitarist in the lineup -- "Tears in Heaven" and "Wonderful Tonight."

If there was one disappointment, it might be the overlooking of Don Williams, who passed earlier in the day, and someone very influential in Eric's late '70s run. With the ever-youthful Chris Stainton on keyboards still, couldn't we have gotten at least a dash of "Tulsa Time"? Then again, all the people who didn't get the "No Snow, No Show" reference on Mark's T-shirt probably wouldn't have understood that ditty without an explanation from Clapton.



I learned via Facebook that "White Room" returned to the setlist, and that was really the cream of the show for me. But once again, Eric got everyone on their feet, only to have us return to our chairs for "Wonderful Tonight." I don't know about the rest of the fogies, but I came to rock out.

We got the chance to do so on "Cocaine" -- I still haven't gotten over everyone not knowing from Nathan East's gorgeous bass line intro that the song's coming, only reacting when the drums kick in -- and then Clapton got back into Disraeli gear for "Sunshine of Your Love." It looked like Nathan enjoyed himself twice as much during the Cream numbers.

The capper brought openers Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. back on stage for a rousing "Before You Accuse Me,"  with Eric playing the Epiphone that Clark reportedly gave to him. And it was then one is reminded of Slowhand's staying power, because the opening acts kept it in the pocket in their respective solos while Eric showed there's just no one like him and there never will be. He's back home on the stage.



Vaughan and Clark Jr. set the scene so well, too bad most of the assembled couldn't have cared less -- well at least until Gary coerced them to look up from the cell phones and pay attention.  Jimmie wringed every last drop out of his vocals. He was a little fixated on what we'll call the flamenco-style arpeggio, but he sounded so much like his late brother, Stevie Ray, vocally on this night. "Texas Flood," with resonance to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, was the understandable -- and rightful -- highlight.

Clark Jr. continues to prove he's just one of the best around. I proclaimed him "awwwwwe-some" after "When My Train Pulls In" and then he stepped to the microphone and said "This is kind of awesome." Then there's "Our Love," a song that sounds so gorgeously like a Prince song -- and bathed in purple light -- that I thought it was a cover. And then one to make sure the crowd was engaged, the Beatles cover "Come Together."

Now while we sort of knew what to expect from a Clapton show, that's how unaware we were of what Quadrophenia ultimately was going to be like. It's a totally different vibe to go to Lincoln Center, past the magnificent fountain outside and the incredible chandeliers inside, and experience a rock opera in a literal sense.

What we couldn't have possibly expected was Alfie Boe, the English tenor sliding seemingly effortlessly into the demanding role the world associates with Who frontman Roger Daltrey. He was not only pitch-perfect on the vocal gymnastics, but also tremendous and charismatic in his interactions on stage with Pete Townshend and Billy Idol, who popped on and off the stage as called for by their respective contributions.

Now Townshend has always shown something of a flair for the dramatic, so watching him take the stage for songs like "The Dirty Jobs" and "The Real Me" didn't seem that much of a stretch. And as Mark said, there's a pre-existing motif in Quadrophenia that just fit perfectly into the program they delivered before the packed and enthusiastic house at Lincoln Center.

Boe just killed it every possible way, particularly when signature song, "Love Reigns O'er Me," recurred throughout the program. We just felt it in every atom of our bodies, head to toe. Even writing the words down now months later, I can recollect the vibrance and resonance of his delivery.

So we got to experience two incredible legends -- and two of our absolute favorites -- in one remarkable weekend. Now more than ever, we seem to be treasuring our inspirations whenever we can see them, not knowing whether another such opportunity will come around again. With these two shows, it wasn't just about the occasion to do so, but to relish the likes of Clapton and Townshend enjoying what they can do and delivering on such a level that their respective shows provided a glowing example of who and what they still can be as performers and creative forces.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Classic summer of love

We got to see and hear a lot of great music this summer, but there's been precious little time to write about all of it. All the hard work done during the week sure pays off in the precious moments spent experiencing these shows. So here are some of the highlights of the warm season en masse.



Ain't nothing like the real thing: We've seen Fleetwood Mac in so many different combinations and collaborations, but let's face it, nothing beats having Stevie, Lindsey, Christine, Mick and John together to cap The Classic East at CitiField on July 30. They moved effortlessly through their catalog of classics, with the added jaw-dropping surprises of "Think About Me" and "Bleed to Love Her." As Mark pointed out, they were the only group in the two-day lineup that wasn't missing a clutch member for one reason or another. They can say whatever they want to the media about what side projects complete them, save one false start on "Don't Stop" for the fireworks-filled finale, it was perfect for me. Setlist: The Chain, You Make Loving Fun, Dreams, Second Hand News, Rhiannon, Everywhere, Bleed to Love Her, Tusk, Sara, Say You Love Me, Big Love, Landslide, Never Going Back Again, Think About Me, Gypsy, Little Lies, Gold Dust Woman, I'm So Afraid, Go Your Own Way, Don't Stop.



Most valuable player (of a musical instrument): Vince Gill for The Eagles at The Classic East on July 29. Now Deacon Frey understandably got the press for somewhat stepping into his late great dad's role with the band. But let's face it, the guy doing the heavy lifting was Vince. It was uncanny how much he sounded like Glenn, and he made that set a lot better than I had any inkling it was going to be. Setlist: Seven Bridges Road, Take It Easy, One of These Nights, Take It to the Limit, Tequila Sunrise, Witchy Woman, I Can't Tell You Why, Lyin' Eyes, New York Minute, Those Shoes, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Best of My Love, Love Will Keep Us Alive, New Kid in Town, The Last Resort, Already Gone, In the City, Heartache Tonight, Life's Been Good, Funk #49, Life in the Fast Lane, Hotel California, Rocky Mountain Way, Desperado.



Unsung hero: Arnel Pineda. Despite the thankless task of trying to approximate Steve Perry's vocals with faux Journey -- which can't really be done -- he was a gamer. And the Filipino singer tried to sing over a lot of overloud amplified riffs and did some pretty amazing jump kicks while doing so. In other thankless task news, he had to follow Earth, Wind & Fire, which we wouldn't wish on anyone but CHIC. Setlist: Separate Ways, Be Good to Yourself, Only the Young, Stone in Love, Any Way You Want It, Lights, Send Her My Love/I'll Be Alright Without You piano solo, Open Arms, Who's Crying Now, Edge of the Blade, La Do Da, Wheel in the Sky, Faithfully, Don't Stop Believin', Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin'.



What a difference a day makes: On Day 1 of The Classic East, the faux Doobie Brothers did what they could in the opening slot with most of the butts not in the seats. On Day 2, Earth, Wind and Fire made sure all the butts were out of the seats but in the general vicinity with grooves so funky everyone's feet were tapping. Of all the lovely tributes, Earth, Wind and Fire did the weekend's best to their late leader, Maurice White, both vocally and on the videoboard. I couldn't see the stage through my moist eyes. Doobie Brothers setlist: Jesus Is Just Alright, Rockin' Down the Highway, Take Me in Your Arms, Dark-Eyed Cajun Woman, Spirit, Sweet Maxine, Eyes of Silver, Clear as the Driven Snow, Takin' It to the Streets, The Doctor, Black Water, Long Train Runnin', China Grove, Without You, Listen to the Music. Earth, Wind & Fire setlist: Earth, Wind and Fire setlist: Shining Star, Getaway, Sing a Song, Serpentine Fire, Kalimba Story, Got to Get You Into My Life, That's the Way of the World, After the Love Has Gone, September, Boogie Wonderland, Let's Groove, Fantasy, In the Stone.



Anyday, anyway: We hear Bobby Whitlock and CoCo Carmel are going to be anywhere in our general area, you better believe Park will be there. So it was back to a booth at B.B. King's on June 13 for a set of storytelling and songs that feed the soul. Doesn't matter that we heard most of the ones about the Derek and the Dominoes' Layla era before, Bobby gives us variations and extra details every time he opens his mouth. And then some nice new songs on top of that -- "Nobody Knows" was our favorite and "Keith Richards" is as gimmicky as you might expect a song of that name to be, but didn't break the momentum of the Layla classics. Setlist: Anyday, Got to Get Better in a Little While, Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad, Keep on Growing, I Looked Away, Thorn Tree in the Garden, Nobody Knows, Keith Richards, The Captain's Song, Bell Bottom Blues, Layla.



Not missing a beat: Two winners in this category -- Steve Winwood and Lindsey Buckingham -- but the latter will get his props shortly. Winwood still sounded the same as that soulful skinny British kid who knocked everyone on their butts back in the '60s at the Beacon Theater on April 21. He literally hasn't lost anything, singing and playing with as much vim and vigor as ever. His band includes daughter Lilly, who comes to the forefront on "Higher Love," but in general, the bulk of group sounded more functional than superlative as they zipped through an assortment of catchy tunes from his various incarnations. I suppose anything would be found wanting after Clapton/Winwood, which ranks among my all-time favorite tours. As always, the Blind Faith songs "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Had to Cry Today" sent my spirits soaring. Setlist: Back in the High Life Again, Pearly Queen, I'm a Man, Fly, Them Changes, Can't Find My Way Home, Had to Cry Today, The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Empty Pages, Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Higher Love, Dear Mr. Fantasy, Gimme Some Lovin'.



How'd they come up with that name? One of the shows I was most looking forward to this season was Buckingham McVie at The Mann Center in Philadelphia on June 30. We may never get the Buckingham Nicks show I want, but I'm not the least bit disappointed that Lindsey and Christine McVie teamed up. Their voices have always matched so perfectly, his timbre fits so well alongside the husky, bluesy nature of her vocals. My penchant for not looking at setlists ahead of time was justified when they broke into "Hold Me," I was completely shocked by that one. And while, like "Gypsy," I don't think it translates particularly well live, the guitar and keyboard solos were righteous and I grooved on it from start to finish.



My Stevie sister, Jenna, filled in for the absent goddess during the "Little Lies" choruses. From our spot behind the soundboard, we enjoyed the engineers rocking out, counting the song down like I always do on "Never Going Back Again" and mirroring Lindsey's animated stretches on "I'm So Afraid." We really took to the numbers from their first release, particularly "Too Far Gone," and as Mark pointed out, it was a gutsy move to not close with Fleetwood Mac crowd pleasers. They went their own own way. The Wallflowers proved to be one of the more enjoyable opening acts, despite a particularly muddy sound not remedied by those guys at the soundboard. Setlist: Trouble, Wish You Were Here, Never Going Back Again, Shut Us Down, Sleeping Around the Corner, Feel About You, In My World, Too Far Gone, Hold Me, Little Lies, Tusk, Love Is Here to Stay, Red Sun, You Make Loving Fun, I'm So Afraid, Go Your Own Way, Everywhere, Lay Down for Free, Game of Pretend.



Best double bill (duh, of course): Nile Rodgers and CHIC are perfectly complementary to Earth, Wind and Fire. Frankly, who else would have the balls to go on stage after an act tears the place down? We were shocked that Nile and company went first at the Prudential Center on Aug. 4 -- the one band that was up to the challenge of following Earth, Wind and Fire doesn't? -- from the very first number, "Everybody Dance," the crowd was doing just that. Rodgers is a walking hit factory, as the setlist clearly attests to, and he didn't even get to them all. Earth, Wind and Fire -- as expected -- was able to keep up the momentum. It was great to see them get to expand past the hit selection they had to offer up as the Classic East openers ... and this time I was prepared for the Maurice White tribute. CHIC setlist: Everybody Dance, Dance Dance Dance, I Want Your Love, Upside Down, I'm Coming Out, We Are Family, He's the Greatest Dancer/Getting Jiggy With It, Let's Dance, Get Lucky, Le Freak, Good Time/Rapper's Delight. Earth, Wind and Fire setlist: Shining Star, Getaway, Sing a Song, On Your Face, Serpentine Fire, Kalimba Story, Can't Hide Love, Keep Your Head to the Sky, Devotion, That's the Way of the World, Beijo, After the Love Has Gone, Reasons, September, Boogie Wonderland, Let's Groove, Fantasy, In the Stone.



Best double bill (who woulda thunk it?): A lineup with Garbage and Blondie might look incongruous, but at the Aug. 1 show at the Beacon, the logic was readily apparent. Deborah Harry was at the forefront of the new wave movement as the voice of Blondie; and then a couple decades later, Shirley Manson did the very same thing on the alternative scene with Garbage. I was particularly shocked and thrilled that Garbage performed the James Bond theme "The World Is Not Enough," known as TWINE in my circles. With Garbage as the opener, there wasn't quite as much ability to rock out as during their first album's anniversary show, but Liam and I bounced around the whole time, even when we were sitting down. Debbie looks as sounds great, her new material was just as engrossing as the hits. Garbage setlist: No Horses, Sex Is Not the Enemy, #1 Crush, Empty, I Think I'm Paranoid, Cherry Lips, Blackout, Special, Queer, Even Though Our Love Is Doome, TWINE, Stupid Girl, Only Happy When It Rains, Push It, Vow. Blondie setlist: One Way or Another, Hanging on the Telephone, Fun, Call Me, My Monster, Rapture, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Fragments, Too Much, Long Time, Atomic, Heart of Glass, Dreaming, The Tide Is High.



Best life lesson: As Ben Harper explained at the State Theater in New Brunswick on Aug. 25, if you write a song called "Burn One Down," your children might question you on it later, even if you do skateboard better than they do. It's too bad that show wasn't sold out, he's such a fine musician who delivers on his own material, backed up by the strong and vibrant Innocent Criminals, and makes the most of other people's as well. Setlist: Gold to Me, The Will to Live, Burn to Shine, Diamonds on the Inside, Fly One Time, How Dark is Gone, Burn One Down, Excuse Me Mr., Having Wings, Finding Our Way, Steal My Kisses, Like a King/I'll Rise, Better Way, Atlantic City, Under Pressure (with opener Tom Freund).



Poorest timing: Well, the Classic East was set at a venue right by the airport, and Earth, Wind and Fire's "Let's Groove" features the line "Just move yourself and glide like a 747." That was one of the few times there wasn't aircraft overhead. But the nod has to go to ill-fated Journey. Performing "Lights" without Steve Perry when it wasn't dark yet was bad enough, imploring the crowd to sing so loud that their former lead singer could hear it in San Francisco might have worked for The Classic West, but not so much in New York. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Just for the record...

Good thing I make notes on the way home from events. Chiller was in April, and here we are in August. So this really will be the best of the best impressions made on me from the actors I wanted to see at the biannual event. Since it took place the same day as Record Store Day, one of my notations was about how similar the events were -- with something (or someone) truly for everyone.

Chiller recently moved back to the Hilton Parsippany in Parsippany, New Jersey, where it had taken place the very first time I attended. And the setup was rather similar to Monster Mania, which is certainly preferable to the crush experienced during Chiller at the Sheraton. I'd never been particularly bothered by the throngs packing the hallways and rooms, but I did fear for the celebrities in those circumstances. It just never felt safe. With wide-open spaces and more clearly defined waiting lines, the situation felt better at the Hilton.

The first celeb I ran across was almost at the front door. Max Gail proved very engaging. He's familiar to the world -- and me -- as Wojo, Detective Stan Wojciehowicz, on Barney Miller. But he's got a special place in my heart as Harold in one of my guilty pleasure movies -- D.C. Cab. So we got talking about the 1983 film that starred a veritable array of comedians -- Bill Maher, Marsha Warfield, Paul Rodriguez ... Gary Busey (hee hee) -- alongside Adam Baldwin and Mr. T.

Max told me his wife had been pregnant and about to pop with his first child, India, when the filming was winding down. He was good friends with Busey before they made the film, but got tight with Maher and "T" during the making of the movie. Most of the people who come up to him at events like this either reference Barney Miller or D.C. Cab. (Nothing about his one episode appearance on Damian Lewis' show Life?) "The ones like you who like D.C. Cab realllly like it," Gail added.

We had a nice moment when taking our picture together. Max said, "You're a good hugger." And I replied, "I was just about to tell you the same."

The funny thing about these events is that what happens in the couple minutes you get with a celeb can and will often be impacted by the person who they met before you. And ahead of me on the Olga Korbut line was someone who might be politely described as possibly too happy to see her. Let's just say it was in a way that made the four-time Olympic gold medalist uncomfortable.

So both she (and her handlers -- because they don't have quite the poker faces as the former Russian gymnast) seemed relieved when that person departed and I stepped up. For the probably dozenth time that day, Olga heard someone was deeply inspired by her performance at the XX Olympiad in Munich. She changed gymnastics forever and literally flipped it into the spotlight. It became must-see TV.

I tried to meter my enthusiasm on this front, and she really was delightful to meet. We talked about how her world totally changed after she redefined the sport, particularly on beam, floor exercise and uneven bars. "I couldn't go anywhere myself," Korbut said. "I was always mobbed and people kept giving me things. We agreed that wasn't so bad."

Xander Berkeley has been in some little show called The Walking Dead. As I've never seen that, my interest in meeting him wasn't for that. He's easily recognizable to me for blink-and-you-miss-'em appearances on the last season of M*A*S*H and the best season of Moonlighting. He was Henry Hurt in Apollo 13 and Buzz Aldrin in the TV movie Apollo 11. But he was also in the first truly great episode of The X-Files, "Ice."

So we got to talking about that instead of zombies. Xander hung out with David Duchovny and Felicity Huffman that week off the set. And he rued not seeing Felicity for a while, but said he's still friends with David. And, in fact, he did three episodes of Duchovny's underrated Aquarius.

But the thing that really blew me away was when Berkeley asked me "Are you a writer?" I'm sure he enjoyed the amazement that crossed my face in the split-second before I answered. He just knew that was the case, adding as an artist he has a proclivity for studying faces. And that's what mine told him.

After taking the best selfie I've ever had (and a rare celebrity picture in which I actually look relaxed) -- there's that artistic ability again -- he signed the ongoing project known as my X-Files yearbook, told me to enjoy my collection, winked at me and got back to the waiting zombie-loving throng.

Speaking of Walking Dead alum, I also wanted to meet Kirk Acevedo, because he played Staff Sgt. Joe Toye in my favorite mini-series, Band of Brothers. I had no idea I'd get to hear a story about the real man from their unfathomably treacherous winter in Bastogne during World War II that rivaled the amazing tales depicted over 10 episodes.

I'll let Kirk do it: "Joe Toye disappears and he comes back a day later with a live German prisoner. And that's why they won that battle, but they couldn't use that because they would have had to go a different way with the story."

Even the Bastogne set in Band of Brothers proved to be an amazing spectacle as they converted an airplane hangar into the forest. "They built trees into like a huge planter the size of a football field."

I was astonished when Barbara Hershey was added to the Chiller lineup. I know she starred in The Entity and the Insidious films, and most recently has been featured in Once Upon a Time and Damien, but my strongest impressions of her have been in Hannah and Her Sisters, The Right Stuff and Portrait of a Lady.

I asked whether she had any stories from the latter. She was nominated for an Academy Award as best actress in a supporting role for the Jane Campion film starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich. She said she definitely did but was hesitant to go into details about them. She did say it was amazing being in Italy to make the film.

I was downright gushing when I got to Peter Riegert, an actor who truly makes every single project he is in all the better for his presence, be it Animal House or The Mask or even Oscar. I focused on Crossing Delancey, telling him that it's one of the rare movies that both my mother and I love. He put his hand over his heart, saying "You make me feel very good."

The movie, which starred Amy Irving, was filmed in downtown New York near where Riegert  worked before he was able to make a living acting full time. That served to make the whole process more comfortable for him.

Little did I know he had joined the cast for the third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, or I would have loaded him down with more questions about being in that series, and specifically serving as the love interest for the indomitable Carol Kane.

It was also amazing to meet Samantha Mathis, and I regaled her with tales of how my mom loved her in The American President while my sister and I are particularly huge fans of her in The Thing Called Love. She asked me my last name and I told her and she said "So I have much Schector family love." Indeed she does. I'm always happy to see her listed on the cast of something I'm watching, most notably -- so far -- X-Files producer Chris Carter's short-lived Harsh Realm or Little Women or Jack and Sarah.

In The Thing Called Love, she starred alongside the late River Phoenix, Sandra Bullock and Dermot Mulroney, playing a woman with dreams of success as country music writer/singer. She demurred at praise for her performances, saying she had lots of assistance in making it palatable, but I consider it an underrated gem.

My longest wait of the day was for Tom Berenger, and truth be told, I had been on the fence about whether I'd try to meet him or not. I'm glad I did, he was very attentive and gracious -- like pretty much everyone all day. There was a lot to choose from in his filmography to converse with him about. And in fact, Tom himself agreed he'd been blessed with so many great movies.

I mentioned The Big Chill because I had just seen it recently and it was on my mind. Berenger said it was a perfect shoot, nothing went wrong with a cast and crew of heavyweights -- the Lawrence Kasdan film starred Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Jeff Goldblum, JoBeth Williams, Mary Kay Place and Meg Tilly -- and they had just one hour of overtime for the whole thing.

Then I brought up one I thought he might not talk about as much over the weekend at a sci-fi/horror-focused convention, Betrayed. In that movie, he played a racist Midwest farmer. "(Co-star) Debra Winger said it was my best part, and I said you're just saying that. Then I watched it three times and thought maybe she's right. ... She's the smartest person I've ever worked with."

I've been going to these cons and having a great time talking about favorite projects for about eight years. At one of the earliest ones, I met Bronson Pinchot. And at this Chiller, I viewed Pinchot hanging out with his Perfect Strangers co-star Mark-Linn Baker, mostly from my spot on the Berenger line. It was adorable to see they're still friends in real life.

When I met Baker, and even though I watched that sitcom and really loved My Favorite Year with Peter O'Toole, I spent my time talking with him about a couple guest roles that have stuck in my mind over the years. First, Moonlighting, in which he played hapless Phil West in the episode "Atlas Belched," and I recommended he check out blooper reels to see his old buddy Bruce Willis struggling during a scene with him in that show. Then I mentioned Ally McBeal, he guest starred in a Christmas episode called "Making Spirits Bright."

Mark mentioned he was friends with Bruce when he was just an unknown bartender in New York and that he also knew most of the actors from Ally -- many theater veterans as well. He sure knows how to use his time at the convention wisely, adding he had done a couple episodes of Blue Bloods with Tom Selleck and also an episode of Christine Baranski's show The Good Fight -- the latter of which he deemed was "chock full of the best actors."

So another fun full day with memories stacked in my head like Record Store Day exclusives on my album shelves.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Retirement is severely overrated


Going to an Eric Clapton concert is always more than spending a couple of hours in blues heaven. Especially when you do it our way.

First, there's hanging with some of my favorite people on the planet. I was in EC Access for a couple years, found the people I liked, then left the fan club behind and was set for life after that.

So for Clapton's April out-of-retirement Madison Square Garden weekend stint, I got to take my Detroit friends -- Bruce and Renee -- to a Broadway play, namely Kevin Kline's Present Laughter. It hasn't officially opened on Broadway yet, and yeah, there are a few technical bugs and a bit of a dry patch near the end of the first act, but it was a great time. Truth be told, I wouldn't mind if Kline stood there and read us the phone book as long as he did it with the timing and inflection that are so inherent in his performances.

That was just for starters on a day with so much laughter, some truly dazzling Keens Steakhouse kabobs and many rum-based drinks (I had two doubles before I ever had anything to eat). On the way, I did exactly what I said I was afraid in last week's girl power blog -- I belted a song on the streets of New York. Then we were joined by Susan and Sam and Steve (aka Doc Proc). Then later, there was Tony and Lauren and Stephanie and Barry.

The saddest part of the afternoon was finding out Chuck Berry had passed. But even that turned into a celebration of the more positive aspects of a true legend -- including the memory of the first weekend I met Susan and Steve and Mark and they dragged me to see Berry at B.B. King's. How Doc Proc reflexively clamped down on my knee so hard when Chuck came out he almost left a mark. Speaking of Mark, that guy had yanked my f'n arm out of the socket when an invitation was issued for members of the audience to dance on stage. And how I must have been doing something right, 'cause Berry kind of stopped and jammed in front of me when there was a whole line of people doing the same on the stage. (Damn, Tony, I already can't recount it the way I did the other night.)

But that's what it's like when you hang with the E.C. gang, remembering times we've had as a group or portions of the group recounting tales to those of us who weren't there at the time.

For Monday's show, Sammy had unfortunately departed and Mark and Pam fortunately joined us. Thanks to Bruce, Park had sixth-row seats for the event and Doc Proc finagled his way to the open seat next to us. I sauntered up to the empty stage for a picture -- and ran into my co-worker's ex-roommate, her boyfriend and her parents. They were front row right in front of where Eric's mic. But I loved our seats.

The night featured a half-hour set by Mark's favorite Vaughan brother, Jimmie, on his 66th birthday and 45 minutes by one of the best guitarists out there right now -- Gary Clark Jr. Just incredible, and "the man" was still to come. Around this time I found out my cousin, Kristen, was also at the show with her co-workers, but by then, I was glued to my spot and had to miss out on some family time.

Clapton's set: Somebody Knocking, Key to the Highway, Hoochie Coochie Man, I Shot the Sheriff, Driftin', Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, Layla (acoustic), Tears In Heaven, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Crossroads, Little Queen of Spades, Cocaine. Encore: Sunshine of Your Love, Before You Accuse Me (with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr.)

I was riding such a buzz, half from the atmosphere and half from my double, that I was waiting for "Key to the Highway" when we had already heard it. But not so out of it that I still couldn't recognize "I Shot the Sheriff" a couple of minutes before the rest of the crowd caught on.
It was fortuitous that I had donned my Cream sweatshirt, because my favorites of the night were probably those songs -- "Badge" (I was rocking out so hard I literally flipped my lid), "Crossroads" and "Sunshine of Your Love." The most poignant tune of the night had to be "Tears in Heaven." Doc Proc rightly pointed out it was the 26th anniversary of the loss of his son, Conor, which inspired the song. That reminded me of being at the shows on Eric's first tour following that tragedy -- the whole audience stood the whole time and listened so quietly and intently, applauding as E.C. finished each verse.

We were all guardedly optimistic after Clapton revealed last year that nerve damage had made playing the guitar a struggle for him. The fact that he's on the stage at all is a godsend, so I don't quibble about terse, pointed solos or a familiar set list. For years, he's gone with virtually the same songs, usually with a couple of alterations. Doing "Before You Accuse Me" with Vaughan and Clark was an inspired touch, and for me, a much better choice more-recent encore "High Time We Went."

After going over the show with the gang at Harrigan's, Mark and I headed back to the train station. Only to run into Doc Proc, who was waiting outside the Garden for bassist extraordinaire Nathan East. Was I shocked to get to meet him -- and to get hugs and kisses on top of that. You bet your sweet hoochie coochie I was. (Guys get handshakes, girls get hugs and kisses -- sometimes it's just really nice being a girl.)

I've seen Nathan play in Eric's band on and off for decades -- by the way, his opening to "Cocaine" that night just resonated into my belly -- so I was gobsmacked for about a minute before I joined in the conversation. We saw a great picture of Nathan's daughter, Sara, leaping a hurdle as she recently changed from gymnastics to track and field, and I said something about what a startling change that must have been for her. Gymnastics requires so much of your time and energy, and it had to be difficult for her to leave that behind.

There was stuff in there too about how great they sounded for the show and Doc Proc's trademark head on a stick, which has expanded to like 20 times its original size. Then I got to be in a shot too, thanks to Mark, and instead of "cheese" I asked him to hoot -- another callback to an era in which Nathan and Greg Phillinganes toured with Eric and Phil Collins and there were "whoo" cries sprinkled through many a number. I couldn't believe he did it, that just goes to show how nice of a guy he is.

What I totally forgot to do was tell him how much his song "Easy Lover" has meant to my Sestra and I over the years. How we always sang it together back in the day, how to this day, we do check-ins, messaging each other when we randomly hear it. We get to do this all again with E.C. in September, maybe I'll get another crack at that, and at the very least, another weekend of great music and great friends.