Saturday, October 24, 2015

Good Music

My First Rock Concert EVER

I heard someone say once, “There are only two kinds of music. Good music and bad music.” And last night I sat through my first ever rock concert, and it was good music.

My background is classical, and that’s still my “genre” of choice. But recently I’ve been making an effort to get out of my box and learn more about other musical worlds: folk music in particular. A good friend, Missy Benefield, invited me to a rock concert by the Anderson Ponty Band at the Sherman Theater. “I think you’ll like their music,” she said. “It's classic rock. You’ll hear a variety of styles.”

The other drawing card was having a chance to say hello to an old friend, Glenn Kern, with whom I worked on a number of stage musicals not too long ago. Glenn is a sound designer and technician and is great at what he does. He has toured worldwide with an impressive list of performers. I had heard him talk about Jean-Luc Ponty, jazz violinist, a number of times. Last night I heard the man play.

Yes, it was loud, sometimes painfully so. Other times it was whispery and almost mystical. The six musicians on stage were all excellent performers and they worked well together. When Jean-Luc began to play his electric violin my jaw dropped, literally, and I sat open-mouthed listening to his virtuosity and showmanship. When I checked his credentials I see he began life as a violinist in a symphony orchestra in Europe and eventually found his way to something different. Now in his seventies, he plays with the energy of a much younger man and is, well, awesome.

The other principal in the group, Jon Anderson, I read was once the lead singer for YES, which meant nothing to me. But for a man in his seventies to sing the way he does is remarkable, and he sounded stronger at the end of the show than at the beginning. Amazing. A very high tenor. I had a chance to meet him the day before and he described himself as an “alto tenor.” We talked – believe it or not – about classical music. He’d recently been to a Sibelius festival. Sibelius as in the composer, not the notesetting program.  

What impressed me most was how they mixed up what they did. Every number was different. Some were what I expected, with a hard, driving beat and virtuoso playing from the bassist, guitarist, and remarkable keyboard player, along with Jean-Luc’s electric violin. The drummer was equally amazing and he had a huge drum set which he utilized more than once to its fullest capacity. Then we’d hear something with a haunting, almost Celtic sound. Then something with a little of a country sound to it. Missy said to me at one point … well, she kind of yelled it … “This reminds me of Pink Floyd.” I just smiled. Pink who?

As I listened, thoroughly enjoying the music I was hearing, the realization came to me that this was a class act … these were first-rate musicians who had put together a show well worth hearing, and they were performing it splendidly. I’m glad I went. I’ll buy the album when it comes out. And I’ll play it. Oh, and I didn’t even mention the light show. It was the icing on the cake.

The theater was pretty well packed, and I understand some people came from a distance to hear this group, so they obviously have had a following for probably decades. Many people were singing along with some of the songs they performed. Many of the songs were greeted with applause and yells of approval. It was not a rowdy crowd; but they sure had a great time.

So did I.