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American Idol: The End is Near

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We’re down to five, and the race that is American Idol is rapidly drawing to its finish. The finale is only three weeks away, and soon, we will get to be a part of the show’s normal extravaganza. This week, the kids performed two songs each and got two phone lines (though I don’t think that was necessary). Interesting that Sheryl Crow, who last season publicly disliked the show, agreed to be the mentor this week, showing, once again, that celebrities should sometimes just keep their thoughts to themselves. (Are you listening, John Mayer?) “Let’s face it, it undermines art in every way and promotes commercialism. I am sad people love it so,” Crow earlier told MSNBC. Her appearance on a show that makes her so sad renders her last name apropos, no? But, foot in mouth aside, how did the kids do this week?

Kicking off the show last night was James Durbin. His first song choice was “Closer to the Edge.” James was a bit off-key at the beginning of the song. I suspect he started out in a lower than normal register, to build up to his power section. He was also back into a bit of the cheese, running along the front row, giving high fives, with pyrotechnics blazing in the background. Personally, he didn’t impress me with this one. Had he focused more on his singing and not the cheese, the vocals might have been better. On his second song, “Without You,” James showed us his “tender” side. This had the potential to be a good performance. He actually started out well, but as he moved into the upper octaves, he seemed to break down a bit. Though the first song was off-key and cheesy, it was better than this one vocally. Then, Randy once again told James he’s going to win the competition. They make me want him not to win when they push like that. The judges need to let the proverbial chips fall where they may and keep those types of comments to themselves.

In opposition to Randy’s declarations for James, Jimmy kept reminding us that Jacob will be eliminated tonight. I’m sure that made Jacob want to attack his songs with gusto. For his first performance, Jacob chose “No Air,” by AI alum Jordin Sparks and girl beater Chris Brown. I have to agree with Randy that this song is not Jacob’s style. He did a decent job with the song vocally, but it felt like he was trying too hard. Almost immediately, you could feel the judges trying to downplay Jacob. While I think Randy misunderstood what Jacob was hoping to accomplish by saying he was trying to sing both parts of the duet, his critiques were right on. Jacob was trying to make himself relevant (I was right—Jacob said it after I typed it) because he has such a strong gospel flavor, which is not going to bode well for him in popular music. In the end, however, Randy is right. Jacob will never be a Chris Brown (thank God), and really, why would he want to be? Likely, because Jacob is young, and he wants to appeal to his peers. That’s not going to work for Jacob. As I’ve often told artists I’ve worked with, be grateful for the fans you have and stop wishing for the ones you can’t get. He returned to himself with his second choice, “Love Hurts.” I could feel his pain—literally. It was a very emotional performance, and the ONLY one to give me Goosebumps last night. This man can BLOW. Jacob, whether you make it this week or not, no one in this group can touch you from a vocal standpoint, no one.

Channeling another AI alum, Lauren Alaina chose “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood. This was a good choice for Lauren. She sang and performed it well, though I wonder: Do we need a second Carrie Underwood? She sounded an awful lot like her on this one, and to me, that’s not good. She needs to be her own artist. Please don’t get me wrong: Lauren is very talented, but she needs to make sure that she doesn’t sound too much like another contemporary artist. Otherwise, people won’t know whether it’s Lauren or Carrie on the radio. She must be very, very careful with that, especially as a new artist. Changing things up on her second choice, Lauren sang “Unchained Melody” for her parents. (I told you she’s sweet.) Good thing Simon is gone; he hated that song! She did a decent job with it. I wasn’t blown away, but it was a solid performance. Randy is correct that she has two sides. I didn’t hear any hint of country in her second performance. Though she can sing other things, I think Lauren’s “money” is in her country sound.

The second pure country artist on the show Scott McCreery followed Lauren with “Gone,” by Montgomery Gentry (whoever the hell he is—my bad, “they”). I was happy to see Scotty pick up the pace, and I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone who reads me that Scotty is my favorite of this group. He has so much to offer, and last night, he kicked it up a notch. When these kids get up there, have fun, and don’t try so hard, that’s when they’re at their best. That’s what Scotty did last night. He figuratively “let his hair down” and just did his thing, and that resulted in a great performance for him. For his second selection, Scotty reminded us that he is, after all, a pure vocalist. Scotty sang “Always On My Mind.” Scotty’s tender side is something to behold. Unlike James, he is never off-key or unsure of himself. He does both sides quite well, and it’s fun to watch a new country star in the making.

Finally, Haley Reinhart finished out the show. Wait—Haley got the “pimp spot” again? What is up with that? That’s three weeks in a row now isn’t it? I’m trying to figure out why the producers are trying so hard to help her. She’s really not all that. Haley chose an unreleased Lady Gaga song (more help for Haley, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why) “You and I.” If Jimmy wants to sign her, he should just do that and not give her an unfair advantage over the other four. I still am not impressed with Haley. She’s like a song chameleon, changing it up for whoever she’s covering. What kind of artist is she going to be? And she’s got a nasty attitude. If looks could kill, Jennifer would have died during her critique. I guess Haley didn’t know the camera had panned to her face in time to see her “shoot daggers” at Jennifer. Haley thought she had done something the others couldn’t achieve, and it blew up in her face. Good. None of these kids should be given any type of advantage over the others. Otherwise, it’s not a fair competition. “I got to talk to Lady Gaga”—is she a singer or a fame whore? Haley’s second choice was “The House of the Rising Sun.” I can’t take the growling. That’s not singing. Sorry, but I’m not impressed with Haley and I don’t get anyone who is. I’ve heard better in bars across the nation.

Tonight brings the inevitable elimination of one more contestant. Last week, the Idol producers tried to fool us by not having a bottom three or bottom two. They called contestants up “at random” and declared who was going home at the end. I firmly believe that Scotty was left with Casey for effect. How will they handle the elimination tonight? God only knows, but I think both Jacob and Haley are in danger. Even though Jacob will never be a pop music artist, I hope he outlasts Haley. I’m tired of her growling, the preferential treatment, and the lack of artistry. Dial Idol finally got it right last week by showing Casey at the bottom. Here’s to hoping they get it right again: They show Haley at the bottom. Please….

Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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