Wednesday, July 20, 2011

July 16, 2011 Harry Chapin Memorial Concert

On a beautiful summer’s eve, the Chapin family came to pay tribute to Harry Chapin on the thirtieth anniversary of his tragic death. The overflow crowd exceeded anyone’s expectations. There was a sense of the wonderful in the air. If tears were shed, they were shed privately. Instead, the Chapin family—Tom, Steve, Abigail, Lily, Jessica, and Harry’s daughter Jen—all performed lovingly both Harry’s songs and their own, each capturing the spirit of Harry that lives on through Long Island Cares an organization that he founded, on a stage in Huntington’s Hechscher Park, named after him, the Chapin Rainbow Stage, to an audience who grew up on every song. The whole night made you wonder how much goodness can be compressed into one family who continue to give so much to the larger community. At a time when the nation as a whole seems so polarized and hostile toward the plight of the poor, demands cynically that the poor pay their fair share, and hands out generous tax breaks to the richest one percent who give so little, you grow more fond of Harry who donated a third of the proceeds from his concerts to social causes. It is no wonder that he posthumously received the Congressional Gold Medal for humanitarian work. If there were more like Harry in the world, and fewer like David and Charles Koch, how much better off would the country be? Songs like Taxi and Cat’s in the Cradle, W*O*L*D and Circle brought Harry back to life if only for an evening.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

July 10, 2011 Acoustic Long Island’s Annual Outdoor Summer Concert

On a beautiful summer night with the stars visible in the sky and the Deepwells Mansion acting as stage and backdrop, Acoustic Long Island held it’s sixth annual free outdoor concert featuring Reed Waddle, Nini and Ben, Miles to Dayton, and Ari Hest. Dave Dircks, the heart and soul of Acoustic Long Island, characterized these musicians as the best of the 2010-2011 concert series. It is only the hard work of volunteers like Scott Posner and Billy Alexander, the two backbones of Acoustic Long Island, who make this outdoor event possible.  Reed Waddle, who, opened up the night, is great in a small space, but seemed overwhelmed and swallowed up on the stage. At first, I blamed it on the outdoor venue, which can be tough on musicians since you can’t control the acoustics and the sound system to deliver, but I was wrong. Nini and Ben came out with more drive and power with Nini’s voice soaring. While they never achieved those wow moments, what the crowd heard was a very talented band with an excellent vocalist in Nini and a strong song-writer-guitarist in Ben. They were followed by Miles to Dayton who exploded onto the stage. No sooner did they hit the first note than the crowd was riveted, proving that any criticism I had of the sound system and the outdoor venue was false. Miles to Dayton demonstrated the power of having two accomplished vocalists Jonathan and Krista Preddice with their impeccable harmonies and with having two backup singers, Leanne Preddice on violin and Dave March on bass. The blending of Jonathan’s guitar and Leanne’s violin, and the ensemble’s non-stop energy held the crowd in their hands for every song in their set. Ari Hest closed out the evening. At first, I feared that having Ari follow Miles to Dayton was a mistake, but Ari’s melodious voice with his tremendous range moving from deep bass to falsetto was commanding, his ability to connect with the audience through simple story telling compelling, and the warm sensitive nature of his songs such as Cranberry Lake, Bird Never Flies, and I’ve Got You served as the perfect coda to a wonderful evening.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 1, 2011 Steel Pulse

Prospect Park hosted Steel Pulse for their Celebrate Brooklyn summer concert series and what a concert it was. The band played with energy and excitement for two hours of non-stop music that was sublime, political, spiritual and inspired. At a time in our nation’s history when we are hearing from schlock politicians preaching the oppression of the white race and  religious extremists falsely predicting the Second Coming of Jesus, Steel Pulse radiates a joyous political quasi religious fervor that makes you want to believe in the goodness of mankind even when faced with real, instead of imagined, oppression.  From the opening note, a festival size crowd of every color and hue was up on its feet dancing, waving, and lifting colorful handkerchief engraved images of Bob Marley into the air, as David Hinds pranced and danced across the stage singing all the crowd favorites Ravers, Roller Skates, Chant a Psalm, Worth His Weight in Gold, Earth Crisis, Blues Dance Rave, Bodyguard.  With Steel Pulse you always get the full reggai rastafari experience: the wailing guitars of David Hinds and Basil Gabbidon, the driving bass of Amlak Tafari, and the soaring keyboard of Selwyn “Bumbo” Brown and Sidney 'Predator' Mills. David Hinds never lets you forget that it’s not all about the music, but about the fate of the world’s suffering oppressed people. The concert ended with Hold On 4 Haiti, a song about the forgotten earthquake victims in Haiti where over 200,000 people were killed and where cholera is killing tens of thousands more.  The proceeds are going to the Solar Electric Light Fund. Bob Marley would be proud.