Cher’s ‘Dressed To Kill’ tour in Nashville

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I saw Cher in concert for the 9th time Monday evening. Her “Dressed To Kill” tour stopped in Nashville, TN, and I was lucky enough to score three front row seats during a presale in October.

Honey, Amanda, and I headed down Monday afternoon, checked into our hotel, grabbed some Chipotle, and got dressed. We arrived at the arena and got to our front row seats about five minutes before the opening act, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, began their set. What followed was an hour of amazing classic hits, such as “Love Is A Battlefield” and “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” So good!

Around 9:15, we heard Cher’s voice over the speakers telling us we were in for a treat. She also mentioned that she would be telling a story about almost being arrested in Nashville several years earlier. The house lights dimmed and the screams began. A fast-paced video was projected on the curtain that hung in front of the stage, which showed various Cher photos and clips set to remixes of her biggest hits. It was a fantastic way to build anticipation, which was evident in the delight of the crowd when the curtain dropped and Cher appeared in all her fabulousness (is that a word?) high atop a gold column.

The set was beautiful and constantly changed as Cher sung her way through a long list of greatest hits and four songs from her latest album “Closer To The Truth.”  Although Cher’s longtime costume designer, Bob Mackie, was unable to create the clothing for this tour, her outfits were fantastic. Everything was colorful and over-the-top, just like one would expect from a diva of her magnitude. The troupe of dancers accompanying her were top-notch, including two male dancers who performed a lovely, yet death-defying, interlude while hanging high above the stage from nothing but strips of fabric.

Being a big fan of “Game Of Thrones,” Amanda squealed with delight when a huge Trojan horse was wheeled out on stage and opened to reveal Cher in a gladiator-inspired getup. I was astounded at her Native American-inspired headdress while she performed “Half-Breed.” She was beyond beautiful, hilarious while telling stories about Dr. Pepper and joking about her age, and her voice was in great shape (she was definitely singing live).

After about an hour-and-a-half of hits and costume/wig changes, she finished the show by floating over the audience like an angel as she sang “I Hope You Find It.” It was gorgeous.

While I still prefer The Farewell Tour (better intro, better costumes, better setlist) over this one, it was absolutely one of the best concerts I have attended. It was theatrical, colorful, and thoroughly entertaining on every level.

Cher is my favorite living performer, so I would watch her even if she was just sitting on stool singing or talking. Thankfully, she gave us so much more than that.

Setlist

  1. Woman’s World
  2. Strong Enough
  3. Dressed to Kill
  4. The Beat Goes On
  5. I Got You Babe
  6. Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves
  7. Dark Lady
  8. Half-Breed
  9. Welcome to Burlesque
  10. You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me
  11. Take It Like a Man
  12. Walking in Memphis
  13. Just Like Jesse James
  14. Heart of Stone
  15. Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)
  16. I Found Someone
  17. If I Could Turn Back Time
  18. Believe
  19. I Hope You Find It

Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show in Louisville

I took this photo with my cellphone and I am quite proud of it. Please don’t reuse it without permission.
I took this photo with my cellphone and I am quite proud of it. Please don’t reuse it without permission.

Thursday afternoon, Amanda and I headed for Louisville, KY, to see Beyonce. This would be my second time to see her, but Amanda’s first. We were both very excited.

After arriving at our hotel and getting dressed, we drove downtown and parked a few blocks from the arena. Knowing we had general admission tickets for the floor and that we would be standing the entire time, we ditched our coats in the car and practically froze to death during the walk to the venue. Standing outside in line for an hour and a half didn’t help our frozen extremities, but we finally got inside at 7 pm and literally ran to the floor area where we had to wait in line again to get wristbands.

Once we actually made it to the floor, we were astounded at how close to the stage we were able to get. I had checked Twitter earlier in the day and read that the first fan had arrived outside at 8 am. I figured the floor would be filled before we had a chance to get a good location, but we wound up just a few feet from center stage.

For the next several hours, we stood. No drinks or bathroom breaks. Just standing, screaming, dancing, and sweating. It was a blast.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Beyonce is even more beautiful in real life than she is in digital format. She is also a consummate entertainer, and I have even been thinking of her as the female version of Michael Jackson. It must feel great to have so much talent in such a lovely package. I can only imagine.

Beyoncé told the audience this was the 100th show of the tour, then sang a beautiful rendition of “Happy Birthday” before doing a silly little dance to end the show. We walked back to the car, dehydrated and tired.

After returning to our hotel and scarfing down some liquids and pizza, we discovered Beyonce’s new album had dropped without any warning whatsoever. It was a nice surprise and a great way to end a remarkable evening.

Beyonce’s ‘Mrs. Carter Show’ in Nashville

Yesterday evening around 6 pm, a friend and I arrived at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville to see Beyonce’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. To say we were excited would be a huge understatement. After many months of waiting, we were finally in line (and a rather long one) to see one of the hardest-working women in show business.

After standing for around an hour, the doors finally opened and the long line began to snake its way forward. I had purchased two tickets through StubHub (a peer-to-peer ticket portal owned by TicketMaster) the day they went on sale several months ago. Although I was on TicketMaster’s website before tickets even went on sale to the general public, I was unable to get the page to load or order tickets. A check on Twitter confirmed many others were having the same problem. The concert was sold out within 20 minutes, so after reading some reviews and their guarantee, I decided to give StubHub a try.

The two tickets I purchased were for the floor – which was general admission and standing-room only – and they had been marked up from their original price of $85/each to $200/each. I have been to enough concerts to know how this kind of thing works, so I wasn’t surprised at the inflated pricing for a sold out event. I quickly received the tickets via email and printed them.

When we arrived at the door to have our tickets scanned by the attendant, we were informed that they were marked “Refunded” and that we should visit the box office for more information. I immediately understood that this was a very bad sign, so we quickly made our way to the box office inside the arena.

After showing our printed tickets to a rather nice lady inside, she motioned for her manager to come over, pointed to the name printed on the tickets (the original buyer), and the manager donned a headset to explain through the safety glass that our tickets were counterfeit and we were the third group of people to have already been declined entry for this event. She said the money should have already been refunded to my card, but I should contact StubHub for more information. She marked VOID across both tickets several times before handing them back to us.

Needless to say, we were both devastated. I asked about other tickets, and we were told there were only three tickets available – two for $509 near the stage and another one in a section much further away. I was stunned at the price, so shook my head and walked away to call Honey for his opinion.

After reassuring him of StubHub’s guarantee and being fairly certain I could get my money back, we went back to buy tickets. The lady motioned for us to wait a moment, watched another lady typing like mad into a computer, then turned back and said they now had front row seats in the side section nearest the stage available for the same price she had quoted me earlier. I know tickets are often held back by the performer for family, friends, and business associates only to be released to the public at the last minute if they aren’t filled, but I figured “front row” meant something completely different to these box office people than it did to me. Anyway, I bought them and scurried off to find a quiet place to call StubHub.

Because finding a quiet place in an arena filled with thousands of people is next to impossible, I instead called Honey again and asked him to contact StubHub for me. I gave him all of the information I thought he would need before hanging up to find a restroom. We now had assigned seats instead of having to worry about literally standing in a crowded “pen” for the entire evening, so we hung out in the lobby a few minutes before heading inside to see what kind of vantage point we had.

Much to my surprise, our seats were actually on the front row of our section. We were on the left side of the stage, but in line with the people who were at the front of the floor section. Where they were literally penned in, barely able to move, and unable to exit the area for restrooms or drinks, we were elevated, right on the aisle, and able to see the stage much better than many of them. If I was going to have to worry about whether I was getting a refund from StubHub the entire show, at least this would be the silver lining.

A few minutes into the opening act, Honey sent me a text saying StubHub was refunding the full purchase price of my original tickets and they might even offer me extra compensation for my trouble. I was beyond relieved and finally able to relax and enjoy the show.

And what a show it was! The opening act, Luke James, was very good. I had never heard of him, but he had an excellent voice and stage presence. After a 30 minute or so set, the house lights came up and rap music began blaring from the speakers. This combined with the anticipation of Beyonce threw most of the audience into party mode, and we spent the next hour dancing, laughing, and doing the wave. It was simply too much fun.

Beyonce was late getting to the stage, but she was definitely worth waiting for. You simply cannot imagine how loud the crowd screamed when she took the stage (and we pretty much never stopped screaming for the remainder of the evening.) She looked beyond fabulous; just as pretty in person as she is on television. She never stopped singing and dancing for nearly two hours. I don’t know where she finds the energy, but wow.

All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable concerts I have been to so far. Despite the fact that my voice is gone and my ears are still ringing, what could have went so horribly wrong turned out to be almost perfect.

Crappy cellphone pic during "Grown Woman."
Phone pic during “Grown Woman.”

UPDATE: I have absolutely nothing bad to say about StubHub. They were extremely courteous and professional throughout this entire experience, and went above and beyond to make sure I was satisfied. They refunded the full purchase price of the counterfeit tickets and gave me a $200 coupon to use toward a future purchase.

More money than sense

So… I just paid $50 for a compact disc. It’s a rare one, but good grief.

My journey toward this purchase began a long time ago when I first heard the delightful “One Of Us” by Joan Osborne. The album version begins with an a cappella version of a southern-sounding gospel song titled “The Aeroplane Ride.” It is at once whimsical and slightly disturbing.

I didn’t think much more about it until recently when I began adding some of my CD collection to Google Music in order to stream songs from my phone in the car and at work. “One Of Us” was a natural selection for my “Awesome Songs” playlist, and I was again immediately drawn to the catchy intro. My curiosity about the lyrics and the singer drove me to look online, where I quickly discovered the sample Joan Osborne used was from an original recording by Nell Hampton in 1937. It also turns out the song originated in the Holiness movement, and was recorded in Salyersville, Kentucky. Is it any wonder I am so taken by it?

Disappointment set in when I read that the album Hampton’s version appeared on, ”The Gospel Ship: Baptist Hymns & White Spirituals from the Southern Mountains,” is no longer available from New World Records. Not being one to give up easily when it comes to music, I tracked down a few used copies of the CD on Amazon, and a vinyl copy on Etsy. The prices on Amazon were staggering, ranging from $50 to well over $200. Etsy was far more reasonable at a mere $5, but I have no way of getting the songs from a record to my computer, and I figured by the time I purchased a record player and software to convert it to a digital format, I would be out well over $50. The lowest priced CD on Amazon was looking more and more like my best option, so I bought it.

It better be awesome.

Mr. Tambourine Man

From a very young age, my sister could play almost any kind of instrument my parents threw at her. She began playing the piano by ear when she was barely able to reach the foot pedals. She quickly picked up the accordion, drums, and various other instruments without any professional training whatsoever. I, on the other hand, could only play the tambourine.

Music was a huge part of worship in our Pentecostal church. Almost any member of the congregation who could play an instrument was happy to get on stage and share their talent. Voices, instruments, and clapping hands united to bring the congregation to the brink of frenzy on many occasions.

I was probably around 8 or 9 years old when I first picked up the tambourine. I had been admiring the talent of an older girl as she provided some much-needed percussion to the church’s soundtrack. Carla didn’t just bang the tambourine against her wrist, she played softly on the verses before revving things up at the beginning of the chorus with some fancy hand and wrist gestures. Since our services were more spontaneous than planned, she could use that wooden circle of cymbals to keep a song going just by playing the fancy part again at the end of the chorus. The congregation would obediently continue singing.

When I first began playing, I lacked the most important element of being a good tambourine player… timing. I remember sitting near an elderly woman with glorious white hair piled on top of her head. As I would feebly attempt to imitate Carla, I would frequently get out of rhythm. The elderly woman would smile and shake her head in my direction to let me know I needed to get back on track. It didn’t take long until I had learned enough from my mistakes to be as good a player as Carla.

As my playing improved, the pianist began to rely on my tambourine. She would nod at me when she felt a song needed a little something extra to get the churchgoers in a more worshipful spirit. I would pull out my tambourine and start banging my wrist until it hurt. As I watched those around me become enraptured in the moment, I was happy to have played some small part.

Playing the tambourine was mostly done by women in the church, so one night after service I was ridiculed by a younger boy who told me “only girls play tambourines.” I don’t like that guy to this very day. I get more than a little satisfaction when I see a male performer (like the lead singer of Young the Giant) playing the tambourine on stage.

It has been several years since I last picked up a tambourine. I haven’t been to a Pentecostal church in many years, and the church I now attend has a much different idea of what constitutes music than the church I grew up in. It doesn’t keep me from missing it though. Anytime I see Stevie Nicks on television, twirling in a cape, her tambourine adorned with streamers, I am reminded of the scenes from my childhood. Whether in a secular or religious setting, music has a universal way of charming those in its presence and transporting them to another dimension.

Is it any wonder I recently added a tambourine to my Amazon wish list?

The ultimate Halloween music playlist

I decided to come up with a playlist of spooky songs to enjoy during Halloween. While some of these may not be familiar to the masses, they each play on the fun-filled aspects of the holiday.

  1. Bobbie Boris Pickett – Monster Mash
  2. Ray Parker Jr – Ghostbusters
  3. The Cranberries – Zombie
  4. Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me
  5. Michael Jackson – Thriller
  6. Sheb Wooley – Flying Purple People Eater
  7. Blondie – One Way or Another
  8. Nina Simone – I Put A Spell On You
  9. Warren Zevon – Werewolves of London
  10. Eagles – Witchy Woman
  11. Michael Jackson – Ghosts
  12. Stevie Wonder – Superstition
  13. Victor Mizzy – The Addams Family
  14. Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra
  15. Joan Osbourne – Spooky
  16. Bow Wow Wow – I Want Candy
  17. ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ – The Time Warp
  18. ‘The Exorcist’ Tubular Bells
  19. ‘Halloween’  Movie Theme
  20. Cher & Rod Stewart – Bewitched Bothered & Bewildered
  21. Tori Amos – Happy Phantom
  22. Michael Jackson – Is It Scary
  23. Fleetwood Mac – My Little Demon
  24. Stevie Nicks – Sorcerer
  25. Dolly Parton – These Old Bones

What songs do you enjoy listening to while celebrating Halloween?

Janis Ian: Married in London

Married in London
by Janis Ian

We’re married in London
But not in New York
Spain says we’re kosher
The states say we’re pork

We wed in Toronto
The judge said “Amen”
And when we got home
we were single again

It’s hard being married
And living in sin
Sometimes I forget just
Which state I am in

Thank God I’m not Catholic
I’d be a mess
Trying to figure out
What to confess

My passport in Sweden
Says I’ve got a wife
Amsterdam tells me
I’m partnered for life

But back in America
Land of the free
I’m a threat to the
National security

If I were a frog
Here’s what I would say
It’s hard being green
It’s hard being gay

But love has no colors
And hearts have no sex
So love where you can
And f*ck all the rest.