Fela – This is a musical about a musician from Nigeria who was apparently big news in the 70s and 80s. He fused a lot of kinds of music – jazz, african, funk – to create “afrobeat”. He was also very political in Nigeria and that earned him a whole bunch of trouble. The musical is set as if it’s the final performance in his club, the Shrine, where he kind of tells the history of the music, his political struggles, and his relationship with his mother. The music is fantastic, you can’t help but love it. The musical is pretty well layed out. Everything is done with african accents, which is troublesome for my american ears. I understood probably 75% of what he said in the first half (it’s really a one man show, acting wise, everyone else sings or dances or plays music), which was enough to get by. The second half was harder and I really lost most of the story. But I got the gist, I guess, and it was enough to be very enjoyable.
Lila Downs – So I guess this lady is pretty famous, in the right circles. I’d never heard of her, but she was great. I peg her as a mariachi singer, though the musical background isn’t particularly mariachi-ish. But that could just be me being unfamiliar with other types of mexican singing. Her voice is fantastic. It’s breathy and “smokey”, which is not something I usually like on female singers, but with this kind of music it fits really well. She has a pretty good range, she can sing very low very well. She tries to go high, but I found that really bad. Not only did she wobble on some notes, it just didn’t sound good. Technically she got most of it, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should. But that’s really the only negative thing. The 5 piece band (guitar, bass, drums, trombone, sax, and occasionally accordions) were all great. It was a lot of fun, really glad we went.
Tony Bennett – Maaaaan, Tony got old. This is the second time I’ve seen him, my oh-so-trustworthy memory tells me that it was much better last time. I still love him, and I still love the music, but he just can’t sing anymore. He can get through short notes fine, and his voice is still iconic, but every single (every single) long note ended badly. Either off-key, a warble, a fade-out, whatever. Really kind of a bummer, because he’s such a likeable guy and the music is so good. He still made it fun, he talk/sings, which was always part of his style anyway, to get around actual singing, I think. But in a completely non-objective way, laying on the grass, staring at the sky and listening to Tony, even old not-so-good Tony, is a fine way to spend a couple hours.