No venom in this venue! Scorpions rock the Mann Center

Reviewed by Laura Kate

 

Tesla; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

When you mention the band Scorpions, certain images immediately come to mind.  Leather.  The color black.  Long poodle-permed hair.  Insanely tight pants.  And that was just the men that attended the band’s “Final Sting Tour” show. All of that and more were on hand during the Scorpions concert on July 11 at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.  The Scorpions and opening act Tesla brought the ‘80’s hair metal fans out of the Philadelphia woodworks for a night of flashy, gritty, hard rocking fun.

There seems to be a certain degree of shame that goes with liking ‘80’s hair metal, usually inflicted by closet hair metal fans that haven’t come to terms with their tendencies to appreciate men with long poofy hair and pre-pubescent voices.  Despite this, proud hair band fans braved the weather and the warm venue beer to show their support.  This show had a setup fit for a stadium concert, with more speakers and lights than ever seen before at the venue that is most popularly known as the home of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Scorpions; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

Scorpions; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

Just because Tchaikovsky and Chopin were not on the set list doesn’t mean that the crowd didn’t get to hear the classics.  Tesla stirred the crowd up into a scream-singing rendition of “Signs” and the Scorpions ended their set with the best known songs of their 30-year catalog, including crowd favorites “Zoo,” “Still Loving You,” and “Rock You Like a Hurricane.”

The Scorpions have been quoted several times on this tour as saying this is the last tour they will do in the U.S.  Happy—or what passes for happy in this subculture–Philadelphia fans crowded the front of the Mann Center orchestra seating section to catch a glimpse of their rock gods, and perhaps a bit of their hazy youths.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Wayne’s World, just picture the scene where they go to the Alice Cooper concert.  This show was like that, except slightly less crowded.  It felt a little silly, but was totally fun.  And just like any good mullet, the band was a great blend of business and party.  Next time I’ll be sure to pull up in my own Mirth Mobile to show my support.

Rocking like a hurricane; Photo by Derek Brad Photography

Scorpions Setlist

  1. Sting in the Tail 
  2. Make It Real 
  3. Is There Anybody There? 
  4. The Zoo 
  5. Coast to Coast 
  6. Loving You Sunday Morning 
  7. Rhythm of Love 
  8. Wind of Change 
  9. Holiday 
  10. Raised on Rock 
  11. Tease Me Please Me 
  12. Hit Between the Eyes 
  13. Kottak Attack 
  14. Blackout 
  15. Six String Sting 
  16. Big City Nights 
  17. Still Loving You
  18. No One Like You
  19. Rock You Like a Hurricane
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Idina Menzel: Bare feet and big talent

Reviewed by Laura Kate

 

Our favorite!

My mother, much to her credit, raised me with a deep appreciation for classic movies.  We spent many lazy Sunday afternoons watching old cinema classics, including many musicals.  There is something about a good musical that just reels you in.  The campy but heartfelt, over-the-top song and dance numbers that somehow all of the characters know, the usual boy meets girl (or in the case of Rent, girl meets girl) but something gets in the way of their romance plot, and the colorful sets, costumes and characters make an evening with a  musical just fun.  This is the world that Idina Menzel comes from and the world that she brought to the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Menzel is widely known and loved for her portrayal of Elphaba in the Broadway musical Wicked as well as her debut role in the insanely popular Rent and her role as Rachel’s mother on the Fox hit series, Glee.  She has legions of devoted fans and she is known for her playful grace when interacting with them.  More on that later.

Idina Menzel as Elphaba in Wicked

The Mann Center is an outdoor venue with a covered pavilion that faces a huge cedar stage and overlooks the city of Philadelphia.  It really is a great place to see a show when the temperature isn’t overbearing.  This grand place was the setting for Menzel’s adaptation of her Barefoot at the Symphony show, which was fittingly called Barefoot at the Mann.  Menzel was in fact barefoot throughout her performance, laughingly telling the audience that she thought about wearing heels and then decided, “F—k it!” which immediately created a camaraderie with the crowd.  Looking absolutely stunning in a Grecian-style white belted dress, Menzel exuded Broadway confidence as she proceeded to own the stage.

Now, as much as my mother prepared me as a child to appreciate musicals and show tunes, this wasn’t a “must see” concert on my list and thus I had somewhat low expectations.  However, from her opening rendition of “Over the Rainbow” through some of her personal favorite songs all the way to the songs that made her famous on Broadway, Menzel hit almost every note flawlessly with the powerhouse voice that propelled her to stardom.  She was backed by the Philadelphia Orchestra and the evening’s performance was reminiscent of an old Rosemary Clooney stage show.

The most entertaining part of the show was during her performance of “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent.  During this number, she went out into the crowd and chose two random females to sing the duet with her.  The both girls were talented, but the first girl really knocked it out of the park.  Menzel then invited both up on stage for a grand finish and the crowd was on its feet for several minutes afterward.

The performance was almost impeccable.  The orchestra wasn’t overpowering to the single voice, the lights were warm and inviting and Menzel was personable with the audience, adding anecdotes and reflections about the songs she chose for her show.  There were a couple of missed notes toward the end, but even that is forgivable given the powerhouse performance she gave.  The few minor warbles were completely overlooked by fans, all of whom left with big smiles.  Many didn’t leave right away, and instead waited outside the press gate for an autograph, a hug or even just a glimpse of Menzel.  This may not sound like much, but it took her quite a while to make her way back to the tour bus because she was tied up in a meet and greet immediately after the show.  Fans at the barricade outside the press gate were told that she was very tired and would just be moving to the bus with no autographs or pictures taken, and everyone—to a man—was perfectly fine with that.

The Barefoot at the Mann show was like a little bit of old Broadway was back, for just a single evening in Philadelphia.

Set list (Mann Center for the Performing Arts, June 30, 2012)

  1. Somewhere Over The Rainbow 
  1. The Wizard and I 
  1. Love For Sale / Roxanne 
  1. Both Sides Now 
  1. Don’t Rain on My Parade 
  1. God Save My Soul 
  1. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For / In Your Eyes 
  1. Take Me or Leave Me 
  1. No Day But Today 
  1. For Good 
  1. Defying Gravity  

 

Encore:

  1. Somewhere 
  1. You Learn To Live Without 

U2’s 360 Tour Rocks Philly

Reviewed by Laura Kate

I can now die a happy woman.  That is to say, I have finally seen U2 in concert.

Seeing U2 in concert is something that I have dreamed of for years.  In fact, the very first popular radio music that I can remember hearing as a child (that was current) was when U2 released the Joshua Tree album.  However, it always seemed like they were on tour when I was living in the most remote of places in the arm pits of civilization that even the philanthropic Bono would not waste time venturing to, i.e. Oklahoma.  Either that, or if I did happen to be around a big metropolitan city, I wouldn’t have the money to buy the ticket before the concert would sell out—and it always sold out.

But since moving to the Philadelphia region, I have finally found myself in a place where I have both geographic proximity to some really great venues that some really great bands play at and had the funds to spend on some amazing live performances.  Now, it just so happened that U2 was supposed to play in Philadelphia in 2010, but had to postpone the performance with the rest of their North American tour until 2011 due to Bono’s back surgery.  This worked out great for me because on July 14, 2011, I was living in the area and had a ticket to enter Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to see U2’s 360otour.

Edge doing what he does best

Eeeeeek!  I was ready for a night to remember and I certainly was not disappointed.

I will not divulge how much I paid for my ticket, but I will say it is the most I have ever paid for a single night of entertainment.  I toyed with the idea of going all out and paying the obscene price for a ticket that would include a limo ride there and cocktails with the band and about 100 of their other adoring fans, but common sense prevailed and I applied what I was willing to spend toward getting the best seat I could afford.  This concert was worth every penny I paid for the ticket, though it could be possible (according to accounts from various friends in different seats) that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house due to the nature of the 360o stage.

Lincoln Financial Field

Between Interpol and U2 set ups

The stage was created to look somewhat like a spaceship, which came in handy in the second half of the show when they played “live” satellite video footage from the space station and a special message from U.S. astronaut Mark E. Kelly. More importantly, though, was the fact that the bridges from the inner stage to the outer circle runways rotated around the circle, enabling the Edge and Bono to get off at any point on the circle in front of any part of the audience.  In essence, there was no backstage blind spot.  But I’ve gotten ahead of myself…

The opening act for this leg of the tour was Interpol, which didn’t seem to concern anyone there except for one woman sitting about eight rows behind me who claimed to be lead singer Paul Banks’ future “Baby Mama.”  No one else seemed to care.  Not to say that they weren’t good, but they were just small compared to what we all knew was coming; they sounded small and they even looked small.  During the stage change between Interpol and U2, David Bowie music reverberated off the stadium walls as people finally came in from the concession stands.

U2 takes the stage

I started noticing quite a bit of activity around the stadium tunnel about 15 feet to my left.  Feeling like I was on to something, I left my seat and waited at the railing with my camera trained on the tunnel.  Eventually, the lights went down, “Space Oddity” started playing and to my heart’s delight the band came out of the tunnel I was stationed at.  Honestly, I could have spit (I didn’t!) and hit each of them.  Realizing that I missed the best opportunity to hit any of the band members with strategically thrown panties, I retreated to my seat and settled in for the best concert I have ever seen.

Bono worked the crowd like a champ.  He took a special moment to comment that many audience members were now two years older than when they originally bought their tickets and he thanked the crowd profusely for hanging in there until the band could come to Philly.  The rotating bridges brought Edge right in front of me for several songs and all of the LED monitors that surrounded the stage delivered an amazingly clear concert experience that was truly larger than life.  Bono even resurrected his “Fly” persona during “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” and swung around the stage.

And the sound…wow.  For playing in an outdoor sports arena, I can say I was absolutely taken aback by the quality of the sound.  I could have been jamming in my car to a cd recorded live and it couldn’t have been any better.  The set list was a nice mix of the old and the new and the energy never ceased—even when Bono would go into a political rant, which was expected.

Bono kept up the energy all night

Speaking of the political tirades that most people criticize U2 for, all I can say is this: I admire people who use their super-celebrity status to call attention to causes that benefit humanity and that is exactly what Bono and U2 do.  The evening of this concert happened to coincide with Nelson Mandela’s birthday, so the band closed by having everyone join in singing “Happy Birthday.”  Hey, I’ve sung that song for pets before, so why not sing it for a freedom fighter?  The band even had representatives from Amnesty International come out for a candlelit rendition of “Moment of Surrender.”  I thought it was beautiful and if for just three minutes out of a three hour show they got 75,000 people to all think about how good they have it in an arena listening to great music rather than being oppressed in some horrendous place, then I’m all for it.

U2’s 360o tour stop in Philadelphia was everything I hoped it would be and more.  The challenge since July 14, 2011 is to stave off disappointment while attending other non-U2 concerts.

An awesome concert experience

Set list:

Even Better Than The Real Thing
I Will Follow
Mysterious Ways
Until the End of the World
Get On Your Boots
Magnificent
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
Stay
Beautiful Day – Space Oddity
Elevation
Pride (In the name of love)
Miss Sarajevo
Zooropa
City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo – It’s Only Rock and Roll
I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight (remix) – Discotheque – Life During Wartime -Psycho Killer
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Scarlet
Walk On

ENCORE:

One
Hallelujah – Where the Streets Have No Name
Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me
With or Without You
Moment of Surrender
Happy Birthday