The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
We are in the midst of a little backstage drama at William Shakespeare’s new Globe Theatre in 1599.
The debut performance of Henry V has just concluded, and there are some congratulations, a lot of griping and colorfully spoken drama. Suddenly, a company member pops in, but he is far from himself. He’s lurching, his face is disfigured, and soon, he is chomping on someone’s arm.
Well, no one says “zombie,” because that word was not around in 1599. The Elizabethan characters, including Queen Elizabeth herself (Sharon Sikorski), conclude that this is a plague and lock themselves up in the Globe, much like Rick Grimes’ people take refuge in the prison on The Walking Dead.
And if you follow Lexington theater much, you know there is only one playhouse where you could see this: Eric Seale’s Actors Guild of Lexington.
To an extent, theaters become reflections of their artistic directors’ sensibilities, and Actors Guild has certainly reflected Seale’s interests theatrical (David Mamet’s November), cultural (The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs), and historical (The Love Song o f J. Robert Oppenheimer).
The good thing is Seale’s preoccupations are broad and interesting, so he is by no means wearing people out with his point of view. But knowing his love for Shakespeare and pop culture, Seale was the prime Lexington AD to program and direct William Shakespeare’s Land of the Dead by John Heimbuch.
Horror and historical/literary mash-ups have become all the rage these days, with Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Heimbuch’s script is essentially a vehicle for the conceit. There aren’t really any great truths to be relayed or story to tell as much as Shakespearian dialogue and historical humor to string together the zombie attacks.
And, of course, the people who are well need to figure out how to fend off the zombies.
As the title character, Tim Hull has the most to work with. Through the ordeal, Shakespeare grows from being a sullen tool of the powerful in England to more genuine self-confidence. He finds that he can work with artists who initially threatened him, including tiring Falstaff actor William Kemp (Pete Sears), and stand up to bullies of the monarchy, such as Francis Bacon (Matt Seckman).
Seckman has the showiest role, save for bloody-faced zombies, trying to use Shakespeare’s work to advance his own concerns and burnish his position with the Queen. Quickly, the audience is rooting for him to be bitten.
The better you know your Shakespeare and Shakespearian history, the more you will be rewarded by the play, which constantly drops Shakespearian dialogue from all characters’ mouths.
Land of the Dead is a technically ambitious show from several standpoints. Costume designer Natalie Cummins has to outfit a much larger cast than usually traipses across Lexington stages, Jason Tate has numerous fight scenes to choreograph, and the makeup is elaborate and extensive.
The zombie action is a bit varied, from the docile Walking Dead types to some crazed, ravenous killers. Purists might demand more consistency.
But this really isn’t a show for purists of any stripe. It’s fun, and in his tenure as AGL’s artistic chief, we know that Seale likes to have fun.
After two swings through Rupp Arena as a supporting act, The Band Perry seems destined to take over headlining duties. The group’s second album, Pioneer, is a prime vehicle to take it there with a dozen numbers that will play to big rooms just fine without betraying the trio’s string-band roots.
Folks who tuned into the Academy of Country Music Awards Sunday night saw that with the band’s performance of DONE, one of two fierce numbers that lead off the follow-up to the group’s self-titled debut.
The first thing most people heard of The Band Perry was the wistful 2010 crossover hit If I Die Young, and we certainly get that sweet feeling on several new tracks, particularly Mother Like Mine, a lovely tribute from a sibling group. But The Band Perry has always wanted to rock and frontwoman Kimberly Perry has always had edge, which is what is really exploited on Pioneer.
Better Dig Two, the opening track and lead-off single, is a fierce declaration of possibly ill-advised loyalty ’til death — “If divorce or death ever do us part, the coroner will call it a broken heart.” Other barn-burners include Chainsaw and Night Gone Wasted, and while the wah-wah guitar opening of I’m a Keeper might seem to indicate brothers Reid and Neil want to indulge the rock-star fantasies their haircuts betray, there are anchors like the steady plucking below the surface of DONE that anchor the band. There’s also Kimberly’s exasperated grunt at the end of the song that indicate this is not as tidy as the country pop we are used to.
Indeed, it did seem that The Band Perry may use a second album to veer off into a rootsier pose, at one point courting one-time Johnny Cash producer Rick Rubin. But they ended up engaging Dann Huff, architect of several of Rascal Flatts’ successes, as well as arena stars Reba McEntire, Celine Dion, and Michael Jackson.
The Band Perry may be a trio of kids, but they know exactly where they want to go, and that’s playing second fiddle to no one in arenas.
See more: Winter Jam 2013 photo gallery
Tobymac is one of the unlikeliest No. 1 artists to headline a Rupp Arena concert.
The former dc talk member operates firmly inside the contemporary Christian music world, but charted a No. 1 album overall on the Billboard Top 200 list last August with the debut of his latest effort, Eye on It.
Topping the bill at Saturday night’s Winter Jam concert, Tobymac (the stage name for Kevin Michael McKeehan) showed off the secret weapon in his success: his long serving Diverse City Band.
With him pretty much since he departed dc talk in 2001 for a break that turned into a solo career, Diverse City has formed into Christian music’s tightest ensemble capable of serving its frontman’s many moods: now we’re a hip-hop act, now we’re a rock band, now we’re worship, now we’re a drumline. One of the most illustrative moments was the pairing of the meditative Steal My Show and Boomin’, which sounds like its title. Falling back, a few members of the ensemble supported T-mac’s moment, and then we’re tight around him for the big number.
Steal My Show is Tobymac’s prayer to God to work through his music.
It is also something the other artists on the lineup, seen by an audience that packed 23,000-seat Rupp Arena to the rafters Saturday night, threatened to do.
Winter Jam has now made Rupp a regular stop, and this was one of its strongest, tightest presentations with even early evening artists like Royal Tailor giving arena-worthy sets and Red looking like a headliner itself with its blazing performance. When Red came to Winter Jam two years ago, it was stuck near the beginning of the lineup and missed by many who didn’t get into the arena until after the quartet played.
Saturday, they were highlighted after Nick Hall’s message and delivered a quick cathartic lineup with hits from their last two albums, Until We Have Faces (2011) and this year’s Release the Panic.
Sharing a lineup with Red and Toby, mellower acts Matthew West and Newsong, Winter Jam’s host band, also delivered surprisingly engaging sets. West, in particular, was electrified and funny, at one point joking everyone would leave with a copy of his new CD, Into the Light … if everyone went to his merchandise table and bought it. “This isn’t Oprah,” he joked. “I have to feed my kids.”
I did not get to see every act Saturday, as I had to leave the arena for a while to report and write an item for the Herald-Leader about the resurrection of the Ichthus Festival.
Newsong’s Russ Lee announced from the stage that the 43-year-old festival, which closed late last year due to financial troubles, is being brought back by the people who bought the intellectual property of the festival, including its name and website. Ichthus had a table at Winter Jam, and former director Mark Vermilion said more detailed announcements should be coming later this week about when and where an abbreviated Ichthus will be presented this year. He said the new owners, whose identities were not disclosed Saturday, want to bring back a full-fledged Ichthus, which ended as a four day-three night event, in 2014 and after.
So, Winter Jam will not have to fill the roll of Central Kentucky’s biggest annual Christian music event. But as it has proven before, it’s great in its own right.
Last Fall’s record-breaking, eye-popping production of The Phantom of the Opera put the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre in the spotlight as an organization capable of putting on a really big show.
This semester’s production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro puts the focus on the University of Kentucky’s singers, and it proves to be as satisfying a night, even without the chandelier and the boat.
To be sure, Richard Kagey’s production is a much simpler affair than his Phantom. But it is also what Marriage or many other Mozart operas need to be: charming.
For all its vaunted status as one of the most performed operas in the world – some surveys put it at No. 1 – and a musical masterpiece, Figaro is at its core a silly little love story led by opera’s merry prankster, Figaro.
In the opening night performance of the opera, which is double cast, Daniel Koehn made the role look as easy as it needs to be with his smooth baritone buoyantly romping through some palace intrigue.
As the title suggests, it is Figaro’s wedding day, but before he marries to his beloved Susanna, plays will be made for both of their affections, and there will be other mixing and matching of couples.
Mozart’s music is considered great for young singers as it develops key parts of the voice without stretching it to places it is not ready to go. UK has presented Mozart’s work in its undergraduate studio shows to great success, but here it seems to have opened up the main stage to more undergrads than usual.
Between this and Phantom, 2012-13 seems to be the year of the undergrad at UK Opera, no one benefiting more than Elizabeth Maurey as Susanna, fresh off a turn as one of the three Christines in Phantom. Here, the threats are far less ominous and the music is more sprite, giving Maurey a chance to play and show a very natural comic style. Through three hours and 15 minutes, we get to really enjoy her and Figaro (who in the other cast is played by undergrad Phillip Bullock) as a happy couple we know will come out on top.
Their main challenge is the Count, who we were actually ro0ting for in Giacomo Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, to which Figaro is a sequel (though it was actually written 30 years earlier). Then, Figaro was helping the Count was pursue the lovely Rosina. Now, he has grown tired of Rosina and has set his sights on Susanna, and apparently any other female in his home.
This is not necessarily a show-stealing role, but Thomas Gunther comes close as he is constantly schemes and gets thwarted like Wile E. Coyote. Though he’s creepy, it’s hard to hate him as he brilliantly sings his Act II-opening aria, Hai già vinta la causa … Vedrò mentr’io sospiro.
This production also confirms that mezzo-soprano Ellen Graham can sing pants roles brilliantly, as she also did as Prince Orlofsky in the 2010 production of Die Fledermaus. Here, she is every bit the lovestruck teenage boy Cherubino, and with her gorgeous Act II rendition of Voi che sapete che cosa è amor to the countess, it’s a wonder this does not become a bit of an 18th century Cougar Town.
Kagey’s production makes this opera seem that contemporary, despite its 227 years, as there seems to have been a broad mandate to have fun with it. He aids his own cause with a stage design that is in stark contrast to the complexity of his Phantom set. But it works brilliantly as a variety of locales on a pink and blue checkerboard raked platform and two doors, with several quick changes of backdrop and furniture.
And under John Nardolillo’s baton, the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, fresh off playing Wagner with Christine Brewer, is as crisp as ever, giving this show another dash of exactly what it needs.
The evening was buoyed with the pre-show announcement that UK Opera director Everett McCorvey has withdrawn his name from consideration for dean of the College of Music Theatre, and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and will stay at UK.
UK’s Marriage is not the behemoth of last fall’s blockbuster. But it shows how the program got to the point it could produce shows like Phantom, by consistently staging solid productions like this.
This production continues at 2 and 7 p.m. March 2 and 7 p.m. March 3. Several stars of this production are winners of the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Auditions. This year’s auditions are at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Singletary Center for the Arts.
With Sunday night’s performance at Natasha’s Bistro and Bar, J String completed the journey from hot summer night lark to a winter night performance that attracted a good, enthusiastic crowd, despite a cold rain.
The conceit of the duo of Lexington cellist Jacob Yates, now a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Cincinnati-based Broadway actress Jessica Hendy, is that they take big pop songs by artists like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and reset them for voice and cello. It has worked well for J String over a quintet of web videos that have been modest viral successes, particularly the sleek production of David Guetta’s Titanium.
J String has a lot going for it, primarily a pair of extremely talented musicians and a unique concept: voice and cello pop duo. Add to that, they have tossed artsy snobbery to the wind and taken songs often dismissed as Top 40 confections seriously.
That may have worked best in their take on Britney Spears’ debut hit … Baby One More Time, in which Hendy really accessed the emotion of a girl pleading to get a guy to give her another chance. The duo’s take also accented one of the controversial aspects of the song, the lyric “Hit me baby one more time,” which Spears has maintained is not a reference to violence. But Hendy’s performance did convey a note of unhealthy desperation.
Throughout the 16-song set, she and Yates, to an extent, embodied their songs like a Broadway performer embodies a character. On three songs, they were joined by Cincinnati Conservatory senior Josh Tolle, from a piano-bar style rendition of Alicia Keys’ If I Ain’t Got You to a pointed interpretation of Radiohead’s Creep.
Yates was clearly on a cellist’s holiday ripping intricate solos in songs like Titanium and using a looping pedal for some very cool overlays.
There is no clear path for what is next for J String. They are hoping to book a New York gig later this year that could get them in front of some influential ears. Hendy and Yates have no designs on creating original material, though Tolle is a songwriter and clearly finds the combo inspiring. Maybe they will know they have arrived if someone takes a J String original and sets it to guitar, bass, and drums.
For now, it’s fun watching the group put on the hits.
At its core, West Side Story is another iteration of a timeless tale about love doomed by ignorant and irrational hatred.
William Shakespeare wrote about it in the late 16th century in Romeo and Juliet, and other versions preceded it. The saddest thing is no one ever quite gets the point because you could take this story and plop it in the midst of numerous warring groups today, and it would make sense.
In the late 1950s, the trio of composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim and a writer Arthur Laurents set it among warring white and Puerto Rican gangs. The unfortunate thing about the touring production that opened at the Lexington Opera House Friday night for a three day run is it felt more like a museum piece than a vibrant story.
Quite a bit has been made about how this production, based on the 2009 Broadway revival by Laurents, updated the show to make it contemporary. That is primarily in the portrayal of the Puerto Rican characters who are played mostly by actors with Latin-American backgrounds and speak Spanish for significant portions of the show. But the gang life still feels very rooted in the mid-20th century and sanitized for musical theater. If you were concerned this was going to be some kind of Martin Scorsese take on the Sharks and the Jets, rest easy. It’s hard to sound very tough saying, “Daddy-O.”
But what really keeps this production from soaring is another timeless hazard for tales of star-crossed lovers: It’s hard to get too involved with the story if you aren’t sold on the couple.
We aren’t quite sure why Addison Reid Coe’s Tony and Maryjoanna Grisso’s Maria are drawn to each other across the dance floor, and we never really are. The passion that’s supposed to spark two-and-a-half hours of drama really never ignites, and that leaves us hanging on the songs.
Fortunately, West Side Story gives us plenty of great songs and there are some really strong performances in this production, particularly Act I centerpieces America and Cool.
Anita is one of the great show-stealing roles in American musical theater — just ask Rita Moreno — and Michelle Alves makes the most of her opportunity here, particularly with the showcase of America, swinging her skirt around, mugging and leading a great ensemble turn. Of anyone in this show, it would be no surprise if Alves made it to Broadway.
As Riff, Theo Lencicki takes a similarly strong turn in Cool, where the gang leader teaches his Jets how to act. His counterpart with the Sharks, Andres Acosta as Bernardo, is also a compelling stage presence.
But it’s Tony and Maria that must carry the show. Grisso has a beautiful voice and develops some grit before the final curtain. Coe never makes us believe Tony was once a gang leader, and with two big solos, Something’s Coming and Maria, he did not seem to know what to with himself alone on stage.
The Spanish and casting of the Puerto Rican parts certainly strengthened the production, giving the show greater credibility than some versions of West Side Story that have scrimped on cultural authenticity. And there were some thrilling ensemble moments, particularly the Dance at the Gym and the highly stylized fighting of the prologue.
But the lesson of this production is that regardless of how you frame the show, it will rise or fall on its performances and storytelling. Whether it’s R&J or West Side Story, this is not a tale that should leave us dry eyed and indifferent.
Read and see more:
- Feature: When Evan met Ellie
- Notebook: Comparing Streetcars
- Gallery: A Streetcar Named Desire
- Video: Scene from Streetcar
Rain and lightning finally cleared away enough Friday night for SummerFest to open its production of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Still, steel gray clouds and gusty winds made for an appropriately stormy atmosphere for one of the American stage’s greatest works and one of its greatest drama queens, Blanche DuBois.
The Arboretum stage has not hosted Williams before, though it has presented many great Shakespearean tragedies including King Learand Macbeth. Streetcar certainly deserves to be on the same stage, and all three have been helmed at the Arboretum by Lexington’s master of drama, director Joe Ferrell.
The play is tough stuff, made all the more searing by Williams’ ability to create excruciatingly human characters and put poetic truths in their mouths. See the first scene between Blanche and her little sister Stella. As Blanche tells Stella how she lost their family home, her self-defensiveness is at an aggravating fever pitch, but she describes enduring the deaths in her family with vivid truthfulness.
That is Blanche, a woman who is infuriatingly arrogant but also clearly a victim of the circumstances of her life, raised in the refinement of a Southern plantation but now facing a much less accommodating world. She expresses astonishment that Stella, who is not having similar problems adapting, does not have a maid for the two-room apartment in New Orleans’ French Quarter she shares with her husband, Stanley.
That sets the tone for the world Blanche longs for compared to the one she is in.
Stanley exemplifies that new world as a self-assured, sometimes primal and violent man for whom Blanche is really no match, particularly as her stories begin to unravel.
Stella has the unenviable task of refereeing these two, who are constantly pulling her to their sides. Ellie Clark makes Stella a self-assured woman who still has to bend to the wills of these strong personalities. Bergman plays Stanley as a gregarious fellow who too easily slips into his dark, violent side. But through his charisma, you see why people are attracted to him, from his bowling buddies to his loyal wife.
Bergman and Clark are a real-life couple, and they bring palpable chemistry to their performances. They lead two of this production’s best scenes: when Stanley airs his suspicions about the loss of Blanche and Stella’s family home, and later, when Stanley tells Stella what he has learned about Blanche’s life back home in Laurel, Miss. In both instances, Bergman manages his tone beautifully to highlight key portions of the scenes and come across as reasonable, albeit barely.
We have no doubt he does not like his sister-in-law.
And in Bess Morgan’s performance, Blanche is really hard to like.
Moments after appearing, she is operating at a shrill tenor, and for the most part stays there through Act I. Blanche is histrionic, but this one-note interpretation makes it difficult to muster much sympathy for her, something we really need for the play to have its full impact. Act II brings more nuance from Morgan, and a couple of engaging scenes including the one when she makes advances on a paperboy (Rob Schrader, acting appropriately weirded-out) and her recounting of her husband’s death. But Blanche’s charm never comes through the mumbling drawl Morgan developed for her character.
Tim Hull is perfectly cast as Stanley’s friend and Blanche’s sad sack suitor Mitch, one of numerous victims in this tragic tale.
The design team, including set designer Dathan Powell and costumers Joyce Anderson and Dennis Smail, give the show a solid but unobtrusive look. One great prop is the old-fashioned fan sitting atop the refrigerator, which on Friday frequently turned at full speed powered only by the wind.
In Streetcar, SummerFest has brought a good production of an American classic to the stage, but it would help if it, and particularly its leading lady, operated more like that fan that occasionally slowed down when the winds let up.
Steve Kazee’s first Broadway lead looks to be a hit with critics whose reviews are coming in after Sunday’s opening night performance of Once, the new musical based on the surprise hit 2006 film. Kazee, who was raised in Ashland and graduated from Morehead State University, plays Guy, an Irishman who falls in love with Girl, played by Cristin Milioti, when they discover they literally make beautiful music togther.
The big kahuna of the critics, The New York Times’ Ben Brantley, said the musical’s move from Off-Broadway to Broadway had been good for the show.
” … The greater distance between stage and audience that comes with a move to a Broadway house softens the edges of its exaggeration. And what was always wonderful about “Once,” its songs and its staging, has been magnified. In the meantime its appealing stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, have only grown in presence and dimensionality,” Brantley wrote. He added that Kazee, “manages to find a soulful, quietly erotic energy in his passive character, and his singing voice shifts by stealthy degrees from tuneful plaintiveness to howling pain.”
The Associated Press’ Mark Kennedy wrote that Once, “is a study in how to beautifully adapt a movie to the stage. In many ways, in fact, this Once is better than the original Once.” He added, “Kazee adopts a convincing Irish accent and he has a great voice, especially when he strains with emotion. He’s pretty good looking, too, in just jeans, an undershirt and a vest.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones also called it a textbook example of taking a story from film to stage and said Once is a rare wise musical.
“Once offers a rush of new understanding of how those who succeed in life and love often do so because an unselfish someone either talked them into getting out of bed in the morning or removed some great boulder lying in the way. Kazee and Milioti … are so precise and specific to a particular time and place that they become potent representatives of every moment of the heart in every stubborn locale.”
Forbes’ Roger Friedman called the show “a knockout,” the likely winner of the Tony Award for best musical and a star maker.
“Ready for his walk of fame for a long time, I’d say, is Steve Kazee … Kazee plays guitar and sings like a legitimate rock star. He reminded me less of Bono than of another Irish folk rocker, Luka Bloom. And Kazee–who told me after the show that he’s played guitar since age 12–comes from Kentucky. How does he come by such a good stage accent? “I just slip into it,” he says with a shrug.”
The performance program notes her achievements as a performing musician and an arts supporter with both her money and time. But as her voice teacher, Lexington music icon Phyllis Jenness notes, “until last September she had never written a lick.”
Yet, Sunday afternoon, the audience in Central Christian Church was treated to an hour of her works: the Thy Will Be Done and a shorter work, Martyred Maid, based on the story of Joan of Arc. We also heard an Italian version of the Lord’s Prayer, O Padre Nostro, which appears in the English cantata.
While Rice has not composed before, it is fair to say that someone who has been involved in music as much as she has probably has developed a good sense of what makes a piece of music work. Not everyone, of course, can translate that onto sheet music, but Rice appears to have the knack.
No, this is not the new Handel’s Messiah, but then what is? In the grand scheme of church cantatas, Thy Will Be Done is a solid piece of work that should certainly be able to stand with a lot of other offerings on the church cantata market. It’s a straight-forward, scripture-based work that tells the story of Jesus Christ bookended with the promise of Psalm 23 and the instruction of the beatitudes. The instrumentation is piano-based with flourishes from small instrumental ensemble, and it requires a small choral ensemble with a few strong male and female soloists.
Most churches will have a tenor soloist, but precious few have one as strong as Gregory Turay, who led this production as Jesus Christ. In his performance, Rice’s version of the Lord’s Prayer seemed like a plausible alternative to the Albert Hay Malotte version that is often the default setting of the prayer. It Rice’s interpretation, it is lighter and more lyrical than Malotte’s take, which can be driven to grandiose levels.
Rice’s setting of Greater Love also seems to be an ideal hit single in the church choir world.
There are some sterling moments specific to this work too, including the blend of Anabelle Wright-Gatton as Mary and Amanda Balltrip as Elizabeth in Mary’s Song and Duet. Director Lorne Dechtenberg and Turay also navigate Rice’s most dramatic moment, Christ’s plea on the cross, “My God, why have you forsaken me,” a dramatic and forceful statement, immediately followed by Jim Smith’s much more subdued narration. He and Sarah Klopfenstein were solid narrators throughout the performance, Klopfenstein sounding as authoritative as she ever has.
It was a little hard to get past the staging of Martyred Maid to hear the piece. Soprano Lori White was very busy following stage directions of dubious importance that drew attention away from what was a melodic and dramatic piece.
Thy Will could do with a little more dramatic and stylistic variety, but a composer’s first offering this strong and of this scope is fairly unanticipated. This debut performance whets the appetite for what could be next from Rice who, in an interview last week, sounded as anxious to get back to writing as she was to hear this performance.
Not everyone can play an arena. Regular attendees at Rupp Arena concerts have certainly sat through performances by opening acts, sometimes even headliners who were not ready for a cavernous performance space — who it seemed would be more comfy playing for a few hundred people, rather than several thousand.
And it has happened at Winter Jam, the Christian rock tour that visited Rupp for the fifth consecutive year, Saturday night.
But this year, the tour delivered an arena-ready show from the top to the bottom of the bill. Even rootsy Dara Maclean made a complete connection with her voice and the support of a guitarist and cellist, seemingly hung out on a stage in the middle of the arena, ready to be swallowed up by the space.
Winter Jam 2012 was headlined by Christian rock arena masters Skillet, which brought its full arsenal of pyrotechnic, hydraulic gear for the show, including a new lift for drummer Jen Ledger’s kit. Christian rock fans who attend the Ichthus Festival regularly are abundantly familiar with Skillet’s show, which leans almost exclusively on songs from its last two albums, Awake (2009) and Comatose (2006).
Regardless of how often you have seen the show, which is somewhat tweaked every time, it is still a sight to behold, and charismatic frontman John Cooper gets incredible support from the frenetic band of multi-instrumentalist Korey Cooper (his wife), guitarist Seth Morrison and drummer Jen Ledger. You watch them perform and it’s no wonder they’re all so thin.
But they had some energetic competition from old man Peter Furler, 45, the former Newsboys frontman who was back on the Winter Jam tour as a solo act for the first time. Striking out on his own seems to have reinvigorated the Aussie Christian rock icon who swung through a set of his new music including I’m Free and Newsboys classics such as Entertaining Angels with his all-star pick-up band of fellow-former Newsboy Phil Joel on bass, Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian and drummer Jeff Irizarry. With none of Skillets rides or explosives, the quartet brought a garage-rock feel to their set, albeit on an arena level.
Kari Jobe looked in no way ready for the big house of Rupp when she stepped onto the stage, but soon the pixie-esque solo artist was creating the most ethereal moment of the evening with Revelation Song, as she repeated the final lyrics and the audience sang them back to her while guitarist Hank Bentley backed it with a distorted echo.
That’s how you fill an arena.
In Lexington, we probably have benefited from getting Winter Jam two-and-a-half months into the tour, when the artists have had plenty of time to warm up on arenas around the nation. The tour has succeeded in large part because of its $10 admission fee that makes it a youth-group leader’s dream to bring kids too. But it never hurts when the artists — rounded out Saturday night by Group 1 Crew, Building 429 and Sanctus Real — are strong enough that the audience feels it got much more than it’s money’s worth.
That doesn’t always happen in arena rock, these days.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich