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Concert Review: Nadina Mackie Jackson and the PGSO

4 Nov

I had the incredible privilege and pleasure of attending last night’s Prince George Symphony Orchestra (PGSO) concert, featuring a homecoming appearance by bassoon Master Nadina Mackie Jackson.

I am a pretty big fan of the PGSO and have attended more than my fair share of exquisite performances.  Each and every time, despite my keen knowledge of their incredible talent and professionalism, these musicians blow me away.  Last night’s event was no exception.

With recently inducted conductor Kevin Zakresky at the helm for his inaugural main stage performance, the PGSO wowed its fans.  We were warmed up with a selection from Handel’s The Water Music, which was brilliantly introduced by Zakresky, who set the stage perfectly with a bit of scandalous Handel history and a lively description of the scene we could have expected had we joined King George I for his concert on the Thames.  Once the King’s barge movement had ended, Zakresky had the fortune of introducing our bassoonist for the evening, the gal with the blue hair, Nadina Mackie Jackson.  With this introduction, my world changed.

Allow me to deviate from the music for a moment.  Before she began playing, Nadina borrowed the mic from Zakresky and humbly thanked the PGSO and her audience for the opportunity to play in her home town again.  She reminded us of the incredible talent housed in Prince George and she, and her prodigious tale of hard work and consequential monstrous personal accomplishments, inspired the heck out of me.

You need only to gaze upon Nadina a moment to know that you’re in for quite a show.  Sporting a shock of Smurf-blue hair, a breathtaking and outstandingly out of the ordinary pair of Canadian-designed gowns and an eye twinkle I could spot from the twenty-first row back, Nadina isn’t exactly what first comes to mind when you think of symphony soloist.  As soon as she puts lip to reed though, all preconceptions ebb.  Nadina Mackie Jackson is a testament not only to Prince George, British Columbia, Canada or the world, she is a testament to the spirit and soul of music.  Through her Grand Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (Hummel) and Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra in C minor RV 480 (Vivaldi), Nadina so clearly demonstrates the beautiful, joyful passion with which she plays.  I know technical musicians and I know musical musicians; Nadina Mackie Jackson is a perfect marriage between a keen technical understanding and a truly musical, creative and artistic soul.

To conclude this show, Nadina bowed gracefully and allowed the PGSO the opportunity to continue to do what it does best.  Zakresky made a final introduction, just as lively as the last, nudging his audience into a parlour filled with Viennese aristocrats, before luring his symphony into Mozart’s Symphony #29 in A major.  Spell-binding.  The Prince George audience was held in thrall until allowed to burst into applause to show amazed appreciation for the evening’s spectacle.

To see Nadina Mackie Jackson accompanied by our remarkable PGSO was a special treat.  Thank you, and congratulations, to the PGSO, Kevin Zakresky and Nadina Mackie Jackson for the outstanding evening and for continuing to entertain and inspire through the art of music.

UNT.

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Concert Review: My Darkest Days, Seether, Bush and Nickelback in Vancouver, BC

27 Jun

Yes.  That’s right, I did get to see My Darkest Days, Seether, Bush and Nickelback at Roger’s Arena (home of the mighty Canucks – go Jets, go!) last night (June 26th, 2012)!

We began our soiree with a twenty-three minute set from up-and-comers My Darkest Days.  (That’s right, only twenty-three minutes.)  It would have been nice to have seen a bit more of a showing from these gents, but they did deliver their radio singles (including a sadly Kroeger-less Pornstar Dancing) and made a seemingly successful attempt at establishing a reasonable stage presence with the Vancouver crowd.  The pornstar-dancing Torontonians have taken their cue from headline act Nickelback, busting out the sailor vocabulary and praising the native herb wafting from the seats of excited concert-goers.  These guys have something to prove – they were allowed to play at the adult stage, after all – and did not disappoint.  My Darkest Days are what they are: fun!  This was an entertaining offering from a new band that is not shy about clambering for footing all the way up.  They were solid in their sound and rocked the tunes they knew the crowd would dig.  And dig we did.

Next up?  Seether, the band that gave us Country Song (one of my favourites from last year).  This was a very interesting act.  From song one it was clear that these boys are more interested in engaging their fans through their music than their stage presence.  Frontman Shaun Morgan said no more than five words to last nights Roger’s Arena crowd – most of those words were repeated thanks for the after-song love – but did bring a set that included some of the band’s most popular singles.  What he did not bring was an extra guitar, which would have come in handy after he gave a sharp nod to KISS Starchild Paul Stanley when he introduced his instrument to the stage, ending Seether’s contribution to last night’s festivities.  Seether’s stage presence was further degraded by their lighting choreography – it was just absolutely impossible to get a good look at the band.  And, okay, while we’re at it?  The South African post-grunge rockers were loud in a terribly unbalanced way – an unfortunate combination of too much instrument, too much feedback and not nearly enough tuning.  Aside from that?  I love Seether on the radio and I actually really enjoyed their set – including the entirely too creepy clowns, zombies and haunted doll images flashing on the screens above them.

And then there was Bush.  My Darkest Days and Seether were great choices for this leg of Nickelback’s tour, but including the ‘90s grunge champions was genius.  I have already caught flack for this, but I’ll say it again anyway: Bush stole the show.  Their set was solid and crisp.  The most notable difference between Bush and their predecessors last night was that they have nothing to prove and they know it.  Gavin Rossdale and his merry men have been around the block a time or two; they’ve played the Juggernauts of Rock game already and now they’re in it for a good time (if not a long time).  You can tell.  From an eight-song set comprised of fan favourites from ’92 to present to Gavin’s enthusiastic jumping, dancing, rocking, praise of Vancouver and visit to his fans.  That’s right, Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, while delivering a fantastic cover of The Beatle’s Come Together decided to take a stroll through the lower level of the Roger’s Arena stands to serenade screaming fans.  Bush came from my heyday(ish) and it was outstanding to see them rock as hard as they did and have as much fun as they seemed to.  (Dear Bush, if you come through with your promise to come back toVancouver, I promise that I will see you then. Yours, YFN vyxen.)

Now, in my eyes they’ve already been outdone, but we’ve saved the headliners for last anyway.

Nickelback.  Oh gentle reader, say what you will about them, Nickelback puts on a hell of a concert!  These boys know their fans and they deliver what The People scream for.  Theirs was a fun set!  They played, and drank, a little of everything – from 2001’s Silver Side Up to newly released Here and Now – and Fandom ate it up!  While the fellahs from Hanna Alberta rocked the main stage and a smaller, floating circular stage in the middle of the floor, the crowd went absolutely berserk.  Men fist-pumped, women gyrated and the eight-year-old behind me sang every word.  As one of the biggest deals in (stadium) rock today, Nickelback knows how to deliver a fantastic show, well worth the price of admission.  And that is exactly what our boys did last night.  My only real “I wish…. ” moment of the night came in the form of a desire for a shoutout to Curb (1996, 2001) or The State (1998, 2000) – my household prefers old Nickelback to now Nickelback.  Otherwise?  They are what they are folks – a solid band that puts on a great live show!  (Though Chad’s “happy birthday” to brother Mike seemed uninspiringly disingenuous.)

All in all?  Epic.  This fan favoured Bush above all, but the entire night was an absolute recipe for success!  I am beyond psyched to have been able to catch this show (thanks Mom!) – another awesome notch for the concert-going bedpost!

Rock on, friends.  Rock.  On.

My Darkest Days – Pornstar Dancing
Seether – Country Song
Bush – Machinehead
Nickelback – Rockstar

UNT.

Concert Review: John Mellencamp in Prince George, BC

18 Jun

Oh Prince George, you have outdone yourself once again!

I was fortunate enough to take in the John(ny Cougar) Mellencamp show in Prince George’s CN Centre this evening!

What a show!

It began with the Cowboy Junkies.  Now I was privy to the thoughts of the people around me who quoted the opening act as boring and just plain not all that great.  I completely disagree. The band may not have brought the upbeat danceable melodies Mellencamp was sure to carry, but they were outstanding!  Cowboy Junkies did not disappoint as a countrified blues rock band – I foresee buying in to their sound and predict a few summer nights around the campfire with Cowboy Junkies providing some pretty fabulous background tuneage.

And then there was John Mellencamp.

When the tickets to this show went on sale a few months back, I was stoked!  I grew up listening to classic rock and I married into a huge (new) appreciation of (and undying affection for) blues rock.  Mellencamp was no stranger to my dancing around the living room days (which are actually still pretty alive and well) – seeing him (and his amazing band) live and in concert was amazing!  His brand of “heartland rock” (a musical inclination which “emphasizes traditional instrumentation” (Wikipedia)) caters to my love of blues rock, folk music and the addition of traditionally not-rock instruments in a purely rock environment.  It’s stunningly musical – a testament to the art.

I’m serious folks, anyone who can rock (the fuck) out with a double bass, fiddle and accordion deserves nothing but my utmost respect.

From the acoustic version of Jack and Diane to the rocking house-party atmosphere of the Cherry Bomb finale – Mr. Cougar asked that the house lights be turned on for this number so that we could very easily rock with him – this will go down as one of my favourite concerts.  Of all time!  Our fair city has been mocked for its “rock retirement tour” events.  Again, I disagree.  Mellencamp, like KISS before him and Sir Elton John before them, proved that he can still rock as hard as ever and time has only refined his skills.

Rock on Prince George!  Thank you, Cowboy Junkies and John Mellencamp, for the amazing show.  And thank you, Prince George and all of your fantastic concert supporters and organizers, for being juggernauts of win!  You are so much fun to party with!

John Mellencamp – Hurt So Good

UNT.