Sunday, April 04, 2010

Male Call - A Clay Aiken PBS Concert

It was going to be a stormy ride down to North Carolina for the PBS concert last week with my wife and NY/New England friends in more ways then one. Not only was the weather going to be a factor on the drive, but my confidence for what we were going to witness wasn’t all that high either. Could it be the result of my faith in any record label was non-existent? After all Clay had recorded what I believe was the best music I had ever heard on the cd On My Way Here and got no promotion by that old label (I refuse to use their name) and no air play. I bummed out further knowing that I would probably never hear any of those songs sung live and never get to feel the excitement and energy Clay infuses in his songs and delivery when on tour.

I was more concerned Clay had hit his musical plateau. I couldn’t blame him after the past few years of struggle he’s endured with his career. He’s been subjected to a label that wouldn’t support him, negative press and little promotion of his music. I knew the guy could take a punch both metaphorically and physically but after hearing he had to have his jaw broken twice to correct a very bad situation, I could understand a desire to hang up the vocal chords. I fell into that Andy Williams, Moon River trap, and I was sure he was going to sing sappy middle of the road songs that I doubt I would like or ever want to buy. How does that make his new label Decca Records any different from the last? Ok his press had taken a sudden turn positive lately and he was finally getting the opportunity to put his music on tape, and PBS no less. But covers? No please not covers.

So on the night of the concert I didn’t have the usual excitement I feel when seeing Clay live. Sure some of the spark was still there but more worry than anything else. You could feel it in the crowd as we gathered prior to the opening of the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. Things didn’t get better either. When we got to our seats, right in front of us at eye level was a huge PBS floor camera. Oh yes, the night was going downhill quickly.

Convinced by others to do something about our seats I made my way down to the usher now talking with a couple of people. Using all the charm and sex appeal this guy could muster I informed her of our plight and asked if she could do anything for us. She had a few envelopes with tickets of people able to move seats, but we weren’t listed and it ended up I would have to go to the box office and throw myself on their mercy to see if they could relocate us. As I was moving towards the door to go to the box office the usher ran up and said hold on I have seats for you and took me to a young lady with a bright orange t-shirt. She was dealing with someone else and said hold on, so I waived to my wife to come down and we began a long walk down the side aisle of the dress circle. My heart sank, she was going to seat us in one of the side sections of the dress circle, when all of a sudden we got to the first row and turned. I’m convinced she was an angel of mercy because she took us to the 3rd row where there were open seats and said in a pure angelic voice, “Sit where you want to”. Ah, excuse me but any seat and she replied “yes”. We ended up third row, dress circle, center seats. Great the best seats we had ever had for an indoor Clay concert and he was going to do standards. It was like fate was saying “you’re going to hate this and I’m going to rub it in your face”.

Then the curtain came up. The 10 piece jazz band burst into the opening number (with 2 cellos & 2 violins) Clay with his back to the audience, turned, approached the microphone and that voice that’s sweet to the ear, blew me away for the next couple of hours. A totally new sound and direction, this is the start of something good.

So what have we learned so far? Never underestimate Clay Aiken. I knew that. How did I let myself forget it? Never again!

My hats off to Decca Records, to Clay’s positive management, to those amazing arrangements, and some of the most outstanding lighting I’ve seen. The staging and song selection was unique and the jazz band behind Clay was oh so sweet. Don’t miss this PBS special when it airs this summer and do pick up Clay’s new cd Tried and True when it releases in June. These “standards” are anything but standard.

Oh and Clay sang the dreaded Moon River so simply and wistfully, it still haunts me.

Should a known!

UPDATE: For a look at Clay Aiken's new album cover, check out this blog:

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SueReu said...

Thanks so much for the male perspective!!

I'm hoping that 2010 will be the year that leaves the label that shall not be named "Crying"

Corabeth said...

Yeah! You popped your ConCLAYve cherry! I didn't realize you had been that worried. Never understimate Clay Aiken. We should get that on a Tshirt. But I'd prefer the opening pose in silhouette.

"Convinced by others to do something about our seats I made my way down to the usher now talking with a couple of people."

Should I change my name to "others" ;-)

tree ~ said...

Excellent blog, Mr. Nan! It's good to get a man's perspective. Especially one who has been a fan and followed the journey as long as you have.
And since I was unable to attend the concert in Raleigh this quote from you really has me excited:

"A totally new sound and direction, this is the start of something good."

I can't wait!!!

Invisible926 said...

Bravo, MrNan! Well said. I shared many of your fears and Clay proved me wrong. It's a new day for Clay Aiken.

Don't miss Clay's PBS special. He is back and better than ever!!!

Pink Armchair said...

Thank you, Mr. Nan! Wonderful to get a man's perspective on one of the most electrifying performances I ever saw. Even for Clay it was truly amazing. Can't wait to see the special, and bravo to PBS for bringing him to an audience who needs to see him and will appreciate him. Thanks for such a great recap of your experience at the show.

Anonymous said...

I have learned to never under estimate Clay Aiken either. I no longer worry about the guy with the big voice and the raw ability to draw an audience in with his stage presence.

Loved your recap and I wish so bad I could have gone to experience what everyone describes as magic.

cagney1950 said...

Loved reading your blog! Wish I could have been there. Right now I have to be content with listening to my GFI downloads. And I agree about Moon River. Hopefully this direction will win him new fans.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you pointed out there were just 2 cellos and 2 violins as it sounds like the show Clay put on is quite different than the music that was recorded. Just today Chris Walden posted on Facebook that the arrangements had a lot of strings.

It will be interesting to see how the album differs in sound from the PBS special. I think that the London Philharmonic will be much more string centric than a 10 piece jazz band.

Corabeth said...

anonymous at 11:55.

I doubt there will just be more strings in the London and German orchestras. It's simply MORE. Chris Walden said big band too. My guess is they will have a few more brass than just the 2 trumpets and 2 sax players. Clay said in an interview that they deliberately chose to do the concert with a smaller group as they will take a group that size on the road.

Some songs need more strings. Moon River probably. It would make no sense for Clay to show PBS audiences a different sound than they would find on the album.

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

11:55 PM - the concert was done with an abbreviated orchestra similar to what Clay will tour with, more than likely. The album will surely have more instruments. But as Corabeth pointed out - it's MORE of everything - you are right Chris Walden said the arrangements had lots of BIG BAND and lots of STRINGS - so songs that work with strings will have strings and songs that work with horns will have horns. Not much point in doing a show to promote your album if your album is going to have a totally different sound - so I'm betting we'll hear something richer with more layers but not much different than what we got sitting in the audience of the show.

Anonymous said...

I was there, too, but did not have an extra moment to improve our "non-existent seats"...just grabbed what was close(not close to the stage...darn!)

I wish more men would be vocal about their enjoyment of Clay's music. We often travel with a couple and the husband is always asking where Clay will be performing next!!

I was not anxious in the same sense you were, I was anxious to hear that glorious voice, I was anxious to be enveloped by that charm which oozes from Clay's pores, I knew I would be turned to mush by the vocal nuances that belong only to Clay Aiken. And that smile...the smile that travels from his lips into his eyes and shows the true heart of this extraordinary vocal stylist

It was a priviledge to be invited to this special event. Tried and True...very appropriate as a title for this new project. Clay is a man who takes on each challenge with zest, yet always remains true to the core of being...he is musically creative, has the chops to deliver and will NEVER disappoint!!

Don't deprive yourself of an amazing muscial adventure!!!

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for the PBS Special and its DVD! Is it June 1st yet?
Thanks for a great blog! Here's to more Mr Nans in the making!

Mr. Nan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr. Nan said...

Just learning who's name I can and can't use in print corabeth (You know who I'm talking about!) Wouldn't want a faux pas on my 1st blog. You don't have to change your name... Let it be known corabeth prodded me to ask for new seats!

stpteach said...

Ah, Mr. Nan, you give good blog! Hugs to you for finally jumping into the ConClayve Fray!

IamMesmerized said...

Awesome blog, Mr. Nan. Always nice to hear from a Claydawg! I think there will be more and more of you as time goes by as you gents get to see what us gals saw all along. Pure magic!

Anonymous said...

Great blog .... loved reading it.

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading this. My hubby has been to 25 concerts with me, and he has enjoyed every one of them. It's good to know there are other guys out there that appreciate a terrific voice!