Friday, August 13, 2010

Born to be Wild

I spent most of the last week on the road to see Clay Aiken’s Timeless Tour, put on for appreciative crowds with good buddy Ruben Studdard. I saw three shows in three very different venues and left each one with three different memories. And images that I cannot get out of my head.

Before I tell you about these images and thoughts, I’d like to thank the rest of the gang who worked tirelessly on this show that was part walk through the history of music, part variety show and part night club dance.

Ruben: I never knew you had such a mischievous funny bone in you. Your voice is like smooth, chocolate silk and even though no one can replace Karen Carpenter’s version of Superstar in my heart, I do recognize the passion that you bring to it. Thank you for loving him and letting it show.

Quiana: Effortless singing with perfect pitch combined with just the right amount of sass. I can’t imagine a Clay Aiken tour without you.

Casey: Welcome to controlled chaos. It’s hard not to hate you for being a size 1.5 when you are up there singing your heart out with a sense of wonderment on your face. I hope you enjoyed it too. Oh but we do have to hate on you just a little bit for this.

Band: With a little bit of Ruben ( bass, guitar and keyboard) and a little bit of Clay (musical director, drums and backup singers), you guys were great. And a special thanks to Felix Pollard, one kick-ass drummer and the best Clay has ever had. You make every song better. We’ve missed you!

So back to my concert memories.

Foxwoods: I brought my husband who isn’t a “fan” but does think Clay puts on a great show. This venue was large, packed and just a little bit sterile. Maybe because the ceilings are so high but it’s not small enough for an intimate concert and not large enough for that loud arena feel. My husband liked the melodies but the sound was not great where we sat and he had trouble hearing the comedy. He did hear enough to say that Clay talks very fast! Funny thing for a life long Northeast man to say about a guy from the South. Clay proved once again that he can pick a situation in the audience and make comic gold out of it, by finding a man in the front row who appeared to be sleeping and running with it.

New Hampshire: A day driving along the Maine coast ended with seeing this concert in a “large, dark and divey” venue that was filled to the brim. It’s amazing that this venue gets some well known acts every year. The bad news is that we were packed in there. The good news is that my fourth row seat at a table meant we were six feet from the stage. We saw the smirks, the asides (Ruben saying to Clay “I can’t hear, man”) and how they worked to make the set-up something you forgot about when the first note was played. The venue felt like it had quite a large percentage of the non core fanbase and we managed to find a way to dance in our tiny little cracks of space in between tables. There is something about seeing that face up close when he is performing that increases my joy at a concert about 1000 fold. And I scooped a drumstick left by Felix at the end of the show.

New York: A screw-up by Live Nation/Ticketmaster of biblical proportions because they messed up the seating arrangement on Ticketmaster when they sold the tickets (by stating the non orchestra was standing room only, which was not only false but likely deterred ticket sales) and again by changing the venue at the last minute to one that could not possibly accommodate the amount of tickets sold nor the configuration in which they were purchased. Our seating was disappointing but the guys seemed to know that there were many unhappy people and they cranked it up a notch. The gold lame Hammer pants were a nice touch. When Ruben walked out, the crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative in our applause but when Clay walked out the crowd was on their feet en masse. Decca Records was there. I hope they noticed that. Actually, I hope it was one of many things they noticed that night.

Clay can sing just about anything and he does it even better live. (The production on his latest CD is quite good but there hasn’t been a sound engineer yet who has been able to capture the magic of his live performance. )

He’s had me dancing and snapping my fingers to a big band version of It’s Only Make Believe. He’s had me holding my breath through a wistful version of Moon River. But , he sings with his whole body when he is singing contemporary pop and pop/rock. And by contemporary I don’t mean the Pro-Tooled crap that is out there now, just not standards of a bygone era.

I’ve already written a blog about my ecstasy over Boston’s More Than a Feeling (and would love to hear Long Time too, he can leave off the Foreplay if he wants ;-) But he also just nailed it on Heart’s Alone, Chaka Khan’s Through the Fire or Kenny Loggins’ Footloose. When he sang Footloose with a growled “you’ve got to turn me around”, it just got my heart pumping faster than it already was after dancing in my 3 inch Anne Klein heels. Wednesday night they had the crowd dancing so hard, I thought we were going to stomp our way right through the seven stories of that old Hammerstein Ball Room.

If he can nail such recognizable covers like that, why can’t someone write songs for him with that same spirit? Ballads and uptempo songs that can appeal to many generations with a contemporary sound. Aren’t there any other songwriters out there besides Rob Thomas who can write for a strong male voice?

I said in my Boston blog that I’ve had my taste of it after watching video and I can move on.

I saw three shows live.

I lied. I want more of it.

Decca Records was there at the New York concert. I hope they saw it all. They love of the fans, the incredible vocal talent and stage presence. The way the fans love to move to Clay prowling around the stage, moving to the beat. The way Clay seems to love it too.

So while David Novik is out looking for songs and songwriters to make my wish come true, I’ll just wait for my local PBS station to show Clay’s concert special and hope some smart TV producer puts Clay and Ruben on a summer variety show in 2011.

Heck, they could also show commercials of Clay selling Armani suits. Hasn’t any one noticed this man wears a suit as good as any model out there?

In the meantime, go ahead and watch this and I dare you not to head bob toward your monitor and tap your finger against your mouse.

Thanks, Clay. It was a blast. You can let Ruben have the bigger stool now. Yours is going to be so tall, you might get a nose bleed.