Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Retro Futura Tour — 8/22/14

Tom Bailey, voice of the Thompson Twins, performs at The Wilbur in Boston on Aug. 24 (Photo courtesy The  Wilbur)

Tom Bailey, voice of the Thompson Twins, performs at The Wilbur in Boston on Aug. 24 (Photo courtesy The
Wilbur)

Midge Ure, OBE, lead singer of Ultravox and cofounder of the Live Aid music festival, stepped out onto stage in front of a house band.

“Give us this day, all that you showed me/the power and the glory, ‘til my kingdom come!”

He belted out his lyrics a Capella before thundering into the guitar riff that serves as the backbone to “Hymn,” one of the best songs from his sadly absent band Ultravox. The high-minded content of Ure’s pop songs are a bit unusual these days, but his songs fit right in on a concert tour lineup that included a hearty group of romantic optimists—among them Howard Jones and Tom Bailey (formerly of the Thompson Twins).

The mini-festival winding its way across the United States at the moment is called the Retro Futura tour, and unfortunately it did not stop in DC on its way across the country. The closest it got was a suburb of Philadelphia on Friday, Aug. 22. In previous years, the tour had stopped here under its former name, the Regeneration Tour.

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Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: Robyn & Röyksopp @ Wolf Trap — 8/21/14

Somewhere in synthpop heaven, a match was made. Norwegian duo Royksopp would party with Swedish indie diva Robyn, and beautiful music would be made.

It happened most spectacularly on Royksopp’s 2009 album, Junior, with the disco smash “The Girl and the Robot,” which between Royksopp’s hooky synths and Robyn’s pleading voice captured a perfect crystalized moment in dancefloor history. Nominally, the song is about a woman in love with someone who may not return her affections, or at least is not as warm as she would like. The video fetishes technology and strobe lights.

And introducing the song gave Robyn a perfect opportunity to declare her raison d’etre before its performance by a happily reunited Robyn and Royksopp Thursday night at Wolf Trap.

“Love is a lot of work. Love is hard,” she said.

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Week in Review

Week in Review: 8/18 – 8/24

One if by land … Wait, sorry, wrong war. The “Flee the British 5K,” which was held Sunday, commemorates that other war against the Brits. The run was actually held 200 years to the day that the British torched DC during the War of 1812. According to the website, the fun run allows you to “feel what it’s like to have the British on your heels as you scurry to the finish line.” Unfortunately, the DC residents back in 1814 didn’t have the latest, ultra-light, gel-cushioned running shoes. More photos from our flickr pool after the jump.

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The Daily Feed

Zimmermann Solid Through Eight Innings, Nats Beat Giants 6-2

The Washington Nationals rebounded from Friday night’s lop-sided 10-3 loss that snapped their 10-run winning streak against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday by beating their visitors 6-2. Right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann pitched a solid eight innings while throwing 107 pitches and 78 strikes. He gave up two runs on seven hits – including a Hunter Pence two-run homerun in the first inning – while striking out eight batters.

Washington answered right back after the Giants led off the game with a double hit by outfielder Angel Pagan and the two-run Pence homer; Giants 2, Nats 0. Outfielder Denard Span led off with a triple hit down the right field line off San Francisco’s right-handed starter Tim Lincecum. Third baseman Anthony Rendon followed by drawing a walk before Span scored on a single hit by outfielder Jayson Werth. First baseman Adam LaRoche proceeded to hit into a double play in his at-bat but his efforts sent Rendon around to score; Giants 2, Nats 2. Continue reading

The Daily Feed, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Sunday in the Park with George

Brynn O’Malley (Dot) and Claybourne Elder (George) in Sunday in the Park with George at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Brynn O’Malley (Dot) and Claybourne Elder (George) in Sunday in the Park with George at Signature Theatre. Photo by Margot Schulman.

For persons wholly unfamiliar with the musical theatre canon of Stephen Sondheim, the Neo-impressionist artist George Seurat and his famous painting A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, or the work of DC-area director Matthew Gardiner, Sunday in the Park with George at Signature Theatre is worth seeing. For fans and admirers of Sondheim, Seurat, or Gardiner, seeing Signature’s production is absolutely essential. In fact, it’s vital. In the 97-year history of the Pulitzer Prize for drama, only eight musicals have won the coveted award and in 1985, Sondheim and book writer James Lapine’s fictionalized story of Seurat and his pointillist creation of A Sunday on La Grande Jatte became the sixth musical to achieve such an honor. Inspired by Seurat’s technique of applying a series of tiny, individual colored dots to form an image, Sondheim not only mimicked the style musically and verbally– through the use of staccato phrases, simple melodies, and clipped conversation—but he even named his female protagonist Dot. More than that, though, Sondheim and Lapine, in studying Seurat’s painting which depicts random people relaxing in a park on an island in the Seine River, wanted to give a voice to the one figure that seemed to be missing from the canvas: the artist himself. Sunday in the Park with George is written as two separate acts, whose individual stories merge at the end of Act II, to complete a thematic journey of art and love. Act I explores Seurat’s creation of the art and his struggle between passion for the work, and passion for his relationships, most notably with his lover, Dot. Three generations later, Act II features Seurat’s great-grandson George, an American artist trying to find his own passion, who eventually visits the island on the Seine River, depicted in Seurat’s painting, for inspiration, and ultimately ends up finding himself through his ancestry. Because the two acts are set nearly one hundred years apart, with completely different characters, styles of music, and seemingly unconnected plots, trying to seamlessly merge the two acts and complexity of the show’s themes is difficult. Particularly challenging is doing this without losing the pointillist nuances and simplicities in the script and musical score, all the while trying to give voice to the artists of the piece. In less than capable hands, Sunday in the Park with George can easily become droll, lackluster, and completely uninspired, rendering audiences bored, confused, and unmoved. Fortunately, Signature Theatre placed their production in the extremely capable hands of director Matthew Gardiner and the end result is breathtaking and awe-inspiring enchantment. Without adding too much unnecessary embellishment or frills to the piece, Gardiner flawlessly leads the audience through the complex world of the show by focusing on the show’s basic theme of allowing one’s passions to come from the heart and using that passion to make something beautiful. Gardiner seems to understand very well that those making this piece are, in essence, their own characters in Sunday in the Park with George and Gardiner’s heart and passion for the work are very evident in every aspect of this show. In fact, one of the reasons why Signature’s production is so beautiful is because everyone involved in the production seems to bring their full heart and passion to it. Claybourne Elder, in the title roles, first as George Seurat and then as 1980s artist George, carries the show gracefully, finding the perfect balances between artist and lover, relative and friend, passion and person, and tormented versus inspired. Never allowing his Georges to become sullen, moody, and unlikable, Elder remains sympathetic and heartfelt, even when his on-stage behaviors are self-destructive and disagreeable. To be able to do that, while creating two separate and distinct Georges, and then find a way to merge them together at the end of Act II is nothing but brilliant when done well and Elder’s portrayal is sheer genius. Similarly, Brynn O’Malley, first as Seurat’s lover, Dot, and then as 1980s George’s grandmother, Marie, (Seurat and Dot’s daughter), is incredible. As Dot, O’Malley remains grounded and keeps it simple, which is imperative for a character who, like the pointillist style she is named after, allows for the audience to see her fuller range of tones, from her solid comedic chops to her fine dramatic work. As the aged Marie in Act II, O’Malley’s transformation into a centenarian Grandmother is spectacular, wonderfully adopting the geriatric behaviors and nuances without allowing herself to become a caricature. No less impressive than Elder and O’Malley is a talented ensemble of actors who, like Gardiner and his team of gifted collaborators, clearly bring their full passion and love to this production. To see a show with such heart from all sides is truly special and rare, which is why Signature’s production of Sunday in the Park with George is so moving and so spectacular. It is the quintessential love letter to Sondheim, Seurat, theatre, and to art. Sunday in the Park with George performs now through September 21, 2014 at Signature Theatre, located at 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington VA 22206. Tickets start at $40. For more information, call 703-820-9771.

Featured Photo

Featured Photo

There’s nothing quite like a spectacular sunset. The only problem is the day you go out and set up your tripod hoping to take a sunset photo is the day that the sun just kind of sinks into the horizon in a very blah manner.

You’ve got to have equal parts skill and serendipity to capture an amazing sunset like the one John J Young did here.

One of the most important factors (the most important?) is that you need  clouds in the sky but not just any clouds — you need clouds that sit just above the horizon so that they’ll catch the light as the sun sets. On the evening that John took this picture, a fast moving storm had just swept through the area. The clouds it left behind were amazing.

He wasn’t the only one who got a great picture of the sky Wednesday night. Check out our Flickr pool to see more, including this one and this one.

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