Monday, November 25, 2013

Il Divo: Dudes’ Guide To The Pop-Opera Foursome

Il Divo is to women what monster trucks, UFC, and other women are to men.  Yes, I’m painting in broad strokes, but chicks dig Il Divo.  That means your significant other probably loves Il Divo.  And if your girlfriend or wife loves Il Divo you may be roped into going to one of their shows.  Oh the horror!

In case you’ve never heard of Il Divo, they are a very handsome, all-male, singing quartet.  They perform a brand of music called “pop opera.”  And yes, it sounds as bad as it sounds.  Think of pop opera as somewhere between Josh Groban and Luciano Pavarotti only less masculine.

Don’t ignore this article if your paramour has never heard of Il Divo.  It’s only a matter of time before she’s wooed by their perfect hair, sharp suits, and angelic voices.  Remember, there’s usually a television or radio commercial that precedes the sale of Il Divo tickets.  Those commercials work.  They will convert your significant other.

Be Proactive!
There are two approaches you can take when it comes to Il Divo.  You can avoid them or embrace them.  Regardless of which path you take you need to be proactive.  You need to plan ahead and be prepared.  For example, if you live in Southern California you need to know that Il Divo tickets will be collected in Los Angeles and the Dolby Theatre on April 5.  For all you dudes in Chicagoland, Il Divo rolls into Rosemont, Illinois on April 18.

How To Avoid Il Divo
You need to know those dates because the best way to avoid Il Divo is make conflicting plans for you and your sweetie.  For example, Il Divo will be in Boston on May 16, 2014.  That’s the date you plan a romantic weekend away or buy tickets to another event.  Whatever you choose to do just make sure it’s difficult, if not impossible, to cancel.

Don’t plan on getting sick or working late on the night of an Il Divo concert.  Your girl is smarter than that and she deserves better.  Again, schedule a can’t-cancel activity even if your significant other has never heard of Il Divo.  One of her girlfriends (you know, the one that hates you) may tell her all about Il Divo in Toronto or Il Divo in Las Vegas (whichever is applicable) and before you know it, she’ll want to go.  I’ve seen it happen.  When it comes to Il Divo don’t leave anything to chance.

Embrace Il Divo
I know this sounds crazy but you could always just take your girl to an Il Divo concert.  After all, Il Divo is quite good and they sing a lot of songs you’ve probably heard before.  Besides, if you make Il Divo your idea, you’ll score a bunch of points with your gal.  For example, if you buy Il Divo tickets to their show in Washington, D.C., and take her out to dinner beforehand, she’ll not only let you have a Las Vegas weekend with your college buddies, but she’ll help you pack.

I’ll be honest with you, Il Divo can be a long couple of hours especially if you’re not used to light opera.  Even so, you girlfriend is worth it.  She puts up with your sorry you-know-what and definitely deserves a night on the town.

Besides, in 2014, Il Divo is touring from late-May to early June.  The NFL season will be over and the baseball season will be in its infancy.  If an Il Divo concert conflicts with a hockey or basketball game, well that’s what DVRs is for. 

So be a man not a dude and take your beloved to see Il Divo live.  If you keep an open mind (and record the game) you’ll probably enjoy yourself.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

‘Jingle Ball’ Begins Dec. 2 In Dallas

Jingle Ball is a strange beast.  It’s neither a concert tour nor a music festival although it has characteristics of both.

Instead, Jingle Ball is a series of concerts—in 2013 it will be a string of a dozen concerts—usually scheduled between Thanksgiving and Christmas that features a bunch of Top 40 acts.  While each of the 12 shows will have similar marquees, not all acts will perform at every show.

Also, while the shows are scheduled during the holiday season they are not exactly holiday fare.  If you need to get your Christmas Spirit on don’t get Jingle Ball tickets.  Instead, go see the Nutcracker or It’s A Wonderful Life.

Now here’s the kicker, the concerts are promoted by Clear Channel Radio stations.  That means they’re not designed to sell Jingle Ball tickets but designed to attract listeners. 

The radio station promoting the concert usually runs a serious of contests where listeners can win tickets.  For example, Z100, the radio station promoting Jingle Ball New York (Dec. 13 at Madison Square Garden), runs a contest called “Front Row Fridays.”

On “Front Row Fridays” you don’t actually win front row tickets.  You win tickets and if you’re lucky they’ll be upgraded to the front row.

The fact that radio stations—Clear Channel radio stations to boot—are behind the concerts are neither inherently good nor bad but it is something you should keep in mind. 

In 2013, there will be 12 Jingle Ball concerts.  The first Jingle Ball is scheduled for Dallas on Dec. 2 at the American Airlines Arena.  The final is set for Dec. 20.  On that day a Jingle Ball concert will be held in Sunrise, Florida at the BB&T Center.

Who’s headlining these concerts?  Well, the two biggest names are Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus. 

They’ll be performing at most of the Jingle Balls.  With Thicke and Cyrus on the same bill you should probably expect a little twerking.  And when Cyrus is on stage you should probably expect a little singing… very little singing.

Like I mentioned before, not all Jingle Ball shows have the same lineup.  For example, the Jingle Ball concert in Los Angeles (Dec. 6 at Staples Center) will feature Thicke, Cyrus, Enrique Iglesias, Selena Gomez, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

Meanwhile, the Jingle Ball concert in St. Paul has Thicke, Cyrus, Iglesias but no Gomez or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.  In their place, will be Flo Rida and Fall Out Boy.

One group that will be preforming at every Jingle Ball concert is the all-girl group Fifth Harmony.  The group finished third on the second season of The X Factor.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 MLB Playoffs: No Yankees But Lots Of Familiar Teams

For better or the worse the 2013 MLB Playoffs will be without the New York Yankees.  The team with the highest opening day payroll ($230 million) is out of the postseason for just the second time all century.

Just because the Yanks aren’t vying for a World Series crown doesn’t mean there won’t be a few familiar faces in the postseason.  In many ways, this year’s MLB playoffs are business as usual. 

After the Yankees, the American League teams that have qualified for the postseason most often in the 21st century are the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics.  Including this year, each of those teams has reached the playoffs seven times.

The Red Sox in the postseason is quite incredible when you consider the team won just 69 games in 2012 and finished 26 wins out of first place.  The A’s on the other hand are probably the least respected team in the Majors.

By virtue of winning the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers are playoff bound for the third season in a row.  That’s the longest playoff streak in the AL.

Wildcard winners Tampa Bay Rays are competing in the MLB playoffs for the fourth time since 2008 as well as the fourth time in franchise history.

The other AL Wildcard team, the Cleveland Indians, hasn’t had their ticket punched to the postseason since 2007.  Before that it was 2001.  If you remember, the Indians reached the playoffs five times in the 1990s.

The National League Playoffs will once again feature the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves.  Since 2000, no National League teams have extended their season into October more than the Cards and Bravos. 

The Cardinals have made 10 playoff appearances while the Braves have made eight.  Since the end of the 1900s, the only MLB team that has reached the postseason more is the Yankees.

Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied for the third most postseason berths in the past dozen years along with the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies.  Besides this year, the Dodgers have qualified for additional baseball in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2009.

One of the NL Wildcard qualifiers, the Cincinnati Reds, is making their third playoff appearance in four years.  If it wasn’t for 2011, the Reds could lay claim to four consecutive postseason births.

The Reds’ opening round opponents, the Pittsburgh Pirates, are in the playoffs for the first time since 1992.  Using that same time frame, this season has also been the Buccos’ first winning campaign and just the second occasion they’ve finished out of first place with a deficit of less than double-digit games.

The Pirates are also the 16th team to qualify for the National League Playoffs.  How can 16 NL teams qualify for the playoffs when there are only 15 in the Senior Circuit?   If you recall, the Houston Astros moved to the American League at the start of the season.

The only teams that have not qualified for the postseason since the turn of the century are the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals.

Of the ten teams in the 2013 MLB Playoffs, only one has not won a World Series.  That team is the Tampa Bay Rays. 

Of the ten teams in the 2013 MLB Playoffs, only the Red Sox and Cardinals have won a World Series in the 21st Century.  The Cardinals also lost a Fall Classic. 

Of the ten teams in the 2013 MLB playoffs, the only other clubs besides the Cards that have lost a World Series in the past 12 seasons are the Rays and Tigers (twice).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jay-Z Tour vs. Kanye West Tour

In October of 2011, Jay-Z and Kanye West hit the road to support their album Watch The Throne.  Their 2-leg, 63-show “Watch the Throne Tour” grossed nearly $50 million.  The opening act-less trek was one of the highest grossing tours of 2011 and the highest grossing hip hop tour of all-time.

Now, in late 2013, both rappers are embarking on solo tours independently of one another.  Jay-Z tickets will be collected during his “Magna Carter World Tour.”  While at the roughly the same time, Kanye West launches his first solo-headlining concert series in nearly five years. 

By the way, Jay-Z is supporting his most recent studio effort, Magna Carter Holy Grail and West is promoting his latest opus, Yeezus.

Due to their past, and the fact that they are two of the greatest rappers on the planet, their tours are going to be compared to one another.  Before either rapper takes the stage, I thought I’d start the evitable “Jay-Z tour versus Kanye West tour” by comparing and contrasting their schedules.

Kanye West’s excursion begins Oct. 19 in Seattle, Washington.  Jay-Z doesn’t kick things off until Nov. 30 in St. Paul, Minnesota.  West finishes his North American jaunt on Dec. 7 in Houston, Texas.  Jay-Z is gallivanting around the states and provinces through the New Year.  His odyssey’s final date is Jan. 31, 2014 in State College, Pennsylvania.

Tour routes are always subject to change but as things stand right now Jay-Z’s tour is longer.  He has 34 concerts routed in 33 cities.  Meanwhile, West is performing 28 times in 23 cities.  Brooklyn is the only city that hosts two Jay-Z concerts

There are 14 municipalities on both rappers’ itineraries.  For example, Jay-Z tickets will be collected in Los Angeles at Staples Center on Dec. 9.  Kanye West performs in that same city and at that same venue in late October.

Of the 14 cities both men are planning on visiting during their upcoming tours all but three—San Jose, Denver, and the previously mentioned Brooklyn—were stops on their “Watch The Throne Tour.”

Jay-Z and West play in the same venue in all but one of those 14 cities.  Las Vegas welcomes Jay-Z to the Mandalay Bay Events Center while West’s Sin City stop is at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Two of the 14 shared cities are in Canada.  Toronto hosts West on Nov. 12 and 13.  Jay-Z will be there on Jan. 27.  Both men are performing at T-town’s Air Canada Centre. 

Montreal and its Bell Centre is the second Great White North destination.  West is there on Nov. 14 while Jay-Z rolls into town on Jan. 24, 2014.

The closest the two come to crossing paths is in December in Texas.  On Dec. 7, Kanye West is in Houston at the Toyota Center.  Just 12 days later that same venue hosts a Jay-Z concert. 

The two miss each other in Dallas by just 15 days.  Kanye West rocks American Airlines Arena on Dec. 6.  Jay-Z does the same on Dec. 21.

The only other city that welcomes both men within a one month time frame is Atlanta.  Kanye West comes to Philips Arena on Dec. 1 while Jay-Z saunters into Atlanta two days after Christmas.

So in Houston, in less than two weeks, you have the opportunity to see two of the most important figures in the history of hip hop.

The other conurbations welcoming both geniuses are Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lewis Black: Ten Things You Don’t Know About The Angry Comic

Like most stand-up comedians, Lewis Black is always on the road.  This year is no exception as the 65-year-old funny man is performing all over the nation. 

Look for Lewis Black in Atlanta on Oct. 19; Lewis Black in Las Vegas on Nov. 8; and Lewis Black in Worcester, Massachusetts on Nov. 14.

For most people, Lewis Black is that “angry comic.”  While it’s true Black has made a living on perfecting the rant he’s far more than the sum of his anger.  He’s actually an interesting guy… who just so happens to be a borderline lunatic.

Below, are ten things you don’t know about Lewis Black.  Our list won’t explain the origins of Black’s rage but it will lift the curtain on his fascinating life and document his immense success as a comedian. 

>>Lewis Black graduated with a degree from the University of North Carolina.  He also has a degree from Yale Drama School.   Black pursued a career on the boards after catching the theatre bug at a young age. 

>>Lewis Black released his first album, The White Album, in 2000.  As of 2013, he has released a total of ten comedy albums.  His records have garnered five Grammy nominations and two victories.  He won the Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2007 (The Carnegie Hall Performance) and again in 2011 (Stark Raving Black).

>>Lewis Black was the playwright-in-residence at the West Bank CafĂ©’s Downstairs Theatre Bar in New York City.  He oversaw the productions of more than 1,000 plays.  While he wrote a few of those plays, he emceed them all.  That helped him hone his stand-up skills.

>>Lewis Black performs more than a hundred shows a year.  He travels to his gigs by bus.  Black doesn’t have a fear of flying —he actually flies quite a bit—he just doesn’t like airports.  His bus driver, Frank Moreno, once drove Jimi Hendrix to the Monterey Pop Festival.

>>Lewis Black grew up in the Washington D.C. area.  He thinks the current U.S. congress is the worst of all-time.  “They do nothing.   It’s historic.  It’s the worst Congress ever.  There’s no discussion of it."

>>Lewis Black has made a living on his angry rants, but what makes him happy?  Lewis says what makes him happy is dinner with friends, playing golf, and reading a good book.

>>Lewis Black started his “Back in Black” segment for Comedy Central’s The Daily Show back in 1996.  He was asked to do the segment by his friend, and the show’s producer, Lizz Winstead.

>>Lewis Black has won a Sports Emmy.  He picked up the award for his work on Inside the NFL.  In 2007, his HBO special, Red, White and Screwed, picked up a traditional Emmy nomination.

>>Lewis Black harangues the U.S. a lot during his act.  But does America do anything right?  Black thinks America is good at catastrophes.  “Nobody responds better to catastrophes than we do—nobody on the planet Earth.  We get there.  People drive hundreds of miles in their cars.  They drive hundreds of miles to help out.  It’s extraordinary!  That is why I have faith in this country.”

>>Lewis Black has written three books: Nothing’s Sacred (2005), Me of Little Faith (2008) and I’m Dreaming of a Black Christmas (2010).  Each tome spent several weeks on the New York Times best-seller list.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dixie Chicks 2013 Tour Launches In Vancouver

The Dixie Chicks have announced plans to tour the Great White North this fall.  Their nine concert trek begins Oct. 26 when Vancouver, B.C. welcomes The Dixie Chicks to Pepsi Live at the Rogers Arena.

The country music trio’s next stop is the EnCana Events Centre in Dawson Creek, British Columbia.  From there, the Chicks travel to Calgary, Alberta for a Halloween show at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

On Nov. 1, look for Dixie Chicks tickets to be collected in Edmonton, Alberta at Rexall Place.  The midway point of the tour is a Dixie Chicks concert in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at the Credit Union Centre on Nov. 3.

Two days later, Manitoba, Winnipeg hosts a Dixie Chicks concert at the MTS Centre.  On Nov. 8, the women will be in Oshawa, Ontario for a gig at the General Motors Centre.  The following night, and in the same province, The Dixie Chicks rock Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum

Their trek, which is dubbed the “The Long Time Gone Tour 2013,” concludes Nov. 10 in London, Ontario at the Budweiser Gardens.

Their concert series comes on the heels of the band appearing at several Canadian-based music festivals.

The Dixie Chicks haven’t toured as headliners, nor have they released a new studio album, since 2006.

I haven’t read anything to indicate such an event, but I’d bet that the Chicks’ Canadian tour is a prelude to getting back in the studio and recording a new album. 

You don’t go on hiatus for more than half a decade and then reunite just to trudge around Canada (no offense to the Canucks).  If the band didn’t have something major planned for the near future they wouldn’t have even bothered with such a short trek of a third world country (again, no offense).

The group’s front person, Natalie Maines, released her first solo studio album in May.  The opus received rave reviews and debuted on the Billboard 200 at 17.  The album is called Mother and it has Maines dabbling in the world of rock.  The album contains covers of songs by Pink Floyd, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Buckley, and Semisonic. 

The other two members of the Dixie Chicks, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, have a side project called Court Yard Hounds.  The duo just released their sophomore effort, Amelita, in July.  While a decent album, it hasn’t sold as well as the band’s self-titled debut (2010).  Court Yard Hounds is notable in that Robison sings lead even though she doesn’t as part of the Dixie Chicks.

The year 2013 marks two notable tenth anniversaries for the Dixie Chicks although it’s doubtful they’ll be celebrating either one.  In 2013, Maines criticized the Iraqi War and President George Bush during a concert in London and the band posed naked (with all their good parts covered by their hands) for the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dave Chappelle, Flight Of Conchords Headline Comedy Festival

Why should you attend the “Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival” this summer?

Is it because it’s Funny or Die’s first attempt at promoting a stand-up festival?

That’s true but it’s hardly a reason to attend anything.

Is it because the traveling comedy caravan will feature sets by Al Madrigal, Kristen Schaal, and Demetri Martin?

Those are uproarious comics, and definitely worth the price of admission, but they’re not the main reason why you should be front and center.

The real reason why you should attend the “Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival” are headliners Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords.

You won’t find such diverse and opposable acts headlining the same event anywhere in the entertainment world.

Fans can procure Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords tickets for a show in Dallas, Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords tickets for a show in Holmdel, and Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Conchords tickets for a show in Mountain View.

What are they such a contrast?

Chappelle is a pure stand-up comedian and one of the greatest of all-time.

The Conchords mix great music with highbrow humor.  They are arguably the best thing to ever come out of New Zealand and definite challengers to the title of best musical-comedy team of all-time.

Think about it.  The festival’s booking gives fans the opportunity to see a legendary stand-up comedian and a great musical-comedy act; fans are offered the opportunity to witness a bona fide superstar in Chappelle and bona fide cult icons in the Conchords.

Chappelle is a funnier, without all the movies, poignant version of Chris Rock. 

Flight of Conchords is a hipper, cleverer version of Lonely Island, Jimmy Fallon, and Stephen Lynch.

Inciting guffaws isn’t the only thing the diametric forces of Chappelle and the Conchords have in common.  Both entities have had their own television shows.  Both of their programs were very funny and both were on television for far too short of time.  Apart from that they were very different.

Chappelle’s Show was a cultural phenomenon.  The sketch comedy show dealt with pop culture, politics, and race with all the delicateness of a sledgehammer. 

During its brief run from 2003 to the middle of 2006, everyone from college students to grandparents were walking around spouting the show’s catchphrases especially the classic “I’m Rick James bitch!”

Chappelle became Comedy Central’s biggest star but walked out of production in the middle of season three.  The comedian couldn’t handle the pressure and exposure that came with being the funniest man on television.

Chappelle’s sudden departure from Comedy Central was as notorious as his show was popular.   Since then he’s kept a low profile and away from the big rooms.  Headlining the “Oddball Comedy Festival” is his biggest undertaking since leaving television.

Flight of the Conchords’ self-titled scripted show about themselves aired on HBO from 2007 through 2009.  Only 22 episodes were produced.  The second season wasn’t as good as the first but the show still could have gone on for another dozen or so episodes.

During its run, everyone talked about Chappelle’s Show.  Conversely, FotC earned a small cult following.  It was the show you told your friends about after they’d gushed over 30 Rock and My Name Is Earl.  You’d saved episodes on your DVR for weeks just so you could watch “Hiphopapotamus vs. Rhymenoceros” or “Business Time” over and over again.

Compared to Chappelle’s Show, FotC was a whisper from a mouse cowering in the back of the church.  It was subtle, urbane, and grossly understated.  More importantly, it was every bit as funny as Chappelle’s Show.

Look for Flight of the Conchords and Dave Chappelle tickets for Tinley Park, Flight of the Conchords and Dave Chappelle tickets for Mansfield, and Flight of the Conchords and Dave Chappelle tickets for Phoenix.

It’s rare that such two diverse acts will headline the same event.  Thank the comedy gods for keeping the art form fairly homogenous. 

You’d never see a Chappelle-Conchords analog on the music stage.  Chappelle teaming with Flight of the Conchords to sell tickets is like Bruce Springsteen joining forces with Neil Diamond.  It would be “Born in the U.S.A.” versus “They’re Coming To America.”

Many would call a Springsteen/Diamond concert crazy but I for one would certainly want to be there.  You should be there on nights when Chappelle and the Conchords perform on the same stage.