Star Wars: The Musical

December 13, 2009

If you’re a Gen-Xer, I can bet you love Star Wars. It was our Harry Potter–our morality tale of good versus evil, our way of relating with kids on the playground and finding common ground in unfamiliar situations like sleepovers and summer camp. Empire Strikes Back was probably the first movie I ever remember seeing. My dad took me; I was four years old. By the time Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was bona fide fan. My brother, cousins, and I saw that movie at least three times in the theater. We had the action figures, the Millenium Falcon, the Ewok village, the comic books, the bed sheets, the posters, the awesome t-shirts with the iron-on decals, and of course, the soundtrack. Last night, for the first five minutes of Star Wars in Concert at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, I was transported back to that thrilling time of Star Wars wonder and mania.

The “Star Wars Main Theme,” as performed by the Royal Symphony Orchestra can still invoke magic and emotion, albeit slightly bittersweet when mixed with childhood memories. It was lovely to see Gen-X parents with their young kids last night, both generations enjoying the drama of John Williams’ beloved score. Without John Williams, George Lucas would probably be some guy who directed a decent movie. The marriage of music and film in Star Wars is sublime and still powerful–to hear it performed live is a rare treat.

Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) narrates

Anthony Daniels, the voice of C-3PO, narrated the two-hour event, which features a large screen behind the orchestra where scenes from all six films are projected in tandem with the music. Daniels’ background in live theater is evident. He’s corny but believable. The man obviously loves being a part of this event. Though it did run long, and the pieces featuring the prequels are considerably more boring, Star Wars in Concert ended on a high note—a reprise of Dark Vadar’s Imperial March. In the words of George W. Bush, it’s quite obvious Lord Vadar “hates freedom”….just listen to the music.


Let ‘er rip!

November 13, 2009


There are a couple of different types of music I generally cannot stand: techno, contemporary Rn’B, but nothing comes close to my distaste for smooth jazz–instrumental music with all the interesting edges buffed out till you have a kind of cloying white noise perfect for the dentist’s office. So imagine my surprise when I ended up at a Rippingtons’ concert yesterday at Indy’s Music Mill. Granted, the tickets were free, and I had been told that these legendary kings of smooth jazz were actually a jazz fusion band. However, any element of jazz improvisation was ripped from the Rippingtons long ago, and replaced by tightly orchestrated melodies seemingly written for corporate videos.

perfect-strangersThe Rippingtons are the aural equivalent of a Perfect Strangers episode. You could imagine their music in some humorous montage of Larry and Balki strolling in Central Park. Unchallenging and mushy, there’s something almost Soviet or propagandistic about The Rippingtons’ sound–music created by big brother to reassure the populace that their every move isn’t being controlled. Does that sound paranoid and libertarian? But really. How can people possibly enjoy it? I just don’t understand. And people were REALLY enjoying it last night…dancing in the aisles! Giving standing ovations! Take a listen. I know the following video is from the 90s’, but, believe me, they sound just as lame today.

It’s so soulless! All their songs are named after postcard pictures of beautiful places: Los Cabos, Kilimanjaro, Morocco, A Night in Brazil, Weekend in Monaco, Tourist in Paradise. It’s Conde Nast Traveler set to music. I think it would be fun to hear the Rippingtons’ take on Southeast DC or Detroit. Would they still kick up the reverb on the acoustic guitar or give it a grittier sound?

Sax player, Jeff Kashiwa, plays tenor and soprano sax in the Kenny G/Dave Koz style. But last night, he played mostly the EWI (electric wind instrument), probably one of the most annoying instruments known to man. The painful screeching of the EWI was exacerbated by the fact that sound man had no clue how to mix this band, favoring instead a hard rock sound–all drums and bass at excruciating decibel levels. I put bar napkins in my ears! At a Rippington’s show!

About an hour in, all my companions were in agreement that we should leave. One of them, a musician and jazz fan, said of the Rippingtons’ sound, “It’s not free at all.” He’s right. It’s contrived and artificial–evocative of safely-contained emotions. But, to me, the experience is far from pleasant.