Reviews of shows from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts and other local venues published by the Los Cerritos Community News. The writer and paper are in their twentieth year of covering these events.

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Location: Fear City, Ca., United States

"My name is Addison DeWitt. My native habitat is the theater. In it I toil not, neither do I spin. I am a critic and commentator. I am essential to the theatre - as ants to a picnic, as the boll weevil to a cotton field." George Sanders in "All About Eve"

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Pam Tillis and Juice Newton April April 15

Ladies Kick Up Their Boot heels at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

Saturday night was ladies night at the Performing Arts Center where two Country and Western stars named Juice Newton and Pam Tillis twinkled in the Cerritos firmament. While Juice and Pam sort of operate in different constellations they had an enthusiastic audience and hard charging bands in common along with a full repertoire of solid hits to call upon. Together the ladies of this night have a couple dozen “radio” hits that, like these women, have aged well.
Juice Newton opened but assumed an equal status while taking a much more pop-sounding approach. Her strong voice was necessary in the amped up mix of her powerful band lead all night by the tasty guitar leads of Otha Young. Coming out of the chute with “Every Road Leads Back to You” and “Love Sail Away” Ms. Newton opened the ears of everybody, then settled into the ballads that made her famous including “Hurt,” “Break It to Me Gently” and the very poignant “the Sweetest Thing I’ve Ever Known.” Throughout she showed a great versatility and a loosey-goosey charm that was hard to resist. She bounced through a reggae-infused “the Trouble With Angels,” busted out a full-gallop “American Girl” and hit her full-stride on “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me.” Despite having a reputation as an 80’s artist Juice Newton showed plenty of chutzpah and mixed material from the breadth of her long career including the swing dance feel of “After Midnight,” a tribute to the King in “They Never Made it to Memphis” and the heart throbbing C&W torch song “Shot Full of Love.” In deference to her many fans she gave a spirited reading of her trademark “Angel of the Morning” and finished ripping up a lickety-split “Queen of Hearts.”
Pam Tillis on the other manicured hand was straight up country but served up with class, great musicianship and a charisma developed in her childhood amongst the legends of the genre. The lady is a real pro and provided a fascinating musical review spotlighting three young and multi-talented musicians to lift up her strong vocals. Adorable Lisa Manning on fiddle, equally adorable Mary Sue England on guitar, fiddle and piano and the marvelous Darin Favorite on lead guitar. This anchor trio really sparkled throughout and added a visual appeal that complimented Ms. Tillis’ singing and terrific story-telling. Her history is grounded in the classics and she started with a Ray Price song and finished an encore of…the Beatles?! Yep, along with the songs the crowd came to hear her sing like “Shake the Sugar Tree,” “Spilled Perfume,” “Let That Pony Run,” “Welcome to My Crazy Life” and the sassy “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” she topped off her sweet evening of song with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Along the way there were the added treats of a rocked out “Deep Down,” the shouting loud “Queen of the Night” and two remarkable ballads; “Maybe It Was Memphis” and “All the Good Ones Are Gone “ sweetened by the honeyed Tillis voice that bathed them in emotion.
When the big crowd called the little lady out for more, she accommodated with a rousing “Ring of Fire” and the Beatles interdigitation song curtain calls.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sonny Rollins April 8, 2006

The Colossus Comes to Cerritos: Sonny Rollins at the Center

By Glen Creason

My jazz-aficionado pal David tells me that there were youngsters lingering at the stage door, awaiting a chance to touch the hem of Sonny Rollins’ garment after Saturday’s knockout show at the Performing Arts Center. Such news brings hope and happiness since this gentleman visiting Cerritos is a rare and precious privilege that certainly should be passed on to the generations. It was a tremendous coup to book the legendary saxophonist; in my humble estimation the greatest living artist in America since August Wilson and Arthur Miller left us. Yet, to hear what the great man did with this opportunity made it all the more valuable to everybody who loves music, especially real Jazz fans. Someday, these kids will tell their grandkids they heard the saxophone colossus play his horn with the reverence of one who has sat at the feet of the oracle. In this case I just cannot exaggerate his skills; they are way beyond my words.
Numbers and names are not that important on a night like this but Maestro Rollins is on the far side of seventy with a reputation chiseled on the stone tablets of Jazz lore. Yet, true to his calling he continues to share his genius, to explore new avenues and to leave indelible marks of inspiration in the hearts and minds of his listeners. On this evening he hobbled out like a man of his age but was transformed when he put the tarnished old horn to his lips. Launching into “Change Partners” to start, Rollins demonstrated early that he was ready to expand our musical universe. True to the man, his horn is not miked above the sextet and his soloing certainly is not the only thing happening on stage. Clifton Anderson’s trombone was a perfect counterpoint to the main man and Bobby Broom’s pure jazz guitar played a literal answer to the Rollins amazing sonic voyages. On “Someday I’ll Find You” each member played team ball with Sonny taking on Michael Jordanesque moves within the concept. A marathon “Global Warming” introduced the oft-sampled Caribbean flavor into the mix with the first of much delicious interplay between superb African percussionist Kimati Dinizulu and the mercurial sax musings of the Colossus. The improvisation comes from a deep well of genius but the awesome energy and passion shown on this night had to be attributed to the stars being aligned just right.
A couple of songs were not easily identified but with this man sticking a name on tune is like saying he traveled on a road. That road might be a dazzling turn up the Costa Brava in a Ferrari Enzo Coupe at 120 miles an hour. Duke Ellington’s masterpiece “In a Sentimental Mood” was played sweetly by Rollins with a solid melodic center that he ventured away from sparingly to gorgeous results. The man’s physical gifts were another story and when he locked horns (literally) with Kimati Dinizulu on “Don’t Stop the Carnival” he just grabbed second and third and more winds that resulted in incredible discoveries. You could not say each solo was a painting of notes but more like the Bayeux Tapestry, full of intricacies and beauty at levels deep within the music. An added bonus seemed to be Sonny Rollins’ obvious satisfaction with the hall, the sound and the appreciative audience who he graced with an all-out blast through an encore of “Tenor Madness.” When he was done he left no note unturned and nary a musical regret for the full house that shook the rafters in thanks. It was a triumph worth keeping in the vaults. When the youngsters at the stage door shook the man’s hand hours later they were pressing the flesh with a bona fide living legend.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Michael McDonald March 31, 2006

Michael McDonald: the Classic Voice in Fine Form at Cerritos

By Glen Creason

The Performing Arts Center has certainly set the bar high this season and the quality continued Friday evening with the full-bodied deliciousness of Michael McDonald’s R&B feast for the ears. The concert was as long and varied as the career of the man who has sung with artists are disparate as the Doobie Brothers, James Ingram, Steely Dan, Kenny Loggins and the great Patti LaBelle. His are some of the truly distinctive sets of pipes in music and on this night he was in fine form; reaching all the high notes and giving goose bumps on the ballads. The test of any great singer is if they make a song better and McDonald chose only the best then let them glow in his talented light. His style is demanding on the instrument but can add deep emotion to the lyric. .
The opening song “Peace” was the perfect curtain raiser for a crowd that came to dance in their chairs. Instead of a break in the up tempo stuff the song stood on its own, giving contemplation before the place began to rock. Rock it did, starting with “It Keeps You Running” just one of several Doobie winners that charged the packed hall with electricity. The show continued as a textured sampler of his platinum discs, R&B diamonds next to heart-throbbing ballads which McDonald sang like they were written for him. “Sweet Freedom,” “You Belong to Me,” “Minute by Minute,” and Taking It to the Streets” caused delirium in this mature crowd, some of whom stood and shook their tail feathers a bit. Yet, the R&B was particularly tasty including the Stevie Wonder beauty “All in Love Is Fair,” Smoky Robinson’s signature “Second That Emotion,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” probably the most danceable tune ever written and a rather magnificent encore of “What’s Going On” that was pure goose bumps.
Of course, McDonald was not alone and surrounded himself with an excellent band lead by lead guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle, powerful saxophonist Vince Denham and singer/drummer Yvette “BabyGirl” Preyer. The band kept the mix amped high so McDonald’s voice was riding on a wave of solid rhythm. Preyer’s duet in the encore of “On My Own” was certainly one of the more remarkable musical feats seen here. Throughout, the concert thier choices were intelligent and also passionately executed.
The show was opened by an unannounced David Pack who was placed at that disadvantage, standing alone at the mike in front of several thousand fans who came to see Michael McDonald. Not to worry, as the former lead singer for Ambrosia quickly won over the entire hall, performing the hits of his yesteryear/today and playing a very strong guitar. His elastic voice and nimble fingers worked magic on “World Leave Me Alone,” “Holding On to Yesterday,” “You’re the Only Woman,” “How Much,” “Secret of Moving On,” a sensational “Pinball Wizard” and the crowd wowing “Biggest Part.” Pack came out as “who?” but left as “oh he’s the guy who wrote all those hit songs.” In a rare event the audience begged for an encore but Pack humbly demurred in deference to the headliner.