Debbie Reynolds and Don Rickles revived memories Sunday night at Melody Fair. Live and Luscious Jackson brought a modern rock show Saturday night to the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. Ted Nugent brought his rock 'n' roll antics to a Saturday night gig in the Ogden Street Concert Hall while the Buffalo Blues Festival was held Saturday and Sunday downtown.
Debbie Reynolds and Don Rickles
As one of the last of the MGM contract players, Debbie Reynolds specialized in girl-next-door roles, messy divorces and an indomitable spirit.
Billed as Mr. Warmth, rude stand-up comic Don Rickles had the chutzpah to pick on Frank Sinatra the first time old Blues Eyes saw him in Vegas. "Come in, Frank. Sit down. Relax. Kill somebody."
Together, they devastated an audience that grew up with Debbie on the big screen and Don on the small screen.
Reynolds' show consisted of songs, autobiographical comedy material and some dead-on impressions of Betty Davis, Barbra Streisand and Zsa Zsa Gabor. She started the 55-minute Vegas-styled revue singing, "Good times, bad times, I've seen them, dear, but I'm still here."
She introduced herself with "Hi, I'm Debbie." Then, noticed a confused little girl and added "Hi, little girl. I'm Princess Leia's mother."
Kidding about her notorious bad luck with men, she suggested marriage to Burt Reynolds. "I wouldn't have to change my name and we could share hair pieces."
Of her on-screen lovers, she admitted Sinatra was the best kisser. Then, she took the opportunity to jab first husband Eddie Fisher. "I definitely married the wrong singer."
Rickles undercuts his abrasive insults with homilies about brotherhood, understanding and good fellowship. He is shocking and funny with a machine-gun delivery.
In less than 30 seconds, he chastised the band, complained about the stage and picked on a woman.
In the politically correct 1990s, Rickles' humor, based on ethnic stereotypes, plays well to older audiences and the crowd enjoyed every racial and ethnic slur.
-- Jim Santella
The consummate entertainer, Edward Kowalczyk, fulfilled every teenybopper's dream with his gyrating, hip-thrusting performance as frontman.
Live performed a tremendously energized set on their "Secret Samadhi" tour at the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center. Kowalczyk's intense energy was the backbone of the performance; despite a few minutes in the limelight, drummer Chad Gracey, guitarist Chad Taylor and bassist Patrick Dahlheimer seemed to blend into the background with the elaborate gold filigree towers of their set. Still, the band members complemented each other musically and had good balance between instruments and vocals.
Live opened the show with songs from its latest album, including "Rattlesnake" and radio hit "Lakini's Juice."
Despite the incomprehensible lyrics of "Lakini's Juice," Darien Lake became a virtual sing-along. Moving into "Selling the Drama" from their "Throwing Copper" release, Live hooked its young and wildly enthusiastic audience into the excitement of their show. Other strong songs included "Freaks," "Iris" and "Unsheathed," a slower song abruptly followed by "All Over You."
Live finished its set, just short of an hour and a half, with a strong finale of several songs, including "Merica" and "I Alone."
Female hip-hoppers Luscious Jackson presented the second opening set. The mellow grooves sounded great, but the performance, perfect for a small club, was lost in the vast crowd at Darien Lake.
-- Anastasia Kudrez
Ogden Street Concert Hall:
It was boys' night out Saturday in Ogden Street Concert Hall, where Ted Nugent fever gave a fist-pumping, air-guitar-playing, hootin' and hollerin' testosterone-laden crowd the time of their lives.
The little-advertised show drew one of the largest audiences at the concert hall this year and the boisterous group was impatient. Shouts of "We want Ted" started almost as soon as the opening rock band, Daddy Stitch, left the stage. When that didn't work, they kept up a steady stream of "Nugent, Nugent."
When Nugent finally answered their calls, the screaming hit a deafening level that never waned as he lived up to his nickname of the "Motor City Madman" with a blistering array of heavy metal-based rock 'n' roll.
The abundance of Metallica T-shirts in the audience seemed like an oddity until Nugent broke into the heavy-metal Metallica-like riffs of songs including "Dog Eat Dog" (from 1981's "Great Gonzos!"). As one fan who also noticed the similarity put it, "Nugent was here long before Metallica."
-- Toni Ruberto
The Washington Street block facing the Lafayette Tap Room became an urban blues canyon for the Second Annual Blues Festival. People were milling around, listening to the fine music, munching on festival fare and generally having a good time.
Joe Silvaroli (from the Tap Room), the Western New York Blues Society and a batch of corporate sponsors, made sure that this year's festival would be a success by featuring a banner crop of old faves and new heroes.
Harmonica Dean and the Blue Lights ran through a procession of blues classics like "Messin' With the Kid" and "Long-Distance Call," as the young harp player demonstrated his instrumental prowess and his vocal weakness.
The Blue Lights were an interesting blend of older players and young dudes. The rhythm section, excepting the pianist, provided whippersnapper energy behind the more experienced hands up front. Saxophonist Juke Box Scales did some shameless mugging throughout in addition to doing a credible job of singing the "Caldonia."
Batavia's Blue Groove featured some solid vocals and guitar playing from Jim Catino but singer Mary Haltz, with her Joplin-esque voice, provided some of the best moments, including an a capella rendition of "Mercedes Benz," which closed out its set.
Bassist Ernie Williams and his band the Wildcats upped the performance level of the day from that of a good neighborhood bar band to that of a fine regional touring ensemble. Williams and his ensemble made an epic out of "Bo Diddley" and cranked up the volume for Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower."
Billy McEwen and the Soul Invaders and the Danny Lynn Wilson Band ran through shortened versions of their regular sets.
McEwen was in his usual fine vocal form but he was certainly the one who best captured the essence and feel of blues roots in his playing.
Bill Wharton, the self-annointed "Sauce Boss," probably won the showmanship trophy with an act that managed to combine high quality slide guitar-playing and medicine show hucksterism for an audience that just ate it up.
Tenor saxophonist Eddie Shaw's blues resume is impeccable, based on his long-standing stint with the great Howlin' Wolf.
He ripped through a high-energy set filled with his honking sax and powerful vocals but the guitar-playing of his son, Vaan Shaw, was what put the act over the top. Vaan is truly an amazing guitar player but some of his harmonic flurries during the set were probably more akin to Sonny Sharrock and Jimi Hendrix than to Robert Johnson or Charlie Patton.
Popa Chubby closed the evening out with playing that trampled the blues line into a rock format with the force of a rampaging pachyderm and the skill of a surgeon.
-- Garaud MacTaggart