Saturday, January 04, 2003

January 4, 2003: So here we are, four days into the New Year. War with Iraq is looking more likely than ever. So it must be that George W. (Dub) Bush has presented the nation with proof that Iraq is a tremendous threat to the United States and possesses weapons of mass destruction, right? Heck, no. And not so long ago I posted here that he'd promised to share with the U.N. inspectors some of our proof that those weapons existed, since the inspectors can't find any of them. But has he shared that proof? Apparently not, since there still haven't been any weapons found. Has Dub proved a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida? No, again. Because there doesn't seem to be one. Has he shown that Iraq is a threat to anyone, much less the U.S.? Nope. North Korea is threatening everybody around, but we're not going to war with North Korea. Maybe Dub is scared of North Korea. Maybe we only pick on the little guys. Frankly, all this makes me sick. How can anyone support Dub? Don't ask me. I just don't get it.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

January 1, 2003: Happy New Year to all!

I don't see the Kingston Trio in concert often. I saw them twice in 1959, once in 1960, and once in 1988. On December 30 in Austin I saw them again, in the same building where I saw them perform in 1959. The Austin Symphony did six quick numbers to open the show, and after an intermission the KT came out. They got quite an ovation, because the auditorium was packed. I'd estimate around 3000, but it could have been more (or maybe less, but I doubt it). The audience was predominantly older, but there were a lot of youngsters there, too.

The opening number was "Hard Ain't it Hard," always one of my favorites, and a rousing way to open the show. I thought it sounded great, but I wasn't completely won over until the second number, "New York Girls." I hadn't been expecting that one (it wasn't listed on the program), and it knocked me out. The energy and verve and harmony put to rest any doubts I might have had. I knew this was going to be a great show.

"Chilly Winds" was next, introduced with some nice words about John Stewart, and Bob Shane sounded great, better even than I expected. His voice seemed as strong as ever. Maybe he can go on singing until he's 100.

"Greenback Dollar" got a funny introduction by George Grove, and the song was well received. Obviously a lot of people remembered it.

I'd never heard the Trio do "Jamaica Farewell" on stage, and the audience was invited to sing along on the chorus. Many joined in. Bob sang the verses with feeling.

Bobby Haworth did the lead on "M.T.A.," and I should mention that not only did he shound good but that he plays the heck out of the tenor. Everybody remembered this one.

George's solo was "A Very Good Year." You have to have confidence and a fine voice to do a solo of a song that's associated with both Bob Shane and Frank Sinatra, but George carried it off.

Then we got Bobby's saw solo, "America." Say what you will about saw solos, but I for one enjoyed the heck out of it. So did everyone else, judging from the applause.

Bobby's vocal solo was "One More Town," and he nailed it. I've liked this song since I first heard it, and this rendition is right up there with the best.

Then came "Scotch and Soda." What can you say? Sure, I've heard it a few times (not nearly as many as Bob Shane has sung it, I'm sure), but it's still a great number and he still has the voice for it. This one got applause before he even started to sing.

So did the next one, "Tom Dooley," another one that needs no comment. Did I mind hearing it again? Of course not. This is the song that itroduced me to the KT all those years ago, and I like it even now.

"Worried Man" has been one of my favorites, maybe my overall KT favorite, since I first heard it. This version wasn't quite as great as the original, but it was fun. Bob broke a string on this one.

Bob introduced "Where Have all the Flowers Gone" briefly with the story of how the Trio got the song, and then the guys sang a really powerful version. My sister, who had never seen the group in person and who owns none of the albums, said that she "teared up" during this one. She's not a fan. She just went because she gave me and my wife tickets for Christmas, but she was affected by this performance. As who wouldn't be? You can call the KT a nostalgia group if you want to, but to me it's three guys singing timeless songs, and when they can do them like this, I don't see a thing to complain about.

"I'm Going Home" was next, and the voices were so strong and the harmony was so good on this one that I was practically levitating off the seat. The standing ovation wasn't a cliche. It was deserved.

The encore was "The Reverend Mr. Black." This was never one of my favorites, but hearing the power and the harmonies on the chorus in an actual performance was like hearing a whole new song. I'm pretty sure I was levitating on this one, which got another standing O.

So did I like the show? You bet. So did my wife and my sister, neither of whom was there to recapture lost youth or relive the dead past, blah blah blah, because the KT wasn't really a part of their past or their youth. They were still affected by the music.

I should mention that the orchestra didn't interfere at all. I hardly noticed it for the most part. The world's largest back-up group is about what it amounted to.

Let the nay-sayers say their nays. I say go to a performance. Listen to the music. Maybe it will lift your spirits the way it lifted mine, my wife's, and my sister's.