Pink Martini: Trapped With No Way Out

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I excitedly purchased a ticket specifically to see Doc Severinsen at the Hollywood Bowl without even looking to see who he was playing with. When I learned it was Pink Martini, I thought, hmmm well I’ve heard of them but have never seen them so this will be a chance to check them out. Cool!

The Hollywood Bowl is without a doubt a spectacular outdoor venue, but as you may or may not know, it is not exactly known as user-friendly when it comes to getting there and parking logistics. Another interesting tidbit that you may or may not be aware of is the fact that they only offer STACKED PARKING. What is stacked parking you ask? Well, imagine a puzzle made out of 981729812479234 cars and your car is one piece in that puzzle. Once you park, you have committed to staying for the entire concert with no way out until enough car owners around you return and move so that you can forge your way out behind them. When asked what people do if they had an emergency and HAD to get out? A parking lot attendant told me “call a cab.” Ah. Peachy. Good thing I usually choose to take the shuttle and bypass all the parking madness. Wondering how any of this is relevant to the story? Hang tight and read on, my friends.

I have heard all of the hullabaloo about the much celebrated Portland band, Pink Martini and after thoroughly enjoying every minute of Doc Severinsen’s set (and wishing for more), it was time to finally see and hear what all the excitement was about. The band took the stage at 9pm. “We are Pink Martini. We are from Portland, Oregon. Please welcome the lovely Miss China Forbes.” At a glance, they are going for the Big Band era look, just to give you a mental picture.  First comment out of China’s mouth after the opening song… “How are you up in the cheap seats?” Did she really just say that? Was she trying to be funny? Not too sure, but my first impression is now based on a condescending remark made by the lead vocalist of a band I’ve never seen before. Not sure it’s a very gracious (or cool) act to call out your audience based on the price of their seats? Hmmm. Not off to a stellar start if you ask me, but let’s see what happens from here.

Yap, yap, yap, yap. Not sure I care how many times you’ve played Carnegie Hall, and all the other top venues around the world. Way. Too. Much. Talking. And not just talking, but self-congratulatory talking. Incredibly impressed with themselves, is what kept crossing my mind. A ridiculously long story about writing a song in French. Waving her arms around with her feet cemented to the stage, China’s voice was completely emotionless. I’m not buying into it. Now (bandleader) Thomas Lauderdale is reciting a story about the poetic meaning behind the next song. Talk, talk, talk, talk. Granted, Thomas is a talented piano player, but again, there is no authentic vibe or energy emanating from the stage for me whatsoever. They are coming across as flat and uninspiring.  A member of the band takes center stage with a bright red glockenspiel-looking instrument and sings in Spanish while swerving and waving his hips merrily. Crowd loved it. I however, did not. “Que Paso Yolandaaaaaaa…” yawwwwn. I am not into this at all. 

More talk of sold out Carnegie Hall shows and how China lost her voice so the next singer had to learn 10 songs in 5 languages in time for the shows to go on. Welcome.. STORM LARGE. STORM LARGE? Seriously? What in the hell kind of name is that? She comes out on stage. Pretty girl, but dark roots with cheaply dyed PINK stringy hair? WHY? How does this equate to a class act? How can you take a band like this seriously? I don’t get it. I will give it to Storm, she has a great voice. And is infinitely more entertaining to watch than China with her waving arms, but still, Pink Martini is not winning me over. I have seen thousands of live shows in my lifetime and I feel that I have a pretty good grasp of music and what is out there, but frankly, this band is doing nothing for me except WISHING that I could get the hell out of the parking lot and head home.

Now we get to hear another story from Thomas about how he mixed in Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” into the next song. Cheers from the crowd. Wow. I cannot believe how completely TIRED this band and their whole shtick is. Another elongated introduction and out pops Ari Shapiro. Apparently, I am the only person in the audience who is not an avid Pink Martini fan, because I have no idea who this person is. Who is he and why am I supposed to be impressed with this cameo appearance? Yap, yap, yap and more yap. “We have played in London, Paris and Istanbul. In amazing venues all over the world but none compare to the Hollywood Bowl, and I’m pretty sure Judy Garland felt the same way.” For the love of God would someone tell this band that they talk WAYYYY TOOO MUCH!?!?!? Yet another mention of their sold out Carnegie Hall shows. They bring out Doc Severinsen (thank GOD) and that was great. The highlight of their set for sure.

Oh goody, another intro story from Thomas. This time about a man named David LaChapelle who became a famous photographer thanks to Andy Warhol and even though he has never sung on a stage before in his life, he’s going to do so now. Can’t wait.

Here he comes, all Rockabillied out and attempts to sing “Son of a Preacher Man,” with China and Storm backing him up. Look, I’m not saying I’m a world class songstress, but dude, don’t quit your day job. That was it. My fun meter had overflowed at this point and I could take it no longer. I walked out to my car and sat there in shock, laughing about how GOD AWFUL this Pink Martini show was, until I was freed from my stacked parking situation and headed home. Dripping with pretension and self-love, Pink Martini may have musical talent but they fail as performers. I would not see them again and if ever asked, I will be sure to share my two cents. Thank GOD for Doc Severinsen!

P.S. And to those of you who think I’m being a hater…sorry but it had to be said. I’m just being honest. #sallysopinionmatters

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Doc Severinsen: Dig That Man and His Horn!

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When I heard that the Grammy-winning prolific musician and band leader Doc Severinsen was playing the Hollywood Bowl I knew exactly where I would be on September 2, 2015. Just the mention of his name takes me back to the good old Johnny Carson days. That iconic combination of trumpet notes that signaled the beginning of each show, his amusing and playful back and forth banter with Johnny and Ed. 30 years of classic entertainment that will be embedded in our memories forever.

Donning a blue jacket with multicolored rhinestones, a purple shirt and lime green pants in typical Doc style, he showed the crowd at the Hollywood Bowl that at 88 years of age, he’s clearly still got it!

Considered one of the best trumpeters, musicians and band leaders over the last 60 years, Doc Severinsen is highly respected across classical, jazz, and big band genres. His bright tones, upbeat rhythms and masterful command of the 16 piece band are phenomenal. He seemed so at ease and comfortable on stage, shared a lighthearted quip here and there, but knew he didn’t have time to waste, so kept the music coming and the talk to a minimum.

We were treated to “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “When You’re Smiling” (a personal Tony Bennett fave of mine) and a tasty mix of bongo, drum, violin and horn solos thrown in to spotlight the tremendous talent surrounding him. The guy has endless ability, flair, wit and spunk. What’s not to love?

We were graced with 38 minutes of pure musical delight, ending with an explosive and dazzling rendition of Harry James’ “Two O’Clock Jump” that absolutely blew our socks off!  Brilliant! Throwing a kiss to the crowd as he exited the stage, this cat has class! A+ performance! Only wish he was the headliner versus the opener so we could have enjoyed more time with him. Now THIS is music. Thanks Doc! See you next time around!