An improbable 'Journey': The music critic takes turn as rock

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An improbable 'Journey': The music critic takes turn as rock

Postby tater1977 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 9:41 am

An improbable 'Journey': The music critic takes a turn as rock star

http://www.nola.com/music/index.ssf/201 ... _musi.html

By Keith Spera, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

An old proverb states, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, review." At Rock 'n' Bowl recently, I proved the point.

The occasion was my wife's 40th birthday. The band booked that night was Contraflow. Contraflow recreates the big arena rock hits of the 1980s – Foreigner, Journey, Rush, Bon Jovi, Tesla, Kiss, etc. In other words, my high school soundtrack.

The idea presented itself days before the party: Why not write new lyrics to Journey's "Faithfully" and surprise my wife with a serenade?

Well, here's why not: I can't sing. At all. But that would be the joke: The music critic sucks as a singer. :lol:

Contraflow vocalist Derrick LeFevre, a guy who makes mimicking Steve Perry, Rod Stewart and Sammy Hagar look easy, was game. But, he cautioned, parts of "Faithfully" "get really high."

Obviously, he didn't grasp the extent of my incompetence. It wasn't that I couldn't hit the high notes – I couldn't hit any notes. Comparing my voice to LeFevre's – who recorded three albums with the metal band Lillian Axe -- is like comparing a shark's swimming abilities to an oyster's.

One is sleek and powerful. The other just sort of lies there, ugly, flat and helpless.

The comedy, I hoped, would be in the contrast: The band would play the song faithfully, if you will, and I wouldn't. Instead of, "Lovin' a music man ain't always what it's supposed to be/Oh, girl, you stand by me," I would sing, "Lovin' a music critic ain't always what it's supposed to be/Oh, girl, at least the tickets are free."

Instead of "restless hearts sleep alone tonight, sending all my love along the wire," I'd address my wife with, "Jazz Fest starts, you sleep alone tonight, as I'm sending all my blogs along the wire."

That sort of thing.

Alone in the car, I practiced "Faithfully" by singing along with Steve Perry. As the big night drew near, I switched to the instrumental, karaoke version of "Faithfully." Not having Perry to guide – and mask – my feeble efforts was daunting.

Fully inhabiting his character required a costume. At a beauty/wig shop off North Broad Street, I showed the nice Vietnamese lady -- who was not particularly familiar with Journey – a photo of Perry's '80s-era hairdo. The feathered bangs of the "Becky" wig looked about right.

My stage attire would also include prescription sunglasses, an '80s-esque thrift store T-shirt emblazoned with a single word -- "Awesome" -- and an oversize tuxedo jacket, sleeves rolled up.

The night of the gig, I snuck away early to Contraflow's pre-show soundcheck at Rock 'n' Bowl. If you're going to recreate arena rock anthems, you've got to play them with precision, authority and heft. Contraflow does.

That was apparent the moment they cranked up Foreigner's "Feels Like the First Time." Soon enough, I'd know what fronting a rock band feels like for the first time.

We rehearsed "Faithfully" with the speakers silenced – no point in scaring anybody before the show actually started. Drummer R.L. Marix laughed out loud when I warbled, "Oh girl, at least the tickets are free."

Maybe this would work.

Keyboardist Chet Delatte provided a lifeline: He'd cue me to start "singing" with a nod. He also expressed concern that I might stray so far off course that he'd get lost, too. I suggested he ignore me entirely, and play the song correctly.

Taking pity, the musicians offered reassurance: "You'll do fine."

An hour later, Contraflow opened with Journey's "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)." They crushed it. Wow, I thought. I'm going to sound horrible by comparison.

"Faithfully" would be the second song of the second set. During the break, I slipped away from my wife's party to the band dressing room and changed, Clark Kent-like, into Steve Perry.

LeFevre's 10-year-old daughter, Paris, was backstage, focused on her Nintendo 3DS. "Do I look like Steve Perry?" I asked.

She glanced up, offered a terse "no," and returned to her game. My first withering review.

Following Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer," LeFevre called my bewildered wife onstage. He announced that her husband, the music critic, had to leave her birthday celebration early. Instead, a "special guest" would sing for her: Steve Perry!

Mounting the steps to the stage, all anxiety evaporated. I felt good. Confident, even. Game face on, I flashed my "Awesome" shirt to the remaining crowd of 350 people. In my hand was a water bottle – part precaution against my voice cracking, part security blanket.

Delatte launched the "Faithfully" keyboard intro. I opened my mouth. What came out, amplified by Rock 'n' Bowl's considerable sound system, was... flat. Tone deaf. Without regard for key, rhythm or melody.

Undeterred, I plowed on, multi-tasking: Playing to the crowd. Playing to my wife. Stealing glances at a lyric sheet taped to the monitors. Holding the microphone properly. Staying in sync with the band. Doing something other than just standing there.

Being a lead singer is harder than it looks. But the adrenaline, and the wig, were empowering. Feeling vaguely rock star-ish, I pointed. I crouched. Getting fancy, I crouched and pointed simultaneously. I dipped my shoulders and tossed my head, luxuriating in my faux-locks.

In the moment, it was exhilarating. As the drums thundered following the first verse, I exclaimed, "C'mon, people, you know this one!"

Actually, they didn't. Because I'd changed the words. Whatever.

Earlier, I had apologized in advance to Rock 'n' Bowl owner John Blancher for contaminating his stage with my so-called voice. Don't worry about, he said. I've been doing it for years.

Compared to me, Blancher sounds like Sinatra.

After the second verse, I handed off to LeFevre. He covered the "whoa-oh-oh" refrain, thereby allowing fans of the song to actually enjoy it the way it was intended.

People waved their hands in the air, but I just didn't care – I was slow-dancing with my wife, happy to leave the remainder of "Faithfully" to the professionals.

Afterward, the reviews were charitable. My wife was touched. The musicians were amused. Much of the crowd seemed to think it was funny/sweet.

"Paul McCartney wouldn't have had a water bottle up there," said my friend Stephanie. The water bottle was the least of my problems.

Kenny, a close friend since our days together at Brother Martin High School, kindly decreed that I was "good enough to get by, and bad enough that people realized you weren't trying to be serious."

That's the best I could have hoped for.

Still, when Contraflow returns to Rock 'n' Bowl on March 28, I'll be back where I belong. In the audience.
Perry's good natured bonhomie & the world’s most charmin smile,knocked fans off their feet. Sportin a black tux,gigs came alive as he swished around the stage thrillin audiences w/ charisma that instantly burnt the oxygen right out of the venue.TR.com
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Re: An improbable 'Journey': The music critic takes turn as

Postby Rick » Sat Jan 24, 2015 11:38 am

Who wouldn't love to do something like that? I sing in my truck, and that's the only audience I will ever have. I sound terrible. :lol: :lol: :lol:
I like to sit out on the front porch, where the birds can see me, eating a plate of scrambled eggs, just so they know what I'm capable of.
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Re: An improbable 'Journey': The music critic takes turn as

Postby tater1977 » Sat Jan 24, 2015 12:41 pm

If I sing in the shower..ALL the neighborhood dogs howl.
:lol:
Perry's good natured bonhomie & the world’s most charmin smile,knocked fans off their feet. Sportin a black tux,gigs came alive as he swished around the stage thrillin audiences w/ charisma that instantly burnt the oxygen right out of the venue.TR.com
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