Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the tag “New York”

Melissa Takes Manhattan

Melissa Manchester is not only one of my favorite musicians, she’s one of my favorite friends. Her talent, energy, kindness, and passion are undeniable and all were on full display tonight during her opening performance at Feinstein’s/54 Below. Melissa has additional performances on Saturday (7:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.) and Sunday (7:00 p.m.), and I absolutely recommend you attend one or more of these fabulous concerts.

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Night Ranger’s Still Rockin’ America

Michael Cavacini and Jack BladesOn Wednesday night I went up to New York City to catch Night Ranger’s concert at B.B. King’s. I was fortunate enough to meet the band backstage, as you can see from the photo above with me and Jack Blades…and Kelly Keagy peering over our shoulders.

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2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

KISS - Rock & Roll Hall of FameToday was the start of the first pre-sale for tickets for the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Of course, I was in a meeting when they went on sale and so was my cousin, who is joining me at the event. To solve the problem, I enlisted the help of my girlfriend. At 10 a.m. she was logged in and was ready to buy the tickets and after clicking “search,” she was greeted by a message saying no tickets were available. After persistently searching for what felt like an endless amount of time, she finally secured two tickets and bought them.

Where did all the other tickets go, you ask? Well, they were snatched up by sites like StubHub, which is essentially legalized scalping. Tickets similar to the ones I got for $92.50 on Ticketmaster cost $244 on StubHub. How could they possibly justify such an exorbitant increase? They can’t, which is why it’s a rip-off that only harms the fans.

I’m thrilled that I’m attending this event because I’m going to see two of my favorite bands – KISS and Hall & Oates – get the respect that they deserve from an institution that has ignored their great artistic contributions for far too long.

If you’re looking for tickets to the ceremony, avoid StubHub and try and purchase them during one of the sale dates below:

Onsale to General Public
Start: Sat, 03/01/14 10:00 AM EST

American Express
Start: Mon, 02/24/14 09:00 AM EST
End: Fri, 02/28/14 10:00 PM EST

VIP Packages Presale
Start: Mon, 02/24/14 09:00 AM EST
End: Fri, 02/28/14 10:00 PM EST

VIP Packages Post-Sale
Start: Sat, 03/01/14 10:00 AM EST
End: Thu, 03/20/14 05:00 PM EDT

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Member Presale
Start: Fri, 02/21/14 10:00 AM EST
End: Sun, 02/23/14 09:00 PM EST

When I Met Melissa Manchester

Photo with Melissa ManchesterYesterday was a great day. I went to New York City with my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day weekend and we saw an excellent movie – American Hustle, went to a great restaurant – The Writing Room – and capped off the day with a Melissa Manchester concert.

In December 2013 I interviewed Melissa for my blog and she was as nice as could be and full of great stories. For those that haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here. One of the topics covered in the interview was yesterday’s concert in NYC. Melissa said, “you never know what I might sing” and boy was she right. The set list included a variety of her biggest hits, including “Midnight Blue,” “Come in From the Rain” and my favorite, “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” She also sang “Something Wonderful” from The King and I and new material from her upcoming album, You Gotta Love the Life. There were countless other songs during the hour-and-a-half concert, including a blistering performance of “I Know Who I Am,” a song that was featured in a trailer for the Tyler Perry movie For Colored Girls. And after the concert came to a close with Cole Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York,” Melissa and her talented musicians were met with a well-deserved standing ovation.

As you can see from the photo above, I had the chance to meet Melissa in person after the show and she was as lovely in person as she was on the phone. She took the time to meet and take photos with fans, as well as autograph items. The line to meet her went to the back of the room but she stuck around until every fan was satisfied. I was very impressed.

If you ever have the opportunity to see Melissa Manchester, go for it. In addition to having a spectacular voice, she’s got great stage presence and an appreciative personality. It was a terrific evening of music and I wouldn’t hesitate to see her again.

Below is a live performance of the aforementioned song, “I Know Who I Am,” from a 2010 concert. Enjoy!

A Conversation With Melissa Manchester

Melissa Manchester in concert Feb. 11. Contributed photoI recently had the opportunity to interview the Grammy award-winning artist Melissa Manchester. Known for her signature sound and countless hits, including “Midnight Blue,” “Don’t Cry Out Loud” and “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” Manchester has been an icon in the music industry for more than 40 years.

I’m attending Melissa’s concert in New York City on February 16, and it should be a fabulous Valentine’s Day weekend performance. If you’re interested in attending this show or another one of her concerts, make sure to visit the tour page on her website.

It was a delight speaking with Melissa, and I hope you enjoy the interview below.

For your upcoming studio album, You Gotta Love The Life, you used Indiegogo to include your fans in the process and wound up raising more than $40,000. Were you happy with the experience, and how was it received by your fans?

It was a mind-blowing experience. It was my students – I teach at USC, at the Thorton School of Music – it was my students that awakened me to this new definition of the marketplace. They helped lead the team and do the project management. I said yes. It was fascinating because my fans are so interested in the process, actually, almost as interested in the process as I am; and because I was doing so many Facebook entries and all that, it was so sweet, and started to become this living, breathing entity. And when the campaign was over (laughs), the fans said “please don’t stop posting, it’s so wonderful to read what you have to say.” I would do it again in a heartbeat. I just thought it was fascinating. 

Now that the Indiegogo campaign is over, what’s the next step for your new album?

Well, the album is half-recorded and I’m going back into the studio in January to finish it and orchestrate it, and mix it, and master it, and all that. Hopefully it will come out either this spring or this fall, definitely one of the two. 

You’re releasing this on your own, directly to the fans, correct?

At the moment I am, and if fans go onto my website the first single is free to download as a thank you gift to them. It’s a rethinking of the classic “Be My Baby,” which I didn’t realize, this year, is 50 years old. So, it’s a lovely way to celebrate that song. 

My favorite song by you is “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” In Clive Davis’ recent autobiography, The Soundtrack of My Life, he said that originally you weren’t in love with the idea of singing the song. What’s the story behind that?

Well, I believe that Mr. Davis, like many of us, has selective memory, and that’s fine. I loved the song the way my friend Peter Allen first presented it, which was very quiet and very intimate. Clive Davis’ version was this big anthem, and at the time it turned out splendidly, and I’m grateful for that. Clive and I had a lot of success and (laughs) a lot of failure together. 

It’s interesting that you mention it originally being a softer song because now when you sing it live it’s usually a more stripped down version. Is that how you originally imagined it?

When I’m doing my duo show with myself and Stephan Oberoff, my keyboard player, we do a very quiet version and it really makes the crowd go crazy because they’re inside the song like I am. And when we’re with a symphony or my larger band, it’s the larger more well-known version and everyone is delighted to hear that as well. 

That’s nice that you can have such flexibility with the song. 

That’s the magic of live performance. You can reinterpret things on the spot – it’s fantastic. 

Speaking of live performances, I’m attending your concert on February 16 in New York City. Do you have any new material from your upcoming album that you’re going to try out on the hometown crowd?

Sure, there’s plenty of new stuff from the album that will be all over the stage, and because of the occasion of Valentine’s Day, you never know what I might sing. 

While at NYU, you were enrolled in a songwriting class taught by Paul Simon. Today, you’re an Adjunct Professor at the Thorton School of Music. What’s a typical semester like for someone enrolled in your course?

Well, I teach a class I call “The Art of Conversational Singing.” I teach mostly the pop students and some musical theater kids, and they bring in whatever they want to learn about that day. Sometimes we discuss their compositions, and sometimes they want to talk about the life on the road – surviving that. I always assign them songs from the first volume of the American Songbook because I want them to see what singing was like, what breathing was like when songs were melody driven, as opposed to rhythm driven, which is the aesthetic of today. And it’s all very interesting because there’s no way they can imagine what a career feels like in the bones but I can absolutely reimagine what it feels like to be at the beginning of that adventure. So, what I’m trying to do is help them survive it as intact as possible.

That must be interesting for you now being the teacher when you were previously the student. I imagine it’s a surreal experience. 

 (laughs) It is surreal. Totally surreal, that’s the word. 

You and Barry Manilow, who I adore, met while singing jingles for commercials, and you both identify as singer-songwriters. Is this one of the reasons that your friendship has remained so strong over the years?

Well, we really grew up together. And because we shared the experience of Clive Davis together, we really (laughs) know what that kind of experience is all about. We have enormous respect for each other, and surviving in this industry, relatively sanely, relatively stably, relatively well is no small feat because, as you well know, the industry is littered with cliches of people who were enormously talented that couldn’t chew gum and walk at the same time. So, to have been gifted with this long career that shows no end in sight, is something we share and our enormous respect for each other. 

Our idols were the singers that did have very long careers: Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Rosemary Clooney, and Tony Bennett. Those people were our touchstones of the kind of long careers we were looking for. We were never really rock and rollers, so it’s sort of interesting that I’m number 92 on the list of top 100 rock and roll females (laughs). 

We’re very loving friends, and part of the goal of my Indiegogo campaign was to donate a portion of the funds to the Manilow Music Project, which I think is just a fantastic organization. He has his fans donate used musical instruments and he has them repaired and donates them to public schools.

You’re currently co-writing a new musical, The Sweet Potato Queens. What’s the premise behind it and when should fans expect to see it on stage?

It’s a little too early to talk about it other than that I’m writing it with Rupert Holmes and Sharon Vaughn, and we’re just starting to present it for workshop. 

You’ve been in movies, plays and, of course, Blossom. How is acting on stage different than being on screen? Do you prefer one over the other?

Acting is sort of scary business. With singing you always have the energy of the music to inform you, regardless of how you’re feeling or what you’re going through in your personal life. Whereas, with acting there’s nothing but you and the silence, so you better be really present and in that moment. But all creative energy has room for all versions of expression. Whether I’m writing a score for a Disney movie, or writing a song for my upcoming album or writing a show, it’s all coming out of the same hunger. I’m really still as hungry to create as when I first started. 

You were nominated for two Grammy awards before winning the 1982 Grammy for Best Female Vocalist. How did it feel to win the big one?

It was delightful, of course, but it was certainly surprising because prior to that I was nominated for those mid-tempo ballads that I was (laughs) sort of known for. So, to be nominated for “You Should Hear How She Talks About You,” which was this great disco record that the great Arif Mardin produced for me was so surprising but so delightful. At first, I couldn’t quite get it and sync up with it. I couldn’t totally accept the gift that I’d been given by my friends Tom Snow and Dean Pitchford, who wrote it for me. Now when I sing it live, I always show the videos of me performing it on Solid Gold and on the Grammys, and it’s lovely to be able to chuckle along with the audience about the shoulder pads and my hair cut (laughs) and all that stuff. And the song is great, it’s just great. I’ve been very fortunate to have lots of great songs cross my path. 

Your father was a bassoonist with the Metropolitan Opera. How did his career affect your own? 

There was always music around the house. My Mother was a wonderful singer. And my Father sometimes would take me to the opera with him to dress rehearsal when I was very very little. The grandness of it was very normal for me, the big vocal sound was very normal for me. The long held notes, the expressive interpretation – that was just the way music was supposed to be sung, and it was validated by all of the popular singers: Ella and Judy and Rosie and Sinatra and Tony Bennett and Nat Cole, and all of those people. It was all part of a continuum. It’s what really informed me. 

Those are great performers to grow up with and experience. Much better than what we have today. 

Well, I think so. That’s why I assign my students songs from the first volume of the American Songbook. I want to make sure they understand that the music form started with Stephen Foster and that what they hear today is only the latest version, and that the there was an earlier version that was melody driven and not rhythm driven. The lyric writing and the melodic structure – that’s something they need to feel and dig into to help not only bring it forward but to also bring it into their composition. 

You were one of Bette Midler’s original Harlettes. How was it working with the Divine Miss M?

She was sensational. She’s a truly brilliant woman, and as she says, she has the soul of a librarian (laughs). I was fortunate to work with her at the very beginning of her career. I worked with her for six months, right after she had been on the Johnny Carson show for the first time. To be part of watching that ascendancy from an interesting and unique vantage point, which was to the left of her as the toots in the middle, was fantastic because she gave a voice to the gay audience, which had been marginalized up to that point. She galvanized their culture and population through her energy and focus, and her choice of material was superb. Her vision on stage was superb. It was a magnificent experience.

I saw Rod Stewart earlier this week and he was fabulous as always. And, at one point in the show, he brought out his daughter, Ruby, to sing a couple songs. Do your children share your musical talent?

My son is talented but he’s more of a shower hummer (laughs). My daughter and I sometimes sing on stage and it’s lovely because there’s a tone in her voice that is from me – it’s my gene pool – and yet she has her own smokey, jazzy voice. She’s sort of a throwback like me. She likes those standards, and those long lines to sing. So, yes, we have sung together. 

Aside from the classic singers you previously mentioned, who are some of your favorite performers to listen to?

I like Radiohead, Sarah McLachlan and Bonnie Raitt is a giant to me. I love Beyonce, I think she’s remarkable. And I love Katy Perry. I think she writes fantastic anthems. 

Since you mentioned Beyonce, what are your thoughts on her secretly releasing her new album on iTunes?

I think the marketplace is open for absolutely anything anybody can imagine. I heard that we are now in a frictionless industry, which means you don’t have to necessarily bend to the convention. If you can think of a new way to do it, it may just work. 

That’s true. Today, the delivery of content, whether it’s digital music or e-books, is much more direct. Speaking of which, you recently streamed a concert online from your studio for your fans to watch. For those that missed it, will it be available to view on your YouTube channel at a later date?

No, when you do it on StageIt.com it’s just a half hour or 45 minutes and it’s gone. So, when people jump on, it’s just a lovely communal experience and that’s it. 

It sounds like it went well. Would you consider doing it again?

Oh, I’m gonna do it again. 

Are there any other exciting projects you’re working on that you’d like your fans to be aware of?

I’m starting rehearsals today for the Colors of Christmas tour that starts tomorrow in Cerritos and goes across the country for nine days, and it’s kind of wild and fast, and I’ll be home by Christmas Eve. But between now and then, I’m gone. 

ThrillerFest Is Almost Here!

ThrillerFestNext week I’m attending my first ThrillerFest, and it should be a blast. I’ll have the opportunity to network with and learn from some of the best writers in the business. I’m sure I’ll have many great photos, videos and stories to share. Stay tuned to my blog for full coverage of the event.

I’m Attending ThrillerFest!

ThrillerFestThis July I’m attending my first ThrillerFest, and I can’t wait! What is ThrillerFest, you ask? According to the website, it’s “a four-day celebration of thriller books, the authors who write them, and the fans who read them.” This year’s event features an endless list of bestselling authors, including Anne Rice, Michael Connelly, R.L. Stine, Lee Child, and, Andrew Gross, just to name a few.

The conference is broken into different parts. The first day-and-a-half is CraftFest, which is essentially a writing school featuring top authors, agents and editors. These individuals lead educational panels and workshops about almost any topic a writer could be interested in when it comes to writing fiction. Whether you’re looking to learn about blogging as a novelist or what point of view you should write from, CraftFest has you covered. Since I’m working on a novel of my own, I’m looking forward to soaking up all sorts of good information during CraftFest.

Starting Thursday afternoon (July 11), AgentFest begins, which is best described as speed dating for agents and authors looking for representation. While my novel is nowhere near being finished, I still look forward to observing these interactions and speaking with a few agents and authors about their experiences during this event.

Thursday night, once AgentFest has come to a close, the ThrillerFest opening reception takes place. Then the following two days (July 12 and 13) are filled with panels from bestselling authors about a variety of interesting subjects. Last year some of the topics covered included:

  • Writing Opposite Sex Characters
  • Is Indie Publishing For You?
  • How Do You Build A Thriller Brand?
  • What Makes Them Scream?
  • Is It Really That Hard To Be Funny?

I’ll also be attending the first-ever FanFest on Friday, July 12. It’s a two-hour portion of the conference where fans can drink and chat with a roomful of bestselling authors. I look forward to speaking with many authors whom I’ll be meeting for the first time, including Andrew Gross, who I recently interviewed for my blog.

ThrillerFest is bound to be a terrific experience that will yield fascinating stories, photos and advice. Stay tuned to my blog for extensive coverage of the event. It’s going to be something special.

Barry Manilow Returns To Broadway

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Tony, Grammy and Emmy-Award winning performer Barry Manilow is returning to Broadway in January 2013 for a limited engagement at the St. James Theatre. With 49 Top 40 hits and worldwide sales of more than 80 million records, Manilow on Broadway marks the music legend’s third Broadway production, and his first in more than two decades. The show begins January 18 and opens on January 24.

Barry Manilow is one of my favorite musicians, and I’ve had the good fortune of seeing him perform live twice, as well as meeting him in person. At nearly 70 years old, his voice is mystifyingly powerful and he still knows how to dazzle a crowd. I plan on attending one of the shows, and I highly recommend you do the same.

Here’s a medley of Manilow’s most popular hits from his 1989 Broadway production, Barry Manilow at the Gershwin:

Meeting Lee Child: The Man Behind Jack Reacher

Me (left) and Lee Child.

Yesterday, I went to New York City to meet Lee Child, author of the famous Jack Reacher novels. I took off from work and enjoyed a beautiful day in NYC before stopping by the Barnes & Noble where Child would be speaking and signing copies of A Wanted Man, his newest Reacher novel; the 17th in the series.

Upon my arrival, I bought a copy of Child’s new novel and went upstairs with the dinner I bought at Artie’s Delicatessen – you can’t go wrong with chicken fingers and french fries. Going into the event, I was a little nervous because, up to that point, I had only read three of the 17 books. And I didn’t want anything in the series spoiled by Child or the fans.

While I waited for Child to arrive, I listened to the last few chapters of Running Blind, the fourth novel in the series, and chatted with nearby fans. Before I knew it, it was 7 p.m. and Child was being introduced.

Decked out in khaki’s, an open-collar button down shirt, a blue blazer, and a beautiful pair of shoes, Child walked to the stage and was greeted with a warm round of applause from the room full of fans. The photos may not do him justice, but Child is 6-foot-5 and very slim. Not only that, but he’s a handsome man with an English accent, so, naturally, women adore him. During the Q&A portion, one woman asked, “Are you married?” To her dismay, he responded, “Yes.”

Child started off by telling us how he became an author. For nearly twenty years he worked for Granada Television in the UK, as a Presentation Director, where he wrote thousands of commercials, news stories and trailers. Then he said, “My boss told me something that prevented me from doing my job. He said, ‘you’re fired.'” This sudden unemployment, which came as a result of corporate restructuring, made Child write his first novel Killing Floor out of necessity. “I had to eat,” he told us. “And in the first 10 books, I made my former bosses the villains.”

According to Child, “60 percent of adults in the UK have never read an entire book.” They may have read magazines or parts of a book, but adults across the pond aren’t nearly as well read as Americans. Therefore, he made sure Jack Reacher and his first novel was targeted towards a U.S. audience. Clearly, it worked.

When it comes to writing he told us he never outlines a book. He has an idea and then starts writing. If he knew how the book was going to be laid out, from start to finish, he’d “get bored and not want to write it.” To him, writing should be like reading. “I’m just as excited to see what’s going to happen next as you are,” Child told the audience. “I give Reacher a problem and then make it worse,” he continued. His unique style involves introducing a variety of wild, but believable, situations in the first half of his books, and then in the second half, “I have to try and make sense of it. My plots might seem like a great deal of planning went into them, but that’s just an optical illusion. If you have an ink blot on a piece of paper, it looks like an amorphous mess. But if you hold a mirror up to it, it starts to look symmetrical.”

Child also talked about the controversial film, Jack Reacher, which is scheduled to come out in December. It’s been hotly debated by fans because Tom Cruise is playing Reacher. Since the character is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, this put off many Reacher Creatures. Child told the audience, “There aren’t any actors that are 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. I was flown out to Hollywood to see this movie, and it’s spectacular. Trust me, Tom Cruise does a fantastic job. You’ll leave the theater feeling as if you’ve just witnessed Reacher moving and talking in real life.”

I adore the audiobook versions of the Jack Reacher novels, so I asked Child if he had heard them and if he chose Dick Hill to be the narrator because, to me, Hill is the voice of Reacher. Surprisingly, he told me that he doesn’t care for audiobooks because Child feels they keep to once pace, and he likes to vary how quickly or slowly he reads. However, he did say, “Dick Hill has brought a lot of fans to the series, and when I switched audiobook publishers I did it under one condition: they keep Dick Hill as the narrator.”

Another interesting thing he spoke about was the two recent, digital short stories he’s written in between Reacher novels. He said the publisher likes him to release these as a way to figure out which version of the upcoming novel people will be buying (i.e., digital or print). And it encourages people to pre-order his novels sooner than usual. However, Child is still undecided about whether or not he wants to continue writing them because fans get confused by their brevity and end up giving them bad reviews.

Overall, I had a wonderful time at the book signing. Child is a terrific author and a charming man. Since he lives in NYC, Child always has a book signing in the area. That said, I’ll be sure to stop by in 2013 when the next Reacher novel is invariably released. Whether or not I’ll have finished the remaining 13 books in the series by then is another story.

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