Melissa Manchester is a Grammy-award-winning musician whose understanding and appreciation for her craft is second to none. She’s also a delightful human being, and I’m happy to call her a friend. Celebrating 50 years in the music industry, Melissa is an artist who continues to be an inspiring creative force. Just released, Melissa Manchester Live ’77 is a live album that’s seeing the light of day for the first time in 45 years. I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa about this vibrant, energetic recording from the vault; and we also discussed a myriad of other topics, including Lady Gaga, Barry Manilow, Tony Bennett, how the pandemic affected her as an artist, and so much more. You can watch the full video interview below, and I hope you enjoy it.Continue reading Exclusive Video Interview: Melissa Manchester Reflects on 50 Years of Music
Rod Stewart just released the greatest rock song of 2015 and it’s called “Please.” It’s the second single from his forthcoming album, Another Country, and it’s easily one of Rod Stewart’s greatest songs ever. It’s got a funky groove, a fabulous horn section, bluesy guitar, and smokin’ vocals from Rod “The Mod.” And the song is made even better by the official music video below, which features Rod dropping the mic in a sharp pink and black outfit that only he could pull off. Enjoy!
Today I picked up a copy of the Best Buy Deluxe Edition of the new Night Ranger album I recently reviewed: High Road. This Deluxe Edition features a bonus track you can’t get anywhere else and a DVD with two music videos and a 19-minute documentary. Is it worth the price of admission? Watch my video review below to find out:
Last weekend I was in New Orleans for my first WrestleMania, WrestleMania XXX. It was a blast and I took a ton of photos and shot multiple videos. Below is a day-by-day breakdown of the fun and festivities that took place. Enjoy!
Friday, April 4
To save money, I decided to fly to Dallas and then to New Orleans. This worked in my favor because I ran into WCW legend Bill Goldberg at the airport. It turns out that we were on the same flight, so I politely asked him for a photo and he agreed.
My plane landed in New Orleans on Friday and I checked into the Marriott on Canal Street shortly thereafter. While walking through the French Quarter to grab dinner, I bumped into Hulk Hogan’s manager, Jimmy Hart. I said hello to him and asked if he’d be at WrestleMania Axxess, an annual festival where fans can meet WWE legends and modern-day superstars, and he said he would. It was a surreal experience to see a larger-than-life personality walking through the streets but he was as nice as could be.
After dinner I headed to the Ring of Honor show in Westwego, just outside New Orleans. The show, Supercard of Honor VIII, was my first Ring of Honor event and it was awesome. Ring of Honor is an independent promotion that has some national television exposure but it isn’t as well known as WWE or the second most popular wrestling promotion, TNA. That said, I wouldn’t hesitate to attend another Ring of Honor event. They go above and beyond to entertain the fans.
Saturday, April 5
On Saturday morning I was up early because I had an 8 a.m. meet and greet with the immortal Hulk Hogan. This was easily the most exciting part of my trip since I grew up watching Hogan as a child and also enjoyed his reality show Hogan Knows Best. After waiting for approximately 45 minutes, I made it to the front of the line and got to meet Hulk Hogan. I went up, shook his hand and told him that he was my childhood hero and that I have great respect for what he’s accomplished. He thanked me, autographed by WWE 50 book and we posed for a photo.
After meeting Hulk Hogan, I got in line to meet other WWE personalities, including Christian, Howard Finkel and Pat Patterson.
I also visited an exhibit at Axxess called the Undertaker’s Graveyard. For the uninitiated, the Undertaker is a WWE superstar that, up until this year, was undefeated at WrestleMania for the past 21 years. So, they created a graveyard with tombstones for each of the opponents he beat. This graveyard also includes caskets and other props the Undertaker has used in his matches. Speaking of which, I had a photo taken of myself in one of these caskets, only to find out shortly afterward that this wasn’t permitted. Thankfully, I got this morbid shot before being reprimanded.
They also had a burial plot symbolizing the Undertaker’s opponent at WrestleMania XXX, Brock Lesnar. As you can see, I eagerly took part in this photo opp.
Before grabbing some food, I stopped by the Legends’ House booth and met Jimmy Hart. He let me pose with his famous megaphone, which was surprisingly heavy.
At 6 p.m. I had a meet and greet with the greatest wrestler of all time, “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. Meeting him was a wonderful honor and after doing so, I was off to the Hall of Fame.
I had a great seat at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame, just a few rows off the floor where the wrestlers and their families were sitting. And the class of wrestlers being inducted was excellent. In addition to seeing my all-time favorite wrestler, the Ultimate Warrior, I saw Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Razor Ramon (i.e., Scott Hall) recognized by WWE for their prolific and influential careers. But perhaps the best part was the surprise appearance by the Undertaker to pay tribute to his deceased manager, Paul Bearer, who was also part of this year’s class of inductees.
Sunday, April 6
After not getting much sleep, I woke up early, yet again, to visit WrestleMania Axxess on Sunday morning. This time around I met Howard Finkel (for the second time – and he remembered me!) and Roddy Pipper, Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff and, lastly, William Regal and several NXT wrestlers.
Before leaving WrestleMania Axxess, I took part in an open casting call for an upcoming WWE Studios movie. All I had to do was read lines off a teleprompter. I have no idea what the film is and I highly doubt that I’ll get called back, but I figured I’d give it a shot. I also went through the museum of WrestleMania memorabilia. Check out the video below to see what was inside.
Then, I headed across the street to WrestleCon, a non-WWE event where legendary wrestlers met and took photos with fans. My main reason for going to this event was to meet the WCW and TNA legend, Sting. It’s rumored that Sting will be appearing in WWE very soon so he can end his career with the company and be inducted into the Hall of Fame, so I wanted to meet him before this historic event takes place. He was as pleasant as could be and I’m glad I took the time to meet him.
After meeting Sting I got an early dinner and headed to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for WrestleMania XXX. My seat for the show was great, and I shot a video of the opening fireworks.
By the time WrestleMania XXX came to a close, I was still in shock over the fact that the Undertaker’s streak of being undefeated at WrestleMania came to an end. The entire arena was in shock and many people were legitimately upset. For non-wrestling fans, I know this is hard to understand. But most fans wanted the Undertaker to retire with the streak intact. While this won’t happen, I’m glad to say I witnessed a historic event, and that I saw Daniel Bryan win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship after overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds.
Monday, April 7
On the last day of my long WrestleMania weekend, I was able to sleep late and take my time. That night I headed to the Smoothie King Center (talk about a stupid name for an arena) for WWE Raw, the company’s flagship television show. The show was awesome and I was only two rows off the floor, giving me a perfect view of the entrance ramp and the ring.
In hindsight, what made this edition of Raw so special is it was the last public appearance of the Ultimate Warrior. Tragically, the following evening he passed away at the age of 54, after collapsing in front of his car with his wife beside him. It’s hard for me to fathom how such a young and seemingly healthy person could die out of the blue, especially since he just made peace with WWE’s CEO, Vince McMahon, and was finally recognized for his tremendous in-ring accomplishments. In a way, it’s poetic that he passed away after receiving the adulation he so rightly deserved and I’m glad I was there to witness it. However, I’m sad for his family, including his two young daughters, because they lost someone important to them. To make things even eerier, the Ultimate Warrior’s promo (i.e., speech while in character) on Raw was about a man’s memory and accomplishments living on long after his death. Thankfully, I filmed the whole thing. It was a bizarre case of foreshadowing.
My WrestleMania XXX weekend was excellent. I met fans from around the world, spent time with legendary wrestlers and saw amazing feats of athleticism and entertainment. While I may have witnessed the end of the Undertaker’s streak and the Ultimate Warrior’s last public appearances, I also saw the stars of tomorrow and enjoyed visiting a new city. This trip exceeded my expectations and I will gladly go to WrestleMania again in the future.
Yesterday 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!
Today, I started and finished one of the shortest – and best – video games I’ve ever played: Gone Home. This game, developed by The Fullbright Company, is unlike most video games in that you won’t be leveling up, wielding a gun or jumping from platform to platform. Instead, you’ll find yourself wandering through a dimly lit house unraveling an emotionally stirring story about a young girl’s family. Set in 1995, the house is filled with VHS tapes, fanzines and records, as well as other vestiges of this time period.
In addition to the items strewn throughout the house, the story is told through answering machine messages, handwritten notes, photos, postcards, and countless other items you’d expect to find in a dwelling such as this. The bulk of the unpredictable story comes to life through the superb voice work of Sarah Grayson, who plays the role of Samantha Greenbriar. The smartly written script, along with Grayson’s excellent performance, make for a compelling narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what’s next.
Also worth noting is the wonderful score composed by Chris Remo. While a good portion of Gone Home includes records and cassettes featuring licensed music, Remo’s haunting score perfectly sets the tone for the game and enhances the dialogue at exactly the right moments. It’s the best video game soundtrack I’ve heard since Petri Alanko’s score for Alan Wake. I wholeheartedly suggest you pick up a copy of Remo’s original score here.
While it can be completed in two hours, Gone Home is an unconventional game that immerses the player in an unpredictable and thoroughly entertaining story that’s worth playing again. Even better, the game now features a commentary mode where, while playing the game, you can learn more about the creative process and all the hard work that went into constructing this masterpiece.
Gone Home is one of the best games of the year for two reasons: it tells a great story and it does so in a way that goes against the grain. If you’re a fan of video games, or great stories, I highly recommend you buy this game. It’s an unforgettable experience that shows how video games, when done right, can be unparalleled works of art.