Geek Smithology

January 23, 2006

Review – Bjorn Again with Nearly Neil

Filed under: Sound by Nathan @ 9:31 pm

The travelling extravaganza known as The 70’s Show[1] descended upon Jack Singer Concert Hall on Saturday, January twenty-first in the year of our Lord two thousand and six and it was the end of the world as we know it. As a card carrying Sex Pistols fan, I’m not sure what hurts more to admit: that I went to a concert featuring Neil Diamond and ABBA impersonators, or that I enjoyed myself. Thoroughly. What the hell, my music tastes are so out there that anybody who is surprised by either declaration doesn’t know me as well as they think they do. But, enough about me…

As we entered the Performing Arts Centre, my wife was surprised to find that at 31 we were actually bring the average age of the crowd down by some statistically insignificant number. She tried to convince herself that they were there for a different show, but sure enough, as we took our seats in the nosebleeds we were king and queen of all we surveyed – a sea of white hair. I had to remind her that a) my parents like ABBA and b) my grandparents like Neil Diamond. Aside from a tendency to not get up and dance and to look at me like I was insane when I did, they basically stayed out of the way. Sometimes that’s the best you can ask from the fogies at a concert.

This whole adventure begain as a brave effort to take a bullet for my wife (apparently always going to movies that she doesn’t really want to see isn’t her idea of fun. Who knew?) But when Nearly Neil, resplendent in blue sequins, came out and started belting out America I was into it.[2] The guy had impressive range and was a lot of fun. He ran through a veritable cornucopia of hits: Holly Holy, Kentucky Woman, Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon, I’m a Believer, Forever in Blue Jeans, and Cracklin’ Rosie. Unfortunately for all involved he didn’t do Shilo or, tragically, Song Sung Blue[3].

This was followed by the main event – ABBA wannabes Bjorn Again. Aside from the music, which is the pop-disco you either love or hate but have a definite opinion about, the show was an eclectic mix of humour, audience participation, and KISS. Yes, KISS. About halfway through the set, the ladies went off for a costume change and the dudes threw down a monster cover of I Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night that was arguably the high point of the show. They visited most of the songs I know and quite a few I didn’t during a hypnotic 80 minute set. When they said goodnight without singing their super-hits, my wife expressed faux concern.

Of course, everybody knew that they were saving that for the encore, predictably consisting of Take A Chance On Me followed by Dancing Queen[4][5]. There was a nice rap interlude during the former that was both comic relief and a chance to exercise my (in)famous b-boy moves. I thought that was it, but Nearly Neil came out once more to join Bjorn Again, forming an impromptu supergroup to perform a rousing rendition of Sweet Caroline. It’s a little embarrassing, but I was so roused that I had to throw up the horns during the last chorus.

What can I say, Nearly Neil is fuckin’ metal.

four and a half star

[1] I imagine placing a definite article in place of the more familiar conjuntion used by a certain TV show was done to prevent litigation. Or I’m cynical — one of the two.
[2] Guilty Pleasure Moment: I like Neil Diamond. Hey, it’s better then that time you liked Boomtang Boys (or, god forbid, Aqua) “back in school.”
[3] You know…even I’m not sure if I’m joking.
[4] Is it just me or is the bpm for Dancing Queen far to slow for any self-respecting dancing queen to strut the proverbial “stuff”?
[5] Nathan’s top five encores, in descending order: Bourbon Tabernacle Choir tugging at the heart strings with Simple, REM playing around with Permanent Vacation, Erica Raum destroying Paganini’s Caprice No. 5, Jack Semple channeling Hendrix through Fire, and Thomas Manshardt throwing every last ounce of strength into Homage a Liapunov. I’m serious, it was his third encore (the crowd would not let him leave) and we thought he was dead when it ended.

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