VIDEO: Kathryn Ladano album release – live performance of “Flow”

Enjoy music just a little different from the norm?  Here are Kathryn Ladano and opening act, combining members of Harp+ and Seagram Synth Ensemble at the TWH Social After Dark Space January 11 2020.  My Samsung couldn’t get a good image in the dark, but the audio is decent in full stereo.  Enjoy the track “Flow” from the new album Masked and clips from other tracks on the disc!

The synthscape of the opening act was quite awesome.  Now, I don’t normally drink, but I was with Max the Axe.  Before long I had a rum and Coke in me and I was taken on this wild synthesizer trip through the cosmos!  For roughly 30 minutes, a stream of music emanated through the room, like a slideshow of NASA photos from the 1960s.  Can’t wait to hear the Seagram Synth Ensemble’s album which was for sale and now in my collection.

Kathryn Ladano played interpretations of music from her album Masked.  “Interpretations” because the music is improvised and never the same twice, they just follow the same rough blueprints.  “It’s better live” whispered Max (you can hear this in the video), and Dr. Ladano agreed.

Great show, great venue, try and catch them live!

 

#808: Remembering Neil – Ten of his Best

Forever I’ll be grateful for Neil Peart.  If there was ever one shining example of a rock star you’d want to emulate, it was Neil Peart.  He was a giant.  Musically he was untouchable.  Considering Rush have 19 studio albums and other odds and ends in their discography, it’s a daunting task to make a list of the best.

Probably half the list fell together immediately.  The other half was agonizing.  Focusing on songs, not necessarily solos, made it a simpler task.  Any one of Neil’s big live solos are essential listening anyway.  “The Rhythm Method” on Different Stages comes highly recommended.

At one point I had nine tracks and needed one more.  I asked Facebook for help.  Facebook responded with so many great runners-up that I have to list them.

  • “War Paint” (T-Rev)
  • “The Pass” (Leo)
  • “Afterimage” (Leo)
  • “The Body Electric” (Jamie)
  • “Xanadu” (Jamie)
  • “Mystic Rhythms” (Jamie)
  • “Animate” (Jamie)
  • “Between the Wheels” (HMO)
  • All of Hemispheres (Uncle Meat)
  • “Natural Science” (Scotty G)

A good showing for Presto tunes there, notably.  T-Rev always loved that album.  Ultimately I used none of these suggestions and completed the list below.  A list that I believe are the 10 best songs to represent Neil Peart.

All of these songs (above and below) will enrich your lives.  Enjoy.  And rest in peace, Neil Peart OC (Order of Canada), one of our proudest native sons.


Novelty #11: 

The Hockey Theme

I use the term “novelty” with a caveat: really, only because the song is 70 seconds long.  Neil’s arrangement of the classic Hockey Night in Canada theme written by Dolores Claman deserves note as one of very few tracks credited to him as a solo artist.  This track shows off his roots and his ability to make anything sound heavy!  Yet dig in and listen to his meticulously arranged drum part.  He put just as much creativity into this as he did any of Rush’s originals.


#10:

“One Little Victory”

A victory indeed!  Neil suffered immeasurable tragedy in the late 1990s when he lost both his wife and daughter.  He disappeared on a motorcycle, remaining out of sight for five years, the wind on his back as he sought healing.  His return was “One Little Victory” from Vapor Trails with a crescendo of power drumming.  It’s Rush saying, “He’s back, baby.  The Professor is back!”


#9:

“Bravado”

This track from Roll the Bones is a personal favourite.  Well, they all are, but this one is for just one moment in time. At 3:50 of the song, Peart performs a drum roll that I can only describe as pure ecstasy.

And if the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.


#8:

“Red Sector A”

80s Rush rules! Neil was using more and more electronic percussion, but to no less lethal effect. Give this number from Grace Under Pressure a spin.  The programmed pulse of synth topped by the crashing clank of Neil’s electronic drums give this track a digital, otherworldly feeling.  By this time, Peart’s cymbal work was just as interesting as what he was doing elsewhere on the kit.  Listen to him ride that beat and accent it with the perfect touch.


#7:

“The Spirit of Radio”

This enduring track from Permanent Waves is a lyrical and rhythmic triumph.  It’s easy for cynics to mock descriptive phrases like “Invisible airwaves crackle with life, bright antennae bristle with the energy.”  But there is no denying the truth that is “Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength, bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”  Music.


#6:

“Cygnus X-1”

A Farewell to Kings was Rush during their progressive peak, a stream of albums with side-long concepts.  “Cygnus X-1” utilises such Peart favourites as bells.  And it’s 11 minutes about a black hole.


#5:

“Cotton Tail”

In 1994, Neil Peart organized the Buddy Rich tribute album Burning For Buddy, uniting the Buddy Rich Big Band with drummers such as Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Matt Sorum, Simon Phillips, and of course Neil with his debut in the jazz section.  His groove on “Cotton Tail” is unlike anything he’s done in Rush. It’s unreal that he could master both rock and jazz like this.


#4:

“Vital Signs”

80s Rush rules!  Introducing reggae vibes seems natural in hindsight given Neil’s willingness to explore new rhythms.  Peart’s creativity knew no bounds.  His delicate touch on the Police-like “Vital Signs” (from Moving Pictures) is so good that it should probably be higher on this list.  But there are some key tracks still to come.


#3:

“YYZ”

Rush’s most famous instrumental.  This number showcases all three of Rush’s members.  Of course Neil Peart’s drums are in integral part of it all.  And there’s a reason they call him “The Professor”.  According to minds more musical than mine, “The piece’s introduction, played in a time signature of 10/8, repeatedly renders “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code using various musical arrangements.”


#2:

“Subdivisions”

This track from Signals exemplifies Neil’s philosophy of drums as an active part of the composition of a song.  Every beat matters; everything the stick hits is a hook.  Never before have the drums been so integral a part of what makes a song truly great.


#1:

“Tom Sawyer”

The quintessential Neil Peart song.  Iconic, untouchable.  Barenaked Ladies even quoted his famous drum part in their song “Grade Nine”. When people think of Rush 100 years from now, it’ll be the image of them jamming “Tom Sawyer” at Le Studio, with Neil framed by that big window and snowy landscape behind.

 

 


Epilogue:  Meanwhile, in England…

Sarge from the piercing shop Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth tells us “I have been listening to Rush…ALL DAY.  Really loud.  He added, “I did 40-odd piercings today with that soundtrack!!”  Absolutely brilliant.

Sunday Chuckle: Adventures in Customer Courtesy

I found this old VHS tape in the stockroom at work a long time ago, and forgot about it.  Fortunately, Facebook remembers!  You gotta admit, the cover is hilarious.

 

Album release event: MASKED by Dr. Kathryn Ladano – tonight at the Walper

January 11 2020

8 PM

Join us for the release of MASKED!  Get the new album on vinyl, or CD with two bonus tracks.  Admission is free!

 

 

Please note that the venue has changed slightly. Instead of being in the Oak Room lobby in the 2nd floor of the Walper, it will now be in the TWH Social After Dark Space.

Bonus:  Come meet me and Max the Axe!

The Ghost Rider is Gone – Rest in Peace Neil Peart (1952-2020)

“Endlessly rocking…”

 

This afternoon I was in the mood for some Rush music.  It had been a while.  Maybe a month since I last played Rush.  Signals, I chose.  A personal favourite.  Still craving more, I picked the followup album Grace Under Pressure.  That complete, I finally, and strangely, went for Vapor Trails.  I say “strangely” because Vapor Trails was a special album for Neil Peart.  After suffering the terrible twin tragedies of losing his daughter and his wife, Neil Peart took a step back from music to take care of himself.  There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when the reality was that there wasn’t a Rush.  And we weren’t sure if there ever would be one again.  But then Neil made a pretty epic comeback on Vapor Trails and I like to think of it as “his” album in my mind.

The fortitude of the man, to come back after such loss, was inspiring.  What strength.

Halfway through Vapor Trails, during the track “Secret Touch”, this happened.

The greatest rock drummer of all time…

Is gone.

Like a vapor trail.

I say “greatest of all time” because I can, confidently.  There will be those who disagree, and there will be others to put them back in their places.  He might also be the greatest lyricist in rock history, though that’s a far more wide open field.  Some of his lyrics hit home in emotional ways.

We are young,
Wandering the face of the earth,
Wondering what our dreams might be worth,
Learning that we’re only immortal,
For a limited time.

Neil Peart was a star I always identified with:  an introvert with his nose in a book.  Yet on stage he was a dynamo.  He did things with two sticks that most drummers cannot.  He paved the way for the Portnoys and all the greats that followed.  His lyrics of alienation resonated within the subdivisions.  And he was reportedly also one of the nicest, most down to earth human beings to those whom would he would let in.

Personally speaking, it was “Subdivisions” that hooked me.  The singer kind of weirded me out, with the glasses, nose and high-pitch.  It took me a while to accept Rush into my life.  I was 21 years old when it finally happened.  It had so much to do with the drums, and the percussive mini-compositions within every song.  Seeing Neil Peart interview Jean Chrétien on MuchMusic solidified my belief that this was an intelligent rocker, far different from all the others.  By this time, he was also writing articles in Macleans magazine.  His travel book The Masked Rider became an immediate favourite, as Neil painted verbal pictures of African savannas from the seat of a bicycle.

Brain cancer is an evil bitch.  It’s the same monster that took down our beloved Gordon Downey, and now it has taken from us someone deeply dear.  Neil accompanied me on many of my most impactful life moments.  My first relationship & accompanying breakup, my job at the Record Store, finishing school, all of it.  Neil was there with beats and words to raise the spirits higher.  I tended to take the words my own way.  Which is how Neil would have wanted it.

Rush are one of the few bands, unlike Kiss or Motley Crue, that went out with class.  They simply played their final shows and retired without making a big fuss.  We all knew it was a big deal, and they did too — but they didn’t act like it.   Neil Peart went back home to spend time with his new family, something everybody was happy for him to do.  After all that tragedy, it was a delight to see that Neil has picked up the pieces and made a new clan.  And now that family is shattered, in incomprehensible pain.

The song that got me into Rush was “Subdivisions”, but instead of posting that track here, I have chosen “Dreamline” from Roll the Bones. Rest in peace Neil, and thank you for albums that will always be close to my heart.

Fuck cancer.

 


Uncle Meat has a few words to add.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
but glittering prizes and endless compromises
shatter the illusion of integrity.

His lyrics were as good as his drumming. And that is saying alot. Neil Peart was the opposite of a rock star. He wanted nothing to do with any of that bullshit. When Neil Peart joined Rush after their first album he turned Rush from just another rock band, into the greatest rock band of all time. Many life long friendships have been founded and cemented within the musical and lyrical gifts he gave us. A big long hug to all of you (and you know who you are)…

What a fucking beast he was.

RIP Mr. Neil Peart

 

REVIEW: Sven Gali – In My Garden (1992 Promo cassette)

SVEN GALI – In My Garden (1992 BMG promo cassette)

One of the great perks to a M.E.A.T Magazine subscription was getting free promo tapes in the mail.  One of the bands that M.E.A.T had been hyping was Sven Gali, who had a major label debut on deck with BMG for release.  We were all curious what Sven Gali sounded like…and then this promo tape arrived, previewing three of the tracks!

The lead singer can make or break a band, and Sven Gali had Dave Wanless.  Mr. Wanless had the power reminiscent of another successful Canadian, a certain Sebastian Something who was out there ruling the concert stages.  Wanless also had the right look, and of course a pretty good band!  From the ranks of Billy Idol came veteran drummer Gregg Gerson, joining with Dee Cernile (guitars, R.I.P.), Andy Frank (guitars), and “T.T.” (bass).  They could rock.  They had soloists arguably more interesting than the guys in Skid Row.  And, as evident in this tape, they could write hooks.

“Freakz” wasn’t the lead single, but it could have been.  Rebellious rock attitude, tires smoking down a dark alley, guns blazing…and just a pinch of funk.  “When you gonna learn, baybay!” screams Dave Wanless, and just know he’s got at least one fist raised when he’s singing it.

Up second is a track that did become a single, the dark ballad “In My Garden” (an edit version).  This world-class ballad has all the right ingredients including chorus hooks, a place to shout along, and perfect guitars.  In the early 1990s, if grunge had not derailed the rock n’ roll train, bands like Sven Gali (more aggressive than the 80s groups but not abandoning solos and choruses, and with an ear for musicianship) would have been the next wave.

The last track on the tape is the borderline thrash of “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, ironic in hindsight since Sven Gali only managed two albums before being submerged by the flotsam of the mid 90s rock scene.  Skid Row comparisons are easy to make (in a positive way), but there’s one major difference between Skid Row and Sven Gali.  That is Sven Gali still have their original singer where Skid Row do not.  (They have a new track out called “You Won’t Break Me” to be followed by a CD in 2020.)  They might not have exceeded the fame of Skid Row, but they might just end up having more material with their original singer….

This cassette whet the appetite for the eventual album, which maybe suffered from too much material, but on tape these songs sound ace!

4/5 stars

Check out the credits.  Photos by famed photographer Floria Sigismondi, who took just about every memorable photo of every 90s band you can think of.  Today she’s a movie director!  She’s the reason this tape looks so cool.

REVIEW: Whitesnake – The Purple Tour (2017 CD/Blu-ray set)

WHITESNAKE – The Purple Tour (2017 Rhino CD/Blu-ray set)

David Coverdale releases so much Whitesnake product (most of it worthwhile) that it is easy for the odd live album to slip between the cracks.  After he felt recharged by 2015’s The Purple Album, Coverdale released a live album and video from that tour.  This is not long after the four live CDs that make up Made in Britain and Made in Japan, so what does The Purple Tour offer that is different?

More Purple, obviously.  Of the 13 tracks on CD, five are Deep Purple covers.  There are an additional three more in 5.1 surround sound on the Blu-ray.

They open with “Burn” which leather-lunged David struggles with a bit right out of the box.  Fortunately his capable backing band can handle the supporting vocals, though it sounds sweetened after the fact.

This lineup of Whitesnake, which is still the current one featuring guitarists Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra, bassist Michael Devin, drummer Tommy Aldridge, and keyboardist Michele Luppi, is particularly good.  Whitesnake can never simply revert back to being a blues band.  John Sykes and Steve Vai made certain that Whitesnake would always have to have a couple shredders on hand.  When Beach and Hoestra get their hands on a Purple (or Whitesnake) oldie, they generally heavy it up by a few notches.

You could consider the setlist to be a surface-level “the classics of David Coverdale” concert.  No new material, nothing later than 1987.  It’s cool that some standby’s like “Slow An’ Easy” were jettisoned in favourite of even older tracks like “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”.  It’s fun to hear “The Gypsy” instead of something better known.  Another Purple classic, a heavy version of “You Fool No One” from Burn goes down a treat, with plenty of tight interplay.

The Blu-ray disc includes some more obscure treasures.  “You Keep On Moving”, “Stormbringer” and “Lay Down Stay Down” fill in some of the Deep Purple blanks.  A dual solo with Reb and Joel called “Lotsanotes” is also the fun kind of addition that usually gets axed from a live album.  You’ll also find a music video for “Burn” and a fun interview with Joel and Reb conducted by Michael Devin.  These guys love their jobs.

But just who is this album for?  Don’t Whitesnake have enough live stuff by now?  Yes — they certainly do.  So this album is for two groups of people.  1) Those of us who have to have “everything.”  2) Somone who hasn’t bought a Whitesnake in a long time, but is curious what they sound like these days.  For those folks, they won’t be “bogged down” by anything new.  They will only get David and his crack band tackling the oldies.  Pull the trigger if that sounds like something you’re into.

3.5/5 stars

VHS Archives #83: David Lee Roth in Paradise (1988)

Due to popular vote here’s David Lee Roth in the first VHS Archive of 2020!  This interview — jeez louise! — goes back 32 years.  DLR was promoting Skyscraper and was lobbed a few softball questions by rookie Steve Anthony of MuchMusic (at least in comparison to his 1991 interview with Denise Donlon, link below).

Enjoy a little live footage from the Skyscraper tour and Roth’s thoughts on success and his history.

More DAVID LEE ROTH in the VHS Archives:

#23: David Lee Roth grilled by MuchMusic (1991)
#76: David Lee Roth discusses change and disses Ozzy (1994)

REVIEW: Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction (Super Deluxe 2018)

GUNS N’ ROSES – Appetite For Destruction (Originally 1987, 2018 Universal 4 CD/1 Blu-ray super deluxe edition)

Of course Axl Rose would be late for his own 30th anniversary.  And why not?  This set obviously took time to prepare for release so it’s better we have something that is not rushed out.

As Appetite is one of the most influential rock albums of all time, a super deluxe expanded edition is expected by now.  This album launched a million bands back in the 80s and 90s, most of whom looked and sounded like knockoffs.  Now you can deconstruct the album and hear how simple the formula actually was.  (Liberal doses of Aerosmith with punk sprinkled on top.)

The first disc in this well-stuffed box set is the 5.1 Blu-ray.  Why just listen in stereo when you can go full-bore with a surround sound mix?

This disc answers that question.  It’s because you can tinker too much with a 5.1 mix, and come out with something that is too different for a beloved classic original like Appetite.  This album was the roughest sounding thing Guns ever released.  Unfortunately the 5.1 mix sounds clean.  Too clean.  An artefact of not having to cram all that music into just two channels?

“Welcome to the Jungle’s” guitars come from behind.  Slowly turning, Axl surrounds you.  Then the mix plays it straight, though backing vocals are more prominent.  Hear Steven Adler’s reckless abandon up close and personal, the ride cymbal like his accelerated heartbeat.

It’s a good mix but some will find it too gimmicky and inconsistent, with guitars and vocals jabbing you unexpectedly from here and there.  It varies from song to song and it’s all a matter of taste.  You want to hear the 5.1 mix, but not so much that it changes parts of what you liked in a song.  Some tracks are a mixture of both approaches.  The intro to “Paradise City” is immaculately layered and laid out around you.  Then things consolidate when it’s time to rock.  Man, can you hear those guitars though!  Every Les Paul can be noted clearly and separately in your mind.  So can every vocal track; and there are a few.

There are even 5.1 bonus tracks.  “Shadow of Your Love” is one of them, being the big song they were promoting for this box set. “Patience” benefits from the 5.1 re-examination.  It’s a gimmick-free mix with sparse arrangement that sounds natural and familiar — like a band jamming on acoustics in a room with you.  This makes it the best one on the whole disc.  Even “Used to Love Her” has more prominent differences from the stereo mix, as does the acoustic “You’re Crazy”.  The last bonus track is “Move to the City”, also acoustic, and sounding like a big party jam.

Finally the Blu-ray disc includes all the music videos and even one for “It’s So Easy” that was made just for them and not MTV!  It could be the first documented appearance of Axl Rose in a kilt.

Unfortunately the 5.1 mix will most likely get less play than the good old stereo version, remastered on CD 1.  What can be said about Appetite for Destruction that hasn’t been said before?  All that sonic power is on the verge of overload in just two channels.  If you imagine yourself back in 1987, you can hear why this album made the impact it did.  It steered rock and roll back into a less cartoony, more dangerous direction.  Classic single after classic single still command the airwaves today.  In an unlikely twist, the back-to-basics, loose guitars of Slash and Izzy Stradlin are studied now like old Stones riffs.

The second CD (“B-Sides N’ EPs”) is brimming with extra value.  Most of the followup EP, GNR Lies is included…all except “One In A Million”, that is, which Axl promised he’d delete approximately 20 years ago.  With that EP still in print, nobody misses the track here.  Adding the Lies material as bonus tracks is cheating a little bit, but I suppose that EP was part of the Appetite album cycle.  Even though one track is deleted, the Lies stuff is expanded with bonus songs.  A sharp “live” version of “Shadow of Your Love” follows “Mama Kin”.  There’s also an alternate acoustic take of “You’re Crazy”.  Once you’re past the acoustic songs including “Patience” you’ll get some vintage live B-sides.  “It’s So Easy” is more vicious than the original, and sounds really live unlike the previous Lies songs like “Nice Boys”.  The rare “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is especially cool since it’s pre-Dizzy Reed and has no piano.  Otherwise the style of the eventual Illusions version is sketched out, right down to the “high, yai, yai yai yai” vocals.  Last on the CD is the live cover of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie”, foreshadowing Axl’s future as frontman of the Australian institution.  This classic version has been heavily bootlegged, but remastered on CD, it sounds so fresh.

The final two discs are all unreleased sessions from the legendary Sound City (and other studios).  Most of the Appetite songs are present in demo form but some, like “It’s So Easy”, “Brownstone” and “Sweet Child” are not.  The shape of the album was already arranged down to most of the guitar solos.  It’s less frantic and more rehearsed but it’s there in very close to final shape.  Elements that wouldn’t make the final cut, like some of Axl’s scatting a-la Steven Tyler on “Jungle”, are here to examine.  In the 1970s these Sound City sessions would have been good enough to release as an album!  In the 80s, they needed Mike Clink to make the album stand out and they did that.

Non-album material is here a-plenty.  The Sound City version of “Shadow of Your Love” on CD 3 is the B-side from the old “Live and Let Die” CD single, my personal favourite version for its reckless abandon.  The cleaner one on CD 4 is the one released as a single in 2018.  Then there’s a trashy punk metal version of Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” which could have been a fine B-side as well.  “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” on CD 3 is faster and different from the familiar bootlegged version (still unreleased).

The 4th CD is a mixed bag of demo sessions and unreleased songs, jams and acoustic versions.  Instrumental “Ain’t Going Down No More” sounds like an Aerosmith outtake riff, with cowbell out the wazoo.  “The Plague” has vocals but it’s quite clear why it was never released.  It could be the worst Guns N’ Roses song heard yet.  “New Work Tune” is just an acoustic riff that didn’t make it into anything.  There are, however, a couple tunes that did.  “Back Off Bitch” was reworked on Use Your Illusions, as was “November Rain”.  This old demo of “Back Off Bitch” is probably better than the final version because that’s Steven Adler on drums.  “November Rain” is particularly interesting because it’s present in both acoustic and piano forms.  You can hear how the song grew, but also that it wasn’t ready yet.

Three more versions of “Move to the City” (electric and two acoustic) are here in case you ever wanted a studio version of that song.  There are also studio takes of “Mama Kin” and “Reckless Life”.  It’s a bit much in terms of repeat, but at least all the versions are notably different from each other.  You’ll also have to hear an acoustic “You’re Crazy” one more time, but “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” is pretty cool and jam-like in acoustic form.

A box set at this price point always has paper extras inside:  replica posters, tickets, even Axl temporary tattoos.  Nothing of any particular value.  There are some posters and glossy photo prints.  There is even a reprint of the original controversial Robert WIlliams artwork.  What are you going to do with all this stuff? You’re not going to tape it to your walls. You’ll keep it safe and unseen in the box, of course.  That’s why it’s valueless to most of us.  There is also a massive hard cover photo book, in which you’ll find the CDs and Blu-ray.  It’s light on text but heavy on glossy photos and memorabilia scans.  (Within those scans, there’s plenty to read.)

The super deluxe Appetite For Destruction is of value to those who are going to listen to and appreciate all the different versions inside.  The 5.1 mix is disappointing but there will be those who love how different it sounds.  It’s not easy to consume all five discs in quick succession, but these bot sets rarely are.

4/5 stars

#807: Freestylin’ 3 – V.I.P.-stylin’ (plus vote results)

GETTING MORE TALE #807: Freestylin’ 3 – V.I.P.-stylin’

As a family tradition, any time there is a new Star Wars saga film, my sister and I have to take my mom and dad out to see it.  My dad won’t go see movies very often.  After all, he did make a scene at Lord of the Rings.  He just doesn’t like going, and doesn’t enjoy sitting still for two hours watching just one thing.

But we got him out to Rise of Skywalker, and to make it a treat for everyone, my mom decided she wanted to do the V.I.P. experience.  This V.I.P. stuff was new to my dad and I as well.

There are a number of things to talk about with this experience, so get a warm coffee and let’s go.

We went to a noon matinee.  Nobody ever seems to go to movies at noon on a weekend; it’s the perfect time.  I was told that the V.I.P. section had a full menu of food and service right to your seat, so I skipped lunch that day intending to make the movie theater my lunch.  I was not disappointed.

We went upstairs to the V.I.P. area where I was stunned by a cool looking lounge/bar/restaurant setup.  I suddenly felt under-dressed in my khakis and “Pickle Rick” T-shirt.

The seats in the V.I.P. theater are like individual recliners.  They were so incredibly comfortable that I just plopped right down, and didn’t move for the next two or three hours.  Who doesn’t shift around in an uncomfortable and too small movie seat?  The V.I.P. section eliminates that.  The serving staff (all friendly and helpful) got our drink orders right away.  My mom ordered wine.  Once we decided on food, we just paid by debit.  Well, my dad paid for me — apparently it was his treat.  We split a pizza with olives, tomatoes and feta cheese, and my mom ordered Hawaiian, finishing half.  My sister and her mainman Drew had beer, chicken wings and popcorn, and the wings smelled amazing.

“This is the best pizza I’ve ever had,” I said incredulously.  Who goes to a movie theater and says that?  I love pizza, folks.  I’ve never been to Italy, or even New York or Chicago, but I’ve eaten a lot of pizza.  That was a good one, right there.  I’m not saying “best in the world” or anything like that, but certainly “best in my limited Canadian experience.”  I’m saying that unless you’re from Naples or New York, you’re going to like the pizza.

We arrived early when the theater had just opened up so we’d have plenty of time to finish our lunch.  (We sat through the same boring trailers as last time, so I’ll warn you now:  there’s a new Harrison Ford version of Call of the Wild coming out with a CG dog and it looks utter shite.  I cannae understand why they used a fake looking CG dog.)  The lights stayed on until the trailers were over and the movie rolled, because I don’t think you want to be working your way through pulled-pork tacos or calamari in the dark.

On went the 3D glasses.  Since I’ve already reviewed the movie I’ll just talk about a few things that we didn’t discuss before.  The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t need to be seen in 3D.  While I enjoy it, I find things look less sharp in 3D, and there were few scenes that really jumped in 3D.  For The Rise of Skywalker, it’s not necessary like it is for, say, Avatar.

My father did say if they ever have a theatrical re-release for Lord of the Rings in 3D, he’d go out to see a movie again.  Make it happen, Peter Jackson.

He really enjoyed The Rise of Skywalker.  “That was the best movie I ever saw!” he said at the end.  I’m sure that’s the rush of coming out of a theater.  I don’t think The Rise of Skywalker will really replace The Lives of a Bengal Lancer or Beau Geste for him in the long term.  The point is, he liked it.  And he didn’t like The Last Jedi very much at all.

In our post-movie discussions, I pointed out that J.J. Abrams seemed to stick it to Rian Johnson a bit.  Luke Skywalker says “I was wrong,” in regards to his decisions seen in The Last Jedi.  “I felt like it was J.J. saying The Last Jedi was wrong,” I told my sister who agreed.

One of the guys at work complained to me that The Rise of Skywalker is too similar to Return of the Jedi, in the sense that the state of the galaxy is returned similar to the way things were at the conclusion of that earlier film.  “Of course,” I explained.  “That was always going to be the case.  The sequel trilogy was never planned like Lucas makes it sound.  It was always tacked on.  Return of the Jedi was his intended conclusion.”  It tied up two threads that he originally set up for a sequel trilogy, which is the search for the Emperor, and the search for Luke’s sister.  Instead of saving those for the three sequel movies, Lucas concluded the saga in Return of the Jedi.  Period.  Oh sure, Lucas had story ideas for a sequel trilogy featuring midichlorians and a proto-Rey named KiraRey and the Midichlorians of Doom, I call it.  So let’s all cool our jets a bit when talking about the sequel trilogy.  We all played with Star Wars toys as kids.  We all had our own ideas for a sequel trilogy.  J.J. came up with a decent one, and while I am sure there is better fanfic out there, I’ll remind you that in the early 90s there was also far better fanfic depicting the prequels, too.  Because we never thought we’d get those either.  My own ideas for the prequels had Vader turning evil in Episode II, falling into a volcano then.  By Episode III he was already in the armor, hunting Obi-Wan and the Jedi.  To me this would explain why Obi-Wan immediately recognized Vader in his armor in Episode IV – he had encountered it before.  And my prequel series would have been better than George’s, just like your sequel trilogy would be better than J.J.’s.  We all think that.

Funny enough, the sequel trilogy ends the same way as Lucas’ original concept for Episode IX.  The hero slays the Emperor.  That’s how he envisioned it when he sketched outlines for nine films in the late 70s.  His midichlorian trilogy idea with Rey/Kira was something he concocted later, after Return of the Jedi already ended the saga.  Like it or not, that’s the sequence of events.

I will say that The Rise of Skywalker, like many Star Wars movies, was better the second time.  There are cameos and clues to pick up on, not to mention that incredible John Williams score.  The triumphant anthems during the final space battle really bring a tear to the eye.

Exiting the V.I.P. theater, we chatted with the manager a bit.  Apparently you can just saddle up in the restaurant area for dinner if you just want a nice movie theater pizza, or sit at the bar.  She said they have special super-hot pizza ovens there which helps explain why mine was so good.

This experience was an early new year highlight.  Usually I walk out of a theater with a sore neck, sore back, or both.  I admit I did have sort of a mild headache behind my eyes; this happens sometimes with 3D movies.  Or it could be that I only had five hours’ sleep.  Don’t know; just sayin’.  The point is, I want to do it again sooner rather than later.

One problem.  There’s absolutely nothing coming out that I want to spend that kind of money seeing.  Nothing.  Oh sure, the new Bond looks badass and Daniel Craig is cool, but I can never follow the twisted plots of those movies.

So I don’t know when I’ll be doing this again.  If James Cameron comes out with Avatar 2 anytime soon, I bet I could drag my dad out for that one!

 

 


UPDATE!

VHS Archives vote results!

You guys chose DAVID LEE ROTH for the next instalment of VHS Archives!  Your wish is my command.  One third of you wanted Roth, which is a good one from 1988, the Skyscraper tour.  The interview is by Steve Anthony.  I’ll post that one next in the coming days!

I do want to comment on a couple things and maybe scold you readers a little bit.

Nobody voted for Kane Roberts and Alice Cooper.  For shame!  That is one of the best in my entire collection.  Two very, very funny guys there, like a comedy team.  Sample quote.

“Alice has an incredible presence on stage, and he gives me some of those presents every once in a while.”

Come on, that’s funny stuff!

And technically nobody voted for Paul Stanley either, because that’s my vote and it only got one.  Shame!  Dan Gallagher did that whole interview in Gene’s makeup, and then Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum also sat in.

Roth is next on the VHS Archives, thanks for voting!