Page 6-Saturday, November 11, 1978-The Michigan Daily
The Mercury descends at Cobo
By TIMOTHY YAGLE
Detroit rock fans had quite a choice to
make Thursday night because two of
pock's top acts, one a rocker and one
known for its cosmic brand of
progressive music entertained the city.
q The Moody Blues, not having set foot
ip the Motor City for seven years,
visited Olympia, while England's royal
rockers Queen invaded a nearly sold
,out Cobo Arena.
THIS ESTABLISHED four-man
band, not thought of as being in the
miainstream of modern rock and roll, is
:ying to change its image and become
mnore like "one of the guys" - more
raunchy. An example of this was when
:the band sponsored a nude bicycle race
in Wimbledon Stadium to promote their
new LP Jazz. The album will be in the
Mtores in a few days.
:Comparing Thursday night's concert
to their concert' almost a year ago, the
tiwo were almost identical. There are a
few major differences. Queen's current
tour emphasizes new material. A
majority of the songs they played Thur-
sday night were from A Day at the
Races and forward, with the balance of
the program coming from their most
recent LP, News of the World. Last
year, they played more older tunes. The
only oldies out of the 17-song two-hour
set they played this time were "Keep
Yourself Alive," which' broke the ice
since it is a familiar rocker, "Brighton
Aock" and "Now I'm Here." Missing,
among others, was the burning "Stone
: The other major difference was that
tihe band does not seem to have the
vitality it once did. Freddie Mercury,
4lad in a shiny, black, tight suit, looked
bie a novice ballet dancer the way he
tioved around on stage. He has ap-
arently lost a little charisma;.not a lot,
but enough to notice something is dif-
ferent. He just didn't have that magic
we're accustorhed to.
LEAD GUITARIST Brian May hasn't
changedmuch, although he did seem a
bit more hesitant about sliding around
during Thursday's performance. He
can, however, still play a mean guitar.
Bassist John Deacon, sporting a new
Charlie Watts-type haircut, was his
usual docile self.
Queen didn't have the elaborate
crown overhead this time, either. Their
lighting system was rather standard in
comparison to other rock bands. About
half way through the set, everyone was
stunned when a second, much smaller
stage, with a smaller drum set and two
stools on it, was lowered to the bigger
stage. Mercury couldn't have in-
troduced it better. He said en-
thusiastically (straight from Monty
Python), "and now for something com-
pletely different." Queen played their
acoustic set of two tunes and the crowd
took it in stride. I wondered what they
were going to do next? It was as if
Queen had one stage ingeniously
designed for their acoustic set and
reserved the bigger stage for letting it
go with their familiar rockers.
..,peen plays acoustic material
passably, settling down the crowd so
that they will be primed when the band
FOLLOWING THIS short set, Mer-
cury tossed his mike into the crowd and
said provocatively, "You say
something." There was, as expected, a
"It's Late" began in the typical grand
style Queen is known for with May
playing guitar on an elevated platform
stage left and Mercury singing on a
platform stage right while the mini-
stage was being raised. "Brighton
Rock" and the single from Jazz "Fat
Bottomed Girls" ensued.
Most of the group's songs were per-
formed with crisp precision with the
only noticeable flaw in the rough tran-
sition from live to taped music in the
middle of Queen's biggest hit
"Bohemian Rhapsody." But when the
hard guitar part came at the end, May
flew on stage in a flowing mid-length
robe accompanied by exploding flash
pods. Not surprisingly, the crowd loved
An exuberant "Tie Your Mother
Down" followed "Rhapsody," and it
was here that Mercury's voice decided
to quit. He really struggled during their
two encores of the punk-like "Sheer
Heart Attack" from News of the World
and their famous one-two punch from
the same album "We Will Rock You -
We Are the Champions," which in-
cluded plenty of clapping and stomping.
It would be unfair to say that Queen
really are no longer the champions, but
they just didn't have it Thursday night.
Their magic of a year ago just wasn't
there. Even though their show was for
the most part satisfying, they didn't get
HE WESTERN has always occupied a very special, loving niche. in
American literature and film. That's partly because the frontier's huge
and exotic presence so long filled American's need for open space, for
freedom to move and explore; partly because its lore and heritage wertsq,:
indigenously ours, yet appealing enough to capture and hold the imagination..
and longings of the entire world.
The Western seemed to satisfy needs which cut across any political
spectrum. Both liberals and conservatives could appropriate as their own
the frontier ideals of truth, individualism and close-to-the-earth wisdom.
Yet for all its mesmerizing geo-political lure, the Western always
hovered in a strictly limited corner artistically. I once read an article which
argued persuasively that only seven basic plots exist in Western literature,
and that any departure from that basic lexicon merely constituted 'a!-
variation thereof. That the genre has managed to endure and flourish 'all
these years despite such thematic strictures seems a testimony to a
pervasive life force which extends far beyond aesthetic boundaries.
YET I'M BEGINNING to wonder if the cosmic allure of the Western
hasn't finally run its course, at least in cinema. Cowboys all but disappeared
from television some time ago, and have been visiting movie houses with,
ever-decreasing frequency as well; even grandmaster Sam Peckinpah
hasn't made a Western in nearly five years.
The problem is that new frontiers on earth long ago ceased to exist, and
those remaining in outer space seem increasingly inaccessible both
chronologically and economically. It may be that in this augmentedly
inward-directed age, the Western has nothing left to tell us, its dream now
turned alien, anachronistic and dull.
It's this kind of feeling which permeates and ultimately mummifies
Comes a Horseman, a film made all the sadder when one considers all the
diverse talent that tried and failed to breathe life into it.
THE SHEER SKILL of Horseman's participants is enough to
temporarily obscure its lurking maladroitness. It's nice to watch Jane
Fonda, James Caan and Jason Robards do their slick, professional turns on-
screen; one can settle comfortably into director Alan Pakula's expert
craftsmanship and bask in Gordon Willis' graceful frontier camerawork;
such expertise is enough to lull you along for maybe half an hour until the
squirming realization dawns that Comes a Horseman has nothing -
absQlutely nothing - to say.
There isn't a single theme, a single scene, perhaps even a single line in this
film that hasn't been recycled and regurgitated through interminable
earlier variations. It doesn't come across pretentiously, but with a kind of
resigned, android exhaustion. Very swiftly one can detect a dispirited aura
settling over cast and crew, as if their hearts were simply no longer into this.
stillborn project at all.
-" +..--- 4 AA.... V......L.i.......
East Coast street life. In the case of
"Rosalinda's Eyes", an ersatz Puerto
Rican ballad, it gets a bit em--
barrassing. Joel rolls his R's, and it
sounds forced; we know he doesn't talk
like that. "You had to be a BEEG
SHOT, DEENT YA," he interjects
during "Big Shot", in an Italian accent
borrowed from a Ragu spaghetti sauce
ad. Same thing.
"Big Shot" sounds like a hangover
feels, with its pounding, plodding
melody reminiscent of'Ravel's Bolero.
Over this stressful music, Joel
disgustedly berates someone (him-
self?) for getting high and acting like a
52nd Street fool. Sneers Joel,
Billy Joel You had the Don Perignon in your hand
Co/unih FC 35699 and the spoon up your nose
But when you wake up in the morning
With your head on fire
By ANNE SHARP And your eyes too bloody to see
Although midterms and a pelting Go on and cry in your coffee
rainstorm kept Billy Joel's fans from But don't come bitchin'to me
packing Crisler Arena when he played "Stiletto" is a noir song, a paranoiac
there in October, they are nevertheless fantasy in which the narrator imagines
snapping up copies of his latest release, his sadistic lover mutilating him with a
52nd Street. Billy Joel deserves suc- knife. Despite its unhealthy subject,
cess. Over the years, he's turned out "Stiletto" features a smooth, moody
nany fine bits of music. Last year, with saxophone hook by Joel's ace woodwind
The Stranger, a perfect little gem of an player Richard Cannata. Joel, of cour-
album, Joel had five hit songs; his se, wrote all the songs for 52nd Street,
reputation was made in the popular and performs pianos and vocals on the
eye. Now, although -52nd Street is album, which does not explain why, on,
perhaps a weak follow-up to The the frontand back cover and inside
Stranger, it is not really disappointing, sleeve, Joel is photographed holding+
Joel has yet to become lousy. atrumped (Freddie Hubbard is the only
"Rock and roll!" Joel shouts during trumpeter in the credits, for "Zan-
"Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" zibar"). Is the trumpet another Billy
on The Stranger. He's mistaken there. Joel trademark, like the boxing gloves
Joel doesn't really rock. It's a sort of on The Stranger? Does Joel play trum-
quality MOR, a sophisticated version of pet, or, indeed, box? For that matter,
what Alice Cooper is doing now, a was he ever the tough New York street
mellow, jazzy, cosmopolitan sound by a urchin of his songs? If it's all a pose, it
mature man that wuld fit as comfor- certainly suits him very well.
tably into the format of the Tonight What cheapens 52nd Street are
Show as that of Saturday Night Live. moments that sound like hackwork, the
BUT JOEL HAS a rock and roll men- product of an artist trying to follow up a
tality that separates him from MOR. stab at success on a deadline.
Witness these lyrics from 52nd Street; "Honesty" is an uninteresting, "sin-
Little Geo is a friend of mine cere" song. "Until the Night," with its
We get some money and we buy a cheap dusky, night-life sound, has lovely
nin, music, but its lyrics, a confusing
Sit on the corner and have a holiday melange of cliches, are reminiscent of
,Hide the bottle when the cop goes by some of Jim Steinman's words on Bat
Talk about women and lie, lie, lie Out of Hell, the Meat Loaf album. They
These words are more Patti Smith sounded shoddy, coming from the man
than Barry Manilow. Joel, although he who wrote "Only The Good Die
waxes eloquent on 52nd Street about the Young." But then, don't listen to me. I
elegant agony of fame and grown-up absolutely hated "Two Out of Three
love, shows a familiar affection for Ain't Bad."
ALAN BATES In Harold Minter's 1973
An outrageous brilliant comedy. One harroeing day in the
life of Ben Butley, a lecturer in English at a university in Lon-
don. A brilliant screenplay by Simon Grey and a memorable
performance by Alan Bates as Butley. With JESSICA TANDY.
Sunday:- Jack Nicholson In THE LAST DETAIL
TONITE AT ANGELL HALL AUD."A''
CINEMA .. 7& 5 $1.s50
Howling with rage, Jane Fonda witnesses the destruction of her land from a
windmill perch shared by her partner and lover, James Caan, in "Comes a
Screenwriter Dennis Lynton Clark yanks Horseman's story out of the
traditional 1800's locale and updates it to 1945, yet geographically and
thematically things remain as untouched as the needles on the Lonesome
Pine. The good guys are Ella Conners (Fonda), a small-time Montana
rancher, and Frank Athearn (Caan) a GI just back from the war. The two fo
them join together in a less than mutually friendly alliance against
meglomaniacal catle baron Jacob Ewing (Robards), whose consuming
dream of reigning over an unbroken domain of land is obstructed only by the
small plots owned by our protagonists.
NATURALLY, 'ELLA and Frank are determined to hold onto their
homesteads and steers at all costs, with Ewing just as hell-bent to run them,
off by all means necessary, including murder. On such hoary sagebrush'
chestnuts doth Horseman's plot progress, its imaginative malnutrition fairly'
oozing from its feeble narrative. And. though Pakula's lines are clearly
drawn between heroes and villains, both the saintly and satanic prove so
uniformly drab that it becomes difficult for one to work up any genuine rah-
rah spirit for the good guys - an absolute prerequisite for any successful-
For a while, Horseman tries to work up a modernizing subplot. It seems"
the evil Ewing is in as mortal an apocalyptic bind as Frank and Ella - a'
powerful local banker threatens to foreclose on his entire domain unless the
cattle baron agrees to let the banking interests use his (and Ella's) land foirI
oil drilling. Corruption of the soil beckons, and suddenly the Peckinpahesque
motif of traditional good and evil mutually smothered by amoral corporate-'
monoliths seems about to carry the day.
Yet just as suddenly, Pakula and Clark drop the theme of industrial
invincibility. Ewing rebels, efficiently dispatches the slimy banker in' a'
phony plane accident, then moves to re-establish his territorial imperative
Does this mean he's now turned hero, defender of the traditional and good?'
No way, says the film, shifting gears again to allow Ewing a final murderous
assault on Frank and Ella, whose own relationship has inevitably evolved
from enmity to love-in.
OUR HAPPY COUPLE demolish their antagonist in an all-too-brief,
clumsily staged fire and gunfight, and thus emerge triumphant simply,
through the fact that none of their enemies are left, traditional or mode.rn. If
there's any intended moral in this drab and confusing happy end - other
than the unintended one of survival of the fittest - it was lost in Horseman's
doomed and confused quest for its own reason for existence.
The prevailing ennui slowly diminishes the film's participants
technically as well as inspirationally. Pakula, reknowned as a master of
tension and unseen menace, fails utterly to work up any form of suspense.1
There's more drama in a small sequence of Frank and Ella dickering with a
cattlebuyer over the price of their herd than there is in all of Horseman's
"boffo" scenes put together. Cinematographer Willis supplies surprisingly
little aid, as his work devolves from picturesque to merely tiresome.
Jane Fonda makes a passable frontier type, though her character is
underdeveloped. James Caan is less believable as a cowpoke, and as
Horseman progresses, he looks like he's struggling against persistent
constipation. Jason Robards takes the acting honors as Ewing, but even he
displays a kind of mechanical weariness over a part he has done so often he
could almost play it on reflex action alone.
"Knee-jerk" would be an apt definition to apply to this whole
melancholy production. You can almost feel its captive rep company
silently, plaintively crying out: "We've seen this before, we've done this
before - who the hell cares anymore?"
Who, sadly, indeed? Perhaps all one can do is remember - remember
The Westerner, Red River, The Searchers. On another level, remember Roy
and Gene and Hopalong and The Lone Ranger. Remember and cherish the
sacred, scintillating past - and bury the vapid present as swiftly as
possible. A slow death for this once-proud genre would be too much to bear.
R.C. Players presents
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