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November 05, 1980 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1980-11-05

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I

ARTS

The Michigan Daily Wednesday, November 5, 1980 Page 5

Cleveland'sfinest:.
Just another night
By FRED SCHILL
The problem with the Michael Stanley Band is that it sounds just like a legion
of others. There is nothing particularly memorable about the band, nothing that
distinguishes it from the scores of others trying to take advantage of the current
heavy metal craze.
This is not to suggest that the band is a bad one; this is merely stating that the
band is not a particularly good one. The band plays a driving, ear-splitting,
guitar-wrenching style of rock and roll that keeps crowds like the one at Second
Chance Monday night on their feet and screaming.
THEY HAVE A flair for tight arrangements that accurately smells out what
fits and what please their clientele. They are competent musicians of the back-
up band variety and are quite capable of churning out as much noise as the
crowd can bear.
Compared to their opening act, the Look, the Michael Stanley Band is on the
level of Beethoven. The Look has all the appurtenances and accoutrements of a
woefully bad cover band, without even the mild interest that the Stanley Band
might arouse in the decibel-oriented. They failed to generate any excitement
even among the enthusiastic crowd they played to Monday night.
The Michael Stanley Band at least seemed comfortable with what they were
doing, they had at least accepted the role they are relegated to play. That was
evidenced by the fact that the music got progressively harder throughout the
course of the show, as the fans responded ever more enthusiastically to just that
sort of indulgence.
THE BAND started the show with some of its quieter work (not to be con-
strued as mellow, mind you) such as the Cleveland club favorites "Midwestf
Midnight" and "Last Night." The show was a fairly thorough mix of material
from their albums and songs to be released on their new LP "Heartland."
To give credit where it is due, the band attempted to mix in loud but spritzy
organ solos and had a lenack for changing pace just when things started to get
intolerable. The saxophonist was the only member to show any noteworthy
talent, and they couldn't seem to figure out quite what to do with him. He mean-
dered in and out of the songs like a lost child, often making his presence known
at the least comfortable and least expected moment.
The crowd was composed of the largest group of Clevelanders this side of
Lake Erie and they ate it all up. The could often be seen singing along with
Stanley standards like "Promises," "Lover," "Don't Stop the Music," and the
encore and show-ending crowdpleaser "Strike Up the Band."
STILL, MORE than a few patrons left before the show was over, and some of
the rest would have liked to. Despite the enthusiastic crowd, despite adequate
professional competence on the part of all of the members save the lead guitarist?
(who was unforgivable), and despite an abnormally large consumption of beer,
in the end the Michael Stanley Band was guilty of perhaps the worst crime in
rock and roll.
They were boring. The songs blended into each other, the chord progressions
rarely elicited interest, innovation is obviously not part of the band's
vocabulary, they had no stage presence or charisma, and they increasingly
resembled more than anything else a troop of musical robots sent to satiate the
crowd's lust for metal. They were better than Foreigner, but not quite as, uh,
entertaining as the Blue Oyster Cult. If the Michael Stanley Band slicken up
their sound, get a bit more commercial, and hit it big with a hit single, they
might find a following among the Boston-Van Halen constituency. But I doubt it.
And even if they do, they will still be boring.

ACADEMY OF ST. MAR TIN IN THE FIELDS
Chamber group well-received

By GREG LADEWSKI
The publicity for The Academy of St.
Martin in the Fields emphasizes that
this is "the most-recorded chamber or-
chestra in the world." That's true, of
course, but it misses a real selling-
point, for the two most striking features
of the Acadmey's Monday evening con-
cert at Hill would not be evident on a
record. Beyond the music itself, and
beyond the group's technical mastery,
what stood out was the musicians' sen-
se of "community" onstage-the
delight and enthusiasm in their music
and in each other-and the dominant
(sometimes overwhelming) per-
sonality of the director, violinist Iona
Brown.
There are advantages and disadvan-
tages for an orchestra of 16 players
compared to, say, a string quartet or a
100-piece orchestra. While large enough
tocreate a great volume of sound when
needed, the group is small enough to
allow interaction between the mem-
bers. The performers reveal more in-
dividual personality than members of a
symphony, and they seem to have more
fun.
ON THE OTHER hand, there is more
responsibility and less security for the
chamber players. For example, it is
much more difficult for two violas to
play well in unison than for ten-the
larger section blurs discrepancies in
pitch and rhythm, while the smaller
group only heightens such flaws.
The Academy orchestra's feat of
playing without an official conductor is
rather like 16 people with individual
steering wheels, gas pedals, and brakes
trying to drive a single car over a dif-
ficult course-or perhaps more like a
musical 16-person balancing act.
Although there was no conductor (no
one on a podium with a baton) the or-
chestra was definitely directed and led
by first violinist Iona Brown. She leads
the group in much the same way as the
first violinist of a string quartet: With
exaggerated motions of her violin and
her head, occasionally beating out a
tempo with her bow. This technique
was subtle, and interesting to watch.
But sometimes her playing over-

shadowed the ensemble, as if she were
directing the group by playing louder
and more emphatically than the rest.
This was especially noticeable inathe
Bach, but popped up at inappropriately
times in each piece.
THE TWO highlights of the evening
were the first and last works onthe
program. The opener, the Concerto
Grosso in A major by Handel (Op. 6
no. 11) was crisp and exciting.
Frequent and effective changes in
dynamics, tone quality, and phrasing
kept the piece fresh and interesting.
The eight violins in particular were
precise in their attacks and gave an
amazingly full, clear sound. At times,
the violins overpowered the lower
strings, and the bass line could have
been stronger, but the overall effect
was exhilerating.
The next piece, Brandenburg Concer-
to No. 3 in G major by J. S. Bach, wasn't
quite as successful. For some reason,
the unison playing was sloppier, the
dynamics and phrasingj less varied than
in the Handel. Another real problem
was the imbalance between Iona Brown
and the other players in the frequent
tradeoffs of solo passages-she was
consistently louder than other soloists.
It seemed almost as if, in deference to
her role as leader, the others were
reluctant to "play out" sufficiently.
The first movement especially was
tentative and rather dull. The suc-
ceeding Allegro movement had many of
the same problems, but its breakneck
tempo lent some excitement.
A PURIST might wince at the rather
romantic interpretations given these
two baroque (early 18th century)
works. The Academy players used all
modern or modernized'instruments and
the group used modern bowing styles
and lots of lush vibrato. But the dangers
of oversentimentality or an overly
mechanical approach were generally
avoided by a consistently light touch,
and with energy, imagination and
variety in interpretation.
The next piece, Rondo in A major for
Violin and String Orchestra by Franz
Schubert, again demonstrated Iona
Brown's virtuosity as violin soloist, but
did little else. This undistinguished
work could have been omitted with lit-
tle loss. There were no major flaws: the
orchestra played its "oom-pa-pa" ac-
companiment competently, and Brown
dutifully sawed her way through the
work's empty pyrotechnics, but the
performance was basically uninspired.
In the'last scheduled work, Bartok's
"Divertimento for Strings," The
Academy of St. Martin's in the Fields
truly showed how well it can play. The
first movement, a rather jolly stom-
ping-dance alternating with weird, syn-
copated tone clusters and broad
dissonances, was by turns humorous
and profound. Tone quality ranged
from shrill scraping to refined
delicacy; the frequent changes of tem-
po and mood were executed precisely.
The second movement was the high
point of the Divertimento, and indeed

was the highlight of the evening. The
beautiful opening, muted and almost
imperceptably soft, led gradually to ther
first of the movement's four dramatict
climaxes. Then all was suddenly soft,1
and the orchestra again began its slow
climb up from an eerie pianissimo,
weaving variations abd bits of fuguet
together: It was an ideal example ofi
Bartok's "night music", haunting andf
unearthly. t
The finale was properly frenetic andc
colorful. Bartok's joke-a staggering,
hiccupping section which poked fun at
cafe musicians-drew appreciative
laughter from the audience. The
"Divertimento" shows Bartok at the
height of his powers, and showed the
orchestra at its exuberant and inspired '
best.
Amity
9LSAT
'GMAT
1 1 | REVIEW PROGRAMS
Call for Amity's free brochure
on the exam of interest to
you:
800-2'43-4767
BO AT
INIGHT
at
1140 South University
668-8411

The performers obviously enjoyed
themselves all evening, and they
needed little coaxing to add two en-
cores-a lush, passionate version of the
Pachelbel Canon (that favorite of
American audiences) and a light,
energetic (and short) Mozart Diver
timento (K. 117.). The audience
responded warmly and with obvious af-
fection; reacting, perhaps, as much to
that remarkable community of friends
on the stage as to the fine performance.
A STORY OF
NATURAL LOVE,
BROOKE
SHIELDS
BLUE
I AGOON
MON, TUES THURS
FRI-7:10,.9:00
WED-1:30320 5207:10, 9:00
Wed$1.50tait530
INDIVIDUAL THEATRES
! 5th Ave. of Lberty 761.1700
We 150 ART GARFUNKEL
NNE NICHOLAS
ROEG
FIM

MON TUES, "
THURS, FRI-
7:40, 9:50

WED-1:00, 3 10 5 30
7:40,9:50

i! m - - -!-- i
* With this entire ad - I
* one admission $1.50 any film 1
* Good Mon. thru Thurs.
This coupon valid thru 11/6/80 I

Tonight

CINEMA GUILD

Presents

F

ONE WOMAN'S BLUES:

AN EVENING OF AMERICAN
AVANT-GARDE FILMS
A selection of eight filmmakers who have gained recognition as important
American experimental cinematographers. This 90 minute program includes
the following: Mayo.Deren's MESHES OF THE AFTERNOQO? (1943), now a
famous classic in the genre; Kenneth Anger's SCORPIO RISING (1964), the
original punk biker film; Stan Brokhage's THIGH LINE LYRE TRIANGULAR.
and many others. 7:00 & 9:05 at LORCH HALL AUDITORIUM. Be on your
avant-garde.

Mcl waine crys tough

P By MARK COLEMAN
"You see a chick up here on stage
with an acoustic guitar and you expect
a folk singer, a Joni Mitchell type,
right?" says Ellen McIlwaine, coyly
batting her eyes and plucking a delicate
chord on her guitar. "Well you're not
gonna get it-I always hated that
stuff." Grinning, she preceded to prove
her point with a ringing, near-
cacophonic slide guitar run that John
Lee Hooker would've been proud of
A fiercely individualistic performer,
Ellen McIlwaine draws power and im-
jnediacy from seeming contradictions.
Though her rich, rough voice and fren-
zied guitar style are firmly rooted in the
blues, she leaves an indelible stamp of
personality on everything she sings,
from rock to soul to straight blues
Her approach to the blues is eclectic,
sometimes eccentric: she opened her
first set at Rick's Monday night with a
loping blues bass line, played on an
amplified accoustic guitar filtered
through a wah-wah device! It came off
as a casual, funky strut as McIlwaine
strung together three or four similarly
structured songs alongside her relaxed,
percussive riffing.
ELLEN McILWAINE is a riveting
stage presence, what with red hair, a
flaming red pants suit and a between-

songs rap that is downright disarming.
Alternately tough and tender, she
establishes an emotional rapport with
the audience (both men and women)
saved from corny-folksiness by satiric
barbs and hilarious, ribald story-
telling. The strident self-assuredness
and honesty she projects came across
in her songs too; changing the lyrics
to Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting On Top Of
The World" to suit her perception of
herself ("The man is gone/but I don't
worry").
Her vocal delivery is strong-at
times overbearingly loud-but she
squeezes new meaning out of a blues
classic like "Sitting" with dramatic
shifts in dynamics, ranging from tor-
turous rasping to a suggestive murmer.
Most of the time she just belts it out,
echoing her slippery guitar progression
on John Lee Hooker's "On the Road
Again" with gleeful, authoritative
wailing. Compared with her aggressive
guitar work and the fiery bluster of her
vocals, her attempt to slow things down
at the piano with a ballad seemed a bit
strained, but at least gave the audience
a chance to rest up for the next slide
guitar free-for-all.
There was a minor note of
dissatisfaction/disappointment in the
air Monday night-I think a few of the

audience members expected something
a bit "mellower", someone a bit more
reserved. Ellen Mcllwaine does tend to
be a bit abrasive, but that style of
delivery fits the rockin' blues she per-
forms to the tee. She is a totally honest,
authentic performer-so uncom-
promising that, like whisky or butter-
milk, it takes a while to get used to the
consistency and flavor of her singing.
But after the initial shock the en-
joyment is profound and long-lasting.

COMING TOMORROW
to the
MICHIGAN THEATRE
THE WIZARD
"There's no place like home. "

.*

"P5;5;55jJW

Need a ride .
out of town ?
Check the U.ht!Jl
classifieds under,
transportation

Classic Film Theatre
603 E. Liberty
668-8480

Thurs., Nov. 6
4, 7&9PM
Admission: $2.00

Culture
at student rates.

Cinema II
Presents
RASHOMON
(Akira Kurosawa, 1951)
A bandit (Toshiro Mifune), a samurai, and his wife each tell of
a rape and a killing in which they were involved. The discrep-
ancies in the four stories indicate the mysterious quality of
truth. "Rashomon is one of the greatest film experiences-a
film one will see again because there are pleasures-as
well as pain-in looking into an abyss."-Pauline Kael. Japa-
nese, with subtitles. (83 min.) 7:00 and 9:00
Wed. Nov. 5, Angell Hall $2.00
THE PIRATE
(Vincente Minnelli, 1947)
Based on a hit Broadway comedy this MGM musical features
an original score by Cole Porter and stars Judy Garland and
Gene Kelly. Judy plays a young, innocent girl romantically
infatuated with the legend of Mack, the Black, a world re-
nowned pirate, and Kelly portrays a roving actor/clown who
pretends to be this pirate to woo Judy. (102 inin.) 7:00 ONLY
CAPTAIN BLOOD

1
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