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December 12, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-12-12

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Friars' music, marriage
proposal both successful
It is not everyday that one has the privilege to catch two amazing events all
rolled into one. But, that is what the audience at Power Center got Friday night
during the Friars 39th annual study break concert.
That wacky acapella group, the Friars, once again delighted the crowd with
their wit and vocals. Even with five new guys in the group, the richness and
the tradition which is the trademark of the group still continues.
Unfortunately, the opening group,
The Girls Next Door from the Univer-
sity of Illinois, could not match the
The Friars quality of our guys from Michigan.
This eight-woman group was vocally
Power Center decent but just did not have the stage
December 9, 1994 presence necessary to rally the crowd.
So, when the Friars took the stage,
the audience was pumped and ready. Most of the songs they performed were from
the' 80s, which added to the excitementof the crowd, as we listened to songs which
trigger memories of the days of heavily gelled hair and neon clothes.
Jason Menges, Dan Ryan and Matt Bejin sang most of the solos of the
vening with a couple thrown in by Dave Hoey and Tom Vesbit. Jason even
ade his percussion debut with the Yes song "Leave It." The only problem
was that it upstaged the singing of Bejin who was featured in the song (Doom
Doom Doom Kush).
One of the highlights of the show was Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Walk on
the Ocean" which featured Dan. He has the perfect voice to carry this mellow
song and with Jason's harmony on the chorus, it became a very moving piece.
Of course no Friars show would be complete without the crazy antics added
to the songs - the Cheez Whiz in "Dream," the slides of the Friars' eyes
during "The Eye of the Tiger (Friar)" and all the crazy choreography which
these guys often have difficulty pulling off.
Dave's solo on "Bridge OverTroubled Water" was simply beautiful. His voice
was strong and clear and handled the music well. The placement of the song also
provided nice variation in the mostly fast-paced, somewhat cheesy program.
But what everyone left the theater talking about was not the charm and humor
of these eight guys. Nor was it the fact that the special effects failed to ignite.
The absolute show-stopper was Dan and his proposal to his longtime
girlfriend, Heather. He brought her up on stage under the guise of singing
"Happy Birthday" to her. She then was serenaded by Jason and Dan with "If
I Had a Million Dollars" by the Bare Naked Ladies.
Before she could leave the stage, Dan got down on one knee and asked Heather
,to marry him. She said yes, and the crowd went wild. After a standing ovation,
-shocked gasps and cheers, the Friars turned back to giving their concert. Still,
thoughts were on the romance that 1400 people had just witnessed.
Dan and the Friars really know how to wow an audience and were
successful in doing so. Congrats to Dan and Heather. What the Friars will do
at the next concert is anyone's guess. But, based on the marvelous perfor-
mance of Friday night, it is sure to be "really great."
Despite missing links, 'Angels
in America' still flies in Arena

Freedy Johnston finds a 'Perfect World'

Freedy Johnston just wants a cup
of coffee. Really. That's all.
"I've always got so much to do
that I barely had time to have a civil
coffee break this morning," he said
angrily on a rushed morning while
touring in support of his latest album,
"This Perfect World."
"People are taking all of my time now.
They're pushing me around like a shop-
ping cart," he sighed. "But that's the job
I've got. This is what I've worked for my
entire life, so I'd better be happy about it."
He certainly should. Since its sum-
mer release, "This Perfect World" has
garnered tremendous critical acclaim,
and for the first time in Johnston's
career, racked up sales figures as well.
His first single "Bad Reputation" has
found its way onto adult contemporary
and modern rock radio playlists and the
video rotations of MTV and Vh-.
"This Perfect World" is a sharp
turn for the better on Freedy
Johnston's long, bumpy road to pop-
folk success. It began in Kansas and
stops for now in New Jersey, but it's
been a rough ride all along the way.
And those scars show on the
record. He populates his "Perfect
World" with barefoot whores and
murderers, young lovers who choose
suicide over separation, Lolitas, aban-
doned children and disappointed men.
It seems dreary, but sounds heart-
breakingly, quietly beautiful.
Itwillnevercausearunon theregisters
competing against Pearl Jam's ANGST,
but that doesn't bother Johnston in the
least. "I'm 33 years old. I'm not some
screaming kid with all this confused an-
ger. My anger is much more focused now.
I'm not concerned with presenting an
angry young man persona."
He and producer Butch Vig (Nir-
vana, Smashing Pumpkins) had re-
corded some more aggressive tracks for
the album, but "they just didn't fit in,"
Johnston felt. "It sounded like I was
trying to be tough."
That's the last thing Freedy
Johnston needs to do at this point in
his career. While building up a de-
voted fan base with his first two LPs
"The Trouble Tree" and "Can You
Fly" and his "Unlucky" EP, he proved
that his strength lay mainly in his
songwriting ability.
And like all truly great songwriters,
Johnston is a storyteller. His charac-
ters are the transparent figures of a
musical glass menagerie, as fragile as
they are beautiful. They love, they lie,
they leave and invariably they lose
something along the way.
They're not so different from the
singer himself. A now famous story
describes Johnston strapped for cash
during the recording of "Can You
Fly," selling "my only asset," the farm
he'd inherited from his grandfather,
to finish the album. Not coinciden-
tally, Johnston opens that record with
a rueful, "Well I sold the dirt to feed
the band / falling right through my
hands / I sold the dirt and bought the

road" on the angry rocker "Trying to
Tell You I Don't Know."
That statement seems to be the
lyrical turning point between "The
Trouble Tree"'s opening cry of "This
boy is innocent" and "Perfect
World"'s acknowledgment "I know
I've got a bad reputation / and it isn't
just talk."
Johnston, however, would rather
discuss it. "I'm not interested in tell-
ing my life story in my records. I've
never had any concern for telling the
truth in them. People can make all the
inferences they want ... but then it is
me doing it after all."
How he came to be doing this at all
is a story in itself. The "innocent" boy
from Kansas left home in 1985 to
head to New York. Writing and sing-
ing through "10 years ofshitjobs" left
him disheartened and dispairing. "I'd
been making four-tracks in New York
for a while, sending them to a couple
of friends in Kansasjust for kicks," he
remembered. "But I didn't pursue it
and I didn't really want to. It was just
too much work."
Johnston continued, "One of my
more vocal and annoying friends kept
pushing me to do something about it.
I'm very impressionable. So I went
back to Kansas over the holidays and
recorded these songs on one day, live
in a recording studio for the first time,"
he recalled. "I was sick and drinking
Ny-Quil. I was hung over. It was
awful. I took the tape back to New
York and sat on it."
Another "pushy friend" began shop-
ping the tape around and eventually
Johnston signed with Bar/None
Records, beginning a totally frustrating
if valuable experience. "They dragged
their asses for eight months getting me
into the studio to record ... I had no idea
what was going on. I was angered by
how different the finished product
sounded from what was in my head."
After the first record's release,
Johnston said, "I didn't tour. 1 had no
moneyand Bar/None certainly didn't
have any. They'd say stupid things
like, 'You should go out on the road.'
I'd ask, 'Well, how do you do that?'
So we sold like 2,000 copies."
Johnston had already begun work
on "Can You Fly" when the record was
released in Holland. "TheseDutchjour-
nalists and critics really liked it. Rela-
tively, it got a lot of press." This was
Johnston's first critical acclaim. "But it
was in Dutch, so I couldn't read it ... I
ended up going on the road in Holland.
It was a great experience."
"Can You Fly," though, frustrated
him just as the previous record had.
Johnston is mystified by the acclaim
that his second album received. "A lot
of people like those two records bet-

ter (than 'Perfect World'). Ijust think
they're totally unlistenable. I can't
even hear those songs anymore. I've
taken people's CDs from them. My
voice is this croaking, squeaking,
screaming thing."
Critics didn't seem to care. Just
how could simple pop melodies and a
warm but thin voice make this cast of
loners, lovers and losers so very mov-
ing? Johnston seemed to wonder him-
self. "I was a skinny white singer /
with no more time" he proclaimed on
"In the New Sunshine."
No matter. Johnston had fought
his toughest battle with "Can You
Fly," and though he'd lost the farm,
he'd won a deal with Elektra Records
and a path to "This Perfect World."
The scrappy Freedy of the "Trouble
Tree" had mellowed into the darker,
somber Johnston of "Can You Fly,"
and the singer was ready to get upbeat
again. But "Perfect World" turned out
even quieter than its predecessor, de-
spite Vig's presence. "We chose him,
ironically, because he was more ag-
gressive-sounding," Johnston said.
The record immediately received

attention and plenty of press. At last,
Johnston said, "I've been allowed into
that club of people who can actually
make their living off of their music.
It's certainly not an elite club, but it is
restricted. I'm very appreciative and
thankful of everything that's come
my way," despite the aforementioned
coffee problem.
"Things are going well forme now,"
he remarked. "I'm doing well pretty
much everywhere. Except in Holland.
They've written me off because I've
already done well there," he laughed.
And while it hasn't been easy,
Johnston has few regrets, save the
loss of that farm. "If I hadn't sold it, I
wouldn't have finished the record
("Can You Fly") ... I would've had to
change my life, for sure."
But Freedy Johnston did sell the
dirt, feed the band and buy the road.
And, after all those years and miles,
finally he can fly.
Detroit's Majestic Theater tonight.
Doors open at 8 p.m. and tickets
are $7.50 in advance. Call 810-645-
6666 for more information.

Homosexuality and the AIDS cri-
sis are not pretty. They are raw and
messy like anything else in life. Too
often, when art is made to depict these

in America:
Arena Theatre
December 9, 1994

road, however they fell slightly short
of the mark. Were they given a few
more weeks with the material, they
both could have easily been very good
as well. Incidentally, Oberg showed
tremendous promise for a first-year
student, and if he continues in this
vein, he will no doubt be a dramatic
force to be reckoned with as he ma-
tures as an actor. He showed tremen-
dous vulnerability as Joe; all that was
missing was the occasional force nec-
essary for the role.
The scenes that were cut from this
production to make it more manage-
able were, in fact, missed. Roy Cohn,
the character that was cut, adds a lot
of drama and humor to the play, as
well as being the only character that is
a powerful figure dealing (or not deal
See ANGELS, Page 8

uespite a do repulauon, songwriter Freedy Jonnsion nas nown to success.

issues it is glossed over to appear
jretty and easy to deal with. Fortu-
nately Tony Kushner, in writing "An-
gels In America: Millennium Ap-
proaches," deals head on with all of
these issues, and the Basement Arts
production of this play was very suc-
cessful in representing the rawness
and honesty of Kushner's play.
The Arena Theatre worked re-
markably well for this production,
And the intimate nature of the space
brought the audience right into the
lives of these characters. Director
James Steortz chose some very simple
set designs that made set changes
quick, and were effective in present-
ing these character's lives as they
collide on the stage.
While many of the performances
were very good, two actors really rose
the challenge of the material and
ined. Kazzie Brown dealt very hon-
estly with the difficulties of Harper
Pitt, the valium-popping, trip-taking,
hysterical Mormon housewife who
must deal with the coming out of her
husband Joe (Matt Oberg). This role
could have easily been done at one,
monotonous, frantic pace that turns
Harper into a caricature, but Brown
,ut the necessary variety and real
notions into Harper. Brown did a
wonderful job, and was at her best as
she tried to pull herself together
enough to deal with the problems of
her husband.
Also to be commended is Sylvan
Jankowski for his portrayal of Prior


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