November 7th, 2008

christmas 2008

So what's next?

The elections are over, and though all the results aren't final yet, it's time to talk about what we saw on Tuesday night. I have no interest in examining where any candidate, from McCain on down, went wrong. It's much more productive (and for me, fun) to look at what the future might hold.

The stereotypical images of the two major parties suggest the causes of small government and individual liberty were dealt a crushing blow last night. But this election year has been anything but typical, and we can expect some bright spots from an Obama presidency. A conclusion to the war in Iraq is likely within the next year to eighteen months. That not only frees up resources for employment elsewhere in the war on terror, it comports with the wishes of the Iraqi people and signals that we don't intend a perpetual occupation. I expect there to be a concurrent buildup in Afghanistan, and hope for the capture of Osama bin Laden. On the whole, there'll be a shift in the general tenor of our foreign relations, toward a spirit of cooperation and away from dictation to other nations. This is something that will benefit not only America, but the entire globe.

On the domestic front, I've repeatedly deplored the fact that neither major ticket was good for the country. A return to a smaller Federal government is not only the right course for the country, it's what the people truly want. Numerous polls bear this out. This wasn't a vote for a return to the tax-and-spend liberalism of the past; it was a vote against the spend-and-control "compassionate conservatism" that has failed so disastrously over the past eight years. There are so many people is this country - and I'm one of them - who favor economic conservatism and social liberalism. Anyone who can tap into that energy could stand to do very well in the near future.

What's the future of the Republican Party? That depends on the tack that both parties adopt from this point forward. It won't help the GOP that the new administration does not seem to be poised to make the same mistakes the Democrats did sixteen years ago. Obama has never pushed for the kind of across-the-board tax hikes Bill Clinton did, and Hillary-style universal coverage seems to be off the table. The "elephant meat" won't have quite the things to rally against that Newt Gingrich and company did in 1994. Regardless of what the Democrats do, the GOP has to return to their first principles if they want to make any headway. They should be willing to work with the Democrats when it benefits them, but they also have to stand in strong opposition to any significant expansion of Washington - and that includes using the filibuster, presuming they have enough votes in the Senate to do that. If Republicans find the spirit of Reagan, and discard Bush's "when somebody hurts, government has got to move" philosophy and his pandering to the far right, they can recover from this fate. After all, the Democrats reversed the Republican Revolution; it's not insane to think it can't happen again.

It was telling to note the President-elect's demeanor as he gave the victory speech Tuesday night. It reflected not only his own even keel, but a knowledge that the nation needs a lot of work to reverse the spiral of the previous two terms. He's inheriting one of the most perilous situations as any President ever, and he appears to be ready to get to work. His ability to reach out to young people and get them involved in the process bodes well, from a procedural standpoint, for the future of our Republic. All in all, we could have done a lot worse than Barack Obama. Let's recall the closing words of Senator McCain's concession speech:
I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.
It's a call I will answer; not only now, but after my direct service to the President concludes.
christmas 2008

Sara Bareilles in Hartford: two slices of awesome and a HOT PIECE...

This past Wednesday, I slogged through an hour of nasty conditions to and from Connecticut's capital, to take in Sara Bareilles and friends at the Webster Theater. I've been anticipating this since before the last underway - that is to say, well over a month. This is the first time I've seen any live music since Ready In 10 back in February; that streak came to an end in style. Assessment: expectations were much exceeded, and the events of November 5 are the front-runner for "Matt's Most Memorable Experience of 2008."

At just about eight, Sara came out to introduce her opening acts. The first, Raining Jane, is four women from Los Angeles, emerging from the same UCLA music scene as the leading lady. The group has an eclectic style, unusual instrumentation (including a cello and a sitar), and an abso-tively hilarious percussionist. In the space of ninety seconds, Mona dropped three lines worthy of the quote record I keep at work:
"Doesn't my crotch area excite you?"
"Somebody jump me."
"Hartford's a bunch of dirty bitches."
Aside from their musical quality, it's easy to see why they're a part of Team Bareilles on this tour. My personal favorite was "Wyoming Sky," which immediately reminded me of one of the loyalists to this thing I do.

Raining Jane was followed by Marc Broussard, who Sara promised would "kick our asses with music." He and his band certainly delivered on that, but changed pace enough to keep the crowd guessing. The two that stood out for me were his opener, "Rocksteady," and a song whose lyrics I can't find, but included the words "[bleep] like you do." Broussard and the guys backing him delivered a strong sound that very much reminded me of the aforementioned Ready In 10, my faves from Long Island. Broussard, like Raining Jane, has earned a new fan.

There was another pause to reset the stage, during which I moved into position in the front row. At a quarter to ten, down went the lights, and up came the band, followed by the Piano Woman herself. (Think of who goes by the nickname "Piano Man." YES, I WENT THERE.) A strong leadoff ("Vegas") was followed by the expectedly convoluted entry into "Bottle It Up." She hit every song off Little Voice save one ("One Sweet Love"), and brought in some other stuff, like a cover of Feist's "I Feel It All." (Full setlist at the bottom.) I suffered a personal fail late in the set. Unfamiliar lyrics graced my ears; I'd never heard Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold." This distracted me from the underlying melody, and when the song morphed into "Come Round Soon," my second favorite from the album, I was fooled. Sara even threw in some Katy Perry at the end.

And then came the hit that made her famous, not to mention hooked me in March and converted me to this little faith. Just as "Love Song" was Sara's hit out at her record label, so it is my cry to the Seagoing Military Force. I have video footage of the last chorus; I haven't yet watched it, but I bet the audio sucks because it's probably mostly my voice in the camera's microphone. Marc came back up to help close "Many the Miles," and all three acts joined forces to close with Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City." The stage emptied, but the cries of "SA-RA! SA-RA!" couldn't be ignored, and so she remounted the stage for an encore. It was "Sullivan Street," by the Counting Crows with whom she toured this summer (and with whom my best friend saw her at Jones Beach). As it faded, we wondered if there'd be another; it seemed as if it weren't quite the right way to cap the night. Sure enough, she held form by giving us "Gravity."

At that point, I was on such a high that I couldn't help waiting outside the touring vehicles, to attempt to secure an autograph on the liner notes of the new DVD, and perhaps a picture. I stood in the light rain for many minutes, holding out hope, until someone came by and said she left right after the show. While disappointed, I could understand a desire to leave Connecticut with a quickness. After all, we know she's smart, having a degree from UCLA. (Or maybe she reads tfo...not likely.)

There's plenty more to say about this beautiful night. First off, though I know that I shouldn't say this as a heterosexual male, but Sara has some style. Either she has great taste in clothes, or someone great to pick them out for her, or both. I'll let the pictures say more on this. As the night and the set pressed on, I was struck and impressed by just how grounded Sara is. She was effuse in her praise of the fans throughout, going so far as to thank us simply for "supporting live music." I didn't expect something like that from a major label artist with a top-five single to her name. But it shows that she knows exactly where on the career arc she lies - that is to say, big, but not huge. Let's step back from this gravy train of flattery for a second. The Webster isn't exactly the Building Formerly Known as the Hartford Civic Center, and I'm pretty sure she didn't sell out the house Wednesday night. When I dropped her name at work on Thursday, many people were unfamiliar with it. (Of course, after mentioning "Love Song," everyone knew.) She recognizes that she's still working her way up, and the support of every fan is crucial to her success, at least commercially. Her choice of opening acts show a wonderful loyalty to her friends. And the fact that she's had (according to the DVD) the same band for five years shows she's doing something right.

I do, however, feel it necessary to relate that Sara is perpetrating a massive lie on the music-consuming public. Whatever her reasons for titling her major label debut Little Voice, rest assured that isn't true. Hers is big and expansive, filling the whole of whatever space it finds itself in. That she uses it to bring her own words to life makes it all the more powerful. Female singer-songwriter-instrumentalists seem to have a short shelf life; as Exhibits A and B, I submit Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton. I can only hope that Sara prospers while maintaining the musical fidelity that resonates as hers does, and has endeared her to so many of us.

This was a night that starkly reminded me why, as much as I gripe about it, my job is so important. North Korea or Iran could never have produced a Sara Bareilles. It was a prime example of our defense of what I jokingly call the Fourth-and-a-half Amendment: "Congress shall not abridge the freedom to kick ass." Some may see fit to douchebag her, but she's got something special, and I'm grateful she has both the desire and the ability to share it with us. It's no accident that forty-eight hours after it went down, I'm still thinking about that most beautiful magical night. If Sara measures success in music as I do with this blog - in terms of connecting with people - then in this one case, hers is resounding. I can't thank her enough for what she gave to everyone at the Webster on Wednesday night.

[Postscript: I arrived back in New London at 1 a.m., and worked all day Thursday. Here's a shot from Friday morning; I'm still wearing that (melon-colored) shirt right now.]

All previous tfo material concerning Sara Bareilles

Pictures: Sara Bareilles (with Raining Jane and Marc Broussard) - Webster Theater (Hartford, CT) - 5 November 2008
(I apologize for the low quality on most of these...the Webster has a no-flash rule, and for the most part, I adhered to it.)

Bottle It Up
Love On The Rocks
Between The Lines
I Feel It All [Feist]
August Moon
Little Voice (Thanks much to the commenter who provided this title.)
Come Round Soon [with bits of Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl"]
Love Song
Many The Miles (with Marc Broussard)
Living For The City [Stevie Wonder] (with Marc Broussard and Raining Jane)
Sullivan Street [Counting Crows]