Tribute to Billy Joel

THE MALAYSIAN Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO) will celebrate the music of singer-songwriter Billy Joel this Saturday at 8.30pm, and Sunday at 3pm, at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas (DFP) in KLCC.

The Music of Billy Joel concert will see MPO merging pop/rock and classical elements to give a whole different feel to the music of this legendary artiste who has sold more than 150 million records.

Performing his songs are vocalist and pianist Michael Cavanaugh (above), known as the ‘new voice’ of the American Rock & Roll Songbook.

Handpicked by Joel to star in the Broadway musical, Movin’ Out, Cavanaugh evokes a style rivaling the ‘Piano Man’ himself.

He appeared in the show for three years and over 1,200 performances, receiving accolades including Grammy and Tony nominations.

Cavanaugh also performs and tours with symphonic orchestras for similar tributes to Elton John, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, and James Taylor.

Joel’s music fans can expect such hits as Just the Way You Are, New York State of Mind, Uptown Girl, Tell Her About It, River of Dreams, My Life and The Longest Time.

For more, call 03-2331 7007 or visit the MPO website.

In key with G

KENNY G once said: “The greatest flattery that anyone could say is that I had a unique sound. That’s what I’m working for, to create a sound of my own.”

Still, jazz purists dismiss him as nothing more than a ‘pop’ saxophonist, whose music is only fit as background music in hotel lobbies and lifts.

Despite those criticisms, Kenny G has gone on to become the undisputed best-selling musical instrumentalist of the modern era.

In a career spanning four decades, the 62-year-old Seattle native released an impressive 18 studio albums, won multiple Grammy-award nominations, and garnered album sales in excess of 75 million.

Along the way, he earned a reputation as a consummate live performer, capturing the hearts and minds of fans around the world.

Not bad for a so-called ‘pop’ saxophonist.

His Malaysian fans certainly thought so, as they packed the Arena of Stars at Resorts World Genting last Sunday night for his world tour concert organised by Star Planet.

For lifelong fans such as myself, the wait was excruciating.

Finally, the lights dimmed as the band members took their places, signalling the start to what promised to be an unforgettable evening.

All eyes were glued to the stage, but Kenny unexpectedly walked down from the rear of the arena with tenor saxophone in hand, much to the surprise and delight of those present.

After briefly waving at the crowd, he played the first song of the night, Home, making his way to an elevated platform in the middle of the arena.

Swapping out the tenor for his signature alto saxophone to perform his bestselling Silhouette, he had the entire arena in awe as he held the final note for two minutes, leisurely making his way to the stage to a crescendo of cheers.

And that pretty much set the tone for the entire evening, as Mr G held court doing what he does best – rattling off a mouth-watering musical tour de force of hits.

However, he didn’t do it alone.

His band – comprising high-school pal Robert Damper on piano, percussionist Ron Powell, guitarist John Raymond, bassist Vail Johnson, and drummer Daniel Bejarano – all played a part.

Calling them “his wingmen”, Kenny revealed they have been touring and performing together for 30 years.

He joked that Raymond had more hair than him back in the day, after which the guitarist gamely removed his hat to reveal a bald head!

Each band member also had a solo segment to showcase his skill, from Raymond’s amazing guitar solo on the Caribbean-inspired Havana, to Damper displaying his deft piano skills on Desafinado, a tribute to jazz legend Stan Getz.

Much hilarity ensued when percussionist Powell (who delivered a killer congo set) performed a series of complicated beats, egging the crowd to mimic him by clapping their hands.

Longtime fans and new ones were not disappointed as Kenny performed Going Home, Forever in Love, Jasmine Flower, Teresa Teng’s The Moon Represents My Heart, and the Grammy award-winning Forever in Love.

One big surprise not included in the official setlist was the theme from Dying Young, the 1991 movie starring Julia Roberts.

Of course, any Kenny G concert would not be complete without his extended Cadenza solo, and beloved Songbird.

A soul-stirring rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On ended the night’s set, before Kenny and the guys returned for the encore, performing the aptly-named The Moment.

It was surreal to witness fans, both young and old, swaying to each note, using their smartphones to simulate a sea of fireflies.

It was truly an unforgettable experience, and one which I can now cross off my bucket list.

Bollywood stars Padukone, Singh wed in Italy: reports

MUMBAI: Bollywood superstars Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh have tied the knot in Italy, Indian media reported Thursday.

The celebrity couple got married in a private ceremony at Lake Como on Wednesday, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The pair have yet to comment or release pictures from the event which was closed to the media.

Padukone is arguably Indian cinema’s biggest female star currently, and she has also broken into Hollywood, starring in “XXX: Return of Xander Cage” opposite Vin Diesel.

Padukone, 32, and Singh 33, announced in a joint statement last month that their wedding would take place on Nov 14 and 15.

The couple reportedly started dating in 2013 but have kept details of their relationship largely out of the public eye.

Hindi film director Karan Johar, a friend of the couple, tweeted his congratulations.

“Such a stunning gorgeous and beautiful couple!!!! Nazar utar lo! (Keep the evil eye away) !! Badhai ho (Congratulations) !!! Love you both!!! Here’s to a lifetime of love and joy!” he wrote on Wednesday.

The newlyweds have shared the silver screen together, including a controversial Bollywood epic earlier this year that sparked violent protests in northern India.

Padukone played a legendary Hindu queen and Singh a medieval Muslim ruler in the flick, which angered hardliners, some of whom burned down film sets and made threats towards the two stars.

Indian superstar Priyanka Chopra and American singer Nick Jonas are due to get married in India early next month. — AFP

Country music awards honor shooting victims but leave politics out

CHICAGO: The 2018 Country Music Association Awards on Tuesday paid sober tribute to the dozen people killed during a California shooting at a country music bar last week.

Country mega-star Garth Brooks kicked off the 52nd annual awards ceremony by dedicating it to those fatally shot during the attack in Thousand Oaks, California.

“On behalf of our country music community, I want to say that tonight’s show is lovingly dedicated to the 12 individuals who we lost far too soon just a week ago tonight,” Brooks said.

“Tonight, let’s celebrate their lives. Let the music unite us with love in their enduring memory,” he said before leading the audience of the Nashville, Tennessee ceremony in a moment of silence.

Singer Luke Bryan then took the stage and told the audience: “Let’s do what we do and let’s be proud of what makes us country tonight,” before giving an energetic performance of his current single “What Makes You Country”.

Last week’s mass shooting involving country music fans came just one year after a gunman rained bullets on a Las Vegas country music festival, killing 58 people in one of the deadliest gun massacres in modern US history.

Several survivors of last year’s tragedy were also in the California bar.

Country music is often associated with conservative-leaning Americans and guns are often a theme of its songs.

The 2017 edition of the awards — which fell weeks after the Vegas shooting — saw the CMAs come under fire for urging reporters covering the show to steer clear of political topics, including gun rights.

Following the moment of silence this year the evening took on a more jovial tone, with Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood — who hosted the evening for the 11th consecutive year — cracking jokes on lighthearted topics including Lady Gaga and Underwood’s pregnancy.

Keith Urban, who is married to Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman, nabbed the top Entertainer of the Year prize at the show, which is one of two major award ceremonies in the industry.

Singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton picked up three awards including Male Vocalist of the Year and Single of the Year, which he dedicated to the California shooting victims.

Underwood, who performed “Love Wins” in a sapphire blue cape and gown that showed off her baby bump, took home her fifth prize for Female Vocalist of the Year.

And the Brothers Osborne snagged their third consecutive trophy for Vocal Duo of the Year — and delivered the sole political one-liner.

“I can’t believe we keep wining this. If this was in Florida, there’d definitely be a recount,” quipped TJ Osborne, referring to a tense, razor-thin US senate race that has drawn the ire of President Donald Trump. — AFP

Universal sees lots of green as ‘Grinch’ tops box office

LOS ANGELES: Universal Pictures saw plenty of green over the weekend as its remake of “The Grinch” pulled in an impressive US$67.6 million, (RM283 million) in North American theaters, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations reported Monday.

The three-day results put the ever-popular Dr Seuss tale — with Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the small-hearted, ill-tempered, kid-hating title character — well ahead of last week’s top film, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which slid to second place with a still-healthy take of US$31.2 million.

The “Grinch” also landed comfortably ahead of the Ron Howard-directed 2000 version, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which took in US$55 million in its opening weekend.

The new film also features the voices of Rashida Jones, Kenan Thompson and Angela Lansbury, with Pharrell Williams narrating.

“Bohemian Rhapsody,” with Rami Malek playing Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury, has drawn mixed reviews but has grown into an audience favorite. The Fox production has taken more than US$100 million domestically in its first two weeks.

In third place, at US$10.2 million, was Paramount’s new release “Overlord,” a supernatural horror film set against a backdrop of the D-Day invasion. It stars Jovan Adepo and Wyatt Russell.

Another seasonal film, Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” placed fourth, at US$10.1 million. It stars Mackenzie Foy as a young girl who travels to a magic land in search of a key to unlock a gift from her late mother. Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman also star.

Fifth spot went to Warner Bros’s “A Star Is Born,” which earned US$8.1 million in its sixth week out. Bradley Cooper, in his directorial debut, plays a hard-drinking musician who has a star-crossed love affair with a talented young singer played by Lady Gaga.

Rounding out the weekend’s top 10 were:

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web” (US$7.8 million)

“Nobody’s Fool” (US$6.6 million)

“Venom” (US$4.9 million)

“Halloween” (US$4 million)

“The Hate U Give” (US$2.1 million) — AFP

Rapper Ice Cube takes aim at Trump with new song

RAP legend Ice Cube on Friday released a new politically charged song with President Donald Trump squarely in the crosshairs.

A cut from the gangsta rap pioneer’s album set for a Dec 7 release, the song “Arrest the President” does not explicitly mention Trump but touches on some of his administration’s scandals including its controversial immigration policies and the probe into collusion with Russia.

“Arrest the president, you got the evidence/That n***a is Russian intelligence/When it rains it pours,” Ice Cube raps.

“Did you know the new white was orange? Boy, you’re showing your horns,” the rapper continues, referring to Trump’s oft-mocked skin tone.

“Let’s meet at the White House/Run in and turn the lights out.”

The West Coast rapper had teased the new track on Tuesday as American voters cast ballots in the heated midterm election seen as a test of Trump’s presidency.

“Cuffs are ready,” the rapper tweeted, posting a video clip previewing the song. “Get out there and vote.”

Ice Cube, 49, frequently infuses his raps with blunt sociopolitical commentary.

F*** tha Police – which became an anthem for people who felt maltreated by law enforcement when Ice Cube’s former group N.W.A. released it in 1988 – has remained a rallying cry for activists protesting police brutality and racism.

In 2017, Ice Cube reissued his 1991 album Death Certificate with several new tracks including Good Cop Bad Cop, which paid homage to the Black Lives Matter movement that evolved in response to a spate of killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police.

The rapper’s latest single will be part of his forthcoming album Everythang’s Corrupt, his first solo studio album since 2010’s I Am the West. — AFP