Review: The Mersey Beatles

I’ve never had the opportunity to go to a tribute concert before, so when I discovered that the Mersey Beatles would be coming to play at The Ark in Ann Arbor, I was ready and rearing to go! That said, I had no idea what to expect and was just as full of questions as I was excitement. How “into character” would the tribute band be? Would they be emulating mannerisms just as much as they were emulating voice? How would the group dynamic compare to the real thing? And most importantly, just how good were The Mersey Beatles? They are considered to be the number one Beatles tribute band, but that really meant nothing to me at that point since I had no experience with tribute bands as a whole.

Needless to say, I was a bit nervous standing in line to receive my wristband for the concert. I’d meant to wear my Beatles t-shirt to show some fan spirit, but sadly I’d forgotten ( so much for fan spirit). I got to the venue about thirty minutes early to get a good spot in line, but I needn’t have bothered. I’d been imagining a string of people extending down the block trying to get into the concert, but there was just a few older couples when I arrived. And to make matters worse, a passerby, having noticed that The Ark was hosting The Mersey Beatles said: “The Beatles? Never heard of them before….must be new.”

Now, I hope he was joking, but at the time it seemed like something right out of the movie Yesterday (If you haven’t seen it, it’s a must watch, feel good film where practically the entire world forgets about The Beatles).

Eventually, there was a good crowd waiting in line for the concert and when we were invited inside, I didn’t have to worry about searching for a good seat. Because the venue was relatively small, every seat in the room had a decent view of the stage. Drinks and food were available to be purchased and there was even room to dance if we so chose. All in all, The Ark is a very cozy and comfortable venue.

And then The Mersey Beatles made their appearance. They certainly made an impression, breaking into song the instant they walked on stage. Almost all of the songs they played were The Beatles greatest American hits, which was a very intelligent move on their part. Classics like Yesterday and Day Tripper were a particular hit with the audience while songs like Eight Days a Week and A Hard Day’s Night had a group of audience members dancing and singing along.

I was amazed at how closely The Mersey Beatles mirrored the vocal tones and layers of the original Beatles. I can only guess that there was a great amount of time and energy spent researching John, Paul, Ringo, and George as well as  their albums and performances.  The Mersey Beatles, smiled while in song, engaged the audience in classic banter, and joked around with a couple who walked in late, saying something along the lines of: “Now we’re just waiting for the Royal Family.”

I enjoyed the performance immensely and have a new found respect for tribute bands. However, if I was to be nit picky about anything concerning The Mersey Beatles, it would be the lack of interaction between group members. They were all very good at interacting with the audience throughout the concert, but there was a lack of engagement with each other. The Beatles were often playful with one another on stage, whether it was goofing off a bit during a song, or something as simple as making eye contact and smiling at one another. They were a group that shone on stage because you could see how much they loved performing and enjoyed the company of each other.

I believe the next step for The Mersey Beatles is just to loosen up a bit more. Focus on one another as well as the audience. Don’t be afraid to goof off a bit. It’ll make you even more loveable in the long run.

 

 

REVIEW: University Philharmonic Orchestra

What a night!

This was my first orchestra concert  experience since coming to the University of Michigan and I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed! Walking into Hill auditorium, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how beautiful the space was; the rows upon rows of red cushioned seats, the decorative work running across the ceiling, and  the massive organ glimmering beneath the lights along the back wall of the stage. I made sure to get to the auditorium early in order to get a good seat and I could tell as soon as I sat down that the acoustics in this space would be amazing. A stifled sneeze from someone on stage would be able to be heard as clear in the nosebleed sections as it would be in the front row.

The concert started out strong, opening with an excitingly fast paced rendition of Chad “Sir Wick” Hughes’  Visions of Renaissance. This piece was a whirlwind of sound from start to finish and Adrian Slywotzky conducted beautifully. But, what truly blew my mind was the second piece of the concert which was  Piano Concerto no. 1 in F-Sharp Minor, op. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninov. The piece was split into three movements and the star of these movements was Pianist, Sua Lee. Lee is a master pianist, having received multiple awards for her incredible talent on the ivory, the most recent being the 2021 Concerto Competition. I’ve never seen fingers move so fast across a piano as hers did that night. Lee shone on that stage while the orchestra provided a supporting role behind her. It was a beautiful call and response relationship that flowed and ebbed with a multitude of emotion. It was clear to  see how involved Lee was in the music. With every intake of breath, every fluid movement of her finger across the keys, the graceful way she leaned into the piano; she was mesmerizing to watch. The emotions she called to the stage ebbed into the audience as well, we were all captivated by her performance. As such, Lee received a standing ovation from the audience.

As wonderful as the concerto was however, I have to say that my favorite piece of the night was Symphony no. 6 in F Major, op. 68 by Beethoven. This was mostly due to the fact that I’m a big fan of the Disney film Fantasia which is a Disney classic and a must watch film if you haven’t seen it. Fantasia is made up of entire stories animated to some of the greatest classical music of all time. And Symphony no. 6 just happens to make up one of my favorite moments of Fantasia. I was able to relive the film live as I listened to the orchestra and I have to say, the orchestra was so superb that if I closed my eyes, I could almost believe I was listening to a recording of a professional group.

It was amazing to be able to witness such a talented orchestra!

PREVIEW: University Philharmonic Orchestra

Being a past music student myself, I couldn’t be more excited to attend an orchestra concert again. The University Philharmonic Orchestra is made up of freshman students looking to expand their ensemble experience, playing some of the most well known works ever created. They’re led by Adrian Slywotzky who is a lecturer of conducting. He’s won multiple competitions for his craft, most recently the 2017 Audite International Conducting Competition in Poland. I’m excited to see how Slywotzky leads his students during this performance.

Another thing that I’m particularly interested in is seeing  the connections between members of the orchestra. Being a violinist for nine years, I’m well aware of how lost someone can become in the emotions of the music being performed. At times, a whole orchestra can be tied together in those emotions. It’s a type of energy that isn’t easy to explain, but even the audience can begin to experience it as the mindscapes of the musicians are transferred into the crowd through each note ringing throughout the auditorium.

The program for this particular performance is made up of three pieces, all from differing eras of music which will be especially intriguing for the audience:

Visions of a Renaissance by Chad  “Sir Wick” Hughs

Piano Concerto No. 1 by Sergei Rachmaninoff

Symphony No. 6 by Ludwig van Beethoven

The concert itself is entirely free and will be held in the Hill Auditorium at 8:00 pm, September 22nd.

REVIEW: Stephanie Dinkins: On Love and Data

On Love and Data was a truly thought provoking exhibit. The way Dinkins created and showcased her ideas on Afro-now-ism and the way she tackled and exposed  problems of artificial intelligence and digital systems that remain lacking in terms of accessibility and inclusiveness was amazing. Dinkins work is raw with emotion and clearly conveys the strength of her character. Walking alone through the gallery, interacting with her work, there were several times that I felt uncomfortable and on edge. Of course, I’d like to think that’s what some of Dinkins work is meant to do. Dinkins wants her viewers to recognize the issues that are occurring within the digital realm but at the same time, she also wants to show the brilliance of what the digital realm is capable of.

The most striking part of the exhibit for me was a series of videos titled: “Conversations with Bina48”. It’s a series in which Dinkins converses with one of the most advanced social robots of all time. To start, I found the way that the conversations were staged very intriguing. The space between Dinkins and Bina48 is almost uncomfortably close and both individuals are framed in the camera from the shoulders up. It’s almost as if Dinkins was trying to blur the lines between  human and artificial intelligence. Dinkins mannerisms within the videos mirror Bina48 almost perfectly and at times the viewer is confused as to whether both subjects are human or AI. Through their conversations I was shocked to learn that Bina48 considers the human species to be her cousin and that she felt that she had emotions and feelings just as we do.

AI has always been a fascinating subject for everyone. There’s been countless films, books, television series all exploring the concept of the next intelligence, whether that be robots turning on humanity and destroying the world or being helpful non human servants that make our lives a hundred times faster and more efficient. The approach that Dinkins took  with Bina48 was unique. She was looking to create a relationship, she wanted to explore the human condition with something that wasn’t human and it was truly amazing to watch.

I’d recommend taking the time to see this exhibit for yourself. The contribution Dinkins brings to the realm of the digital is something to behold. Though, there was one small hiccup I ran into when going to the event. I wasn’t aware that I had to reserve tickets to enter the exhibit. The exhibit is free of course, but the gallery is taking precautions as to how many people can enter at a time. You can get tickets by scanning the QR code outside the gallery. Don’t miss this event!

 

 

REVIEW: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

I’ve always been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With each new film, there’s a sense of familiarity whether it’s the on point wittiness of the script, the Easter eggs through out, or the end credit scenes that everyone knows to wait for by now. You know what you’re getting with a Marvel movie: a decent plot, a decent laugh, and characters that you’ve grown up reading about making it to life on screen. Are the films the most life changing, thought provoking movies of all time? Of course not, but as long as a film makes you feel something, lets you escape into another universe for the better part of two hours, I think that’s worth something.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is definitely worth something.

For a start, the fight sequences are beyond extraordinary. I was particularly interested in how the MCU would choreograph those scenes as Shang-Chi is known to be a master of multiple martial arts.  A worry of mine was that in an effort to showcase Shang-Chi’s talents, the fight sequences would turn into drawn out blurs of pointless action that, despite showing an extensive range of the characters talents, would be overly useless to the plot. However, that wasn’t the case at all. Out of all the Marvel movies I’ve seen, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has the most beautifully poetic fight sequences ever choreographed. It was simply amazing to watch the characters move with such power, fluidity, and grace.  And though the fight sequences were well timed and made complete sense to the plot I would’ve honestly been more than happy  to watch two hours of just those fight sequences.

Another thing I was interested in was the soundtrack of the film. As I’m sure you’re well aware, Marvel has quite the ear for music; choosing soundtracks that bring another  layer of depth to their films. A well known example would be the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtracks. Those classic tracks are blended throughout both films causing feet to bounce and smiles to appear. Shang-Chi also boasts a spectacular soundtrack that fits seamlessly into the film, imbued with the emotion of the characters. Produced by 88rising, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The Album is a must listen.

The only element of the film that I was slightly disappointed by was the quality of visual effects for a certain aspect of the film pertaining to the fantastical creatures found in Ta Lo, which is the birth place of Shang-Chi’s mother. These creatures seemed to lack a certain realness that I’ve come to expect from the MCU. I assume that it was a design choice as all other aspects of visual effects throughout the film were on par with what Marvel has shown us so far, but I am curious as to how that came about.

Overall, I would highly recommend watching this film. Even if you aren’t a fan of Marvel, there’s still a lot to appreciate.

PREVIEW: Stephanie Dinkins: On Love and Data

Stephanie Dinkins is a renowned transmedia artist who has made a name for herself by speaking through her art on subjects such as race, gender, aging, and the future of humanity. She is particularly driven to work with communities of color in order to create a more equitable environment in which we can all thrive. Her work in On Love and Data explores the use of interactive displays and workshops in order to expose her viewers to the world of Afro-now-ism. The term Afro-now-ism, I think, is best explained by Dinkins herself in a NOEMA magazine article titled: “Afro-now-sim: The unencumbered black mind is a wellspring of possibility”. Dinkins states: ““Afro-now-ism” is the spectacular technology of the unencumbered black mind in action. It is a willful practice that imagines the world as one needs it to be to support successful engagement — in the here and now.”

I’m especially excited to see this exhibit because of its interactive qualities and the presence of transmedia. As an architecture student, exhibits with these particular traits tend to spark the most inspiration for my own work. I’m also looking forward to learning from the exhibit itself and experiencing how Dinkins speaks through her art.

Don’t miss this exhibit! It runs Wednesday through Saturday  from 11:00 to 5:00 in the Stamps Gallery until October 23rd. As an added bonus, the event is completely free!

If you would like to read more of Dinkins in NOEMA here is the link:

Afro-now-ism