PREVIEW: An Evening with Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald, one of Broadway’s most decorated and talented performers, is going to be gracing Ann Arbor with her presence in Hill Auditorium on November 17 at 8pm. She has won six Tony awards and was the first performer to have earned the Tony Grand Slam, winning a Tony award in the four top award categories: “Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play”, “Best Featured Actress in a Musical”, “Best Featured Actress in a Play”, and “Best Actress in a Musical.” The beauty in her voice belongs to a truly beautiful soul, and her love for music and life translates to her love for activism for at-risk youth and LGBTQ rights.

Join renowned performer Audra McDonald on Saturday for an evening of songs from the American musical theater that is sure to be a beautifully phenomenal night.

REVIEW: Aida Cuevas

Throughout the days prior to the most anticipated night of the week, I thought about how grateful I was to be able to see Aida Cuevas perform with my parents here in Michigan. On that evening, the sun had set into a dark blue sky and crowds of bundled-up people walked towards the Hill Auditorium to enter the event. My parents and I stopped at one of the glass showcases outside of the auditorium to take a picture with an event poster of Aida Cuevas; she stood proudly in a traditional mariachi suit, looking up and smiling in the light of green and red that surrounded her. Iconic, I thought to myself; I would come to know that the essence of the photo wasn’t exaggerated in any way.


Once the doors opened, my parents and I took our seats on the main floor, sitting fairly close and off to the side nearest to stage left. We had another nearby concertgoer take our picture with the stage behind us and I couldn’t help but notice that it was already glowing a dark red. Throughout my life, I have noticed that color in its waving flag, on the accessories worn by the mariachi, in the dress of a woman celebrating her quinceanera, and in the fireworks that burst over the hills of Mexico City with each end to the week. That color has an extraordinary essence that more represents the aspects of traditional Mexico that have persisted throughout several generations. In that respect, I knew that this performance would not be a mere interpretation of what was authentic but would truly be the living, breathing authentic art that upheld the traditional roots of Mexico as if they would never fade.


Finally, the lights dimmed for the performance to begin. Within a few seconds, the lights on the stage burst bright in a golden orange color and the mariachi made a robust entrance, kicking up the beat immediately and the several violinists already sounding as if there were a whole sea of them. The music felt so much like home and the Mexico that I knew, and my eyes stung. I could hear my parents cheering beside me, my dad howling like traditional mariachi players do as a way to cheer on the rest of the performers.


Soon after, Senora Cuevas made her entrance, showered with applause and cheers as she moved towards center stage in her big, illuminescent magenta dress. She performed each song with raw emotion, dramatizing each word and showing pure passion with each hand motion that emphasized the grand sounds of the band. Near the middle of the performance, she changed into a mariachi traje, which everyone adored as much as the dress. Her deep voice cut through the air with each ballad and I consistently felt comforted by its richness. She presented herself as a such a powerful woman figure, demanding true love and sharing the pride of being Mexicana in her songs. She returned for an encore and finished the performance with “Mexico Lindo y Querido”, a timeless classic that resonates pride and love for belonging to Mexico. As a final remark, she exclaimed, “Estoy muy orgullosa ser mexicana!” and in that moment, I was reminded of the beautiful sensation that comes with being authentic to yourself and being proud of where you come from.


PREVIEW: Aida Cuevas


Since 1975, Aida Gabriela Cuevas Castillo has demonstrated to her beloved homeland of Mexico and to the expanse of Latinoamerica her extraordinary talent as a traditional mariachi vocalist, hereafter deemed “La Voz de Mexico” and “The Queen of Ranchera Music” by many. As a girl originating from la Ciudad de Mexico, Aida Cuevas was born with a deep, rich tone that resonates throughout the hills that envelop the city and naturally cuts through the vast blue skies of the Southern Hemisphere. With her arrival in Ann Arbor on Friday (11/02/18), viewers should expect the same authentic musicality and powerful energy to reverberate between the walls of the Hill Auditorium. As she takes the stage with her accompanying mariachi band, Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlan, performing a tribute to Juan Gabriel, Aida Cuevas is certain to pull the heartstrings of those who know her music, make those belonging to the Hispanic community proud that she is representing and sharing their culture in an authentic way, and capture the hearts of those who have yet to experience her moving charisma and zeal for el mariachi.

REVIEW: A R I Z O N A with Electric Guest and Mikky Ekko.

Mikky Ekko seems to be the opener for musical acts just on the peripheral of mainstream, having been the opening performance for Alt-J, BØRNS, and now A R I Z O N A – dissimilar groups each with their own distinct brand of indie. But Mikky Ekko has a voice that chameleons into genres, his set list being a little bit of electronic rock, a little bit of retro vibes, some hip-hop and R&B. It’s a lot, but it’s still self-assured. Not perfect, but that’s almost the point, as he re-iterates throughout the concert that his newest album, Fame, will be an exploration of who he really is.

From PledgeMusic

Most of his songs roll like thunder with an electric touch, deep reverberations, no shyness with the use of instrumentation, amplifiers, percussion, and synth. Despite the strong tempo and speed, and a slight chaotic undertone in the layers of sound – it’s sort of relaxing, almost meditative. It’s a kind of specific headspace, a soothing power in the near-overwhelming magnitude that some of his songs climax towards. Listening to songs like “What’s it Like Now” and “Light the Way” are notably different experiences live. There’s a harder edge sharpened to it, a lot purer and more primitive, exhibiting a raw strength. If accidentally singing so hard that an expensive bracelet gets smashed off his wrist isn’t a testament to the intensity of his performance, then really what is.

Closing with a solo rendition of “Stay,” the power in his voice also sweetens well, having the ability to cool into more delicate tones, to become tender and rich with great melancholy. With an impressive flexibility and stunning vocals, Mikky Ekko’s new album, dropping November 2nd, is worth giving a listen to.

Electric Guest followed, with the very charismatic Asa Taccone rolling up with a dreamy electro-pop vibe. It’s stuff you skateboard down the streets of suburban L.A. in the summer to – a bit nostalgic, it feels effortless, light and airy despite strong instrumentation and the disses they’re throwing out to their critics in “Zero” or whatever sinful hell “Oh Devil” serenades us about. It’s multi-faceted; Electric Guest has playfully clever song writing and an almost sunny feel – fitting since their album Plural is an emergence from hibernation from the much earlier, more tepidly received Mondo.

Electric Guest © Nick Walker, from Atwood Magazine

They performed well live, energetic yet laid back, with a natural stage confidence and no shakiness. Some of the particular atmospheres, the slight nuances of their songs were a bit lost to the size of the auditorium, lacking in the exactness of the feel of the studio version. Still, Electric Guest is a good time, tremendously easy to listen to with an instinctive grab of attention and measured, evenly handled talent. More than a year after the release of their sophomore album, they continue to impress and prove their longevity.

In the final hour, A R I Z O N A came on stage, with the auditorium properly filling in to come see the New Jersey electropop band. While they were certainly the headliner, I think I preferred Mikky Ekko and Electric Guest, despite having listened to probably more of A R I Z O N A’s discography previously. Not to say that A R I Z O N A wasn’t good, just that they have a less distinct musical style, less surprising and more properly pop-y. The kind of ambiance that some of their recorded songs have didn’t always translate live.

Nevertheless, the rendition of “Oceans Away” was memorably beautiful, well-paced and gorgeous – a really nice slower song that I found to be more pleasant than their upbeat hits. Zachary Charles has a beautiful voice, and it’s undeniable that A R I Z O N A has a compelling stage presence. Especially on a Halloween weekend night in a college town and with added sound issues, A R I Z O N A has proven to have the kind of energy and appeal that’s magnetic anyways, a definite force that overcomes any hurdle.

From Forbes

The three acts had a lot to offer, diverse but cohesively put together as one show. Be sure to check them out individually below:

Mikky Ekko
Electric Guest

REVIEW: A R I Z O N A with Electric Guest and Mikky Ekko

On a spooky Saturday night on Halloweekend, three wonderful artists and musical groups pumped Hill Auditorium up with some electronic pop and rock music

Mikky Ekko started the night with his synthy retro, rock music that made my heart pound as he danced around onstage. He got so into it that during one song, he unfortunately broke a very expensive bracelet. However, that just proves how much of a show he was putting on for us.

Mikky Ekko ended his set with the hit song he co-wrote and performed with Rihanna, “Stay.” His beautiful solo rendition of it was tender and raw as he walked among the audience of the main floor, hugging people as his voice, so emotional and pure, carried throughout the auditorium, echoed by everyone else singing along. His new album comes out in a few days in November, so you can be sure to check that out soon.

Then, Electric Guest took the stage, Asa Taccone being led out as a colorful mask covered his face for the first song. More people were dancing along to the electronic pop that was lighter than the previous set. While their soulful indietronica was a slightly different vibe from Mikky Ekko, the two openers had their own style that made the entire show cohesive and enjoyable.

Finally, the crowd was fully energized and when A R I Z O N A came out, everyone was on their feet and dancing as the main act performed all their hit songs, including “I Was Wrong”, “Oceans Away”, “Cross My Mind”, “Let Me Touch Your Fire”, “Summer Days”, “Freaking Out”, and more.

Despite a PA system problem during their third song, the band carried on with poise, whether it was by playing guitar and singing despite no one being able to hear, playing on with the drums since that’s the only thing people can hear, or just dancing around on stage, making the best out of an unfortunate situation for a live music concert.

In between songs, lead singer Zachary Charles went into a long monologue about their struggles and perseverance as a band who followed their passions. He urged everyone to follow their dreams and do something they love because otherwise, they are wasting their lives. The amount of fun and joy the members of A R I Z O N A, as well as Electric Guest and Mikky Ekko, had onstage was proof enough that listening to what you truly enjoy doing, even if other people are doubtful or discouraging, will result in you being happy and content, and in this short life, there’s nothing more important than that.

The night was filled with dancing and passion and singing and joy and inspiration, and what more could you want from a concert on Halloweekend?

REVIEW: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Fifty years ago, the cinematic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered. With its technological realism, scientifically accurate depiction of spaceflight, and innovative special effects, the 1968 science-fiction work became one of the most important artistic works of the 20th century. 2001: A Space Odyssey embodies the bold and creativity, serving as a spark of inspiration for many engineers, just as much today as fifty years ago. To celebrate the memorable anniversary of the movie, UMS teamed up with Michigan Engineering, Musica Sarca, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to bring a live multi-media presentation of this daring movie.

This was my first time watching 2001: A Space Odyssey, so I enjoyed watching this classic movie in the Hill Auditorium. However, just like most of the other people that came, we were there for the live accompaniment of the iconic soundtrack. The movie evokes the sublime on its own, but the live music of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra takes the experience to a whole new level. The sweeping classical music that the movie is characteristically know for filled the auditorium, and it brought the nonverbal experience of the movie to new heights.

From the majestic opening of Richard Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra to Johann Strauss II’s intricate The Blue Danube, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra set the mood in the Hill with every dramatic note and every spinning waltz. Maestro Robert Ziegler perfected the timing, ensuring that the soundtrack was brought to life alongside the movie.

Musica Sacra performed the sustained dissonant chords that slowly shifted over time during long space or slow action shots. Under the direction of music director Kent Tritle, the choral accompaniment added to the sense of wonder and suspense that enraptured your attention during the space scenes. With the chorus and the orchestra on the stage throughout the movie, everyone in the Hill Auditorium was able to experience this legendary movie in a breathtaking new light.