Surprises Never Stop Happening in My Life

Sam Black


Brian May, guitar, Roger Taylor, drums, Queen icons, 2017. Photo credit: Sam Black
Brian May, guitar, Roger Taylor, drums, Queen icons, 2017. Photo credit: Sam Black


I thought last week was going to be a simple journey to visit family in the Madison, WI, community, and take in some local performances. I did that. But little did I know!

At three pm on Thursday my son-in-law drove me to downtown Chicago, where we attended the 2017 Tour Concert by Queen - featuring Adam Lambert on vocals - spent the night, then powered back to Madison by noon on Friday. How do I get this lucky?

Performers do Get Older, but the Music Stays Vital and Vibrant

I was equipped with good earplugs, although I prefer being able to control the sound myself. I did find that the vocal articulation and clarity of guitar melody was better with the earplugs in place. For the past five years or so, Adam Lambert has been traveling as part of Queen, with original members Brian May and Roger Taylor still keeping memories alive. 

Lambert made it clear very early that there will only be one Freddie Mercury, forever, so there was no use pretending. His singing was strong, his familiarity with the music was intimate, and his interaction with the audience was warm and exciting. May and Taylor are as strong as ever, offering their charisma for a non-stop two hour concert.

It’s a long way from 1973 to 2017, and technology has certainly had an impact on the rock concert scene. At the United Center, triple overhead projections offered close ups of the performers, and the lights, scenery, and colorful dynamism was entrancing from beginning to end. At two or three moments during the program, life-size videos of Freddie Mercury appeared, as he sang, walked the stage, and shared a song with Lambert in a very realistic presentation.

Most everyone in the audience knew the words, and only so many songs can be performed in two hours. As the stage went dark, the champions of the world headed off to the next adventure in this summer tour across the U.S.A.

Conrad Birdie (Josiah Dyer) at First Act Children’s Theatre, Madison, WI. Photo credit: Sam Black
Conrad Birdie (Josiah Dyer) at First Act Children’s Theatre, Madison, WI. Photo credit: Sam Black

Conrad Birdie Still Gets Drafted

The First Act Children’s Theatre Company in Madison, WI, chose to share Bye, Bye, Birdie for their summer performance this year. Dating from 1960, even groups like Queen were not in motion yet! Conrad Birdie entertains the young girls, and he chooses Kim MacAfee, from Sweet Apple, Ohio, to receive One Last Kiss before he departs to boot camp. With some youthful romance tossed in, the sheriff ultimately interferes, restores order, and Birdie is put on a train out of Sweet Apple. Susan Nanning-Sorenson is the director of this company, and she had a cast of nearly 60 youngsters for this week of music camp and two performances. The story was reduced to one, 45 minute act, and most every minute was spent singing the familiar tunes from the show. Birdie (Josiah Dyer) seemed a bit inflexible, but he looked good with guitar and sunglasses. Kim (Phoebe Miller) was warm and affectionate to stage partners and the audience. Albert the manager (Joe BonDurant) will marry Rosie (Emma Sorenson) and teach English instead of controlling a rock star.

The young girls are all caught up in the alluring songs of Birdie, and the young boys act a lot like young adolescent boys. The parents still complain about What’s the Matter with Kids — even today! This all took place in an auditorium on the Edgewood College campus in Madison, WI. There were two performances, back to back, and I attended both because my twelve-year old grandson and granddaughter were in the show! The second show flowed more smoothly, no surprise, and the cast and staff seemed very pleased.

Now Duluth Can Get Really Active

The coming weeks of our Duluth summer offer weekend festivals, live music from all channels, and several drama productions around town, as well as here and there up the shore on out on the range. Do you best to attend and support the delights of local arts wherever you find yourself.