entertainment

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Queen + Adam Lambert, Prudential Center, Newark, NJ

Published July 28, 2017 by Maryanne

SAM_2969Adam Lambert bows to original members Brian May and Roger Taylor

(Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta)

Three years and two days after the first time I saw Queen with Adam Lambert (https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2014/07/24/queen-adam-lambert-at-izod-new-jersey-july-24-2014/) I just had to see them again! My super cool husband took me to see Queen on Wednesday, July 26, 2018.

I am a die-hard Queen fan. I’d say they are probably my favorite band; and it’s nearly impossible to have a favorite band when you have over 1000 records/CDs in all genres of music. But I loved Queen so much when I first discovered them, probably around 1976, when I was only 12 years old. The first five albums were my favorites, but over the years I’ve expanded my horizons and embraced their entire body of work.

I was very lucky to have seen Freddie Mercury on tour with Queen in 1982, when I was 18. Though I envy my friends who are a bit older and saw Queen tour with Mott the Hoople.

When Freddie Mercury died, and there was a television tribute in his honor, I thought George Michael (RIP) would have been a phenomenal replacement. Then I saw Queen with Paul Rodgers and he was amazing. And so is Adam Lambert.

Always humble, Adam makes it a point, to the audience, that he is a Queen fan too. Throughout the show, he creates pure magic with original members Brian May and Roger Taylor; and Neil Fairclough who has been playing bass with Queen as long as Adam has been on board. And new kid on the block is drummer Tyler Warren who did a great duo with Roger Taylor.

This tour was a tribute to Queen’s album “News of The World.” But they only played three songs from that album “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Champions” and … one of the greatest moments of the evening “Get Down Make Love.” [Side note: I saw videos of them doing other songs from “News of the World” — and “It’s Late” blew me away! I wish they kept that song in the set, but there’s just so much in the Queen collection, perhaps they had to cut some out].

After the last tour, I said that “Get Down Make Love” would be the perfect song for Lambert to deliver. Because it’s camp and fun — and so is he. He’s just that kind of entertainer, you can look at him and smile. He’s simply great at making people happy. Lambert is a five-star performer. He loves dressing up, he loves working the crowd, he embraces being on stage, yet never takes it for granted; and is so honest to always share that with his audience.

Another key song for Adam Lambert to sing was “Don’t Stop Me Now.” I said these lyrics: “I am a sex machine ready to reload; Like an atom bomb about to Oh oh oh oh oh explode” should be “like an ADAM bomb…” This song absolutely sums it up — how electrifying Adam is. And, never taking himself too seriously, he was a total pisser riding a pink bicycle during “Bicycle Races.”

He also did one of his own tunes “Two Fux” which seemed to be his rebuttal to critics. (Or maybe his turn to answer to Queen purists who don’t approve him filling in for Freddie?) While a great song, Adam Lambert should never have to explain himself. He was chosen to be in Queen, by original Queen members. After five years, I’d say he IS a Queen member.  Sure, nobody could take Freddie’s place (just like nobody could take retired member John Deacon’s place) or if the other original members left. The thing is — Adam Lambert is damn good and belongs with Queen. He has my stamp of approval as a great fit. He always did. Years ago I poo-pooed American Idol, but when my sister shared some of her video recordings of the show with Adam Lambert, I was hooked. Then when I heard he was touring with Queen five years ago, I said, “That is perfect!” I was right.

And it’s a beautiful thing to keep this music going on for generations to come! Adam Lambert is young, fresh, and exciting. He’s a team player and brings a lot to the band. I’d love to see a live album of this tour come out!

But back to the show … Guitar wizard Brian May is always mesmerizing, and hearing a bit of “Brighton Rock” during his solo totally wowed me. When May has his moments, you can close your eyes and be right at home on your bed listening to records — he is that precise. He also plays “Love of My Life” on his guitar (on the record Freddie played harp) and sings heavenly.  And bassist Fairclough’s shining moment was naturally during “Another One Bites the Dust.” I was glad to see he’s still with the band.

Now, let’s talk about the stage show. This time around was off the hook — with lazer lights, videos of Freddie, and a gigantic robot from the cover of “News of the World.” I highly recommend You Tube — though you truly had to be there to capture the essence of what it was.

Other favorite parts of the show, for me, were “Somebody to Love,” “Under Pressure” (which brought tears to my eyes, now that both Freddie and David Bowie are gone!), “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” “Fat Bottom Girls,” “I’m in Love with My Car,” and “I Want to Break Free.”

And, this concert fell on Roger Taylor’s birthday, so the audience joined in to sing “Happy Birthday” to him! How cool is that? If you were there, you could personalize it and say that you sang Happy Birthday to Roger Taylor! At 68-years-old, he still has that sparkle in his eyes! I can’t believe, I’ve been a fan of Queen since they were all in their late 20s!

If I had to give any critique for the evening, I’d say I could do without the teazer — as hearing just part of a recording of “You Take My Breath Away” was a bummer. (I think back to 2014 when they played “Procession” before they came on and I was thinking they’d come out doing “Father to Son.” Keep dreaming, right?) Some of the other songs were cut short too, like “Bicycle Race” and to me, that’s like censoring a masterpiece. I understand a band can only play so long — and they played almost three hours, but I’d rather hear less songs, but played in their entirety.

But, yeah, still super high from the show that was two days ago. Another night with Queen that I’ll never forget! And hey, can I suggest another ultimate Queen song for Adam Lambert to do? I’d love to hear “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy” live. How about it?

SAM_2907Me in front of Queen truck — That’s the logo Freddie Mercury designed based on the zodiac signs of the original members. 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

 

 

The Voice Semi-Finalist to Perform Benefit at MPAC

Published May 23, 2017 by Maryanne

brenden fletcherBrendan Fletcher

[Note: This article was originally published in the Randolph News, May 23, 2017]

The Voice Semi-Finalist to Perform Benefit at MPAC

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Brendan Fletcher, a semi-finalist on NBC’s “The Voice” last year, will be performing at Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) on Monday, June 12. All proceeds will support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

It wasn’t too long ago that Fletcher was performing at a small bar across the street from MPAC. He’d pass the theatre, look up at the marquee and wonder if he’d ever play “a place like that.” One year later, it’s a dream come true for singer, guitarist, songwriter, Fletcher, who is now touring all over the United States, and in other countries.

Fletcher grew up in Randolph and is now living in Ridgewood, Queens. While his parents weren’t musicians, they were no strangers to good music. Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, The Eagles, and Simon & Garfunkel were always played on the home stereo system.

But the main reason Fletcher got into music was because of his older brother Steve, who performed in high school bands. Steve gave Fletcher the opportunity to play rhythm guitar in the band. Each year the brothers were in the high school’s Battle of the Bands. “It [performing] was a consistent in my life,” said Fletcher.

When Fletcher went off to college at Boston University, he no longer had his brother as his support system. “I had to do it on my own,” he said. And for the first time, he found his voice. With Steve, he played heavier music like hard rock and punk. Once that got out of his system, he went on the singer/songwriter kick.

At college he studied film and television, but when he came back to Randolph, he’d play gigs at local venues doing cover songs. When Fletcher got an internship in New York at a writing room, writing scripts, it wasn’t his true passion – music was.

“The internship wasn’t what I expected,” said Fletcher, who realized he had to do something if he didn’t want to do film. That’s when he decided to pursue music seriously.

In Philadelphia auditions were being held for “The Voice” – a television show where the strongest vocalists from across the country compete with one another for a chance to win a recording contract.

While Fletcher stood in line with thousands of other hopefuls, he heard everyone around him practicing. He said, “I think I’m okay, but I heard people in front of me singing Etta James better than Etta James.”

After waiting five hours, he was chosen for an audition with 10 other people. Each person got to sing one minute of a song. Fletcher sang “Jolene” by Ray LaMontagne.

He was asked to sing another song, then got called back for another audition and got the break most musicians can only fantasize about. He becam one of the 11th season semi-finalists.

Since then Fletcher’s rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” hit No. 2 on the iTunes overall chart; and his cover of “Whipping Post” by The Allman Brothers hit No. 1 on the iTunes rock chart.

“It feels amazing,” said Fletcher, adding, “If it wasn’t for my family, I couldn’t have done it. I’m very blessed to have them.”

Still inspired by the same music he listened to growing up, Fletcher said, “Bob Dylan and Neil Young write such beautiful, meaningful lyrics. They have made a career that says, ‘I never really compromised who I was.’ That’s an admirable trait.”

As of now, Fletcher is recording an EP which should be out before the show at MPAC and wants to keep writing. “I want to stay creative and pursue the thing I always loved,” he said, regarding his musical career.

In his free time, Fletcher likes to bowl, play pool, and hang out with his friends. “I have a great group of friends,” he said.

For more information on Brendan Fletcher, visit: https://www.brendanfletchermusic.com/

Journalist Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an author and public speaker. Her book, “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” is available on Amazon in paperback edition only: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

 

The Life & Music of Nat King Cole at Cliffside Park Library

Published May 7, 2017 by Maryanne

SAM_2444Stephen Fuller and Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Maryanne Christiano Mistretta, of Pear Tree Enterprises (https://peartreeenterprises.wordpress.com/) and Stephen Fuller (http://www.fullersounds.com/) proudly presented “The Life and Music of Nat King Cole” at the Cliffside Park Library, Cliffside Park, New Jersey, on Sunday, May 7, 2017.

“Learn and Listen: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole” is a one-hour presentation, with Maryanne sharing the biography of prominent jazz legend, followed by a half hour of live music with the expressive, soul-stirring vocalist, Stephen Fuller as Nat King Cole! (http://www.fullersounds.com/)

Songs included: “Unforgettable,” “LOVE,” “Mona Lisa,” and much more.

This presentation is available to libraries, senior centers, assisted living facilities, Jewish Community Centers, etc.

For rates and availability, please contact Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta at: 908-276-1514 during business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email: maryannechristiano@gmail.com

We look forward to sharing with you an “unforgettable” performance!

Shape Shop ‘Angel’ Tours with Living Legend Punky Meadows

Published March 24, 2017 by Maryanne

Barbara Serbes

Here’s an article I wrote about Asbury Park Shape Shop owner, Barbara Serbes, touring as back-up singer with Punky Meadows: http://www.shapeshopasburypark.com/single-post/2017/03/20/Shape-Shop-%E2%80%98Angel%E2%80%99-Tours-with-Living-Legend-Punky-Meadows

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

Published February 20, 2017 by Maryanne

tommy-james-photo-from-carolTommy James (Photo used courtesy of Carol Ross-Durborow)

This article originally appeared in The Verona/Cedar Grove News (New View Media)

Pop Rock Music Icon Tommy James Inducted into NJ Hall of Fame

By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Tommy James, said he is “very honored” to be inducted into the NJ Hall of Fame, which will be held in Asbury Park in May. The Cedar Grove iconic musician has 23 gold records, nine platinum albums, and over 100 million records sold worldwide.

“Crystal Blue Persuasion,” “Crimson and Clover,” “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” “Draggin’ the Line,” “Sweet Cherry Wine,” and “Hanky Panky” are just a few of his many hit records. His songs have been covered by other famous artists like Prince, Joan Jett, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Idol, Dolly Parton, REM, Carlos Santana, and The Boston Pops.

James’ music is heard in 31 films to date and numerous television shows including “Breaking Bad,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Goldbergs,” and “Aquarius.” You can also hear James’ songs in commercials. His “Crystal Blue Persuasion” is now the theme song for Crystal Cruise Line.

Born in Ohio and brought up in Michigan, James has been living in New Jersey almost 45 years. He’s lived in Clifton, and now resides in Cedar Grove. “I love it in New Jersey,” he said. “The weather’s moderate. The people are fun. It’s right by New York, where I have to be. I don’t think I can operate anywhere else. You’ve got the ocean, New York, Philadelphia. You’re in the center of the universe. Nothing is like New Jersey.”

While James has spent such a long time in New Jersey, he’s been in the music business even longer – 50 years! Regarding his endurance in the biz, he said, “I look at three generations of people in concert audiences. The music has never not been on the radio. I’ve been very blessed.”

James started playing music when he was 4-years-old and his grandfather brought him a ukulele. “I learned everything I could,” he said. “I started singing right away.”

His mom, who played piano, got James an acoustic guitar after he saw Elvis on TV. “The ukulele went out the window,” he said jokingly.

In addition to Elvis Presley, James was greatly inspired by the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll. “Gene Vincent … Buddy Holly,” he said. “Then The Beatles came along.”

Always encouraged by his folks, James taught himself to play acoustic, then graduated to playing an electric at the age of 10. He started his first band at 12, and got his first gig at 13. James graduated high school in 1965 and by 1966 his first hit, with The Shondells, “Hanky Panky” exploded.

“That’s how the good Lord works,” said James.

As a writer of so many hits, James says that inspiration for a song can come from anywhere. “I’m always looking on billboards for a little phrase,” he said. “I like to start with chord progression and it will tell you where it wants to go. ‘Crimson and Clover’ started with a title.”

He feels lucky to have had so many other notable musicians’ interpretations of his music. “I’m very flattered,” he said. “It’s always interesting to hear how another artist covers your songs.” His favorite is Prince’s version of “Crimson and Clover.”

James’ critically acclaimed autobiography, “Me, the Mob, and the Music,” was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s “Best Music Memoirs” and is now in the development for a film, with producer Barbara De Fina, whose credits include “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Cape Fear,” “Color of Money,” “Hugo,” and the most recent, Martin Scorsese’s new film, “Silence.”

Matthew Stone just finished the screenplay for the film. His credits include “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Man of the House,” and “Big Trouble.”

James may have a cameo appearance in the film. “I may be a corpse,” he said jokingly, referring to his career which is now spanning 50 years and still thriving.

Now working in the studio on a new album, “Alive,” James expects an April release. “This is an album with eight new songs and four remakes,” he said, “A lot of nice little surprises.” One of the surprises includes an acoustic remake of “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”

Being able to thrive in the music business for 50 years and still have fun makes James feel so lucky. He said, “It’s been an amazing journey to be a lifer in this business. The fans, and the good Lord, I thank for the longevity and staying focused. That has meant a lot.”

For more information, visit: https://www.tommyjames.com/

 

 

Best of 2016

Published December 29, 2016 by Maryanne

monkees-good-times

For so many people, putting “Best” and “2016” together is definitely an oxymoron, and in my world it’s no different. Personally, it was a bad year with many losses and tears. It all began with the death of David Bowie (https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/rest-in-peace-to-the-prettiest-star-david-bowie/) Then my favorite cat of all time had to be put to sleep, at the age of 19 (https://maryannemistretta.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/rest-in-peace-derick-mommys-little-heart-6-24-96-to-4-29-16/). And finally, we said good-bye to my beloved father-in-law who passed at the age of 94 a few months ago (http://obits.nj.com/obituaries/starledger/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=181972211).

It was just one of those years where the “hits” just kept on coming and there’s not enough hours in the day for me to write about all of them.

Since I really don’t like to focus on negativity, let’s just say, THANK GOD for music; it’s what makes the world go ’round, and a salvation to many. Like every other year, 2016 was no worse in the music department. There were so many live performances my husband and I attended this year, including a few of his own with Rob Fusari and Pharoah. And my “Learn + Listen” series which made the cover of the Caldwell News: http://www.mypaperonline.com/library-patrons-learn-and-listen-about-famous-musicians.html

Lucky me, I also was blessed to write about many performances for various publications.

Whether it was outdoor concerts, or indoor venues, there was not one bad show in the lot. It’s always so hard to pick a “favorite” but as every music fan knows, there are those songs and moments that keep popping into your head, days, even weeks, after the show is over. To any musician who is reading, whether you’re mentioned here or not, if I approached you after a show, I sincerely loved your act.

That said, in my humble opinion, I’d like to present what I felt was the best on my radar this year. ENJOY!

BEST SONG/VIDEO – ROB FUSARI “Let Love Down” 

TOP THREE LIVE PERFORMANCES

1 – ROB FUSARI – The Bitter End, NYC, May 24, 2016

(“Your Trap” featuring Andrea Martin, Matt, Mario, Dennis, and The Constellations)

2 – SOUND + VISION: THE MUSIC OF DAVID BOWIE (Musical Direction: RICHARD BARONE) – Outpost in the Burbs, Montclair, NJ, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016

(“Fame” featuring Richard Barone, Jeffrey Gaines, Burnt Sugar Arkestra, Nick Celeste. In other outstanding performances: Wesley Stace and Elvis Perkins)   

3 – PUNKY MEADOWS + FALLEN ANGEL BAND – B.B. Kings, NYC,  June 14, 2016

(“The Tower” featuring Punky Meadows, Danny Anniello, Chandler Mogel, Bob Pantella, Charlie Calv, Randy Gregg. Felix Robinson also performed on bass in this show)

 BEST ALBUM – THE MONKEES “GOOD TIMES” 

“She Makes Me Laugh” from The Monkees “Good Times” 

BEST VINYL – JACK WHITE “You Are the Sunshine of My Life”

How cool to hear this on a record player! 

BEST MUSIC MOVIE – “LET ME DOWN HARD” 

Starring Keith Roth, DJ 95.9 The Rat “Electric Ballroom,” performs with Frankenstein 3000 and David Johansen; songwriter for Punky Meadows and so much more! 

BEST MUSIC BOOK – CARMINE APPICE “STICK IT!” 

Stick_it_book_01Honest; and in a strange way, endearing! Loved it!

And, again, because some things have to be said more than once, in my own little world, quite a few super cool things happened to ease the pain of the sadness, like going to see so much live music, being around amazing people, being able to write for a living — and public speaking (which includes music and health programs!) Not to mention, my incredible husband who is my rock through all the hardships and triumphs. All in all, there were two stand-outs that made this year incredible.

First I got a new kitty, Nicholas Gray; my husband and I adore our new snuggle bun! How can you not?

DSC_0137Nicholas Gray

And, thanks to Ashley Valentin-Patino, I became a professional wedding officiant, and will be marrying many more people in 2017! Speaking of “bests” Ashley’s wedding to Mitchell was not only the best of 2016, but aside from my own, I’d say the best wedding of all time!

May 2017 will bring more love, music, and happiness to the world! Grim Reaper — be gone with you!

sam_1357Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta and Ashley Valentin-Patino

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist, available on Amazon in paperback only: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

To contact Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, write her at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com 

Book Signing at Randy Now’s Man Cave

Published December 19, 2016 by Maryanne

sam_1821

Authors, from left, Linda Holt, Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, Melanie Mitchell

It was my honor to sign copies of my two books, “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” and “Love Cats” at Randy Now’s Man Cave in Bordentown, NJ, yesterday (Sunday, Dec. 19, 2016).

In addition to rubbing elbows with other authors, Mary Muehleisen was also there representing her late brother, Maury Muehleisen who played guitar with Jim Croce, and died in a plane crash with Jim at the age of 24. She was selling two of Maury’s solo CDs (which are incredible, by the way! What a gorgeous voice he had, and a beautiful guitarist and songwriter).

Interesting story, a customer came in to buy a Jim Croce record for his girlfriend for Christmas. He did not know that Mary Muehleisen was going to be there. What a beautiful coincidence. The customer brought one of her brother’s CDs.

sam_1825

Mary Muehleisen and Maryanne Mistretta

It was such an honor to meet these wonderful ladies, as well as selling quite a few books!

sam_1822

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta, Randy Now’s Mommy, and Randy Now! 

Thanks so much to Randy Now for hosting such a wonderful, memorable event!

sam_1818

My books on sale in Randy Now’s Man Cave!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta works as a professional journalist and public speaker. Her books are available on Amazon.

“On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X

“Love Cats” https://www.amazon.com/Love-Cats-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta/dp/1681020513

For more information on Randy Now’s Man Cave, visit: http://www.mancavenj.com/

For more information on Maury Muehleisen visit: http://www.maurymuehleisen.com/main.html

For more information on Linda Holt, visit: http://www.religiousscholar.com/

For more information on Melanie Mitchell’s book, “Monkee Magic” visit: http://zilchmonkeescast.blogspot.com/