Legend Celine Dion Returned to Texas in Epic Courage Tour: Review

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The night opened with a cool video of Celine getting ready, putting on her makeup and she appeared in a stunning red glitter slit dress with matching pumps, flawless makeup, and toned arms. The sold-out show had fans singing and cheering from the get go, and Dion appeared as happy and healthy (incredibly fit) as we’ve ever seen her.

Dion is on her 14th tour in support of her 2019 album “Courage”. Her first words were about how ten years is way too long for her San Antonio return, and she spent much time talking about “What went wrong? It’s unacceptable and we’re going to fix it” and then shared how Vegas stole her for awhile. She was fully prepared to make up for her absence.

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We knew the show would be an incredible performance, but she blew us away. She is the ultimate performer and has been doing it for decades-has it nailed down. Celine was engaging with the crowd throughout the entire show and she was brimming with emotion, and often smiling and then touched her eye as if stopping the tears, and would say, “I think something is in my eye….maybe a bug, I don’t know”. In another moment she raised her glass and said “cheers to your health”. Her wit and humor (sometimes cheesy) is part of her flirting with the audience and she enjoys it. One moment while taking off her jacket, “that’s all that’s coming off” with a grin.

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The set list was a robust mix from her massive catalog that perfectly blended timeless classics, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Because You Loved Me”, “All By Myself”, “My Heart Will Go On”, with mid-range stuff and new songs “Courage” and “Lying Down”. She also sang beautiful songs in French. Celine did a beautiful job playing Andrea Bocelli in their duet “The Prayer”. Her ability to hit incredibly high notes, gave us chills. It’s clear she has worked very hard to take care of her voice and her health. Her voice skills are a piece of art with the height and octave range.

The stage was massive, the lighting and set were elegant and tasteful, as is Celine, and the piano was incredible; the full strings and brass section and back up singers- plus 3 raised percussion/keyboard sets gave such a volume of sound. The mix of the bands classy outfits and her red dress was stunning.

CELINE-DION-2020-0130-193Celine strutted confidently in very high heels (more than 6 inches?) and covered large distances to reach every part of the audience. Towards the end of the main set, a video of her doing ballet with her friend, showed off her fit body and her dance skills (who knew?). Wow.

We couldn’t help think of Kobe Bryant who had just passed away that week, as we were looking at Tony Parker and other NBA jerseys hanging in the rafters in ATT Center where the Spurs play.

Her career will continue to “go on” and we can’t wait to see how she continues her self-reinvention. It’s clear why the Courage World Tour was one of the top shows of 2019 and we think it will make our 2020 list. Don’t expect many empty seats.

Check out all our show photos on Austin 101.

Set list:

  1. It’s All Coming Back to Me Now
  2. Dans un autre monde
  3. Terre
  4. A vous
  5. I’m Alive
  6. The Power of Love
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Encore un soir
  9. You’re the Voice
  10. Regarde-moi
  11. Ziggy
  12. Courage
  13. All By Myself
  14. Lying Down
  15. Tous les blues sont écrits pour toi
  16. S’il suffisait d’aimer
  17. Let’s Dance / Another One Bites The Dust / Flying On My Own / Kiss / River Deep, Mountain High / Lady Marmalade

Encore
18. My Heart Will Go On
19. Pour que tu m’aimes encore

Hamilton in Austin Is Worth the Wait- Playing Through June 16th

Nik Walker - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(Nik Walker, photo by Joan Marcus)

The long wait is over- Austin fans can finally see Hamilton- one of the top musicals in history -some say the best of all time-winning countless awards around the world including Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize. Lin-Manuel Miranda is now a household name for bringing modern pop culture into historical theater. It’s broken rules, boundaries and records. For the last few years, people outside of NYC and Broadway couldn’t fathom actually seeing the buzz-worthy show in person. Even in New York, tickets were scarce and often resale prices were in the thousands and out of reach for most. Yes it is worth the price and lives up to all the hype.

Joseph Morales and Nik Walker - HAMILTON National Tour - (C) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(Joseph Morales photo by Joan Marcus)

The entire ensemble was brilliant in acting and choreography. Morales is flawless and feels like Miranda. Of importance is the fact that the all white founding fathers are played by non-white actors. Fans will be happy to know that many cast members on the touring show in Austin are from the original cast including lead (Alexander Hamilton) Joseph Morales (Chicago) who looks and appears like Lin-Manuel Miranda (creator/actor). The actors were so well cast and such a fit that one would assume Miranda hand picked each of them. The other lead characters are Burr (Nik Walker), then two sisters- Eliza (Erin Clemons) who eventually marries Alexander-and Angelica Schuyler (Ta’Rea Campbell). These actors were phenomenal and believable and worked cohesively to tell the story of Alexander. The actors in the great supporting, almost lead group were actually standouts and included John Laurens/Philip Hamilton (Elijah Malcomb), Lafayette/Jefferson (Kyle Scatliffe), James Madison (Fergie L. Philippe), George Washington (Marcus Choi).

There were bits of comedy relief throughout and at times King George (Jon Patrick Walker) stole the show with appearance, facial expressions, and the mannerisms that accompanied the comedic lyrics. He exuded jealousy and anger like an obsessed lover (Great Britain) who is losing his grip on his woman (America) as she slips away from his power and control. He says “You’ll be back-Remember despite our estrangement, I’m your man, You’ll be back, Soon you’ll see, You’ll remember you belong to me, You’ll be back”.Jon Patrick Walker - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(Jon Patrick Walker photo by Joan Marcus)

The story dives deep into the mastermind of Hamilton who came from nothing as an immigrant from the Caribbean to going to Columbia University (then King’s College) and becoming a lawyer to becoming the president’s right hand man and then the first American Treasury Secretary after proving his worth on many occasions during the great war with Britain. He’s responsible for the financial systems and Wall Street today. The show covers all his flaws including his irrational decisions, stubbornness, and his indiscretions during his marriage and the tragic loss of his son Philip in a duel-perhaps giving him bad advice to attend. Hamilton had 8 kids but Miranda focused on Philip. Sadly the show ends with him losing his life too soon in a duel (repeating the exact tragic end his son went through) via a bullet from Burr. It didn’t have to happen which is what makes it so tragic. Stubborn competitiveness/ego is to blame. The show ends with Hamilton being rowed back to Manhattan lifeless and his wife looking into the light of heaven in despair.

Joseph Morales and Company - HAMILTON National Tour - (c) Joan Marcus 2018.jpg(cast photo by Joan Marcus)

The star of the show is of course the music- as it’s sung and rapped and seamlessly combines old with modern worlds. It’s a testament to Miranda that millions of young new theater fans have jumped into attending musicals because of him. The blend of hip hop and history has proven to get more people excited to learn and attend. The show has attracted all ages, races, and cultures because of the songs and the relatable lyrics-taking an old topic and making it new and interesting like a good teacher would. Highlights include:  ‘My Shot’, ‘Wait For It’, ‘The Room Where it Happens’, ‘Alexander Hamilton’, the hilarious ‘You’ll Be Back’, ‘Satisfied’, ‘The Schuyler Sisters’, ‘Yorktown’. There are 51 total numbers and it often feels like there’s only a split second between any two songs. The show runs at a quick pace so at times you feel you can’t keep up. It runs through 30 years of history and over 20,000 words so it has to be continuous.

Part of what makes Hamilton so powerful and inspiring is the fact that it’s a political story that includes gun violence, hate, and racism that often mimics what our country is facing today.  Manuel is a genius in how he blends rhyme and wordplay. The lyrics are familiar and powerful. “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”, “How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower?”, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, “We fought for these ideals; we shouldn’t settle for less” and “How you say, no sweat, we’re finally on the field. We’ve had quite a run”- Immigrants: “We get the job done”.  Other modern/relatable (often direct quotes) and often hilarious one liners in the show are highlights: “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry”. “Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!” “Why do you write like it’s going out of style?”.”When I meet Thomas Jefferson, I’m’a compel him to include women in the sequel!” “Wait for it”. “Being a self-starter”. “But my God, she looks so helpless, and her body’s saying, “hell, yes”.

The choreography was also superb. Mixes of ballet and hip-hop dominated and often had the ensemble both singing and dancing. Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer, has talked about the importance of bringing the lyrics to life and slowing down time by creating the appearance of slow-motion sequences throughout. He uses poses and movements from baseball to illustrate important lyrics and emotions. Stopping time to magnify Hamilton’s thoughts was evident while often including modern hip-hop moves with the modern lyrics. There are huge sequences that are repeated over the course of the show due to their importance; you’ll notice these for example during ‘My Shot’, ‘Right Hand Man’, and ‘Room Where it Happens’.

The production is incredible and is the same production that’s on Broadway. It’s a simple set–or appears so at first– made of mostly wood (or faux)- with wood floors- with a rotating circular center-or turntable stage piece that the cast must artfully and carefully dance across and through- massively tall side brick walls and wood scaffolding staircases that move, long beams on the ceiling, second-level catwalk, and loose ropes used in a variety of scenes (apparently designed to resemble the inside of a boat). The lights were important and often single spotlights but many numbers included drop down candle lanterns that created a romantic ambience and are historically accurate due lack of electricity (was invented later).

bronze metal texture with high details; Shutterstock ID 115354759(Joan Marcus)

More about Hamilton: Creator, writer, actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, direction by Thomas Kail, choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler and musical supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s biography of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton runs through June 16th at Bass Concert Hall on the UT campus. The show runs about 3 hours total including one intermission. Tickets are available but limited. You can also try the Hamilton app to win $10 tickets.

Review: PRIMUS co-headlining with Mastodon at Austin 360 Amphitheater

by Nick Berard

These two experimental rock, prog-metal bands have been fans of each other and makes perfect sense that they would be heading out together on tour this year as co-headliners (neither really an opening band). The tour is massive with 43 dates in U.S. and Austin and Dallas were the only Texas tour stops this time. Grammy Award-winning Mastodon opened up the show at Austin 360 amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas-delivering a straight-forward rock and roll show. In a recent interview Sanders states, “The touring is really special to us. That’s where that circle of energy is, from the stage to our fans, from our fans back to us.” 

The four member band comprised of Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher, and Troy Sanders. Primus formed in Atlanta, GA in 2000 and have their own distinct sound and pull from the great 80’s rock and metal influences in the best way possible. The band’s vocals are tight from every member with Troy’s vocals sounding like a bear in a coal mine. Lightning-fast guitar licks delivered by Brent are the icing on this metal cake. 

The band is cooking and the room is starting to move. It’s a solid roadshow and a great compliment to the Primus tour. Everyone is warmed up and ready!

See our full concert photo gallery

PRIMUS 

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As the sun set and the venue lights came up, a picture-perfect Texas evening gave the three original members of Primus a great place to land in Austin. Les Claypool, Larry LaLonde and Tim “Herb” Alexander had no trouble drowning out the neighboring airport performing a headlining set that sandwiched the entirety of their recent album, The Desaturating Seven in between two healthy doses of 90’s Primus. 

See the full photo gallery

Les with his signature strut and spider finger work on the bass was insane. The swirling lights, trippy video-backdrop and punchy rhythm spun the photo pit into a frenzy as the band opened with Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers, and the funky Pudding Time and threw it into high gear. Too Many puppies/Sgt Baker/ puppies reprise, American Life (with a hypnotic 2 minute Cygnus X-1 intro), and Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver featuring the 1995, insane plastic cowboy-band video streaming behind them wrapped up the first part of the set in high fashion.

The band rolls into their new LP, The Desaturating Seven, a seven- song adaptation of a children’s book, The Rainbow Goblins written by Italian author, Ul de Rico. With the nuances of a fairy tale scored with a prog-rock twist that only Primus could pull off, it was well received and absorbed by the faithful fans. Some witty stage banter from Les and a tease of Van Halen’s Panama, threw the trio into a speedy Mr. Know It All that put the pit back into motion. 

Welcome to This World was a rare live performance-a song that had been teased live for 20 years has become a staple on this tour. Then My Name Is Mud and Jerry Was a Race Car Driver wrapped up the set that kept the crowd moshing. The encore with John the Fisherman sent everyone off with a head full of Primus and a soul full of bass!

Austin metal fans got to see two of the most legendary metal bands perform together. Primus remains as fresh as ever and like an adult trip to alternative circus camp.

 

Mastodon Setlist:

Sultan’s Curse
Divinations
Crystal Skull
Ancient Kingdom
Bladecatcher
Black Tongue
Ember City
Megalodon
Andromeda
Toe to Toes
Show Yourself
Precious Stones
Roots Remain
Ghost of Karelia
Mother Puncher
Steambreather

Primus Setlist:

Clown Dream

Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers

Pudding Time. Bring on the funk!  It no longer smells like burning rubber at the old raceway. 

Too Many puppies/Sgt Baker/ puppies reprise Going back to the beginning. Like a long opening bell at the stock exchange yet going to far more interesting places.

American Life  2 min(Cygnus X-1 intro).  Hypnotic.

Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver 

The Desaturating Seven:

The Valley
The Seven
The Trek
The Scheme
The Dream
The Storm
The Ends?

Mr. Know It All

Welcome to This World

My Name Is Mud

Jerry Was a Race Car Driver

Encore:

Is It Luck?

John the Fisherman