LOS ANGELES TIMES
MONDAY, MAY 19, 2003
POP MUSIC REVIEW
McGraw has ’70s covered By Randy Lewis Times Staff Writer
Tim McGraw doesn’t hide his respect for the pioneers of country music and rock ’n’ roll. Songs in his 21⁄2-hour show Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim made earnest nods to such titans as Hank Williams and Elvis Presley. But his real passion is reserved for the stars of classicrock radio. Even before McGraw arrived onstage, hits by artists from Foreigner to Foghat pumped over the house sound system; once he did get things started, he delivered covers of the Eagles’ “Witchy Woman,” the Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker,” the Commodores’ “Easy” and other ’70 radio staples. They sounded as sincere, and as uneventful, as the average bar band’s versions, yet it’s clear that the 36-year-old hunk from Louisiana yearns to be more
David Kawashima For The Times
C OW B O Y C H A R M : Tim McGraw mixes serious songs with classic-rock covers, romantic fantasies.
than just a sex symbol or Mr. Faith Hill. Once in a while he succeeds. “Red Ragtop,” the mildly controversial first single from his latest album, “Tim McGraw and the Dancehall Doctors,” broaches the subject of abortion, a topic that clocks as much air time on country radio as reasoned analysis of presidential politics. The Jason White song — McGraw doesn’t write his own material — suggests some real thought about a serious subject, unlike McGraw’s first big hit, “Indian Outlaw,” which on Saturday remained every bit as silly as it sounded in 1994. “Ragtop” traces the arc of a teenage love affair that lets passion run its course, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. It implies rather than spells out abortion as the solution, but it’s the song’s ending that’s the real letdown. Years later, after the boy and his girlfriend have gone their own ways, he spots a
young girl in a convertible who reminds him of his old flame, and suddenly “I was back in that red ragtop on the day she stopped loving me.” That’s simple heartbreak; a master would have made the connection with the offspring the guy never had and explored the multiplicity of feelings that would have been raised. In choosing songs, McGraw (who also played Staples Center on Friday) too often stops short of the richly layered likes of Bruce Robison’s “Angry All the Time” or Rodney Crowell’s “Please Remember Me,” exceptions rather than the rule in a repertoire packed with romantic fantasies for his female fans, who outnumbered men at the Pond at least 5 to 1. That’s why, despite the millions of singles and albums he’s sold over the last decade, there’s still a sizable gulf separating him from the most creative of his country and rock heroes.
Where dynamism, meaning embrace By Jennifer Fisher Special to The Times
On a list of dance territories worth revisiting, the recent experiments of the Jazz Tap Ensemble’s Lynn Dally and a handful of border-crossing virtuosos have to be included. Her genremixing “Solea,” first seen at Highways a few years ago, was bracing again in “Dancing Blues,” Dally’s hourlong entry in the C.O.L.A. series (showcasing work supported by City of Los Angeles grants) Saturday night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. It was “we are the world” ambitious, using lifetimes of study and individual dynamism to create meaningful and entertaining dance. Three of the four movement mavens in “Solea” appeared to advantage earlier in the program, as well. To a scratchy Robert Johnson recording of “Come on in My Kitchen,” Liliana de Leon poured her flamenco lamenting into another variety of blues, ending with a wonderfully urgent crossing of the stage as each hand took turns grabbing at something unseen. John Pennington, usually barefoot for his classically modulated Modernism, donned shoes for “Walkin’ Blues.” With his upper body leading the rest in a kind of graceful lurching and heartfelt toe-dragging, the piece brought to mind one of Fred Astaire’s elegant “drunk” dances, often used as a lament for lost love. Except that Pennington
wore a rough shirt and suspenders and added stomps and wavering “Elvis” knees. Improvising a solo, “Get Away Jordan, Take Six,” tapper Channing Cook Holmes looked so cool you could feel the breeze. In suit and fedora, he alternated a close-to-the-body smoothness with sudden stabs of footwork and well-oiled swivels that stopped whenever he wanted them to. Alongside the other tappers in group dances, Holmes had the most varied persona, not falling into Dally’s style: the straight-up grin and decorative arms that float jazzily at each side. Charon Aldredge and Melinda Sullivan joined Holmes for “Misterioso,” showing off Dally’s skill at tap dance design. Aldredge produced dense, fluttery sounds in her improvised solo, “Crossfade,” while Sullivan, with Namita Kapoor, looked terrific combining tap and ballet lines in “Bach Suite.” De Leon seemed most challenged here, as if Bach were trying to straight-jacket flamenco, and she couldn’t loosen him up. Jerry Kalaf’s recorded score for “Solea,” in which bharata natyam dancer Mythili Prakash also sparkled, provided lots of scope for cross-culture encounters. Like all sharply aware, fully embodied people, the dancers made you think new thoughts and wonder if there wasn’t a way to revisit this optimistic, highly charged version of cultural interaction more often.
It’s a toss-up as to who works harder: dancer-choreographerproducer Deborah Brockus or the dozens of dancers who perform in her award-winning “Spectrum Dance in L.A.” series. In any case, it’s the dance community that benefits, as evidenced Saturday night at the Ivar Theatre when Spectrum #15 played to a packed house. And while not all 17 choreographers triumphed, hits happily outweighed misses. Allan McCormick’s jazzy septet, “Thieves in the Temple,” showcased McCormick’s bravura balancing and athleticism in the work’s premiere. In a similar vein: Olivia Gaugain’s new “Elements” featured a female quartet in tribal mode; Pat Taylor’s latest, “Acknowledgment,” saw four women vamping to John Coltrane; and Brockus Project Dance Company’s “Blue and Orange Is the Reason” surrealistically forayed into fabrics and oranges. Patrick Damon Rago’s new “Four Inches to the Left” proved fresh and funny, with Rago occasionally partnering two women. Stellar solos included: Michael
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Mizerany’s premiere “Feral,” stealthily danced by Jose Carcamo, a fount of agility; and Holly Mistine, all passion — on pointe — in Patrick Frantz’s flamencoinspired “Farruca.” Also pointedriven: Stefan Wenta’s elegant premiere, “In D Minor,” with six women moving in unison to Bach. Neo-cheerleading gave Mandy Moore’s “Shy” a spunky gloss, while Paige Porter’s “Jolene” rocked as a dozen women preened, jungle-like. For sheer outrageousness, Jacob “Kujo” Lyons, Jesse “Lil Casper” Brown and Dan “The Man” Nier aced their “The Main Event,” a hip-hop, faux boxing bout. Another duel: Bob Boross’ “Basie’s Bag” with two jaunty tappers. Less successful: Trisha Banerjee’s indulgent bharata natyam solo, “Dasavatharam”; and John Castagna’s ill-conceived “Loss.” In addition: Maria Elena Vazquez’s “Sevillanas” and “Soleares” wouldn’t qualify for Flamenco 101; Darryl Retter’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” exhibited bad Vegas lounge act tendencies; and Randé Dorn’s arm-flailing “Saturated in Shelter” misfired to gospel wailings.
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