When you consistently write about politics and war you run the risk of being typecast as writing only about war and politics.
To avoid that pitfall, today we are going to discuss a few issues that are close to my heart - good scotch, good music, and meeting new people.
In the good music category Tina Turner took the stage in Hartford, Connecticut Saturday night, in a place that used to be called the Civic Center but now has a corporate name that I'm not using because they don't pay me to advertise here.
The concert was one of the best I have seen ever - bar none, and the really great thing about it was that Tina put on as much of a show, if not more, during the encore as she did during regular performance. She ranged from her own classics including Nutbush City Limits, performed during the encore from a mobile stage platform that took her out and over the crowd, to her famous cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's Proud Mary, then on to What's Love Got To Do With It, with major audience participation, and a full program of hard driving rock and roll.
She had a great blues set including Undercover Agent For The Blues which I really, really liked. What a beat, what a sound! What dancers - the Flowers - backing up the singing. Whoa!
But it wasn't just about music, it was about performance, and stage presence, a multi-media production that included videos of Tina's past performances with groups including the Rolling Stones, in movies such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome with Mel Gibson - in which Tina was costumed similar to the role she played. Tina mixed modern dance with martial arts, had plenty of pyrotechnics, dancing - on stage and in the audience - and most important, she put on a show that at once entertained and sealed a connection with her fans that goes back decades.
Tina still has her voice, she still has her moves, she still has unsurpassed abilities and best of all, she has a work ethic that is sadly lacking in so many younger performers' productions who think the sizzle really is the steak. At a Tina Turner concert you get the sizzle, the steak and a wide range of side orders too.
What made the night even better, was the place my wife and I found for a pre-conference drink, and the people we met there. We haven't been wandering around downtown Hartford in quite a while and had no idea where to find a bite to eat.
But a half-block from the former Civic Center that now has a name I won't use here because ... well you know ... we found McKinnon's Irish Pub. It was jammed to standing room only, the music was nearly as loud as what we would hear in the concert, the beer was cold and the food was hot.
My wife, who is a world class weaseler - by that I mean she can navigate the densest crowd with the skill of a, well, a world class weaseler - soon had blazed a path right to the bar, where we met Colleen Ryan and her daughter Elizabeth, who had actually scored seats and food! Elizabeth had purchased concert tickets for her Mom and they were about to get their money's worth.
But here is where it got really nice. Colleen saw us trying to catch the bartender's attention and volunteered to help, making contact far faster than we would have otherwise. Then as fate would have it two seats opened up right next to the Ryans and we were in.
Colleen noticed that I had ordered a scotch, a well known bar blend, and asked if I ever drank single malts. Hah! You betcha.
I responded that I usually order the blend when I go out because so few places carry the singles that I like best, starting with Glen Morangie - 10 year old is very, very nice; the 12-year-old finished in Madeira wood is a favorite.
That got us going on single malts and what we like and don't like. Peat based brands are way down the list. Glenlivet was mentioned, and I brought up Taliskers which I haven't tried but is on my Christmas list. (It was featured in the movie Charlie Wilson's War starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Ned Beatty. I AM mentioning here not because they are paying me to advertise it, they aren't, but because I like it - the movie.)
I told Colleen I had recently sampled 15-year-old BruichLaddich, brought to me by a close associate who has another friend who makes an avocation of finding rare Single Malts.
I neglected to tell her that as I write these columns the calendar right next to my computer screen, given to me last year by my wife as a Christmas present, features month-by-month Single Malts, a picture of a representative bottle with a history of where it is distilled, how long it has been around, and sundry bits of relevant information.
This month it features The Dalmore, aged 21 years, distilled on the north shore of the Cromarty Firth, an inlet off the Moray Firth. It is north of Inverness but south of Tain where the 16 Men produce Glen Morangie.
While Colleen and I were talking Scotch I was passing tidbits of the speech I give to my college classes, What Every College Student Should Know About Drinking, to her daughter Elizabeth. Meanwhile, my wife ordered a corned beef Ruben that not only was well prepared and delicious itself, but came with two of the best pickle slices I have tasted in a long time.
Time passes quickly in these circumstances and soon the clock on the cell phone said it was time to go. Imagine, we had what otherwise would be considered a really enjoyable evening BEFORE we attended the concert.
It was a pretty good night all the way around. We found a decent pub, we had good food, good drinks, good conversation and made a couple of new friends along the way. Then we got to see a concert that reminded me of why I have spent a lifetime loving Rock 'n' Roll.
I suppose this being a political column and all I should make one last semi-political point. Many of the supporters and media outlets who comment on our current president-elect claim that he is bringing racial harmony to America.
Obviously, these people have never been to a Tina Turner concert. Tina has been bringing harmony of all types, racial and otherwise, to the world music scene since before the president-elect was born.
From what I saw Saturday night in Hartford Connecticut, we can only hope she will still be doing it long after his 15 minutes have passed, and that if the president-elect is really interested in leaving a legacy of a better America, he can look to Tina Turner for lessons on human relations.
Sunday, December 07, 2008