Summer Sunday

Last night. What a soul healing experience for the Babe and me. We attended Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra concert at Sumter Ampitheater in Papillion, Nebraska. It was cancelled last Saturday due to impending bad weather (thank you, Kate Whitecotton!), and could redeem our tickets last night. Of course, that’s what we did.

The music, of course, was stellar. We’ve seen this show every summer since its inception. It has experienced some changes and probably attracts a larger audience being more pop and rock from the 50s through the 80s. Once again, my life flashed before my eyes! Many of these songs were recorded with full blown orchestras. They were meant to include brass (saxaphones are my favorite) and strings. I didn’t catch the names of these very talented musicians, but they were wonderful. The ladies on strings strutted on stage barefoot and took their places. It just spoke summer, outdoors under the stars!

Jesse White joined the ensemble and he is exceptional. We saw him in Hegwid and the Angry Inch earlier this year; he is one to be watched. With the musicians assembled last night, he will do very well. He did a Buddy Holly duet with Billy, and it was mind blowing. I’m so sorry we missed his debut as Buddy Holly in the Buddy Holly Story, produced by Billy and Kate. Next year, the Omaha Series must include it! (Please)!

Although Billy and the orchestra played some of his original music (not nearly enough, IMHO), the rock and roll of our youth really shone. Two of my favorite songs of all time were out of this world. “Good Lovin,'” by the Young Rascals (later the Rascals), was spot on. My heart felt as young as when I first heard in in 1966. I was just out of eighth grade, on my way to high school. It brought back the innocence of youth. After a hard week (another friend lost their husband), we needed this night. We needed the music to heal our hearts. And it did.

The other favorite? “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Steve Winwood with The Spencer Davis Group never disappoints. Neither does Billy. Ever. Whatever he does, you leave thinking, “That was so perfect, it just can’t get any better.” And somehow, with McGuigan Magic, it does. Every. Single. Time. I want to write that way. I want to be as good an author as he is with his music. It’s inspiring, besides healing.

The thing that struck me this time out? The intense sense of family. We saw Ryan and his lady friend as audience members. It was fun to watch his reaction to the performance. All he an Billy have to do is look at each other, and you see the love. It was good to see him having fun and living life. It has to be way different watching v participating. He mimiced some fancy footwork and percussion work while dancing in his seat. And Matthew, he keeps playing, whether guitar or keyboard, he keeps going. I love his playing. His beautiful rendition of “My Girl,” reflects his love for his wife. It’s another favorite and I love how he does it. You just can’t beat MOTOWN.

Young Ciaran, Billy’s son, is a rock star in the eighth grade! His guitar lessons from Max are worth millions. (Sorry, Billy). He’s not only getting the tunes down well, he’s developing his showmanship at the same time. What a kick for him, to perform live AND rock out his spotlight solos. He even turned around and played his guitar behind his back and up on his shoulders. I hope I’m around when he’s about 30 years old and he’s still in music, he’s just going to improve. The girls are going to swoon, (or do a Tik-Tok video). As his selection of a song last night he chose an Eric Clapton song. I told you he’s unbelievable! It was “After Midnight.” Enough said. Wow.

I had to laugh, Max’s Mom, Roxann Rodgers Meyer, posted the perfect rebuttal to all those folks crowded into Memorial Stadium to see Garth Brooks (Garth who?). She shared she was not at Memorial Stadium, but she was at SumTur Theater rocking out to Billy McGuigan and Max Meyer. With family. No better place for families to be, friends. I saw Cartney from afar with family members, too. Generations with appreciation for our local musicians. And none of us were disappointed. They’re worth far more than the price of admission, in my mind.

Although the McGuigan family hugs helped these men grow up through many bad things in life, they still do the hugs they thought corny. Bill, their dad, had them group and hug while telling them, “These people, these are the ones that love you and will always be there for you.” I’m going to do one of those hugs with my girlfriends who are now widows. And with our kids. And my brothers. And I’m going to thank God for this example. It’s a keeper for sure. Just like their music is. And them, too.

If you’re in the area, you can attend the last of this series at SumTur Ampitheater, at 118th and Hwy 370. Just past Papillion South High School. It’ll be another beautiful night. It was our first visit for a concert, and we’re sure to be back. Tickets still available. Your week will be better for it.

A Sunday to Celebrate!

I’ve shared with you about the great day I had yesterday. If you didn’t see it, here it is. The day got even better! We got to see these guys with the Omaha Symphony. If you know me at all, you know I love these guys, and the lovely Tara Vaughn. Since it’s been awhile, let me re-introduce you. From the left, Matthew McGuigan, Tara Vaughn, Larell Ware, Ciaran McGuigan, Ryan McGuigan, Darren Pettit, Max Meyer, and Billy McGuigan. A couple guys are new, but they fit with the band like a glove. It’s like they all have McGuigan lessons before they join, yet they all are great on their own. All these musicians are multi-talented. They are all huge personalities. Ciaran is in training, taking guitar lessons from Max at the McGuigan Arts Academy in Omaha. He is indeed learning from the best.

Most of the country is open after COVID-19. Omaha has let it’s Mask Mandate expire. Yes, we’ve heard conflicting information, but the Babe and I had both vaccinations, and consider ourselves safe. I believe all these maskless marauders below had the shots, too. Tara Vaughn hasn’t performed with her boys since pre-pandemic, I believe. It was so good to see her back, and hear her strong, beautiful, resonant voice again. These guys are great alone, but now, the band is indeed back together! It became time to unleash this energy on Omaha again.

And it was epic! The sign on the door of the beautiful Holland Center said masks were suggested. We took note of that, and once inside, saw the majority of folks maskless. I’ve never been in jail to be let out of it (except in Monopoly), but it felt like getting out of jail. We were free for the first time in a very long, time.

The conductor for the Symphony had a spring in his step all evening, too. To hear the hits of the era we grew up in was so cool. They sounded so good with a live symphony to back them. One violin player had a constant smile on her face. She enjoyed it, too! The other members kept their stoic faces. Lots of toe-tapping going on, just not smiling. The music filled the heavens of downtown Omaha. I’m sure their Dad Bill McGuigan, had a front row seat from heaven. I wonder what that is like? If I get there someday, I’ll have to ask him. Remind me of that, ok?

I think I’m speaking the God’s honest truth when I tell you it was so apparant these musicians all enoyed performing with each other for the first time in a long time. Their faces were extra-jubiliant. Their execution was right on! Their knowing looks cast at each other and smiles told you you were seeing them at their best. And with these people, you can be sure of that.

We plan on seeing every show they have planned, whether in Omaha, Glenwood, or Papillion. Go to their website and get tickets for the summer series. You will never go away disappointed. If you disagree, we cannot be friends. Go see them. The sooner the better. You’ll be set free, too.

Thanks for reading. Take care out there. Enjoy the fresh air. See you tomorrow!

About Last Night . . .

A night the Babe and I were waiting for since early December 2020 finally happened. To hear TOGETHER, Billy McGuigan’s live performance of his COVID album released a few months ago. The music is reviewed here. The live performance? It was fabulous. Although I’d listened a hundred or more times (yes, I do that with music I love), seeing Billy McGuigan live is always a top-notch experience. Kevin Klimowski, a fan from Des Moines, and I sat near each other and and commented on how good they sound recorded and in person as well. Boys and girls, that’s the sign of a group of REAL musicians. Billy doesn’t mess around. They will never let the music die.

Although I’ve been a Billy and brothers’ fan for a long time, we are still seeing new and exciting things at any function these guys play. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Carly Frolio’s beautiful voice. She sings like an angel and accompanies Billy well. Unfortunately, we missed the Parking Lot Concerts last summer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. If Carly sang there, we missed it. Sorry! Much like her fellow band mates, she has many creative skills, including photography.

In addition to the band, something else new was students from McGuigan Arts Academy as ushers, a wealth of information, and front row fans. Our little girl usher informed us we “could take all the pictures we wanted of Billy McGuigan.” Thank you, honey. She told Kimberly Faith Hickman, “Now, I’m an usher,” before this bespectacled, braided, confident little girl bounced down the aisle, intent on mission completion.” She found our seats with the precision of a soldier on a mission. She waved us over, pointed, and said, “Enjoy the show.” Mission completed, young lady!

All of the children sat in the first row after helping introduce Billy. They all looked thrilled to death. Much like the adults who frequent his shows, they jumped to their feet and danced their hearts out. A new generation of McGuigan’s Minions. Who knew? The Arts Academy is doing great things. Some kids were backstage hands. What a great thing! Hands on learning. Lucky, lucky kids.

Billy’s son, Ciaran McGuigan keeps coming more into his own more and more as a guitar player. Max Meyer, is a lead guitar player, and Ciaran’s teacher. Max does great things with a guitar you have only heard about with the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton. Love listening to you, Max! We even heard him singing, “Surfin’ U.S.A.” I loved the Beach Boys when I was a kid! You evoked some great memories!

Matthew McGuigan is a favorite, too. He is always consistent, steady, and a great vocal back up. He was mentioned as turning 40 yesterday, and with his second COVID vaccine, he took it all in stride. Go Matthew! This is a banner year for you, too! He and brother Ryan McGuigan stayed pretty much in the background Saturday night. It was Billy’s night. And he rocked it. The love of family really stands out with this group. They are their own family! And the fans, we complete that family. Kate Whitecotton organizes the whole lot, and it comes off without a hitch every time. She’s magical!

I keep wondering what else these guys can do that’s not been done before? A whole bunch, all the talents considered. We will be there, Billy, Ryan, and Matthew. We have heard the life story, and we’re glad you’ve used your experiences for good. Not just your good, but for ours, too. Billy started out playing Buddy Holly at the Omaha Community Playhouse. And the rest is history. He is nowhere near done. At 46, he has at least 30 more years of performing ahead of him. He already knows he can do a Sinatra-Buble-Connick, Jr., type of show. And he killed it! When you can’t jump anymore, when you may have trouble reaching for the strings on your guitar anymore, you can croon. Until then, though, feel free to share your life, thoughts and feelings with your family from Bellevue, Omaha, Gretna, Elkhorn, and the surrounding areas. You guys are home with us, and we couldn’t be prouder. You will tend the music and keep it alive as long as we need it. And you. The Best is Yet to Come!

Hedwig and The Angry Inch

See this! It doesn’t matter your age, your beliefs, or your taste in music, there is something for everyone here to appreciate. The Acting. The Music. The stage presence of the actors and the band. Even the pre-show where Billy McGuigan sings some old songs and a few from his new album, “Together.”

It felt good to be attending a live show again. When the Babe retired, we tried new things we’d never done before. We became members of the Omaha Community Playhouse, and saw many plays of high quality, and the annual Christmas Show “Yesterday and Today,” which is a Beatles tribute show performed by Billy and his brothers Ryan and Matthew. A very talented group of musicians. Billy has a pool of amazing musicians to choose from and uses everyone in the best way possible.

The people at the Waiting Room did an outstanding job of only selling 25% capacity for the show. We were more than socially distanced, seated at our table. We could remove our masks while seated, which was good. It was safe and gave us a sense of security with the precautions they enforced. The Waiting Room is in Benson, at 6212 Maple Street. Get there super early! Parking is hard. Doors open at 6:30 pm, Billy performs at 7 pm, show starts at 7:30 pm.

Hedwig has one heckuva voice, whether singing as herself or as himself. The Angry Inch is a rock band who backs up Hedwig, the internationally ignored superstar (in her mind). You learn of her past life, her later life, and her quest to escape East Berlin before the wall fell. It was an historic time for sure. Her desperation to leave Germany was so intense, she resorted to some drastic measures.

The quest to find your “other half” is something we all experience. Hedwig’s was of utmost importance to her. Part stand-up comedy, part rock musical, and part play, it has it all! The female lead was fantastic. What a voice! She rocked the place in fine fashion. And the best part? Evelyn Hill is a senior at Central High School. What a young talent! The possibilities that lie ahead for her!

Jesse White is incredible as Hedwig. The stories and songs tell the story how he started out as Hansel in East Berlin. He came to have a sex change operation, which was botched. No wonder he’s angry!

It was hugely entertaining for a chilly Saturday night in Nebraska. It was worth the drive and the price of admission. When it ended, we wanted more. More shows open later this spring and summer. There are post cards available at your seat to remember dates and places of other Rave On Production shows this year.

It’s going to be an exceptional year, being entertained by the genius that is Billy (always up for a challenge), Ryan (he has quite the stage presence, folks! Pay attention, you’ll see why!), and Matthew (the most excellent musical director) McGuigan, Max Meyer (one of the best lead guitarist’s you’ll ever see), Jay Hansen (Superman), and Larell Ware (Drums – my he’s good!). And I have to say, Kate Whitecotton, House Manager and CEO of Rave On Productions, is the most organized person on earth; she excels at coordinating everything for the performers. Kathleen Kersey is the Volunteer of the Year, selling merch at most of the shows. She knows her stuff, and which versions of the bands performed which version of the CD’s.

For your mental health, make a date tonight or next weekend for the remaining shows of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, at the Waiting Room Lounge. You will not be disappointed. Thanks for checking in today. We’ll see each other tomorrow. I look forward to it.