Arts and Entertainment

George Strait in Concert

Early this month we went to see George Strait in concert at the MGM Grand Arena. The venue is disappointing in the terrible entrance and exit. The shortcomings of the venue aside it was a great concert.

Taylor SwiftTeenage, country-newcomer, Taylor Swift was first up. Her inexperience and youth definitely show up, especially when paired with the experience of legends like Strait and Ronnie Milsap. Swift's prolific song-writing is impressive to say the least. One can only wonder what she will become as her voice and stage presence matures. Her on-stage jokes about getting back at past boyfriends and those who treated her poorly were funny the first time. They lost their appeal on the second and third repetition.

Mystère continues to impress

We went to see Mystère last week. I'd seen the excellent show thirteen years ago when it was in its opening run at the tent theater outside the Treasure Island. Over the years the show has been moved into a custom-built theater but it has not lost the magic. Often people who have not seen a Cirque du Solei show ask what it is about. Truth be told it is a bit hard to explain. Cirque's website says the following:

Mystère is an overwhelming sensory experience. It is in constant motion and features high-energy acrobatics, evocative dances, colorful costumes and vivid lighting. It is a feast of colours and passions, of beauty and frailty which recalls a distant past and speaks to the future. It breathes rhythm and music.

In this day of marketing hype it would be easy to believe that "overwhelming sensory experience" is typical hyperbole. It is not. Each of the two times I have seen the show I have had the impression that it would take at least a dozen careful, planned, trips to become relatively sure one had caught most of what is going on.

Hiding things in plain sight is one of the trademarks of the great Cirque shows. The set changes and rigging are handled as much by the actors and actresses as they are the offstage magicians pulling strings and levers. Mystère remains a great show and if visitors to Las Vegas get to see just one this could easily be the one to see.

Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular

We went to see Phantom - The Las Vegas Spectacular last night. It is an outstanding Las Vegas show. The quality of the music, signing, dancing and music is fantastic. And it is Las Vegas. That is it's somewhat like restaurant chains in Las Vegas - take the best restaurant chain in the world and put one in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas version will be more expensive, not as good and you'll feel rushed. That describes Phantom in Las Vegas. It is a great production of a great show, but it's been cut down and lost some of its beauty in doing so. With many scenes cut in half, and some cut all together it becomes more a frantic race to the end. Gone are the moments to pause and catch one's breath and really enjoy the show.

This comment may seem a little odd at first, but one of the things that I didn't care for was a little too much detail and not enough left to the imagination. With the exquisite theater built for the production and the fantastic special effects, combined with the speed of the show, it's tougher to get to a place where the mind is completely carried away into the fantasy of the show.

There are much better productions to be certain, but this one is pretty good. It would be helped greatly by adding the Overture back in to the production. WIthout the intermission it's a little tough to add the Overture to the second act back to the score but at least the Overture to the first act would help a lot. It is also great to see a new show in Vegas that has live music.

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

Traveling over the holidays gave me some time to catch up on listening to audiobooks. On the way home tonight I finished Michael Crichton's State of Fear. Wow. A lot to think about.

There is a central theme I'm sure I agree with. We must find a way to separate the funding of scientific research from the political process. Especially as the political process of the United States increasingly falls into religious realms the problems become greater. When we can label a disease such as AIDS as a "sinners" disease (and yes I know that is not proper, but it is an observation not an endorsement) it becomes easier to dismiss it as something that doesn't impact people like me, and therefore it can be ignored. With today's political funding of scientific research we're more likely to get the results that are desired by the funders than those representative of independent investigation.


On the way to work this morning I finished listening to Bittersweet by Nevada Barr. It is just an amazing love story and a beautiful story of centuries past. It encapsulates well, to this day, the attitudes and life style of rural Nevadans. Though our lives are not a tenth as difficult as those a century or more ago there is a shared love of the beautiful hardness in the desert. Bittersweet indeed.


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