Category: Morning Call

Sarah Brightman — coming to Bethlehem — talks about her Christmas show, Andrew Lloyd Weber, and holiday traditions

Photo by Oliver Sommers

Known for pioneering the classical-crossover music movement and for amassing an arsenal of album sales — including 40 million from The Phantom of The Opera soundtrack alone — Sarah Brightman has wowed audiences with her incredible three-octave vocal range and charismatic beauty.

Last year, while the world was in lockdown, Brightman put together and streamed her first-ever Christmas concert, “Sarah Brightman: A Christmas Symphony.” The worldwide response was so overwhelming that this year she is bringing her Christmas Symphony Tour to America.

Perhaps there is no more fitting place for her to kick off her holiday tour than The Christmas City’s Wind Creek Event Center on Friday, November 26.

Accompanied by orchestra, choir and a dazzling light show, Brightman’s show will feature renditions of classics from the Christmas canon, holiday favorites, and a selection of her greatest hits.

I recently spoke with Brightman about her upcoming performance in Bethlehem and much more in this exclusive interview:

James Wood for The Morning Call: How did your seasonal Christmas Symphony show come about?

Brightman: When we were in lockdown last Christmas it was a fairly miserable time for everyone worldwide. I decided to stream a seasonal Christmas show for any fans who cared to watch and listen. So, I employed some musicians who needed the work and we put it all together. There was an overwhelming response which is why, when things started moving again, I decided to turn it into a proper seasonal show for the theater. It’s something I’ve never done before in America.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Sarah Brightman by Clicking Here!

SteelStacks concert preview: Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela talks about the band’s start, the hits, and what’s next

Photo: Shervin Lainez

American alt-rock band Gin Blossoms first broke into the mainstream with their infectious 1992 album, New Miserable Experience. Songs from that album, which eventually went on to sell four million copies, included the jangle-pop and radio friendly “Hey Jealousy,” “Until I Fall Away,” “Found Out About You,” and “Allison Road.” These cemented the band as one of the early 90s best-selling acts.

The band abruptly broke up in 1997 only to reform five years later and have continued to record and perform as many as 120 shows a year. Their 2010 release No Chocolate Cake shot up to #1 on Amazon and reached #14 on the Billboard Indie Chart. The band’s 2018 follow-up Mixed Reality, is reminiscent of the group’s earlier days. Vocalist Robin Wilson called it a companion to New Miserable Experience and an album the band would’ve wanted to make in 1990.

Fans of the Gin Blossoms — featuring Wilson, Jesse Valenzuela (vocals and guitar), Scott Johnson (guitar), Scott Hessel (drums), and Bill Leen (bass) — can relive the magic of the 90s when the group performs at SteelStacks’ Musikfest Café at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9.

I spoke with Gin Blossoms guitarist Jesse Valenzuela about the band’s Bethlehem show and more in this exclusive new interview.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from the Gin Blossoms upcoming performance in Bethlehem?

Jesse Valenzuela: We may have had a lot of time off and not touring as much as we used to but fans can expect to hear every song they want to hear. All of our hits will be represented. Then we’ll play some of the other material from our thirty-five years together. There’s a lot to choose from. It’s going to be a great time.

How did the band get started?

It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It took some starts and stops before we actually became a band. We all had grown up in the same college town working in different bands. We all knew about each other and eventually just started playing together. 

Read the rest of my

Interview with Jesse Valenzuela by Clicking Here.

Wind Creek Bethlehem comedy preview: Bill Maher gets real with Dave Chappelle, free speech, Trump, honesty, and Hillary Clinton

Photo: John Russo

Comedian Bill Maher has set the boundaries for humor and political talk.

First on the widely popular “Politically Incorrect,” which ran on ABC from 1993-2002, and for the last 19 years as host of his acclaimed HBO series, “Real Time” — where his combination of honesty and laughter has garnered more than 40 Emmy nominations.

On the show, Maher interviews some of the world’s most influential people while taking swings at both republicans and democrats alike. His criticism of people like Donald Trump is nearly equivalent to his concern about the over-extension of wokeism.

While taking a break from “Real Time,” Maher is currently out on the road performing stand-up. The comedian will make a stop at the Wind Creek Event Center, in Bethlehem on Sunday, Oct. 24.

I recently spoke with Maher about his upcoming Lehigh Valley performance and more.

James Wood: What can fans expect from your show at the Wind Creek Event Center?

Bill Maher: They can expect to laugh their ass off. That’s what stand-up comedy is supposed to be. If they’re people who watch “Real Time” then they’re familiar with the general things I’m interested in, which are not the trivialities of life.

I’ve always been interested in the big subjects going on in the world like politics, but I also like talking about my personal life too. Something that’s consequential and has nutrition in it. The bottom line though is people are hungry to laugh again and to laugh hard. That’s what I’m going to make them do.

How are you able to separate the format of “Real Time” from your stand-up comedy?

The great thing about stand-up is that it’s free form. What I’ve seen recently is an encouraging embrace of the point of view I’ve been putting across on my show. The greatest threat right now is from the right. We’re playing with fire with the Republican Party where they don’t believe elections are real. That’s a dangerous place to be and that has to be called out. But I also talk about what I think are the excesses of the woke and how wokeism is not really liberalism.

You may not agree with everything I say but most people can appreciate that I’m trying to be an honest broker and that’s a hard thing to do these days in America.

Read the rest of my

Interview with Bill Maher by Clicking Here.

Lisa Loeb concert preview: Grammy-winning singer-songwriter discusses ‘strangely creative time’ and return to Sellersville Theater

Lisa Loeb (Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty)

Emotional, ethereal, poignant, poetic. These words best describe singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb’s music.

From her platinum-selling #1 song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the “Reality Bites” soundtrack to her Grammy-winning children’s album Feel What U Feel, Loeb has a knack for writing songs that are as ubiquitous as they are vulnerable.

Loeb will bring her arsenal of music and storytelling to an intimate performance at The Sellersville Theater on Oct. 16.

In addition to performing her signature song, fans can expect to hear songs like “Do You Sleep,” “I Do” and “Let’s Forget About It.” Loeb will also be showcasing material from her most recent album, “A Simple Trick To Happiness.” Produced by her and writer/producer Rich Jacques, the album examines Loeb’s life as a mother, wife, artist, and businesswoman seeking to find a balance between personal fulfillment and purpose.

I recently spoke with Loeb about her upcoming performance at The Sellersville Theater and more.

James Wood for The Morning Call: As an artist, what’s it been like for you during the last eighteen months of the pandemic?

Lisa Loeb: It’s been a strangely creative time during the lockdown. I set up shop in my guest bedroom and was able to work on new songs and even start a new album. I also did a lot of livestreaming shows as well as events and fundraisers over Zoom. It was an interesting time getting to connect with fans from all over the world.

Have you performed at The Sellersville Theater before?

Many times. Joe Quigley, the bass player from my band, Nine Stories, has a brother who was one of the original owners when they started having live musical acts. We had a personal connection with the theater and have seen it grow over the years. As a singer-songwriter it’s a perfect theater. It’s intimate but formal at the same time. I love being able to go there and play.

What can fans expect from your performance?

I love to play songs that people want to hear. So, I’ll play songs like “Stay” and a handful of others that have been on the radio. I’ll definitely play songs from my new album, “A Simple Trick to Happiness,” because they’re new and seem to resonate during this time. I’ll also play songs from my entire career as well as requests and maybe even some songs from my children’s album. I also like to talk, so there will be a lot of stories.

How does the new album, “A Simple Trick to Happiness,” compare to some of your previous work?

For me, it’s a lot more personal. I wanted to write songs that people [when they hear them] can take with them throughout their day. There are songs about appreciating your life and respectfully walking away from situations that aren’t right. The title of the album is a little tongue-in-cheek. You can’t snap your fingers and find happiness but there are things you can keep in mind to make your life better.

Read the rest of my

With Lisa Loeb by Clicking Here.

Penn’s Peak concert preview: Female tribute band The Iron Maidens discuss impact of original English rockers and guest appearance of Eddie

The Iron Maidens

Since their formation in 2001, The Iron Maidens have garnered international acclaim as one of the most popular Iron Maiden tribute bands. 

The all-female quintet, consisting of Kirsten Rosenberg (vocals), Wanda Ortiz (bass), Linda McDonald (drums), Courtney Cox (guitars), and Nikki Stringfield (guitars), are all consummate professionals, with diverse artistic backgrounds ranging from orchestral and musical theater to blues, rock, and metal.

Boasting both beauty and musicianship, The Iron Maidens cover note for note Iron Maiden material from all eras of the band’s more than four-decade career — including their biggest hits and seminal fan favorites. Their high energy stage show also includes appearances by Maiden’s iconic mascot, Eddie, the grim reaper, and more.

Fans of Iron Maiden’s music won’t want to miss The Iron Maidens when they perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe.

I recently spoke to them about their upcoming show and more.

James Wood for The Morning Call: How did The Iron Maidens tribute project come about?

Linda McDonald: “I was playing in an original band with another guitar player, and we were looking for a bass player. We wound up getting a call from a mixed-gender Iron Maiden tribute band that wanted us to come down and check them out. When we got there they told us they wanted to go and form an all-female version of that band and were looking for a drummer and guitar player … so the two of us ended up joining them. It was perfect because Iron Maiden is the band that got me started playing drums.”

What was it about Iron Maiden’s music that appealed to you?

McDonald: “When I was in high school, I got sent home for a few days because I wasn’t being a very good girl [laughs]. I went into my brother’s record collection and found the album, Maiden in Japan. I was floored with just how tight the band sounded. It was pure and honest and the energy captured just blew me away. That was the moment I decided I wanted to play drums with that same kind of energy and drive.”

Wanda Ortiz: “I’m a bass player, so I’m drawn to music that has interesting and challenging bass lines. Steve Harris’ bass lines and how all the songs are written around them are what really drew me in.”

Read the rest of my

Interview with The Iron Maidens by Clicking Here.

SteelStacks concert preview: 90s hitmakers Collective Soul set to ‘Shine’ again with chemistry back

Collective Soul – Photo by John Fulton

Collective Soul first rose to fame in 1993 when a DJ in Orlando, Florida decided to start playing their rock anthem, “Shine.” 

The resulting enthusiasm and request for continued plays propelled the group from their humble Georgia-based roots to international acclaim.

Over the course of their career, the quintet has sold more than twenty million records and amassed an arsenal of hits, like “December” and “The World I Know,” that helped define alternative rock. The band’s most recent studio album, 2019′s Blood, also received praise for its indelible consistency of combining all the different styles of music the band has accumulated over the years.

Having recently wrapped their first-ever joint tour with Styx, Collective Soul will headline a performance with fellow nineties veteran bands Better Than Ezra and Tonic at 7 p.m. September 9th at Levitt Pavilion SteelStacks in Bethlehem as part of ArtsQuest’s Summer Concert Series.

I recently spoke with Collective Soul guitarist Dean Roland about the band’s upcoming Lehigh Valley show and more.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What’s it like being back performing live shows again after such an extended period of time away during lockdown?

Dean Roland: “This has been the longest break in our career. It’s great to getting the chemistry back together and seeing people having fun and celebrating music again.”

What can fans expect from your upcoming performance in Bethlehem with Better Than Ezra and Tonic?

“A lot of good songs that they know and enjoy and can sing along to. We’ve known the guys from Better Than Ezra and Tonic for years and have done many tours and festivals together. We all live in different cities now but it’ll be fun to get out there and share our passion for music with the audience.”

Read the rest of my

Interview with Dean Roland by Clicking Here

Musikfest Concert Preview: Colin Hay talks about his Men At Work days and being ready to entertain live again

Photo: Paul Mobley

With hits like the ubiquitous “Down Under,” “Who Can It Be Now,” “Be Good Johnny” and “Overkill,” Colin Hay has amassed an arsenal of radio hits and fan favorites. But it was during the recent lockdown when touring was impossible that Hay found himself alone in his studio with nothing to do. It was during this time that he decided to revisit some of the songs that impacted his life as a young fellow. Thus was born Hay’s appropriately titled covers album, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself.”

The album features Hay’s take songs like “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” (Gerry and the Pacemakers), “Ooh La La” (Faces), “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith), “Wichita Lineman” (Glen Campbell), as well as the title track, originally performed by Dusty Springfield.

Now that he’s back on the road, fans of Hay’s work as a solo artist and with Men At Work will have the opportunity to hear these songs and more when the Colin Hay Band performs at Musikfest’s Wind Creek Steel Stage 7 p.m. August 11.

Speaking of Men At Work, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Australian band’s monumental debut, “Business As Usual.” The album spent weeks at #1 on the Billboard album chart and earned Hay and his mates a Grammy for Best New Artist.

In addition to his “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” album and tour highlighting it, Hay is also finishing work on a new collection of original songs that will be released sometime in the new year.

I recently spoke with Colin Hay about his upcoming Musikfest performance, his new album and more:

James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from your upcoming Musikfest performance?

Hay: “They can expect to be entertained. I’m going to play a mix of songs from my new covers record as well as some new material people haven’t heard before. I’ll also do some old Men At Work songs and songs off the solo records. It’s going to be a long set so people coming should prepare to settle in for a while.”

What inspired your new covers album, “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”?

“I had already finished recording an album of new songs that will be released early in the new year and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to go out on the road. Gerry Marsden (Gerry And The Pacemakers) had recently died and I was playing ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying’ in my studio. I decided to record it and sent it to my friend and producer, Chad Fischer. He orchestrated it and sent it back and said, ‘Ok, send me another.’ So, I just kept going until we had 10. These are songs I loved growing up and formed me or inspired me in some way. I love the choices and the way they hang together. I really love the way it turned out.”

Read the rest of my

Interview with Colin Hay by Clicking Here.

Sellersville Theater concert preview: Dream Theater keyboard player Jordan Rudess discusses his musical journey and rock roots

Jordan Rudess (Photo Nidhal MARZOUK)

Jordan Rudess is perhaps best known as the keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist for the platinum-selling progressive rock band Dream Theater and the side project, Liquid Tension Experiment. But Rudess, a classically trained virtuoso from the age of 10, has also worked with the likes of Deep Purple, The Dixie Dregs and David Bowie among many others. 

He’s also the owner of Wizdom Music, an application development company that makes award-winning apps for keyboard synthesizers.

At 8 p.m. June 25, Rudess brings his solo piano tour to the Sellersville Theater in Sellersville. Tickets are available for $33-45 at st94.com 215-257-5808. Limited seats remain but a livestream is available.

The show, dubbed ‘A Chapter in Time,’ will document Rudess’ musical journey — which began in grade school, then to Julliard and progressed to his work with Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment. Rudess will also explore improvised selections from his progressive rock roots as well as his beautiful new album, ‘A Chapter in Time.’

In addition to Rudess’ performance on the Sellersville stage, a livestream is available for fans with COVID safety concerns. All livestream ticket holders will be emailed a link to enjoy the show.

I spoke with Rudess about his upcoming performance as well as his latest album.

James Wood for The Morning Call: What can fans expect from your upcoming Sellersville Theater performance?

Rudess: “I love doing these piano shows because the piano is my home territory. As much as people know me as the Dream Theater keyboardist the piano is where it all started. When I do these events, it’s a chance for me to let my musical spirit out. I’ll play Bach, some Chopin and improvise or play arrangements of progressive rock, Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment. I’m happy I chose the piano because its wide range allows me to do this kind of thing. People can expect to hear a full representation of who I am musically and get a feel for all the things I’m involved with.”

Did you always know music would be your calling?

“Honestly, I did. The short version is that I had been playing piano in my second-grade classroom. My teacher called my mom and told her how I was playing so beautifully. My mom told her she must be talking about someone else, because I didn’t play. No one in my family was involved in the arts or even played an instrument, although my mother always liked music. Once she heard I was playing it sparked her imagination and a few days later a white piano arrived at the house. I started taking lessons and never looked back.”

Read the rest of my

Interview with Jordan Rudess by Clicking Here.

Lehigh Valley native John Morgan Kimock talks about his atmospheric electronic music and playing with members of Grateful Dead

A Lehigh Valley native, drummer John Morgan Kimock’s music can best be described as the soundtrack you’d hear while taking an ethereal hike or walk through the forest.

Photo by Mandy Pichler

Kimock attended Notre Dame High School for one year and the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts, where he studied drums, for three.

He also played with local musicians, including Post Junction and the Octave Below, in Lehigh Valley musical venues such as Godfrey Daniels, The Funhouse, Pearly Baker’s and Porters’ Pub.

His latest album, “Hikikomori,” released in March, is a patchwork quilt of organic, cinematic atmosphere. Although a primarily drum-focused compilation, it’s one that is also uniquely rich with layers of instrumentation and experimental sound.

I recently spoke with John Morgan Kimock about his music and more.

James Wood: How would you describe your music in terms of its sound? Is there a way you could put into words what your music is all about?

Kimock: “It’s cinematic, psychedelic, and made with both electronic and organic instruments. I like to say that if you took a drive or went somewhere to clear your head, my music is a good companion to go with the visual.”

Was this the type of music you always aspired to do?

“It was all kind of a big happy accident. Like any career, you make connections and eventually they start to pile up. Then all of sudden, you find yourself doing something you never thought you’d do. My dad [Steve Kimock] is a musician who grew up in the Lehigh Valley and I attribute a lot of my drumming career to him. He hired me a lot when I was in my late teens and early 20′s.

“Through that, I was able to meet people at shows and festivals and would wind up getting hired on to do something else. The music I make now has a lot to do with my love of instrumental and movie music. Music that accompanies a video and comes with a visual element. The music is certainly honest, and I enjoy sharing it with others.”

Read the rest of my Morning Call Interview with John Kimock By Clicking Here.

ArtsQuest concert preview: Guitarist Samantha Fish talks about the blues, her new album and raw, rock trio show

Photo: Kaelen Barowsky

Anyone who’s heard guitar maven Samantha Fish’s previous albums knows she’s developed an uncanny knack for combining elements of contemporary blues with guitar ferocity and visceral emotion.

Her most recent album, 2019′s “Kill Or Be Kind,” is reflective of that. It’s the first album to feature Fish as the sole guitarist and is rooted deep in the Delta, with a strong Memphis undertone.

Fish will bring her energy, and guitar, to Bethlehem’s SteelStacks 7 p.m. Friday, April 16, for an outdoor performance at the Highmark Blue Shield Community Stage on the Air Products Town Square. For this round of shows, she has stripped her band down to a three-piece unit, giving her the flexibility and freedom of extending lead breaks with dynamic improvisation.

CDC guidelines for proper social distancing and to provide a safe dining experience for all patrons will be in place at the performance, and Levitt Pavilion lawn spots will be spaced out accordingly. Food and beverages will be available via the Mack Truck Stop and bar on the lawn. No outside food or drink will be permitted.

I recently spoke with Samantha Fish about her upcoming show at SteelStacks. We also discuss her latest album, “Kill Or Be Kind,” memorable moments, and what makes blues such a great form of music.

As an artist, how has it been going for you this past year with touring being canceled due to COVID-19?

Samantha Fish: “Some days are better than others. The industry itself has changed so much over the last 10 years and performers now have to be on the road to have any kind of career. To have it all go away suddenly was a little jarring. It took me several months to truly understand that we were going to be in this for the long haul.”

Read the rest of my of my Interview with Samantha Fish by Clicking Here.