Scenes from Arts-Burgh
A handful of offerings from Pittsburgh's cultural arts and entertainment events :
Mavis Staples found a responsive congregation for the musical gospel she preached Saturday at Dowe's on 9th, Downtown.
The soulful diva from the Staple Singers delivered an energetic performance to a full house -- and then some -- at the club. Owner Al Dowe even had to add some theater-style seating in the front of the room to accommodate the response to the show.
Staples certainly didn't disappoint. Backed by a quartet and her sister, Yvonne, she sang songs that included "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," which she attests was the first tune the Singers did when they were put together by her dad, Pops.
But she also did tunes from her new album, such as "God Is Not Sleeping," the classic "Respect Yourself," and "The Weight," a song she gave even more heart than delivered by The Band.
Because her repertoire is so large, she was able to offer a steady stream of songs that were so satisfying it wasn't till later a listener would realize she didn't sing such wondrous pieces as the new "Times Like These."
It didn't seem to matter. She had the crowd on its feet more than once and kept it swaying the whole evening.
-- Bob Karlovits
The Derek Trucks Band
The Derek Trucks Band, in a blaze of jazz fusion glory, came through Thursday night at the Rex Theatre with a technically adroit, funky 90-minute set, plus encore. Original favorites included "Soul Serenade," "Namia," the upbeat "Mr. PC" and a rare, complete cover of Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead."
Although much of the venue was filled with happy people acting silly, paying more attention to the beer they drank -- or spilled -- than the music they paid to see, the evening was a success. Lots of heads, lots of yelling -- including a loving declaration from "Angie" who, during a passionate musical interlude, screamed, "Have my baby, Dick!" from the cramped second-floor balcony.
The diverse crowd ranged from 16 to 60, though most were guys. And they did not, in general, include too many folks with the expected long, greasy hair, tie-dyed clothing and sandals. The night was boisterous and fun -- and a great show.
-- Matt Stroud
The Sports Museum at the Sen. John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center in the Strip District opened with a flurry of festivities Saturday morning. The Shaler Area High School band serenaded guests, and former Steeler Matt Bahr and Matthew Wilson of Central Catholic High School kicked footballs through goal posts from Three Rivers Stadium.
Inside, there's a wealth of sports lore and memorabilia that should attract ardent and casual fans alike. But on opening day there were still a few unfinished exhibits, and many displays were unmarked, leaving some visitors to wonder aloud what they were viewing.
When it is completed, however, look for the Sports Museum to be one of the premier attractions in Western Pennsylvania.
-- Regis Behe
Halfway through his set at Club Cafe in the wee hours of Friday night/Saturday morning, Andrew Bird asked the crowd, "So, who wants to hear a song about the apocalypse• I've got several."
The packed house cheered noisily, but songs about more mundane subjects went down even better. Bird is that rare bird who's both a virtuoso instrumentalist and an outstanding lyricist. But he's also a hard-to-market musical chameleon, wielding the skills of a classically trained violinist, a background in gypsy jazz and swing (with the Squirrel Nut Zippers), and xylophone and electric guitar, too, sometimes in the same song. Using a sampler pedal, he plays both the rhythm and lead.
Plus, he whistles. The rock 'n' roll tradition of whistling isn't a great one. But Bird's whistle has this eerie, unearthly sound like a theremin or musical saw that cuts conversation down to nothing.
Two years ago, when Bird was at Rosebud, it was deathly quiet because there were only about eight people there. This kind of quiet is much better.
-- Michael Machosky
It's a concert. It's a movie. It's the godfather of multimedia, the silent movie.
One of the highlights of this year's Three Rivers Film Festival was Sunday night's screening of F.W. Murnau's "Sunrise" (1927), one of the greatest films of the silent -- or any -- era.
Dr. Philip Carli, a soft-spoken, mustached gentleman who looks like he could have walked right out of the film, accompanied the movie on solo piano. He mentioned that he was using much of the original score -- which was intended for massive orchestras -- but it could change at any point, depending on the crowd's response.
"Sunrise" has the simplest of stories -- a love triangle between a farmer, his innocent wife and a rapacious temptress from the city. It's also a truly beautiful film, using all the tricks and tropes of cinematic art to envelop you in a story that seems as old as time.
As the crowd re-emerged into the frigid air, it was like stepping forward almost a century. A guy in his late 20s remarked, "That's the only way to see a movie like that."
-- Michael Machosky
Quantum Theatre's friends and subscribers got an insider's view of play development Thursday and Friday evening.
European director and playwright Dan Jemmet had spent the previous week working with eight Pittsburgh-area actors on what will become the world premiere of the English-language version of Jemmet's 2003 Parisian "Dog Face."
On Friday evening, the audience of about 50 sipped box wine from small plastic glasses as the actors warmed up with vocal and physical stretches on a tattered Oriental carpet atop the bare concrete floor.
"We started with stuff that was kind of abstract that got more articulated as the week went on," explained Karla Boos, Quantum Theatre's artistic director, as she introduced the actors and explained the plot.
What followed was a half-hour showcase of improvisational and unconnected scenes that pairs of actors had developed under Jemmet's direction. Styles and tones ranged from Martin Giles and Sheila McKenna's violent, but very funny, trailer trash couplings and combat to other actors offering instant-replay variations on a scene.
Though in no way a polished product, this behind-the-scenes look at the actor's process had the effect of whetting the audience's appetite for the completed work, planned for a run that begins March 10.
-- Alice T. Carter