A Melange of McGuigan

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He’s been thrilling crowds since 2002.  Now the master maestro of Omaha, Billy McGuigan, is set to make his 500th performance at the Omaha Community Playhouse and it will happen during his latest run of Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist.

Billy McGuigan was ready to rock tonight and, believe me, that’s really saying something.  Attacking the music with a thunderous energy that never let up and actually increased to something cataclysmic, McGuigan and his Pop Rock Orchestra delivered a fiercely awesome 2+ hour concert that had the audience in the palm of their hands from the first note to the last clap.

If you have never seen Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist before (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you?) what you get is a show that offers classic rock songs done with a big band flair.  Even if you have seen this show, you really need to see this incarnation as Billy and company have completely revamped the show with a new set, lights, set up, and an almost completely new set list.  Truthfully, I rank this as one of McGuigan’s best performances to date and I have seen plenty of them over the years.

Few connect with an audience the way McGuigan can with his charming wit and storytelling abilities and when you add in his phenomenal musical abilities, you’re really in for something special.

Versatile seems almost too small a word for a guy who makes everything he plays sound like his own creation.  McGuigan hit the ground running with ELO’s “Evil Woman” and ran through rockers such as The Doors’ “Touch Me” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music” with his pulse pounding tenor and killed it in a guitar duel with Omaha’s personal Pete Townshend, Max Meyer, in the Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”.

McGuigan also slowed it down a notch with the Beatles’ beautiful “Yesterday” backed by the string trio of Melissa Holtmeier, Axelle Verboon, and Mindy Zimmerman.  And tears were a flowing when he teamed up with Tara Vaughan to perform an epic take on Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Speaking of Tara Vaughan, the mistress of the keyboards also got a fair chance to shine throughout the night with her one of a kind tickling of the ivories and that dreamy alto serenading the crowd with Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, the Supremes’ “Stop!  In the Name of Love”, and Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love”.

Featured performances were supplied by Natalie Thomas who practically had the audience purring with a throaty, sultry interpretation of Ike and Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” that was further bolstered with the almighty tenor of Ryan McGuigan; Steve Gomez made his singing debut with The Champs’ “Tequila” which featured his singular bass playing and a stellar solo from Stan Harper on saxophone; Matthew McGuigan took a moment in the sun with The Temptations’ “My Girl”; Omaha’s legendary jazz musician, Doyle Tipler, soloed on his trademark trumpet as only he could; Patrick Peters and Willie Karpf solidly rounded out the horns while the Doctor, Tomm Roland, kept the beat going on his drums.

The volume of the microphones could have used some slight boosting on a couple of occasions, but the only real disappointment of the night was that it had to end at all.

If you haven’t had a chance to see a show with Billy McGuigan and his band, this is the one to see.  You’ll feel like a million bucks before the night is through and if you strike fast you may be able to snatch up a ticket to see that magical 500th performance on August 17.  But any night of this run is going to be smoking good.

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist runs through August 18 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets start at $42 and can be obtained at www.omahaplayhouse.com, by calling 402-553-0800, or visiting the Box Office.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse.

Rock Twist and Shout

It’s rock numbers done with a big band flair.  It’s big band numbers done rock style.  It’s Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist and it is rocking out at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

If there is anyone out there who harbors any doubts about the talent of Billy McGuigan, they will surely be dispelled after watching this show.  Putting it simply, this man is a musical and performing savant.  There isn’t a genre of music he can’t play.  He has stage presence for which directors would kill.  He has a charming affability which makes you feel like an old friend spending an evening at his house.

Even I, who has had the pleasure of listening to Billy’s shows pretty regularly over the past 15 years, was completely blown away by this production.  It has something for everyone.  Do you like rock?  Well, you’ll get to hear the Beatles, the Who, the Beach Boys, Elvis, and Billy Joel.  Is adult contemporary/jazz your bag?  You’ll hear some Frank Sinatra and Harry Connick, Jr.  And each song has a unique arrangement that will make it seem like you’re hearing it for the first time all over again.

From the opening number of Billy Joel’s “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant”, Billy had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.  His pure tenor soared throughout the night as he sang renditions of “Yesterday”, “Luck be a Lady”, “God Only Knows”, “Time Won’t Let Me”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, “Pinball Wizard” and a cover of “Here, There, and Everywhere” supported only by bass and percussion that was so moving that I started to tear up a bit.

Billy was just as adept keeping the audience’s attention between numbers with a low key storytelling style as he shared stories behind the numbers, regaled us with some humorous anecdotes, and told a couple of tender tales about his career and life.

Every good front man needs an excellent band and McGuigan’s band brought it and then some.  Steve Gomez’s bass hummed all night long and his musical direction was so precise and on target.  Andrew Janak stunned on the tenor saxophone and I tip my hat to him for arranging all of these sensational numbers.  Max Meyer’s lead guitar work was the feat of a prodigy.  Tomm Roland’s drum work never missed a beat.  Omaha legend, Doyle Tipler, never fell flat with his trumpeting.  Patrick Brown shined on the alto sax and Patrick Peters’ trombone playing couldn’t have been any tighter.  Tara Vaughan’s piano playing is always a treat for the ears and her rich alto got its own moment to shine with a medley of “Downtown” and “To Sir, With Love”.  Backup vocals were supplied by the multitalented trio of Matthew and Ryan McGuigan and Jessica Errett who dazzled in their own featured songs, “634-5789” and “We’re Going to a Go-Go”.  And I’d like to give special notice to Steve Wheeldon whose lighting was so atmospheric and enhanced every song.

To be frank, when I first heard about Billy’s new show I thought he had taken on a real challenge for himself by putting new twists on old classics.  But he proved why he is Omaha’s premiere entertainer with this brand new show that will undoubtedly be another roaring success.  My only disappointment was that there wasn’t another hour to this show.  Or two.  Perhaps five.  Well, you get the idea.  This show only has a limited run, so get your tickets fast and prepare yourselves for an amazing time.

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist plays at the Omaha Playhouse from July 12-23.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $40 or $35 for groups of 12 or more.  For tickets, contact the box office at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Midtown Crossing Tunes up for Jazz on the Green

OMAHA, NEB. – (May 11, 2016) – Omaha Performing Arts kicks off a cool summer as it again presents Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing. The free outdoor concert series runs six consecutive Thursdays, from July 7 to August 11, 2016, in Turner Park at Midtown Crossing. Concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. on the permanent stage of The Pavilion at Turner Park. The lawn is open beginning at 5:00 p.m. every Thursday. This is the sixth year Omaha Performing Arts has presented the popular series, sponsored this year by Mutual of Omaha.

Omaha Performing Arts has partnered with the Blues Society of Omaha and Omaha Ballroom to present free pre-show entertainment. A band from the Blues Society of Omaha’s non-profit youth artist development program, BluesEd, will perform before the start of three Jazz on the Green performances. An instructor from Omaha Ballroom will lead a pre-show dance lesson at two of the performances. Instructors at Omaha Ballroom, under the direction of Elizabeth Edwards, have been teaching dance for more than a decade. The August 11 pre-show entertainment will be the Brownell -Talbot School’s Raider-Blues Jazz Combo. This year’s Jazz on the Green will feature the following groups:

Blue House with the Rent to Own Horns opens this season’s Jazz on the Green, Thursday, July 7. Members of the band have performed with musicians and groups from Ray Charles to Maroon Five. From a twist of blues to powerful horn interludes this group separates itself from other blues bands. Pre-show entertainment from BluesEd is by their “Us & Them Blues Band.” The July 7 concert is sponsored by Mutual of Omaha.

Esencia Latina will perform July 14. There are twelve musicians and vocalists who form the core group of this Omaha-based band. Their mission is to share Salsa and other Latin music with Omaha, the Midwest and beyond. Pre-show Salsa Lessons will be taught by Omaha Ballroom. This week’s concert is sponsored by Fran and Rich Juro.

July 21 Cha Wa will perform. This New Orleans-based band is known for its red-hot combination of two of that city’s best traditions, Mardi Gras Indians and street level funk music.

BluesEd presents “Dilemma” as the pre-show entertainment.

Billy McGuigan and the Omaha Big Band perform Thursday, July 28. This popular performer, the creator of three international touring shows including Rave On!, Yesterday and Today and Rock Legends, brings the big band sound to Jazz on the Green. Swing Dance lessons will be available from Omaha Ballroom during the pre-show. This concert is sponsored by Beardmore Subaru.

The August 4 Davina and the Vagabonds performance will feature musical influences ranging from Fats Domino and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to Aretha Franklin and Tom Waits. The show will be filled with New Orleans charm and Memphis soul swagger. BluesEd will present “Voodoo Vinyl” as pre-show entertainment. This concert is sponsored by C & A Industries, Inc.

The final Jazz on the Green concert is Saxophone Superstar Kim Waters, Thursday, August 11. This creative musician-composer-record producer has had 16 Top 10 and 14 #1 singles, 4 #1 CDs in his 25-year career of distinctive, soul-imbued melodies and seductive grooves. Brownell -Talbot School’s Raider-Blues Jazz Combo will provide the pre-show entertainment. This concert is sponsored by Nebraska Medicine.

All Jazz on the Green at Midtown Crossing concerts are free to the public, with no reservations or tickets needed. Seating in the center bowl of Turner Park, the grassy circular area with a direct view of the stage, will be permitted at 5:00 p.m., though the green spaces outside the bowl will be available before 5. Pre-show entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. and the headlining performance starts at 7:30 p.m. Midtown Crossing offers convenient and secure parking for more than 3,000 vehicles. Two parking garages are easily accessible from 33rd, Farnam and Harney streets. In both garages, the first three hours are free, and visitors pay only $1 for each hour thereafter.

For the convenience of concert attendees, Midtown Crossing restaurants will be set up in Turner Park, selling grilled fare, concessions and beverages each week.

The sponsor for Omaha Performing Arts presents Jazz on the Green at MidtownCrossing is Mutual of Omaha. Individual concert sponsors are Beardmore Subaru, C&A Industries, Inc., Fran and Rich Juro, Mutual of Omaha and Nebraska Medicine. Media sponsors for this year’s series are the KETV, KIOS and Omaha World-Herald. For more information about the series and the artists, visit JazzOnTheGreenOmaha.com.

 

Diana Ross to Perform at Orpheum Theater

EXCEPTIONAL ARTISTS PRESENTS

DIANA ROSS

Friday, July 22, 2016 | 8:00 p.m. at Orpheum Theater

OMAHA, Neb. (March 28, 2016) – One of the most iconic female singers of all time, Diana Ross performs in Omaha for the first time in over 30 years – Friday, July 22, 2016; 8:00 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater.

Tickets priced $129.50, $89.50, and $69.50 will be available to the public Friday, April 1 at 10:00 a.m. exclusively through Ticket Omaha, (402) 345-0606, ticketomaha.com, or at the box office, 13th and Douglas streets.

Her musical repertoire encompasses R&B, soul, pop, disco and jazz, and includes Stop! In The Name of Love, Where Did Our Love Go, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, You Can’t Hurry Love and Endless Love, which remains one of the most successful duets in pop history.

Her lustrous career was celebrated by the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 2007 and the Grammys acknowledged her with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. The Guinness Book of Records has named her the “Most Successful Female Vocalist of All Time”.

Diana Ross helped shape the sound of popular music and continues to perform as one of the most identifiable, unique, beloved and influential singers of successive pop generations.

Buyers beware: Ticket Omaha is the only authorized vendor for Holland Center and Orpheum performances; tickets purchased from other sources will be more expensive with higher handling fees and carry no guarantee of delivery or being honored for admission to the performance.

For more information, visit http://www.dianaross.com/

Biography

Diana Ross’ famed and remarkable career spanning almost five decades has resulted with major awards and accolades and music history milestones. Diana Ross is a consummate performer as well as one of the most iconic female singers of all time and one of the most prominent women in popular music history and pop culture of the late 20th century.

Her international achievements were acknowledged by the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in December 2007 in Washington, DC. The honor celebrated her lustrous career of excellence in music, film, television and theatre, as well as her cultural influences, humanitarian work and her contributions to American culture. The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (Grammys™) celebrated her remarkable career in 2012 with their highest honor, The Life Time Achievement Award.

The entertainment industry saluted her portrayal of Billie Holliday in the film Lady Sings the Blues with top awards and nominations. The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences bestowed an Oscar nomination for her extraordinary performance as Best Actress and The Golden Globe Awards gave her a trophy for that same role. Diana Ross went on to star in further films, Mahogany and The Wiz. Ross won Broadway’s top honor with a Tony Award for her one-woman show, An Evening with Diana Ross. The same show was later broadcast as a television special.

Career milestones include induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame, National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Hero Award, NAACP Entertainer Award, Billboard’s Female Entertainer of the Century Award, The Soul Train Legend Award and International Lifetime Achievement at the World Music Awards. The icon is forever cemented in history with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stop! In The Name of Love, Where Did Our Love Go and You Keep Me Hangin’ On have all been inducted into the NARAS Hall of Fame. Stop! In The Name of Love and You Can’t Hurry Love are among The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll. In February 2012, The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences will bestow one of its highest honors to Ms. Ross by presenting to her the Grammy’s Life Time Achievement Award.

The Guinness Book of Records jointly awarded her with its Lifetime Achievement Award and the title of “Most Successful Female Vocalist of All Time.” She first reached the No.1 position on both the U.S. and UK charts with Where Did Our Love Go. This was the first of a number of consecutive No.1 hits in the U.S.

Beginning in the 60s, as lead singer of the world renowned group, The Supremes, Ross achieved the unprecedented feat of 12 number-one singles in the U.S. becoming the most successful American group in history and rivaled only by The Beatles for the position of the biggest hit group of that generation. Diana Ross went on to achieve six number-one single as a solo artist amassing a total of 18 number-ones. Diana Ross phenomenal music career is marked by chart and commercial successes. In the U.S. alone, to date, she has tallied 31 Top Ten singles and 14 Top Ten Albums selling over 100 million units around the globe.

When Endless Love hit number-one in 1981, Ross became the first female artist in music history to place six single at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Endless Love remains one of the most successful duets in pop history.

Diana Ross’ musical repertoire encompasses R&B, soul, pop, disco and jazz, the recently released I Love You CD, jumped onto the chart as Billboard Magazine’s Hot Shot Debut title.

As lead singer of The Supremes, in the 60s, Diana Ross helped shape the sound of popular music, changing the landscape and paved way for contemporary music. Her love of life, never-ending wonder, the appreciation of goals and achievements and sheer human spirit define the artist that is Diana Ross and continue to make her one of the most identifiable, unique, beloved and influential singers of successive pop generations.