Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

Just ordinary people

I went to a benefit concert tonight at the Beacon Theater for the Parkside School, a private elementary school for children with language-based learning difficulties. Until a few days ago, I knew nothing about this school. I was going to see the performers - John Legend and Donna Summer.

John Legend was the main attraction for me, since I've been playing his "Get Lifted" album quite a bit since it came out. In preparation, I listened to his brand-new album on Rhapsody this afternoon. It seems OK, a little less funky and more low-key than the other album. I'm sure I'll like it more as I get used to it.

I walked to the Beacon, getting a warm H&H bagel on the way. The ticket was supposed to be at the will-call window, but the attendant directed me to a long line that stretched around the corner. The people around me hadn't heard of John Legend, but I assured them he was good, REALLY good. My ticket was waiting in an envelope when I finally got to the head of the line, and they were letting people in.

The Beacon is an old, ornate theater. My seat was on the first balcony, but they made everyone wait in the upstairs lobby. A woman came up and angrily dumped the contents of her purse on the floor, saying, "This always happens!" Somehow between the entrance where they tore the tickets and the top of the stairs, she and her husband lost their tickets. The husband insisted the wife had them, the wife argued that HE had them, and they were finally found in the husband's coat pockets.

My seat was in balcony row H, on the center aisle. Excellent. After a long wait, the emcees came out - Robert De Niro and his wife Grace Hightower, who are Parkside parents. Wow. Then the school founders introduced a video about the school. This was LOUD but I brought my noise-canceling headphones, and they dulled the impact. At one point, a 17-year-old alum was shown playing a Bach solo cello piece. As the lights came up, he was live onstage playing the same piece. Then a supporter came out and announced a million dollar additional gift; nice to have that kind of money to give away.

De Niro came back and introduced John Legend. He was alone with just his piano, opening with the new song "Save Room" and then doing "Ordinary People." Very good.

The stage filled with people, practically a full orchestra with a conductor for Donna Summer. They played a medley of her hits and I started getting excited. I love disco, I know these songs, and I like these songs. Donna herself then came out, in a black outfit that was leather on top and mermaid-pleated ball gown on the bottom. She looked great; research shows she's 57.

She sounded great, too. It was just fantastic. I'm listening to her greatest hits on Rhapsody right now, and I think her voice has gotten richer, stronger and deeper than the old records. She did several hits ("MacArthur Park," "On the Radio," "Bad Girls," "Hot Stuff," "Enough is Enough" and "She Works Hard for the Money") and a few things by other people ("Could It Be Magic," "With a Little Help from my Friends," "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" with Grace Hightower, and "Smile (though your heart is breaking)"). It was quite a production, with backup singers and young male dancers. The audience was dancing in their seats, and even in the aisles. By the end, I was up dancing to "Last Dance."

The whole time, I couldn't believe I was listening to...Donna Summer! In her patter, she mentioned she'd been away raising a family and now that they were grown, she wondered what to do with the rest of her life as she's already done it all. "We want you to SING!" someone yelled. Absolutely. Great concert.

Update: Here is a review from a fan site.

I was so energized I walked home, stopping for groceries on the way. Now my foot hurts. So much for Disco En.

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