Into the Ear of Madness: Week 24 — Surrender

Written by Into the Ear of Madness, Music

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Over the next year Terje Fjelde has agreed to listen to nothing but David Foster on his iPod. He’s loaded the thing with over 1,200 songs produced, arranged, composed, and/or played by David Foster. A deal with the devil? He keeps wondering.

I received the new David Foster CD/DVD in the mail yesterday along with his autobiography, Hitman! Forty Years of Making Music, Topping Charts & Winning Grammys.

I wasn’t ecstatic in any way – I jumped up and down a couple of times and did a pirouette in front of my bewildered wife – nothing major. The CD concept was a bit of a disappointment — no studio recordings, merely a selection of audio files from the PBS Special Tribute Concert featured on the DVD. I didn’t expect this Vegas extravaganza to affect me in any way, and a small part of me didn’t even want to see it. After all, what could Eric Benet, Michael Johns, or Katharine McPhee bring to the table? Sure, I used to adore David Foster, but I’m not that guy anymore – I haven’t been for the past 15 years. David Foster’s syrupy ballads doesn’t move my heart these days; John Coltrane and Bill Evans do.

And even though I always tell people I’m so uncool, it’s really just a way to downplay people’s expectations. I’m secretly convinced that I’m about the coolest person on this side of the North Pole. I have a giant ego and no doubt a seriously disturbed positive self-image. And most importantly, David Foster, Peter Cetera or “I Swear” have no place whatsoever in this delusion. So, when I sat down to watch the DVD, I was prepared to laugh at Peter Cetera’s spasmodic performance jerks. I was prepared to tsk and groan in despair as this poperatic catastrophe evolved before my eyes and ears.

Then something funny happened. I was about to turn away as Kenny G entered the picture two minutes into the concert, but once again the seductive tones of “Love Theme from St. Elmo’s Fire” had me transfixed. I suddenly took in the beautiful autumn leaves flowing over the background screen, I found myself smiling at Foster’s playful glances at his audience. And good, old Kenny G — he looked pretty great for a 52-year-old, didn’t he? NO! I did not think that thought! But I did.

Bring on Idol contestant Michael Johns. Damn, those opening chords to “She’s A Beauty” sound good. And Johns’ voice fits the material. He’s good. Maybe I should have watched American Idol after all? What have I been missing out on? And look at session veteran John Robinson behind the drums; he’s having a blast. So good to see talented people doing what they do best.

Next: Brian McKnight and “Mornin’,” the old Jarreau chestnut. Ooh, beautiful tone, complete control. At least until he forgets the words. No matter, it’s all part of the fun. On to “After the Love Has Gone.” And this is what really knocks me out. All my defenses are down. McKnight is totally in command — a flawless, powerful performance. And it’s a joy to watch Foster getting a complete kick out of it. What a feeling that must be for him — performing “After the Love Has Gone,” an undisputed classic that he wrote for one of the greatest bands in the history of popular music and which he no doubt still enjoys performing, in front of thousands of people at his own tribute concert with a band as airtight as a submarine. Oh, man. When they’re approaching the climax, you know, where they’re taking the woo-woo’s to a whole other level, I’m watching with tears in my eyes.

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At this point I’m completely won over. Bring on a video greeting from Babs [“she’s a really talented gal, really, isn’t she”], Katharine McPhee performing Sondheim’s “Somewhere” [“she’s so beautiful, they’re all so beautiful”], Blake Shelton [“what a commanding performer, a real man”], Cheryl Lynn [“oh yeah, she still has it”]. It’s all fodder for my sentimentality, and when Boz Scaggs and Peter Cetera finally enter the stage, my usual critical good (?) sense has taken an indefinite leave of absence. Once again, Scaggs moves me to tears with “Love, Look What You’ve Done To Me.”

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I’m completely taken aback by how great Peter Cetera sounds on his medley. I’ve seen some recent concert clips on YouTube, and whenever he hits a high note he removes his microphone and cuts the note, so you get these really staccato versions of his old Chicago hits. Well, none of that here – he hits every note crystal-clear and he holds them all the way through. My subconsciousness speculates that Foster may have been playing around in the studio, overdubbing Cetera’s performance with some of his old Chicago tapes, but my overall cheery mood this night overshadows any of my doubts. What a great performance.

It doesn’t matter that Cetera is followed by Andrea Bocelli, William Joseph, Celine Dion, Babyface, Charice, Michael Bublé and Josh Groban – I’m taking it all in and I’m loving every second of it. The voices, the band and the kind words showered on David Foster – it’s a celebration, it’s a grand celebration and it’s the way every celebration should be. Sigh. And “The Prayer” isn’t that bad, really.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a book to read. And since this is my last post for 2008, let me take the opportunity to thank you all for reading this series. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and a Very Mellow Christmas.