Saturday, August 15, 2015

Santana Brings Latin Flavor To Forest Hills Stadium

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

The legendary Carlos Santana made his way onto the iconic Forest Hills Stadium stage, donning a fedora hat, a black shirt, and white pants, and an approximate 10,000 concertgoers cheered. On August 14, as part of Santana’s Corazón tour, the venue was transformed into a large scale dance party under starlit skies, which was complemented by a multi-colored lighting spectacular which accentuated his audience. With a guitar in hand, he fused rock and Latin American music, and his sophisticated rhythms electrified the audience. His repertoire featured a mix of longtime favorites and new hits, which included “Oye Como Va,” “Smooth,” “Maria, Maria,” “Saideira,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Tequila,” “Jin-go-lo-ba,” and “Corazon Espinado.” 

Carlos Santana accompanied by Santana Band

Back in the 1970s, Santana called Queens home, and now his concert marked his first appearance in the borough. Another first is that “Corazón,” which was released in 2014, is an exclusively Latin album which merges diverse rhythms borrowing from cumbia, mambo, rock, and reggae, and the tracks are predominantly played by Latin artists. Concertgoer Cristina De Leon said, “I love how Santana can blend so many genres into his music, and his playing seems so effortless. I also love how he resonates with today’s artists.” She expressed much pride in introducing quality music to her daughter in an easily accessible and unique setting. “I wanted to give her the experience of seeing a living legend!”

Carlos Santana was born on July 20, 1947 in Autlán de Navarro, Mexico. He achieved 100 million record sales since the 1960s, is the recipient of ten Grammy awards and three Latin Grammy awards, and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009. “What is distinguishable is his ability to use his guitar as an extension of his soul, as if he is singing and speaking through it, and there are only a few artists who can master that,” said Forest Hills resident Nick Dell’Anno. He referenced Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour. “Santana transcends guitar playing into something much more primal and integral,” he continued.

Talent runs in Santana’s family. One of his concert’s many highlights was his 32 year-old son, Grammy winner Salvador Santana’s singing, rapping, and playing the keyboard for a few numbers from his album “Fantasy Reality,” set to be released this month. Santana gracefully referred to his son as “My teacher.” The Santana Band included vocalists Tony Lindsay and Andy Vargas, David K. Mathews on keyboard, Paoli Mejias on conga drum, and Jeff Cressman on trombone.

Pat Lannan displays his Santana collectible
Pat Lannan, an avid concertgoer at Forest Hills Stadium said, “I've never seen such an enthusiastic audience, where the whole audience was dancing throughout.” One of his favorite numbers was” Black Magic Woman,” which was made additionally memorable due to a chorus of concertgoers. Lannan marveled over how this concert was scheduled close to the eve of Woodstock's 46th anniversary, which Santana was a part of. “They sounded as exciting now, as they did back in 1969 at the Woodstock festival,” he said.

“Viva Santana!” said Nidia Menasche, who attended 14 Santana performances, which she views as an opportunity for quality family time. She explained, “His compassion for people, which shows as he plays his guitar is what makes Santana a true artist.” Then she commended him and his family for establishing The Milagro Foundation, which benefits underserved children worldwide by issuing grants to community tax-exempt organizations that assist children with health, education, and the arts. 

Alabama Shakes on September 19 will wrap up the summer of 2015 concert season, which featured notable artists such as The Who, Ed Sheeran, James Taylor, and The New York Pops with Sutton Foster and Pink Martini. Event Manager Brian Vinikoor stated in an interview, “Our goal for the summer of 2016 will be to continue to bring world class talent to Forest Hills and continue to enhance the fan experience.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Forest Hills Stadium Welcomes The New York Pops

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

Colin Donnell, Musical director Michael Rafter, Megan McGinnis, Sutton Foster, NY Pops director & conductor Steven Reineke
Sutton Foster with The New York Pops, Aug 6, Photo by Michael Perlman

It was history in the making at Forest Hills Stadium, as The New York Pops graced the stage with Sutton Foster on August 6, followed by their collaboration with Pink Martini on August 7. While the scene transformed from sunny skies to starlit evenings, multi-generational concertgoers were already anticipating The New York Pops’ return to Forest Hills in 2016.

Music director and conductor Steven Reineke said, “The New York Pops has performed in New York City parks quite a bit, but we’ve never had a permanent summer home. We are so excited to establish something lasting in Queens, in such a legendary music venue.”

The New York Pops, which was founded in 1983, is recognized as America’s largest independent pops orchestra and the sole professional symphonic orchestra in New York City which specializes in popular music. The New York Pops’ “Kids in the Balcony” program offered over 1,000 complimentary tickets to underprivileged children, and to further make live music accessible, family packages began at ten dollars. “Our PopsEd programs are designed to engage kids, and make them excited about working together and learning many life skills through singing, playing, and listening to music,” said Reineke.

Michael Perlman with Sutton Foster

Tony Award-winning artist Sutton Foster has performed in 11 Broadway shows including “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” Special guests were television actor and Broadway artist Colin Donnell who appeared in “Violet” and “Jersey Boys” and Megan McGinnis who played Eponine in Les Misérables. In an interview, Donnell explained, “Making my debut with The New York Pops in such an awesome venue is a dream come true!”

Michael Perlman with Colin Donnell

Michael Perlman with Megan McGinnis 

Nearly 20 performance numbers consisted of “Begin the Beguine,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Neverland,” and “On the Streets of Dublin.” Both acts opened with Overtures from “Anything Goes” and “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” “The History of the TV Overture” was a medley of classic American television theme songs including “I Love Lucy” and “The Addams Family.”

Pink Martini delivered another evening of brilliance, with bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale, co-lead vocalists China Forbes and Storm Large, and special guest Meow Meow. Considered the “little orchestra,” Pink Martini has a huge following with their international tours. Over 20 multi-lingual hits included “Amado Mio,” “Sympathique,” ¿Dónde estás, Yolanda?” “Ne me quitte pas,” “Quizás Quizás Quizás,” and “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love.”

The audience was actively engaged in both concerts. Rego Park resident Edward Aronowitz said, “Sutton Foster is a show-stopper type of performer, who is warm to her audience and has great control of her vocal chords.”

 Lisa Gwasda, a music teacher, who takes pride in her past experience in singing as part of a chorus with The New York Pops said, “The best thing to do as a New Yorker is to enjoy a concert under the stars, and The New York Pops and Sutton Foster can’t be beat.”

Native Forest Hills residents Ricky Salem and his mother Mary Salem also made plans to enjoy the first night. Glancing at the diverse audience, he said, “This is a great addition to the ambiance of our neighborhood and city, and the turnout shows that the stadium is not just for rock concerts.”

The NY Pops & Pink Martini concert - Pianist & Bandleader Thomas Lauderdale, Vocalists Meow Meow, China Forbes, Storm Large

When the Pink Martini concert featured an open call to dance in front of the stage, Marlene and Jacques Winter of Cold Spring Harbor, NY, who have attended many New York Pops at Carnegie Hall concerts, began swinging.  “We feel like star swing dancers in Forest Hills, and next year we hope to dance on the stadium stage,” said Marlene.

Swing dancing couple Marlene & Jacques Winter at Pink Martini concert

Meow Meow with Tim Brown, left at Pink Martini concert

Tim Brown of Midtown Manhattan, who attended the Pink Martini concert, is a retired FDNY survivor of 9/11. “Music is a healing art, which helps me deal with the murder of so many of my friends on 9/11,” Brown said. He would often sing along, and “Brazil” was one of his favorite numbers. He said, “The entire ensemble was on stage and it got everyone up out of their seats.” That was when audience members formed a Conga line around the aisles.  

Brown also had a moment under the spotlight. He explained, “When Meow Meow pointed to me and said ‘You!,’ my face turned red. When she told me to get on my knees, well, what can you do? After all, how often does a hot cabaret star demand you wrap your arms around her, as she gyrated to the beat?”

The concerts also elicited fond memories. For Magda Katz, a theatrical entertainment correspondent, it marked her return to Forest Hills Stadium, after seeing Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland in the 1960s. In reference to Pink Martini’s “Amado Mio,” she said, “I love its Latin flavor, which reminds me of songs I grew up with.”

The New York Pops with Pink Martini

Michael Perlman with Meow Meow & Storm Large