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Joe Biden-Kamala Harris Inaugural Concert, January 20, 2021

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night at 5:30 p.m. I flipped on the TV and found that MS-NBC was about to broadcast the commemorative concert for Joe Biden’s inaugural, which they made the mistake of beginning with Bruce Springsteen performing “Land of Hope and Dreams” as a solo acoustic number. Springsteen didn’t write this song for the Biden inaugural – he wrote it in 1998 but didn’t record it commercially until the Wrecking Ball album in 2012 – but it sure sounded as though he had. Indeed, the running theme of the concert was new hope, new renewal, emerging from the darkness into the light, and it’s clear the artists of America – most of whom had aligned themselves with anti-Trump rather than pro-Trump America (when Trump was inaugurated the biggest “name” he could get from the music world was country singer Toby Keith) – were seeing Biden’s assumption of the Presidency as redemptive. Fortunately we on the West Coast were

United in Song (PBS-TV, aired December 31, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Needless to say, our Viral Dictator transformed the fare that was offered on TV for last night’s New Year’s Eve, including eliminating the New York Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s concert (ironically, orchestras in Europe are mounting full-dress concerts and even opera performances in the COVID-19 era with appropriate precautions, but large-scale public events in this country are still Verboten … unless you’re Donald Trump) and leading PBS to substitute a Washington, D.C.-based virtual concert called United in Song that took place in part at the otherwise empty concert hall for the National Symphony (conducted quite beautifully by JoAnn Falletta – one more glass ceiling cracks! There are at least three first-class conductors these days who are women, Falletta, Marin Alsop and the quite good Simone Young, who so far is the only person who’s been able to make Richard Wagner’s early opera Rienzi so

Garth Brooks: 2020 Gershwin Prize (Library of Congress, Bounce, WETA, PBS, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2021 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved I had wanted to watch the show immediately after it on PBS because they were doing something involving Garth Brooks but I couldn’t remember what it was. When the show opened with Brooks himself and his touring band in a live video of a hot version of one of Brooks’ neo-honky-tonk numbers, “Ain’t Goin’ Down ’Til the Sun Comes Up,” that turned out to be a film clip from a 2008 concert video. The show was actually the celebration of Garth Brooks performing at the Library of Congress and being fêted by others in his realm of the business in honor of him being given the George and Ira Gershwin prize for songwriting – or at least the hype surrounding it says it’s for songwriting. The previous recipients, according to a Google search, are Hal David (Burt Bacharach’s lyricist for his glory years), undated; Carole King, 2013; Billy Joel, 2014; Willie Nelson, 2015; Smokey Robinson, 2016; Tony Bennett – who is

The Voice Christmas Special (Warner Horizon, ITV, NBC-TV, aired December 3. 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night NBC showed an unexpectedly interesting special of Christmas-themed music as oart if their so-called “reality” show The Voice , a singing competition in which established vocal stars basically have battles with each other over the fates of young, unknown contestants. Of course the so-called “coaches” of the new talents -- the established stars who provide the main reason anyone would want to watch this preposterous program (I’ve never seen a regular episode of The Voice but NBC’s relentless promos are enough to give me the idea) -- perform on their own. The Voice ’s Christmas show was basically an assemblage of clips from previous seasons of the show and featured not only this year’s “coaches” -- the repulsive Blake Shelton (his voice isn’t bad but his overall personality and demeanor is so bizarrely offensive I can’t imagine how he’s got two far sexier, more charismatic and more powerfu

2020 Country Music Association Christmas (ABC-TV, aired November 30, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved I watched what appears to be the first Christmas-themed holiday special of 2020, the CMA Christmas on ABC. It was surprisingly short -- only an hour, with just 10 songs -- but also welcome in its intimacy. Thomas Rhett and his wife, Lauren Akins (“Akins” is actually Rhett’s original family name) co-hosted the show and did so from a set representing their living room -- though in mid-show they ordered the cameras to pull back and reveal that it was a set, not their real living room, and there was a live audience, albeit one with masks on and small enough they could be properly “socially distant” under the iron rule of the SARS-CoV-w2 dictatorship. The show was blessedly and engagingly low-keyed; all the acts performed on sets representing living rooms and there weren’t any big productions, pyrotechnics or Cirque du Soleil-style acrobats twirling on wires above the stage. (I remember on the last Coun

55th Annual American Country Music Awards: New Artist Tenille Townes Shines in Politically, Socially Aware Show

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved Last night CBS-TV aired the 55th annual American Country Music Awards, which were originally supposed to be in April in Las Vegas (yeah, that well-known center of country music … ) since this was the “rump” country-music awards compared to the Country Music Association awards in the mother ship of the genre , Nashville, Tennessee. Alas, the SARS-CoV-2 dictatorship struck again: Nevada went under lockdown and so the ceremony got put off for five months and ultimately ended up in Nashville after all. The ceremony, such as it was, took place in three venues, all of them without audience members: the main stage at the Grand Ole Opry; Ryman Auditorium (the converted barn that was the original home of the Opry until it outgrew it in the early 1970’s) and the Bluebird Cafe. (It was occasionally jarring to hear an incandescent performance on one of these stages -- and have it greeted with silence at the end

40th Annual “A Capitol Fourth” Concert (PBS-TV, aired July 4, 2020)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2020 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved I spent the evening on the Fourth of July 2020 watching some interesting programming on KPBS: an early (1985) Ken Burns documentary called The Statue of Liberty (back when Burns still made films of reasonable length — this was just under an hour); a rerun of a local concert special from August 30, 2019 with the San Diego Symphony conducted by Christopher Dragon, focusing on the music of Tchaikovsky; and the centerpiece of the night, the 40 th anniversary presentation of A Capitol Fourth . Needless to say, this show was absolutely nothing like any of the 39 previous entries in the series, thanks primarily to the dictatorship of SARS-CoV-2 under which we presently live, in which a sub-microscopic assembly of nucleic acid, proteins and a lipid coat whose only purpose in life is to make more copies of itself has put an end to large public gatherings of virtually all sorts (unless you are Donald Trump