Monthly Archives: February 2011

Crystal Clear

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Country singer Crystal Gayle performed to a sold-out crowd Friday night in Thunder Valley Casino’s Pano Hall. The audience was a mixture of old and older. Suffice it to say there were a few wheelchairs in the house, but this was a more sophisticated crowd with several people arriving in the snazzy electric versions.

All joking aside, it was clear that everyone in attendance had been following Crystal Gayle throughout her 40-plus-year career. Luis and Janet Gutierrez, who came all the way from Vallejo to see Gayle perform, were extremely pleased with the show. Their only complaint was that they wished she had played more of her original songs.

In addition to her hits below, Gayle also performed a number of Buck Owens hits and a song made famous by Dean Martin, “Miracles Are Made of This.”

“When You’re Smiling”
“Love To, Can’t Do”
“Why Have You Left the One”
“Just You and I” (originally performed with Eddie Rabbit)
“Don’t It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue”

The Gutierrezes almost didn’t get tickets ahead of time, thinking they could purchase tickets once they arrived at Thunder Valley. Little did they know that the older crowd likes to plan ahead, and the concert was already sold out. They were lucky enough to snag a couple of tickets due to a few no-shows and even landed in the front row.

Gayle performed with her sister, Peggy Sue Wright (backup and lead singer), Jay Patton (saxophone and vocals), John Kearns (lead guitar and vocals), Will Barrow (piano and vocals), Rob Price (bass), and Duane Norman (drums).

Gayle is best known for her song “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and her floor-length hair. Both were present Friday night. She appeared in a black sequin dress and leather-studded belt. Completing the ensemble was her famous long black hair that draped all the way to her ankles.

Gayle was born Brenda Gail Webb and later changed her name at the suggestion of her sister, Loretta Lynn. Lynn was already on the road to stardom during Gayle’s early years. It’s said that the idea of Crystal’s name came from the chain of Krystal hamburger restaurants that started in Chattanooga, Tenn. (you can’t get any more country than that).

Just before the end of the concert, Gayle performed a gospel medley and thanked the audience. The majority of the crowd started to get up and leave before she announced that she would stick around for one last song, which was “When I Dream.” I guess she didn’t realize that most of the folks had to head home to take their fiber and get to bed.

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Jeff Dunham: A Heart of Wood

Concert PhotographyJeff Dunham’s suitcase posse was in the house at Arco Arena Thursday night, performing to a sold-out crowd. As was expected, the audience was a mix of young and old, including my 12- and 13-year-old sons, Aidan and Liam.

Jeff Fa Fa DunHAM, which is how both the hyperactive Peanut and Aidan refer to him, was born in 1962. This makes Dunham an old guy who likes to play with dolls. Now we’re not talking about the kind of dolls Mom used to play with, or Dad for that matter (remember GI Joe, or maybe it was the Ken doll). No, we’re talking about larger-than-life, mouthy, belligerent, racist, downright disobedient, and let’s not forget just plain crazy, funny dolls.

These creations of lumber are nothing short of adorable, mean-spirited and, above all, hilarious. While Dunham is the creator, mastermind and of course the voice behind these creatures, he just didn’t seem to have the same comedic power while performing onstage without them.

Dunham started with 20 minutes of stand-up comedy about his past proclivities toward all things dorky, including yearbook photos with him and his dolls from the seventh grade all the way through college (his way of getting an 8-by-10 glossy for his portfolio). Dunham’s a likable guy, but it wasn’t very funny, and midway through his routine I found myself getting antsy for the show to start. It felt like he was trying to warm up the audience for the real stars of the show. But if this was the case, why did we just sit through 30 minutes of warm-up by the strangely compelling Trombone Guy, Jonathon Arons (that guy can move!) and funny songs about real-life drama from The Guitar Guy (Brian Haner)? They were a great warm-up. We didn’t need more.

But once he brought out Walter, his first character of the evening, you could feel the mood of the audience change. Dunham completely transformed from a so-so stand-up comedian into a wildly confident, absolutely hilarious comic in the form of Walter and all his other wooden (or is it silicon?) creations.

Dunham’s humor knows no boundaries. All races, creeds and religions are fair game. Throughout the performance you could hear the audience react to some of the more pointed remarks. Even Rio Linda came under fire. Dunham informed Walter that he was going to hell. Walter said he already knew that since their next stop was Rio Linda.

Last night’s cast of characters included:

Walter is a retired, grumpy old man. His arms are always crossed and he appears quite discontented. He’s a sarcastic, negative old cuss who has seen better days. A Vietnam War veteran and former welder, Walter doesn’t give a damn about anyone, even his own wife. Walter was Dunham’s own creation from conception to his silicon mold.

Walter and Dunham have a special relationship and share way too much information with each other. At one point they discussed a disease stemming from extreme cold weather in Minnesota called AFS (Ass Frozen Shut). Let’s just say Walter has no intention of going back to Minnesota.

Peanut is purple-skinned, and the bad kid of the bunch. He’s hyperactive and enjoys giving Dunham a hard time, even more so than his other characters. Peanut was born on a small Micronesian island. Dunham met Peanut in Florida and has been with him ever since. At least that’s how the story goes.

Peanut was the most entertaining of all the characters. Dunham insisted he apologize to someone who complained about his portrayal of Chinese people. Peanut responded by reading the apology in his best Chinese accent and refused to apologize.

José Jalapeño (on a Stick)
José is a talking jalapeño on a stick who wears a small sombrero. José speaks with a thick Latin accent and was paired up with Peanut. Peanut consistently made fun of José (on a stick) due to his Latin background.

Achmed the Dead Terrorist
Achmed, by far the most controversial of all Dunham’s wooden wonders, is a skeleton of a bumbling suicide bomber. Achmed was joined onstage with a brand-new character, his long lost son, Achmed Junior.

Achmed hit a snag in South Africa after the airing of a ring-tone commercial. South Africa banned the commercial because they believed he was mocking Islam. Thanks to widely successful YouTube videos and the controversy surrounding those commercials, Achmed’s videos have a combined total views of over 500 million, the highest percentage of views coming from South Africa.

As for Jeff Dunham ““ whatever you do, Jeff, don’t grow up. We like you just the way you are . . . with a heart of wood.

Jeff Dunham Tickets

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