Monday, April 27, 2009

Chris Botti Review

Here we are; the self-proclaimed "Botti Babes," posing with the lobby poster before heading to our seats in Birmingham, Alabama, to see Chris Botti and the Alabama Symphony. I'm to the left in Botti-acious Black, Carroll in Bluesy Blue, and Bobbie in Musical Mango....ha! We arrived early and checked out all the tables that were set up selling various items. Bobbie bought Chris's new "Chris Botti in Boston" CD but those lobby prices were expensive. Walking to our seats in Portal 1 the usher kept walking closer and closer to the stage - we had seats on the 2nd row and didn't even realize it. Chris came out on our side of the stage and would retreat to our side (stage slightly left) when other musicians were being highlighted. We were at least 10' or less from him at any given time. I'd say we were in heaven.

The Alabama Symphony played about 30 minutes, then introduced Chris and his band. WHAT a BAND! OMG. Mark Whitfield on guitar, Billy Kilson on drums, Geoffrey Keezer on keyboards and a new upright bass player I didn't recognize who reminded me a lot of a younger Neil Young in appearance.

Billy Kilson - drums

Guest appearances were made by Lucia Micarelli, violin, and Sy Smith, vocalist.

Mark Whitfield - guitarist

After the show nearly 4,000 people queued up for Chris Botti's autograph. Since I didn't need another one - ahem - we just mingled with the band and crew and looky-loos. In doing so, we got to chat with nearly everyone who performed. Mark Whitfield, above, guitarist, is one of the most personable guys whose personality fills the stage and room. His new CD, "Songs of Wonder," highlights and pays tribute to Stevie Wonder.

Geoffrey Keezer - Piano - and our friend Bobbie

I was not familiar with Geoffrey Keezer until this show. Normally, Billy Childs plays with Chris but his tours are so lengthy that he must regularly substitute with other players. The piano was on our side of the stage and this guy rocked the songs. The piano is literally an extension of his body and spirit. He talked with Bobbie and me for a long time while we watched the line snake around Chris. Geoffrey Keezer also has a new CD out called "Aurea," which is heavily influenced by global jazz.

Cutie Patootie Mark Whitfield again...

Carroll played the role of paparazzi as I couldn't take the big camera in - or so I thought. At this little meet and greet EVERYONE had a camera except for me and Bobbie, or so it seemed. Most were using their cell phones or iphones. Every time she would take a photo of Mark he would stop what he was doing, smile and wink at her. Nice guy.

Mark rests as Chris signs autograph number 2, 683...

While the musicians are meeting the crowd, signing autographs and winding down from the show, the road crew is breaking down the equipment and packing the instruments and gear on their various buses. Chris told us that when they finish up tonight they'll pile into buses and drive all night to West Palm Beach to play a concert the next night. Chris Botti and his band play an average of 250 concerts PER YEAR.

Not being a musician I cannot speak the lingo and give you a knowledgeable musical review. However, what I can tell you is that the difference in this band since the last time I saw them live - 2006 (front row!) - and Friday night is astonishing. The band has morphed into a cohesive personification of musical energy. They're tight and loose all at the same time. That they are friends is obvious. That they respect each other is refreshing. They play off the audience at every chance, and Chris always plays to each child who attends. The funniest moment I've ever witnessed at a concert was after Sy Smith's vocal number that brought the house down. Even members of the symphony were bobbing their heads and tapping their feet - lol! Standing ovation with yells and whistles and stomps and thunderous applause. When we all finally sat down Chris was laughing. A little girl on the 2nd row had slept through the entire thing. He had his stage manager come out and take a photo to send to the mom. Geoffrey Keezer got up from the piano to take a photo with his cell phone. They were so charmed by the experience and talked to the mom from the stage, who obviously wasn't able to stand for the ovation. It was a "really moment." (Sting fans understand that phrase)

If Chris Botti and his band come your way please do yourself a favor and check them out. You will not be disappointed.


MNGarden said...

I have Chris Botti in Boston but live is a whole other thing. I love him. Wish I could have been with you.

Daniel Spurgeon said...

Great write up and photos! Ya'll are Paparazzi! :) It seems that all the band was more than accommodating and kind. Very nice post.

Anonymous said...

What a great review Deb. I feel like I was right along with you. Chris and his band are so fantastic and Mark's cousin Sy Smith has got some set of pipes. I'm green with envy.
Chris is such a class act. I bet he stayed until every single person had gotten their autograph and photo. He makes himself so available to his fans. I love the shots of Mark. He is such a cutie and so talented. I must check out his CD.



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