From Orbison to Borodin
The Baker goes eclectic
Who: The Lonely
When: 7:30pm Sun., Nov. 10
Who: Elvis Meets Whitney Live
When: 7pm Sat., Nov. 16
Who: Pearl Django
When: 7pm Sat., Nov. 16
What: Borodin Meets Beethoven
When: 3pm Sun., Nov. 17
Who: Jesse Cook
When: 7:30pm Sat., Nov. 23
Where: Mount Baker Theatre, 104 N. Commercial St.
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
A few days ago, as I was walking from an appointment in the Fountain District to another appointment on Cornwall Avenue (read: a cookie from Pure Bliss), I sauntered past the Mount Baker Theatre. I like to look in the windows of downtown businesses when I pass them by, which sometimes makes me feel creepy, but not in the case of the MBT, which has windows that are made to be looked at. As I passed by one panel after the other, each devoted to an upcoming concert, author visit, magic show, action-sports movie or other event, I realized the venerable downtown venue has to clear a packed roster before the casts of the various Nutcrackers take over the space for the holiday season.
Musically speaking, the coming days herald a whole host of wildly varied artists and genres. If the window dressing is any indication, things are about to get pretty eclectic at the Baker.
The most immediate concert on the horizon is on Thurs., Nov. 7 and comes courtesy of Michael W. Smith, likely the only Christian musician other than Amy Grant that secular people know by name. I once went to a Michael W. Smith (I think you have to say his entire name every time) concert, back when I was young and possibly on the cusp of trouble and my parents were doing things like letting me choose between youth group and being grounded. A friend had a spare ticket, my mom said I could go, it was at the Seattle Center and I was promised pizza. And it was entertaining enough. Michael W. Smith seemed nice. People held hands and swayed and sang about being friends forever, and it was all very wholesome. It didn’t keep me out of trouble though. Sorry, Michael W. Smith. At any rate, I’m only recounting this anecdote because the concert is sold out, so trying to get you to go would just be cruel.
The same cannot be said about the show that will follow Michael W. Smith, which happens on Sun., Nov. 10 and is coincidentally the same day that everyone in attendance will time-travel back to an era when Roy Orbison was still alive, thanks to Canadian tribute band the Lonely. They’ve been at this Orbison gig for a minute and can capably channel the mesmerizing crooner—no mean feat considering the uniqueness of Orbison’s voice. While the audience at the show will no doubt go crazy for “Pretty Woman,” I’ve always been more of a “Only the Lonely” and “Crying” girl myself. And it won’t be all Orbison all the time when the Lonely take the stage. In a neat bit of musical crossover, they’ll be covering hits by the Traveling Wilburys as well as the Everly Brothers.
The following weekend at the Baker could give a person musical whiplash were they able to attend the trio of scheduled shows. But a person cannot do that unless they can be in multiple places at once because two of the concerts are happening at the same time—7pm Sat., Nov. 16—in the theatre’s smaller venues. And this is where things get weird.
The Encore Room will be taken over by not only Elvis, but also Whitney Houston. At the same time, just like they never were in life because Houston was 14 years old when Elvis died. But thanks to the talent of tribute artists, we need not be mired down in these petty concerns of “timelines” and “reality.” Jeffrey Elvis (I’m pretty sure that’s not the last name he was born with), will bring songs such as “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Love Me Tender,” and my favorite Elvis jam “Suspicious Minds” to life, while Gina Williams will embody Whitney, and take on the iconic hit that is “I Will Always Love You.”
Maybe Elvis and Whitney are not your thing and all you want is to hear some lively gypsy jazz. In that case, you’ll want to mosey your way to the Harold and Irene Walton Theatre where the ever-beloved and always-proficient practitioners of gypsy jazz, Pearl Django, will be holding court. For the last 25 years, the group has been interpreting the music of Django Reinhardt in their own very distinctive fashion, bringing it to new audiences and fans alike. The concert is one of the four remaining shows of the current Manouche N.W. series, which runs through Sat., April 18.
The last event of this wild weekend lineup takes place Sun., Nov. 17 in the theater proper, and since the remaining ticket count suggests it could sell out, I’d say put this paper down and purchase a ticket before you read the next paragraph. Selling out the Mount Baker Theatre is familiar territory for the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra, even more so when Israeli cellist Amit Peled is in town. The day’s program is called “Borodin Meets Beethoven,” and it will probably come as no surprise to anyone that I didn’t know who Borodin was until I Googled him just now (Beethoven I’m slightly more familiar with). And I’m glad I did because along with being an important Russian composer, he was also a pioneering chemist and founded a school of medicine for women. I haven’t even attended the concert and the Bellingham Symphony Orchestra has already made me smarter and more cultured.
The final hill of this musical rollercoaster is climbed and hurtled down on Sat., Nov. 23, which just happens to be one day after Gloria Steinem comes to town, an event for which tickets are inexplicably still available.
Side note: If you do not pack the house for Gloria, Bellingham, you do not deserve to have nice things again. There are about a hundred tickets left. You know what to do.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming, I’m about to use a bunch of words to describe guitarist Jesse Cook, all of which could be summed up far more succinctly simply by saying: He’s a total shredder. But he’s not content to be a regular total shredder. Instead he’s opted to shred down a far more difficult and narrow path as a flamenco guitarist, and has become one of the most influential and dynamic such musicians playing and composing today. But don’t take my word for it. Go to the concert, and if you still somehow find yourself unconvinced when it’s over (impossible), ask Cook if you can see his Juno award and his many other industry accolades. Although he probably doesn’t travel with his Juno award and it might be strange to ask him to produce it on demand, so your mileage may vary there.
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