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5 great duets of the '80s

Kenny Rogers' concert last night at Kleinhans Music Hall made me nostalgic for the great overblown duets of the 1980s. Alas, there was no Dolly Parton or Sheena Easton present. Rogers made a stab at "Islands in the Stream," but it was brisk, and by himself.

My advice is, next time around, dump the violinist -- you could hardly hear her anyway -- and hire a female vocalist instead, and let's hear "Islands in the Stream" as the duet God clearly intended it to be. Plus we could hear "We've Got Tonight," which Rogers had to skip last night entirely.

CLASSIC Kenny Rogers performance of "We've Got Tonight," with Dolly Parton:

Are they born entertainers or what? That look on his face when he hears Dolly Parton's voice. Then the way she comes in with the two bodyguards. They see her all the way to the stage and Kenny puts out his hand and helps her up and the crowd goes wild.

And Dolly Parton, so beautiful. "Who needs Sheena Easton?" Too funny.

Other overblown '80s duets:

Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, "Up Where We Belong." From the Richard Gere movie "An Officer and a Gentleman."

Unfortunately their mikes are stationary so you do not get the show biz you get with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton. I am not sure Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes were capable of that kind of thing anyway. This whole performance seems to take itself kind of seriously.

Still, an unforgettable duet. Back in the day it was everywhere on the radio, everywhere.

"Somewhere Out There," from "An American Tail": Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram.

Unfortunately I cannot find a live performance of that one.

Here is dandy footage of Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville singing "All My Life."

They also had that other big hit, "Don't Know Much."

Isn't this fun? What other great duets from the '80s do we remember?

Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle, "On My Own."

Good theatrics in this one! And there is that line about "Now we're getting a divorce, and we weren't even married!" Burt Bacharach wrote this one.

Ah, the great duets of the '80s.


-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Chevelle to perform at Rapids Theatre

Alternative hard rock group Chevelle, joined by Middle Class Rut and Janus, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26 in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls).

Tickets are $25 advance, $30 day of show and go on sale at noon Saturday (Dec. 24) through the box office, online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, call 205-8925 or visit

Critics' Corner chat for Dec. 21

New music video: The Albrights' 'Hard Times'

This week, Buffalo band The Albrights released a music video for their song "Hard Times." The piece, now on YouTube, was directed by Chris Kelly, who helmed a memorable production of "Oliver!" featuring the band back in September. Take a look at the new video, now making its way around Facebook and Twitter:

--Colin Dabkowski

The 'O Holy Night' Olympics

Last week I got to interview Kenny Rogers in advance of his concert here in Buffalo, which takes place tonight, Wednesday night, at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Kenny Rogers soars easily into my list of top 10 interviews of all time -- that is, the artists I have most enjoyed talking to. He is a darling, darling man. At least that is my impression from our phone conversation. When I hung up, I was laughing and Kenny was still talking. That was how much fun it was.

I am still laughing at the argument we had over the history of "O Holy Night." It's in the story -- it started because I had seen a clip of Kenny Rogers in Toronto -- that is it up above, at the top of this post -- in which he gave a history of the song that, while entertaining, was just wrong. And I took him to task for it. And he was such a good sport. By the way although I could not work it into the story, Kenny Rogers did laughingly tell me he would do more research.

Pursuant to that I got thinking about "O Holy Night." That is a polarizing Christmas carol. Polarizing, get it? North Pole? Ahem.

What I mean is, some people love it -- I am among them -- and some people hate it. If people hate it, it is usually because it could be called showy. Which it is, but in a wonderful way. Most of the Christmas carols everyone knows are centuries old, and "O Holy Night" dates to the 19th century. The composer, Adolphe Adam, was known for his light operas and knew how to showcase and challenge the human  voice. The song has these great leaps and thrilling high notes. It is so of its time, like Puccini's "Nessun Dorma."

Here is Jussi Bjorling, the great Swedish tenor, going full steam. This is a recording I absolutely cannot get over. The song just pouring out of him. It is like one of the wonders of the world.

That final high note, can you believe it? When I wrote "going full steam," I meant it. He starts out relatively low-key and then builds until you feel as if you are marveling at a gigantic, powerful locomotive working smoothly and perfectly. You would not think it was possible for a human being to sing like that! 

"O Holy Night" is also a showpiece for sopranos. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the legendary Leontyne Price. The richness and grace of Leontyne Price's voice makes this especially thrilling. 

Sing it, Maestra! That video makes me nostalgic. Growing up in the '70s, I remember it was not opera until they brought out Leontyne Price, wearing some extravagant opera costume and, usually, an extravagant Afro. What a striking presence and a striking voice.

There are marvelous voices in pop music and I love it when these singers, like their classical counterparts, soar like eagles and tackle "O Holy Night." The only thing is, I believe you should not cheat. You must nail the high notes. Johnny Mathis does.

Johnny Mathis puts his own creative spin on the end of the song that does not take away from its virtuosity. Bravo!

I know we already had a tenor, Jussi Bjorling, but we have to include Mario Lanza, we just have to.

Dear Mario. That is marvelous! The way he sings: "And the soul felt its worth." Then the chorus comes in. These people really take the song at a good clip. A wonderful, classic recording.

It is tempting to go on like this all day, listening to various versions of "O Holy Night."

You could do worse!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Kenny Rogers performs Christmas show at Kleinhans tonight

Kenny Rogers’ husky voice, his sense of humor and the disarming honesty he brings to simple ballads have made him a hit not only with country music fans but fans of pop music across the board. Songs like “The Gambler,” Ruby” and “Islands in the Stream” -- the magnificently overblown duet with Dolly Parton -- have made him a superstar worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now 73, Rogers is on the road with his Christmas show. Begun by accident 30 years ago—a fan at a December show yelled out “Why don’t you sing a Christmas song?”

The concert has become close to the singer’s heart. He is in a mellow mood. Earlier this year, he released his first gospel album, available exclusively at Cracker Barrel stores, called “The Love of God.” The Christmas show is right up his alley. “They tell you you can’t say ‘Merry Christmas,’” he told The Buffalo News. “Well, I can. So, Merry Christmas.”

Kenny Rogers’ Christmas show -- the first half his pop hits, the second half Christmas -- takes place at 8 p.m. today (Dec. 21) in Kleinhans Music Hall (3 Symphony Circle).

Tickets are $65-$80. For info, call 885-5000.

--Mary Kunz Goldman 

Thompson Square, Hunter Hayes and JT Hodges perform in WYRK concert

The WYRK Acoustic Concert Series announces a show at 7:30 p.m. March 7 starring Thompson Square, Hunter Hayes and JT Hodges in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts Mainstage Theatre on the North Campus, Amherst.

Tickets are $25 and are available through the box office, online at or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

For more information, visit or


McCartney drops new album in February

Nasty Little Man, Paul McCartney's publicity representative, announced this morning that the former Beatle will release a new album through the Hear Music/Concord Records laebl on February 7th of 2012. The as yet untitled album finds McCartney paying tribute to the songs that influenced him as a child and, in many cases, inspired him to set out on his own quest as a songwriter. And we all know how that quest turned out, don't we?

In addition to the interpretations that fill the album, McCartney penned two new songs of his own. Interestingly, for the first time in his career, McCartney plays no instrument on the record, enlisting instead  Diana Krall and her band, as well as buddies Eric Clapton and Stevie Wonder. (No, there will be no repirse of "Ebony and Ivory.")

Today at 2 p.m., the track"My Valentine" will be exclusively streamed on  for 24 hours only. Here's a nice snap of Macca in the studio. God, I hope this thing is good!!! - Jeff Miers
McCartney in studio

The Headstones rock the Rapids tonight in Niagara Falls

The Headstones
The Headstones perform tonight in the Rapids Theatre in Niagara Falls

Calling the Headstones a Canadian band just doesn’t cut it. When one thinks of Canadian rock, generally speaking, one pictures nice folk-based songs with smart lyrics that tend to concentrate on emotional entanglements and broken hearts.

No, the Hugh Dillon-led band of ruffians always seemed much more "poor and angry in New York City" then they did "friendly and hopeful in the land of gratis health care." This band was like the Ramones, not Moxy Fruvous or Barenaked Ladies

Which may be why the tough-as-nails, raise-your-beer "rawk" the band specialized in before it collapsed in a weary and booze-sodden heap a decade back, has never gone out of style. It was never really in style in the first place, and you can’t lose what you never had, and didn’t want.

So Dillon is back from his stint on Canadian television and doing what he was created to do. He’s leading the Headstones again, and if "reunited" release "Binthiswayforyears" offers any indication of what’s to come, Dillon has made the right choice. (Even if the band’s website boasts the banner "The Headstones: Making Bad Life choices Since 1989," har har!). 

The band is locked and loaded and on the lookout for you in concert at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 17) in the Rapids Theatre (1711 Main St., Niagara Falls). Super Killer Robots will open. Tickets for the all-ages show are $35 advance, $40 day of show (box office, Ticketmaster).

-- Jeff Miers

Dance Away at ALTFringement tonight

INFRINGE 3 lifestyles infringe 3 scull
Aaron Water performs during "ALTFringement" tonight.    Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News

If you missed this year’s mammoth Infringement Festival, which took over the streets of Allentown back in early August, fear not. For a cool $5, you can catch a healthy sample of some of the festival’s more curious and wonderfully strange acts in "ALTFringement," a variety show and fest fundraiser set for tonight (Dec. 17) in the Alt Theatre (255 Great Arrow Ave., third floor).

The vibe of this Infringement event (one of several held throughout the year) is decidedly dancey, with performances from the always-moving Aaron Water, the Miraculous Rhythms of Sankofa with bellydance troupe Euphraxia, the Mone Dance Project and music from the Noise Project, Poverty Hymns and DJ Soma. The evening also will feature performances from members of the newly formed Buffalo Burlesque Collective, a consortium of Buffalo’s various and innovative nouveau-burlesque troupes.

The party gets started at 8, with more information at

-- Colin Dabkowski

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