Michael Cavanaugh with LBSO POPS at Long Beach Arena, March 24, 2012

Michael Cavanaugh with the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra
Long Beach Arena
March 24, 2012

I'm somewhat of a fixture at the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra POPS! concerts, but until Saturday I never felt like I got the entire experience because I'm always stone sober. This unfortunate occurrence has to do with the fact that I review many -- if not most -- of these shows and, because I am a professional, I don't drink when I'm on the clock. God knows I should and Satan knows I want to, but I don't.

However, this weekend was different. Instead of taking mental notes and observing with a critic's eye, I decided to do what seemingly everyone else does at these shows, which is to say I showed up early, drank wine at my table and was feeling pretty darn good by the time conductor Steven Reineke hit the stage.
Every LBSO POPS! concert has a theme (at least loosely), so for Saturday's event, the organization brought in singer/pianist/guitarist Michael Cavanaugh for a nearly two-hour show comprised of familiar tunes by the likes of Billy Joel, Elton John, Journey, Styx and Chicago. The multi-instrumentalist is best known for his role in the Broadway production of Movin' Out and his tenure in that musical was apparent Saturday thanks to stellar work on the keys, a freakin' rock solid voice and enough stage presence to get the women oohing and ahhing.

Honestly, I'm not much of a fan of the aforementioned acts. It's not that I hate them -- it's more like I know only the hits and not much else. Luckily, my lack of knowledge worked in my favor because the show was comprised of nothing but hits such as "Piano Man," "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Benny and the Jets," "Come Sail Away," "Rocket Man" and "Candle in the Wind." I know I must have been feeling good because I was swaying my body and tapping my feet to these songs in a way I never have when listening to the original versions.

But it was the medley of classic rock & roll songs such as "Jailhouse Rock," "Roll Over Beethoven," "Oh, Pretty Woman" and "Rock Around the Clock" that got the former greaser in me moving. Once Cavanaugh, his band and the LBSO caught my attention with these tunes, they could have played "Don't Stop Believin'" -- my least favorite song ever -- and I would have been in a good mood.

What's that? They played "Don't Stop Believin'?" Oh, that's right. I guess they did. Even more amazing was how I didn't want to stab my eardrums when they did, which made me realize that I don't hate Journey or the song. What I hate is tattooed, 30-something hipster who think they are the only people who have ever sang an "ironic" version of this song at a karaoke bar.

There was an intermission about an hour into the show and from what I recall, I met a bartender named Paco and I went pee. After that, I remember a portion of the show Reineke called "Riffer Madness," which included a medley of "Smoke on the Water," "I Love Rock 'n Roll" and "Day Tripper."

According to the notepad function on my phone, the show ended with "Crocodile Rock," which, ironically, I don't remember.

Critic's bias: I drank a bottle of wine before the first half of the show was over.

The crowd:
People old enough to think Billy Joel and Elton John music is contemporary.

Overheard in the crowd:
"I remember this song!"

Random notebook dump:
I hope to be able to dance to "Footloose" when I'm knocking on death's door.


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