Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2017-03-22
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


  WINDY CITY TIMES

Olivia Newton-John; Matt Zarley
BENT NIGHTS: MUSIC Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester
2012-08-21

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Earlier this summer when I mentioned to my cousin Omar and his husband, Bertas, that Olivia Newton-John would be headlining Northalsted Market Days they shrieked in unison, "OH NO!!! HAS IT COME TO THAT?!!??" The very idea that one of the biggest pop stars of all time was reduced to playing a street festival, regardless of said festival's cache, sounds, well, sad—right?

Newton-John's last big hit was in 1982 but the reality is that Omar and Bertas' reaction points to a facet of fame: If you are not in the spotlight, it's assumed that you are on the skids. The truth is Newton-John has been occupied with other things (a new cookbook, overcoming breast cancer, more movies and opening her own wellness center) while finding time to parody herself (popping up on Sordid Lives as a lesbian and dueting with Jane Lynch on "Physical" for an episode of Glee). Her festival closing set Aug. 12 may have been short (45 minutes) but her breathless fans left with smiles plastered on their faces. Even I—a cold, bitter, cynic with metal shavings in his heart—left happy.

What ramped up the excitement was that all of the people around me who I spoke with had never had the chance to see Newton-John live and though she's been under the radar for decades, this crowd was as passionate as ever, and she did not disappoint. (An unfortunate drag queen who just HAD to wear an oversized hat was bluntly informed by the fans pressed behind the barricade that they were not having her.)

Never mind Xanadu, the 1980 bomb that ended Gene Kelly's career, almost closed the book on movie musicals forever (Can't Stop the Music gets credit for that) and re-emerged as a camp classic with a reputation for being so bad it's irresistible; she opened her set with the title song and set a tone of sugary comfort. After all, who cares what the cynics and critics say? "Xanadu" and everything that came after it were songs that the fans have loved almost as long as Newton-John herself. The hits were laced with surprises: "Magic" was winsome and dreamy, "Physical" came with aerobic exercises, "Hopelessly Devoted to You" had unusual depth, Matt Zarley and Steve Real joined her on "Hot Summer Nights" and—due to a technical glitch—"Let Me Be There" was performed a capella as a sing-along with musical cues the audience shared.

If the show was an Olivia lovefest for longtime rabid fans, it was also a revelation. Time and age have provided Newton-John with multiple blessings. Where she used to sound wispy, artificial and—to my ears—annoying, she has developed an edge and grit in her voice while maintaining her upper registers. In short, she sounds better than she ever did. Don't worry if you missed her this time: She plays the Paramount Theater in Aurora Nov. 10.

Due to this year's collision of talent at several of the stages I was only able to catch the tail end of Zarley's set, which, for me, was the one disappointment of this year's Market Days. A decade ago, People Magazine named Zarley one of its sexiest bachelors but rather than coasting on being recognized as extremely talented and a certified hunk, he turned heads by coming out and using his new platform to push LGBT rights ahead a good 20 years.

Not only did he teach Bono, GaGa, Cyndi Lauper and Elton John how to use fame to influence closed minds, but he did it with a voice few others could approach. Live, Zarley radiates the high-wattage power of a rock star with the collar-grabbing emotional pull of a Broadway seasoned belter from the Tin Pan Alley era. His most recent album, Change Begins With Me (Zarleysongs, 2011), is proof that he's still at the top of his game while the queercentric video for "Trust Me" takes a satiric bite out of political image mongering. "Trust Me" is funny, snarky, saucy and sexy, and says obvious things in new ways while subtly ripping conservative minds a new one. Whether in a hot tub stocked with naked (male) bodies or high-kicking in a monkey-suited chorus line, Zarley packs a set of jagged, sharp incisors under that pretty smile.

When I mentioned that his set was the disappointment of the fest for me, it had nothing to do with him or his performance and everything to do with not being able to see more of it. What I did get to see was his thunderous show-stopping reading of the song "Change Begins with Me," a break-up ballad fueled with the wisdom that he is just as responsible for his separation as the other guy. It's a heartbreaker steeped in blunt objectivity where the blame is squarely put in the right places with unguarded clarity. It's also a declaration of a man who is wise enough to own his own shit, take responsibility for it, and grow up. Candid, painful, raw and unequivocal, it packs an intimate punch where, say, Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" seemed obtuse and preachy. Like Newton-John, Zarley can't seem to help getting better with age. Vocally, he's got more punch and power than ever before while, physically, he has developed a hunky, meaty masculinity that's ripened his model-good looks into a feral manliness. AHEM...


facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

Hell in a Handbag Productions presents Lady X - A Musical 2017-03-23 - CHICAGO, IL ( March 22, 2017 ) — Hell in a Handbag Productions is pleased to open its 15th season with the world ...


Gay News

BENT NIGHTS The Growlers; Meat Wave 2017-03-22 - How California rockers The Growlers suddenly became the latest "it" band is rather unclear. The act's latest full-length, City Club ( ...


Gay News

Party Noire events all about female Black joy 2017-03-22 - Chicagoans can dance it out when Party Noire plays Black joy on repeat. Party Noire is a dance party that began as an ...


Gay News

'More Than a Letter,' Picnic present queer voices this spring 2017-03-22 - Internationally acclaimed and award-winning transgender pianist Sara Davis Buechner is more than happy to be a part of the Chicago Sinfonietta's upcoming concerts ...


Gay News

Newton-John in Joliet on May 8 2017-03-22 - Olivia Newton-John will perform at Joliet's Rialto Square Theatre, 102 N. Chicago St., on Thursday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. Newton-John's career includes ...


Gay News

Concert for America to include stars from Chicago Fire, Glee, Hamilton 2017-03-16 - CHICAGO — Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out! is proud to announce that Torrey Devitto ( Chicago Med ), Colin Donnell ( ...


Gay News

THEATER REVIEW 24 Words: The Equal Rights Musical 2017-03-15 - Playwright: Book and lyrics by Charles Kouri, music by Gary Bragg, additional songs by Dean Schlabowske. At: LingoStudio Productions at Stage 773, 1225 ...


Gay News

Ravinia lists 2017 summer lineup with top names 2017-03-15 - HIGHLAND PARK, IL—Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kauffman today announced the not- for- profit festival's complete 2017 summer lineup—more than 140 events from ...


Gay News

SPRING CONCERT PREVIEW A few LGBTQ concerts to watch out for 2017-03-15 - Many local and visiting LGBTQ performers and their allies raise their voices and share their musical skills this spring. Here are a few ...


Gay News

'Carmen' thru March 25 2017-03-15 - Lyric Opera of Chicago will run the story of a deadly love triangle in Bizet's Carmen. Carmen runs through Saturday, March 25, at ...


 



Copyright © 2017 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.