Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Clay Aiken Fans Design CD Covers

TRIED & TRUE - Mock CD cover by ClaysSTO.

'Tried & True' Potpourri

Fans Try Hand at Cover Design

When Clay Aiken's new Decca CD starts spinning off store shelves the first of June, the cover probably won't look anything like the mock jackets designed and posted by fans on message boards this week.

The creative speculation, however, is a fascinating way to spend the days until Tried & True drops.

Many fan designs feature promo shots taken after the singer's March 12 PBS Special taping in Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium. Others favor photos from tours, TV appearances, and shoots from seasons past.

During this entry's three-day ride, other mock TNT cover designs will no doubt be added. Hopefully, designers will direct me to their posts. Decca and Amazon sites are bookmarked and checked regularly for the "real" thing.

Meanwhilte, enjoy ... and definitely check back for updates!

TNT cover by Fountaindawg

TNT cover by elana i am

TNT cover by elana i am

TNT cover by elana i am

TNT cover by elana i am

TNT cover by elana i am

TNT cover by LovesClaysVoice

TNT cover by LovesClaysVoice

TNT cover by LovesClaysVoice

TNT cover by LovesClaysVoice

TNT cover by Cotton

TNT cover by LovesClaysVoice

TNT cover by Fountaindawg

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Diary Details Clay Aiken Shoot

BACK IN TOWN -- Clay Aiken returned to his hometown of Raleigh, NC, for the concert taping of a PBS Special Friday, March 12. Graphic by Fountaindawg, photos by Jim R. Bounds/AP.

'Tried and True' CD

Photo Shoot Spotlights Triangle

The March 12 taping of Clay Aiken's PBS Special/Concert in Raleigh was just the beginning of a jam-packed weekend that also included the all-important photo shoot for his upcoming Decca release, "Tried and True."

Saturday Randy Hamilton, writer-photographer for the Durham Photography Examiner, filled in many details of the March 13 photo shoot with his piece, Diary of a professional photography shoot for Clay Aiken's "Tried and True".

The reprint here includes photos from several of the article's linked sites in the Raleigh-Durham area. Naturally, the lunch menu was Eastern syle North Carolina barbeque.

Local fans of Clay Aiken surely know he was in the area recently, recording a concert in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium that featured songs from his new album, Tried and True. The album is scheduled for release on June 1, 2010, and broadcast of the concert is set for sometime this summer on PBS.

Private train car, American Tobacco
Photo by Randy Hamilton

What fans may not know is that, while visiting his home town, Aiken searched for locations for the art for the CD package of his new album.

Driving around Raleigh and Durham, he photographed locations that fit the theme of the upcoming album, the 1950s and the Rat Pack [Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin].

Among the locations in his pictures of Durham are a bar, a diner and several street shots. Others show parts of the American Tobacco Campus, including Bay 7 and the train car at the North end.

These Bay 7 photos will expand to a larger size.

Aiken also favored the Mecca Restaurant in Raleigh, a nearly perfect location for the images he had in mind for the package art.

Using his photographs to go by, it was necessary to scout the locations, to take additional photographs for determining their suitability and availability for the shoot.

With photographs of the interior of the train car at American Tobacco, the Mecca and others from a newly recommended site, the locations for the one-day shoot were set.

The Kenan Bar, Treyburn Country Club
Photo by Randy Hamilton

18th green at Treyburn
Photo courtesy of Treyburn Country Club

The day would begin at Treyburn Country Club in Durham, with shots in the bar and on the golf course.

Afterward, the crew would head to American Tobacco before finishing in Raleigh at the Mecca.

The Mecca - Photo by Jason Hamilton

Upon arrival at Treyburn at 7am, NY photographer Vincent Soyez began setting up for the first shot in the bar. Soyez, who uses the Norman lighting system, said, "You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting an elaborate lighting setup. I just set up the lights where I think they should go, take some test shots and adjust the lights until I get the effect we want."

For the Aiken shoot, the desired effect derives from the dramatic light and shadow sometimes associated with celebrity photographs of the 1950s.

Following Aiken’s arrival and wardrobe preparation, the shooting began with work around settings at the bar. After a couple of hours, the crew moved out to the golf course. Luckily, the preferred location was at the 18th green, making it relatively easy to transport equipment and set up the shot.

Mt. Bethel Methodist Church in Bahama, NC

After completing the shots, Aiken bought lunch for the crew. One could easily see he was happy to be home and to introduce his NY colleagues to North Carolina barbecue, Eastern style of course. (And as it happens, his grandmother lives nearby. He described his visits to Bahama while growing up, with many Sunday mornings spent singing in Mt. Bethel Methodist Church.)

Following lunch, the crew finished with a few publicity shots, packed up and headed to American Tobacco.

Rain threatened the afternoon, but the crew managed to set up in the train car before the rain began, and by the time they had finished, the rain had stopped. They packed up again and headed to the Mecca in Raleigh, the final location of the day. The shoot wrapped up around 11pm.

While Aiken fans anxiously await the new music of his next album, photography fans might look for a copy to see how these locations, and Clay Aiken, are transformed by the work of
Vincent Soyez.

In addition to providing some of the location photography,
Jason Hamilton also contributed information for this article. By clicking on his link, readers can view examples of his photography.

American Tobacco Campus posted the following on Facebook Sunday:

American Tobacco Campus plays a big part in Clay Aiken's upcoming album and the photo shoot to illustrate his love of the Triangle!

You can read about the author of the diary, Randy Hamilton, here. Below is a clickable of Fountaindawg's concert graphic:

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation! Is it June yet?


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Clay Aiken Sites on CD Countdown

Unchained Melody by Clay Aiken
Montage by SueReu

Until CD Release, PBS Special

Widgets, Montages Pass Time

As website widgets steadily mark off the time until the June release of "Clay Aiken: Tried and True" and the PBS Special that will feature songs from the singer's first CD with Decca Universal, excitement levels throughout Clay Cyberspace are registering all-time highs.

With each discovery of new performance sites for this summer's Cluben Not-a-Tour, fans immediately begin charting concert/travel possibilities.

Meanwhile, the creative branch of the Clay Aiken fandom consistently boosts anticipation gauges up a notch with amazing new montages and art.

In the introduction at YouTube, SueReu wrote this about her sepia-toned Unchained Melody montage:

A final listen to Unchained Melody -- soon to be redefined by Clay Aiken on his upcoming album 'Tried & True.' Be prepared to be blown away!

View the montage in the player above or at YouTube. For a full screen experience, click on the arrows on the player's right. Your comments about an artist's work are always appreciated here and at YouTube. You can download the montage with this Sendspace link.

Below are clickables of three screen shots from the montage by SueReu:

Wednesday's addition of TNT to the New Music Tipsheet signaled the album's drop date is a step closer.

Inclusion Project Allocates $700k

Wednesday the National Inclusion Project announced more than $700k will support over 45 "Let's All Play" camps in 23 states.

To read the complete story, click on this Carolina Newswire link: National Inclusion Project Announces over $700,000 Support for 'Let's All Play'. Here are the opening graphs:

Raleigh, N.C. – The National Inclusion Project (NIP), co-founded by entertainer Clay Aiken, announces over $700,000 of support to programs nationwide as part of its Let’s ALL Play initiative.

In just three years, the Project has invested over $1.7 million to expand Let’s ALL Play across the country. Let’s ALL Play brings an inclusive recreational experience to children with disabilities by giving them the same experience as children without disabilities.

Children with disabilities and their peers without disabilities come together to participate in recreational activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, community service, physical fitness and more. The Project will support over 45 recreational programs in 23 states in 2010.

In 2004, the Project instituted the inclusive recreational experience for children with and without disabilities. Since its inception, the Project has impacted over 20,000 children nationwide.

"My son does not have Down syndrome, wear hearing aids, or have difficulty with his speech,” said the mother of a camper. “He is simply a camper."

To learn more about the NIP and how to get involved, visit the Inclusion Project website.

Somewhere In Time @ Yahoo! Video
Montage by LovesClaysVoice

PBS Montage 'Somewhere in Time'

Using black/white promo stills from Clay's March 12 PBS concert taping, LovesClaysVoice created a memorable montage set to the beautiful "Somewhere in Time" theme by John Barry.

You can view the montage in the above player or at the Yahoo site. For a full-screen effect, click on the rectangle in the bottom right corner. To download, here is a Sendspace link.

Below are three clickable screen caps from the Somewhere in Time montage by LCV:

Oboe Takes Tumble at Cantata

My church's Lenten cantata and March Madness always seem to share a weekend this time of year. Fortunately, the Saturday rehearsal and Sunday performances don't interfere with basketball tournament games. They do encourage me to take the quickest route home, however.

The only kink in this year's event came while I was setting up my instrument and music for Sunday's 8:30 a.m. service. With reeds soaking in a cup on my stand, I checked to make sure the selections were in program order.

In the 45 years I have owned my oboe, I have never dropped it. While preparing for the first service, the oboe, standing at ease between my knees, suddenly toppled over face first. I quickly inserted a reed to see if everything was in order, noted some resistance, but thought all was manageable.

My Loree, which has been mentioned in previous Carolina blogs, was the main topic in a November 2006 entry -- Trusty Oboe Could Tell Tales -- after I learned of its intriguing pedigree.

Throughout Sunday's initial performance, I remember thinking how much more air I seemed to be using. Afterwards, I asked Anna, the other oboist, to play my instrument with her reed and see what she thought.

Immediately, she discovered that much of the airstream was escaping through a key in the upper joint; and she marveled that I was able to produce a sound. It's probably a miracle I didn't get dizzy and take a tumble myself.

Anna is a very capable technician; and, with her screw driver, adjusted the instrument in several places. For this oboist, the second service was a much more enjoyable hour.

'Wayfarin' Stranger' a Family Affair

The beautiful "Wayfarin' Stranger" Lenten Cantata, planned and conducted by my brother-in-law, minister of music for Jamestown United Methodist Church, was a very special experience for the congregation, as well as the 66-member choir and 35-piece orchestra. My sister and her daughter comprised the flute section.

Gathering music included selections by Bach, Gaubert, Holst, and Monteverdi, while the cantata featured sacred American hymn and spiritual arrangements by Mack Wilberg.

Among my favorites were "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," "Peace Like a River," "Bound for the Promised Land," "I'm Runnin' On," and "Thou Gracious God Whose Mercy Lends." At both services, the congregation and the choir stuck around for the orchestral postlude, "Lift High, The Lord Our Banner" (Delavan/Kirkland).

Sunday was indeed a "family affair" as our nephew, Taylor, a Greensboro College freshman, attended the 10:55 service and joined us for lunch afterwards.

My "Heels are alive" in the NIT and will play again on Tuesday, March 30. Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation!


Monday, March 22, 2010

Clay Aiken Defines Verb 'To Sing'

PERFECT ACCOMPANIMENT -- AmazingCA's graphic, with March 12 concert photos by Jim R. Bounds, highlights the special PBS taping.

Voice, Heart, Humor at Center Stage

Examiner Praises PBS Concert

During my weekend of March Madness overload, accompanied by a memorable Lenten cantata rehearsal and performance, Clay Aiken's March 12 concert at Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium received a "thumbs up" review by at the web site.

Some of my favorite graphs are printed below, but you can read the entire critique by Shauna Moroney at Clay Aiken reveals new album in Raleigh concert.

Now Clay is preparing for the release of his fifth studio album, tentatively titled "Tried and True," a compilation of 60’s covers. As a part of the celebration of his album release, sometime this summer, PBS will be featuring a concert of Clay’s new music.

Though the show will not air until around the time of the release, the actual concert took place on the previously mentioned date. Anyone who was lucky enough to be there, whether they were from the Raleigh area or they had to travel in for the occasion, knows what an amazing evening Clay had in store for his fans.

The set list ranged from the up tempo beats of "Mack the Knife" (with such an amazingly huge, long, perfect last note that it moved the audience to a standing ovation as soon as the first number concluded), "Eso Beso," "Suspicious Minds," and "Build Me Up Buttercup" to the slower, simpler side of Clay with "Misty," "Moon River," "In My Life," and "Unchained Melody" (with a jaw dropping climax in which Clay hit a note that seemed to redefine the meaning of the verb "to sing").

There were flashy lights, lots of smoke, and chandeliers that descended from the ceiling to change the atmosphere before certain songs.

Front and center was Clay’s amazing voice, but coming in a close second was his big heart. This showed up early on in the night when, after the first five numbers, Clay came into the audience looking for Sandy Schmidt.

Ms. Schmidt had taken four buses over a 36-hour period from Nebraska, traveling all by herself just to see Clay again. After receiving word of this from her friends, Clay personally escorted Sandy to the front row.

Clay also paid tribute to many of the teachers that he had throughout his time in the Raleigh public school system. To begin with, he told a story about being a "big loser" in sixth grade, not having friends and eating lunch with non-English speaking students if he was lucky. One particular teacher helped Clay get through this rough time by allowing him to eat lunch with her in her classroom everyday.

After introducing her to everyone, he asked anyone who had ever taught him to stand. About twenty people stood up to a huge round of applause, as well as heaps of praise from Clay about what a huge difference teacher make in the lives of their students. He went on to dedicate his beautifully understated performance of "In My Life" to these important people who made such an impression on him.

One of the greatest highlights of the night was a special guest appearance that many of Clay’s fans had already guessed at. Clay spoke briefly of Neil Sedaka Night on Idol, of how he had wanted to sing a particular song, but Ruben had snatched it up before he had the chance.

Here on this stage, though, he would prove that he could sing "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" better than Ruben could. He got two lines out, walked off stage left, and Ruben Studdard himself walked on stage right. It was wonderful to see Ruben in what it turns out is his element, as well as Clay’s.

After the song, the two had some great comedic banter about how awful music today is. ("It’s crap," said Clay, "and that’s an industry term.") So, calling upon one of Clay’s amazingly talented backup singers, Quiana Parler, the three promised a medley of classic big band songs that they love.

The instrumental introduction started out with lots of big strings and horns, and Clay came in with, “I like big butts and I cannot lie!” The audience roared with laughter as other pop songs were presented in big band style, like "Poker Face," "Can’t Touch This," "Tik Tok," "Maneater," "Crazy in Love," and "Play that Funky Music White Boy."

The new record, to be released this summer, will definitely appeal to those who have stuck by the former Idol since Season 2 ended.

In a Facebook post Monday, International Media verified that Clay's PBS Special/Tried and True preview is just around the corner:
Coming Soon To PBS: CLAY AIKEN: TRIED AND TRUE! Thank you to all those who attended his recent Memorial Auditorium concert! Stay tuned for more!

Texans Rediscover Clay, Attend Special

While rewinding the calendar to the incredible March 12 PBS taping, it is only appropriate to share this special Not.Just.Us story Claymatron posted in her recap at Clayversity:

I was sitting beside a couple from Texas who had never seen Clay in concert but they'd driven 1600 miles for the show because they had found his music on YouTube. They remembered him from AI, but then lost track until a year or so ago when the woman (in her 40's) was hospitalized with a very serious medical problem and nearly died.

When she came back to her hospital room after one of her many surgeries, she looked over at her husband, who was fast asleep from exhaustion in the chair beside the bed, and said she felt overwhelmed with love for him.

She picked up her laptop and checked YouTube for Celine Dion's version of "Because You Loved Me", which was "their song," and found Clay's instead.

Her husband woke up, and the two of them sobbed in each other's arms over his beautiful rendition. They were both hooked and searched YouTube for every song he ever sang, and checked out the Internet to find out when he'd next be in concert and found the announcement for the PBS taping.

They loved the show and held hands all the way through it. It was truly a special time for them, and I know we have another couple of devoted fans.

I have no doubt that Clay will find his way into many new hearts with this album, and it will be wonderful that they will love and accept him for who he is and for his amazing talent.

It truly warmed my heart and made me realize that because we have followed this man so faithfully over the years, dissecting and analyzing his every move, riding the roller-coaster with all its highs and lows, and being there through it all that we have lost sight of the wonder and beauty of his sheer talent.

It truly made me feel we all need to get back to that. Just enjoy because that's exactly what he's doing!

Mark Your Calendar

Confirmed Cluben Tour dates, also tagged the "Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard Summer Not a Tour," include:

  • July 23, 8 p.m. EDT: Biltmore Estates, Asheville, NC. Tickets go on sale April 6 at 8 a.m. EST.
  • August 10, 8 p.m. EDT: Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, Hampton Beach, NH. Ticket sales through Ticketmaster TBA.

Below is a clickable of AmazingCA's opening graphic:

Basketball tourney and this oboist's tales from cantata weekend will have to wait until next time. Meanwhile, a couple of cheers for Monday and Tuesday National Invitational Tournament games:

Go, Virginia Tech Hokies and Carolina Tar Heels!!!

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


Friday, March 19, 2010

March Madness Bumps Clay Aiken

Georgia Tech wins with free throws.
AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

Cluben Tour Adds Dates

NCAA, NIT Clear Clay Calendar

Despite the fact that my team, the Carolina Tar Heels, defending national collegiate basketball champions, didn't make the 2010 NCAA Tournament, March Madness has once again taken over my life and temporarily bumped Clay Aiken from my computer.

The Heels will meet Mississippi State in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament at noon Saturday; and you can bet I'll be in front of my TV waving Carolina blue and white pom-poms as soon as my oboe and I arrive home from a cantata rehearsal. [UPDATE: Heels won!]

Clay Aiken previewed "Tried and True" CD tracks at 3/12 concert.
Click to enlarge graphic by LovesClaysVoice/AP photo by Jim R. Bounds

I usually keep up with the latest Clay news, but this week March Madness has consumed my TV and computer time. Friday morning I swung by several message boards to check the status of the Cluben Tour Ticketmaster Tango for Reno, NV.

Although some fans scored good seating through Ticketmaster, many seemed to get better results by phoning the Silver Legacy Hotel directly (1-800-687-8733). Here's the promo appearing on the Silver Legacy -- and other Cluben Tour -- sites:

American Idol stars Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard join together for a night of POP and R&B hits at Silver Legacy.

Since appearing together on the second season of American Idol Aiken has gone on to release five albums, his debut album went multi platinum and perform on Broadway. Studdard has received a Grammy award nomination and released four albums.

Confirmed Cluben Tour dates, also tagged the "Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard Summer Not a Tour," include:
  • July 23, 8 p.m. EDT: Biltmore Estates, Asheville, NC. Tickets go on sale April 6 at 8 a.m. EST.

Wall-to-Wall Basketball Prevails

Except for teaching violin lessons, I was front and center for all of Thursday's first round NCAA games right up until New Mexico, the third seed, squeaked out a win over #14 Montana in the wee hours. In fact, most of the night I watched two games at once, one on TV and one on my laptop.

Now that was really a sight to see, especially during the Wake Forest-Texas and Tennessee-San Diego State games. A former Texan and Tennessean, I generally cheer for the teams from my previous "home" states. Thursday, however, I supported Wake Forest and the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Coincidentally, both Texas and Tennessee have the same school colors, orange and white. As the higher rated team in their games, the Longhorns and the Volunteers wore their lighter, predominantly white, uniforms.

TV Updates Tease Psyche

Wake, my TV team, was in the darker jersey while, on my computer, Tennessee was in white. As the night wore on, keeping up with the team colors became complicated and even comical.

The games were very close; and during the final minutes, CBS continually switched back and forth between the two, usually with no warning. I was already mentally shuffling opposite team colors from TV to laptop, only to find myself temporarily viewing the same game in both places.

All host basketball courts have been prepared to look the same with the center NCAA insignia and blue borders, so that didn't help either.

The Vols won, 62-59; and Wake prevailed in overtime, 81-80, with a buzzer-beating final shot that had "replay" written all over it -- the same type of shot that took out Vanderbilt from my old Nashville stomping grounds. Video highlights of these and other stunners are available on the ESPN web site.

Now it's Friday night, and I have cheered Georgia Tech, an ACC team, to victory while watching on my laptop. During the final seven minutes, I provided my friend Terri a play-by-play report before wrapping up this blog.

1957 Triple Overtime Spurs Tactic

A classical violinist and lifelong Tar Heel fan, Terri and I share a love for college basketball. When Carolina is playing, she dons the sweatshirt she wore when the team won the NCAA crown in 2005.

My own secret weapon dates back to my childhood when it took three overtimes for the Tar Heels to defeat Kansas in 1957. Between each extra period, I slipped into my bedroom and prayed for victory while holding my Bible. Eventually, Carolina prevailed.

Years later I told Terri about the Carolina-Kansas strategy. When the Carolina team gets into hot water, she often calls and urges me to "go get the Bible."

Since the Heels are not in the NCAA this year, we are transferring our winning tactics to other teams. During Friday's first game, we joined Mountaineer fans in cheering West Virginia on to the next round.

I taught piano and violin students all afternoon while Terri waved poms for both of us. To the teams we "adopt," we are prepared to bring out our secret weapons -- the Carolina sweatshirt and special Bible.

As sports analysts bestow their audiences with hours of statistics and predictions, little do they know that two retired orchestra teachers really hold the possible keys to a game's outcome.

Have a wonderfully "mad" weekend, Clay Nation!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clay Aiken Irish on St. Pat's Day

ALL THINGS GREEN -- Clay Aiken graphic by AmazingCA.

March Honors Irish Traditions

Everyone's a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day. This blog commemorates the week with "Spamalot" green, signature color of Sir Robin, Clay Aiken's recent role in the hit Broadway musical.

The most well-known March observance is St. Patrick's Day, honoring the patron saint of Ireland, the man who brought Christianity to the Irish in the 400's A.D. March 17 is truly a day for celebrating Irish history, ancestry, traditions, and customs.

Around the globe, St. Patrick's Day festivities are generally themed around all things green and Irish. The secular version of the holiday is marked by wearing green or orange, eating Irish food and/or green foods, imbibing Irish drink (usually Guinness), and attending parades.

Irish colonists brought St. Patrick's Day to North America. The event was first commemorated in the 13 colonies in Boston, MA, in 1737.

Everyone's a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day!

Clay co-hosting 2010 GFI in Palm Beach Gardens.
Double clickable photo by Alicia Donovan

Palm Beach Magazine Features GFI

Golfing for Inclusion is featured in the March 2010 issue of Palm Beach Gardens Lifestyle magazine. Written by Laura Delgado with photography by Alicia Donovan, scans of the article are available at Clay Aiken The Ideal Idol.
Clay Aiken sings, tours, performs on Broadway, raises funds and acts as a spokesperson for various causes. But can he play golf?

Aiken recently teamed up with PGA Professional Wayne Player to hose the 3rd Annual Golfing for Inclusion on February 1 at The Country Club at Mirasol, right here in Palm Beach Gardens.
The three-page spread incorporates the history and agenda of the National Inclusion Project, as well as the 2010 GFI event. Five photos accompany the story.
"I have never golfed, and I think -- in the best interest of others -- we should keep it that way," he said with a laugh.

To read the complete story, link to Clay Aiken The Ideal Idol.

INTERLUDE IN GREEN: Sir Robin's penchant for green lends itself to a clickable St. Patrick's Day interlude. Included are graphics by Amazing_CA with photos by Joan Marcus, 1, and Toni7babe, 3; Claystruck, photo by Disneydeb84, 2.

No One As Irish As Barack Obama

More than 34 million Americans are of Irish descent, nine times the population of Ireland. Among them is US President Barack Obama, whose maternal great-great-great grandfather Falmuth Kearney was born in Moneygall, a tiny village in central Ireland.

Between 1845 and 1851, more than a million people left Ireland on 'famine ships' to escape mass-starvation caused by potato blight; and, according to documents unearthed by an Irish vicar, passenger lists show Falmuth Kearney was among them, arriving in New York in 1850 before settling in Ohio.

Screen cap links to animated montage.

The song "There's No One as Irish as Barack O'Bama," which was written by Hardy Drew and recorded by the Corrigan Brothers, helps fill in the blanks about President Obama's 3% Irish heritage. The concert and animated versions can be viewed at YouTube.

Everyone's a little bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day!

Kai, our clan's pot o' gold, is 2 1/2 years old today!
Clickable 2009 St. Patrick's graphic by Ashes

Grandma's on Kai's Radar

Being a long-distance grandmother can be difficult at times; but there are some high moments, too. Kai, who celebrates 2.5 years today, and I are enjoying getting to know each other in telephone conversations. Ten-month-old Lia tries to copy everything he does, so our phone time is coming.

Kai has always loved telephone buttons and now delights in providing a running commentary of all that's happening ("The dogs are getting ready to go out ... Lia is taking a nap"), as well as walking around the room pointing out items ("This is our TV; here's Lia's high chair; and this is my dump truck full of Cheerios.")

"Grandmother" has become the voice on the phone so much so that last week while his mother was talking with a friend, Kai yelled from across the room, "Hello, Grandma!"

I look forward to the time when "across the room" is literally just that. Happy 2.5, Grandson!

Your Carolina blog visits -- and especially thos who stop and comment -- are always appreciated. According to the attached Feedjit Live Feed and ClustrMap applications, visitors from 144 countries have stopped by this year, the newest being Armenia. Greetings to all!

Accompanying the above Irish blessing (graphic by Sally) is a very special wish to all for a Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Clay Aiken PBS Magic Continues

Clay Aiken's Back in Town - Montage by LovesClaysVoice

Concert Recaps, Take 2

Clay Aiken Wows Fans at Taping

Clay Aiken opened the March 12 special performance in Raleigh with "Mack the Knife." The concert, which will air on PBS this summer, also included songs from the singer's upcoming "Tried and True" CD. LCV's montage features Clay's Mack the Knife rendition from the American Idol 2 season.

Clay Aiken's one-time only concert at Memorial Auditorium in Raleigh included a preview of his upcoming Decca album, Tried & True, plus a host of other memorable classics.

Without the visual clack that fans normally share following a Clay Aiken concert, the performance and and excitement has been relived through word pictures, recaps and reflections, by those present. This entry is a continuation of the March 13 post: Take 2!

PINK ARMCHAIR: I was so thrilled with the way the taping went. Clay, first of all, really was better than I've ever seen him; and, vocally, he knocked it out of the park over and over again. Unbelievable.

I have to say (and was fortunate to get to say to a couple of people associated with the production) that I had sat in a lot of tapings but had never seen something with that many elements go so smoothly, with so few retakes and almost no problems (the poor guy who broke his leg notwithstanding -- hope he's doing okay).

I have a huge amount of respect for whoever directed it -- it was choreographed and orchestrated to the NTH degree -- a really first class production. It's very difficult to film something as if it were going out live, and they did it in spades. My hat is off to them.

In fact, my main emotion watching the performance was that it was like seeing a rare and priceless jewel, after years stuck in a drawer, finally placed in its proper setting. It was, in a word, dazzling, both visually and aurally. I think I'm always going to remember it that way.

CABLEGIRL: One tidbit that I will share is about who I was seated next to. When Clay asked all of his teachers to stand we ended up seated next to most of them.
As the gentleman next to me started to sit down, I said, "Oh, you were one of his teachers?" and he said, "No, I was his high school principal and he hated me."

I waited until the end of the show to talk to him again. He said that Clay was quite a hand full his senior year and that they had more than a few run-ins, all relayed with a big smile on his face.

He told me that he had loved the show, thought Clay was fantastic, and then shared something with me that I thought was so cool. At the end of the second run of "Spamalot," Clay flew him, his wife, and a few of the other teachers and their families to New York for three days, all expenses paid.

Smiling, he added, "He may have been a handful, but I think we're all even now."

All I can say is what an amazing guy we have all chosen to support and follow!

Clay performs on Memorial Auditorium stage. (Jim R. Bounds/AP)

CINDILU2: During the show, Clay mentioned that "Menopause," the musical, would be the next event in the Raleigh venue, then quipped, "Today Clay Aiken, tomorrow menopause!"

Truly the pinnacle of my seven years as a Clay Aiken fan. He went from star to supernova right before my eyes, and I will forever be grateful that I was there to witness it.

MUMM FUMS: I don't know if anyone mentioned the fog machine for Moon River? It really produced some fog; and from where I was sitting, the first couple of rows got to experience that "Aiken Fog" quite literally!

CONCERT SET LIST (some of which will be on Clay's upcoming "Tried and True" album):

Mack The Knife
You're Just To Good to Be True
It's Impossible
When I Said I Needed You
Eso Beso (upbeat samba)
Who's Sorry Now
I'll Take Romance
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do (intro of Ruben)

• Baby Got Back sung by Clay
• Poker Face
(Lady Gaga) sung by Ruben
• Crazy In Love (Beyonce) by Quiana
• Maneater (Hall and Oates) by Clay
• Tik Tok (Kei$ha) -- Ruben
• Straight Up --
Quiana (Clay and Ruben singing "oh oh oh's")
• She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy --
Clay (crooner fashion)
• Play That Funky Music -- Ruben
• Can't Touch This -- all three

What Kind of Fool Am I?
Crying (duet with Linda Eder)
Suspicious Minds
Build Me Up Buttercup
In My Life
Only Make Believe
There's A Kind of Hush
Unchained Melody

Encore #1: Moon River

Encore#2: Re-do of Mack the Knife, Who's Sorry Now, Misty, Suspicious Minds

MOONHEAD: "Crying!" OOOMMMMMGGGG!!! Seriously, this was extraordinary. Clay and Linda Eder together singing "Crying.: He hit a couple of notes in this song that were amazing. It was the song that afterwards would not get out of my mind. I woke up several times during the night with it replaying in my head.

"Buttercup" blew me away. The audience response to it was organic and enthusiastic. This was the performance that hit me emotionally. As I watched him up there singing his heart out -- happy and in such good voice, with the gorgeous lighting, the multiple cameras whirring around him -- I couldn’t help but think back to his AI performance of the same song.

I felt such a sense of fulfillment of Clay being where he belongs now, of peace with the past and excitement for the future. It was just perfect, and he sang his heart out.

"In My Life" was so tender, stripped down, quiet and reflective. Clay was just sweet during this song paying homage to his teachers. It was a special moment.

Clay's own version of "Unchained Melody." Wow, he owns this song!!! And he really changed up the last third of it. His own version, indeed! What he did with this was quite spectacular.

The show was a wonderful blend of genres, tempo, and style -- some reflective, some fun, some dramatic and powerful. It was well put together and beautifully executed.

When Clay finished UM and had to stand there and accept our applause. He didn’t try to stop us, he didn’t race off stage, he didn’t have the curtain brought down. He stood there and took in the applause he so deservedly earned.

And lastly, I felt such a sense of support for Clay last night from those that surround him -- the label and his management. The whole production was so beautiful, and it was clear to me that Team Clay knows what they have and are going to do what it takes to show everyone the talent that he is.

I will be forever grateful that I was able to be there. It was a night to remember.

Clay blows away audience. Photo by Jim R. Bounds/AP

GOLDARNGIRL: We saw Simon Renshaw arrive at the Raleigh airport when we did on Friday. I was pretty impressed that he was there and was hands on. Simon spent a lot of his time in the wings to Clay's right, which gave us a full view of him.

I saw him giving Clay "thumbs up" at times, and he was there when Clay came off stage and probably was part of the decision process for the songs that were being retaken.

At the end when the applause was deafening and Clay was standing there soaking it all in, I leaned over to FromClaygary and said that it was great he was allowing people to appreciate him and accepting the applause, which he doesn't normally do.

While he was standing there soaking in the applause and love, I looked over to the wings and spotted Simon continuously bowing from the waist, telling Clay BOW. I looked back to the stage as Clay was straightening up from a bow (after taking Simon's direction).

It was really great to see that Simon was right there guiding him and it made me wonder whether his hands were tied on some items before.

JMH123: Two of us were seated in the balcony, third row, right behind the soundboard. Various people tried to offer us closer seats, including some production people; but all were off to the far side of the orchestra or in the side mezzanine. Besides, I wanted to watch the process of filming.
From our seats we could see all the cameras, as well as two laptop computer/television monitors showing two of the camera views, and also the sound equipment and, of course, the people working in the booth.

There must have been another location somewhere, outside or backstage, where the actual directing was taking place and where there were other TV monitors.

The negative side is that we couldn't really see Clay's face, because of the lighting and the distance, but we got some good closeup views now and then in the monitors.

There was a fair amount of shots showing the whole band at once, as well as closeups on various instrumentalists, all the soloists, and Clay at various distances. Lot of variety. And, as I said, we could just see two monitors.

Oh and yeah, that Clay Aiken guy! When the curtain opened and he was standing there with his back to the audience, just that silhouette that is so classic and familiar, I felt such a rush I can't tell you. I just wanted to hug everybody for the rest of the night. The crowd was electric. Even the ushers and crew seemed to be into it.
Clay Aiken can flat out sing. "Mack the Knife" was like the AI2 performance times a million.

The band totally rocked, and the choice and chosen location of the instruments was fascinating to me. The sound was just incredible. The band was tight. It was a big band sound, but uniquely Clay also.

Everything was arranged as a unique, Clay Aiken version; and the band was a huge part of that. For me anyway. And Clay's voice just soared. It filled the room. I think I'd forgotten the way he can do that. Effortless, huge voice with those amazing pure tones.

Because it was Raleigh and Memorial Auditorium and because of the theme of the show, it was also for me, especially for the first three or four songs, Clayton Grissom fully grown and handsome, but yet still and totally that guy -- that Raleigh boy.

Clayton Grissom of Hometown Connection putting on a show for PBS, but mostly classier.

I was struck by how he really has come home, how he has remained "tried and true" throughout AI, becoming a "pop superstar," coming out, doing Broadway, being a dad, everything he's been through. He is still that geeky, skinny, picked-on guy; and now that guy is fulfilling a lifelong dream.

SUEREU: Anyone who loved Clay Aiken's vocal performance last night (and I don't see how anyone could not say he was short of brilliant) needs to give up on making him the next rock/pop God.

Almost to a person, what I heard was that was the voice they fell in love with and it had been too long since they've heard it.

The reason that we got that voice, that quality, those dynamics, that magic was because he stopped trying to be "2010 pop Clay" and became "vocalist extraordinaire Clay Aiken."

Oh, and I need to add that he is singing pop, but he's singing pop from an era where vocals ruled and shtick took a back seat. An era before pro tools, when it was imperative that the singer could actually sing and melodies were written with true vocals in mind.

HEART: Everything was wonderful from his voice to the staging to the lighting to his wonderful personality.

That's what touched me most. It was like seeing a good friend after a long absence. Not just his voice, but his mannerisms, his facial expressions, his jokes, the way he moves his hands, the way he smiles and makes fun of himself -- it was all there.

I felt like saying, "Thank God, he's still here; he's still the same." The voice may be better than ever, but my friend is still here. Nobody connects with his audience like Clay does. No audience connects with a performer like Clay's fans do.

HE'S BACK!!!!!

ELIZABETH: I only had one "friend of a friend" tidbit to share. Clay's manager Simon Renshaw said that he and Ruben would be touring for three weeks and Asheville will be the first show.

CRAVING CLAY: This was absolutely the best Clay concert I've ever experienced (and I've been to quite a few). He was confident. He owned that stage. The musicians were terrific. The set list, the song arrangements, the pacing of the show, the lighting were top notch.
And Clay's voice was delicious. It washed over me, satisfied, but left me wanting more. I'm desperate to hear these songs again. He's quite simply the best!

He was in his element and it showed. He was absolutely a star up there and, yet, still so sweet and humble. What a guy

CLAYM8: During one of the earliest slow songs, which he sang standing up, he was singing about love, but he opened his arms as though giving us a general hug.
At the very end of the show after the re-takes, Clay waited to hear that all was well and he said something like "It turns out I'm perfect"; and, of course. the audience roared.

Then he gave his signature two-finger salute to us, which he didn't do at the end of the official taping.

Special thnx to all the CA fans who have reflected on their Raleigh experiences in this blog and throughout Clay Cyberspace. Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!