Dimensions of a Deal

Posted By on January 23, 2007

My wife and I eagerly ventured into downtown Cleveland for a meal and entertainment Jan. 20. A man I know through table tennis invited us to share dinner with friends of his, and we ended up at a table at a Vietnamese restaurant. The company was good and fresh—and the bill, for all 10, was $106.13 (for my wife and I, the total was $26, including tip, because I had a glass of wine). Great food, great value. We’ve spent more on dinner for just us two.

After the meal, we went to a concert featuring several semifamous singer-songwriters. The tickets were $10. Imagine: a night on the town, including good food and a concert, for a shade over $50 (the $8 parking put it over the top). It can be done, which is amazing and heartening.

Too bad the performance was lame, particularly since I wanted to hear Guy Clark, Joe Ely, John Hiatt and Lyle Lovett, all acoustic, each with his guitar. Those $10 tickets got Karen and I seats one row below the top of the State Theater balcony. We could barely see the performers, though the acoustics eventually settled into adequate.

The show was maddeningly linear: Clark would sing a song in his Kristoffersonian voice, then Ely would overemote. Hiatt was the winner; his guitar was the most interesting, his writing sharp and vernacular. Lovett’s rounded tone was caramel, as usual, but his banter seemed strained.

What was weird was the lack of interplay. I like all these guys solo, but I wanted to hear how they’d interact. Early on, Hiatt added some guitar improvisation to an Ely tune, but that was about it. An hour and 20 minutes in, I turned to Karen and said if the next number was boring, we should leave. It was. We did.

Why didn’t these veterans, each fearless in his own right, collaborate, jam, dare each other? Was the arrangement political so they couldn’t change position or sequence? I’ve reviewed pop music for years and never encountered anything quite so stiff—or was it flaccid?

The phrase, “you get what you pay for,” assumed new meaning that cold Saturday night.


Leave a Reply

About the author

I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff