She certainly hasn’t mellowed one iota over time, with a rollicking encore performance Saturday night back at Joe’s Pub. In attendance: visiting pals from Virginia Donna Mae Moose & her hubby Cecil, and Ayhan. I teared up, I howled, I laughed, I loved. *
Lina Koutrakos kicked some serious sonic butt in her return to the New York stage before a packed house at Joe’s Pub, Friday the 13th(!). The set list included enough new material to make me stomp my feet and say, “New album, baby!” I laughed, I cried, I howled from the depths of my soul. In other words: real good shit.
Among all the artists I’ve seen over the past 15 years, Lina gets top billing as the one I have witnessed the most… more than Celine Dion, even more than Sheena Easton… from her residence in the mid-1990s at the Bottom Line to shows at Cutting Room, Fez, Iridium, Shine, Metropolitan Room and what remains her biggest—a sold-out crowd at B.B. King in 2005, where I had the pleasure of introducing her to the room.
Through the years, Lina has certainly evolved, but one thing remains entrenched: She is a star, in her element on the stage, a master singer, songwriter and entertainer. She makes her audience feel at ease, confident and convinced that they’re part of something truly special. I’ve said it before in many ways: Why does the world know Miley Cyrus, but not Lina Koutrakos?
Then again, considering that Lina is performing in Paris next month, perhaps I underestimate… but whether or not she’s sold a million albums, Lina Koutrakos remains a world-class talent.
“Yes, Lina, I am absolutely convinced that world peace is a possibility in our time…”
>My beloved friend and uber-talented singer Lina Koutrakos appeared on “The Today Show” this morning to discuss her decades-long struggle with weight. At one point, she topped 278 pounds; today, she is a gorgeous, sexy 139 pounds. This is incredibly inspiring… of course, I teared all up. The response to this link on Facebook has been absolutely astonishing; folks that don’t know Lina are finding it through links that her pepes are posting (including me) and reacting with great awe and admiration. Indeed.http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640
>An ideal pre-summer setting in the greatest city in da world on this wondrous manic Monday. It went something like this…
12:45 p.m. For once, the MTA delivered me on time. Brooklyn Heights to 34th Street, Penn Station…1 p.m. My destination: Ripley Grier Rehearsal Studios at Eighth Avenue and 36th Street, to view a reading of “Southern Rain,” the new theatrical musical written by my beloved friend Lina Koutrakos and her longtime drummer and songwriting collaborator Dan Gross—based on her latest album of the same name (which I had the honor of scribing liner notes for).
I made the mistake of sitting in the front row—a strategic error since I pretty much wept through the entire two-hour production. Just beautiful in its story of a collection of high school friends that reunite some 30 years later, reflecting on integral moments that impacted the rest of their lives. The show cleverly offers a double cast—the adults and their youthful counterparts—who deliver the story with depth, sentimentality and universality. I have little doubt: With proper backing, I hear the call of Broadway, baby.3:15 p.m. After the show, I proceeded into midtown for my next glorious slice of life in the city…3:30 p.m. With time to kill, I stopped by Bryant Park east of Times Square on Sixth Avenue and I sat. And observed. And soaked up the green. And set my mind at total ease.I am particularly pleased with this pic below. The time of day was utterly ideal for capturing the reflection of a building on the other side of the park. Ten minutes later, this view had vanished. All about the moment.4:30 p.m. Still have a half hour before the next event, and here I am right by the historic New York Public Library, which I had never ventured inside of. My god, what a glorious display of architecture. Oh, and books, too.The place was packed… loved loved loved that.Remember these? They’re called dictionaries… on paper and everything.5:00 p.m. Exit to Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street…5:15 p.m. Pera Mediterranean Brasserie on Madison Avenue for a launch reception for this summer’s second-annual Istanbulive concert in Central Park. Last year, Sertab Erener and Demir were headliners, along with our pal Emre. This year, the central theme honors the great producer/record label honcho Arif Mardin. My longtime pal Paul Miraldi met me for the event, where we chatted with Arif’s son Joe.6:45 p.m. Next stop: Back to Bryant Park to chill and catch up with Paulie, before navigating through a packed Times Square and sitting on the Duffy Steps, admiring the view.Hey, it’s Johnny Dep! Or at least Madame Tussaud’s version.8 p.m. The evening’s other main event. Paulie invited me to see “39 Steps,” the Tony-winning play that has moved off-Broadway. We sat through the first act, watching the highly stylized performance, forcing a chuckle every few minutes…. Fortunately, at intermission, we were both on the same page: “This is god-awful.” And we took our exit. I worked back down to Times Square once more, admiring the lights at night, before heading home to Brooklyn. What a phenomenal day in the city.How do, tourists! Having fun?
I met Miss Sunshine, uh, Lina, within my first several months of moving to NYC nearly 15 years ago, and have watched her evolve from earth mama to oozy blues rocker—while maintaining an indefatigable dedication to her craft onstage and in song. As many times as I’ve heard some of her compositions, they sound new every time.
I’ve had the opportunity to review three of her singles in Billboard, offer a live review of one of her shows—and perhaps most gratifying—to introduce her to a sold-out crowd of 500 when she performed at B.B. King in NYC a couple years ago.
Ayhan and I popped into the Iridium in Times Square Tuesday, April 20, for her monthly gig with band The Low Country. As always, a good time was had by all.Congrats to Lina for being one of three Grand Prize finalists in the Gospel/Inspirational category, in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest, for her spiritual “Bury Me Deep”!! Winners will be announced Sept. 1, 2010.
(PHOTOS: THE SMOKING NUN)
>Wednesday evening packed a trio triptych of events, beginning with Liz D. and me, back in the city, first attending a reception honoring the Giants of Broadcasting at Redeye Grill at 56th and Seventh, where we reunited with Dr. Judy Kuriansky, whom I reunited with after more than a decade in the Hamptons last month at Sir Ivan’s outlandish outing.Onward to the Barnes & Noble in Lincoln Square to see my beloved Lina Koutrakos re-release her CD “The Low Country,” complete with a performance—and a packed room. I wrote the liner notes for the disc and apparently she said some nice shit about me… but we were 15 minutes late, so I’ll just imagine how lofty I must have come across. You betcha. Lina is performing at Joe’s Pub Oct. 11. Can’t wait for that.Then it was homeward bound, where Donna D. came over to cook dinner for Ayhan and me, for a double celebration: my birthday, yeah, yeah, old news—and Ayhan’s Green Card! Big night, indeed. And tasty, too.
>Welcome to the millennial techno-birthday! I’d like to thank a handful of folks for their HB greetings… This is what is possible in an era when friends have innumerable portals, whether Facebook, e-mail, texts and cell phone messages, in addition to old-fashioned (real) phone calls, actual cards printed on paper and (imagine) a face-to-face celebration… I’m truly amazed and actually not in the least cynical about this. Are you kidding? I feel like the most beloved cool cat in the world. And that, after all, is what birthdays are: a friend’s one special day. I loved every sentiment.
So (breathe in)… many thanks for the warm birthday wishes to all well-wishers: (in no particular order, promise!) Evelyn & Dan, Chris & Judy, Lisa & Matthew, Donna Mae Moose, Trixmoose, Aliceee, Leonard, Liz D., Sidi, Latif, Jeffrey, Debra, Caroline, Michael P., Moxie Moose & Family (thanks for the song!), Cynthia, Perry & David, Marky Mark M., Alex Z. (Happy birthday, too!), Alex V., David P., Linakins, Shelli, Tilawanda, Jim R., Karl V., Christa, Shannon, Phylli, Minverva, Pook, Jim Galli, Paulie P., Cara, Timmy & Bobby, Donna D., Kilgour, Emmy, Ken S. (happy birthday, too!), Jose, Jimbo, Emrah, Viv & Dan, Patrick & Tina, Ellen, Diane, Barbara, Anna, Katy, Allieicious, Fredly, Michael M., Teddy & Chris, Peter Z., Beanie, Christian, Geoff, Cathy, Brian G., Lucy, Melanie, Lori, Cindy, Valerie, Michele, Stephen S., Joe G., Peach, Vinny, Brandi & Ray, Rashaun, Karine & Ed, Ceren, Emre, Mitch, Naomi, Ryan, Lisa A., Alison, Danny, Pascale, David B., Amy, Brian G., Debbie, Ahmet, Susan, Margo, Olga, J.T., Anthony C., Mike B., Havelock, Lisa S.M., Cheryl, Yesim, Michael J., Christina, Jen, Raffaella, Hillary, Matt, Tara, Jones & Jack, Julia, Priscilla, Carter, Ro-Ro, Wayne, Mary Kim, Ken Tucker, Adam, Regan, Frank, Powell, Lisa Liu, Sylvia S., Nicola, Tommy Page, Lori B.C., Bill & Mary, Randy, Paul A., Andy Pink, Gail, Suzzette, Jerry, Cesar, Greg, Delvis, Tinatin, Cathy the Weiner, Ella, Corrine, Billbo, Chris T., Marc, Bebe, Paula, Dylan… and everyone else! Oh yeah, and Ayhan, my forever sunflower. If I somehow left out your name, um, blame Google? (Okay, exhale.)
Thanks to the power of Facebook and beyond, these birthday wishes came from folks I’ve known since 1976 (that’s you, Jimbo) and practically every year since… to those I’ve come to love in 2010. This is what makes life a worthy adventure, huh?… still connecting with so many who knew you when, while persistently turning the page as new allies ignite fresh adventures. It’s goddamn good to be alive.