Reviews


ZZ Top Ottawa 2013

The Little Ol’ Band From Texas rocked the Canadian Tire Centre Monday night as Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard put on a show featuring a healthy dose of ZZ Top classics mixed with some newer material from their current album, “La Futura”. Gibbons is a master and one of the best blues guitar players in history — he creates sounds out his instrument with the ease of someone dailing a phone…effortlessly. His command of artificial harmonics was in full display as he squawked out the solos on “Gimme All Your Lovin’”, “Legs”, “Pincushion” and others that feature this difficult technique.

The crowd was older and more subdued than normal — and sparse. Even though the band played in the smaller “bowl” configuration of the arena, it was clearly too large a venue and this seemed to take some of the energy out of the performance. However, the “Eliminator” anthems and a cover of Gibbons’ pal Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” were the highlights of the evening, ending with the raunchy slide guitar on “Tush”.

Set

Got Me Under Pressure
Waitin’ for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin’
Pincushion
I Gotsta Get Paid
Flyin’ High
Certified Blues
Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix cover)
My Head’s in Mississippi
Chartreuse
Sharp Dressed Man
Legs

Encore:
La Grange / Sloppy Drunk Jam
Tush

Paul McCartney Out There Ottawa ON

Paul McCartney put on one of the greatest shows that Ottawa has ever seen as the former Beatle and his 4 piece backup band dazzled a packed house at the Scotiabank Place/Canadian Tire Centre arena. Playing a set largely consisting of well-known Beatles tunes and hits from his 70′s band, Wings, McCartney entertained the enthusiastic and appreciative crowd for nearly 3 hours, even returning for 2 encores. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this concert was the lack of backup singers, scantily clad dancers, numerous auxiliary musicians, electronic backing tracks, etc. that are so prevalent with the shows produced today. Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray played lead and rhythm guitar and Ray played bass when Sir Paul strapped on a guitar, while Paul Wickens was a jack-of-all-trades, contributing keyboards, harmonica, percussion, and even accordian to the mix. Abe Laboriel, Jr., laid down a solid and energetic beat on the drums.

Paul McCartney Out There Ottawa

McCartney’s voice was in fine form (as evidenced by the fact that most of the songs were performed in their original keys) and the sound system was perfect — no distortion or bad mixing of voices and instruments that are common in venues of this kind. Highlights of the set were a rocking rendition of “Back in the USSR” and a literally explosive version of “Live and Let Die” in which the pyrotechnics almost overwhelmed the musical performance. The traditional favorites like “Let It Be” and “Hey, Jude” were soulfully performed and “Day Tripper” and “Helter Skelter” helped round out the evening as part of the encores.

As the first stop on this North American leg of the “Out There” tour, this show proves that McCartney is already in fine form and that future audiences can look forward to a terrific show. More pictures from the show can be seen here and a video of “Day Tripper” can be found here.

Paul McCartney Setlist, Ottawa, July 7, 2013

Eight Days a Week
Junior’s Farm (Wings)
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said (Wings)
Let Me Roll It (Wings) with snippet of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”
Paperback Writer
My Valentine (Solo)
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed (Solo)
I’ve Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
Another Day (Solo)
And I Love Her
Blackbird
Here Today (Solo)
Your Mother Should Know
Lady Madonna
All Together Now
Michelle
Lovely Rita
Mrs. Vandebilt (Wings)
Eleanor Rigby
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Something
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run (Wings)
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die (Wings)
Hey Jude

Encore 1:
Day Tripper
Hi, Hi, Hi (Wings)
Get Back

Encore 2:
Yesterday
Mull of Kintyre (Wings) feat. Ottawa Police Service Pipe Band
Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End

HP Envy H8-1559
Well, the time finally came to upgrade from my old dual core, 2GB RAM dinosaur. I considered several options:

  • go Mac — limited customization options and I wasn’t sure I could run all of my software and devices
  • roll your own — looked at this via ShopRBC (which I highly recommend), but couldn’t seem to get the price point I wanted
  • buy a pre-made off-the-shelf system — after seeing the specs on the Envy, this is the route I decided to go
  • The HP Envy H8-1559 is an AMD-powered 8 core, 8GB RAM desktop computer with an AMD Radeon HD 7570 graphics card and a 2TB hard drive. I accessorized my Envy with a 27-inch HP monitor and wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse. Setup was simple, though Windows 8 requires an account to be setup with Microsoft. I was able to get virtually everything running, my Mustek 1200 A3 scanner needed 64-bit Windows 7 drivers. Stock drivers from Canon worked for my Pixma 9000. Regrettably, this might signal the end of the line for our venerable HP LaserJet 3150, which has not been supported since Vista. Perhaps the open source drivers will allow me to hook it up to our Linux server, but I’m not sure the Windows systems will be able to print to it.

    I then installed the Hauppauge 1201 WinTV HVR-1250 PCI-E Hybrid HD Video Recorder TV Tuner Card since the Hauppauge card in my old computer would not fit into the PCI-Express x1 slots that were available on the Envy. I downloaded the latest software from Hauppauge for this card, but it did not work as well as the software provided on the accompanying CDROM (the WinTV application froze sporadically with the newer drivers and software).

    For video encoding, the system is quite fast, it can encode a 2 hour movie into H.264 in about 20 minutes using Handbrake. The Beats sound is good (I’m using the optical sound interface to my amp) and the video card has both DVI and HDMI interfaces.

    So far, the most annoying part of this experience has been the fact that Windows 8 applications only seem to run at fullscreen. This is ridiculous in the world of multicore processors and 27 inch displays that allow you to have several programs running simultaneously. If I want the Windows 8 version of the Kindle app running in the corner of my screen, apparently I am out of luck.

    Next up will be the USB MIDI interfaces and guitar effects software. Overall, I recommend this system as a reasonably priced ($700CDN for the computer) high performance unit. For those of you who need a lot of oomph on your desktop that a notebook can’t provide, this might be the system for you.

    Gary Ross’s film adaptation of the popular Suzanne Collins novel “The Hunger Games” is a faithful adaptation that should appeal to purists as well as casual fans. The film follows the saga of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the bow-hunting heroine from downtrodden District 12 who volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the “Hunger Games”, a contest pitting 24 youths against each other in a battle to the death.

    In this dystopian view of the future, the nation of Panem is comprised of an all-powerful Capitol and 12 Districts that are ruled with an iron fist. To remind the citizens of the Districts who is really in charge, each year the Capitol requires that a boy and girl tribute from each district compete in the brutal “Hunger Games” from which only one tribute can emerge alive as the victor. The Games are preceded by pomp and circumstance, interviews, and judging much like many of today’s reality television shows.

    Katniss and her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are thrust into this aided the mentoring of sole surviving District 12 victor, the alcoholic Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), the annoying protocol advice from Capitol reprentative Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and the fashion stylings of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).

    Over the course of the film, we meet some of the other tributes, find out a bit more about how the Games are architected by Game Maker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and hear from the ominous President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The film is well cast and the performances of Lawrence, Hutcherson, and Sutherland are particularly good.

    The action in the Arena is fast-paced and few scenes and details from the novel are left out. The violence is not portrayed in a particularly exploitive fashion, but it is also obvious that the tributes are killing each other in bloody combat. Some of the more subtle aspects of the book are difficult to translate to the screen with the limited time, such as Rue’s (Amandla Stenberg) relationship with Katniss and Katniss’s bond with her fellow District 12 hunting mate, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). However, I think that a viewer unfamiliar with the novel will not miss this material. What might be bit confusing to a newcomer is why all of this is going on in the first place. The explanation of the history of Panem and how the Capitol rules everything is glossed over pretty quickly, and despite a few scenes with President Snow, the underlying reasons that will drive the plot of the sequels is left fairly obfuscated.

    Overall, though, the film delivers an entertaining romp through Suzanne Collins’ world. I highly recommend the movie to both “Hunger Games” aficionados and to those that just want to find out what all the hype has been about.

    Click on the image for a larger version.

    Click here for more “Hunger Games” sketches.

    For the price, the ASUS Play Air HDP-R3 Wireless-N Media Player is excellent. I had it up and running on our wireless network in minutes (I choose not to attach any local storage) and connected to our plasma TV using HDMI. We have a large video library stored on external USB drives that are mounted on both Windows and Linux hosts. The HDP-R3 was able to see these “folders” and effortlessly play the media without any jitter. It plays the media more smoothly than a PC on the network in some cases.

    One small drawback — connecting to the wireless network takes a minute or two. Initially, it took so long, I thought that I manually had to connect every time the unit was powered up, but it just takes a few minutes. If you leave the unit on, it stays connected for the most part, but every user is going to have to learn how to check the wireless connection and perhaps re-connect the system.

    I had hesitated to buy a wireless media player because the units were 3 to 4 times the prices of this one and many had hacked wireless capability as and add-on USB adapter. This product, with its built-in wireless adapter, is the perfect solution for those who have video libraries they want to access via their wireless network.

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