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December 30, 2008


Just after Thanksgiving I had the rare opportunity to see a band I actually care about. Rare because as I may have mentioned in previous posts the only bands that seem to make stops on the islands are those with boomer appeal. That band was the ever masterful Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

So stoked was I when I heard they were coming I ran out and bought tickets a couple months in advance. The first thing I noticed, standing in the sweltering sun in front of the ticket seller window, was the price seemed a bit exorbitant. Hmm. Then there was the fact that the best available seats (seats, another eyebrow-raiser) were already twenty-plus rows back. Double hmm.

And then, a few weeks later, I saw the new ads: Flecktones Play Christmas Songs with the Honolulu Symphony. Holy crimony, I’ve been had!

I hate to say it, but I’m starting to get the feeling they just don’t know how to do things “right” here in the land of too much sunshine. Okay, the fact was the Flecktones were touring in support of a Christmas album. But that does not give the ailing Honolulu Symphony the right to hijack their show in a transparent attempt to boost ticket sales. There are some things you just don’t do in the name of a cheap dollar (and I would know!), but some people have no shame.

This is not to say the Flecktones do not belong on stage with a symphony orchestra. I could see a talented, fully prepared pit adding real depth to their sound. But this pairing was like having Don Ho sit in with Sigur Ros.

In reality it played out even worse. The Symphony had the chutzpah to introduce the Flecks as their special guests and regale us with an introductory medley of Christmas tunes that sounded like they had been arranged in the 70s. The Tones were allowed a few moments unhindered by the banal droning of the strings, and when they were, the contrast was painfully obvious – at least to my biased ears. The absolutely insane take on the 12 Days of Christmas – played in 12 different keys and time signatures – was simply jaw-dropping.

Only for the encore did we get treated to the Flecktones on stage alone, for the first time, a glimpse at what might have been. A touching solo performance by Bela followed by a rousing Throwdown at the Hoedown – my favorite tune of all – made the evening almost worthwhile.

Message to Blaisdell: next time put them in the Shell where they belong!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink
    January 9, 2009 12:01 am

    Just so you know, Bela Fleck performs with orchestras VERY regularly as part of his repertoire. The Symphony presented this group as part of their Pops season, which is always really well-attended. Bela is the one who chose the Christmas-format show because that is his latest release. Not sure what your beef against the Symphony is for trying to program interesting and entertaining acts…The Nashville Symphony, which is the town where the Flecktones live, present them at least every other year.

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