Sunday, June 29, 2014

Concert Review: Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band at the Chicago Theater

Ringo Starr is a Beatle. He will always be a Beatle. His future obituary will write him up as a Beatle and his lasting legacy will be that as a member of what is the single most accomplished and gifted music act of the 20th century. The only other artist to rival the catalog of the Beatles is Frank Sinatra. Sinatra recorded for approximately 50 years and the Beatles recorded for a total of seven years, so in the end, the Beatles win.
I’ve seen Ringo Starr and his All-Starr band before, but last night's performance was the most fun one could have at a concert. Ringo doesn't play for the sake of nostalgia and he has wisely hired some of the most talented people in the industry to compose his All-Starr band. The members of this band can say they played a few Beatles songs along the way. As a musician, that alone must be a moment to cherish in your recollected memory train.

Greg Rolie from Santana and Journey (although he doesn't play any Journey songs), Steve Lukather from Toto, Richard Page from Mister Mr. and the wonderful guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Todd Rundgren are joined on the stage by drummer Gregg Bisonette and saxophonist/percussionist/vocalist, Warren Ham.
Rundgren's presence on this stage may be worth the $210.00 (with fees) to see this travelling All-Starr act, so his contributions with the out-loud Bang on the Drum All Day, the sweetly inspired I Saw the Light and the touching anthem, Love is the Answer provided a worthy show in around 15 minutes.
Richard Page delivers a vivacious version of of the 80's hit Kyrie and slides us back to a bygone day of great pop with Broken Wings. He is the one man on stage Ringo allows to debut a new song, You Are Mine. A lovely love song that would have balanced itself up to hit status 30 years ago, but in today's marketplace this song wouldn't work unless you had a 20 year old woman singing it.
Greg Rolie pounds out some classic Santana songs, including Evil Ways, Black Magic Woman and the always sing-along worthy Oye Coma Va. Rock and roll never sounded so fresh - forty plus years after the release of these songs.  
Steve Lukather gets us firmly planted with some superb lead guitar work on radio staples, Rosanna, Africa and Hold the Line. Lukather centers the night with some dream work on guitar.  
They are clearly a timely group since the show started exactly on time (8:00) and ended on the nose at 10:00. It was a mischievious night of fun and it didn't take long for you to realize this isn't your typical concert material. For one, they all genuinely seemed to be having a wildly good time and it was obvious to all, that these musicians all liked each other. Jokes were flying back from stage left to stage right and lo and behold, they weren't all scripted.
Ringo wants to have a good time on stage and that is what you get with one of his shows. The legendary Chicago theater played host to the 2014 Starr tour and it was indeed an entertaining night of raucus delight.  Of course, we get some of the great Ringo singing lead Beatles songs, including the still absolutely fantastic Yellow Submarine.  Ringo states with tremendous clarity, "if you don't know this song you are in the wrong venue." Could you possibly have a wider array of giddy smiles throughout the hall going on and on with "we all live in a yellow submarine?" Who else could have come up with something so creative and fun without being stupid, except the fab four.
Ringo goes back and forth with some famed Ringo vocals from the Beatles (Don't Pass Me By, Honey Don't, Act Naturally, Boys, I Wanna Be Your Man, Matchbox), but he never gives us a 2014 tour version of Octopus’ Garden so that was my big "what?" of the evening, but we do get some spot on renditions of his 1971 hit, It Don't Come Easy and the George Harrison penned, Photograph.
It's difficult to believe that Ringo Starr will be 74 years old in a few days. His energy level would rival any man half his age. I didn't count how many times peace and love were mentioned throughout the performance, but in this crowd it seems a mildly ridiculous preaching to the choir test of words and they even end the performance with John Lennon's Give Peace a Chance, although Ringo at that point is conspicuously off the stage.
Check out the legends. These are artists we rarely get to enjoy and life is indeed brief and fragile. Thanks to all of them for putting on a wonderful show. Yes, they got by with a little bit of help from their friends.      
It’s all fun, fun, fun. Wait, that’s a Beach Boys song.         
Good time in the old town last night. Take advantage of these performances. Someday soon, these guys will be too old to deliver some of these classic tunes.
Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Best Ice Cream in the Chicagoland Area

I love ice cream. Packed. Soft-serve. Gelato. Frozen Yogurt (actually, I only love TCBY's frozen yogurt - it is the country's best yogurt). It's officially summer and summer is the season for multiple outings for cold treats. I have a deep emotional attachment to those moments when my mom and dad would take us out for ice cream during those summer nights of my childhood and youth. History bubbles up with memories as I dip into glorious ice cream. I have nostalgia for my youthful family memories, but the ice cream is even better today - or so it seems.  

For the last year we've been scouring the entire area for the best ice cream. These are places we have experienced either once or in some cases, multiple times. These locations are not necessarily in any particular order, but if you want to indulge in some good ice treats, check them out. Please leave comments, since we want to hear about other good ice cream locales.

The Brown Cow – Superb ice cream and the ambiance is delightful. 
    7347 W. Madison Street, Forest Park

Chocolate Peanut Butter on the right side!  

Cool Creations –What a gem and it’s a relatively unheard of gem. I would never had known of its existence if I hadn’t been chatting up ice cream locations with the garage door fixer upper.  I have been chatting up ice cream locations with everyone I encounter. Cool Creations is in a an old Baptist church built in 1852. The ice cream is a gift to the palate. Outdoor seating and indoor seating available. 1950's ambiance! 
937 S. Hamilton, Lockport

Plush Horse – A great American getaway for decades in the south suburbs.  Two locations offer up a good reason to share in the excitement of getting your calcium. Yes, tell yourself that one.  This is good for my bones! You will not get more for your money than the ice cream dished out or coned out at the Plush Horse. Their Popcorn M&Ms flavor is near out of this world. Original and outstanding. This flavor alone is worth a trip to the Plush Horse.
Two locations: 12301 S. 86th Avenue, Palos Park (original location)
7903 W. 171st Street, Tinley Park

                                                               Plush Horse Cones
Bobtail - Bobtail is pretty sophisticated. Their ice cream is homemade and wildly creative. This place doesn't mess around with second rate flavors. Have fun! 
2951 N. Broadway, Chicago
1114 Central, Wilmette

Original Rainbow Cone – You can’t go wrong with an Original Rainbow Cone. A famous and almost downright iconic refreshing treat in the city of Chicago.  I love to look at a rainbow cone. Makes you smile. Well, it makes me smile.
9322 S. Western, Chicago

                                                      Original Rainbow Cone

Mamma Rosetta's Gelateria – Some of the best gelato you will ever indulge in. Inside and outside seating is available. Don't be fooled by the cup size. This gelato is so rich that a medium packs a lot more than you think. Flavors are all excellent. You can't figure out which ones to go with, because you want them all.   
30 Oak Street, Frankfort 

Zarlengo’s Italian Ice and Gelato – This place is a bit south, but it’s worth the drive. Daringly delicious ice treats being served up since the early 1980's. 
257 W. Joe Orr Road, Chicago Heights 

Jack Frost – Excellent location for wildly good soft serve ice cream. Their dipped cones are out of this world. Outdoor seating is available. The building resembles a small Swiss Chalet.
5329 159th Street, Oak Forest 

Dairy Palace - All around good ice cream in both the hand packed and soft serve worlds. They even make a strawberry soft serve on site. Love this place, since they play music from the 1950's. Think a moment from the film, American Graffiti.
Downtown Tinley Park

Capannari Ice Cream - An entertaining ice cream locale filled with good flavors. A packed list of events to boot. 
10 S. Pine Street, Mount Prospect

2 Sisters – Custard. Yes, it’s good.  Very, very good. It’s a small location in a strip mall, but if you are anywhere near it, you should check it out.
4734 147th Street, Midlothian

Dairy Bar - The little red draped building serves up some holy cow good soft serve ice cream. They've been there since 1955.
1015 Harlem, Glenview 

Batavia Creamery - A wide assortment of different flavors are the highlight of this ice cream delight. Outdoor seating is a wonder on a hot day. 
4 N. Island, Batavia
Oberweis – Yes, chains are included if they offer up the creamiest ice cream in the 75 mile spread of the covered area. Lots to offer in these throwbacks to Americana. The music from the earlier days of the rock/pop era serve as a delightful backdrop, but the cleanliness of the locations and the super fantastic ice cream keeps you coming back. 
Various locations throughout the suburban Chicagoland area

Don't fear the chain. Baskin Robbins has superb ice cream in a variety of flavors and they are pretty much all over the place. Also, the American superstar of ice cream chains is Dairy Queen. When you travel along the nation's highways you begin to expect to see signage for the DQ and it is somewhat comforting to know they are there. 

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014     

Friday, June 6, 2014

Long Weekend Trip Out of Chicago - Presidential Libraries/Museums (Hoover/Truman/Eisenhower)

                     ROAD TRIP

It's difficult to get more quintessentially American than a visit to a Presidential Library and Museum. Visiting the Presidential Libraries/Museums is one of the few bucket list items on my own personal journal of things to do and you can visit two of them during a pleasant long weekend out of Chicago.

While it would be easy to fly directly to Kansas City, Missouri, there is a certain poetry to the drive through large swaths of endless rows of farms and green tree filled hills. Missouri is a beautiful state with lots of hills, valleys and non-treadmill inclines. This is in no way a boring drive through the Show Me state. It's lovely from start to finish.

The trip begins in Chicago and you drive the smooth stretch of I-55 down through to Springfield with a turn toward Hannibal, Missouri. We stopped in Hannibal to visit Mark Twain's boyhood home, but the real destination was toward Kansas City, Missouri and then to Abilene, Kansas.

I'm a history buff, specifically a U.S. history buff, but you don't have to be a buff to appreciate the massive historic encounters at these two superbly enthralling venues.

You can get to Kansas City in a day's drive and we parked ourselves (well, actually we parked with the valet) at the downtown Marriott in Kansas City. The hotel is this side of gigantic, but the service on all fronts was professionally generous. The rooms are large and clean and everyone we encountered from the valet to the greet staff to the check-in staff to the security guards were all kind and helpful. The food in the lobby bar was even excellent.  I still haven't forgotten the outstanding soft pretzel appetizers we ordered while watching a sporting event.

The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum is a short distance from the hotel. The facility is located in the lovely suburban area of Independence. Truman was born in Lamar and he died in Kansas City, but Independence was home for much of his life. It's a large library featuring the triumphs of one of our most to the point Presidents. He was humble and yet he was a born leader. He certainly didn't appear on the surface to be a man who would lead the nation out of the Second World War and into what is perhaps the most consequential period in American history outside of the flush years directly after the American Revolution. Truman famously said "if you can't take the heat, then get out of the kitchen." Leadership comes in a wide variety of personality types, but every President since Truman has latched on to Trumanisms.

                                                      Truman Library and Museum

Obviously, Truman's life cannot be diminished to a few paragraphs, but clearly he was one of the most remarkable people who enlivened the American century. He, his wife Bess and their only child are buried on the grounds of the Library/Museum.

The highlights here are the film, the sections on Postwar America, the Recognition of Israel, Upset of the Century (think Thomas Dewey) and the Courtyard.

The even more intriguing part of the twofer Library/Museum visits was to come in Abilene, Kansas. We saddled up for our journey to one of the outposts of the American west. Dwight David Eisenhower who brilliantly forged the campaign known as D-Day has one of the most significant of the Presidential Libraries/Museums.  The content at this museum is unusually large and you need a full day to navigate the wide array of historical points. Quite frankly, if you are an avid history buff you could use two days in this Library/Museum.  I was mad at myself that we had not allowed enough time at this vast arena of information. The World War II sections were particularly satisfying to this buff. Again, even if you are a casual observer to American history you will appreciate these places for contemplation; and ultimately be grateful for the experience of having this nation to call home. Whether you personally agree with the ideology of a President these places reflect the arc of American history and politics has nothing to do with the libraries/museums.

                                                      Eisenhower Museum & Library

Eisenhower's resting place is solemn and thought-provoking. His childhood home is on the property and there are two buildings housing the mighty and bountiful displays of artifacts, documents and historical archival footage. On a side note, it is a pity Mamie Eisenhower wasn't recognized for her style. Every single outfit on display in Mamie's section (Ike's wife) would and could be worn by me today.

I cried during multiple spins around ever changing rooms and the chapel is a graceful resting place for not only Eisenhower, but for anyone wanting a few moments alone to rest in God's grace.

                                                        Eisenhower's Boyhood Home

To visit Eisenhower's Library Museum you will need 2 1/2 hours out of Kansas City. Then you need the time back. Just allow as much time as possible. On the way back to Kansas City you can have dinner in the gorgeous town of Lawrence, Kansas which houses the University of Kansas. Great town filled with affordable eateries and some nice stretches for stretching your legs on a walk around campus or around town.

Practically everything you witness here is a highlight. Glorious day of lounging in the history of two decades of Eisenhower's brilliant and understated leadership.

On our return trip to Chicago we ventured a different way home instead of taking the Missouri route back. We climbed north to Clarinda, Iowa. Clarinda is a small town on the Southwestern edge of Iowa. Since Truman and Eisenhower both defined or were definers of the World War II era it seemed more than appropriate to stop in this town to pay our respects to the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum. The Glenn Miller Orchestra was the most successful of the Depression/World War II era big bands and they even were the first music artist to sell a record reaching one million in sales. Miller joined the Army Air Force band and lost his life in service to his country. The museum is a small place filled with music, photographs, posters, films, documents and original long play albums. It's a wonderful diversion on the road back whether you are in the mood or not.

If you are heading eastbound, then you can take in a third Presidential Library and Museum. The Herbert Hoover location is in West Branch, Iowa. The Hoover Library/Museum is small, but it is a delightful location and you learn a tremendous amount on the life of the 31st President. The property is lovely. Don't miss it if you enjoy and appreciate history.  

We love weekend journeys out of Chicago and particularly when you can take some luxury time in the good weather of spring, summer and fall.

Take this jaunt and enjoy the history you breathe in.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, Independence, Missouri. 816 268 8200 or

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas 785 263 6700 or or

Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum, Clarinda, Iowa 712 542 2461 or

If visiting the Presidential Libraries is on a bucket list, please note the other Presidential Libraries and their locations:

Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, IL
Franklin Roosevelt, Hyde Park, NY
John Kennedy, Boston, MA
Richard Nixon, Yorba Linda, CA
Lyndon Johnson, Austin, TX
Gerald Ford Library, Ann Arbor, MI (Museum is located in Grand Rapids, MI)
Jimmy Carter, Atlanta, GA
Ronald Reagan, Simi Valley, CA
George Bush, College Station, TX
William Clinton, Little Rock, AR
George W. Bush, Dallas, TX

Copyright Chicago and Then Some 2014