Monday, December 12, 2011

Weightlifting Icon Vasily Alekseyev

Sad to recently read that Olympic weightlifting champion Vasily Alekseyev died in Germany on Nov. 25.

I recall viewing Alekseyev's super heavyweight feats as a kid, and his gold medal lifts in Munich and Montreal are burned in the brains of many who viewed highlight reels of Olympics from the 1970s.

Through The New York Times obituary for Alekseyev, I learned he was undefeated from 1970 to 1978. Also found that his wife's name is near match for my Yahoo! email address: Olimpiada.

An online video of an archived sports TV report also shared some insight into the life of the man who set the record for breaking sports world records.

Photo via this link

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Paul Simon in Atlanta

Blogging during autumn months is tough. November is notoriously busy, and Thanksgiving with family is usually a week of recovery from a rigorous work schedule.

Fortunately, early December brings a bit more time for fun and games, and how better to end the first week back in the office than to experience the Grammy winning sounds of Paul Simon?

Al (he told me to call him that) was in the Atlanta area on December 2, performing to a (sadly) half-filled Arena at Gwinnett Center in suburban Duluth, Ga. (several fellow audience members commented "did anyone promote this show?" as the arena was embarrassingly sparse with fans -- probably 4,000 of 7,000 available seats had butts in them; on behalf of Atlanta, sorry, Paul, they could have had them all).

Before diving in to notes on Simon's performance, which was amazing and quickly advanced into my personal Top 10 list for best attended concerts, a brief note on Paul Simon's loose ties to the Olympics.

It is my understanding, per this blog post from 2005, that Mr. Simon's most recent five-ringed interaction may have been his private performance for IOC members in Manhattan for a New York 2012 Olympic bid function. Also found an amusing Associated Press photo of Olympic champion Usain Bolt striking a Paul Simon pose at an event press conference.

Next time I see Al it will be a point of conversation to clarify his Olympic interests.

Back in the Gwinnett Arena, Paul Simon took the stage with about half-a-dozen band mates who each showcased expertise on an array of brass, percussion and stringed instruments, many I had not previously seen/heard in a live concert.

My floor seat was on row 15 near the aisle, and you can imagine my stunned amazement when the Indigo Girls' better half Amy Ray and three of her friends arrived during the second or third Simon song and took their seats near mine (I later took advantage of another late-arrival's seat shift and moved up to a vacant row 13 aisle seat -- UPGRADE!).

So, how cool is it to be singing along with the local audience, including Ms. Ray, to popular favorites such as "Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover," "Slip Slidin' Away" and "Diamonds On The Souls of Her Shoes"?

As Simon and the band played tune after unforgettable tune, the audience slowly grew less subdued.

By the first encore performance "The Sound of Silence" played acoustic by Simon in a solo spotlight, many of us floor seaters were inching up to the front row with cameras, and by the second encore set including "Graceland" and "Still Crazy After All These Years" it was a front row free for all with Simon high-fiving fans between songs (see photo of my one hand clapping Al's).

That time Paul Simon high-fived me as I snapped a photo!
I mentioned the range of instruments used during the show. Tunes like "Rewrite" and "The Boy In The Bubble" (which opened the show with an amazing accordion solo) and others brought out special guitars, a chime made of assorted cutlery, and about the biggest saxophone ever seen or heard. There were amazing piano and drum solos, notable for "The Obvious Child."

My personal favorites of the evening were "The Only Living Boy In New York" as well as "The Obvious Child," "The Boy In The Bubble" and Simon's rendition of "Here Comes The Sun" by George Harrison.

Indeed, we were "Born At The Right Time" to experience this living legend in Duluth. Up close, Simon appeared to perform with as much joy as he must have had during those early career gigs with Simon & Garfunkel.

After the show, I reintroduced myself to Ms. Ray (we first met in 2001 at a music law client event at Emory University, which she politely pretended to remember).

When asked, she said she had not performed with Paul Simon (on the stage at the same time) but she had previously seen/heard him live when they were part of a benefit event or two. It was really cool to hear her group of friends singing along, and even cooler when she agreed to a quick photo with this fan.

Experiencing Paul Simon live was on my wish list for a long time. Attending his next tour is on the wish list for the future (perhaps we can talk London 2012 organizers into getting him on their set lists).

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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