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Highland Park
Ravinia Festival, June 11, 2011






The Lawn
Ravinia is an outdoor venue consisting of a covered pavilion surrounded by a large lawn. This lawn, however, isn't like the lawns at other outdoor concert locations. Here, it's strictly for picnicking and listening to the concert. Your only chance of seeing the stage is by standing behind a railing at the very back of the pavilion.

The gates to the lawn open at 5:00, at which time the picnic patrons scramble for their small plots of land, where they set up tarps, lawn chairs and little tables laden with snacks and candles. Beverage kiosks are also open at this time, and soon the grounds are filled with people sipping from wine glasses and champagne flutes.

This was the opening weekend of the Ravinia season, but the weather made it seem like October rather than June. It was an overcast day with temperatures in the 50s, making a jacket or sweatshirt an absolute necessity. During the soundcheck, a slight misty drizzle began which didn't let up until the show was over. Nevertheless, the lawn was completely filled, although I did see a few people leave after sticking it out for an hour or two and deciding the weather was too unpleasant to stay.


Soundcheck
The band began their soundcheck shortly after 5:00, and since the grounds were open, we were able to hear it. Security personnel prevented us from going up to the railing, and photos weren't allowed, but we could stand just a few feet beyond the railing and hear the entire thing. The band did four songs....Meanwhile, Talking Out Of Turn, Are You Sitting Comfortably and The Voice. Between each song, various sound adjustments were made. It took quite a long time to get the volume levels adjusted after the first song, and they kept replaying portions of it to get it just right.





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The Concert
It was very cold and damp, and I wondered if Justin would be using his red Gibson guitar at this show. He has mentioned in the past that the Gibson doesn't do very well in temperature and humidity extremes, but when the show began, there it was! John, Julie, Alan and Norda were wearing jackets, and Norda was wearing her fingerless gloves. Graeme and Gordy, who seem to get plenty of exercise up there, weren't wearing jackets. Justin wasn't wearing a jacket, but he did have a red plaid scarf wrapped around his neck, which he had been wearing at the outdoor venues since his illness.

During the first half, it was difficult for both the audience and the band to get warmed up, in more ways than one. I could feel the dampness in my chest, and I can only imagine how the singers felt. The weather really seemed to be affecting the band, and Justin was having a difficult time of it. John's voice and Norda's flute playing also seemed affected, but to a lesser degree.

As the first half continued, things got a little better. There were no omissions to the setlist, and each song was warmly received by the audience. Justin introduced Meanwhile by telling the story of how the Long Distance Voyager album knocked Kim Carnes' album out of the #1 spot back in 1981. When he met her on the set of Top of the Pops, he said he felt "really bad...for about three seconds!" John introduced Talking Out Of Turn by saying, "This is for anyone who has ever sent a text message at two in the morning" ....meaning you probably said something in that text you'll regret later.



Things were much better during the second half. Everyone forgot about the cold, and the crowd was a much livelier bunch. Even Justin came out after intermission without his scarf! His voice was much better, too. During Graeme's introduction to Higher & Higher, he joked about how this would be a good time to make donations at the sperm bank, since everyone's specimens would be pre-frozen! Poor Graeme! During the song, as he made his way around the left side of the stage, his shoe came untied, and he missed the chance to do his "Riverdance" because he had to stop and tie it!

There seemed to be a technical glitch during Late Lament. The light fixture that creates the disco-ball effect either wasn't working or wasn't set up. I missed seeing it, as it's one of my favorite lighting effects during the show.

The crowd was really warmed up for the last few songs. Again, being at the stage during this part of the show is an experience that words can't describe. You're right there, sharing the moment, with all of the eye contact and smiles that go along with it.

The band is fond of giving their guitar picks and drumsticks to kids in the audience. Justin held his pick out to a boy with Spiderman makeup on his face. A very bold young lady grabbed it, and Justin told her in no uncertain terms that the pick was meant for the boy, and he made sure that he got it. Kudos to you, Justin!






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