Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Does Russian conductor risk Western ire?

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gergiev.jpgRussian conductor Valery Gergiev has long been a darling of the West, and is currently serving as principal conductor at the London Symphony Orchestra. It will be fascinating to see whether, following his highly politicized decision to lead a performance of Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich amid the damaged buildings of South Ossetia’s Tskhinvali this week, that popularity wavers.

The charismatic musician’s actions will appeal to many Russians, who blame Georgia for sparking the crisis in the Caucasus by seeking to re-take the breakaway enclave and for shelling the regional capital. By likening the attack to the 9/11 strikes on the United States, Gergiev only upped the stakes.

Much of the rest of the world believes Russia is the villain of the conflict, leaving Gergiev, an ethnic Ossetian, open to a backlash in western capitals where he is used to red carpets and royal treatment.

Music and politics have often  gone hand in hand, of course, and we need look no further than Shostakovich as proof. His Seventh Symphony, which Gergiev performed on Thursday, is seen as a symbol in Russia of Leningrad’s defiance before the Nazi siege during World War II.

Now you see it, now you don’t: Sting’s beard

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sting-with-beard.jpgNEW YORK – It seemed a strange time for a shave. After the main set and before the encore at The Police’s last ever concert, Sting sat down in a barber’s chair backstage and relaxed as two women shaved his face, first with electric razors then with a blade. The moment was filmed and beamed to a giant screen above the stage. 

Why, you might ask? Media commentators in the past week have been less than kind about his salt-and-pepper beard that was showing serious signs of grey — and age. Sting was quoted on Monday as saying “The ladies love it,” but perhaps something changed his mind.

Creation Festival: rock’n'roll but no sex and drugs

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creation4.jpgMOUNT UNION, Pa. – From Woodstock to Glastonbury, summer music festivals have long been heaven for kids wanting to get in trouble a long way from home.

Creation is different. One of the biggest Christian music festivals in the United States, it has a dress code (no bare bellies for girls, shirts to be worn at all times by both sexes) and alcohol and drugs are strictly off limits.

Celine Dion tops poll for world’s worst cover version

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celine.jpgCeline Dion has come top of a magazine poll on the world’s worst cover versions. Total Guitar magazine said the Canadian singer’s rendition of  AC/DC classic  “You Shook Me All Night Long” put her in the No. 1 slot of the list published in its July issue.

Dion never released the song as a single but performed what the magazine called the “offence” against music at a Las Vegas concert six years ago in a duet with Anastacia.

Simpson, Wentz wed in bliss — with pre-nup in case!

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simpson-wentz.jpgSinger Ashlee Simpson and rocker Pete Wentz’s wedding last weekend had all the usual Hollywood glitz and secrecy attached but it seems the couple were well prepared for an un-Hollywood happy ending — walking down the aisle with a pre-nuptial agreement signed and sealed.  On Ryan Seacrest’s morning KIIS-FM radio show, Wentz, the bassist from Fall Out Boy, ’fessed up that the happy couple had signed a prenup agreement. While happy to talk about finances, when it came to rumors that Simpson was pregnant, Wentz was not so open.  Asked by Seacrest if they had picked out baby names, Wentz said: ”Ryan, this baby has not been confirmed. “

Hefner wants Miley Cyrus for Playboy – when she’s legal!

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miley2.jpgPlayboy’s 82-year-old found Hugh Hefner wants 15-year-old “Hannah Montana” star Miley Cyrus to pose for his adult magazine — when she’s old enough. 

“She’d be welcomed in the magazine. Very pretty lady,” Hefner told the “Extra” celebrity news show. 

Tom Waits unveils tour: “Pehdtsckjmba,” he says.

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(note: strong language in third paragraph)

Tom Waits“Pehdtsckjmba.” With this transparent and evocative word, Tom Waits, one of rock music’s greatest eccentrics, announced a two-and-a-half week tour through the southern United States.

Waits, who tours about as frequently as the pope, explained his Glitter And Doom Tour, ranging from Phoenix to Atlanta, with a study of astronomy. “If you think about it, from the beginning we’ve all looked to the night sky for guidance and meaning,” he said at a “press conference.”

Friends In Lowe Places

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Costello, Lowe & HitchcockWhen Elvis Costello was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, he expressed dismay from the podium how his one-time mentor Nick Lowe could be excluded from the revered ranks of luminaries.

So it made sense when Costello made a surprise appearance during the encore of Lowe’s New York concert at the Manhattan Center Wednesday night. Costello and Lowe dueted on “Indoor Fireworks,” a song Costello penned for Lowe for his 1985 album The Rose Of England. Then Costello, Lowe and opening act Robyn Hitchcock performed spirited versions of “Hungry For Love,” the 1963 hit by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates; “If I Fell” by the Beatles; and “Mystery Train,” the Junior Parker/Elvis Presley classic (although their version was closer to The Band’s 1973 cover version).

Have you been “rick-rolled”?

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youtube.jpgIn one of the more bizarre Internet phenomena to sweep the music world, 80s crooner Rick Astley has shot back into the headlines after years in obscurity thanks to millions of Web surfers being “rick-rolled”. For weeks now unsuspecting Internet users have clicked on enticing-looking links related to celebrities and instead been directed to a video of Astley performing his huge hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

It appears Youtube decided to get in on the joke, featuring a similar link on its main page on Tuesday, which just happened to be April Fools’ Day. (The image on this blog is a rather arbitrary snap of Youtube co-founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen. Sorry, but our pictures archive did not feature Mr. Astley, although that may be about to change).

Anti-fur group offers to pay Aretha’s arrears

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Aretha Franklin arrives at post-Grammy Sony-BMG partyAnimal rights group PETA has come up with a novel way of encouraging a major music star to give up fur. In a letter written last week, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk offered to pay Aretha Franklin’s back taxes and fees on her Detroit mansion in return for going fur-free. The soul legend owes $19,192 on the property and could face foreclosure proceedings, a county official said earlier this month.

Newkirk’s letter says animals trapped in the wild can suffer for days, and die in a number of grisly ways on their way to becoming coats and other fashion acccesories.

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