22 August 2007

Justin Roberts @ Longwood Gardens

Last night, amid the spitting rain and ominous charcoal clouds we drove 30 minutes south to Kennett Square for the Justin Roberts show at Longwood Gardens. Thanks to the nasty April-ish weather the show was moved from this beautiful outdoor set-up to the less-dramatic, but perfectly fine indoor special events tent.

The event was part of Longwood's Festival of Fountains performance series. This one was billed as an ice cream concert for Families, but that amounted to individually wrapped frozen treats for sale, not a grandiose sundae-bar style that I was imagining (or dreaming of).

Before the show we strolled the grounds and discovered some cute little exhibits in the main Conservatory. There were four stations for kids to get their hands dirty (literally) - stamping and coloring, bees, worms and dirt, and ladybugs. At the ladybug table, kids learned a bit about the benefit of ladybugs and were asked to help out by carrying a stick with a bug or two over to a plant that needed their assistance in killing off a sickness.

While walking around, we passed these colorful lollipop plants. They look good enough to eat! ...almost. Longwood is absolutely beautiful and well worth the $16 admission cost for adults (kids under 4 free). A nature lover could spend hours there - inside and out - enjoying the sight, smells and sounds of the beautifully maintained grounds. Unfortunately, we only arrived 30 minutes before the 7:30 showtime, meaning we did not see much more than what was on our path to the event tent.

The show started promptly at 7:30 with Justin taking stage in a bright red short-sleeve dress shirt. Roberts brought along with him performer and producer Liam Davis. Liam acted as a sort of one-man band with a tambourine on his right foot, kazoo in mouth, keyboard to his left and bongo in front of him. They played for exactly an hour, sprinkling in songs from each of his five records, playing four from "Meltdown" his stellar 2006 release - "I Chalk", "Imaginary Rhino", "Cartwheels & Somersaults", "My Brother Did It", and the title track "Meltdown". The show, even without a full band (we look forward to see them in NYC in October as part of Target's Kids Festival), was a fun and upbeat affair. Much more so than I thought for what pretty much amounted to an acoustic performance (save for Liam strumming a low-volume electric guitar on two songs). So, the lesson here is: go see Justin Roberts live even if the full band is not supporting that particular show.

A hilarious kiddie mosh pit formed instantly in front of the stage, with Justin providing some instructions for dances, motions and sounds before most songs - some of the kids complied but most were just bouncing around to some of the finest children's music being made today. Roberts played three cuts from 2001's "Yellow Bus" - "Willy was a Whale", "Giraffe/Nightengale (opened the show - lovely number), and the title track "Yellow Bus". I counted two tracks from "Way Out" - "Day Camp" and "Airplane of Food". He also debuted a brand new diddy about a superhero boy with no particular super powers, again, very good stuff.

Read my review of Justin Roberts' latest effort "Meltdown".

Buy Roberts' CDs from The Pokey Pup!

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