Elton John – Rocket Man, Rocks Victoria

Elton John – Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena – February 15, 2011

Elton John kicked off his North American tour with his only Canadian dates and first ever visit to Victoria.  The back to back shows filled Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena with 16,000 fans over the two night, the largest crowds the 6 year old venue has experienced.  The buzz was definitely good for local business as many, like myself, came from out of town to catch the ‘Rocket Man’ perform his 45+ years of hits. 
And did he ever perform…3hours of non-stop hits! Elton sat down at the piano exactly at 8pm and belted out hits until 1059 (a City noise ordinance means concert events must end at 11pm).  His voice hasn’t seemed to have changed at all over the decades and still maintains the tone and strength to make each hit sound as familiar as ever.  The sound in the Save-On centre was outstanding as well, I’d heard that the building had good acoustics but this was even better than expected.  I’m sure the experience of 40 years of touring, many with the same band members, helps the songs sound perfect time after time. 
This tour is in support of “The Union” Elton’s new album with American singer-songwriter Leon Russell. The concert features many songs from the album but although these were the first time the band was performing them live they sounded so familiar and tight they fit right into the set without missing a beat. 
As the 2.5 hour mark approached, the hits rolled on and the audience was on it’s feet dancing for The Bitch Is Back, I’m Still Standing and finally Crocodile Rock (featured in the new Elton John produced film; Gnomeo & Juliet) wrapped up the main set.  After a quick minute break (the only one of the show) the band returned as Elton took the time to acknowledge the fans, spending a few minutes signing CDs, programs, t-shirts, even a glittery shoe.  To close the show the encore began with the 41 year old Your Song…sounding as fresh as ever…and finally Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me wrapped up a remarkable evening of music by a consummate performer.  

Now is the time to catch Elton as he tours across the USA
Upcoming shows include:

Feb 17  – Eugene, OR
Feb 19  – Reno, NV
Feb 24  – Kahului, HI
Feb 25  – Kahului, HI
Mar 11  – Uncasville, CT
Mar 12  – Worcester, MA
Mar 16  – New York, NY
Mar 18  – Norfolk, VA
Mar 20  – New York, NY
Mar 23  – Pittsburgh, PA
Mar 25  – Philadelphia, PA
Mar 26  – Baltimore, MD 
Mar 27  – University Park, PA
Apr 06  – Bismarck, ND
Apr 08  – Spokane, WA
Apr 09  – Boise, ID
Apr 10  – Billings, MT
Apr 22  – Wilkes-Barre, PA
Apr 23  – Rochester, NY
May 06  – Duluth, MN

2010 Olympic Memories

From February 12 – 28, 2010 Vancouver welcomed the world but more importantly woke up to the world and became a global city! The 2010 Winter Olympic Games finally arrived in Vancouver after a decade of pitches, plebiscites, planning, building, protests, decorating and some more protests.

In typical Vancouver fashion the very vocal naysayers seemed to have the ears and eyes of the public while the organizing committee went about their business.  Economic boom years at the start of the process gave way to an unprecedented economic bust right at the eleventh hour…sponsors went bankrupt, builders financing collapsed, income dropped & unemployment skyrocketed.  Were the Games in trouble? They weren’t in the financial shape they’d hoped to be but the committee persevered, they’d come this far…the finish line was in site
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By the time the Olympic Torch completed it’s epic journey along the longest relay in history, none of the ‘issues’ mattered…this was The Olympics and judging by the spontaneous euphoria that the people of Vancouver displayed they were in need of a party! Party they did…every moment for 17 amazing days thousands poured into downtown Vancouver! The pavilions were lined up with crowds wanting to catch a glimpse of the Olympic Medals at the Royal Canadian Mint or watch a concert at LiveCity Yaletown or even just enjoy the camaraderie of having a beer and watching the game on a big screen in Celtic House.

After years of being “No-Fun” Vancouver and being wary of congregating in large groups the populous had had enough and they got their wanted to show that it was indeed OK to have fun and enjoy the moment. Never in Olympic, and certainly not in Vancouver’s, history had there been such an exuberant display of national and civic pride!

Those who left town or stayed away realized they missed out, those who participated will never forget and everyone now knows that Vancouver, has what it takes to be a World Class City.

What were your favourite memories of the Games?

As we celebrate the one year anniversary of the 2010 Games, relive your memories with lots of activities throughout Vancouver. Check out where to “Share the Spirit” this weekend by visiting the City Of Vancouver website

Where are you going to “Dine Out”?

Dine Out Vancouver is one of the city’s tastiest events!

Dine Out is your chance to try that place everyone’s talking about but you keep putting off! Now’s the time, choose from a multitude of restaurants offering $18, $28 and $38 fixed price menues.

It’s already begun and only runs until Feb 6th, so if you haven’t booked a table you’d better take a look through the amazing list and make your choice(s) now! 

This year Dine Out is also holding a number of exciting and unique cullinary events…Brasserie Mystere, Dine In The Dark, Secret Supper Soiree, Dine Academy are just some of the fun…visit the Dine Out website for details.
From out of town? No problem, Tourism Vancouver has coordinated some amazing Dine Out Accommodation specials with Vancouver Hotels…so you can have a night out after you Dine Out!

Let me know what restaurants you’ve tried or are planning on trying…hopefully I’ll bump into you at a table!

The Ellen Show – An Easy Day Trip

People say nothingOutside WarnerBrothers Studios ever happens in Vancouver? Even is that were true (which I know it’s not) Vancouver isn’t that far away to have a fun daytrip away!

Yesterday, my good friend May arranged to get us tickets to The Ellen Show taping in Los Angeles. We boarded a plane from YVR at 0630 for a non-stop flight to LAX, arriving on a bright but cool LA morning. Catching a SuperShuttle for the hour plus trip across town we got a first hand taste of LA morning rush hour.  Arriving in front of the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank we still had time to kill before the required check-in time for The Ellen Show.

As luck would have it the Original Bob’s Big Boy Diner was just around the corner…it was like a walking into a 50’s museum….including some of the patons.

Back at the Studios and checking in at the waiting area (the lower floor of a parking garage) for The Elllen Show, we waited and waited some more before they started to sort the audience into groups to lead them to the studio backstage (which doubles as the Ellen Store). From here on out it was a well orchestrated whirlwind of fun and entertainment. 15 minutes before showtime, we were ushered into our seats in the studio and the ‘warm up’ guy started to rouse the audience and get us cheering. And cheer they did when Ellen Degeneres walked out to start the show…laughs, music, dancing, $100 Victoria Sectret Gift Card prizes, games, Eva Mendes, Flo-Rida, Mindy Kaling, more dancing, more laughs and games rounded out the November 30th episode.  

Then as Ellen was thanking the audience for attending, she also sprung another surprise on us by saying that Ben Affleck, who was to guest on the next day’s episode, was here to tape his segment as he was unable to the following day. So after a quick change of clothes for Ellen and DJ Tony, an interview with Ben Affleck was taped followed by a quick ‘game’. Then a quick 90 minutes after it all began, it was all over and we were on our way out the door with Victoria Secret Gift Card and Flo-Rida cd in hand. Making a mad dash for the SuperShuttle back to LAX for our 2100 flight back to Vancouver.

Super Fast Super Fun Super Easy to have a great Vancouver – LA daytrip!

Davie Day 2010

Sept 11th marks the third annual Davie Day in the West End. From Burrard to Broughton, Davie Street is closed to traffic and is taken over by entertainment, activities, information, food & beverage vendors.

The event really is for the while family, with something to keep every age (and attention span) interested: 
     Great entertainers are on the main stage (near Burrard); especially the very  popular Kim Kuzma and Shawn Hlookoff
     Movies and lots of activities for the younger crowd are in the KidZone at the Jervis end of the festival site. 
     Heritage & Arts displays for those looking for some culture and eductation with their day out. 
     Of course what street festival would be complete without some great food from the local merchants.

Come out and support the Davie Street and West End and be a part of the community!

(sadly I’m not there this year so have fun for me!)

Live At Squamish Music Festival

Live At Squamish Music Festival – September 4, 2010 

The inaugural edition of Live At Squamish (LAS) occurred over the Labour Day Long Weekend. This new multi-stage music and arts festival took over the Logger Sports Grounds and Hendrickson Fields in Squamish, BC for two days of good times.

My British friend Jim, who is a veteran of music festivals back home in England, and I both thought it was a really well organized, well run event. (Could have used a couple more signs on the highway guiding vehicle traffic to the site but that’s easily fixed next year).  I’ve been to a few festivals both in England and Canada and found LAS to be better than most.

with "Square The Bear"

Even though the ticket sales weren’t as high as I’m sure organizers, brandLIVE would have liked, I really admire their strategy of having a 5 year plan to make LAS a success. It shows they are in it for the long haul and are determined to do it ‘right’.  This year’s music line-up was a fairly low key mix of local and foreign acts like: Said The Whale, Jon & Roy, Seb Fontaine, Matthew Good, Dirty Vegas, Mother Mother, Bad Religion, Devo, The Decemberists.
Although a ‘bigger’ name would have sold more tickets I think they were wise to keep it simple.  This allowed them to work any kinks out without being overwhelmed by massive crowds. 
The whole vibe of this event was very chill and relaxed.  The venue itself was beautiful, the main stage had The Stawamus Chief as the backdrop, the smaller stages were set amongst the trees. There was lots of room between the stages too which meant there was very little overlap of sound, an issue with some other festival sites. The sound at all the stages was excellent, the clubZone dance stage has a great light show as well from Tony Pantages.
The layout of the whole site was very well done too. The vendors were set up around the edges of the field so no matter where you were you could still see/hear the main stage or they were in the transition areas between the stages to you passed them on the way between.  There was a great mix of artisans, corporate (Asus, Telus etc) and food vendors throughout the site. Each stage also had a beer garden along side, so it didn’t look like anyone was waiting very long if they chose to have an adult beverage.  Plenty of washrooms were located in a couple of areas and there was a set of sinks set up so people could fill up on clean tap water for drinking. The organizers encouraging people to bring their own containers to drink from eventhough there was beverages sold by the food vendors. I say kudos to brandLIVE for encouraging the use of tap water and reusable containers!
I cannot say enough good things about the organization of the whole event.

I’m looking forward to having plans on my Labour Day weekends for at least the next few years! See you there!

Over Vancouver – Flightseeing

Flightseeing – Grouse Mountain – July 24, 2010

This week I was able to take my friends, Brian & Teresa, on a fun adventure from YVR to Grouse Mountain – The Peak Of Vancouver as we repositioned a helicopter from our hanger to the mountaintop.  Each day in the Summer Helijet operates amazing flightseeing adventures from our pad next to the Grouse Mountain chalet, starting at just $99/person. 

On this day our adventure began with an easy Canada Line trip from downtown to Bridgeport Station and a short Community Shuttle bus to the Helijet office/hanger at the airport. After a short safety briefing and familiarization by Kim our great pilot,  we departed from the south side of YVR and headed north over the airport.
It was a beautiful clear morning so the views seemed never-ending.  As Delta and the South Arm of the Fraser River fell behind us, the varied skyline of downtown Vancouver mirrored the majestic North Shore Mountains beyond.  This high vantage point gives places and sights we see every day a new and unique perspective.  A sneak peak down into BC Place looking at the renovations happening to the roof-less stadium is a sight not many will get to see. Climbing over Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver and into the mountains, (trying in vain to see if we could spot the black bears that Kim had seen earlier in the week), we soon landed at the Grouse Mountain helipad.  It was a short flight but the memories won’t soon be forgotten, I think Brian and Teresa enjoyed their first Helijet experience and helicopter flight over Vancouver.
The last few years, the Staycation (vacation at home) movement has really taken off and a visit to Grouse Mountain really highlights how much there is to see and do just a few minutes from home.  Many locals think of Grouse Mountain for winter skiing or in summer, the famous Grouse Grind, a hike up to the peak from the valley below. 
Grouse has so much more to offer! In addition to the amazing Helijet Helicopter Tours, there is a whole host of activities to make the most of your trip to the Mountain.  Included with your Grouse Mountain Super Skyride admission is the Theatre In The Sky-a high definition film about the history of Grouse Mountain, the Grizzly Bear habitat (it was feeding time for Grinder and Coola when we were there), Birds Of Prey demonstrations, Logger Sports Show and Chairlift ride to the top of the mountain. Sitting in one of the patios and restaurants at the chalet offer breathtaking views over the whole of Metro Vancouver and, if it’s clear enough, on to Vancouver Island and Washington State. The observation deck in the Eye of the Wind (a power generating wind-turbine). ZipLining and Paragliding are also available on the mountain for additional fees.  
With all this available, it’s easy for the whole family to spend the day on the mountain and not run out of activities. If you are looking for a getaway from the everyday think about a heading up to Grouse Mountain…stop in and say “Hi” to our Helijet staff if you’re there!

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