Capitol Civic Centre

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Garth Neustadter Trio show is astounding


MANITOWOC, Wis., (WFRV) – In ways, the “Garth Neustadter Trio New Year” show was astonishing.

Master talent Janet Planet, who sang on the program Saturday at Manitowoc’s Capitol Civic Center, provided a perspective. Noting she is a newcomer to the Neustadter “fold,” as she called it, Planet called what she saw “amazing” three times during the afternoon performance in front of a full house.

I’ve seen shows where a star entertainer jumps from instrument to instrument in a performance in show-off ways, as if to say, “Oh, look everybody, look what I can do.” Garth Neustadter went from instrument to instrument, plus sang, essentially saying, “This is what I do.” There’s a difference. Also, he performed with guest performers to not only display his versatility but to enhance what they do.

Neustadter teamed with other big talents, his mother, Kristen, on piano and electronic keyboards, and his father, Gary, on drums, trombone and vocals, including dressed as and in the persona of Garth Brooks and Elvis Presley (and – ! – pretty much pulling both off).

The corker was the mayor of Neustadter’s hometown was one of the hosts/emcees, and he was as glib as money can buy. That probably shouldn’t be said about a politician, but Justin Nickels oozes personality fit for the Neustadter showbiz show. Neustadter and Nickels have been friends from kindergarten on up, through the wunderkind stage to today as established entities. Neustadter is 27 years old. Nickels turns 27 on Jan. 9. To borrow from Janet Planet – amazing. Nickels was funny in the thick of Saturday afternoon’s show, saying Neustadter was “doing this” – flashing multiple musical talents – “while I was drawing in the lines.”

Nickels and co-emcee Matthew Schliesman, executive director of the center, started out on stage and moved freely with wireless microphones. For much of the show, they delivered comments/introductions from a box seat area above the left of the stage.

The show (5 stars out of 5) was extremely entertaining. It was divided into nine sections representing places on the globe and musical styles representative of them – everything from Dixieland jazz to operatic aria. Again, amazing.

To the program notes that follow, descriptions are added, including notations on Garth Neustadter’s instrument and or voicing.


(Opening backdrop included travelogue-like scenes representing Tokyo, Paris, Rome, India (Taj Mahal), London, New York and Egypt. Garth Neustadter was dressed in a standard black-jacket tuxedo, with patent-leather shoes).


“Orange Blossom Special,” violin

“Yakety Sax,” saxophone (one of a variety of saxes he played)

“Make You Feel My Love,” violin, with his father singing as Garth Brooks

“Devil Went Down to Georgia,” speed violin, his father singing, with flash-pot pyrotechnics to end the song

NEW ORLEANS (backdrop of three panels, lighted in flesh tone)

“When the Saints Go Marching In,” clarinet, including an exceptionally long note that displayed his ability with a specialized breathing technique, with his father playing drums and trombone

“Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” concert grand piano, with vocalist Janet Planet making her first observation of “amazing”

RIO DE JANEIRO (different lighting for the backdrop panels, making them look like walls of stone)

“Libertango,” violin, joining accordionist Stas Venglevski, an adopted Wisconsinite from the former Soviet Union who is expressly versatile in the accordion family of instruments

“Brazileira,” a two-grand-piano duet with his mother in the flashy Latin-rhythms number

“Tico Tico,” violin, again joining Venglevski

NEW YORK (projections of the city’s landmarks)

“New York, New York,” sax, with his father singing

“Steppin’ Out,” sax, with six Jean Wolfmeyer Dancers in sparkly, blue Rockette-like outfits with bowler hats, in a tap-dance display

“At Last,” violin and sax with Planet supplying the torch vocals and unleashing big notes (watch for my review Monday of her latest album)

“Moon River,” violin, with Venglevski joining in support for an interpretive dance by Jennifer Binversie, a hometown product currently studying at the Hartt School of Dance in Hartford, Connecticut

“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” from “Les Miserables,” singing baritone in character as Marius

“Do You Hear the People Sing?” from “Les Miserables,” singing baritone in character with the Manitowoc Lutheran High School (Neustadter and Nickels are alums) Lancer Singers costumed for the famed barricade scene

LONDON (black curtain backdrop; Neustadter in black velour tux jacket)

“Skyfall” from the James Bond movie, violin supporting an interpretive dance by Binversie, with Neustadter and Binversie arriving along separate aisles from the audience area

“A Foggy Day,” violin, supporting Planet


“Carnival of Venice,” with Venglevski in a solo showcase

“Largo al factorium” from Gioachino Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,” singing a cappella in the character of Figaro without the aid of amplification – essentially to show how opera singing is done, in pure voice

MANITOWOC (projections of scenes of the city and Lakeshore area)

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” violin

“Nkauj Hmoob Samneua,” sax, supporting the Nkauj Hmoob Laim Txias dancers, performing in stylized energized ways, barefoot in elaborate and colorful Hmong costumes

“The Way You Look Tonight,” romantic baritone voice in duet with Planet

“Clarinet Polka,” saxophone (or bass clarinet?), wearing a cheesehead as two girls dance playfully as the Manitowoc Mice and, in the end, get the cheese

LAS VEGAS (city scenes, eventually including a poster of Elvis Presley)

“Route 66,” saxophone, supporting Planet

“Smooth Criminal,” in a white tux jacket  with a bowler hat with lights around the rim and wearing a white glove, al a Michael Jackson, saxophone in support of the Jean Wolfmeyer Dancers in a stylized urban dance with hats, suspendered slacks and men’s ties

“My Way,” sax, including Vegas over-the-top showy style, supporting his father, dressed as Elvis Presley in Presley’s Vegas show-suit style with guest drummer Marty Scheuer Jr. on show-flashy drums; the scene was set with a projected video of the costumed Gary Neustadter seen in “Elvis sightings” in locations around Manitowoc before showing up live on stage.

VIENNA (projection of a starscape)

“The Blue Danube,” violin in support of the Jean Wolfmeyer Dancers waltzing in costume befitting a ball

“Radetzky March,” violin, with Folkgroup Edelweiss dancers, dressed in European-style villager costumes, dancing in the aisles


“Auld Lang Syne,” violin, with the cast on stage and the audience, arms locked, swaying and singing

Planet, the outsider, provided apt observations during most of her appearances. One: “Boy, this is so much fun, isn’t it?” Another, near the end: “Aren’t you proud of this young man?”

The show clocked in at 2½ hours. It was a full plate – cosmopolitan, corny, sophisticated, hokey, homey, exotic, hometowny, smart, sentimental, varied to the hilt, highly skilled and anything but aloof.  

Garth Neustadter isn’t the end all in all the individual things he does, but he does do a whole bunch of things extremely well; Planet’s “amazing” pertains, especially because Neustadter didn’t show all his cards in the performance. Part of what butters Neustadter’s bread is composing, which was displayed only briefly in the showing of a national commercial that included his music in the background. He has a Primetime Emmy Award for his score for the PBS “American Masters” documentary “John Muir in the New World.”

Neustadter’s training includes at Appleton’s Lawrence University (where he will receive an outstanding alumni honor in June) and Yale University and through his parents, whose individual talents fit hand in glove with their son’s in Saturday’s show.

Much community pride surrounds Garth Neustadter. There’s a scene in the musical “The Music Man” in which parents gush with overwhelming pride when their kids – their precious darlings – let loose their first awful, agonizing notes on their band instruments. Such is not the case here. Garth Neustadter is the real deal.

Editor's note: The Garth Neustadter Trio performed "A Garth Neustadter Trio New Year" on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, with shows at 3 and 7:30 p.m.; the second show in the 2013-14 Baileigh Industrial Marquee Series.

A LOVE ALMOST FORGOTTEN: A Night with Air Supply

by Scotty K. Seal

When I was a kid, let’s start at 6th grade and travel through high school, before the age of the internet where everything you ever wanted to know was available, things were simple. If you heard a song you liked, you either recorded it on to a cassette tape directly from the radio or you went to Dr. Freud’s and spent a dollar on the 45. There was no downloading it from the internet, posting the song from YouTube onto Facebook, texting a link, or finding it digitally available in multiple electronic forms. We paid for those records and cassettes and owned them.

Our time and generation was one of making a phone call on a landline or physically going to someone’s house to see if they could hang out. We bared our souls ourselves through music and shared how we felt through song. This still exists today, but our way was still in a pure form. I expressed myself through music and became a dick jockey for over 20 years because I fell in love with the power of the song and the effect it had on people. In our limited world of junior and high school communication, the song stood as the strongest means of telling someone you liked them. I chose Air Supply, king of the power ballad, and they never failed me.

The Australian duo showed up in 1980 and took the world by storm with hit after hit of love and heartbreak songs. Air Supply was everywhere, on every radio station, and we all knew the words. For six years they ruled the airwaves, but then faded into silence. Over the years people made jokes about them, including those you knew who had listened to them and sang their songs. I never forgot the impact of their songs and lyrics, and every few years I would get nostalgic for my youth, put some Air Supply and be taken back to a time of long lost and innocent love.

When I heard they were coming to the Civic Centre there was no doubt in my mind I would be going. My fiancé had only heard a few songs I had played for her because she is younger and didn’t experience the Air Supply phenomenon. I wasn’t sure what I was in for because most elder musicians I had seen were still playing rock and roll, not love songs. Russell Hitchcock, lead singer, and Graham Russell, guitarist/singer, are both in their early 60’s. To our surprise, the show was simply awesome.

Graham’s voice can still hit the notes and the songs evoked memories of a time passed, but not forgotten. It was more than just the music which made this memorable; it was the show and the audience that made it into an experience. Both Russell and Graham had a great rapport with the fans, venturing out into the audience more than once serenading to fans as far as the top row. The screams from the women can probably only compare to teenage girls screaming at Justin Bieber or many years ago when the girls of another generation did the same at the Beatles.

There were a couple highlights to the night for me; one of them being the two minute drum solo in the middle of their biggest hit ‘All Out of Love.’ I don’t know how, but they pulled it off. If someone would have told me Air Supply played a drum solo in the middle of a love song I would have thought they were crazy.

The other highlight being the woman who sat next to me with her four beautiful 20-something blonde daughters. I’m pretty sure they had the best time of anyone there and I’ll share it with you because their story is touching. Earlier I has struck up a conversation with the mother of the girls who had explained to me how much more excited the girls were for the concert than she was. It made no sense to me at the time, but later I would find out why. Periodically during the show I looked around to take in the crowd and how they were responding to the music, each time I noticed at least one of the daughters singing along with the music. Then something happened I will never forget, during ‘Making Love Out of Nothing at All’, all four daughters were standing, holding hands, and singing with tears in their eyes. I was mesmerized and touched.

After the show I caught up with the girls and asked them out of curiosity, “what just happened in there?” One of them immediately spoke and as she told me the story they all reached for the others hand again, including moms’. “When we were little, times were tough and we were poor, it was just us girls. At Christmas, mom got us all Air Supply’s Greatest Hits CD. She didn’t tell us why, but we would all sit around together at night and sing these songs. The music of Air Supply brought us closer together and that hasn’t changed. Our favorite was ‘Making Love Out Of Nothing at All’, which we played over and over.”

Alicia and I left holding hands, drove home in silence holding hands, and fell asleep holding hands. Doesn’t matter who you are, age, or where you’re from, music transcends all generations.

Editor's note: Air Supply opened the Capitol's 25th Season on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.