Sunday, August 27, 2006

Rockin' Out With Super Diamond

Saw Super Diamond again. In case you've forgotten, they are the most awesomest Neil Diamond tribute band ever. Tim, who has yet to understand the importance of Neil Diamond, skipped out as usual. So I went with my co-worker/supervisor, Dori, who is a fan of The Neil.

Neil Diamond tribute band, Super Diamond, rock Irvine. (08/27/06)

The concert was part of the Sizzlin' Summer Sundays concert series sponsored by the City of Irvine. I had seen them at House of Blues a few times, both in L.A. and O.C., but this was much more of a casual show, lots of families and fewer hard core Neil Diamond fans. But you couldn't beat the price of admission — free!

Rather than pack a lunch, we decided to just get a burger or hot dog at the snack stand that the local high school was sponsoring. While there, Dori pointed out one of the parent volunteers who has a bit of a claim to fame: He invented Doggie Walk Bags, those little blue bags that you see in parks for cleaning up after your dogs. They also come in little plastic capsules to make it easy to carry bags around. All I know is that the hamburger he made was the best freakin' hamburger I've had in a long time.

Inventor of doggy poop bags or not, this guy made a great hamburger. (08/27/06)

The band was great, and this time it was really easy for me to get up front to take some pictures. I even managed to get a picture of the set list they taped to the stage. It included:
  • Desiree
  • Crunchy Granola Suite
  • Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon
  • Love on the Rocks
  • If You Know What I Mean
  • Thank the Lord for the Nighttime
  • Forever in Blue Jeans (I hate that song)
  • Cherry Cherry
  • I'm a Believer
  • Shilo
  • Cracklin' Rosie
  • Longfellow Serenade
  • Holly Holy
  • Play Me
  • Song Sung Blue (not my favorite)
  • Soolaimon
  • Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
  • America
  • Sweet Caroline

The Surreal Neal was in top form. (08/27/06)

The only song I wish they had done that they didn't was I Am, I Said. I would have much rather heard that than Forever in Blue Jeans or Song Sung Blue. One of my favorite moments of a Super Diamond show comes during the last song when the lead singer, Surreal Neal, says, "Don't ever let anyone tell you that Neil Diamond doesn't rock." Because we all know he does.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Friend Like Genie

Most people know that two of the things I love the most in this world are Disneyland and Musical Theatre. Naturally I was thrilled when in 2002 Disney announced that they would be staging a Broadway-style live show at Disney’s California Adventure called “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular.”

Aladdin is playing at the Hyperion Theater at Disney's California Adventure. (08/26/2006)
Aladdin is playing at the Hyperion Theater at Disney's California Adventure. (08/26/2006)

Since it opened in 2003, I have seen the show dozens of times (which was easy, since we had an annual pass). So imagine my excitement when I learned that a friend of a friend had been cast as the Genie in the show! The friend of a friend’s name is Ryan Knowles, who’s the best friend of our pal Justin.

Of course as my luck would have it, he wasn’t cast as the Genie until after our annual passes expired. But when Justin brought up the idea that Ryan might be able to sign us into the park (not to mention put us on the VIP seating list and even get us into a meet-and-greet with the cast) I was on it like white on rice.

James poses with the Aladdin cast. (08/26/2006)
James poses with the Aladdin cast. (08/26/2006)

Despite my enthusiasm, we ended up missing out the first two times we made arrangements to go see Ryan in the show. Making it worse was the fact that we sort of screwed Ryan over, since he had re-arranged his schedule to accommodate us. I felt horrible about that.

When I spoke to Ryan over the phone to apologize, he was incredibly nice about it. He even invited us to try again this weekend, which we finally did. And it turned out to be a fantastic experience!

Ryan as the Genie, posing with James. (08/26/2006)
Ryan as the Genie, posing with James. (08/26/2006)

We met Ryan just outside the theme park at 10:30 a.m., when he had to report to work. We didn’t quite know what to expect since it was our first time meeting him (a fact Justin disputes; he’s positive we met him at a party a few years back). Just as he was described, Ryan turned out to be super friendly.

After he signed us in, he ran off to go into the makeup chair for his transformation to the Genie. We just rode a couple of rides until the 12:20 showtime (including the new Monsters Inc. ride that wasn’t yet open when our passes expired last October). As it turned out, Justin ended up meeting us there too, which was a big surprise, since we expected him to be on a flight to New York that day (his flight was postponed by a day).

James & Ryan, before his Genie make-up. (08/26/2006)
James & Ryan, before his Genie make-up. (08/26/2006)

Let me just say, the show was off the hook! Ryan’s performance as the Genie was worlds apart from the previous Genies we’ve seen in the role. Ryan’s Genie was more like a character within a character. And the jokes were way funnier than what I had seen before (although the Genie follows a script, there are moments where he can insert new jokes, usually relating to some current events).

For example, one thing that I have in common with Ryan is a love for Liza Minnelli. And during the show, Ryan even snuck in a special Liza Minnelli joke that he normally doesn’t do, which made me howl with laughter.

James and Justin. (08/26/2006)
James and Justin. (08/26/2006)

Afterward we got to take pictures with Ryan, as well as some of the other cast members, which was fabulous. Thanks again, Justin & Ryan, for what turned out to be an awesome experience.

BTW, if you’d like to see a video clip of Ryan’s work, click the link below. This video was edited together from several performances, which is why the audio and video don’t always match perfectly (I say that just so you don’t think Ryan is lipsynching). Here's a single-camera video-clip of the same song.

American Idols Tour 2006

After our Aladdin adventure, we left Disneyland late Saturday afternoon to meet our friends for the American Idols Live 2006 concert at the Staples Center in L.A. We went with Jon, Amy, Amy’s mom Kathy and Amy’s sister Ashley.

The American Idols Live Tour 2006 was a little disappointing. (08/26/06)

I really enjoyed last year’s American Idols Live concert, and had been looking forward to this one for months! Mostly, I was excited to see my two favorites from this season: Chris Daughtry (who should have won) and Elliott Yamin.

Unfortunately, despite some really fun moments, I have to say I found the show to be disappointing. First of all, the acoustics really sucked. I don’t know if that was a problem with the Staples Center or the touring company (probably a little of both). Secondly, many of the performances were a little disappointing.

Mandisa started the show with “I’m Every Woman,” (and she looked it), but I couldn’t help feeling that it was a little unexciting. Ace came out next and kind of shook things up a little with George Michael’s “Father Figure” and the Maroon 5 hit “Harder to Breathe.” But even then, it was just okay.

I was pleasantly surprised with Lisa Tucker. After a kind of boring, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” she actually performed two really nice Elton John covers while at the keyboard: “Your Song” and “Someone Saved My Life Tonight.”

Tim, Jon, Amy, Amy's mom Kathy and Amy's sister Ashley outside of L.A.'s Staples Center. (08/26/06)

Paris came out next, performing a nice version of “Midnight Train to Georgia.” But her follow-up song, Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” complete with really bad choreography, was dreadful. I remember when she performed it on the show, Simon said it was awful. I wish she had listened to him and left it out of the live show.

Bucky came out next and performed a couple of songs. Since he’s not a great singer, he had to rely on singing really good songs (i.e. “Superstitious,” and “Drift Away”) which worked out just okay. Although I do have to admit I enjoyed his duet of “You’re the One That I Want,” (from Grease) with the next soloist, Kellie Pickler.

I don’t even remember what Kellie Pickler sang, that’s how forgettable she was. But she closed the first half, leaving the heavy hitters for Act 2.

After the intermission Chris came out and the audience went bonkers. Clearly he was the most popular person in the entire lineup. He sang some good songs, like Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive,” among others. Elliott came out next and did an awesome job, especially with the difficult-to-sing “Moody’s Mood for Love.”

Bucky, Mandisa, Elliott, Kellie, Taylor, Paris, Ace, Chris, Katherine & Lisa. (08/26/06)

Next, all the guys with the exception of Taylor came out and did a number, followed by Katherine McPhee. She did well enough with “Black Horse & the Cherry Tree,” but her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” fell flat. But she made up for lost ground when she sang her beautiful version of “Over the Rainbow.”

After that, Taylor emerged from the audience singing a rather unmelodic version of “Jailhouse Rock.” I guess walking through a crowded arena, surrounded by bodyguards and people reaching out to touch you doesn’t make for great singing.

For his set, he did his usual prancing and dancing around the stage to songs like “Taking it to the Streets.” Sure, he’s entertaining live. But can that translate into a CD that you enjoy listening to? I doubt it.

Much like the other Idol live shows, the entire ensemble came out at the end to sing a catchy rock tune with a patriotic spin. For Season 2, which took place during the onset of the Iraq war, it was “Proud to be an American.” I skipped Season 3, but last year it was “R-O-C-K in the U-S-A.” And this year was no different with the unfortunate “Living in America” with James Brown.

Staples Center, home of the L.A. Lakers. (08/26/06)

It had some moments, but otherwise I could have easily sat this one out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Family's Disneyland Adventure

My family came down to visit from the Bay Area to take the kids to Disneyland. Apparently Anna had worked really hard in summer school to improve her reading capabilities, and the trip to Disneyland was a way to reward her for her hard efforts.

Dad and John Paul on their first ride of the day: The Parking Lot tram. (08/23/06)

I, of course, was thrilled to have them come and visit (even if Tim was away on business in Phoenix). They came down Monday evening. They purchased two-day park-hopper tickets, and spent the day there Tuesday. I took a day off of work to join them on Wednesday, which was lots of fun.

Anna prepares to board Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes. (08/23/06)

We didn’t do too many adventure rides. Anna, age 7, was too scared (although my Dad did manage to get her on the Haunted Mansion ride). Meanwhile, John Paul, age 2, was the exact opposite. He wasn’t afraid to do anything!

In front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle. (08/23/06)

John Paul’s favorite ride was “It’s a Small World,” which we took him on three times. In fact, when we were on our way to the Snow White show, we had to walk past Small World, and when he saw that we were walking past, he started crying. His other favorite attraction was the Redwood Creek Challenge at Disney’s California Adventure, since he was able to run around and wreak havoc.

Anna learns that It's Tough to Be a Bug. (08/23/06)

Anna really enjoyed the Toon Town rides and the Jungle Cruise. We tried to get her to go on Splash Mountain, but she said it was too high. That, and she kept hearing girls scream at the top. We tried telling her that sometimes girls scream, even when they’re not really scared. But she didn’t buy that argument.

It was a fun visit. Hopefully Anna will continue to do well in school so she can come again next year!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Disney's Fantasia — Live!

We went to the Hollywood Bowl again. This time to see Walt Disney’s Fantasia, which for the very first time in its 66-year history, was shown publicly while a live orchestra played the score. It was amazing to hear it with live music.

Fantasia plays on the screen as the live orchestra plays the music. (08/19/06)

They went through all the scenes from Fantasia, with a few extras, including the world premiere of the live Clair de lune based on Claude Debussy’s piano piece. Clair de lune was supposed to be in the original release, but was cut to reduce the film’s length. In 1996 a workprint version was discovered. And tonight they did the first public performance.

Other extras included the storyboarded but never animated Flight of the Bumblebee and Destino, a collaboration between Walt Disney and surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Destino began as a project in 1945, and remained unfinished until 1999 when it was completed under the direction of Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy Disney.

The show closed with a fireworks finale. (08/19/06)

It was also a great way to see John Mauceri, who after 16 years as the conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, has announced he will be moving on to other projects after the conclusion of this season. In all the time I’ve been going to the Hollywood Bowl, John Mauceri has been a staple. Interestingly enough, during his pre-performance banter, he mentioned that when he was in his 20s, he was a student of Leopold Stokowski, who arranged the music for, and appeared in, Fantasia. How cool is that?

The evening ended with fireworks that complemented the spectacular beauty of this cinematic triumph.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Celebrating Mom's Birthday!

Although my Mom passed away more than five years ago, Tim and I still celebrate her birthday every year with a special dinner. We don’t get all crazy, like bringing out a birthday cake and candles or anything. We just pick a nice restaurant somewhere and enjoy a nice meal in her memory.

Our restaurant of choice this year: Citrus City Grille, in Old Towne Orange. (08/17/06)

Since she loved restaurants, we think it’s a nice way to honor her memory. She would definitely approve of this. The only thing that would make her even happier would be if we used a coupon! :)

Tim enjoys his Grey Goose dirty martini with three olives. (08/17/06)

Although her birthday was yesterday, we postponed our dinner until tonight due to the new release party for work. My mom wouldn’t have minded the delay, since she celebrated all month long! Perhaps that is a tradition that should be passed on from mother to son.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

New Release Party

At the software company I work for, we recently shipped our latest major release. So to reward us for our hard efforts for this release, our company threw a “Thank-God-We-Got-the-New-Release-Out-the-Door” party at Dave & Buster’s at the Irvine Spectrum.

My co-worker Tanuj, me and my supervisor Dori. (08/16/06)

We started the festivities at 3:30 when we had a company-wide recognition meeting. Then we got out of work at 4:00 and headed to Dave & Buster’s for dinner and an awards ceremony. I won the “Webinar Extraordinaire” award for kicking off our company’s webinar series.

My drink of choice: The Snow Cone. (08/16/06)

It was a fun night, with lots of food and an open bar. I had a couple of Snow Cones, a colorful cocktail that includes DeKuyper Watermelon Pucker, Malibu rum, 3 Olives Cherry vodka, blue curacao, Sprite and pomegranate syrup over shaved ice. Tasty!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Surprise in the Mail

I was quite surprised to come home and find a letter from Buckingham Palace in the mail.

My letter from Queen Elizabeth II. (08/06)

The letter said:

The Queen thanks you for the kind message of good wishes which you have sent to her on the occasion of her eightieth birthday.

Her Majesty has been very touched by the response to her special birthday and much appreciates your thought for her at this time.

The Queen hopes you will understand that, because of the enormous number ofletters, cards and messages she has received, it has not been posible to write to you until now.

August 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Champions on Ice

Sunday afternoon, upon our return from the undisclosed location in the desert, we made our way to Champions on Ice at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, which was amazing! You may have read that we went to Stars on Ice in January, which is a fun event. But Champions on Ice is the crown jewel of skating exhibitions.

World famous silver medalist Sasha Cohen. (08/13/06)

The show started off as it usually does, with crowd pleaser Rudy Galindo doing a disco routine. The one-time Kristi Yamaguchi partner didn’t disappoint the crowd, wowing us with fun moves and on-the-fly costume changes.

France’s Surya Bonaly (now a U.S. citizen) came out next. I was so excited to see that she did her trademark backflip with the one-foot landing – a trick that always astounds the crowd. As she gets older, it makes me wonder how much longer she’s still going to do it.

1992 Winter Olympics Gold Medalist (and 1988 Olympic Bronze Medalist) Viktor Petrenko came out next with a fun prop number.

Dan Hollander came out next with a parody of a competition routine, which was accompanied by fake commentary by the real Dick Button, the famous Gold Medalist from the 1940s and 50s Dick Button (who does most of the commentary you hear on televised skating competitions). Dan’s routine was really funny.

Ice Dance pair Ben Agosto & Tanith Belbin performed next. You may remember them winning the silver medal at the Olympics in Torino earlier this year — the first time a U.S. ice-dancing team has ever medaled in this category in 30 years (although technically Tanith Belbin was originally Canadian).

Torino's surprise gold medalist, Shuziko Arakawa. (08/13/06)

Next was the inimitable Johnny Weir, who is definitely competitive skating’s most flamboyant skaters. He was deemed one of the favorites to medal in Torino earlier this year, but ended up tanking in the long program. He skated, appropriately enough, to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”

Next up: Rena Inoue & John Baldwin, who skated on the U.S. pairs team at the Olympics this year. Although they didn’t win a medal, they have the distinction of being the first and only couple ever to land a throw triple axel in the history of the Olympic Games (they did it in their short program, but missed it in the long). They tried to do it again today — twice — but were unsuccessful.

1988 bronze medalists and 2002 gold medalists, Marina Anissina & Gwendal Peizerat, the French-Russian ice dancing pair, came out next. They’re known for their unique lifts, including one in which she lifts him! And sure enough they performed that signature move.

Evan Lysacek, the U.S. Olympic team member who placed fourth in Torino, closed the first half, just before the intermission (which is when the Zamboni comes out to re-surface the ice).

The second half started with Irina Grigorian, who does circus art on ice. While not a competition skater, she dazzled us with a variety of props, including at least a dozen hula hoops simultaneously.

The incomparable Michelle Kwan. (08/13/06)

We were then treated to performances by the current men’s silver medalist, Stephane Lambiel, and the current women’s bronze medalist, Irina Slutskaya (who is also one of my favorites).

The next act was a comedic acrobat pair who were amazing … and very funny. I can’t exactly describe their act, but everyone in the pond was mesmerized!

Sasha Cohen, the current silver medalist came out next and the crowd went nuts. It didn’t hurt that Sasha lives in Orange County, either. Always the definition of elegance, Sasha did a flawless routine. She was spectacular.

The only thing that excited me more was when they announced the next skater: the surprise 2006 women’s gold medalist, Shizuka Arakawa of Japan. She is the first Japanese Olympian to have ever won an Olympic gold medal in the sport (and, as of this year, became Japan’s most famous athlete). She did her signature spiral where she bends completely back. Amazing.

Current pairs gold medalists Tatiana Totmianina & Maxim Marinin, of the Russian Republic, performed next. You might remember them winning the gold this year, but you probably remember them more for the terrible fall they had at Skate America in 2004. During a lasso lift, Maxim’s legs gave out from underneath, causing Tatiana to slam onto the ice head first, causing a severe concussion. She recuperated, and along with her partner, won the gold two years later. These guys, just like the Chinese pairs who continued skating despite that bad throw this year, is what being an Olympian is all about. I salute them for that.

The full cast comes out for final bows. (08/13/06)

Current men’s gold medalist, Evgeni Plushenko, performed next. Flawlessly, I might add. While he doesn’t have the outgoing personality of his arch rival, 2002 gold medalist Alexi Yagudin, the guy is just damn good.

The loudest applause came for the final solo skater: Michelle Kwan, who delighted the crowd with her elegant-as-always performance. Although not an Olympic gold medalist, she’s got more National and World’s gold medals than anyone else. Period. She is an inspiration.

The show closed with some fun group numbers, which had everyone in the audience clapping along. What a great show. Who wants to come with us next year? :-)

Desert Turnaround

Tim spent the last week in Tucson, AZ, where he was conducting training. For weeks, Tim was dreading the idea of spending a week roasting in Arizona in the middle of August. He did encounter severe weather, but it wasn’t the weather he was expecting.

It was your typical desert weather ... not! (08/08/06)

Instead of facing unrelenting heat, he faced unrelenting thunder storms! He said it was some of the harshest rains, strongest winds and loudest thunder he’s experienced. He did capture a couple of pictures on his camera phone, like the one shown above.

Tim and Pudgy at Tim's parents' house. (08/13/06)

His plans were to fly black Friday, after which we would get on the road and drive to the undisclosed desert location where Tim’s family lives (to celebrate his grandma’s 86th birthday and parents’ 46th wedding anniversary). But as soon as that red level alert went into affect for air travel, he decided to rent a car and drive to his parents’ house from Tucson.

Gas prices in Arizona. (08/13/06)

I made the drive on Saturday morning to go pick him up and spend the night at his family’s house. Driving across state lines makes me realize how much more we pay for things in California than they do in other parts of the country, like gas. It’s funny how different gas prices can be across state borders … even when the gas stations are merely a couple of miles apart!

Gas prices on the California side of the state line. (08/13/06)

It wasn't a very eventful trip, but it was fun. Happy birthday Grandma Jean and happy anniversary to Tim's Mom & Pop! :)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Aquarium of the Pacific Birthday

Our buddy Jon recently had his 43rd birthday. He and his wife Amy invited us to help celebrate his birthday Saturday night, but due to previous commitments (Dana & Eric's luau) we were unable to join them. So instead we celebrated Jon's birthday by going to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

It was our first time at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. (08/06/06)

Jon and Amy had been to the aquarium many times before — in fact, Amy was once a volunteer docent there. But it had been a few years since they were last there. But for Tim and I, it was our first time.

The rarest photogaph in the world: Tim actually touches a live shark! (08/06/06)

We had lots of fun exploring all the different areas. And I was amazed — AMAZED — that Tim actually faced one of his biggest fears and actually touched a live shark! Although he only touched its tail (he wouldn't go anywhere near the head), I never thought I'd see that in my lifetime. (Go Tim!) :)

James feeds one of the Lorikeets. (08/06/06)

We also had fun feeding the lorikeets, which are small, brightly-colored members of the parrot family that enjoy drinking sweet nectar that the aquarium sells in tiny cups. I walked into the lorikeet compound with one of those little cups in hand, and within 30 seconds, a lorikeet had landed on my wrist and began drinking away.

My favorite were the jellies, like these Pacific Sea Nettle, which have tentacles can grow to a length of 12 feet. (08/06/06)

Afterward we got some lunch at California Pizza Kitchen at The Pike, a restaurant and shopping complex in a renovated section of downtown Long Beach. Then we headed back to Jon and Amy's home to help them assemble the barbecue that Jon's in-laws gave him for his birthday. As our birthday gift, we gave Jon a set of barbecue tools that are sure to put him on the road to barbecue master status.

Jon shows off the barbecue accoutrements that we gave him for his birthday. (08/06/06)

We also had a private show by Flossie, Jon and Amy's dog, who will take any stuffed animal and literally disembowel it until there's nothing left but scattered parts strewn across the floor. It may sound sick, but is actually quite entertaining!

Jon and Amy's dog — and Simon's girlfriend — Flossie. (08/06/06)

Happy birthday Jon!

Dana & Eric's Luau - 2006

We were thrilled when we learned that our pals Dana and Eric were resuming their annual luau again. We first attended in 2004, shortly after we all went on on that cruise to Alaska. And we had a blast. Due to a number of circumstances, they put their annual luau on hiatus in 2005. But this year they re-started the tradition. And what fun it was!

Four big troublemakers: Christine, Tim, Ann and Nick. (08/05/06)

Mostly it's just a great chance to see a lot of our friends, like Christine & Cassidy, Aric, and Christine's mother Jean. It's the same gang of people with whom we had dinner in March and went wine tasting in May. In addition, we saw some other friends we don't get to see too often, like Nick & Cindy and Ann.

A full tray of Jello shooters, complete with a gummy bear surprise. (08/05/06)

When Dana and Eric have their party, they go all out, including catered food and a full bar — complete with a bartender and busboy. And there are always plenty of Jello shooters to go around. It definitely puts our ghetto parties to shame.

My favorite party guest: Godzilla. (08/05/06)

The crowd is a mix of all sorts of people Dana & Eric know from various places. Many of which I remember from the last time, like Dana's wild friend Debbie who absolutely is the life of the party. Someone even brought their dog, a tiny chihuahua named "Godzilla."

David gives Cindy a lift. (08/05/06)

The party also doubled as Christine's birthday party, who turned 38. She got some great gifts, including a voodoo doll with which she did all sorts of obscene things as Christine usually does.

Christine blows out her birthday cake candles. (08/05/06)

We got there around 5:00 pm and stayed until close to 11:00 p.m. when we couldn't stay awake any longer.

Our hosts: Eric slips Dana a little tongue. (08/05/06)

Of course we were exhausted. But Christine and Eric's mom Jean was just getting started! She's like a kid in a candy store at these types of events.

James and Jean share a Kodak moment. (08/05/06)

We gotta give a big Mahalo to Dana and Eric for throwing such a fun event.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Addicted to Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson's Addicted Tour came through Orange County. And being the crazy, psychotic, devoted Kelly Clarkson fan I am, I was there. This time it was at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (formerly "Irvine Meadows"), which has been one of the largest venues where Kelly has performed a solo gig. And for 16 songs and more than 70 minutes, Kelly rocked the sold-out crowd with a mix of hits, new songs and covers.

A fan sings one of Kelly's songs at the Kellyoke stage. (08/01/06)

The show began with "Kellyoke" a stage in the parking area where fans performed karaoke versions of Kelly songs. It was hilarious! There was an opening band (an L.A.-based band Rooney that has appeared on the tv show "The OC"). And after a few minutes of set-up time, the lights went out and the crowd went wild. Next thing you know they were cranking out AC/DC's "All Night Long." And everyone was singing along with every word.

When the song finished, we saw Kelly's silhouette behind a curtain. The crowd went even crazier. When the curtain rose, there stood Kelly, sporting short, brown hair with a very angular cut. She looked great. She opened with "Addicted" and followed it with "Behind These Hazel Eyes." For her third song, she sang a ballad called "Maybe" from her next album, which she said comes out early next year.

Kelly Clarkson rocks the Irvine Meadows Verizon Amphitheatre. (08/01/06)

Kelly worked her way into "Gone," "Because of You," and then into a cover of Ray LaMontagne's "Shelter" that she originally sang at a Hurricane Katrina benefit concert. Afterward she performed "Thankful" before jumping into a cover of Marc Broussard's "Home." Then she rocked the house down with "Miss Independent," "Go," — the song featured on Ford's "Bold Moves" ad campaign — and a new song called "Yeah."

Kelly's new haircut was awesome. (08/01/06)

She then launched into a string of hits, including a completely re-arranged "Beautiful Disaster," "Hear Me" and "Walk Away." After a brief break for what I assumed would be a costume change, Kelly showed up in the very middle of the amphitheatre audience with a guitarist where she sang "Breakaway." She then launched into her iconic song, "Since U Been Gone," making her way through the crowd back to the stage. The song climaxed with a hailstorm of confetti, which flew out of some confetti-launching cannons.

Kelly sings "Because of You." (08/01/06)

What an incredible show it was.