The Donna Summer Tribute Site

Santa Rosa Fan Reports 

August 17, 2008

I would say that the Santa Rosa performance rivaled the Oakland performance. Donna performed with much exuberance and energy. Her delivery was strong, her voice full and resonant. I had more chills down the spine. And I'm not sure what it is about the Santa Rosa crowd, but they were really responsive and LOUD. I thought the woman five rows down was going to start a fire shaking her booty as vigorously as she was. It was over the top; the venue was literally 'a quakin.'

Donna was amazing. She was doing her thing. The audience witnessed a superstar, shining brilliantly, making her vocal beauty bigger than life. 

Donna appeared more relaxed throughout the evening. She was very "chatty" at this venue, talking with the audience between sets. For any of you interested, I made approximate, rough notes of the following pronouncements made by Her Majesty:

After singing On the Radio, accompanied by backup singing from the front row, by none other than Eduardo Hanke, West Coast SF team leader, and Joe Solis, Donna fan extraordinaire in the house from Boston, and before the 15 minute intermission, I believe, Donna pondered her "divadom," informing the audience that "when you are famous you are two people...in real life, you're you," and something to the effect that "in your stage life, you're you" with a little extra? She confessed that before the show, she frequently finds herself, "waiting for the Diva to show up." She was speaking so quickly, but seemed to request "witness" from the audience. The crowd roared in response.

At another point in the show, she shared how good she was feeling that night by saying that, people think that "as a performer, it's fun to be up here (on stage). But sometimes, we-don't-like-it. For example, when it's 110 degrees, and we are performing outside, in the desert." There was a sassy response from the crowd, to which Donna responded, "This is not one of those times." Then the crowd ROARED with delight.

Later Donna went on to introduce Crayons, explaining that Crayons are "easy to understand, because we all got a box of crayons when we were kids, right?" To which some smart-ass in the audience, let out a woeful wail, "NNNNNnnnnnnooooooooooo!" To which Donna responded, "Okay, baby, you just stand by the door on the way out, and we'll get you a box, okay?" The crowd laughed, and I think there was a perceptible, "Okaaaaaaaaaaay!" in response (I'm telling you, there is something unusual about the Santa Rosa, CA crowd). She went on to say, that "as children, when we get our box of crayons, we dump them out on the table. (Pause) And then, we discover the great white wall." The crowd responded with laughter. I think I missed the comment leading up to the last one. However, before beginning to sing the title track from her new album Crayons, she proclaimed that "I am out of the box." I am finally out of the box."

At another point, after delivering another chilling and emotional performance of Bring Down the Reign and receiving a roar of approval from the Santa Rosa audience, Donna lightened up the mood, telling the audience that "that (the audience response) feels so good that I don't care what my kids say anymore!" which was cleverly understated, and hilarious. 

The most curious moment of the performance for me that night happened during the Hattie Mae routine when Donna introduced her sister, and they both got the giggles when Hattie Mae explained how her sister (Mary Ellen Bernard--her name in the skit escapes me at the moment), "gave up her life" for Donna. Perhaps it was a reference to seeing the glass of water half-empty, rather than half-full. I'm not sure if it was a reference to Mary Ellen putting her plans to promote her recently released CD, You Made It, on hold, or some other exchange they may have had in the past, but they were both lost in laughter.

After regaining composure, they proceeded with the skit, and the song, Slide Over Backwards, in which Donna personifies and glorifies the life of a character named Hattie Mae. I think that the song acknowledges and celebrates the humanity and strength of this character, and pays respect to others like her. Donna and her sister shared some vintage black vernacular with us, and proceeded to perform the funky tune, Slide Over Backwards. I think this song surprises a lot people, because it is so theatrical. Listening to Slide Over Backwards, it seemed as if the amphitheater was one big oyster, and that the people in the audience were like pearls being cultured by the Queen of the Acculturation Nation. 

Also noteworthy at the Santa Rosa performance, was the keyboardist, Hamm, who also played harmonica, and sang back-up vocals. The dude worked real hard for his money, and I thought his vocals were right on. The guitar players were great. And the dude on the drums bumped up the bass big time. 

Donna finished strong with Last Dance, the crowd was loud and wild, and the venue was physically shaking from all of the movement. The Queen had spoken.

KEN FLETCHER
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA

If you followed my story from the concert in Oakland, I missed the beginning of the show. And after the great time I had, afterwards I decided I had no choice but to follow Donna to Santa Rosa, a one hour drive from my home in San Francisco. 

Once I arrived in the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, I was able to score some decent tickets three rows from the stage. The only negative was that the seat was on the far right of the stage so I had a side view of the show the entire time. The large screen on the right side of the stage was completely blocked.

Lights went out and they were having some technical issues. Then the familiar strains of Beethoven's Fifth was played followed by Changing of the Guards. The dancers were in their purple soldier outfits holding bugles and from my angle I could actually see Donna waiting on the other side of the revolving wall/screen. Once it revolved, Donna stood for the applause she deserved and rocked the house to The Queen is Back. Indeed, she was! What a marvelous entrance and I'm so happy to see this performance. After this came I Feel Love (which I heard in its entirety) and the classics Donna is known for as well as many tracks from Crayons. 

However, she did not perform Fame (The Game) which was is a letdown since she had just performed it the night before in Oakland and it was awesome. I wish I knew why she and many artists perform different sets at different venues. Perhaps it’s to make her crazy fans stalk (*cough * *cough* follow) her. 

Compared to the Paramount, the Wells Fargo Center was a much smaller venue and well, plainer, as well as smaller. The stage also was much smaller. I was wondering how they were going to handle all the dancing on such a small stage. Well, most likely due to the size of the stage, they didn't use the IDON props which was a shame and of course, didn't have them to convert as set pieces for the title track. The sound from the speakers and auditorium was OK but nowhere as good as the Paramount.

On a positive note, Donna’s voice again was excellent as we all expect. But at this concert, she took more time talking to the audience and perhaps this may explain why she cut Fame (The Game). She joked that we helped buy her beautiful Sand on My Feet dress and cracked herself up a few times while in her Hattie Mae guise making fun of Mary. Watching both concerts, I can tell that what she speaks isn't really scripted though she has to transition the introduction of Mary for her solo and insert talking about the diva, of course. But mostly, it felt more improvisational. More reasons to see all of her concerts! 

The crowd was mostly upper middle to upper class white. That's probably the demographic of the Santa Rosa area. And Donna had her gay fans in attendance. This audience was reserved--not knowing if and when they should get out of their seats. It’s strange to me to just sit there when a dance song is being performed so I stood up often even if it was a few of us and eventually the rest of the audience would get up. This audience didn't fully get into it until Bad Girl/Hot Stuff. 

Some people at the Paramount rushed to the stage to take pictures of Donna. Not here. I tried taking photos without a flash from my seat and after a few attempts, an employee at the Center told me to stop. Only a few people took photos with a flash. It can’t really be done in the dark (you get blurry shots) unless you have a tripod or very steady hand. Most were abiding the rules. (Rant: Venues should give up controlling fans from taking photos with or without flash. Everyone does it. Besides, singers/celebrities are used to it.) I was but a few feet away from Donna when she went backstage for a costume change. She stood so close to my side of the stage that I wanted to rush up and shake her hand. But I was too chicken and everyone seemed too reserved anyway.

No backstage pass for me darn it. But I still had another excellent time. Donna, the musicians, background singers, and dancers put on one hell of a show. Don't miss a chance to see Donna this summer! I'm glad I did.

- Dave in San Francisco

 

 

Photos from the 2008 concert courtesy of the Wells Fargo Center For The Arts. Photos are by Steve Jennings.

Click for larger versions.

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Donna in Santa Rosa in 2006 - photos used with permission of the Wells Fargo Center

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 © 2006, the Wells Fargo Center
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