The Donna Summer Tribute Site

Saratoga, CA 

August 13, 2008

Do not read ANY of these fan reports if you want to be surprised when you see the show!

You have been warned!  ;-)

If you heard a song you liked at the show, why not buy a download of the original?



I made arrangements to attend three concerts in the bay area, the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, the Paramount in Oakland, and the Wells Fargo Center for the Performing Arts in Santa Rosa, California. It goes without saying that I really enjoy Donna's singing, and the chance to see her locally was a real treat. That voice, those cheekbones, that smile, she is living art, and a kind, warm person who can credibly and persuasively communicate emotion and feeling, with strong colors and subtle hues, through song with her magnificently resonant voice. She also writes iconic songs, that will be a part of our culture for a long time. I could just listen to her, and stare at her, for hours...

It was my first time driving to the Mountain Winery venue, and I had none other than the West Coast SF Team Leader, Eduardo Hanke, in the passenger seat. We were driving through the Valley, Silicon, that is, and I noted that the street we were driving down appeared to be symmetrical, having the Saratoga-Sunnyvale at two ends without any North or South designation, and distinctly named segments, N. De Anza and S. De Anza, in between. I wasn't sure if we were coming or going. Eduardo got a little excited, but we made it to the edge of town, and up the mountain, where we were herded into the parking lot outside the Mountain Winery. It was somewhat bucolic, with a view of the city down below.

As an aside, I had heard that the venue backstage at the Mountain Winery was less than ideal for Donna, the musicians, and the crew because of some renovation in progress. It was reported that there was no running water backstage, causing some disconcert before the concert. However, the show went on. Donna was tough, resilient and professional. A lesser Queen would have sent heads rolling at the guillotine.

Before the show, I tagged along behind Eduardo, while he reconfirmed, with Donna's people, details of the Oakland Crayons Cake Party he had planned to be held at the Paramount after the Oakland performance. Then we returned to our seats and sat down. The sun went down, the music went up, and the concert began. Well, I won't reiterate the song set, or other details, except to echo that the venue required some truncation, and that the stage was considerably narrow and shallow... Donna flew through set after set, with energy and emotion. 

The most notable song of the night, above all was Bring Down the Reign. I found it haunting how Donna explained how the tune came to her, through tears, during a brainstorming session at the piano. She shared with the audience that it feels as if the music flows through her from the ground, to the audience when she performs it. And then, she performed it, and lo' and behold, it was as if the music was flowing from the ground, through her, to us, the audience. She was in the moment, and really emotionally connected with that song. The audience was floored, even the trees were weeping. I thought that only willows wept, but the oak trees were weeping too. That performance raised the hair on my head, and sent shivers down my neck, and it made me conscious of the outrageous atrocities that people have suffered in Darfur. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SEEING THE CONCERT!


I was at the Saratoga concert and would like to share some tidbits w/you. It was great!...albeit short, even w/the intermission. Also, she dropped my two favs, Be Myself Again and Fame. 

She was in great spirits and seemed to have a lot of fun energy. She slowed down to introduce Bring Down the Reign and received a thunderous applause w/standing ovation just because she is Donna. She didn't get emotional this time but did say (very genuinely and unrehearsed) that as a little girl she dreamed of being a singer and that her reality has far exceeded those dreams.

She sampled Hall & Oates' Man-eater during Stamp Your Feet and Phil Collins' Feel It In The Air during Bring Down the Reign. There was a third sample but it escapes me now (I want to say it was a Journey song). This was a very cool twist; subtle but poignant.

She did add some R&B wailing to Last Dance, which made it a great close for a great show!

- Hector 

Donna at the Mountain Winery, Saratoga

First, if you are a DS fan and if you haven’t bought tickets yet -- don't walk, run to see these shows!!!

This new show was 100% (if not more) better than those of the previously years. Now this wasn't a Cher or Bette Midler extravaganza, but they couldn't sing half as well as Donna (Cher and Bette are brilliant in many other ways). Some songs were done with skits and most utilized the LED graphics/movies screen; it was almost like a variety show on Broadway. There were 4.5 costume changes, again, very lovely and very appropriate for our Donna, but no Bob Mackie.

The Mountain Winery Theatre (an outdoor stage) and the surrounding grounds are still until under renovation, but the venue is already stunning. (The Mountain Winery was first bought by Paul Masson, a pioneer California vintner). The new seats are more comfortable; yes, I was in the "VIP box seats" area, but just as I don't necessary prefer boxes at the operas, I'd rather be closer to this stage. That being said, it was much easier to stand up and dance in the "box seat"; and did I have an aerobic workout!

There was an almost full moon yesterday, a clear sky, and with all those city lights in Silicone Valley below, it was truly a magical and mystical night! Donna said in the beginning that she loves this venue and it was almost like singing directly to God; I believe it was not just stage talk.

Spoilers below (and sorry, for more rambling, and I probably have A.D.D.) --

Getting the easy part out first, this is the song list:

[Intro: Electronic Beethoven's Fifth / Changing of the Guards.)
The Queen is Back
I Feel Love
Dim all the Lights
I'm a Fire

Sand on my Feet
On the Radio
Mr. Music

--- intermission ---

No More Tears (Enough is Enough)
MacArthur Park
Bring Down the Reign
Slide Over Backwards
Selah [Mary Ellen Bernard]

She Works Hard for the Money
Bad Girls
Hot Stuff
Last Dance [Encore]

Bruce wasn't there yesterday, is he out promoting his album? However, the three lady backup singers and the three boy dancers (oh, I LOVE the cute white boy) balanced it out well l. As I said, this is not a Las Vegas Celine Dion show, but the LED(?) screens synced extremely well with the songs. The Hattie Mae skit is funny. I was quite surprised by Bring Down the Reign and didn't know if she has done this in other concerts before (Cathy must know). I love BDTR, but I do miss Con Te Partiro, Driving Down Brazil, Be Myself Again, and Fame (the Game). I really hope she will do all of them at Paramount this Saturday, or at least the latter two. Donna people? Can you hear me? Anyway, I encourage you to visit <>, make a donation for a loved one or in Donna’s name. We must stop this genocide! [Okay, stepping off the podium now.]

I would say the venue was three-quarters full, but the energy and enthusiasm from the audience were much more than I expected! I thought we were mostly Silicon Valley middle-aged professionals and more mature season tickets holders of the concert series, but there were people up dancing with almost very song (of course, BDTR was a sit down), and the ladies were up swaying from the very beginning. There were three stretch limos that I saw in the VIP parking lot with people attending in style. Silly me, I thought Donna was in one of them :-( Almost the entire audience was up on their feet for OTR, and the crowd went completely wild with all the classics. Couples were also slow dancing right in front of the stage to the slower (or the slower part of) songs, it was sweet. There was an=2 0organic standing ovation right after MacArthur Park! Being fair and balanced, an obviously intoxicated, rotund guy did say he love the oldies and hate the new songs, but then I also helped a group of lady to write down the names of all the songs so they could buy it on iTunes.

One negative part, they didn't allow photography (they said it was the artist's request). They told my friend to check his camera; I sneaked in mine but I couldn't even squeeze in a single good picture of Donna since the photo Nazis were monitoring :-( I decided to just dance yesterday and try for more photographs at the Paramount. does say no camera on that ticket too but they have to stop me again (and ply my camera off my cold dead hand). I believe in the artist’s rights and I think it is wrong for some to tape the whole concert or whole songs to be put it on YouTube, but no-flash photography by ardent fans??? [Off my soapbox again.]

Based on the general audience reaction at the Mountain Winery last night, and with all the GBLT (just because I like the sound of giblets) folks who will be attending, I predict that Donna will ABSOLUTELY blow off the roof, and bring down the house at the Paramount Theatre. Donna might have one of the warmest Welcome-Back-to-the-SF-Bay-Area reception. Donna people, please do the Castro Theatre next time; okay, at least Oakland is one step closer.

Of course, I felt sad at the end of the concert and longed for more. I really want=2 0to meet other forum members. I think the post-Paramount fan gathering will be wonderful. I myself need a wind down period, but maybe some of you will like more dancing. Thank you Hector and his friend at Bench and Bar (and Cathy for posting it). I think if enough of us show up, the bar might play more Donna Summer music; otherwise, we might feel like leaving after just one drink. “It’s Only Love” will be nice, maybe the cute young dancers will join us too, maybe even Donna (…take me down to a land of a thousand dreams).

My white, disco, cowboy hat got a lot of compliments too. Guess I would wear it to the Paramount again. So come over and say “Hi” at the Paramount. I am the short Chinese guy in the white, disco, cowboy hat. :-)

- Ben

[Editor's note: this is the first time Bring Down The Reign has been performed in this tour!]


Ben's pictures of the Saratoga Mountain Winery where Donna said she felt like she was "singing to God."

Click any image for a larger version.

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