Welcome to Orlando, where it is impossible to be bored and improbable to be stuck at home with nothing to do. This city’s plethora of entertainment venues welcome the largest (and sometimes not-so-large) names in the sports and entertainment industries.
A simple drive down Interstate 4 will show you the impressive Amway Center, state-of-the-art UCF Arena, and elegant Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre — some of the largest and most impressive venues in the U.S. But what about a venue for the discerning fan? Someone who prefers a more intimate setting?
House of Blues at Downtown Disney, Hard Rock Live at Universal CityWalk, The Social in downtown Orlando, and The Plaza Live offer the best of both worlds — big names, smaller venues. Oftentimes these venues play host to up-and-coming music acts that are building a following, but just as many A-listers book shows, preferring the personal connection and interaction with fans. And it’s the fans who truly reap the smaller-venue benefits. In addition to food and drinks being less expensive, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. Even the budget-conscious in the nosebleed seats can see their favorite lead singer’s sweat stains, as well as the stitching on their skintight jeans.
It is precisely this experience — and my slight obsession with No Reservations and Top Chef — that brought me to Hard Rock Live for the Guts and Glory Tour: An Evening With Anthony Bourdain. It’s his first American tour, and being the fortunate and fabulous locale that it is, Orlando was selected as one of the few U.S. cities chosen to host this world-renowned chef, TV personality and author.
Hard Rock Live of course offered a full bar — hello, this is Anthony Bourdain. I was kind of hoping for a welcome shot upon arrival — as well as some food options. Other than knowing Anthony’s TV persona, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the live show. It’s not like I’ve had the man over for dinner (he would be horrified by my “cooking”), and he manages to avoid the media circus and maintain a fairly low-key personal life in New York (my attempts at “bumping into him” during my visits to NYC have so far been futile).
The show. Was. Amazing. Even if you had never heard of the man, I guarantee you would love this show. Well, unless you’re a Paula Deen fan. And then, nope. Definitely not.
Yes, he pokes fun at almost every chef with a television show (“That man eats more protein in one day than we do in one month!”), but his comments are spot on. And yes, he beautifully and creatively utilizes some of the most “colorful” words in the English language ($#@% &*^@), but he gets his point across. And of course he takes a few jabs at chain and fast food restaurants (“Do olives even grow in a garden?”), but what renowned chef who can make a perfect foie gras aux pruneaux wouldn’t?
He also talked about his previous drug use (and showed some rather hysterical video demonstrating this); the dangers of drinking in Russia (every shot is in honor of a loved one, so you can’t say no); the birth of his daughter (goodbye earring and thumb ring); and his guilty pleasure, KFC macaroni and cheese (sneaking out late at night in a hat and high collar and still getting recognized).
The show concluded with a Q&A from the audience. “Can I have a hug?” and a bright green shot being slipped onto the edge of the stage were the highlights of this portion of the evening. To the immense joy of the crowd, not only did Anthony throw the shot back with ease, but he chased it with the beer that he had been enjoying throughout the show.
Welcome to Orlando. Athletes, singers, comedians, authors, TV personalities — they all visit The City Beautiful, bringing something new and different and exciting, and making every audience member better for having attended their show. I for one will forever ponder the question, “Who the #$%& grills macaroni?” Thank you, Anthony.