Since 1979, yours truly has attended over 100 concerts (mostly of the Rock ‘N’ Roll variety), and being ever the statistician that I am, I kept a log of the dates and such over the years, so I might as well share my concert memories a few shows at a time (in chronological order). So without further ado, here’s the first installment thereof…
1) “Summer Rock ‘79”: Ted Nugent/Heart/The Cars/Sammy Hagar/ Missouri (Sunday, June 17, 1979—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $12.50
Even though I had just turned 15 years old a mere six days before and was still too young to drive a motor vehicle, I somehow managed to con my parents into letting me attend my first real Rock ‘N’ Roll concert with my good friend Tom. I don’t even remember how we got there or how we got home, but this was quite a way to begin one’s concert career.
The show began about 15 minutes early, oddly enough, with local favorites Missouri opening. Their set wasn't overly exciting, but they did a nice job reproducing their songs live and concluded with their signature hit “Movin’ On”. Sammy Hagar followed with a fairly raucous set, although he wasn’t quite a household name just yet. He tended to mimic Nugent a lot by galloping and bounding around the stage like Ted, and got a little obnoxious when he started rambling on about his Trans Am. Another thing I remember about his set was during his encore when he screamed, “Somebody turn this fucking microphone on!” Uh, Sam, I think it’s on, bud. Then again, Sam’s never been known for being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree of life—according to local legend, during Hagar’s next K.C. appearance at Memorial Hall about a year later, someone in the crowd held up a sign that read “Iranians Go Home!” This was during the heart of the Iran hostage crisis, but Sammy misread it as “Trans Ams Go Home”, and subsequently went off on some long tangent about his favorite motor vehicle. But I digress…
Speaking of motor vehicles, next up were The Cars, who weren’t terribly well-received, but this partly because of the interminable hour-long set change before them and mostly because they all just kinda stood still (only John Entwistle was allowed to do this!) and were pretty boring. The lone highlight for me was “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, with Greg Hawkes' keyboard figure during the choruses echoing around Arrowhead. The Cars were totally out their element here anyway, as they certainly weren’t a stadium band—smaller venues suited them better, and I hadn't gotten into them yet, although the Candy-O album went a long way in thawing my opinion of the band.
Heart followed as the late afternoon sun beamed down, as Ann and Nancy Wilson delievered a solid 90-minute set comprised of their big hits and cuts of their latest album Dog And Butterfly (or Dog And Butt, as my record store receipt read when I bought it later). Ann prowled the stage in high heels (they must have been high—I could see them all the way from the upper deck) and sang her, well, her Heart out. I don't know why I haven't seen Heart in concert since—they were really good live.
The headliner and my idol at the time, the Rev. Theodosius Atrocious, hit the stage a little after 6:00 and rocked the house for about 90 minutes. Nugent was slightly hobbled—as we later learned—by an ankle injury he’d sustained early in the week, therefore he wasn’t doing his usual leaping off the amps and so forth. He did his other stage antics, like pounding the microphone into his chest and screaming, "Can you hear my heartbeat, K.C.???" before "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" and kicking amps over during "Motor City Madhouse"', etc. Oddly enough, the highlight of Ted’s set wasn’t his music so much as the impromptu trash melee that ensued about halfway through as he played "Great White Buffalo". I have no idea what started it, but all of a sudden, people all around the stadium started throwing stuff, and before we knew it, the air was filled with beer cups, hot dog wrappers, cardboard food trays, and various and sundry projectiles flying every which way. Nugent himself was rather amused by it all and urged the crowd to “Throw that shit! Throw that shit!” I’ll never forget the terrified Black guy working the concession stand on the field level grabbing a cardboard box and putting it over his head for protection. Some guys were even running back to the water fountains on the concourse, filling cups up and dumping water on people below. No one was hurt, as far as we know, so no harm, no foul. Too bad Nugent wasn't playing "Free-For-All" at the time instead. It was a long day for us concert rookies, but a very fulfilling one.
2) Kiss/Judas Priest (Sunday, September 30, 1979—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $10.00
My first indoor Rock concert was every bit as memorable as my first outdoor one. My favorite group of all-time in the flesh for the first time. I was so mad when my parents wouldn’t let me see Kiss when they came to town in ’77 (twice!), but I finally convinced them to let me see them this time, and even though the Dynasty tour was pretty much a disaster by Kiss standards, evidently Tom and I caught one of the better shows on that tour.
Judas Priest opened the show, and I distinctly remember hating them from the get-go. They were so bloody loud, you couldn’t understand a word Rob Halford sang, and I thought they were awful. It took me a few years to warm up to these guys, and I later recognized that the Beast that is The Priest was indeed a fine heavy metal outfit after all.
Kiss made their entrance by coming up through the floor of the stage (as opposed to flying in from above on the prior tour) and opened with “King Of The Nighttime World”, followed by “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll”. Tom and I were perched in the very back row of Municipal Auditorium right next to the spotlight turret, but even from there we had an awesome view, and we rocked out. I remember Paul Stanley’s between-song stage patter being particularly funny that night, with lines like “It feels great to be back in the Capital of Meat!” and “We know you can bring the roof down tonight—you people blew the roof off Kemper Arena!” As a matter of fact, the only reason this show was at the Aud was because Kemper’s roof had collapsed just four months earlier. This was the only time I saw Kiss as the original foursome during their heyday, but it was awesome, and I couldn’t hear a damn thing at school the next day…
3) The Who/The Pretenders (Saturday, April 26, 1980—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $12.00
Just five months removed from the Cincinnati tragedy, The Who carried on with their 1980 tour. Just ten months removed from the Kemper Arena roof collapse, the joint re-opened in February and was ready to rock again. We had to send off for tickets in the mail for this show, and my older sister and I were among the lucky ones to snag a couple for the show. It turned out to be one of my all-time favorites too. We were lucky to even get tickets to this one, as they were available by mail only, and there were over 32,000 requests for less than 16,000 seats at Kemper Arena.
The Pretenders were a hot commodity during this time. Their much-celebrated debut album was all over the radio, including the hit single “Brass In Pocket (I’m Special)”. I wasn’t all that crazy about them at the time, therefore I wasn’t terribly blown-away by their performance that night, so please disregard my prejudice. Two things I remember about their set: 1) Drummer Martin Chambers must have gone through at least two dozen drumsticks, as they went flying out of his hands in all directions, and 2) my sister knew little about The Pretenders beforehand, and it took her the better part of the set to finally figure out that Chrissie Hynde was a chick!
The ‘orrible ‘Oo opened with “Substitute”, a song I was still unfamiliar with at the time. I was still a bit of a neophyte Who fan then, but after seeing The Kids Are Alright film a few months earlier, I quickly became a convert. When my sister asked me what time we should head out for the show, I naturally replied, “5:15”. I was also quite hopeful they would do my man John Entwistle’s signature song “My Wife” at this show, and they did (complete with horn section too). Another highlight of the set was “Sister Disco” from Who Are You with its swirling lights set in time to the synthesizers in the song. I also remember Roger Daltrey losing track while doing his trademark microphone swinging and ducking for cover, nearly clocking Pete Townshend on the noggin! I’ve heard others say that the Pretenders blew The Who off the stage that night, but that ain’t how I remember this show—The Who kicked ass in my eyes.
4) Ted Nugent/Scorpions/Def Leppard (Tuesday, June 18, 1980—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $8.50
Exactly one year and a day to the day of my first concert encounter with The Nuge came my second encounter with The Nuge, and better yet, this time I could actually drive to it, having gotten my driver‘s license exactly one week before. Better show from Ted this time, now fully-recovered from his ankle injury from the year before, although this was during his loin-cloth period wherein that’s all he wore on stage. Ironically I took more away from this show from the 40-minute sets by the two opening acts, a rising band from Germany called Scorpions who were all over the radio at the time with a song called “The Zoo” and an upstart outfit from Sheffield, England called Def Leppard, whose members at the time averaged 19 years of age, and had a really cool song out called “Rock Brigade”. Some folks predicted then that they might go far. They did…
5) Van Halen/The Katz (Friday, August 22, 1980--Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $9.50
This was VH’s second headlining tour of America, and per their usual, they brought along a totally forgettable opening act like The Katz. My memory is pretty acute, but the only thing I remember about them is they played Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over" during their set.
VH hit the stage with a very high-energy set, opening with “Romeo Delight” from their new album Women And Children First, and about halfway through, David Lee Roth blurts out, “I forgot the fucking words!” Methinks he did this on purpose, but whatever, these guys were good! I remember bassist Michael Anthony pounding away on this keyboard contraption shaped like a bomb during “…And The Cradle Will Rock” and the guitar pyrotechnics of one Edward Van Halen were hard to ignore on this night. Someone tossed a joint onto the stage, and DLR smoked it, natuarlly. This would be the first of many lovely evenings spent with Diamond Dave and the boys…