Friday, February 15, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 3

Yet another installment of the history of yours truly's concert-going career. 1981-82 was my senior year in high school, and it was a very prolific period for me, concert-wise, as you will see...

11) Quarterflash/Darrel Lea (Thursday, November 26, 1981—Lyric Theater) Ticket price: Free

Kansas City’s famed Lyric Theater normally houses opera, ballet and other arty-farty musical fare, but on Thanksgiving Night, 1981, it was a Rock ‘N’ Roll venue for the one and only time I’ve ever set foot in the place.  Too bad they didn’t/don’t stage more Rock events there—it’s a great place to see a show.  Anyway, local radio legend KY-102 sponsored a free concert featuring a hot new band called Quarterflash, and since you can’t beat free, we snagged some tickets and attended.

Quarterflash was burning up the charts at the time with their self-titled debut album and the single "Harden My Heart" (great record, btw).  The band featured lead singer Rindy Ross, who was sort of a poor man’s Pat Benatar (her voice was a lot like Benatar’s, only not nearly as powerful, nor did she dress nearly as sexy as Pat), who also doubled on the saxophone.  Rindy’s brother Marv Ross was the guitarist and leader of the band, and they put on a very energetic show.  High points included the other hit off the album, "Find Another Fool" and their encore "Take Another Picture" (title track of their second album), during which Rindy snapped off photos of the audience with her Polaroid One-Step camera and tossed them back into the crowd.  They closed out the night with a snappy rendition of The Byrds' "So You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star?" as well.

I'm pretty sure they also did a song off the first album called "Valerie", which made me do a double-take the first time I heard it—"Is she singing about being in love with another girl?!?"  This was the first time I’d ever heard an overtly lesbian love song before!  I was also rather mystified by the video for "Harden My Heart", which featured Miss Ross clad in her ‘80s dancewear rushing around as if being chased by someone in this maze-like structure in the middle of a rock quarry while some little kid sits outside at a vanity table in the middle of a slag heap, then Rindy exits the structure, hops on a waiting Harley and rides off with some dude, while some guy comes along and bulldozes the structure while some joker with a flamethrower torches it!  WTF?!?  I have no earthly idea any of this had to with hardening one’s heart.  Anyway, I thought this band had a lot of potential, but nothing really happened for them after that first album.  Too bad, because they weren’t too shabby live in concert.

The opening act’s name totally escaped me for years, until I re-read the concert review from 1981 on the K.C. Star microfilms, and it turns out his name was Darrell Lea.  Sadly, and all I remember was he played acoustic guitar for about 30 minutes, and I think he had a moustache.  Sorry, Darrell, that's the best I can do, buddy...

12) The Police/Joan Jett And The Blackhearts (Thursday, March 25, 1982—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.75

This was a fun evening all the way ‘round.

The Go-Go's were initally slated to open on this tour with The Police, but they pulled out to return to the studio to record their second album, so Joan Jett was inserted in their spot, and Joan's opening set was better than I expected.  I wasn’t too impressed with her records up to that point, and I still don’t much care for "I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll" (worst guitar solo I’ve ever heard!), but I’ve grown to like some of her stuff over the years, and Joan’s cover version of Tommy James’ "Crimson And Clover" was a high point of her act.

The Police were just about the hottest live act around at that time, and they were touring in support of my favorite Police album, Ghost In The Machine.  They did plenty of tracks off that one, including two personal favorites "One World (Not Three)" and "Demolition Man", as well as "Rehumanize Yourself" and their mega-hit single "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".  They kinda mangled up "Spirits In The Material World", but the rest of the new songs sounded great.  I forget which song he did this during, but at one point Sting tried to work the crowd into a frenzy and get everyone to scream loud enough "to raise this roof".  Given what happened to the Kemper roof three years before, I wanted to tell him, "Uhhh, Sting, you might want to re-think that strategy in this building."  "Walking On The Moon" was another highlight, as the lights gave the appearance of a spacecraft landing onto the stage.  "Don’t Stand So Close To Me" was another high point, and "Roxanne" really had the joint jumping during the encore, with people literally dancing in the aisles.

However, what I remember most fondly about this concert didn't have a damn thing to do with the show itself, but rather the scores and scores of cute girls in attendance.  This was the first concert we’d attended that attracted almost as many females as males, and it just happened to coincide with the return of the mini-skirt as a fashion staple!  My friends and I sat agog and google-eyed most of the night at all the cute chicks sporting the "Valley Girl" look in their short skirts, colored tights and leg warmers, etc., and we spent half the night fighting over the lone set of binoculars between us.  It was all I could do to keep from turning around and gawking at the girl directly behind me in the mirco-skirt—I would've had a nice view of the promised land!  Too bad none of us had the balls to actually hit on any of these chicks, tho.  An opportunity lost, fer shure!  Damn, I miss the '80s...

13) "Summer Rock ‘82"—Foreigner/Loverboy/Triumph/.38 Special/LeRoux (Sunday, May 30, 1982—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $15.00

All-day multi-act stadium Rock concerts like this one were an annual rite of passage around these parts every summer back in the day, and chances were good that there would be at least one act on bill that you wanted to see, if not all of them.  Sadly, shows like these are now about as obsolete as Polaroid One-Steps (not to mention Apple IIe's and floppy discs), but Summer Rock ’82 was a rather memorable concert, and not necessarily because of the show itself.

I had to work that day and didn’t get off until 2PM, which is when the concert started, thus we arrived just in time for the first act, Louisiana’s LeRoux, to leave the stage.  I believe they were a Country-Rock outfit, but I remember nothing about them.  It was a bright sunny day when we arrived, but clouds started rolling in about the time .38 Special hit the stage...

A good band, but not quite a great one, .38 Special was the quintessential opening act, as they had just enough familiar songs in their repertoire to hold one’s interest throughout their set.  They had just come out with what I think was their best album Special Forces, featuring "Caught Up In You".  They were playing another standout track, "Chain Lightning", about the time it started raining—timing is everything.  Meantime, I’d always assumed Donnie Van Zant sang all of .38's songs, so I was  surprised to see guitarist Don Barnes handling the majority of the lead vocals that day, including all their big hits.  On one song, RVZ strapped on a guitar, and even from the upper deck of Arrowhead, I could tell he wasn’t really playing it—his hand movements were totally out of time with the other two guitarists and he gripped the neck with his chording fingers like he was holding a broom handle!  Check out this video here, and you’ll see what I mean—it’s not nice to fool Sir Rant-A-Lot!  This made me wonder why Van Zant was even in the band at all, other than bringing to it his legendary family name.  In spite of all that, .38 Special put on a pretty decent set.

The clouds got darker during the set change, and it started raining harder when those Canucks from the Great White North, Triumph, came on.  I still hadn’t forgiven these guys for trying to rip off Kiss’ stage show pyrotechnics on previous tours just yet, but since they weren’t allowed to bring them along for this show anyway, we were treated to stripped-down Triumph, which wasn’t such a bad thing.  It was a rather uneven set, as I recall, but a couple songs stood out like "Magic Power" and "Lay It On The Line".  One of the guys was wearing a hockey jersey too, so they can’t be all bad.  By the time Triumph left the stage, it was raining hard.  Very Hard.  Stadium officials were urging those of us in the upper deck to move downstairs at this point...

With discretion being the better part of valor, Tom and I decided to vacate the upper deck and the lightning thereof, so we ambled on down to the field level, which was only about 2/3 full after the Woodstock-ish rains hit.  It was pouring buckets by this time, and we were surprised they actually continued on with this concert.  Loverboy came on a little while later and put on a very similar set to the one they played at Kemper Arena the year before opening for Z.Z. Top, only more enjoyable because we were now familiar with the stuff off their second LP, Get Lucky.  Singer Mike Reno did a nice job working the crowd, and the band didn’t seem to mind the rain at all.  Like .38 Special, Loverboy is one of those bands who were a great opening act, but never really got over the hump to being a headliner.  Ironically, they headline the nostalgia circuit today, but Mike "Nirvana killed my career" Reno is so bloated and overweight he’s almost unrecognizable now.  I had a friend tell me she was actually offended by some of the sexist stuff he said and did in their act a few years ago too.  Nirvana didn’t kill your career, Tubbo—you did!

A little side note: I get a chuckle out of the Ameristar Casino ads I see in the paper for Foreigner’s upcoming appearance there—"Tickets start @ $50!"  Good gravy, I don’t wanna see where they finish at!  If singer Lou Gramm was still with them, then maybe they could make a case for charging that much, but 50 smackers (plus "convenience" fee) for a has-been band with only one original member left (Mick Jones) that hasn’t had a decent hit in 20 years?  Surely, they jest! Foreigner headlined (if you wanna call it that) a birthday show for a local radio station here three or four years ago, and I heard they were absolutely dreadful (care to elaborate, Mr. Raley?).  And what is drummer Jason Bonham doing wasting his time in this band? My word, how the mighty have fallen…

All this time, the rain never let up one bit, and during the set change after Loverboy, they flashed a message on the scoreboard that read something to effect of, "Thanks for coming out tonight—there are flood warnings all over the city," which made Tom and me wonder what we’d be returning home to after the show.  Meanwhile, we amused ourselves by tossing a Frisbee around near the back of the field level while other folks were using the field tarp as a giant Slip ‘N’ Slide until Foreigner came on, well after 10PM.  The crowd gradually got thinner and thinner as the rain pelted everyone, and Tom and I kept moving closer and closer to the front, and by show’s end, we managed to get within about 15 feet of the stage, almost directly in front of bassist Rick Wills at stage left.  Nineteen-hundred and eighty-one, A.D. seemed like the year so many bands came out with their greatest album ever—Styx, REO Speedwagon, Rush, for instance—and Foreigner’s 4 was no exception.  Great songs from that record, which sounded even better with a little live edge to them, especially "Night Life" and "Juke Box Hero", as well as "oldies" like "Feels Like The First Time" and "Hot Blooded".  Like Loverboy, the band seemed pretty nonplussed by the rain, and no one got electrocuted, so no harm, no foul.  A good time was had by all who stayed ‘til the bitter soggy end.  As it turned out, the flood warnings were a tad exaggerated and we didn’t have to float home.

14) Dave Edmunds/The Clocks (Tuesday, June 1, 1982—Uptown Theater) Ticket price: $9.00

Two nights after damn near drowning at Arrowhead, Tom and I dried ourselves off and headed to our first gig ever at the historic Uptown Theater, one of my favorite K.C. concert venues.  Seating anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 people, it’s one of the few surviving classic old KC theaters from before the Great Depression, and it had recently re-opened after standing vacant for a number of years.  Money problems forced it to close again in the late ‘80s, but it was rescued during the ‘90s and is currently a very viable Rock concert venue.

You can read all about how I became a Dave Edmunds fan here, and DE was touring in support of my favorite DE album, D.E. 7th, which featured the Springsteen-penned "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)", as well as killer remakes of Chuck Berry’s "Dear Dad" and NRBQ’s "Me And The Boys".  Our view from the upper balcony seats was superb, and Dave and his band rocked the house for nearly two hours after he got the joint jumpin' with "Crawling From The Wreckage".  Is "C From The W" not the most underrated song ever on earth in this hemisphere?  The band featured late guitarist Mickey Gee and keyboardist Geraint Watkins, who also strapped on an accordion and sang on a rousing Cajun version of the Rockpile song "You Ain’t Nothin’ But (Fine, Fine Fine)".  Much of the Dave Edmunds King Biscuit Flower Hour live CD was lifted from this same tour, if you’re looking for a little taste of it.  It’s a crime against humanity that this man is so under-appreciated for his talent and music ability.  Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, are you listening?!?  Put down your hooka pipes and pay attention, dammit!

Because I had to work earlier that evening, we missed out on the opening act, The Clocks, although I wanna say they were a fairly popular local outfit (again, any thoughts, Mr. Raley?).  They were well-received that night, I do recall.

15) Charlie Daniels Band/Muscle Shoals All-Stars (Saturday, July 3, 1982—Starlight Theater) Ticket price: $10.50

Back to the great outdoors again on this blazing hot Saturday afternoon (95 degrees and no shade).  Other than all-day stadium shows, I never much cared for daytime concerts—I much prefer shows at night (indoors or out), because nighttime is the right time, and there's such a thing as peaking too early in the day.  In spite of all that, the C.D.B. acquitted itself quite well on this toasty afternoon in the heartland, during which I fried like a hunk of bacon, but I didn't mind at all.

Not being a terribly big Country music fan while growing up, I did manage to forge a kinship with Charlie Daniels anyway.  His 1973 classic "Uneasy Rider" is one of the funniest songs I've ever heard, and I'd gladly sing it to you word-for-word on Karaoke night, if given the opportunity.  I also identified with songs like "Long-Haired Country Boy", during which Charlie sang the classic line "I ain't asking nobody for nothing, if I can get it on my own.."—an attitude I've always tried to live by.  I'll never forget when he appeared on the radio show "Innerview" and talked about people's expectations of yourself and he said, "If you have the ability to be a nuclear physicist, and your Daddy wants you to be one, but you wanna be a ditch-digger, then, hell, be a ditch-digger!  Your daddy can't live your life for you..."—something else I took very much to heart.  Unfortunately, I've grown a little weary of the right-wing conservative rhetoric I've heard from CD in recent years (not unlike that of my ex-idol, Fred Nugent), but I still love the music of the C.D.B.—with or without Barefoot Jerry, whoever he is!

Anyway, Charlie and his boys put on quite a show for the sun-baked crowd, which nearly packed Starlight (Sunlight?!?) Theater on this 4th of July weekend. I'd always heard that his keyboard player Taz DiGregorio was a badass, and damned if he wasn't.  Guitarist Tommy Crain also shined, and highlights were plenty, like "The South's Gonna Do It Again" (and again), "In America" and their new hit single "Still In Saigon", the brilliantly-written tale of a Vietnam vet struggling to fit back in to normal life after his tour of duty.  "Uneasy Rider" was another high point (I had no trouble singing along, anyway) and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" was the perfect closer.  Then Charlie re-emerged and proclaimed, "Good people of the great states of Kansas and Missouri, we'd be proud to play some more music for you..."  The encore left me rather flat, as it was accompanied by a Southern Baptist choir, but overall, it was a dandy show.

The opening act was a conglomerative effort put together by drummer Levon Helm of The Band called the Muscle Shoals All-Stars.  I don't remember much about them, other than that the bass player never moved a muscle, other than his hands (shades of Entwistle?).  Meantime, our next concert on the docket a few days later was one of the best of all...


dr sardonicus said...

We now have two concerts in common. I was not at all impressed by the Police that night. They seemed flat, bored, and in a hurry to get off stage. I don't think they played an encore (although I may be wrong). Probably you noticed the girls more that night because there wasn't all that much happening on stage.

The Clocks were a Wichita band that sounded like a Cars knockoff. A couple of their songs got some regional airplay, but I can't remember any titles. They weren't too popular with my musician friends because they felt that there were several bands far more deserving of a major-label deal than the Clocks were.

Barefoot Jerry was an all-star group of Nashville sessionmen who found time to record two or three albums in the mid-70's in between session duties. They were a country-rock jam band; their albums are worth hunting up if that's your taste.

Randy Raley said...

Damn, grasshopper where to begin...Memorial Day 1982 was the day that I did stage announcements in front of 60,000 people. What a rush, Fredrocks passed out when he saw the crowd, I just grabbed the mike. Memorial Day 1982, I was spinning "danceable rock and roll", downstairs at the Plaza 3 and that's the weekend I fell very hard for one of the true loves of my life. I would rank the Dave Edmunds/Clocks show as maybe one of the greatest shows I have ever seen. The Clocks(from Wichita) had just appeared on a KY "Homegrown LP" with the song "She Looks A Lot Like You". I brought them on, and also Dave (that's back when stations were allowed to do that). Dave kicked my ass and I couldn't believe it was over so quickly. I was a Dave fan, still am a Dave fan. The original Rare Earth played at the Uptown exactly one week from the Dave Edmunds show, so in the span of a week, I have witnessed two of the best shows ever. What a place that venue was.
And I still don't know how you remember this shit better than I do, oh, wait maybe I do..

Randy Raley said...

BTW, the Foreigner show was dreadful. Sad. Although, I have only seen one Foreigner show where I was pleased with the music/sound and that was at FarmAid, outside. It seemed to me they were always TOO LOUD!!! But aside from that, the show at Sandstone(whatever) was truly awful.