Thursday, February 21, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 4

The saga continues...

16) Elton John/Quarterflash (Tuesday, July 6, 1982—Starlight Theater) Ticket price: $15.00

One of the finest concerts I’ve ever attended—certainly in my top two or three—which I previously profiled here on the blog last summer on the 25th anniversary thereof.

17) Van Halen/After The Fire (Saturday, August 7, 1982—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.50

Three straight years, three straight Van Halen concerts, and #3 was definitely a charmprobably my favorite of the seven times I’ve seen them live.  The air was filled with anticipation, and of all the 100-plus shows I’ve been to, I don’t ever remember a concert crowd being that fired-up to see the headliner as they were that night.  Every time a light flickered during the set change, people started to cheer thinking that Van Halen was about to hit the stage.  We had outstanding seats for this one, about a third of the way up the lower level at Kemper, almost even with the barricade on stage left, at eye level with and about 15 yards away from Eddie Van Halen when he ventured over to his corner of the stage, which was often. 

This was the Diver Down tour, and while that album was fairly disappointing, the new stuff still came off well that night, like "High ‘Em High", "Little Guitars" (with EVH strapping on the appropriately-sized axe, like at left) and their killer cover version of Roy Orbison’s "Oh Pretty Woman". It was most definitely a party as only Diamond Dave and the boys could throw, and one I would probably rank in my top five concerts ever if you put a gun to my head.  As good as the show was, the thing I remember most about that night happened during the opening act, After The Fire.  This was right before they had their lone hit, "Der Kommisar", so they were nobodies to us, and they were awful.  No, waitworse than awful.  We’re talking double-secret probation awful, here!  So awful in fact, that a gentleman in the front row, who I can only assume was a Van Halen fan, stood up and let ATF know how awful they were by lifting his right arm with his middle finger raised on high, right in front of their lead singer!  A true Kodak moment…

18) "Summer Rock ‘82"—R.E.O. Speedwagon/Ted Nugent/John Cougar/Rainbow/707 (Sunday, August 15, 1982—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $17.50

The Summer of ’82 was a busy one in KC concert-wise in general, and there were not one, but two mega stadium concerts at the home of the Chefs, which at least gave Arrowhead something worthy to do that year besides hosting crappy football.  Mother Nature even cooperated this time, but just in case, my friend Tom and I splurged and bought reserved Club Level tickets under the roof to stay high and dry in the event of another Foreigner-esque monsoon.  As with that Foreigner show on Memorial Day, I had to work until 2PM, which was showtime, thus we missed the opening act 707.  Their lone claim to fame was the 1980 lost classic hit, "I Could Be Good For You", and they later featured a guy named Tod Howarth, who subsequently joined forces with the Space Ace in Frehley’s Comet in the mid-‘80s.

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow followed with a somewhat-abbreviated set, as I recall.  Rainbow was now on their third singer, with Joe Lynn Turner having replaced Graham Bonnet ("All Night Long", "Since You’ve Been Gone"), who replaced Ronnie James Dio ("Man On The Silver Mountain", "Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll") when he replaced Ozzy in Black Sabbath.  Confused yet?  Anyway, "Stone Cold" was their big hit at the time.  Their set was plagued by sound problems throughout, which led Blackmore, in a fit of frustration, to inadvertently gouge a huge hole with his guitar neck in the big decorative canvas screen in front of the speaker stacks at stage left.

When this concert was first announced, April Wine was originally slated for the third spot, and I was really looking forward to seeing them because The Nature Of The Beast was one of my favorite albums the year before.  But for whatever reason, AW pulled out and were replaced on the bill (much to my chagrin) by John Cougar Summercamp$&^#*@@!!!  Out of respect to my readers who are Cougar fans, I won’t comment on his set.  Honestly, I really don’t remember much about it, anyway—I was probably either at the concession stands or in the can throughout most of it!  Suffice it to say, he failed to win me over that day, but I'll give credit where credit is dueBig John had one of the most appropriate album titles in music history!

After headlining a few stadium concerts over the years—and nearly getting them banned here because he was too fucking loud—Ted Nugent was demoted to second-banana on the bill this time, thanks in large part to his ill-advised 1981 bomb of an album, Intensities In 10 Cities.  He left Epic Records after that and resurfaced on Atlantic with a modest comeback, the 1982 Nugent LP, which also marked the first of several returns to his band by singer/guitarist Derek St. Holmes—what a coincidence that Nuge’s best records are the ones with St. Holmes on them!  Journeyman drummer Carmine Appice also joined the band for this tour, but his tenure was short-lived—no doubt a clash of egos occurred at some point.  The highlight of the set was easily the new song "Bound And Gagged", all about the Iran hostage crisis, before which Ted got the crowd chanting "Kick some fucking ass!"  That time, he was actually right about something political for one of the rare times in his life.  The rest of the set wasn’t bad, although strangely subdued for the Motor City Madman.

Meantime, this show was a coronation of sorts for R.E.O. Speedwagon, as they were now more or less kings of the musical hill around these parts after over a decade of working their way up through the ranks.  Kansas City was very crucial to R.E.O.’s early success, and they rewarded us by recording parts of their 1977 live album at Memorial Hall on the Kansas side, and to finally headline a stadium show over someone they used to open for (Nugent, and maybe even Rainbow too) must’ve felt pretty sweet to Kevin Cronin and the boys.  Although I always liked the title track from their new release Good Trouble, that album had the unenviable task of following up their colossally successful Hi Infidelity, and I think R.E.O. probably peaked on their previous tour.  Speedwagon put on a good show that nightnot quite a great oneand were well-received, despite a couple of glaring omissions from the set list, namely "157 Riverside Avenue" and "Golden Country".  I seem to remember the show was a tad short too, thus mildly disappointing, but it still wasn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday and wrap up my summer before starting college the following week.

19) Olivia Newton-John/Tom Scott Band (Friday, September 24, 1982—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $15.00

A bit of a musical left turn for this one, but I wasn’t about to miss the woman who I’d lusted mightily after from about age 9 thru 11!  The show opened with musician Tom Scott and his band—he appeared on several of George Harrison’s records in the ‘70s, as well as working with the Blues Brothers—and they also doubled as Olivia’s backing band.  Just two days shy of her 34th birthday, Olivia Newton-John didn’t look a day over 25 that night, and she was in the midst of the most successful period of her career, building on the success of 1978's Grease soundtrack, 1980’s Xanadu soundtrack (mediocre movie, but a great album) and dominating the charts in ’82 with Physical.  ONJ came onstage looking "good enough to take to Chinatown" (to use Fred Sanford’s beauty measuring scale), and opened with "Deeper Than The Night", then followed with a quick medley of her older country hits from the ‘70s (I hate medleys in concert, btw).  Then she snuck off-stage while the band carried on for a bit, and re-emerged in a different outfit and sang "Make A Move On Me", which woke everyone up and she owned the crowd the rest of the night.  Olivia did the quick-change routine a couple more times, but surprisingly this didn’t disrupt the flow of the show too much.  She saved her other biggies for the end"Magic", "Physical", "I Honestly Love You" and "You’re The One That I Want" (with one of the guys from the band subbing for Travolta).  We expected a great show from Olivia, and she did not disappoint.

A post-show incident marred my memory of the evening a bit, though.  As Tom and I headed back to the car, we passed by the big crowd that had gathered outside the tunnel leading to the backstage area and thought, "What the hell" and hung around for a bit, hoping for a possible glimpse of Ms. Newton-John on her way out.  We did get to see the bass player and percussionist from the band ambling up the ramp, but that was about it.  After about 20 minutes or so, a huge stretch limo barreled up the ramp and when it rounded the corner onto the street, it struck a young girl standing by the curb and knocked her down.  It didn’t look like she suffered any permanent damage, but it was damn reckless of the limo driver to do that in a crowd, and then just drive off like he did.  I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but one of my new college professors witnessed the incident too, and mentioned it in his lecture the following Monday.  Small world, I guess…

20) The Go-Go’s/A Flock Of Seagulls (Sunday, October 3, 1982—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $10.00

In the fall of ’81, I’d heard about this all-girl group that played their own instruments, but I’d never actually heard them until one morning when "Our Lips Are Sealed" came on the radio, and I was instantly hooked without even seeing them (no MTV for us yet).  Hell, on this record, The Go-Go’s sounded like cute babes, and damned if they weren’t!  Not long after, I snagged their first (and best) album Beauty And The Beat, and about a year later, they made their first appearance in Cowtown, where you might say "we got the meat".  Oops, sorry about that…

We originally thought we’d see The Go-Go’s open for The Police back in March, but they pulled out of that tour to head back to the studio and record what turned out to be their rush-job second LP Vacation.  Cute cover and inner sleeve and all, but not real strong content-wise, so it was the first album’s stuff that sustained the show that night in October.  All five Go-Go’s were/are very attractive, and I was always partial to singer Belinda Carlisle and rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin.  Belinda had/has great legs and it was fun to watch her dance and sway in her stiletto heels, while Jane was/is a bit more pixie-ish hopping around in her more sensible shoes.  Lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey stood out on songs like "Lust To Love" and "This Town", while Kathy Valentine laid down some funky bass on "We Got The Beat" and their concert staple "Cool Jerk".  I was also impressed with drummer Gina Schock, who is a very good timekeeper, and I was thoroughly convinced The Go-Go’s actually were playing their own instruments, in spite of rumors to the contrary that were floating around at the time.  My only real complaint was Belinda’s between-song patter, which came off as kinda air-headed and pithy at times.

By the by, if you want to see a really good live concert video of The Go-Go’s, I highly recommend the one called "Totally Go-Go’s"—that is, if you can actually find it! It used to only be available on Beta tapes and Sony Picturediscs (remember those?) back in the day, and I’m hoping it resurfaces on DVD someday soon, because my Beta player died years ago.  It’s a great document of where they were just before they went national, plus it has an added bonus of the cheap thrill of seeing up Belinda’s skirt a couple times thanks to the low-angle camera shots!  Ah yes, the fine art of "eyeing little girls with bad intent", but I digress...

Meantime, A Flock Of Seagulls was a very pleasant surprise as the opening act.  Although their performance came off a tad robotic like Devo or even The Cars, I remember they sounded really good that night—very crisp and clear, and I was impressed enough that I went out and bought their debut album a little later on, and it’s probably my favorite record of the Techno-Pop era.  Unfortunately, groups like AFOS and Missing Persons had a very short shelf-life, and faded away almost as quickly as they appeared on the scene.  A little aside:  long about this time, Tom drank a lot of beer one night and got pretty wasted, and as I played designated driver, "I Ran" came on the car radio, and he goes, "Oh, there’s that new song about the hostages…"  I’ll give you a minute or two to make the connection there.  Tom was a funny drunk back then…

20½) The Who (Friday, December, 17, 1982—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $10.00

Not an official concert per se, but I’m including it here anyway, since it was sorta like being there as we attended the closed-circuit live satellite broadcast from Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens of The Who’s final show on their much-publicized 1982 "Farewell" Tour.  We were very disappointed there was no KC date on this tour, although I heard there was a potential gig lined-up for a night that the Kansas City Kings had a game slated for Kemper Arena, and they were totally unwilling to reschedule it.  Kemper’s other main tenant at the time, the Kansas City Comets indoor soccer team—who were then outdrawing the Kings in droves, thus had more at stake—even offered to move one of their home games to accommodate the Who tour, but things just didn’t work out.  Thus, Kansas City got screwed on account of a mediocre NBA team with a Mickey Mouse front office.  Was I heartbroken when the Kings left town three years later?  Here’s a little hint:  "Don’t cry for me, Sacramento…"

This tour is generally regarded by most Who fans as one of their worst, but I’ve watched the video of this show a zillion times over the years, and I never thought it was all that bad really, apart from how blatantly obvious it was that Pete Townshend didn’t want to be there.  Even Pete’s trademark windmills on the guitar seemed forced, and his apathy was readily apparent (not to mention downright maddening) throughout.  This was also what I call Pete’s "bad haircut" era, and he just had a very negative aura about him—you could tell this tour was just a big paycheck to him.  "Just hand me my checkbook, and I’ll crawl off to die…" as PT once wrote.

Meantime, stalwarts Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle saved the day by performing brilliantly, while drummer Kenny Jones was merely adequate.  Don’t get me wrong:  Jones is a very good drummer—just not a very good WHO drummer.  The show featured a few surprises on the set list throughout, including from the very start as they opened with "My Generation"—which Townshend had steadfastly refused to play on this tour prior to that night—along with rarely-performed songs like "Love Ain’t For Keeping", "Naked Eye" and "Drowned".  Roger even played rhythm guitar on the title track to It’s Hard, as well as on "Eminence Front", which also featured keyboardist Tim Gorman.  The Ox also nearly blew the roof off the place with his none-too-subtle "The Quiet One" from the middling Face Dances album.

There were also a few moments of levity during this show, even from the moody Townshend, like stomping on a big fake arachnid at the conclusion of "Boris The Spider", as well as following "It’s Hard", when he muttered into the microphone, "What’s hard is making it feel hard."  Hey, Viagara—there’s a potential catchphrase for you!  I also loved Daltrey’s introduction of Entwistle: "He’s known by many names: 'The Ox', 'Thunderfingers'...'Big Johnnie Twinkle'!  And quite a few others…"  The funniest point of the show occurred when Roger got a little too close to Pete while doing his trademark microphone twirling, and it took Daltrey nearly two verses of "5:15" to finally untangle his microphone cord from Townshend’s guitar cord!

If this truly was a bad Who tour/show, so be it.  But, as the old axiom goes, The Who on a bad night were still better than most bands on their best night, and even back then you just knew this wasn’t the end for them, anyway…

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