Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 9

After a brief pause, it's time to resume my chronicle of the concerts I've attended throughout the years...
41) and 42) Z.Z. Top/Jimmy Barnes (Sunday/Monday, February 16-17, 1986—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $16.00

By the time Z.Z. Top’s Afterburner came out in the fall of 1985, they were at the height of their career in terms of popularity, with their videos in heavy rotation on MTV and they were hot enough to score a two-night stand here at Kemper Arena, and my friend Tom and I had great seats on the lower level for the first night.

While Afterburner was the weaker cousin of its predecessor Eliminator, it still packed enough of a wallop to make for a great concert anyway.  Z.Z. opened the show with "Got Me Under Pressure", then followed with the single "Sleeping Bag", which was augmented by green lazers in time to the song.  The stage backdrop was a mock-up of the dashboard of the mighty ’32 Ford Eliminator car from their famous 1983-84 videos.  About midway through the set during the song "Legs", Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill (playing their infamous fur-lined guitars like in the pic) and drummer Frank Beard were accompanied by about half a dozen leggy showgirls prowling the stage, and near the end of the song, the band used some old "smoke and mirrors" tactics that made them suddenly "vanish" into thin air.  Then some taped synthesizer music played overhead while the stage set morphed into the dashboard of the Space Shuttle Afterburner, and the band re-emerged and launched (launched—get it?!?) into "Sharp Dressed Man".

Other highlights included the new songs "Velcro Fly" and "Can’t Stop Rockin’", but I was a tad disappointed they didn’t also do the very-underrated "Delirious" from Afterburner.  Z.Z. also did their usual encore triumvirate of "Tube Snake Boogie", "La Grange" and "Tush", the latter of which ended with some more sleight of hand by the band as a fake piece of scaffolding from the lighting rig fell to the stage at the climax of the song, followed by a man-sized dummy dressed as one of the spotlight guys.  Tom and I didn’t fall for it, but I’m sure a few drunks in the crowd wound up with skidmarks in their drawers upon witnessing this!

Singer Jimmy Barnes opened the show and wasn’t too bad, as I recall, although I remember precious little about his set.  This was even before he had his hit duet with INXS "Good Times", so we didn’t know much about him.  I do remember he seemed to hold the crowd’s attention throughout his 30 minutes.

Long about 6:00 the next night, I heard on the radio that there were still some decent tickets available for the second show, and since I enjoyed the show so much the first night, I got a wild hair to go see Z.Z. Top again.  I called Tom up and said, "Whaddya reckon?" and he thought I was nuts at first, but he thought about it a while and said, "Whatthefuck," and we headed back to the stockyards for another lovely evening with that Little Ol’ Band From Texas.  We passed on Jimmy Barnes this time and arrived just as he had left the stage, and our seats were nosebleeders upstairs, but weren’t all that bad, and it was fun to view the show from a different angle.  This was the first and only time I ever attended back-to-back shows by the same band on consecutive nights, as well as the first time I’d ever caught two shows on any band’s tour—a feat I would later repeat with Z.Z. Top a few years later, as well as a couple times with Kiss.

SET LIST:  Got Me Under Pressure/Sleeping Bag/Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago/Gimme All Your Lovin'/Ten Foot Pole/Manic Mechanic/Heard It On The X/Rough Boy/Cheap Sunglasses/Arrested For Driving While Blind/Legs/Sharp Dressed Man/Can't Stop Rockin'/Stages/Party On The Patio  ENCORES:  Velcro Fly/Tube Snake Boogie/La Grange/Tush

43) The Cult/Divinyls (Tuesday, April 15, 1986—Uptown Theater) Ticket price: $13.50

A little background first:  My friend Tom latched on to this Australian band Divinyls when they first became known here in the States in the summer of ’83 on MTV with their outstanding album Desperate.  Unbeknownst to Tom and me beforehand, they were scheduled to play at Six Flags over St. Louis on the very day we visited there during our July road trip, which was right smack dab in the middle of the Great Heat Wave of ’83.  We arrived when the park opened and it was hotter than hell that day, and of course the concert wasn’t slated until near dark around 9PM, but there was no way in hell we could’ve lasted the whole day in the blazing sun, as we were already frying like bacon by late afternoon, so we reluctantly headed back to our hotel and its wonderful shaded swimming pool.

I’ve always felt badly about missing that show too, because I know how badly Tom wanted to see it at the time, so when Divinyls came to town in support of their second U.S. album What A Life, we made sure to go see them, even though they were opening for The Cult.  Lead singer Christina Amphlett—who I like to think of as a cross between a white Tina Turner and AC/DC’s Angus Young—prowled around the stage doing her best schoolgirl-gone-mad shtick, complete with her sailor uniform and thigh-high black stockings, while her partner-in-crime Mark McEntee held court on guitar.  Surprisingly, Divinyls played almost an hour, which is longer than most opening acts, and they leaned on their new record quite a bit, including the singles "Pleasure And Pain" and "Sleeping Beauty".  What A Life wasn’t a bad record, but not nearly as good as Desperate, which featured great songs like "Boys In Town", "Siren Song", "Elsie" and a killer cover version of the Easybeats’ "I’ll Make You Happy", which was the show’s encore.  Wish we could’ve seen more of them, but what we got was a pretty good set.

I’d love to review The Cult’s set, but since we came to see Divinyls specifically and either I or Tom had an early college class the next day, we didn’t stick around for them.  Knowing now what I didn’t know about The Cult then, I kinda wish we had…

44) Van Halen/Bachman-Turner Overdrive (Saturday, May 31, 1986—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $15.00

Round Five for me with Van Halen brought with it a couple of changes.  The most obvious one was Sammy Hagar being VH’s new lead singer, and the other being this was one of the few concerts I attended back in the day without Tom, who I think was unable to get the night off and had to work at his new job.  Subbing for Tom was our mutual friend Jim—a mondo Van Halen fan in his own right—and his wife Cheryl.  Come to think of it, Jim tagged along with us the previous two times we saw VH at Kemper.

Bachman-Turner Overweight—sorry—Overdrive opened the show, and while they played a decent set of hits, plus a couple songs off their new "reunion" album, it was pretty obvious this band was way past its prime.  Randy Bachman was no longer in the picture either, and his presence was sorely missed.  Meantime, during BTO’s set, we were rather entertained by these dumb kids in the row in front of us who smuggled their own booze in.  They were really whooping it up as BTO played, and obviously knew nothing about the fine art of pacing themselves with the alky-hol.  I gave Jim a nudge and pointed to them and said, "Rookies!" and sure enough, not even a third of the way through Van Halen’s set, at least two of these dummies were hunched over with their heads between their legs puking on their shoes!  We laughed at them.  Hard.

As for Van Hagar, it was quite a different world without Diamond Dave.  Not a bad one, necessarily, just different.  The focus was more on the music now and less on showmanship, and with Sammy Hagar also being a guitarist, this added a fresh new element to the band, which was showcased right away as they opened with Sammy trading solos with Eddie on Hagar’s "There’s Only One Way To Rock".  Having the second guitar also came in handy to free Eddie up to play the keyboards on songs like "Why Can’t This Be Love?" and "Love Walks In".  The set list naturally leaned heavily on the new stuff from 5150, with a couple Hagar songs thrown in.  They only played three or four David Lee Roth songs, and one of those was "You Really Got Me", which DLR didn’t write anyway.

There were a few "Dave Who?" banners scattered about the arena, and the crowd seemed to embrace Hagar as the new voice of Van Halen, but for some reason, this show left me rather flat.  It just felt like the band was going through the motions that night, and the fire just wasn’t there like it had been the previous four times I’d seen them.  When I later saw the New Haven show they filmed about a month earlier on their Live Without A Net concert video, which was a much more energetic performance, my reaction was, "Where the fuck was all this at Kemper?"  I don’t know if we just caught VH on a bad night or what, and I don’t mean to blame Hagar because the entire band was off that night, but this show should’ve been a whole lot better.

45) Paul Revere & The Raiders (Saturday, July 5, 1986—Liberty Memorial Mall) Ticket price: ???

My first memories of being alive are of listening to Paul Revere & The Raiders records when I was all of three.  I got to see the real McCoy when I was seven at Starlight Theater in 1971, and the ersatz version of the group over the 4th of July weekend in ’86 at the Kansas City Spirit Festival.  Liberty Memorial Mall is not a shopping mecca, but rather the land adjacent to K.C.’s war monument that bears more than a slight resemblance to an erect penis, and for many years, the city held these multi-day festivals that featured nationally-known acts on its grounds.  Said grounds were pretty soggy that day, as it had rained almost the entire weekend, but since it didn’t cost squat to get in, I decided to take in da Raidas.

With their late ‘60s heyday having long since passed, PR&TR were strictly a nostalgia act by 1986, with Revere himself being the only original member still active.  There had been a couple minor Raider reunions during the early ‘80s for one-off events and such, but lead singer Mark Lindsay had no desire to be a lounge act, so Revere put together a group of new Raiders, many of whom still work with him today in Branson (where careers go to die).  I didn’t really have high expectations for this show, and it's a good thing I didn't, because I was fairly underwhelmed by it.

Revere didn't play music so much on this night, but rather more or less emceed the proceedings from behind his modified keyboard outfitted with the grill of a '66 Mustang on the front (complete with flashing headlights).  "If you don't like the '60s," he declared, "then get the hell out!"  While his new band of Raiders wasn't bad musically, I was pretty unimpressed with Lindsay's replacement, a singer whose name escapes me, but it's just as well because he was more of a poser than a singer anyway.  Revere's on-stage antics were rather humorous at times, but what really cheesed me off was how they'd whip through the Raider repertoire as if they were double-parked out back, and spent more time playing other '60s oldies instead.  I'm talking a minute-and-a-half of "Kicks" and a minute's worth of "Hungry", etc.  Not to be overly-picky here, but when I go to a Raiders show, I wanna hear Raiders songs, not "Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "Mony, Mony"!  I think it's great that Revere tries to keep the band's name alive, but this show failed miserably to do the original band justice.

Just as an aside, several years later at another Spirit Festival, Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle of The Who played at Liberty Memorial, and Tom and I headed down to catch the show.  Along the way, we stopped off at the office at which Tom was working at the time, which just happened to be in the BMA Tower, which just happened to overlook the festival site from a distance.  We figured we had plenty of time since Daltrey wasn't due on until 8-ish or 9-ish, so imagine my horror when I leaned against the window and heard the faint sound of someone singing "it's only teenage wasteland..."  "Oh fuck!" was our reaction, as we realized the show had already begun.  Evidently the schedule was changed without our knowledge, so we hustled out of the building to hoof it over to the festival, but we got about halfway there and said the hell with it, since the show was almost over by then.  We just stood and listened to Entwistle singing "My Wife" off in the distance then retreated.  I found out later that my sister was at the show and she said it was great.  D'oh!

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