56) Van Halen/Alice In Chains (Monday, August 26, 1991—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $24.50
Van Halen were still a viable band in the early ‘90s, but they were beginning to lose their edge with the release of 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. It just seemed like the songs on that album all kinda sounded the same, apart from a couple standouts like “Runaround” and “Top Of The World”, and VH leaned way too heavily on FUCK for my liking in this show, and they didn’t even play “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”—WTF?!? The sound really sucked (as it often does at Sandstone), especially Sammy Hagar’s headset mic. I hate those things in concert, btw—they always sound like the ones they use at the McDonald's drive-up window. Anyway, the individual solos from Michael Anthony and Alex Van Halen seemed a tad forced and mechanical too, and by this time, Eddie Van Halen had even stopped playing his trademark red-and-white-striped custom-made guitars in favor of some bland-looking models that he was doing paid endorsements for. The fire and the fun from past Van Halen shows just weren’t there on this night—this was Van Halen on ice, if you will—and for the first time since Hagar joined the band, I began to miss David Lee Roth. A lot!
When it came encore time, the dreaded sound of a synthesizer playing the opening chords from “Jump” caused Tom and I look at each other in terror and exclaim, “’Jump’?!? Ewwww!” I then fully expected hell to freeze over, given that Hagar once vowed that he would never ever perform this cheesy-ass DLR song. I’m already on record here as absolutely abhorring this piece of caca, which—apart from the 2007 Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony—was the nadir of Van Halen’s career, IMHO. If you really wanna hear how flat VH sounded by this time, check out their only official live album, 1992’s totally uninspired Right Here-Right Now. It’s too bad they never put out a live album during the DLR-era to document what a great live band Van Halen truly was.
Alice In Chains was one of the few Grunge bands that I actually liked from the ‘90s, but their performance on this night certainly did little to endear me to them. Singer Layne Staley stood motionless almost the entire time, slumped over his microphone moaning and muttering like Vito Corleone while basically phoning it in. AIC would do a little better the next time I saw them in 1996.
This was the seventh (and most likely final) Van Halen concert I ever attended, unless someone like ol’ Doc Emmett Brown perfects time travel with that flux capacitor thing. It turned out Tom and I would’ve been better served to make other plans that night, as we heard on the radio on the way home that across town at the ballpark, Bret Saberhagen pitched a no-hitter for the Royals against the White Sox and we missed it. D’oh!
SET LIST: Poundcake/Judgment Day/Spanked/Runaround/When It's Love/There's Only One Way To Rock/bass solo (Michael Anthony)/drum solo (Alex Van Halen)-including Sunday Afternoon In The Park/A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)/Panama/Why Can't This Be Love?/Finish What Ya Started/Eagles Fly (Sammy Hagar acoustic solo)/guitar solo (Eddie Van Halen)-including 316 and Eruption/Best Of Both Worlds/I Can't Drive 55/The Dream Is Over/In 'N' Out ENCORES: Jump/You Really Got Me/Top Of The World
57) Ozzy Osbourne/Slaughter/Ugly Kid Joe (Friday, June 26, 1992—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $25.00
This turned out to be one of the stranger evenings I’ve ever had in terms of who I attended a concert with. Instead of my usual co-pilot, my good friend Tom, I took in the Ozzy show with a co-worker gal from my department at Boatmen’s Bank (I had to get a real job after the radio thing fizzled out), along with her husband, who also worked at the bank in another department. This wasn’t the first (or last) time I played the part of the proverbial third wheel—a role I hold great disdain for—but it was the first (and hopefully last) time I did so with a bickering couple.
The gal—whom I’ll call Linda—was a real sweetheart at work, but the guy—whom I’ll call Mark—was an arrogant dick, and I wasn’t particularly fond of him to begin with. Before the concert, we stopped off at their house after work and Mark was an even bigger dick at home than he ever was at work, especially toward Linda’s two kids from her first marriage. He was constantly yelling at them and ordering them around like R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket, all the while bitching and fussing with Linda too, and when we headed out in their Chevy Blazer, they were still pissing and moaning at each other. We got part of the way to the show when Mark realized he had a tire going flat, so we retreated to their house and saddled up my mighty ’87 T-Bird—the best damn car I ever owned—and once we got in my car, an amazing change occurred as Linda and Mark were suddenly civil to each other pretty much the rest of the night. It was like once I was in the driver's seat (literally), everything was peachy. Weird…
When we arrived, Ugly Kid Joe was midway through their set, and all I remember about it was their lead singer uttering the phrase “Suck my dick!” numerous times. Suck it yourself, asshole! They were all over the radio at the time with their staggering laughable remake of the late Harry Chapin’s “Cats In The Cradle”, which was akin to Guns ‘N’ Roses doing “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Old Oak Tree”. Crappy bands like UKJ made a good case for having Rock ‘N’ Roll music banned forever! Slaughter wasn’t much better, as they sounded like shit and really botched their big hit, “Fly To The Angels”.
Meantime, Brother Ozzy was touring in support of his best album in several years, 1991’s No More Tears, on what was supposedly his “No More Tours” tour—yeah, sure Ozz, whatever you say… The show opened with a video montage that covered Osbourne’s entire career dating back to Black Sabbath, which segued into the opening number “I Don’t Want To Change The World”, off the new album. The set list was loaded with stuff from No More Tears, but the title track was curiously omitted from this show. Ozzy made up for that by doing my favorite off that album, “Desire”, as well as big the hits from it, “Road To Nowhere” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home”. This was my also first in-concert look at guitarist Zakk Wylde, and while he was reminiscent of a young Ted Nugent in both his appearance and playing style, I preferred his predecessor Jake E. Lee’s guitar playing, overall. Wylde’s solos tended to be a tad too squealy and feedback-laden for my taste, while Lee’s style was a bit more fluid and melodic. Of course, both guitarists were unfairly overshadowed by the play of the late Randy Rhoads, rest his soul. Another late Randy—Castillo, this time—was quite good on the drums too, and proved to be a more-than-ample replacement for Tommy Aldridge, who had moved on to Whitesnake several years earlier.
As usual, the Sandstone sound system did the show in, and Ozzy's vocals were almost inaudible at times. But, he prowled the stage as he always does, and apart from one too many “let me see your hands” and “I can’t fucking hear you”s, the Ozz-Man was quite entertaining. He had some fun with the people in the first few rows by dumping buckets of water on them (as well as himself) throughout the show. For the most part, it was a slightly above-average concert, and at least Ozzy made me forget all about who I attended the show with for a couple hours…
SET LIST: I Don't Want To Change The World/Desire/Mr. Crowley/I Don't Know/Road To Nowhere/Flying High Again/guitar solo (Zakk Wylde)/Suicide Solution/Paranoid/Goodbye To Romance/Shot In The Dark/Miracle Man/drum solo (Randy Castillo)/War Pigs/Bark At The Moon ENCORES: Mama, I'm Comin' Home/Crazy Train
58) Toad The Wet Sprocket/Gin Blossoms (Saturday, October 31, 1992—Memorial Hall) Ticket price: $10.00
Officially known as Soldiers And Sailors Memorial Hall, this great old 3,000-seat Kansas City, KS concert venue was once home to our local version of All-Star Wrestling during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Featuring outstanding sightlines, Memorial Hall was also host to the first K.C. area performances by numerous Rock acts that went on to superstardom like Elton John, David Bowie and Styx—the latter two on the same night in 1972, I believe. According to local legend, Led Zeppelin was booed off the stage there in 1969, and they vowed never to return to Kansas City again (and they didn’t as a band, though Jimmy Page subsequently returned here with The Firm and Robert Plant has played here since then on solo tours). Kiss made their K.C. area debut there on April 13, 1975 on the Dressed To Kill tour, Ozzy Osbourne played his first gig here as a solo act in 1981, and parts of R.E.O. Speedwagon’s Live—You Get What You Play For were recorded at Memorial Hall on Halloween night, 1976 (including the closing song “Golden Country”). Memorial also made music history (sort of) as the site of Country legend Patsy Cline's final concert performance two days before her tragic 1963 plane crash in Tennessee. It’s been one of Kansas City’s more enduring and dependable concert venues, and even though MH is located in a bad part of town with virtually no off-street parking to speak of, I'm at a loss to explain why this concert 16 Halloweens after R.E.O. is the one and only time I’ve ever set foot in the place—methinks I might’ve missed out on a boatload of great concerts there all these years!
And even this concert wasn’t one I was terribly excited about attending, but my friend (and boss man at the time) Phil wanted to check out this hot new band Toad The Wet Sprocket that was getting a ton of radio airplay at the time, so he invited me and another colleague to tag along and I took him up on it since I didn’t have any better offers that night anyway. This was that period in the early ‘90s when a whole slew of bands like Toad, Gin Blossoms, Hootie & The Blowfish, et al, were suddenly all the rage, playing lightweight harmony-driven “College Rock”—and yet were just utterly forgettable! So utterly forgettable, in fact, that I retained virtually nothing in my memory about this concert, apart it being my first time at The Hall, as well as running into a cute co-worker girl in line at the concession stand who I had the hots for at the time but wasn’t interested in dating anyone—Holly, if you’re out there reading this, I still think we’d have made a great couple! Actually, I do remember that the Gin Blossoms outperformed their overrated headliners, prompting me to subsequently buy their debut CD. Bands like these seemed like a great idea at the time, but looking back now, I find them all to be incredibly dull. I would lump today’s perennial concert heroes the Dave Matthews Bland in that category too—Zzzzz…
59) Kiss/Great White/Trixter (Tuesday, November 10, 1992—St. Joseph Civic Arena) Ticket price: $20.50
It had been three and a half years since I left St. Joe and the radio station gig I had there. When I heard that Kiss was playing Civic Arena, my first instinct was to call my DJ buddy, who was still on the air at the station, and see if they had any extra tickets laying around, and all I got from him was, “Call back when we’re giving them away on the air…” Gee, thanks for nothing, ex-DJ buddy!
So, Tom and I shelled out the $20.50 for tickets and made the 50-mile trek up to St. Joe for our evening of entertainment. Our seats were most excellent in the 5,000-seat Civic Arena, and there were lots of cute babes in the crowd to bring pleasure to our roving eyes, so we had the makings of fun evening. Trixter opened promptly at 8:00 with a short and snappy set of only six songs, and they were fairly tolerable. Great White also played a short and snappy set of about 40 minutes, and they sounded particularly good on their big hits “Rock Me” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy”.
Kiss hit the stage about 30 minutes later, and right away I could tell something wasn’t right. They opened with a very flat version of “Creatures Of The Night”, then reeled off three Gene Simmons songs in a row, and it was pretty evident that Paul Stanley wasn’t up to snuff because he did very little singing and looked very lethargic as he lumbered around the stage. Then I knew for sure something was wrong when Simmons attempted to sing lead on “Heaven’s On Fire”, during which Gene openly admitted, “I don’t know the fucking words to this!” and wound up ad-libbing a few lines. Eventually near the end of the show, Stanley finally fessed up that he had the flu and couldn’t sing. In an excerpt from the book Kiss Alive Forever-The Complete Touring History by Curt Gooch and Jeff Suhs, guitarist Bruce Kulick further elaborates: “…it was a total disaster. It was a short set, then Gene sang the songs an octave lower—the ones he thought he could pull off—it was terrible. There was really terrible weather, and obviously Paul was sick. We should have cancelled.”
Okay, I don’t remember anything about terrible weather that night (we wouldn’t have even tried to go, if it was that bad out) but I agree with Kulick that they should’ve rescheduled the show—this was like Dale, Jr. trying to drive his stock car on three wheels. Paul tried to bullshit his way through the gig, looking almost Springsteen-like at times, just standing still posing rather than playing, and his between-song stage raps were barely above a whisper. Even though Gene put in a valiant effort to save the day, and even though I do give Stanley kudos for being a real trouper and playing hurt, I would’ve had just as much respect for them if they’d postponed the show until Paul recovered, rather than putting on a half-assed show like this, in spite of Gene's rather humorous attempts to sing Paul's songs.
It’s a dirty shame Paul was sick too, because the stage and light show were impressive, the sound was excellent throughout, and the lazer show was a nice added touch to this well-produced show. Leon Sphinx from the Hot In The Shade tour had been replaced by a replica of the Statue Of Liberty, which at mid-show morphed into a silver skull and torch hand with middle finger extended skyward. This was my first live look at Eric Singer on the drums in place of the dearly-departed Eric Carr, and the boy from Cleveland was outstanding on the skins—nearly every bit as good as his late predecessor.
The set list included a couple old gems that Kiss hadn’t played since the ‘70s, namely “Watchin’ You” and “Parasite” from their second album Hotter Than Hell, but they curiously stuck the traditional closer “Rock And Roll All Nite” in the middle of the set, which made very little sense. They also played some new stuff off Revenge, including “Unholy” and "Domino” (both sung by Simmons), and “Take It Off”, a great Paul Stanley song that he had no business attempting to sing on this night. "Take It Off" was usually augmented by a phalanx of hot strippers prowling the stage, but not so in a podunk town like St. Joseph! Anyway, I’m pretty sure they would’ve done the best track from Revenge, “I Just Wanna” (Fuh!) had Stanley been in full voice, but there’s no way he could find his high range even with a compass and a road map that night. The show closed with a cool segue of “Love Gun” and “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the pyro from which left a lingering mushroom cloud of smoke throughout the low-ceilinged arena after the lights came back up. This show also marked the final time I would see Kiss in concert without make-up. Unlike most Kiss fans, I rather enjoyed the non-make-up era…
Kiss did wind up cancelling their gig the next night in Memphis while Stanley flew back to New York for treatment and the tour resumed in St. Louis a couple days later. I also believe there was a Kansas City gig planned for the Revenge tour, but it never happened because the tour was truncated due to low ticket sales and never completed. Too bad, because apart from Stanley’s illness, this was shaping up to be a great tour, and the band was playing really well. For a good taste of the Revenge tour (strippers included), you can check it out on the new Kissology-Vol. 3 DVD set, or the Kiss Konfidential video. And, if you can find a copy, there’s a really good bootleg double-CD out there called Unchained & Unmasked that was recorded a couple months before St. Joseph at the Meadowlands in Jersey that was almost better than their official live release from that tour, Kiss Alive III.
SET LIST: Creatures Of The Night/Deuce/Unholy/Parasite/Heaven's On Fire/Domino/ Watchin' You/Firehouse/I Want You/War Machine/Rock And Roll All Nite/Take It Off/Cold Gin/I Love It Loud/Detroit Rock City ENCORES: Shout It Out Loud/Love Gun/Star-Spangled Banner
60) Paul McCartney (Monday, May 31, 1993—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: Free
Free Paul McCartney tickets, Gracie? That’s not a misprint! I wasn't even sure I’d be attending this concert until the morning of, when I got a call from Phil saying that our co-worker friend Nadine had managed to snag free tickets that one of the local radio stations was giving away on Friday, and did I want to go? Uhhh, does a hog love slop? A) It just happened to be Memorial Day and we had a family outing going on at my folks’ house that I dearly wanted to avoid, and B) I’d been wanting to attend the show anyway, but I was initially balking at the then-outrageous 30-some-old dollar ticket prices, and since you can beat free, I'll give you three guesses what I opted for…
Apparently the promoters over-estimated how many fannies McCartney could put in the Arrowhead Stadium seats, so there were tons of comp. tickets given away, and I was astounded that our free tickets were actually damn good seats in the lower bowl of Arrowhead about 2/3 of the way up in the corner on the stage left side, not far from where Tom and I sat for The Who in ’89. The crowd was by far the most diverse I’ve ever seen at a Rock concert—aging hippies, prissy yuppies, children who weren’t even old enough to remember Wings and all ages in between were in attendance. Nearly 15 years into my concert-going career, I was excited to finally see one of The Beatles live in person, and Big Macca did not disappoint.
Devoid of an opening act, this concert began just before dark just like the Ozzy show with a career-spanning video montage. The video got a tad too preachy with Paul's animal rights stuff at times, but it was quite good otherwise. The entire band rose up from behind the stage, then proceeded to kick the show into gear by opening with The Beatles’ “Drive My Car”. Get it—car/gear? Har-de-har-har… Anyway, the set list wound up being a nice cross-section of McCartney’s career, bouncing from Beatles to Wings to his new stuff from Off The Ground, which was about the last decent album he made, IMHO. The sound was a bit too bass-y, and not quite loud enough for me, but the light show was impressive—one of the better ones I’ve ever seen. The band—apart from that alleged "musician" Linda McCartney—was good and tight, with the stand-outs being ex-Pretenders guitarist Robbie McIntosh and former Haircut 100 drummer Blair Cunningham, whose late father, Carl, was the drummer in Otis Redding’s ill-fated backing band, the Bar-Kays. Linda managed to hold her own on the tambourine in best Tracy Partridge style, but that’s about it. I know Paul loved Linda to death, and I don’t mean to speak unkindly of the dearly-departed, but there were most definitely some musical integrity issues there...
McCartney and crew borrowed from Kiss and Motley Crue a bit with some pyro and a few stage contraptions, including lots of boom-booms during “Live And Let Die”, and a large mechanical ramp that lifted the entire band (minus drummer Cunningham) out over the audience down front during “Let Me Roll It”—a surprise and welcome inclusion to the set list. It also dawned on me that McCartney was more of a showman than I previously had given him credit for, as he was almost Elton John-ish at times. As one might expect, the Beatle tunes got the biggest response from the crowd, especially “Lady Madonna”, “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Magical Mystery Tour” (my personal Beatle fave), “Paperback Writer”, “Sgt. Pepper”, “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey” (naturally) and the climactic closer, “Hey Jude”. His new stuff from Off The Ground was well-received too, including the title track, “Looking For Changes” and “Biker Like An Icon”. Regarding the latter song, I think Chandler Bing on “Friends” might’ve made the following remark: “Could that title BE any more contrived?!?” Even the brief “unplugged” set in the middle of the show was enjoyable, and probably a necessary evil to give the band a breather during such a lengthy concert. The only really glaring omission from the set list was “Jet” and perhaps “Silly Love Songs”, but thankfully, Paul spared us from the horror that was “Ebony And Ivory”...
All in all, this was an outstanding concert, and easily the best one I ever saw for free! It was the end of an era, too, in a way, as this was (to date) the last concert I ever attended at Arrowhead Stadium. About a year later, I was tickled to discover that four of the songs from this concert were included on McCartney’s Paul Is Live CD, thus marking the one and only time (that I know of, anyway) when a concert I attended was recorded (at least in part) for a live album. After missing opportunities to be at Kansas City shows that were used for live videos by Ozzy Osbourne and R.E.O. Speedwagon in the mid-'80s, it was nice finally be able to say, “I was there!” when listening to a CD. The songs that made it to Paul Is Live are noted with an * in the list below.
SET LIST: Drive My Car*/Coming Up/Looking For Changes*/Another Day/All My Loving/Let Me Roll It/Peace In The Neighborhood/Off The Ground/Can't Buy Me Love -------acoustic set---------Good Rockin' Tonight/We Can Work It Out/And I Love Her/Tonight/Be With You/Hope Of Deliverance/Michelle--------Biker Like An Icon/Here There And Everywhere/ Yesterday/My Love/Lady Madonna/Live And Let Die/Let It Be/Magical Mystery Tour/C'mon People*/The Long And Winding Road/Paperback Writer/Fixing A Hole ENCORES: Penny Lane/Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band-Reprise/Band On The Run/I Saw Her Standing There/Kansas City-Hey Hey Hey Hey*/Hey Jude