Thursday, June 5, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 14

For the uninitiated out there, this is NOT a countdown, but rather a chronology of every concert I've attended since 1979.  Believe it or not, we're only 2/3 of the way through after this installment...

66) Nick Lowe/Jim Lauderdale (Tuesday, February 14, 1995—The Lone Star) Ticket price: $7.00

During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I found myself really digging the music of Nick Lowe, and I was especially impressed with his vastly-underrated 1990 release, Party Of One, which was co-produced by his erstwhile partner-in-crime Dave Edmunds, who also played guitar on several tracks.  Thus, I was very interested in seeing what the man could do in concert, but this turned out to be a somewhat disappointing show, as was his latest album at the time, The Impossible Bird

Singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale was the opening act, and wasn’t too bad.  He’s really more of a Country singer, but I immediately recognized one song he played, “Halfway Down”, which was recorded by Edmunds the year before on his sadly-overlooked Plugged In CD.  Lauderdale played right at 30 minutes and was fairly well-received.

In Nick’s band, the Impossible Birds, were a couple familiar faces, namely keyboardist Geraint Watkins (who also plays in Edmunds’ touring bands) and former Commander Cody guitarist Bill Kirchena Country solo artist in his own right.  Drummer Bobby Irwin (a holdover from Nick’s Cowboy Outfit band) and bassist Bill Riley provided the rhythm section, while Lowe played strictly acoustic guitar instead of his traditional bass (first disappointment).  The sound was pretty good (once the hippie at the sound board got his shit together, anyway) and the band was very tight, but the pacing of the show was poor.  Lowe leaned too heavily on the new album, and although he finally did get around to playing some of his older stuff like “Without Love”, “The Rose Of England” and “My Wildest Dream”, they weren’t his front-line songs like “Switch-Board Susan”, “So It Goes” and “Heart Of The City”—all glaringly omitted from the set list (second disappointment).  The set list was also devoid of any Rockpile or Little Village songs, and much to my chagrin, Nick didn’t play a freakin' thing from Party Of One, either (third disappointment).

One song he did play made my day, the rumbling “Bobo Ska Diddle Daddle” from 1985, and "Half A Boy & Half A Man" was a high point.  Lowe also added a nice touch by reminiscing a bit about the old days of playing at the Uptown Theater.  The crowd seemed pleased with the show overall, so I guess I was in the minority.  It was a decent show, I suppose, but I came away feeling a bit let down.

SET LIST:  12-Step Program/Love Travels On A Gravel Road/Without Love/Soulful Wind/Lover Don't Go/The Rose Of England/Trail Of Tears/Dream Girl/Cruel To Be Kind/Where's My Everything?/I'm Coming Home/14 Days/Tombstone Every Mile (Bill Kirchen-vocals)/Half A Boy And Half A Man/Crying In My Sleep/Bobo Ska Diddle Daddle/Raging Eyes/I Knew The Bride  ENCORES:  Shelley My Love/My Little Baby (Geraint Watkins-vocals)/My Wildest Dream/I'll Be There/What's So Funny (About Peace Love And Understanding)

67) Black Oak Arkansas/PMS Blues Band (Saturday, June 24, 1995—Land Of Oz) Ticket price: $10.00

Black Oak Arkansas is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures, and the first band I ever officially saluted here on this blog.  I was too young to see them play live during their heyday (hay day?!?) in the ‘70s, so seeing them at this gig would just have to suffice.  In some ways, I almost wish I hadn’t…

I have a feeling we were in Kansas after all, Toto!  Land of Oz was a fairly new Country nightclub/bar at the time over in Kansas City, KS that also catered to the Southern Rock crowd.  It was a pretty good-sized place and if nothing else, it was very clean.  Our seats were at a table in the second row to the far stage left side, so our view wasn’t bad.  The opening act, the PMS Blues Band, was quite good.  They played a good mix of blues Rock, à la Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the bass player was quite impressive.  An interminable intermission ensued, and BOA front man Jim “Dandy” Mangrum himself appeared in front of the stage at the other end signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.  For reasons unknown to me to this day, I was too freakin’ shy to walk over and at least shake hands with the man, and I’ve been kicking myself for it ever since.  Everything I’ve ever heard about Jim indicates he’s a very nice guy and very accommodating to the fans, but for whatever reason, I just kinda froze and did nothing.  Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!

Anyway, during that interminable break, I was saddened to learn of the recent death of singer Ruby Starr, a former cohort of Dandy’s.  Her band, Grey Ghost, toured with BOA in the ‘70s and she often joined them on-stage, and that's Ruby you hear on BOA’s 1973 hit “Jim Dandy”.  The DJ at the bar also informed us that Black Oak was recording the show for a possible live album.  Hmmm, sounded like fun, but that plan was pretty much quashed from the get-go with the opening number “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul”.  The sound man was a semi-famous local hippie named “Buzzz” who ran an electronics shop north of the Missouri River and had also worked with local favorites The Rainmakers.  Turns out that Buzzz cued up the wrong cut from the CD for the recorded spoken intro bit from “Lord Have Mercy…” and we wound up hearing the opening chords to “Uncle Lijiah” from the first BOA album instead.  “Sounds like Buzzz might be buzzin’...” Dandy remarked, but they played the song anyway.  So much for that great live album…

The only original BOA member remaining besides Jim Dandy was rhythm guitarist Rick “Richochet” Reynolds, and as I expected, both of them had packed on a few pounds since their heyday.  Reynolds still played like a young Rocker and Dandy struck his usual poses, looking like an elderly David Lee Roth, all the while playing his washboard as skillfully as one can, while the remainder of the group were newbies.  Still, the show was largely disappointing because they played precious few classic BOA tunes, and instead tried to emphasize newer material that wasn’t all that good.  Dandy rambled on between songs, doing mindless raps about most anything that would come to mind.  The main highlight of the set was the classic “Hot Rod” (we ain’t necessarily talking about a car here!), while “Jim Dandy” and “Hot And Nasty” came off really flat.

I gave Jim and his band an A for effort, though—he was (an still is) a Rocker at heart—but this show was almost depressing to me in some ways.  The old swagger was still there, and Dandy put up a brave front by acting like it was still 1975, but I honestly thought he looked rather silly trying to pull off the same moves he’d done 20 years earlier now that he was pushing 50.  I also found it very sad to see the place was half-empty by the time they closed the show with “When Electricity Came To Arkansas”.  It was then that I came to the sobering realization that Rock ‘N’ Roll was not aging gracefully at all…

Oh well, the night wasn’t a total loss, as I arrived home to enjoy the videotape of my mighty New Jersey Devils winning their first Stanley Cup.  The team once known as the woeful Kansas City Scouts was now at the top of the hockey heap!

SET LIST:  Lord Have Mercy On My Soul/Jim Dandy/Heartbreaker/Singing The Blues/I Ain't Got No Money (But Baby I Ain't Poor)/You Know I Love You/Uncle Lijiah/Hell Raisin' Rebels/Sweet Delta Water/The Wild Bunch/Happy Hooker/Baby Shakes/Hot And Nasty/King Of Broken Hearts/Hot Rod/In Cold Blood/Ramblin' Gamblin' Man/When Electricity Came To Arkansas  ENCORE:  Do Unto Others

68) “Summer Jam ‘95”—Blue Oyster Cult*/Steppenwolf*/Nazareth/ Foghat /Missouri (Saturday, July 8, 1995—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: Free (*=Did not see this act peform)

The year 1995 was an especially shitty one for me personally.  A good co-worker friend of mine died in a house fire, my mom suffered an mini-stroke, plus my father also had some neurological problems as well, and then there was my ill-advised house rental attempt with the “Landlord From Hell” (remind me to tell that story sometime)—it just seemed like 1995 was one crisis after another.  Apart from the Devils winning the Stanley Cup, the Chiefs going 13-3, and our minor league hockey team, the Blades, nearly winning it all, there were very few bright spots for me during that misbegotten year, which coincided with this string of mediocre-at-best concerts that I attended.  At least this particular concert was free.

There was a time here when a “Summer Jam” or "Summer Rock" concert was a big deal here in Kansas City.  They were usually held at either Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium or Arrowhead Stadium, and usually featured 4-5 current big-name touring acts.  Now it was “Summer Jam” in name only, merely catering to the nostalgia circuit, and far less exciting.  My friend Tom and I came upon free lawn tickets to this concert somehow, but it had rained off and on all day, and we came close to bagging the show altogether as opposed to sitting in the wet grass all night.  When we arrived at 7:00 there was a gargantuan line of people waiting to get in—evidently we weren’t the only ones who got free tickets.

Local favorites Missouri were onstage as we searched in vain for a spot on the lawn to sit, but there were none, so we parked ourselves on the slope off to the side that faced away from the stage, since Mo. wasn’t all that visual anyway.  They sounded great, anyway, on their hits “Mystic Lady” and “Movin’ On”.  Ironically, Missouri was first on the bill at the very first concert Tom and I ever attended"Summer Rock '79" at Arrowhead.  Just as Mizzou finished their set, a nice Sandstone security person informed us we could sit in the back section of the seating bowl if we wanted—upgrade!  Screw that yucky lawn, too.  Still, the atmosphere was less-than-satisfying.  It was hot and stuffy out, the crowd was generally rather unsavory—I’d never seen so many tattoos at one time in the same place before...

A long set-change ensued before Foghat finally came on well after 8:00, opening with “Fool For The City”.  We were treated to the original Foghat lineup of Lonesome Dave Peverett, Rod Price, and Roger Earl, who reunited with bassist Tony Stevensthe first in a long line of Foghat bass players.  Late guitarists Peverett and Price had put on a few pounds since their glory days in the ‘70s, but still played well together, and Roger Earl was solid on the drums.  “Honey Hush” was a highlight, as were “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” and the perennial closer “Slow Ride”, but I found it odd that it took them over an hour just to play six songs.

SET LIST:  Fool For The City/Louisiana Blues/Honey Hush/Motel Shaker/I Just Wanna Make Love To You  ENCORE:  Slow Ride

Then it took the roadies over an hour to change sets again—you’d think after 30-some-odd years of Rock shows, roadies would have this down to an art form, but these good ol’ boys were moving slower than a nudist on a barbed-wire fence, and to top it off, the sound still sucked and they were plagued by feedback all night.  Nazareth finally got on stage after 10:00 and played a so-so set.  Growler Dan McCafferty was still their lead singer, and bassist Pete Agnew and late drummer Darrell Sweet still manned the rhythm section, but the rest of the band were newcomers on the guitars and keyboards.  Playing a mix of new songs and obscure oldies, they ignored several of my Naz faves like “Holiday”, “Morning Dew”, “Go Down Fightin’” and especially the killer “Expect No Mercy”.  They finally got around to the good stuff with “Hair Of The Dog” (AKA, the “Son-of-a-Bitch song" that all the drunks around us anxiously longed to hear), followed by “Love Hurts” for the encore, but it was too little, too late for me.

SET LIST:  Razamanaz/Beggar's Day/Big Boy/Heart's Grown Cold/Java Blues/Hair Of The Dog  ENCORE:  Love Hurts

Nazareth left the stage at 11:00, and Tom and I were in no mood to endure yet another interminable set change, then sit through Steppenwolf (a band neither of us really cared for), followed by another interminable set change, just to get to Blue Oyster Cult.  We both liked BOC, and if they’d been next on the bill, we would’ve hung around.  I was also growing weary of all the tattooed, pot-smoking, whiskey-drinking, white trash, Freedom Rock ("turn THIS up, man!") hop-heads we were surrounded by, so we decided to blow off the rest of the concert and head for a bar instead.  Suddenly, Rock concerts had somehow lost their allure for me…

69) “Spirit Festival ‘95”.38 Special*/Marshall Tucker Band*/Molly Hatchet/The Outlaws (Friday, September 1, 1995—Liberty Memorial Mall) Ticket price: $7.50. (*=Did not see this act peform)

Kansas City’s annual Spirit Festival got bounced around quite a bit like a basketball, date-wise.  First it was an annual 4th of July event, then they switched it to Memorial Day weekend, and by 1995, they gave Labor Day weekend a shot.  It was Southern Rock night on Friday, and I just happened to be in the area that night anyway for my moonlighting gig at the Kansas City Star, so I dropped in for a little Rock 'N' Roll before going to work.

Hardly anyone was there yet when the Outlaws hit the stage, so I was able to secure me a nice spot on a curb near the stage left side.  The weather was damn near perfect, and was even quite comfortable while basking in the setting sun.  The Outlaws from “down in Tampa town” sounded pretty good too, but played a lot of slow bluesy stuff and stretched their songs out a bit.  They finished with their two biggies, “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” and “Green Grass And High Tides”, right around 7:00.

Molly Hatchet came on after a brief set change (which was most-welcome after the previous show I attended) and put on a disappointing set.  Late singer Danny Joe Brown sauntered around like a big shot, and was constantly holding his mic out toward the audience to induce them to do his job for him—I hate that at concerts, btw.  I liked DJB a lot, and even enjoyed his commentary about his excitement over getting season tickets for his beloved new Jacksonville Jaguars during the show, but I thought he was kinda dogging it that night.  The sound was pretty crappy too, and Hatchet only played six songs, plus a totally needless drum solo.  I'd have gladly traded the drum solo for a couple more songs, eh, fellas?  Like I’ve said before, Molly Hatchet was a fine live band—if you caught them on the right night during their heyday, that is.

I would've dearly loved to have hung around for Marshall Tucker and .38 Special, but I was due at work at 9PM, so I reluctantly made my way out.  I might’ve gotten my $7.50-worth if I had stayed…

SET LIST:  Bloody Reunion/It's All Over Now/Gator Country/drum solo/Writing On The Wall/Dreams I'll Never See  ENCORE:  Flirtin' With Disaster

70) “Spirit Festival ‘95”—George Thorogood & The Destroyers/Hot Tuna (Saturday, September 2, 1995—Liberty Memorial Mall) Ticket price: $7.50

The lineup of acts for the Spirit Fest was quite good in ’95, so I made this one a doubleheader, of sorts, by attending on back-to-back nights.  I somehow even managed to make my way back to practically the same spot I was in the night before, and I didn’t have to go to work afterwards, so I had the entire night to myself this time.  I also smuggled my camera in, which is a concert rarity for me, and managed to get a few half-decent shots of the proceedings, which I'm sharing below here.

Hot Tuna, featuring former Jefferson Airplane stalwarts Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, were our opening act this time.  They played a folky blues set as a four-piece band with no drummer.  It wasn’t the most scintillating music I’ve ever heard, but tolerable, all the same, and the crowd seemed to like them.

The set change only took 20 minutes (wow!) and Lonesome George and the boys took over and played an outstanding set of Raunch & Roll.  George always did have a reputation for putting on a great show, and damned if he didn’t on this night.  Opening with a personal favorite of mine, 1985’s “Long Gone”, George and his Delaware Destroyers were tight, and they just smoked through their 90-minute set, playing just about all of their classics. I was very impressed with George’s showmanship—he’s definitely a crowd-pleaser—as well as some of his dance moves.  For a guy his size, he’s surprisingly graceful on his feet (but please, George, don’t go on “Dancing With The Stars”, mmm-kay?).

The rest of the band was top-notch as well, with Hank “Hurricane” Carter wailing away on his sax and Billy Blough laying down his funky bass.  I never saw drummer Jeff Simon all night until they came out for a bow before the encore because the speakers were blocking my view of him, but he cooked on the skins throughout.  The show wrapped up with a rousing rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”, and a good time was had by all—I’d never seen that many drunks in the same place in all my life.  And oddly enough, I wasn't one of them!  Best of all, though, Lonesome George and the boys ended the evil string of mediocre shows I attended by putting on a great one.  I looked forward to seeing them again in a (hopefully) smaller venue so I could enjoy them even more, since they were so b-b-b-b-bad!

SET LIST:  Long Gone/Who Do You Love?/No Particular Place To Go/Night Time/ I Drink Alone/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer/If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)/ The Sky Is Crying/Get A Haircut/Bad To The Bone/Gear Jammer/Move It On Over  ENCORES:  What A Price/You Talk Too Much/Johnny B. Goode


dr sardonicus said...

Sounds like you soured on the big outdoor shows about the same time I did. The last one I saw was the Lollapolooza with Metallica, Soundgarden, and Rage Against The Machine in '96 (I think). The old arena-rock bands are now all long in the tooth, and the newer acts prefer smaller venues.

Bonaroo is only about 80 miles from where I live, but there's no way in hell you'll ever get me to go down there.

Brian Holland said...

What's a Bonaroo?