Monday, August 4, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 19

91) Motorhead/Nashville Pussy/New American Shame (Friday, October 8, 1999—Roadhouse Ruby’s) Ticket price: $18.00

I became a convert to the church of Motorhead in the late ‘80s thanks to MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball”, and I’d been dying to see Lemmy and the boys in concert for the longest time, but this was the first time (that I knew of, anyway) that they came to town since I got into the band.  I had to sit through two opening acts for this one, neither of which were particularly good.

First off, we had New American Shame, who lived up to their name—assuming they were new and American.  They played lame-o Rap-influenced thrash metal and a cover version of Quiet Riot’s “Metal Health”, and that’s about it.  Their occasional usage of sparklers and other garden-variety fireworks was interesting, but nothing for Kiss to worry about.  The four-piece co-ed band Nashville Pussy was next, and they featured a chick guitarist who resembled a cross between Lita Ford and Wendy O. Williams.  The redneck singer looked like he belonged in a Southern band, and he couldn’t sing worth a lick.  The bassist was a tall gangly-looking person whom I thought was a dude at first, but upon closer inspection was a chick!  She even did some fire-breathing that almost made Gene Simmons look like an amateur, doing not just one, but five bursts of flame, including three in one breath!  Nashville Pussy wrapped up their set with a cover of the song that indirectly inspired their name, Ted Nugent’s “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang”.  NP was a fairly energetic band, if not musically-gifted—your basic White Trash Rock band.

And finally the mighty Motorhead arrived as Brother Lemmy stepped up to the mic and declared, “We are Motorhead—and we’re gonna kick your ass!”  And kick our ass, they did.  Opening with their classic “Bomber”, the next hour and a half was pure volume, and to my surprise, the sound was quite good throughout.  Now a three-piece outfit with longtime stalwart Phil Campbell on guitar and Mikkey Dee on drums, Motorhead played a good mix of older and newer stuff and it was pure bedlam, especially on the dance floor where all the boneheads were moshing and being thrown out by the bouncers.  By the way, is there not a more asinine activity invented by man than moshing?  Anyway, Lemmy was his usual humorous self, offering sage advice before one song by cautioning, “Don’t try to dance to this—it’ll fuck your legs up.”  And being’s as we were in Olathe, KS, Lemmy referred to us as “almost Kansas City” a couple times.

During the rather obscure oldie “Dead Men Tell No Tales”, I wandered up to the front just as I did at the same venue exactly a year ago to the day during the John Entwistle show, and gave myself a little brain damage standing by the speakers.  It was beyond loud—stupid loud is more like it!  The set ended with the Motorhead classic “Killed By Death”, followed by a brief encore of their signature tune “Ace Of Spades” and “Overkill”.  It was a great show, albeit a tad short for my liking, as they left out a lot of biggies that they could have played.  As I also did at the Entwistle concert, I waited around afterwards in hopes of maybe meeting Lemmy, but after about 30 minutes of the bouncers being rude to everyone, I got tired of standing around with all the stupid drunk fucks in line out by the tour bus, so I split.  Still and all, not a bad evening of entertainment.

SET LIST:  Bomber/No Class/I’m So Bad (Baby I Don’t Care)/Over Your Shoulder/Civil War/Metropolis/Take The Blame/Nothing Up My Sleeve/Overnight Sensation/Dead Men Tell No Tales/Born To Raise Hell/Sacrifice/ Orgasmatron/Going To Brazil/Iron Fist/Killed By Death  ENCORES:  Ace Of Spades/Overkill

92) Kiss/Ted Nugent/Skid Row (Wednesday, April 5, 2000—Alltel Arena, North Little Rock, AR) Ticket price: $45.00

When Kiss announced their “Farewell” Tour in 2000, I took it semi-seriously that this truly was the end for good, but I kinda knew deep down inside that it wasn’t.  After all, The Who played their “Farewell” Tour trump card in 1982 and I’d seen them twice since then.  In any event, I was determined to catch Kiss as many times as I could on this tour, and didn’t mind hitting the road to do so.  As it turned out, it was their Farewell Tour in a way, as this most certainly was the last time we’d see the original foursome in make-up on tour.

Alltel Arena, located just across the river from "big" Little Rock, was a brand new and very handsome structure both inside and out, which made me wonder at the time why a mid-size city like Little Rock could build a classy new arena and a big town like K.C. couldn’t.  We finally got our shit together here with the Sprint Center, but it didn’t sit well with me that we were being shown up by places like Little Rock, Omaha and Oklahoma City, et al.  Anyway, I was quite pleased with my assigned seat, which was on the stage left side, dead even with the front of the stage and about 15 yards from the corner of it.  It turned out to be an excellent vantage point.  I was close enough that I could even see the large sign taped at the base of the mic stands that read “LITTLE ROCK” so the guys wouldn’t forget what city they were in.  Apparently that strategy still doesn’t always work for Gene Simmons, as later on in the tour Gene shouted out, “I wanna hear ya, Kansas City!”—in St. Louis.  That’s the Rock ‘N’ Roll equivalent to wearing a Yankees cap at Fenway Park.

Skid Row hit the stage promptly at 7:00 and played a seven-song set which included all four big hits off their 1989 debut album.  I wasn’t all that impressed with Sebastian Bach’s replacement, new singer Johnny Solinger, who looked and sounded like David Lee Roth, only stockier.  Guitarist Snake Szabo was limited to sitting on a bar stool all night and playing because his foot was in a cast, but all in all, a decent set.  My ex-idol Fred Nugent came on later and overall, he played a much better set this time than the one he played here the year before (see Episode 18).  Still, I was already weary of Nugent’s Alpha-male, macho-man, gun-toting, intolerant get-out-of-America-if-you-can’t-speak-English shtick and all his other right-wing diatribes.  He was also on this anti-Janet Reno kick at this show, calling her an “ugly whore” numerous times.  Granted, the woman looks like the “part of the Polaroid you tear off,” (as Fred Sanford would say), and for all we know, maybe she was/is indeed a whore, but what the filth-flarn-filth does this have to do with a Rock ‘N’ Roll show?!?  Oh, and heaven forbid if anyone called Laura Bush an “ugly whore”, right Ted?  Nugent ended his set by once again shooting his defenseless (decoy) guitar with a flaming arrow from 15 paces while wearing an Indian—sorry, Native American—headdress for no particular reason.  Whatever, Ted.  As Fred Sanford also once said (to Merv Griffin):  “I used to like you—dummy!”

SET LIST:  Stormtroopin’/Paralyzed/Wang Dang Sweet Poontang/Free-For-All/Dog Eat Dog/Kiss My Ass/Cat Scratch Fever/Stranglehold  ENCORE:  Great White Buffalo

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Kiss this time around, especially in light of their rather shaky performance during the opening three numbers that were aired live on VH-1 from the first show of the “Farewell” Tour in Phoenix the week before.  That show began with a little ten-minute video retrospective on Kiss’s career, but they dispensed with the little movie for this show and got right down to business with the band making their entrance from the top of the lighting rig via a smoking platform that was lowered to the stage.  “Detroit Rock City” was returned to its proper lead-off spot on the set list and was followed by “Deuce” in (naturally) the #2 spot.  The stage was big and open and very impressive (see pic) and the pyro was plentiful.  Still wearing the Destroyer costumes held over from the truncated Psycho Circus tour, the band was in top form, except for drummer Peter Criss.  He didn’t seem very into things at all, and did not sing his usual verses on “Black Diamond” (Paul Stanley sang the entire song) and “Beth” was omitted from the set list altogether.  I came to find out later that Pete had pnuemonia and was taken to the hospital immediately after the show, but he recovered eventually.

As was expected, Kiss also added three songs from the ‘80s post-make-up era that Peter and Ace had no part in originally, namely “Heaven’s On Fire”, “Lick It Up” and “I Love It Loud”.  The only real surprise inclusion on the set list was the Rolling Stones cover track “2000 Man” from Dynasty, which doubled as Ace Frehley’s guitar solo outlet.  Highlights of the set were “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” (big favorite of mine) and “Do You Love Me?”, which they augmented with montages from the omitted little movie.  In a rather nice touch, Stanley also took a moment to reminisce with the crowd about the first time Kiss ever played Little Rock (reciting the exact date and venue, no less) at the old Barton Coliseum.  They did the usual encores of “Black Diamond” and “Rock And Roll All Nite”, followed by the requisite confetti storm, and by the time it ended, I felt as if I’d been raped, pillaged and sodomized, and I loved it!  Even with Criss’ illness, this may have been the finest Kiss concert I’d seen to date, and it certainly left me wanting more.

SET LIST:  Detroit Rock City/Deuce/Shout It Out Loud/I Love It Loud/Shock Me/Firehouse/ Do You Love Me?/Calling Dr. Love/Psycho Circus/Heaven’s On Fire/Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll/2000 Man/Lick It Up/God Of Thunder/Cold Gin/100,000 Years/Love Gun/Black Diamond  ENCORE:  Rock And Roll All Nite

93) John Hiatt/Shannon Curfman (Thursday, June 15, 2000—Uptown Theater) Ticket price: $25.00

It had been over 14 years since I’d set foot in the Uptown Theater.  There was a pretty good reason, though—the place had been dormant for most of the late ‘80s and on into the ‘90s, and fell into disrepair.  Fortunately, the Uptown was rescued from a date with the wrecking ball and brought back to life bigger and better than ever following an outstanding restoration project.

The opening act was the 14-year-old-going-on-15 wunderkind Shannon Curfman, who wasn’t even born yet the last time I visited the Uptown.  Curfman was sort of a female Jonny Lang crossed with Melissa Etheridge, and she played guitar like a veteran in spite of her age, and the crowd was very receptive to her.  This was certainly a first for me at a concert—our opening act was young enough to be my daughter!

This was my third go-around with Mr. Hiatt in concert, and another fine performance indeed.  This time ‘round, he dubbed his touring band “The Goners”, and they were more or less the same group that backed John on his classic 1988 Slow Turning album, thus that album got quite a few spins on the set list, including the opening number, “Drive South”.  Guitarist Sonny Landreth was the standout with his impressive slide work on songs like “Ride Along” and “Paper Thin”. Hiatt also debuted a couple new songs, including one I really liked called “Everybody Went Low”, and he dug out “Ridin’ With The King” and paid tribute to Eric Clapton and B.B. King for their recent cover version of the song.  Between songs, John remarked about doing some “power walking in Mill Creek Park”, that day just across the road from where I worked at the time.  Wish I’d known, I might’ve run into him on my lunch hour, perhaps.  He also did some name-dropping and made mention of dining at local legend Gates BBQ, a place I practically live at sometimes!

It was a general admission show for the floor area, and as the show wore on, I inched closer and closer to the stage, and by the time Hiatt moved over to stage left to play electric piano for a couple songs, I managed to weasel my way within about five yards of the man in front of the stage.  A raucous version of “Tennessee Plates” ended the show, and Hiatt did three more tunes for an encore, closing with “Slow Turning” to thunderous applause.  My only disappointment was that John didn’t play anything from my favorite Hiatt album Perfectly Good Guitar, but apart from that, it was another great show from one of my favorite songwriters of all-time. If you haven’t seen John Hiatt in concert yet, I highly urge you to do so—you’ll have a good time.

SET LIST:  Drive South/Ride Along/Little Head/Paper Thin/Feels Like Rain/Everybody Went Low/Let It Slip Away/Cry Love/Is Anybody There?/Memphis In The Meantime/Ridin’ With The King/Tennessee Plates  ENCORES:  Have A Little Faith In Me/Thing Called Love/Slow Turning

94) Kiss/Ted Nugent/Skid Row* (Friday, August 25, 2000—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $79.00 [*=Did not see this act perform]

After seeing Kiss in Little Rock back in April, I spent the summer of 2000 wondering when (or even if) they would play Kansas City on their “Farewell” Tour, but when the date was finally announced, I was very pleased at how the tour dates shook out to include several other nearby cities.  In the past, I’d done entire vacations built around seeing baseball stadiums and hockey arenas, and this time I decided to do a true Rock ‘N’ Roll road trip and be like a (Grateful) Dead Head and follow Kiss around for a few gigs after Kansas City.  Even better, I was also able to work in a concert on my little mini-tour by this other band I really like called The Who.

My friend Tom and I hooked up at Sandstone with a co-worker of mine and his wife who were big Kiss fans just after Skid Row’s set.  This the first (and only) time I ever got to sit in Sandstone’s lower seating bowl (i.e., the primo seats), and I set a personal record for the most money I’ve ever spent on a single concert ticket ($79.00), a record I have no desire—let alone intention—of ever breaking.  The first thing we noticed upon our arrival was that the light-up Kiss logos were parked on the left and right sides of the stage instead of airborne at the rear of the set, thanks to Sandstone’s rinky-dink Erector Set stage layout.  Have I ever mentioned how much I loathe this venue on this blog?  No?   I coulda swore I did…

Fred Nugent altered his opening set slightly from last time, reinserting “Fred Bear”, complete with center stage campfire that was totally redundant on this 95-degree night.  The rest was same old, same old from Nugent, and he was still talking out of his ass about those who don’t speak English, which actually got him removed from the bill at Kiss’s Houston gig on this tour.  The man could still play guitar with the best of them, but he sounded like an immature 17-year-old instead of a 51-year-old man with “family values”.  Whatever, Ted…

SET LIST:  Stormtroopin’/Paralyzed/Wang Dang Sweet Poontang/Free-For-All/Dog Eat Dog/Fred Bear/Kiss My Ass/Cat Scratch Fever/Stranglehold  ENCORE:  Great White Buffalo

As always with Kiss, the set change was short and efficient and they got to work right on time.  They sounded pretty good, and were much more energetic than I expected, given the sauna bath we were in, particularly Ace and Paul.  In fact, given the weather and all, I wondered why the hell we weren’t doing this concert in the nice cool air-conditioning of Kemper Arena, which was probably sitting dormant in the stockyards that night.  About four songs into the show, Peter Criss removed the top portion of his costume, and I was a tad horrified to see how much weight he had gained—he was damn near as big as me!  “Better lay off the chalupas, there, Pete!” I quipped to Tom.  Anyway, Brother Frehley was “on” from the get-go, running around a lot more than I’d seen him do in the past, and playing like a man possessed.  Paul Stanley was in vintage form that night too, and showed no outward signs of any of the physical ailments (bad knees, hips, etc.) that I’d been reading about.  Gene Simmons seemed a tad subdued, but was in good voice (for him, anyway).

Another feature I enjoyed was the chicks in the front row flashing their breasts to the band when they and appeared on the video screens several times.  In fact, since Sandstone’s in-house video screens were so cheesy, Kiss just slapped their own right over top of them!  Unfortunately, because of Sandstone’s space limitations, the stage risers that Gene, Paul and Ace rode up and down on were rendered almost useless.  The set list was virtually the same as the Little Rock show, apart from a healthy (if not skinny) Peter Criss being able to sing “Beth” again and Stanley singing about ¾ of “I Still Love You” before segueing into “Black Diamond”, on which Peter sang his usual parts again.

It also just happened to be Gene’s birthday that night, so during the encores, Mr. Stanley led the audience in serenading our favorite bat-lizard.  The roadies toted out this cake in the shape of two gi-normous tits, which Gene took two licks from, then tossed into the crowd after a couple photo-ops.  I thought we might see a bit more fireworks to end the show since we were outdoors and all, but it was merely the standard Kiss fare, which still doesn’t suck.  My little Rock ‘N’ Roll journey was most definitely off to a flying start…

SET LIST:  Detroit Rock City/Deuce/Shout It Out Loud/I Love It Loud/Shock Me/Firehouse/ Do You Love Me?/Calling Dr. Love/Heaven’s On Fire/Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll/2000 Man/Psycho Circus/ Lick It Up/God Of Thunder/Cold Gin/100,000 Years/Love Gun/I Still Love You/Black Diamond  ENCORES:  Beth/Happy Birthday To You (To Gene)/Rock And Roll All Nite

95) The Who/UnAmerican (Sunday, August 27, 2000—Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX) Ticket price: $50.00

Two days after the Kiss Sandstone gig, I “felt a hot wind on my shoulder” as I hit the road for the Lone Star State, driving my poor little Toyota rental car against a stiff southerly wind in 100-degree heat down I-35 through Oklahoma and Texas.  I think a camel might’ve been a more appropriate mode of transportation, but in any event, I got to Big D in one piece for a gig with Da Who.

I was quite impressed with the then-20-year-old Reunion Arena in Dallas.  The sightlines are excellent, the seats are comfortable and the concourses were clean and classy-looking, unlike those at Kemper Arena here.  Within walking distance of the scene of the big crime (the Kennedy assassination), Reunion was also the scene of the crime just a couple months before when my beloved New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup there over the Dallas Stars on Jason Arnott’s overtime goal in Game 6, and I found it kinda sad that such a nice relatively new arena was due to be replaced so soon by the American Airlines Center.  Although Reunion has still been used to host the Big 12 women’s basketball Tournament and such, its days appear to be numbered now.  Damn shame…

The opening act was a British band called UnAmerican, and I was quite UnDerwhelmed by them.  Just another run-of-the-mill Alternative band, and I was already bored with them after the first song.  Very UnImpressive…

I wasn’t sure what to expect this time from The Who, as there was nary any media build-up for this little tour they were on, certainly nothing like whenever their contemporaries the Rolling Stones go on tour.  They were fresh out of Rock Operas to celebrate, as they’d already done Tommy in ‘89 and Quadrophenia in ‘97 on their previous two tours, so this tour was a bit more ambiguous.  I needn't have worried, though—it turned out to be an excellent show.  They opened with “I Can’t Explain” and concentrated on their oldest stuff early on, then played songs from the elusive Lifehouse project that eventually morphed into Who’s Next, including “The Relay”, “Bargain” and "Getting In Tune", none of which I'd ever heard them do live before.  Another new addition to the set list was “The Kids Are Alright” which I’m guessing they hadn’t played live since the ‘60s.  To make room for those songs, classics like “See Me, Feel Me” and “Love, Reign O’er Me” were dropped, but it was a fair trade-off, I suppose.

It was apparent right away that Pete Townshend was going to own this show, as he was windmilling his ass off early, and didn’t resemble at all the old man we’d been seeing in recent years.  Pete did nearly all the talking between songs (Roger Daltrey usually chimes in now and then) and he seemed in very relaxed spirits throughout.  Daltrey was strangely subdued most of the night, although he was in good voice.  Roger was hard to hear at times, as the sound mix was poor, and even John Entwistle’s bass didn’t come through like it should.  As for The Ox, he was rock solid, as always, and his vocal selection this time was his venerable “My Wife” from Who’s Next, and just as he did in St. Louis in ’97, Thunderfingers nearly brought the house down with his bass solo during “5:15”.  Little did I know that this would be the last time I would see him play live.  The rest of the band was comprised of native Texan John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards, Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on second guitar and backing vocals, and Sir Richard Starkey’s little boy, Zak, on the drums, the latter of whom impressed me greatly once again.  Looking at times like a young Keith Moon, only more controlled and less maniacal, young Zak is the perfect replacement for Moon.  Too bad he wasn’t quite old enough to take over when Moon died (Zak was only 13 in 1978).

I was majorly disappointed with the crowd at this show, not only because it was nowhere near a sellout, but also because they were too laid-back.  The upper deck people just sat there like a bunch of lumps, and they seemed more like a wine-and-cheese party crowd.  I kept wanting to scream out, “This ain’t John Tesh, you dummies—this is THE WHO!”  Since there was so much open space upstairs, I relocated from my somewhat crappy assigned seat on the corner over around to the other side, and for those of you reading out there who were at this show, I was the drunk idiot you saw in the back row up by the hockey press box windmilling along with Townshend during “Baba O’Riley”!  Hell, I didn’t care what people thought—I was having a great time, although I did manage to ram my left hand into the wall during one errant swing.  Thankfully, I didn’t have a whammy bar to impale my hand on like Pete did on the ’89 tour!  Anyway, Chairman Townshend was easily the star of the night, and I’d never seen him play this well or certainly this enthusiastically in person before.  He even gladly played “My Generation” again, which shocked me a little.  The show in general was a very pleasant surprise, because just when I thought The Who was dead, they came roaring back to life on this night.  Of the four times I saw them when Entwistle was alive, this concert was my favorite.  Long live Rock, indeed!

SET LIST:  I Can’t Explain/Substitute/Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere/The Relay/My Wife/Baba O’Riley/Bargain/ Getting In Tune/Naked Eye/Drowned (Pete solo acoustic)/Pinball Wizard/The Real Me/Behind Blue Eyes/You Better, You Bet/Who Are You?/5:15/Won’t Get Fooled Again  ENCORES:  The Kids Are Alright/Let’s See Action/My Generation

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