Thursday, September 4, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 21

At long last, the final chapter...

101) Pat Benatar/Night Ranger (Tuesday, August 28, 2001Starlight Theater) Ticket price: Free

My ticket to this concert—normally $29.50—was a belated birthday gift bestowed upon me by my friend Rose.  Thanks to her season ticket-holder status at Starlight with her husband, Rose was able to snag us some phenomenal seats—seventh row, just to the left of center.  Night Ranger opened with a very spirited 45-minute set, during which guitarists Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson and bassist Jack Blades all snuck down into the audience and played one song while roaming all around us.  This was way before I had a digital camera, or I’d have had some awesome close-ups.  Watson also tossed numerous guitar picks into the crowd, and Rose caught one of them.  Meantime, they played all their biggies, as well as the surprise inclusion of the big Damn Yankees hit that Blades sang on, “Coming Of Age”.  I was never a huge NR fan, but like Loverboy and .38 Special, they’re a good band, yet not quite a truly great one.  I’ve seen them play live twice, and they were certainly one of the better opening acts I’ve ever encountered.

SET LIST:  Touch Of Madness/Rumors In The Air/Sing Me Away/ We Like To Rock/piano solo/Sentimental Street/Four In The Morning (I Can’t Take Any More)/When You Close Your Eyes/Coming Of Age/Don’t Tell Me You Love Me  ENCORES:  Sister Christian/Rock In America

A little while later, Pat Benatar hit the stage, and to my delight, looked infinitely better than she did the last time I saw her in 1997 (see Episode 16).  Instead of those gaudy green Sears Toughskins, this time she wore black leather pants that left no doubt she still had a nice ass! Hubby Neil Giraldo was still sporting his silly bleach-blonde hair (no offense, but I think that looks so faggy on guys!), but he still played guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell.  Pat sounded a lot better than last time, too, and the show got off to a promising start with my personal Pat favorite “We Live For Love”, followed by “Shadows Of The Night”.  Then it all but ground to a halt after four songs when Pat and Neil trotted out their 17-year-old daughter Hayley and her two teen lesbo buddies to lip-sync three songs while Pat and the band disappeared. I was in the middle of a beer run when this all took place, and when I returned to my seat, I was like “What the fuck is this?!?”  While I commend Pat and Neil for indulging their daughter, did they really think an old-school Classic Rock crowd would be impressed with these Britney Spears wanna-be’s?  While Hayley is somewhat talented, there’s a time and place for everything, and I thought this was pretty cheesy the way they did this little dog-and-pony show in the middle of Pat’s set.  I could see these girls maybe as an opening act before Night Ranger—maybe—but they were totally out of their element here.  The crowd politely applauded the trio when they finished, but it was awkward applause, at best.

Pat resumed her set (with no further interruptions) with the surprise inclusion of “Invincible”. She and Neil also did an acoustic rendering of “Love Is A Battlefield” that wasn’t half-bad, and was thankfully minus the hoochie-mama choreography from the infamous video thereof—quite possibly the penultimate ‘80s cringe moment. “Hell Is For Children” and “Heartbreaker” closed the set to a vociferous crowd response, and “Promises In The Dark”, “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” and "All Fired Up" were the encores.  While a major improvement over her performance at Sandstone in ‘97, I was still a bit disappointed with this show.  There were too many glaring omissions for my liking—“Fire And Ice”, “You Better Run”, “Treat Me Right”, “Le Bel Age”—and the set lacked some continuity, thanks to the little detour we were led on with Hayley.  At least I got to see Pat Benatar up close, therefore for that alone it was worthwhile…

SET LIST:  We Live For Love/Shadows Of The Night/Somebody’s Baby/We Belong/-------set performed by daughter Hayley------Invincible/Love Is A Battlefield/True Love/Hell Is For Children/Heartbreaker ENCORES:  Promises In The Dark/Hit Me With Your Best Shot/All Fired Up

102) B-52s/Eddie Money (Friday, August 31, 2001Liberty Memorial Mall) Ticket price: $8.00

The annual Kansas City Spirit Festival was held over Labor Day weekend in ’01, and they had a pretty good music lineup this time around.  I’d always heard that Eddie Money puts on a good show, so I decided to check him out, and sure enough, he put on a decent set.  For some reason, I don’t remember too many details about this show (must have been the Foster’s), but I do remember Eddie kept reeling off one-liners between songs like “People ask me ‘How’d you get to be such a great blues singer?’  Easy—I became a Kansas City Royals fan!” (Place rim shot here.)  He did most of his biggies and finished with “Two Tickets To Paradise”.  Not a bad set, but I think he’d have been more enjoyable in a smaller venue like the Uptown Theater or Memorial Hall.

An interminable set change ensued before the B-52’s came on.  I managed to snag a pretty nice vantage point in my lawn chair off to the stage right side and the group put on a fairly spirited set.  Kate Pierson was (and is) still a doll, and exuded lots of energy on stage.  The sound was pretty crappy, apart from when they did “Roam”, and “Deadbeat Club” from Cosmic Thing was a welcome surprise.  They’d only played about an hour or so when they leapt into “Love Shack”, which naturally got the biggest response.  “Rock Lobster” was the encore, but I didn’t hear all of it because I headed for the exits to beat the inevitable Crown Center traffic clusterfuck.  Not a bad show for eight bucks, though.

103) Mark Lindsay/Gary Lewis/Mitch Ryder (Saturday, September 8, 2001—Olathe Town Square) Ticket price: Free

My earliest memories of being alive are of listening to my older siblings’ Paul Revere & The Raiders albums when I was three years old, and lead singer Mark Lindsay was my first musical idol—he was every bit as cool as Batman (Adam West) in my book!  My mom took the whole family to see The Raidas at Starlight Theater in 1971 when I was seven, and I have very vague memories of that performance.  While I generally abhor these multi-act ‘60s “nostalgia” music revues, I decided to attend this one at the Old Settler’s Days Fest in Olathe in hopes of perhaps meeting that very first musical idol of mine in person, and darned if I didn’t!

Mitch Ryder opened the show and acted just like the has-been that he was.  He only did five songs (three of which weren’t even his), and he wasted a good ten cumulative minutes of his set telling jokes to kill time.  I never did like “Devil With A Blue Dress On” anyway.  Immediately after Ryder, Gary Lewis came on.  The Playboys were the backing band for the entire show, and were quite good, actually.  Gary was a bit on the nerdy side, but they put on a decent set, doing all their big hits, including “This Diamond Ring” and “Everybody Loves A Clown”.  I kept waiting for him to imitate his old man and go, “Way-deee! Way-deee! I’m falling dowwwwn!” but he never did.

Meantime, there were a couple of oddities at this show.  For some reason, there was this conglomeration of deaf people standing off to the side of the stage, and there was in fact a signer right in front of the stage interpreting the lyrics for them—I’ve never seen that at any concert before.  Then there was this old redneck just off to my right trying to control his dog on a very long leash, and he eventually tied the dog up to a tree and just left him there.  Meanwhile, the dog is barking its ass off and harassing anyone who came near it while the old man was sitting in his car with his fat-ass ugly (I assume) wife in the parking garage behind us.  Uh, gee, you couldn’t leave the fucking dog at home tonight?  Finally, a cop came along and kindly asked the old fuck to collect his pet, and it was a mighty struggle for him to get the dog back in the car.  What is it about public gatherings that makes people act so goddamn stupid sometimes?

Anyway, back to the show.  Near the end of Gary Lewis’ set, I made my way around behind the stage on the street to see if I could catch a glimpse of Mark Lindsay before the show, so I parked myself in the chair on the corner near a building which I suspected they were using as a dressing room.  Sure enough, a little while later, Mr. Lindsay (who was much taller than I ever realized) was being escorted by one of Olathe’s Finest over to the backstage area.  I wandered back around behind the stage, and Mark immediately goes into a stretching routine, which surprised me a bit until he got on-stage and I saw whythe guy moves around a lot up there.  He opened with “Steppin’ Out”, followed by “Just Like Me” and “Hungry”, and the man was in fine voice, and was clearly the standout that night.  They also did “Louie, Louie”, which took a few detours into other classic Rock tunes like “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Heartbreaker”. Mark dug out an old Revolutionary War Raider coat for that one too.  As I expected, he did “Arizona”, followed by “Indian Reservation” and “Kicks”, which was followed by an encore of Chuck Berry’s “Rock And Roll Music”, during which Ryder and Lewis rejoined Mark on-stage.

Meanwhile, they announced that all three guys were going to sign autographs at the left side of the stage, so I quickly got in queue for it.  I had to wait about 20 minutes or so, and endured these old rednecks in line reciting all their favorite Rock groups (this one ugly bitch behind me liked Arra-Smith, Evvis, the Mooda Blues, Fureigner, et al).  I finally got up to the signing table, and whipped out my Raiders Greatest Hits CD insert for the man to sign, and his assistant gal kindly handed it to him and told him my name.  I shook hands with him and said, “Hi Mark, how you doin’?” and he thanked me for coming.  I said, “The last time I saw you in person was almost exactly 30 years ago this month when I was a wee lad of seven.”  He said, “How oldseven?  Well, I must have been about eight or nine then.”  Before heading out, I said to him, “Don’t never stop rockin’, man,” and he said, “Not as long as it’s funwe’ll keep doing it.”  Helluva nice guy, Mark Lindsay is.  Mission accomplished!  Ironically, Olathe is also where I met John Entwistle and almost met Lemmy from Motorhead.  Must be something cosmic about that town Lemmy called “almost Kansas City.”

I was euphoric on the way home, and I was in a great mood also because football season started the next day, and I was barely a month into my new (and current) job that I really liked at the time, and everything seemed just peachy…until that terrible Tuesday three days later when everything went to hell in an Al-Queda handbag for this nation.

SET LIST:  Steppin’ Out/Just Like Me/Hungry/Louie Louie/Arizona/Indian Reservation/ Kicks  ENCORE:  Rock And Roll Music

104) Dave Edmunds/Ryan Van Imming (Wednesday, May 15, 2002Grand Emporium) Ticket price: $15.00

The Grand Emporium was a fairly legendary blues and jazz venue in the heart of the Midtown area of K.C. near Westport.  I’d always heard people raving about what a cool place it was and at the time I was having some personal problems and was hoping an evening of Dave Edmunds-type Rock ‘N’ Roll in a cool venue would pick up my spirits.  Unfortunately, neither did…

As soon as I set foot in the place, I was totally unimpressed.  I’d always heard what great atmosphere this place had, and how all the great Blues, R&B and Jazz people loved playing there, yadda yadda yadda, so I was taken aback by what a dump this place was!  It was your basic over-sized hole-in-the-wall bar with a stage—i.e., a fucking dive.  It was downright scummy in places, and even worse, there was no place to sit (my fault for arriving so late), so I wound up standing around in the back near the toilets.  Apart from the Beaumont Club in Westport, this was the worst venue I’ve ever attended a concert of any kind in.

The show had already begun when I arrived, as the opening act, Ryan Van Imming, was playing a solo acoustic guitar set.  I quickly noted that there were no drums or other instruments set up on the dinky little stage, which was about the size of two phone booths side-by-side.  I then realized that Edmunds was going to play a solo acoustic set as well—this from the same man who at the height of the “Unplugged” era in the mid-90s, did an album called Plugged In, as a not-so-silent protest to all the wussy acoustic stuff people were doing then.  I was never a fan of the whole “Unplugged” thing anyway, despite of how it indirectly led to the Kiss reunion in 1995.  To me, acoustic guitars should be used only in moderation—they’re the equivalent of black-and-white TV as opposed to the “color” of electric guitar.

I was fully-expecting Dave and his backing band to play, but I tried to keep an open mind about the acoustic thing.  The opening act Van Imming wasn’t bad, but he got rather boring after a while.  Edmunds came on after a short break and he did indeed play acoustic guitar all night.  He alternated between his biggies and some instrumental stuff (like the late Jerry Reed’s “The Claw”, et al), but I didn’t like how he did little medleys, like the first two verses of “Crawling From the Wreckage” and part of “Queen of Hearts”, etc.  The crowd was also quite annoying, as they were drowning Dave out at times with their incessant chatter.  Dave seemed to get the biggest response to “I Knew The Bride” (which he didn’t truncate), but he did truncate “I Hear You Knockin’”, which is utter heresy!  He showed a little class though, by doing a tribute to the recently-departed George Harrison with a nice rendition of “Here Comes The Sun”.  He saved the best for last, too, following an acoustic encore of Fats Domino’s “I’m Ready”, he whipped out his Fender Telecaster, turned on a drum machine, and tore the place apart with “Sabre Dance”, and the crowd went nuts.  It was nice to see Dave live again, but I really would have preferred seeing him playing electric with a full band.

SET LIST:  Blue Moon Of Kentucky/The Claw/Girls Talk/Lady Madonna/Warmed Over Kisses/Mystery Train/Walk Right In/Crawling From The Wreckage/Queen Of Hearts/I Knew The Bride/Sukiyaki/A Mess O’ Blues/I Hear You Knockin’/Promised Land/Here Comes The Sun/Classical Gas/Mozart In G-Minor  ENCORES:  I’m Ready/Sabre Dance

105) The Who/Robert Plant (Sunday, August 25, 2002--Verizon Wireless Music Center, Indianapolis) Ticket price: $30.00

I was really pumped in the Spring of ’02 when The Who announced they were touring again and when the dates were announced, the closest they were coming to Kansas City was Indianapolis (a proposed St. Louis gig was subsequently scrubbed, for some reason), so naturally I ordered me up a ticket on-line and couldn’t wait to see the ‘Orrible ‘Oo again.  I was really pumped until June 27, 2002, that is.  When I heard the terrible news that John Entwistle had died, the first thing I looked at was my concert ticket tacked on my bulletin board, and I felt so deflated.  I immediately assumed that the tour would be cancelled altogether, and was extremely miffed when it was announced that the tour would resume in a mere four days following The Ox’s passing.  I understand there are logistical problems in canceling/rescheduling concerts, but I thought it was very disrespectful of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey to just callously move on that soon—as if they’d merely lost one of their roadies or something—without a more suitable period of mourning.  The fact that John’s replacement, Pino Palladino, was already lined up to jump right in didn’t sit well with me either, but at the time I was unaware that Entwistle wasn’t taking very good care of himself, so in retrospect, Pete and Roger probably did the right thing.  I was even more disappointed to learn that John’s death was caused in part by cocaine—I thought he was smarter than that.  Drugs are bad, mmmm-kay?

In the interim, I debated whether to even bother attending the show or not, as an Ox-less Who wouldn’t have been as much fun for me, but I figured the ticket was paid-for, so I might as well go.  Turned out to be a good move, as it was still an enjoyable concert.  The venue, then known as Verizon Wireless Music Center (who knows what it’s called now), is actually located a little ways northwest of Indy in Noblesville, right smack dab amid the cornfields of central Indiana.  For being out in the sticks, it was a fairly impressive outdoor joint, and light years better than our Sandstone and St. Louis’ Riverport Amphitheaters.  I liked the layout of the place, as you actually enter from behind the stage, and they have this huge concession/souvenir area which you pass en route to the seating area.  The lawn is sloped much more evenly than Sandstone, and its pitch is less steep, plus they have this wooden fence at the top of the hill that actually holds in some of the sound.  Like Riverport, the seating pavilion has a roof over it, and there were four pretty decent video screens in place.  I generally don’t care for these outdoor “sheds”, as the promoters call them, but this one is easily the best I’ve been to so far.

Robert Plant finally came on just as the sun was going down and opened with a really slow, non-descript moody tune that I didn’t recognize.  Plant, dressed all in white and still maintaining his trademark mane of curly hair, looked and sounded great.  The next tune kicked his set into gear, and hearing him do Led Zep’s “Celebration Day” was a bit of a surprise and RP’s guitar player (whose name I didn’t catch) was pretty impressive.  The set list was a bit surprising too—half Zeppelin and half Plant.  The crowd naturally went nuts during the Zep stuff, which included “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” off III, “Going To California (Indiana)” and “Whole Lotta Love” as the encore.  He also did “Tall Cool One”, but I was surprised that he omitted most of his other ‘80s stuff like “Big Log” and “Burning Down One Side”, but he could only do so many songs as the opening act.  I imagine on his theater tour that he later embarked on, he included lots of the ‘80s stuff as well.  I wasn’t real sure what to expect from Plant as a solo performer, but he weren’t too bad.  It was also quite a privilege to be able to see two of the greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll front men on the same stage on the same night.

SET LIST:  ????/Celebration Day/Morning Dew/Going To California/Tie-Dye On The Highway/Fixin-To-Die/Four Sticks/Tall Cool One/Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You  ENCORE:  Whole Lotta Love

During the set change, they played a brief movie showing rehearsals for the Who tour just a couple weeks before Entwistle died and the crowd reacted nearly every time John appeared on screen.  Pete and Roger and the band came on about ten minutes later, opening with “I Can’t Explain”, followed by “Substitute”, and they were off and running.  Pete later introduced the band, which included the usual suspects Rabbit Bundrick on keys, young master Zak Starkey on the drums, Pete’s bro Simon Townshend on backing vocals and second guitar, and Palladino on bass.  Pete only referred to The Ox in passing, saying that they had had a “tricky day” a while back and that during rehearsals it was apparent that John’s voice “had gotten a bit dodgy”, thus he wouldn’t have done any singing on the tour.  When introducing Zak, Pete said, “If anyone else of us dies, we might be in trouble, but you know this guy…”  I was disappointed that they didn’t honor The Ox a bit more than that.

Meantime “Another Tricky Day” was a surprise on the set list, but it came off really flat, in part because Pete and Roger couldn’t hook up properly on the vocals, and partly because Entwistle’s bass line was so heavy on the original recording, and it was sadly missing here.  I could’ve done without “You Better, You Bet” in favor of say, “Shakin’ All Over” or “Young Man Blues” perhaps, but otherwise, it was generally a good set, and Townshend was cooking on guitar just like he did two years (almost to the day) ago when I saw them in Dallas.  Roger was in fine voice as well, but Pete did most of the talking on stage again this time. “My Generation” was a bit a disappointment, mostly because of the bass solo.  In all fairness to Pino, he’s a fine bassist, but this was like trying to replace the Wayne Gretzky/Michael Jordan/Tiger Woods of bass players.  Apart from standing still all night, Palladino didn’t resemble Thunderfingers at all.  “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, ended the set, and I was windmilling away again, just like in Dallas.  For the encores, Pete and Roger chose to play three Tommy classics to wrap things up.  All in all, this turned out to be a far better show than I anticipated, but The Who just wasn’t the same without their anchor on stage.

SET LIST:  I Can’t Explain/Substitute/Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere/Who Are You?/Another Tricky Day/The Relay/Bargain/Baba O’Riley/Sea And Sand/5:15/Love, Reign O’er Me/Eminence Front/ Behind Blue Eyes/You Better You Bet/The Kids Are Alright/My Generation/Won’t Get Fooled Again  ENCORES:  Pinball Wizard/Sparks/See Me, Feel Me

After this concert, I unintentionally went into retirement as a concert-goer.  Oh sure, there were numerous concerts I thought about attending, and I even had free tickets to one or two, including the infamous Sammy Hagar/David Lee Roth tour debacle in '02, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t go.  Essentially, after over 100 concerts, I’d pretty much seen it all and done it all, and with concert ticket prices being absolutely obscene now, they're just totally not worth it anymore.  There are still a few people I’d love to see, like Springsteen and U2, but I just can’t see paying 60 bucks-plus for nosebleed seats.  I’d much rather spend 20 bucks on a concert video DVD and enjoy it over and over in high quality sound.  Little did I know at the time that The Who and Robert Plant would be my last concert.  Until…

106) Shooting Star/Head East (Saturday, July 12, 2008Kearney Amphitheater) Ticket price: $5.00

…just two months ago.  Just out of the blue, I un-retired and attended my first real concert featuring nationally-known acts in nearly six years at a new venue in Kearney, MO with several friends, a few of whom are musicians themselves and play in a local band.  Kearney Amphitheater just opened this year and it’s sort of a mini-Sandstone and while it wasn’t totally completed yet, it wasn’t a bad place to see a show.  There are no permanent seats, thus it’s all lawn, and patrons are encouraged to bring their own chairs, and the sightlines and sound system were quite good.  I would estimate the crowd was about 2,000 or so to see a couple of longtime local favorites bands, each of whom still had one original member.  We caught a huge break with the weather too, as it had been hotter than blazes all week until some showers came through during the day and cooled things off to a more human level.

Head East scored a huge radio hit around these parts with 1975’s “Never Been Any Reason” and that’s about all I remember them for.  That, and the awful post-game concert they tried to stage after a Kansas City Comets indoor soccer match at Kemper Arena back in the late ‘80s on two flat-bed trailers rammed together at midfield.  I remember they sounded just dreadful, and we didn’t bother waiting around to hear “Never Been…” that night.  They sounded a tad better this time, although the lead singer blew his voice out on the first song and was very screechy the rest of the night.  Original lead singer John Schlitt was long gone, having become a born-again Christian after years of drugs and alcohol abuse, so original keyboardist Roger Boyd acted as the emcee, and the rest of the band were pretty decent musicians for the most part.  To cover for the fact they had so few original hits, HE augmented their set with covers of other people’s songs like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Pride And Joy”, Trooper’s “Raise A Little Hell” and an old Grand Funk favorite of mine, “Footstompin’ Music”.  The place went nuts when they launched into "Never Been...", during which Boyd employed his handy portable synthesizer, and for a few brief fleeting moments, it seemed like 1975 all over again.  Not the greatest set I’ve ever seen, but the crowd seemed to like the band a lot.

Kansas City’s own Shooting Star featured original guitarist/singer Van McLain and four newer players, including a chick violinist named Janet Jameson to replace the long-departed Charles Waltz.  They got right to work playing their big hits like “Tonight”, “Last Chance”, “Flesh And Blood”, “Hollywood” and my personal SS favorite, “Bring It On”.  They sounded good and tight, and it was almost as if the band had never broken up.  The highlight of the set was probably “Hang On For Your Life”, which had nearly everyone on their feet.  Made me wish I’d seen them during their heyday in the ‘80s.  Not too shabby for five bucks, either.

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