Friday, February 15, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 3

Yet another installment of the history of yours truly's concert-going career. 1981-82 was my senior year in high school, and it was a very prolific period for me, concert-wise, as you will see...

11) Quarterflash/Darrel Lea (Thursday, November 26, 1981—Lyric Theater) Ticket price: Free

Kansas City’s famed Lyric Theater normally houses opera, ballet and other arty-farty musical fare, but on Thanksgiving Night, 1981, it was a Rock ‘N’ Roll venue for the one and only time I’ve ever set foot in the place.  Too bad they didn’t/don’t stage more Rock events there—it’s a great place to see a show.  Anyway, local radio legend KY-102 sponsored a free concert featuring a hot new band called Quarterflash, and since you can’t beat free, we snagged some tickets and attended.

Quarterflash was burning up the charts at the time with their self-titled debut album and the single "Harden My Heart" (great record, btw).  The band featured lead singer Rindy Ross, who was sort of a poor man’s Pat Benatar (her voice was a lot like Benatar’s, only not nearly as powerful, nor did she dress nearly as sexy as Pat), who also doubled on the saxophone.  Rindy’s brother Marv Ross was the guitarist and leader of the band, and they put on a very energetic show.  High points included the other hit off the album, "Find Another Fool" and their encore "Take Another Picture" (title track of their second album), during which Rindy snapped off photos of the audience with her Polaroid One-Step camera and tossed them back into the crowd.  They closed out the night with a snappy rendition of The Byrds' "So You Wanna Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star?" as well.

I'm pretty sure they also did a song off the first album called "Valerie", which made me do a double-take the first time I heard it—"Is she singing about being in love with another girl?!?"  This was the first time I’d ever heard an overtly lesbian love song before!  I was also rather mystified by the video for "Harden My Heart", which featured Miss Ross clad in her ‘80s dancewear rushing around as if being chased by someone in this maze-like structure in the middle of a rock quarry while some little kid sits outside at a vanity table in the middle of a slag heap, then Rindy exits the structure, hops on a waiting Harley and rides off with some dude, while some guy comes along and bulldozes the structure while some joker with a flamethrower torches it!  WTF?!?  I have no earthly idea any of this had to with hardening one’s heart.  Anyway, I thought this band had a lot of potential, but nothing really happened for them after that first album.  Too bad, because they weren’t too shabby live in concert.

The opening act’s name totally escaped me for years, until I re-read the concert review from 1981 on the K.C. Star microfilms, and it turns out his name was Darrell Lea.  Sadly, and all I remember was he played acoustic guitar for about 30 minutes, and I think he had a moustache.  Sorry, Darrell, that's the best I can do, buddy...

12) The Police/Joan Jett And The Blackhearts (Thursday, March 25, 1982—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.75

This was a fun evening all the way ‘round.

The Go-Go's were initally slated to open on this tour with The Police, but they pulled out to return to the studio to record their second album, so Joan Jett was inserted in their spot, and Joan's opening set was better than I expected.  I wasn’t too impressed with her records up to that point, and I still don’t much care for "I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll" (worst guitar solo I’ve ever heard!), but I’ve grown to like some of her stuff over the years, and Joan’s cover version of Tommy James’ "Crimson And Clover" was a high point of her act.

The Police were just about the hottest live act around at that time, and they were touring in support of my favorite Police album, Ghost In The Machine.  They did plenty of tracks off that one, including two personal favorites "One World (Not Three)" and "Demolition Man", as well as "Rehumanize Yourself" and their mega-hit single "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic".  They kinda mangled up "Spirits In The Material World", but the rest of the new songs sounded great.  I forget which song he did this during, but at one point Sting tried to work the crowd into a frenzy and get everyone to scream loud enough "to raise this roof".  Given what happened to the Kemper roof three years before, I wanted to tell him, "Uhhh, Sting, you might want to re-think that strategy in this building."  "Walking On The Moon" was another highlight, as the lights gave the appearance of a spacecraft landing onto the stage.  "Don’t Stand So Close To Me" was another high point, and "Roxanne" really had the joint jumping during the encore, with people literally dancing in the aisles.

However, what I remember most fondly about this concert didn't have a damn thing to do with the show itself, but rather the scores and scores of cute girls in attendance.  This was the first concert we’d attended that attracted almost as many females as males, and it just happened to coincide with the return of the mini-skirt as a fashion staple!  My friends and I sat agog and google-eyed most of the night at all the cute chicks sporting the "Valley Girl" look in their short skirts, colored tights and leg warmers, etc., and we spent half the night fighting over the lone set of binoculars between us.  It was all I could do to keep from turning around and gawking at the girl directly behind me in the mirco-skirt—I would've had a nice view of the promised land!  Too bad none of us had the balls to actually hit on any of these chicks, tho.  An opportunity lost, fer shure!  Damn, I miss the '80s...

13) "Summer Rock ‘82"—Foreigner/Loverboy/Triumph/.38 Special/LeRoux (Sunday, May 30, 1982—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $15.00

All-day multi-act stadium Rock concerts like this one were an annual rite of passage around these parts every summer back in the day, and chances were good that there would be at least one act on bill that you wanted to see, if not all of them.  Sadly, shows like these are now about as obsolete as Polaroid One-Steps (not to mention Apple IIe's and floppy discs), but Summer Rock ’82 was a rather memorable concert, and not necessarily because of the show itself.

I had to work that day and didn’t get off until 2PM, which is when the concert started, thus we arrived just in time for the first act, Louisiana’s LeRoux, to leave the stage.  I believe they were a Country-Rock outfit, but I remember nothing about them.  It was a bright sunny day when we arrived, but clouds started rolling in about the time .38 Special hit the stage...

A good band, but not quite a great one, .38 Special was the quintessential opening act, as they had just enough familiar songs in their repertoire to hold one’s interest throughout their set.  They had just come out with what I think was their best album Special Forces, featuring "Caught Up In You".  They were playing another standout track, "Chain Lightning", about the time it started raining—timing is everything.  Meantime, I’d always assumed Donnie Van Zant sang all of .38's songs, so I was  surprised to see guitarist Don Barnes handling the majority of the lead vocals that day, including all their big hits.  On one song, RVZ strapped on a guitar, and even from the upper deck of Arrowhead, I could tell he wasn’t really playing it—his hand movements were totally out of time with the other two guitarists and he gripped the neck with his chording fingers like he was holding a broom handle!  Check out this video here, and you’ll see what I mean—it’s not nice to fool Sir Rant-A-Lot!  This made me wonder why Van Zant was even in the band at all, other than bringing to it his legendary family name.  In spite of all that, .38 Special put on a pretty decent set.

The clouds got darker during the set change, and it started raining harder when those Canucks from the Great White North, Triumph, came on.  I still hadn’t forgiven these guys for trying to rip off Kiss’ stage show pyrotechnics on previous tours just yet, but since they weren’t allowed to bring them along for this show anyway, we were treated to stripped-down Triumph, which wasn’t such a bad thing.  It was a rather uneven set, as I recall, but a couple songs stood out like "Magic Power" and "Lay It On The Line".  One of the guys was wearing a hockey jersey too, so they can’t be all bad.  By the time Triumph left the stage, it was raining hard.  Very Hard.  Stadium officials were urging those of us in the upper deck to move downstairs at this point...

With discretion being the better part of valor, Tom and I decided to vacate the upper deck and the lightning thereof, so we ambled on down to the field level, which was only about 2/3 full after the Woodstock-ish rains hit.  It was pouring buckets by this time, and we were surprised they actually continued on with this concert.  Loverboy came on a little while later and put on a very similar set to the one they played at Kemper Arena the year before opening for Z.Z. Top, only more enjoyable because we were now familiar with the stuff off their second LP, Get Lucky.  Singer Mike Reno did a nice job working the crowd, and the band didn’t seem to mind the rain at all.  Like .38 Special, Loverboy is one of those bands who were a great opening act, but never really got over the hump to being a headliner.  Ironically, they headline the nostalgia circuit today, but Mike "Nirvana killed my career" Reno is so bloated and overweight he’s almost unrecognizable now.  I had a friend tell me she was actually offended by some of the sexist stuff he said and did in their act a few years ago too.  Nirvana didn’t kill your career, Tubbo—you did!

A little side note: I get a chuckle out of the Ameristar Casino ads I see in the paper for Foreigner’s upcoming appearance there—"Tickets start @ $50!"  Good gravy, I don’t wanna see where they finish at!  If singer Lou Gramm was still with them, then maybe they could make a case for charging that much, but 50 smackers (plus "convenience" fee) for a has-been band with only one original member left (Mick Jones) that hasn’t had a decent hit in 20 years?  Surely, they jest! Foreigner headlined (if you wanna call it that) a birthday show for a local radio station here three or four years ago, and I heard they were absolutely dreadful (care to elaborate, Mr. Raley?).  And what is drummer Jason Bonham doing wasting his time in this band? My word, how the mighty have fallen…

All this time, the rain never let up one bit, and during the set change after Loverboy, they flashed a message on the scoreboard that read something to effect of, "Thanks for coming out tonight—there are flood warnings all over the city," which made Tom and me wonder what we’d be returning home to after the show.  Meanwhile, we amused ourselves by tossing a Frisbee around near the back of the field level while other folks were using the field tarp as a giant Slip ‘N’ Slide until Foreigner came on, well after 10PM.  The crowd gradually got thinner and thinner as the rain pelted everyone, and Tom and I kept moving closer and closer to the front, and by show’s end, we managed to get within about 15 feet of the stage, almost directly in front of bassist Rick Wills at stage left.  Nineteen-hundred and eighty-one, A.D. seemed like the year so many bands came out with their greatest album ever—Styx, REO Speedwagon, Rush, for instance—and Foreigner’s 4 was no exception.  Great songs from that record, which sounded even better with a little live edge to them, especially "Night Life" and "Juke Box Hero", as well as "oldies" like "Feels Like The First Time" and "Hot Blooded".  Like Loverboy, the band seemed pretty nonplussed by the rain, and no one got electrocuted, so no harm, no foul.  A good time was had by all who stayed ‘til the bitter soggy end.  As it turned out, the flood warnings were a tad exaggerated and we didn’t have to float home.

14) Dave Edmunds/The Clocks (Tuesday, June 1, 1982—Uptown Theater) Ticket price: $9.00

Two nights after damn near drowning at Arrowhead, Tom and I dried ourselves off and headed to our first gig ever at the historic Uptown Theater, one of my favorite K.C. concert venues.  Seating anywhere from 1,500 to 1,800 people, it’s one of the few surviving classic old KC theaters from before the Great Depression, and it had recently re-opened after standing vacant for a number of years.  Money problems forced it to close again in the late ‘80s, but it was rescued during the ‘90s and is currently a very viable Rock concert venue.

You can read all about how I became a Dave Edmunds fan here, and DE was touring in support of my favorite DE album, D.E. 7th, which featured the Springsteen-penned "From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)", as well as killer remakes of Chuck Berry’s "Dear Dad" and NRBQ’s "Me And The Boys".  Our view from the upper balcony seats was superb, and Dave and his band rocked the house for nearly two hours after he got the joint jumpin' with "Crawling From The Wreckage".  Is "C From The W" not the most underrated song ever on earth in this hemisphere?  The band featured late guitarist Mickey Gee and keyboardist Geraint Watkins, who also strapped on an accordion and sang on a rousing Cajun version of the Rockpile song "You Ain’t Nothin’ But (Fine, Fine Fine)".  Much of the Dave Edmunds King Biscuit Flower Hour live CD was lifted from this same tour, if you’re looking for a little taste of it.  It’s a crime against humanity that this man is so under-appreciated for his talent and music ability.  Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame, are you listening?!?  Put down your hooka pipes and pay attention, dammit!

Because I had to work earlier that evening, we missed out on the opening act, The Clocks, although I wanna say they were a fairly popular local outfit (again, any thoughts, Mr. Raley?).  They were well-received that night, I do recall.

15) Charlie Daniels Band/Muscle Shoals All-Stars (Saturday, July 3, 1982—Starlight Theater) Ticket price: $10.50

Back to the great outdoors again on this blazing hot Saturday afternoon (95 degrees and no shade).  Other than all-day stadium shows, I never much cared for daytime concerts—I much prefer shows at night (indoors or out), because nighttime is the right time, and there's such a thing as peaking too early in the day.  In spite of all that, the C.D.B. acquitted itself quite well on this toasty afternoon in the heartland, during which I fried like a hunk of bacon, but I didn't mind at all.

Not being a terribly big Country music fan while growing up, I did manage to forge a kinship with Charlie Daniels anyway.  His 1973 classic "Uneasy Rider" is one of the funniest songs I've ever heard, and I'd gladly sing it to you word-for-word on Karaoke night, if given the opportunity.  I also identified with songs like "Long-Haired Country Boy", during which Charlie sang the classic line "I ain't asking nobody for nothing, if I can get it on my own.."—an attitude I've always tried to live by.  I'll never forget when he appeared on the radio show "Innerview" and talked about people's expectations of yourself and he said, "If you have the ability to be a nuclear physicist, and your Daddy wants you to be one, but you wanna be a ditch-digger, then, hell, be a ditch-digger!  Your daddy can't live your life for you..."—something else I took very much to heart.  Unfortunately, I've grown a little weary of the right-wing conservative rhetoric I've heard from CD in recent years (not unlike that of my ex-idol, Fred Nugent), but I still love the music of the C.D.B.—with or without Barefoot Jerry, whoever he is!

Anyway, Charlie and his boys put on quite a show for the sun-baked crowd, which nearly packed Starlight (Sunlight?!?) Theater on this 4th of July weekend. I'd always heard that his keyboard player Taz DiGregorio was a badass, and damned if he wasn't.  Guitarist Tommy Crain also shined, and highlights were plenty, like "The South's Gonna Do It Again" (and again), "In America" and their new hit single "Still In Saigon", the brilliantly-written tale of a Vietnam vet struggling to fit back in to normal life after his tour of duty.  "Uneasy Rider" was another high point (I had no trouble singing along, anyway) and "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" was the perfect closer.  Then Charlie re-emerged and proclaimed, "Good people of the great states of Kansas and Missouri, we'd be proud to play some more music for you..."  The encore left me rather flat, as it was accompanied by a Southern Baptist choir, but overall, it was a dandy show.

The opening act was a conglomerative effort put together by drummer Levon Helm of The Band called the Muscle Shoals All-Stars.  I don't remember much about them, other than that the bass player never moved a muscle, other than his hands (shades of Entwistle?).  Meantime, our next concert on the docket a few days later was one of the best of all...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

High Sign!

Being in anti-Valentine’s Day mode this week gave me cause to remember our good friends Spanky, Buckwheat and Alfalfa and the mighty He-Man Woman Haters Club.  If they were still with us today, they surely wouldn’t fall prey to this Hallmark holiday (well, at least Spanky and Buckwheat wouldn’t).  The HMWHC episode of The Little Rascals was called "Hearts Are Thumps" from 1937.  REO Speedwagon keyboardist Neal Doughty just happened to be watching it one day right after getting divorced or breaking up with his girlfriend or some such thing, and he felt like joining the HMWHC himself, thus he rolled tape on his VCR and lifted part of the dialogue for the intro to their hit 1981 song "Tough Guys".  Long live the He-Man Woman Haters Club!

Meantime, I’ve been on a Little Rascals binge lately anyway, so why not give them a little salute, o-tay?  Talk about "kickin’ it old-school"!  The Little Rascals/Our Gang comedies are some of the funniest damn things you’ll ever see, and just like their comedic uncles Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges, these classic "shorts" have held up amazingly well over the years and are just as watchable and relevant today as they were 70-80 years ago.  Producer Hal Roach was a genius at discovering and cultivating so many genuinely funny child actors over the run of the entire series (221 shorts in all), beginning in the Silent Era in 1922 and ending in 1944.

Easily the most visible and arguably the most talented Little Rascal was George "Spanky" McFarland, who appeared in 95 episodes and showed incredible comedic skills even at the age of four.  His facial expressions and reactions—modeled after his idol Oliver Hardy, who worked right next door at the Hal Roach studios—were absolutely priceless, especially in his early days in the series.  Matthew "Stymie" Beard idolized Stan Laurel, and the over-sized bowler hat he often wore was a gift from the man himself.  Stymie had some of the funniest lines too, like when asked by a lunch-counter cook how he and Spanky expected to eat the mess of food he had just ordered without any money, "We don’t expect to—we just want to!"  Then there was the irrepressible Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas, with his big shit-eating grin and butchered English.  Oddly enough, Buckwheat was actually cast as a little girl in his first few features.

And we can’t forget that other brilliant actor, Pete The Pup.  He had no lines, of course, but ol’ Petey could ham it up with the best of them.  Actually, there were several Peteys who worked on the show over the years, which accounts for why the circle drawn around his eye was sometimes on the left side and at other times on the right.  There were plenty of other members of the animal kingdom featured on the Little Rascals—monkeys, bears, chimps, cows, cats, mules, you name it.

One thing I loved about The Little Rascals comedies was the inventive machinery and props the producers concocted for the kids to use.  Many of their "appliances" used the circuitous route to get the job done, but whatever works, right?  If you get the chance, check out all the contraptions on "Hook And Ladder" and you’ll see what I mean.  Another aspect of the series that added to its charm was the intentional misspelling of words like on Buckwheat’s hat in the pic here, as well as "Keap Out", "Shakespeer" and "Fire Cheef".  Their painted signs usually featured backward ‘S’s, too, and you can tell they were all done by the same person, as the handwriting was always the same, but it was still funny.

There’s also a rather curious phenomenon surrounding various members of the Our Gang/Little Rascals troupe—many of them died at relatively young ages, and some never made it out of their ‘30s after leaving the series.  Norman "Chubby" Chaney’s weight problem caught up with him and he died at age 18.  Bobby Hutchins—better known as "Wheezer"—was killed while piloting a plane during a training mission in World War II at age 20.  William "Froggy" Laughlin was killed while delivering newspapers on a bicycle at age 16.  Scotty Beckett (he of the trademark over-sized sweater, baseball cap worn sideways and catchphrase, "They never learn…") had a very troubled adult life filled with violence, divorces, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide attempts, the final one of which was successful at age 38.  I guess he never learned either.  In addition, Darla Hood only made it age 47 when she died of hepatitis and Buckwheat was only 49 when he passed away in 1980 after suffering a heart attack.  A few months afterward in 1981, Stymie Beard succumbed to a stroke at age 56 after spending the better part of the ‘50s and ‘60s in and out of jails with a heroin addiction he finally kicked in time to appear on several ‘70s TV shows, including "Sanford & Son", "The Jeffersons", "Good Times" and "Starsky & Hutch".

And then there was that legendary vocal stylist Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer (pronounced SWHITE-sir), who actually considered himself to be a really good crooner, believe it or not.  As funny as he was on-screen, by most accounts, he was quite incorrigible off-screen—temperamental, disrespectful of authority figures, and constantly pulling practical jokes on the other kids (sometimes even mean ones that caused injury).  He apparently had domineering stage parents (as did poor little Wheezer and some of the other kids) who were constantly at odds with the studio over Alfie’s screen time and number of lines he had vs. what Spanky got.  Alfalfa’s adult life wasn’t very pleasant either.  He did a few bit parts in movies here and there during the ‘40s and early ‘50s, but never could sustain his career.  He was shot and killed in January, 1959 at age 31 after he had threatened his ex-business partner with a knife, allegedly over $50 he was owed and a hunting dog he owned.

Then again, many of the former Our Gang-ers made it to old age, like Spanky, who died in 1993 at age 75, Tommy "Butch" Bond who died in 2005 just over a week shy of his 80th birthday, and Gordon "Porky" Lee, who died a month after Bond, just two weeks shy of his 72nd birthday.  Near as I can tell, there are only three well-known Little Rascals/Our Gang regulars still living:  Dickie Moore, who was the Fire Cheef in "Hook And Ladder", Jackie Cooper, who went on to a career as a director (which included a brief stint of early "M*A*S*H" episodes), and the youngster Mickey Gubitosi, whom you might know better as Robert Blake, who went on to—never mind, we won’t get into all that now…

There are numerous Our Gang/Little Rascals DVD collections available out there for purchase or rental, and many of the shorts are now on YouTube as well, but avoid at all costs those misbegotten colorized versions—wrong, wrong, wrong!!  This sounds so clichéd, but if you want to take a fun little trip back to a more innocent time, these little dudes (and dudettes) will surely entertain you.  In the words of Bullwinkle, "You can’t beat the classics, I always say!"  He said it...and how!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 2

Onward and upward with my chronological journey through my concert-going career...

6) Styx (Monday, March 16, 1981—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.50

Styx had been local KC favorites for years, and they became superstars with Paradise Theater in early ‘81, probably their best album ever (along with The Grand Illusion from ’77).  Anticipating high ticket-demand for this show, the promoter decided to put them up for sale all in one location, which was not revealed until an hour beforehand on a cold Saturday morning in January.  Tom and I stood in line for over two hours on the snow-packed concourse of Arrowhead Stadium (jeez, fellas, ya think you could’ve at least shoveled the blasted sidewalks for this) and we snagged three pretty good tickets on the lower level of Kemper straight back from the stage.  The third member of our party wigged out and didn’t attend with us, but later claimed he was there and made up some story about meeting Tommy Shaw in a limo after the show.  This guy was flakier than a Pillsbury pie crust, thus he soon became our ex-friend, but I digress…

When I informed my old man that morning before school where I’d be that night, he says, “Styx?  Isn’t that one of those queer groups?”  Oy!  Meantime, by late in the afternoon, I started feeling really draggy, for some reason.  I knew something was wrong when I couldn’t even choke down a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries for dinner, and as the night wore on, I got sicker, but I somehow still managed to enjoy the show.  Turns out I had come down with a nasty little stomach virus that laid me up for the rest of the week.

There was no opening act for this show (or for their 1983 show that we also attended), which was kinda nice in one way—no need to sit through some lame group you didn’t want to see anyway, right?  On the other hand, Dennis DeYoung and the boys must’ve forgotten that they were a young band once who opened for other groups who “made the grade” (as a certain Styx song goes), like Kiss, and prior to them, David Bowie, for whom Styx opened during their very first KC appearance in 1972 at Memorial Hall over on the Kansas side.  This was also Styx' 15th straight concert sellout in K.C. in the wake of that show with Bowie.

Using the Paradise Theater LP’s semi-conceptual theme as a backdrop, this turned out to be a splendid concert all the way around.  Highlights included their biggies like “Lady”, “Miss America” and “Blue Collar Man”, as well as new stuff like "Rockin' The Paradise” and the new single “Too Much Time On My Hands”.  DeYoung acted as the emcee for the most part, which was great on some levels, like when he introduced “Suite Madame Blue” by saying it was a song he wrote “about how I felt about things that were going on in America at the time,” but rather hokey on other levels when he pandered to the crowd with some story about doing a soundcheck earlier and saying, “there was something missing—YOU people were missing!”  James Young and Tommy Shaw traded solos throughout the night, twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo provided a rock-solid rhythm section, and DeYoung multi-tasked on the keys.  By the time they got to “Come Sail Away”, everyone in the arena was on their feet, including sickly ol’ me, and this was most definitely Styx’s finest hour.  Little did we/they know it was all downhill after this for them…

Just as an aside, Tom also decided to live on the edge a little by smuggling in a small tape recorder at the concert to document the proceedings (á la Rerun at the Doobie Bros. gig on TV's "What's Happening!"remember that one, kids?).  Relax, Dennis, J.Y., Tommy, whoever—the tape was of poor quality and wouldn’t have produced a decent bootleg recording anyway.  I don't think the tape even exists anymore.

7) Rush (Friday, April 24, 1981—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.00

I must confess here that I did not like Rush at first.  I couldn’t get into their album-side-long sci-fi epics, and they just didn’t impress me much, despite the constant raves my older sister kept giving them.  She and her husband lived in Lynchburg, VA for a time in the late ‘70s, and they attended a couple Rush shows in nearby Roanoke and she swore they were the cat’s ass in concert.  When “The Spirit of Radio” came out in late ’79, I started to warm up to Rush a little, and they won me over for good with Moving Pictures, which was one of the best albums of 1981.  The concert Tom and I had tickets for was the second of a two-night stand in K.C., and all I heard at school that day was how awesome the first show had been from those who attended the night before, so we were primed for a really killer show.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get one…

As with Styx the month before, there was no opening act on this night.  Now, I wasn’t expecting the animated pyrotechnics of Kiss or Van Halen here, but I anticipated something a bit more lively than this very flat performance from Rush.  The music didn’t sound all that far-removed from their records (a problem that has plagued Rush off and on throughout their career), and Geddy Lee hardly said two words to the audience between songs all night—a BIG no-no with me.  Guitarist Alex Lifeson didn't really seem very into the show, either, for some reason.  From where we sat in the upper deck at Kemper on stage left, the show wasn’t very loud at all—we could actually converse with each other without screaming.  Probably the highlight of the show was Neil Peart’s very entertaining drum solo, and it was also kinda fun to watch Lee multi-task on the bass, keyboards, foot pedals and lead vocals, but overall, it just wasn’t a very exciting concert.  The crowd was a tad rude, too, as a few assholes kept shooting off fireworks during the set.  While I hesitate to call this the worst concert I’ve ever attended, it was certainly a big disappointment after all the build-up it got—cranking up their live album on my stereo at home would’ve been more satisfying.  Then again, every band has an off-night during a long tour, so I'll give Rush the benefit of the doubt and assume that was the case here.

7) Z.Z. Top/Loverboy (Thursday, August 13, 1981Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $9.50

Prior to 1981, I was just as casual Z.Z. Top fan.  I loved "Tush" and "Cheap Sunglasses" and a couple others, and when El Loco came out with the irresistible "Tube Snake Boogie" and "Pearl Necklace", I decided to check out That Little Ol' Band From Texas in concert.  It was on this hot August night that I became a fan for life.

Loverboy opened the proceedings with one of the better warm-up sets I've ever seen.  They were still running on inertia from their first album from the year before and the hit "Turn Me Loose" (a highlight of their set), and their second LP Get Lucky had just come out, so they were a crowd-pleaser.  The late Scott Smith was a standout on bass (esp. during "Turn Me Loose"), as was keyboardist Doug Johnson.

Meanwhile, as we waited for Z.Z. Top between sets, the girl sitting next to me let out a scream, and all of sudden, there's some stupid drunk fuck stumbling through our row on the lower level all bloodied in the face.  Someone said he'd fallen out of the upper deck (which at Kemper is only about a 15-foot drop) into the aisle next to us and was all dazed.  The fucker dripped blood all over my newly-purchased Z.Z. Top program, too.  Dumbass... 

Once we got the stupidity out of the way, Z.Z. lumbered onto the stage in dirty coveralls just like in the above photo, opening with what I think was "Groovy Little Hippie Pad" off El Loco (memory is a little fuzzy here), then they launched into "Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago", which made the Kemper rafters rumble.  It was hard to believe that it was just three guys creating all this wonderful rhythmic noise.  Highlights were many, including "Manic Mechanic", "Arrested For Driving While Blind", "Heard It On The X" and "Cheap Sunglasses", the latter of which was augmented by a snappy little lazer show.  I was really pleased that they leaned heavily on El Locomy favorite Z.Z. Top album everby playing seven of the ten tracks from it.  For the encore, maracas were lowered on ropes down to Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill just for intro of "Tube Snake Boogie", which they followed up with "La Grange" and "Tush" to wrap things up.  This was the first in a long line of Z.Z. Top shows on this little journey...

9) Pat Benatar/David Johansen (Saturday, October 10, 1981Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $9.50

Boy, did this little lady come along and steal the heart of every guy my age back in 1980-81!  She was sexy, talented and to top it off, she rocked-out too.  Seeing her in the videos was one thing, but we weren't quite sure what to expect of her in concert, like would her voice be able to penetrate that huge wall of amps?  Well that issue was settled once and for all during "Promises In The Dark" when Pat sang that ascending line in mid-song, "...but your heart says try again," and she came through loud and clear on that high note.

Dressed in a black-and-gold leotard, black tights and black ankle boots, the former Miss Andrejewski and her very tight band opened with "No You Don't" (a cover of a Sweet tune), and played an excellent set covering all three Benatar albums that were available at the time.  Guitarist/husband Neil Giraldo impressed me a lot that night and played well, despite having a cast on his right (playing) hand.  Drummer Myron Grombacher was/is one of the more animated players I've ever seenhe was hopping up and down behind his kit throughout the show, and I thought someone would have to strap him to his drum stool.  But for obvious reasons, it was the devine Ms. Benatar that my eyes were riveted on most of the night in her sexy stage attire.  As the review in the K.C. Star by Nancy Ball read, "...and in this spandex age it's sort of refreshing to see the woman wearing the tights in the band instead of the men."

The less said about the opening act, David Johansen, the better.  Ol' Dave was in career limbo at this point between his New York Dolls persona and his future asinine Buster Poindexter shtick (both of which were pathetic), and he absolutely sucked like a Hoover upright that night.  He spent half of his set putting funny hats on his bandmates, one of whom was keyboardist Charlie Giordano, who we would see Benatar's band on the next tour--a major upgrade for young Chuck, I dare say.

10) Van Halen/G-Force (Saturday, October 17, 1981Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.00

Exactly one week after Pat Benatar, it was Van Halen, Round Two, which was every bit as fun as our maiden voyage with them, if not moreso, as this time VH was touring for a much better album, the very underrated Fair Warning.  The videos the band shot on that same tour for "Unchained", "Hear About It Later" and "So This Is Love" are very representative of the show I saw that night at Kemper.

It was once again an outstanding evening, apart from me losing my newly-bought VH t-shirt somewhere between the arena and the car, which I thought was draped over my shoulder.  D'oh!  In best Van Halen tradition, their opening act was the totally nameless/faceless G-Force.  The only thing I remember about them was they were very techno-pop-isha very poor man's A Flock Of Seagulls, if there is such a thing.  One would guess they probably broke up not long afterwards.
Other highlights included David Lee Roth trotting out his new toy, the "Dave-sickle", an acoustic guitar in the shape of a popsicle that he used for the intro to "Ice Cream Man", and I believe this tour also saw the debut of Michael Anthony's infamous Jack Daniels bass guitar.  Eddie was Eddie, of course, and his finger-tapping intro runs on "Mean Street" really got the joint jumpin'.  Alex was Alex too, and after swigging down some liquor prior to his drum solo, DLR proclaimed (totally in jest), "Let's hear it for Alex Van Halen...and his drinking problem!"  Sad to say what a prophetic statement this turned out to be years later.  Anyway, Big Al's drum solo was the first one I've ever seen that featured all four band members playing simultaneously.  Another highlight was Diamond Dave's between-song rap about music critics:  "The guy who reviews this concert in the paper probably looks like Elvis Costello..."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Well I may be a blogger, but I ain't no dancer...

ROY SCHEIDER, 1932-2008
Roy Scheider left us over the weekend, passing away in Arkansas at age 75.  Good actor, and pretty versatile too, as he was nominated for Oscars for such diverse roles as choreographer Joe Gideon in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz and Det. Buddy Russo in The French Connection (or as the Bush Administration would prefer you call it, The Freedom Connection).  And of course, his signature role was Police Chief Brody in Jaws (and Jaws 2), featuring that immortal line “you’re gonna need a bigger boat”, which was reportedly an ad-lib by Scheider.  Pretty stellar ad-lib, as it's permanently etched in our pop culture lexicon.  R.I.P. Roy, ya done good.

I remember reading somewhere that Scheider and co-star Lorraine Gary, who played his wife in the Jaws flicks, didn’t much care for one another during filming.  I found it rather difficult to look at that woman myself—in the words of the late Redd Foxx, “Dat’s a UGLY white woman!”  By the time she did the utterly pointless Jaws The Revenge, I was rooting for the damn shark to eat her!  I also remember reading that Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw (Matt Hooper and Captain Quint, respectively, in Jaws) couldn’t stand each other, either, thus the on-screen animosity between them wasn’t necessarily an act.

Scary moment in last night’s NHL game in Buffalo when Florida’s Richard Zednik was inadvertently slashed in the neck by a teammate’s skate and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery before he bled to death.  The slash severed Zednik's carotid artery and evidently just missed his jugular vein, and it looks like he’s okay and will make a full recovery, but the trail of blood he left on the ice scared the shit out of everyone in the building.  Here's the video, which isn't terribly gory.  Lucky for him, he was treated by the same physician who tended to Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett and may well have prevented him from being permanently paralyzed.  Think this doc might just be in high demand now?  A similar incident also took place in a game on Saturday between Philadelphia and New York when a linesman took an errant skate to the bridge of his nose, and he's okay too.

Zednik's injury was déjà vu all over again in Buffalo, which was the scene of quite possibly the goriest sports injury ever this side of Joe Theismann.  It happened at the old Aud back in 1989 when Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk suffered a very similar injury to Zednik's in front of his goal and immediately started spewing blood everywhere.  Here's the video of it, but be forewarnedit's NOT for the squeamish, so viewer discretion is strongly advised.  It takes quite a bit to gross me out, but even I was squirming when I first saw this replay in '89.  Thankfully Malarchuk had the presence of mind to apply pressure to his neck (as did Zednik) until the trainers came to his aid.  As fast-paced as hockey is, it’s no small wonder this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often.  Too bad there isn’t such a thing as rubber ice skates, eh?

I’m trying not to get too caught up in all this Roger Clemens steroids folderol, but I’m rather amused with the revelation that this Brian McNamee trainer character claims to have injected Clemens’ wife with Human Growth Hormone for a photo shoot she did several years ago.  How on earth does HGH benefit one for a photo shoot?

The “Hannah Montana” show is supposed to be aimed at pre-teens, right?  Then why does Disney Channel air this thing at 10:30 at night (11:30 Eastern time, no less) when kids of that age should probably be in bed?

Okay, which was the bigger waste of time Sunday, the Grammy Awards or the NFL Pro Bowl?  My distaste for the Shammies is well-documented on this blog, so I won’t belabor the point here, other than to say that the Grammy Awards broadcast is now about as relevant as a very average “B.J. And The Bear” rerun.

Of all the major league all-star games, the Pro Bowl is probably the least entertaining, with next weekend's NBA All-Star Game rating a close second.  There’s very little drama, most of the players don’t even want to be there, and the game is so watered-down (for fear of someone getting hurt) that it’s practically unwatchable.  One thing I was proud to see yesterday was Cincinnati Bengals big-mouth wide-out Chad Johnson getting upstaged by his teammate T.J. Houshmandzedah, who scored two TDs for the AFC.  All Johnson did all week long was bitch about how betrayed he felt by the Bungholes for not giving him a fat new contract and all.  I grew really tired of Mr. Ocho-Stinko’s act long ago—he’s an overrated showboater and ESPN highlight whore that I personally can do without.

A co-worker brought in some French Vanilla ice cream at work today.  I asked him why he didn’t get the “Freedom Vanilla” variety instead.  While I'm at it, I'm still waiting for Faux News Channel to try to prove to America that Barack Obama “looks French”.

I'm just all choked-up (pun intended) over this story about Latrell Sprewellonce one of the premier players in the NBAwho apparently has to sell that yacht he's got before the bank forecloses on his house.  This is the same guy for whom a three-year, $21 million contract extension was once insufficient, so he held out for more dough, saying, "I've got my family to feed."  Perhaps we can all chip in and buy ol' 'Spree and family some Chef Boy-Ar-Dee or something...

“I’d Really Love To See You Tonight”—ENGLAND DAN & JOHN FORD COLEY (1977) “There’s a warm wind blowing the stars around…” I thought the line was "There’s a warm wind blowing, the stars are out...” which made a lot more sense, unless there a helluva typhoon up by Alpha Centauri to cause that other phenomenon...

Tonight’s the Westminster doggie show on the ol’ boob tube.  I wonder how our old friend Petey would've done in one of these competitions...

While the dog show airs, this cat demands equal time!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 1

Since 1979, yours truly has attended over 100 concerts (mostly of the Rock ‘N’ Roll variety), and being ever the statistician that I am, I kept a log of the dates and such over the years, so I might as well share my concert memories a few shows at a time (in chronological order). So without further ado, here’s the first installment thereof…

1) “Summer Rock ‘79”: Ted Nugent/Heart/The Cars/Sammy Hagar/ Missouri (Sunday, June 17, 1979Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $12.50

Even though I had just turned 15 years old a mere six days before and was still too young to drive a motor vehicle, I somehow managed to con my parents into letting me attend my first real Rock ‘N’ Roll concert with my good friend Tom.  I don’t even remember how we got there or how we got home, but this was quite a way to begin one’s concert career.

The show began about 15 minutes early, oddly enough, with local favorites Missouri opening.  Their set wasn't overly exciting, but they did a nice job reproducing their songs live and concluded with their signature hit “Movin’ On”.  Sammy Hagar followed with a fairly raucous set, although he wasn’t quite a household name just yet.  He tended to mimic Nugent a lot by galloping and bounding around the stage like Ted, and got a little obnoxious when he started rambling on about his Trans Am.  Another thing I remember about his set was during his encore when he screamed, “Somebody turn this fucking microphone on!”  Uh, Sam, I think it’s on, bud.  Then again, Sam’s never been known for being the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree of lifeaccording to local legend, during Hagar’s next K.C. appearance at Memorial Hall about a year later, someone in the crowd held up a sign that read “Iranians Go Home!”  This was during the heart of the Iran hostage crisis, but Sammy misread it as “Trans Ams Go Home”, and subsequently went off on some long tangent about his favorite motor vehicle.  But I digress…

Speaking of motor vehicles, next up were The Cars, who weren’t terribly well-received, but this partly because of the interminable hour-long set change before them and mostly because they all just kinda stood still (only John Entwistle was allowed to do this!) and were pretty boring.  The lone highlight for me was “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”, with Greg Hawkes' keyboard figure during the choruses echoing around Arrowhead.  The Cars were totally out their element here anyway, as they certainly weren’t a stadium bandsmaller venues suited them better, and I hadn't gotten into them yet, although the Candy-O album went a long way in thawing my opinion of the band.

Heart followed as the late afternoon sun beamed down, as Ann and Nancy Wilson delievered a solid 90-minute set comprised of their big hits and cuts of their latest album Dog And Butterfly (or Dog And Butt, as my record store receipt read when I bought it later).  Ann prowled the stage in high heels (they must have been highI could see them all the way from the upper deck) and sang her, well, her Heart out.  I don't know why I haven't seen Heart in concert sincethey were really good live.

The headliner and my idol at the time, the Rev. Theodosius Atrocious, hit the stage a little after 6:00 and rocked the house for about 90 minutes.  Nugent was slightly hobbledas we later learnedby an ankle injury he’d sustained early in the week, therefore he wasn’t doing his usual leaping off the amps and so forth.  He did his other stage antics, like pounding the microphone into his chest and screaming, "Can you hear my heartbeat, K.C.???" before "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" and kicking amps over during "Motor City Madhouse"', etc.  Oddly enough, the highlight of Ted’s set wasn’t his music so much as the impromptu trash melee that ensued about halfway through as he played "Great White Buffalo".  I have no idea what started it, but all of a sudden, people all around the stadium started throwing stuff, and before we knew it, the air was filled with beer cups, hot dog wrappers, cardboard food trays, and various and sundry projectiles flying every which way.  Nugent himself was rather amused by it all and urged the crowd to “Throw that shit! Throw that shit!”  I’ll never forget the terrified Black guy working the concession stand on the field level grabbing a cardboard box and putting it over his head for protection.  Some guys were even running back to the water fountains on the concourse, filling cups up and dumping water on people below.  No one was hurt, as far as we know, so no harm, no foul.  Too bad Nugent wasn't playing "Free-For-All" at the time instead.  It was a long day for us concert rookies, but a very fulfilling one.

2) Kiss/Judas Priest (Sunday, September 30, 1979Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $10.00

My first indoor Rock concert was every bit as memorable as my first outdoor one.  My favorite group of all-time in the flesh for the first time.  I was so mad when my parents wouldn’t let me see Kiss when they came to town in ’77 (twice!), but I finally convinced them to let me see them this time, and even though the Dynasty tour was pretty much a disaster by Kiss standards, evidently Tom and I caught one of the better shows on that tour.

Judas Priest opened the show, and I distinctly remember hating them from the get-go.  They were so bloody loud, you couldn’t understand a word Rob Halford sang, and I thought they were awful.  It took me a few years to warm up to these guys, and I later recognized that the Beast that is The Priest was indeed a fine heavy metal outfit after all.

Kiss made their entrance by coming up through the floor of the stage (as opposed to flying in from above on the prior tour) and opened with “King Of The Nighttime World”, followed by “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll”.  Tom and I were perched in the very back row of Municipal Auditorium right next to the spotlight turret, but even from there we had an awesome view, and we rocked out.  I remember Paul Stanley’s between-song stage patter being particularly funny that night, with lines like “It feels great to be back in the Capital of Meat!” and “We know you can bring the roof down tonightyou people blew the roof off Kemper Arena!”  As a matter of fact, the only reason this show was at the Aud was because Kemper’s roof had collapsed just four months earlier.  This was the only time I saw Kiss as the original foursome during their heyday, but it was awesome, and I couldn’t hear a damn thing at school the next day…

3) The Who/The Pretenders (Saturday, April 26, 1980Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $12.00

Just five months removed from the Cincinnati tragedy, The Who carried on with their 1980 tour.  Just ten months removed from the Kemper Arena roof collapse, the joint re-opened in February and was ready to rock again.  We had to send off for tickets in the mail for this show, and my older sister and I were among the lucky ones to snag a couple for the show.  It turned out to be one of my all-time favorites too.  We were lucky to even get tickets to this one, as they were available by mail only, and there were over 32,000 requests for less than 16,000 seats at Kemper Arena.

The Pretenders were a hot commodity during this time.  Their much-celebrated debut album was all over the radio, including the hit single “Brass In Pocket (I’m Special)”.  I wasn’t all that crazy about them at the time, therefore I wasn’t terribly blown-away by their performance that night, so please disregard my prejudice.  Two things I remember about their set:  1) Drummer Martin Chambers must have gone through at least two dozen drumsticks, as they went flying out of his hands in all directions, and 2) my sister knew little about The Pretenders beforehand, and it took her the better part of the set to finally figure out that Chrissie Hynde was a chick!

The ‘orrible ‘Oo opened with “Substitute”, a song I was still unfamiliar with at the time.  I was still a bit of a neophyte Who fan then, but after seeing The Kids Are Alright film a few months earlier, I quickly became a convert.  When my sister asked me what time we should head out for the show, I naturally replied, “5:15”.  I was also quite hopeful they would do my man John Entwistle’s signature song “My Wife” at this show, and they did (complete with horn section too).  Another highlight of the set was “Sister Disco” from Who Are You with its swirling lights set in time to the synthesizers in the song.  I also remember Roger Daltrey losing track while doing his trademark microphone swinging and ducking for cover, nearly clocking Pete Townshend on the noggin!  I’ve heard others say that the Pretenders blew The Who off the stage that night, but that ain’t how I remember this showThe Who kicked ass in my eyes.

4) Ted Nugent/Scorpions/Def Leppard (Tuesday, June 18, 1980Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $8.50

Exactly one year and a day to the day of my first concert encounter with The Nuge came my second encounter with The Nuge, and better yet, this time I could actually drive to it, having gotten my driver‘s license exactly one week before.  Better show from Ted this time, now fully-recovered from his ankle injury from the year before, although this was during his loin-cloth period wherein that’s all he wore on stage.  Ironically I took more away from this show from the 40-minute sets by the two opening acts, a rising band from Germany called Scorpions who were all over the radio at the time with a song called “The Zoo” and an upstart outfit from Sheffield, England called Def Leppard, whose members at the time averaged 19 years of age, and had a really cool song out called “Rock Brigade”.  Some folks predicted then that they might go far.  They did…

5) Van Halen/The Katz (Friday, August 22, 1980--Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $9.50

This was VH’s second headlining tour of America, and per their usual, they brought along a totally forgettable opening act like The Katz.  My memory is pretty acute, but the only thing I remember about them is they played Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over" during their set.

VH hit the stage with a very high-energy set, opening with “Romeo Delight” from their new album Women And Children First, and about halfway through, David Lee Roth blurts out, “I forgot the fucking words!”  Methinks he did this on purpose, but whatever, these guys were good!  I remember bassist Michael Anthony pounding away on this keyboard contraption shaped like a bomb during “…And The Cradle Will Rock” and the guitar pyrotechnics of one Edward Van Halen were hard to ignore on this night.  Someone tossed a joint onto the stage, and DLR smoked it, natuarlly.  This would be the first of many lovely evenings spent with Diamond Dave and the boys…