Saturday, February 23, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 5

The hits just keep on comin'...and would you believe, we're not even a quarter of the way done yet?

21) Kiss/Molly Hatchet (Tuesday, March 1, 1983—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: ???

What a difference 3½ years makes sometimes.  The first time we saw Kiss in 1979, they packed the place and were still on top of the world, but 1983 was a totally different place for The Hottest Band In The World.  Since we last saw them live, Peter Criss was replaced by a young whippersnapper named Eric Carr on the drums, and unbeknownst to me until literally the day of this show, lead guitarist Ace Frehley had been replaced by Vinnie Vincent.  I didn’t have MTV yet, and music news traveled real slow around these parts back then, thanks in no small part to our old Rock station, KY-102, who for whatever reason, refused to acknowledge Kiss’ existence (yes, I’m still bitter!), so when I saw a new photo of the band in the paper that afternoon, I was like, “Who the fuck is this guy?!?”  I’d been eager to check out young master Carr on the drums, as I had readily accepted him in the band, but I wasn’t ready for another new guy, even though he did kinda-sorta look like Ace Frehley.  There was also one other new Kiss dynamic I wasn’t quite ready for that night—a very paltry crowd, as the place was barely half-full!

That’s not to say this was a bad concert.  Not bad at all, really.  Kiss’ Creatures Of The Night tour was also dubbed their “10th Anniversary Tour”, and it featured one of their more unique stages, which was in the shape of the front of an armored tank.  Huge ramp-like “treads” on both sides flanked a rotating gun turret upon which Carr’s drums sat that doubled as a big confetti bazooka.  With the Creatures album signaling a return to the down-and-dirty heavy metal Kiss sound after three-plus years in the musical wilderness, the set list leaned heavily on their new record, with the title track opening the show, along with other new songs like “I Still Love You” and “War Machine”.

Vinnie Vincent may have slightly resembled the Space Ace, but he sure didn’t play like him!  His solos were lame, and it looked like he didn’t really give a shit most of the time.  Unlike Vincent, Kiss fans (me included) took to new drummer Eric Carr almost right away, and he became a fan favorite over the years, and with good reason—he was pretty damn good! The only real knock on Eric was that he played the older Kiss classics like “Cold Gin”, “Black Diamond” and “Firehouse” at almost stupid-fast tempos, but I think Gene and Paul might’ve been behind all that to make Kiss sound more like the hot contemporary Metal bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.  The rest of the show was typical Kiss—lots of pyro, Simmons burping blood and spitting fire, and Stanley working the crowd with his between-song raps.  It was still rather eerie seeing all those empty seats in the back of the hall, as all the other concerts we’d attended to this point were sellouts or near-sellouts, but it was a loud and enthusiastic crowd, all the same.

Molly Hatchet is one of my favorite Southern bands of all-time, but I recall that they had a somewhat checkered history when it came to Kansas City area gigs.  There was a show here in 1979 that was supposed to be simulcast live on KY-102, but they apparently had beaucoup sound problems at the venue and the broadcast was scrapped at the last minute.  At another show in 1980, singer Danny Joe Brown walked out on an MH gig with opening act Blackfoot at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.  The “official” reason given was he had a bad reaction to an insulin shot for his diabetes.  While Brown was indeed a diabetic (which also contributed to his untimely passing in 2005), I think the real reason had more to do with a conflict over money (or so I heard).  Brown left the band not long after that to form his own group, the cleverly-named mouthful Danny Joe Brown & The Danny Joe Brown Band.  He was replaced by Jimmy Farrar, a decent singer who would’ve sounded much better in a group like say, Marshall Tucker Band, but was a poor fit for Molly Hatchet.

After two mediocre albums with Farrar, DJB returned for one of my favorite Hatchet albums, 1983’s sadly-overlooked No Guts…No Glory.  Hatchet also had a new rhythm section on this tour—drummer B.B. Borden and bass player Riff West, the latter of whom looked kinda like a redneck version of Rush’s Geddy Lee (at right in pic).  “It’s your party, Kansas City…” Danny Joe announced during their set, which included lots of new stuff that I really liked—“What’s It Gonna Take?”, “What Does It Matter?” and “Fall of The Peacemakers”, the latter of which featured the triple-lead guitar attack of Dave Hlubek, Steve Holland (no relation to me) and the late Duane Roland.  They also did old faves like “Dreams I’ll Never See”, “Gator Country” and “Flirtin’ With Disaster”, and it was a good set, overall.  Still, it’s too bad we never really got to see Molly Hatchet in their prime with Danny Joe Brown as a headliner here—they were a damn good band if you caught them on the right night.

22) Pat Benatar/Red Rider (Tuesday, March 8, 1983—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $11.50

Two straight Tuesdays, two straight concerts (on nights when I probably should’ve been studying for mid-terms or something), and my second rendezvous with the divine Ms. Benatar.  Damn, I love the sound of that phrase!  For this tour, Pat employed a nearly all-white stage set, as opposed to the nearly all-black one last time around.  She also jettisoned unnecessary rhythm guitarist Scott Sheets from her band and replaced him with keyboardist Charlie Giordano, who played on her new album Get Nervous.  For some reason, I don’t remember this show quite as fondly as the first time I saw her in ’81.  This may have been because the material off the new record wasn’t quite as strong, apart from “Shadows Of The Night” and “Anxiety (Get Nervous)”, the latter of which featured Pat underlit from below the stage with creepy green lighting (like what Gene Simmons uses when he pukes blood) to underscore the whole “mental ward” theme of the song.  While not as memorable as the ’81 show I saw, Pat still looked hot, and she and the band gave yet another solid performance.  Her guitarist/soon-to-be husband Neil Giraldo was surprisingly animated, as well, dancing around while he played, and at that time he bore a strange resemblance to actor Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing...

Tom Cochrane and Red Rider opened the show, but I don’t remember much about them, other than the first song was kinda cool (the title of which escapes me) and their big hit “Lunatic Fringe” was a natural high point.  They were certainly a far superior opening act than David Johansen was for Benatar in ’81, anyway…

23) Berlin/Some local techno-pop band (Thursday, April 21, 1983—Uptown Theater) Ticket price: $8.50

In early 1983, my good friend Tom—the more musically open-minded of the two of us—kept raving about this new group called Berlin and their controversial song “Sex (I’m A…)”, which I was largely unimpressed by at first.  It leaned a tad heavy on the synthesizers and was pretty over-the-top, lyrically--i.e., a little too slick for me.  Still, Sir Thomas managed to talk me into seeing the band live, and I was glad he did, because it turned out to be a pretty good performance.  The opening act (whose name I never caught) was some techno-pop outfit with a female singer/keyboardist.  This was the first and only time at a major concert I’ve attended where the opening act actually had to tear down their own equipment after playing!

Berlin’s set began with just the guys in the band playing an extended intro piece that allowed lead singer Terri Nunn to make a grand entrance, and they led off with “Masquerade”, a very underrated song from their debut EP Pleasure Victim.  Ms. Nunn (who is also an actress and once auditioned for the role of Princess Leia in Star Wars), looked quite fetching in her little cocktail dress, black stockings and poofy blonde hair, and she had a unique stage presence—part sex kitten, part slut.  The rest of the band were kinda prissy-looking in a Duran Duran sort of way, but still they played well.  Other standout songs included “Tell Me Why” and “The Metro”, which later got regular rotation on the MTV, and the show consummated with “Sex” (sorry!).  They stretched their signature song out a bit, with Nunn and keyboardist John Crawford getting down and dirty at center stage with some serious bumpin’ ‘n’ grindin’, while the guitar player lurched into a few bars of Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever”.  Hell, this was a sexier show than the boys were probably getting at the titty bars down the street!  Overall, a surprisingly good concert, and I’m sorry I ever doubted Tom about Berlin…

24) Styx (Wednesday, May 11, 1983--Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $12.50

Rock ‘N’ Roll meets Broadway!  When Styx was accused by conservative Christian wing-nuts of planting subliminal demonic messages on the song “Snowblind” from Paradise Theater via the process known as backward-masking, Dennis DeYoung took things a little too personally.  It inspired him to conceive his own little Rock opera, Kilroy Was Here, all about an oppressive society where Rock music was banned and everything was controlled by the dreaded MMM (Majority for Music Morality).  Our hero, musician Robert Orin Charles Kilroy ( Chandler Bing might say, can you BE any more contrived?!?), escapes imprisonment at the hands of the evil clutches of the MMM by disguising himself as a futuristic "Roboto" and encounters a young musician named Jonathan Chance who leads the revolution to bring Rock ‘N’ Roll back, and they all lived happily ever after.  After seeing this catastrophe, banning Rock music didn’t sound like such a bad idea!

It was one of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” kind of things, but looking back now, the presentation of Kilroy in concert was more than a tad absurd.  There was no opening act for Styx once again on this tour, and the show began with DeYoung and Tommy Shaw orating lines as if they were in a low-budget porn flick before giving way to James “J.Y.” Young’s guitar solo that led into “Rockin’ The Paradise”.  Once the live music began, it was the usual Styx fare, until it came time to “act” again, which totally disrupted the flow of the concert.  Of all the Kilroy songs that were staged that night, the only one I found even mildly entertaining was “Heavy Metal Poisoning”, featuring J.Y. as the Jerry Falwell clone "Dr. Righteous".  The song-and-dance bit with J.Y. and the Panozzo brothers as his henchman (performed to taped-accompaniment) was fairly humorous, and “Poisoning” was the only song off that album really rocked out.  When they did get around to actually playing Styx songs, the show was fine, but the whole theater aspect of it made this concert rather indigestible.  This was Rock ‘N’ Roll in the Twilight Zone, you might say, and sadly, Kilroy pretty much destroyed this band.

Our seats for this one were located in the upper reaches at the back of Kemper Arena, and I was rather amused by this dumb kid at the other end of our row who got drunk off his ass before the lights went down, and by show’s end, he was puking all over the brand new Styx t-shirt laying in his lap.  He appeared to be a rank amateur with the alcohol, but I was curious whether his vomiting was induced by the booze or the show, or both.  I didn't bother asking him, tho...

25) Jerry Reed (Friday, May 27, 1983--Tuffy’s KC Opry House) Ticket price: ???

Another musical left turn here, and a rare Country Music concert for me.  My longtime friend John has always been a big Country fan, and he talked me into attending this show.  I didn’t mind, since I was familiar some of JR’s material thanks to my older brother’s Best Of Jerry Reed 8-track tape that got constant play in our house, and I loved the film Smokey & The Bandit as well.  This turned out to be a pretty good show, although for some reason I don’t remember too many specifics about it, other than "Eastbound And Down", "When You're Hot, You're Hot" and "Amos Moses" being high points.  The best part of all was an unexpected brush with greatness after the show when we queued up in front of the stage and got to meet the man himself and he autographed the back of my ticket, for which I thanked him and he replied, “Right on, brother!”  I remember Reed took one look at Johnwho is quite stockyand said to his assistant, “Look at the shoulders on that boy!"  And, no, he's not Hank Snow's brother...

Tuffy’s KC Opry House is actually the Englewood Theater in Independence.  It’s the same classic old movie house my older sister dragged me off to see Disney’s Fantasia (against my will) when I was a kid.  The Englewood was converted into a live concert venue in the early ‘80s, and has changed hands numerous times since then, but I think they still show classic movies there today.  A few months after the Jerry Reed show, John and I attended another show there involving a friend of his who played guitar in a cover band called Tyrant, whose use of pyro scorched one of the curtains in the theater.  I don’t guess they got paid for that gig, huh?

Assorted nuggets

It was announced yesterday that Southern Methodist University in Dallas will provide land for the Dubya Prezdenshul Libury (that's George W. Bush Presidential Library in English).  What, they couldn't find an abandoned 7-Eleven suitable enough to house it in?  I can see it now:  Free admission with every Slurpee!  Better yet, here's my suggestion for the proper place to store Dubya's enduring legacy, courtesy of FEMA:

Some goomer on Faux News Channel made the following prognostication about Hillary Clinton's chances in the upcoming Texas Primary:  "If she gets more delegates, I think she'll win."  Duhhh, gee Gomer, ya think?

Part of the NFL draft order was determined by a coin flip between the Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders yesterday because of a three-way tie between them and the Kansas City Chefs.  Atlanta won, and will now choose 3rd, the Raiders 4th, and the Chefs 5th.  I missed the coverage on ESPN yesterday, but I imagine the analysis thereof went something like this:

Sean Salisbury:  "Now if that coin had risen another five inches in the air and rotated a bit more, the Falcons might have wanted to choose tails".

Ron Jaworski (excitedly):  "But, if they had used a 50-cent piece instead of a quarter and tossed it at a 45-degree angle, then heads would've been the better call to make!"

Chris Berman:  "In that scenario, Jaws, then maybe the coin flip should have been presided over by 50 Cent...or maybe Eddie Money...or Roseanne Cash...or..." [Guffaws ensue]

I read in the paper yesterday that one of our own from right here in Raytown, Petty Officer 2nd Class Andrew Jackson, is the one who lined up the coordinates for the missile launch that took down the wayward old spy satellite that was hurtling back to earth on Thursday.  Nothing petty about his accuracynice shootin', kid!

Earlier this week I rented that cinematic classic Planet Of The Apes, which I'd never actually seen before.  Even after putting aside my bias about charmin' Chuck Heston, I was still unimpressed.  Okay, these astronauts are shot into space and frozen in time (รก la "Lost In Space") and wake up 2,000 years later on a planet that looks a lot like Earth with air fit for humans that is inhabited by apes who speak perfect Englishsome even with British accents!  Sorry, but I can only suspend my disbelief so much...

The University of Indiana rid itself of head men's basketball coach Kelvin Sampson yesterday by buying out his contract after he was accused of doing the same misdeeds that got him in hot water at Oklahoma.  Very disappointing too, because I really thought this guy was on his way to being another coaching legend like Dean Smith or Roy Williams, but apparently he's just another cheater.  Dumbass...

"Color In Your Life"MISSING PERSONS (1986)  "'Cause you make love electricalwelcome to the festival..."  Even though this was the last gasp from this band, I thought it was a very cool song.  Still, I was a tad confused about the lyric during its chorus, because it sounded like Dale Bozzio sang, "Welcome to the vegetable" instead of "festival".  I love that line "You make love electrical," and I'd love to have a woman of the female persuasion sing it to me sometime...

Here's something that just boggled my mind as I was scanning upcoming DVD release dates the other day:  "Punky Brewster"-Season 4.  Think about it for a secondthat stupid show actually lasted that long?!?  The phrase '"Punky Brewster"-Season 4' is a contradiction in terms along the same lines as "Military Intelligence", "Starring David Spade" and "Beloved character Jar Jar Binks".

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 4

The saga continues...

16) Elton John/Quarterflash (Tuesday, July 6, 1982—Starlight Theater) Ticket price: $15.00

One of the finest concerts I’ve ever attended—certainly in my top two or three—which I previously profiled here on the blog last summer on the 25th anniversary thereof.

17) Van Halen/After The Fire (Saturday, August 7, 1982—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $10.50

Three straight years, three straight Van Halen concerts, and #3 was definitely a charmprobably my favorite of the seven times I’ve seen them live.  The air was filled with anticipation, and of all the 100-plus shows I’ve been to, I don’t ever remember a concert crowd being that fired-up to see the headliner as they were that night.  Every time a light flickered during the set change, people started to cheer thinking that Van Halen was about to hit the stage.  We had outstanding seats for this one, about a third of the way up the lower level at Kemper, almost even with the barricade on stage left, at eye level with and about 15 yards away from Eddie Van Halen when he ventured over to his corner of the stage, which was often. 

This was the Diver Down tour, and while that album was fairly disappointing, the new stuff still came off well that night, like "High ‘Em High", "Little Guitars" (with EVH strapping on the appropriately-sized axe, like at left) and their killer cover version of Roy Orbison’s "Oh Pretty Woman". It was most definitely a party as only Diamond Dave and the boys could throw, and one I would probably rank in my top five concerts ever if you put a gun to my head.  As good as the show was, the thing I remember most about that night happened during the opening act, After The Fire.  This was right before they had their lone hit, "Der Kommisar", so they were nobodies to us, and they were awful.  No, waitworse than awful.  We’re talking double-secret probation awful, here!  So awful in fact, that a gentleman in the front row, who I can only assume was a Van Halen fan, stood up and let ATF know how awful they were by lifting his right arm with his middle finger raised on high, right in front of their lead singer!  A true Kodak moment…

18) "Summer Rock ‘82"—R.E.O. Speedwagon/Ted Nugent/John Cougar/Rainbow/707 (Sunday, August 15, 1982—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $17.50

The Summer of ’82 was a busy one in KC concert-wise in general, and there were not one, but two mega stadium concerts at the home of the Chefs, which at least gave Arrowhead something worthy to do that year besides hosting crappy football.  Mother Nature even cooperated this time, but just in case, my friend Tom and I splurged and bought reserved Club Level tickets under the roof to stay high and dry in the event of another Foreigner-esque monsoon.  As with that Foreigner show on Memorial Day, I had to work until 2PM, which was showtime, thus we missed the opening act 707.  Their lone claim to fame was the 1980 lost classic hit, "I Could Be Good For You", and they later featured a guy named Tod Howarth, who subsequently joined forces with the Space Ace in Frehley’s Comet in the mid-‘80s.

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow followed with a somewhat-abbreviated set, as I recall.  Rainbow was now on their third singer, with Joe Lynn Turner having replaced Graham Bonnet ("All Night Long", "Since You’ve Been Gone"), who replaced Ronnie James Dio ("Man On The Silver Mountain", "Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll") when he replaced Ozzy in Black Sabbath.  Confused yet?  Anyway, "Stone Cold" was their big hit at the time.  Their set was plagued by sound problems throughout, which led Blackmore, in a fit of frustration, to inadvertently gouge a huge hole with his guitar neck in the big decorative canvas screen in front of the speaker stacks at stage left.

When this concert was first announced, April Wine was originally slated for the third spot, and I was really looking forward to seeing them because The Nature Of The Beast was one of my favorite albums the year before.  But for whatever reason, AW pulled out and were replaced on the bill (much to my chagrin) by John Cougar Summercamp$&^#*@@!!!  Out of respect to my readers who are Cougar fans, I won’t comment on his set.  Honestly, I really don’t remember much about it, anyway—I was probably either at the concession stands or in the can throughout most of it!  Suffice it to say, he failed to win me over that day, but I'll give credit where credit is dueBig John had one of the most appropriate album titles in music history!

After headlining a few stadium concerts over the years—and nearly getting them banned here because he was too fucking loud—Ted Nugent was demoted to second-banana on the bill this time, thanks in large part to his ill-advised 1981 bomb of an album, Intensities In 10 Cities.  He left Epic Records after that and resurfaced on Atlantic with a modest comeback, the 1982 Nugent LP, which also marked the first of several returns to his band by singer/guitarist Derek St. Holmes—what a coincidence that Nuge’s best records are the ones with St. Holmes on them!  Journeyman drummer Carmine Appice also joined the band for this tour, but his tenure was short-lived—no doubt a clash of egos occurred at some point.  The highlight of the set was easily the new song "Bound And Gagged", all about the Iran hostage crisis, before which Ted got the crowd chanting "Kick some fucking ass!"  That time, he was actually right about something political for one of the rare times in his life.  The rest of the set wasn’t bad, although strangely subdued for the Motor City Madman.

Meantime, this show was a coronation of sorts for R.E.O. Speedwagon, as they were now more or less kings of the musical hill around these parts after over a decade of working their way up through the ranks.  Kansas City was very crucial to R.E.O.’s early success, and they rewarded us by recording parts of their 1977 live album at Memorial Hall on the Kansas side, and to finally headline a stadium show over someone they used to open for (Nugent, and maybe even Rainbow too) must’ve felt pretty sweet to Kevin Cronin and the boys.  Although I always liked the title track from their new release Good Trouble, that album had the unenviable task of following up their colossally successful Hi Infidelity, and I think R.E.O. probably peaked on their previous tour.  Speedwagon put on a good show that nightnot quite a great oneand were well-received, despite a couple of glaring omissions from the set list, namely "157 Riverside Avenue" and "Golden Country".  I seem to remember the show was a tad short too, thus mildly disappointing, but it still wasn’t a bad way to spend a Sunday and wrap up my summer before starting college the following week.

19) Olivia Newton-John/Tom Scott Band (Friday, September 24, 1982—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $15.00

A bit of a musical left turn for this one, but I wasn’t about to miss the woman who I’d lusted mightily after from about age 9 thru 11!  The show opened with musician Tom Scott and his band—he appeared on several of George Harrison’s records in the ‘70s, as well as working with the Blues Brothers—and they also doubled as Olivia’s backing band.  Just two days shy of her 34th birthday, Olivia Newton-John didn’t look a day over 25 that night, and she was in the midst of the most successful period of her career, building on the success of 1978's Grease soundtrack, 1980’s Xanadu soundtrack (mediocre movie, but a great album) and dominating the charts in ’82 with Physical.  ONJ came onstage looking "good enough to take to Chinatown" (to use Fred Sanford’s beauty measuring scale), and opened with "Deeper Than The Night", then followed with a quick medley of her older country hits from the ‘70s (I hate medleys in concert, btw).  Then she snuck off-stage while the band carried on for a bit, and re-emerged in a different outfit and sang "Make A Move On Me", which woke everyone up and she owned the crowd the rest of the night.  Olivia did the quick-change routine a couple more times, but surprisingly this didn’t disrupt the flow of the show too much.  She saved her other biggies for the end"Magic", "Physical", "I Honestly Love You" and "You’re The One That I Want" (with one of the guys from the band subbing for Travolta).  We expected a great show from Olivia, and she did not disappoint.

A post-show incident marred my memory of the evening a bit, though.  As Tom and I headed back to the car, we passed by the big crowd that had gathered outside the tunnel leading to the backstage area and thought, "What the hell" and hung around for a bit, hoping for a possible glimpse of Ms. Newton-John on her way out.  We did get to see the bass player and percussionist from the band ambling up the ramp, but that was about it.  After about 20 minutes or so, a huge stretch limo barreled up the ramp and when it rounded the corner onto the street, it struck a young girl standing by the curb and knocked her down.  It didn’t look like she suffered any permanent damage, but it was damn reckless of the limo driver to do that in a crowd, and then just drive off like he did.  I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but one of my new college professors witnessed the incident too, and mentioned it in his lecture the following Monday.  Small world, I guess…

20) The Go-Go’s/A Flock Of Seagulls (Sunday, October 3, 1982—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $10.00

In the fall of ’81, I’d heard about this all-girl group that played their own instruments, but I’d never actually heard them until one morning when "Our Lips Are Sealed" came on the radio, and I was instantly hooked without even seeing them (no MTV for us yet).  Hell, on this record, The Go-Go’s sounded like cute babes, and damned if they weren’t!  Not long after, I snagged their first (and best) album Beauty And The Beat, and about a year later, they made their first appearance in Cowtown, where you might say "we got the meat".  Oops, sorry about that…

We originally thought we’d see The Go-Go’s open for The Police back in March, but they pulled out of that tour to head back to the studio and record what turned out to be their rush-job second LP Vacation.  Cute cover and inner sleeve and all, but not real strong content-wise, so it was the first album’s stuff that sustained the show that night in October.  All five Go-Go’s were/are very attractive, and I was always partial to singer Belinda Carlisle and rhythm guitarist Jane Wiedlin.  Belinda had/has great legs and it was fun to watch her dance and sway in her stiletto heels, while Jane was/is a bit more pixie-ish hopping around in her more sensible shoes.  Lead guitarist Charlotte Caffey stood out on songs like "Lust To Love" and "This Town", while Kathy Valentine laid down some funky bass on "We Got The Beat" and their concert staple "Cool Jerk".  I was also impressed with drummer Gina Schock, who is a very good timekeeper, and I was thoroughly convinced The Go-Go’s actually were playing their own instruments, in spite of rumors to the contrary that were floating around at the time.  My only real complaint was Belinda’s between-song patter, which came off as kinda air-headed and pithy at times.

By the by, if you want to see a really good live concert video of The Go-Go’s, I highly recommend the one called "Totally Go-Go’s"—that is, if you can actually find it! It used to only be available on Beta tapes and Sony Picturediscs (remember those?) back in the day, and I’m hoping it resurfaces on DVD someday soon, because my Beta player died years ago.  It’s a great document of where they were just before they went national, plus it has an added bonus of the cheap thrill of seeing up Belinda’s skirt a couple times thanks to the low-angle camera shots!  Ah yes, the fine art of "eyeing little girls with bad intent", but I digress...

Meantime, A Flock Of Seagulls was a very pleasant surprise as the opening act.  Although their performance came off a tad robotic like Devo or even The Cars, I remember they sounded really good that night—very crisp and clear, and I was impressed enough that I went out and bought their debut album a little later on, and it’s probably my favorite record of the Techno-Pop era.  Unfortunately, groups like AFOS and Missing Persons had a very short shelf-life, and faded away almost as quickly as they appeared on the scene.  A little aside:  long about this time, Tom drank a lot of beer one night and got pretty wasted, and as I played designated driver, "I Ran" came on the car radio, and he goes, "Oh, there’s that new song about the hostages…"  I’ll give you a minute or two to make the connection there.  Tom was a funny drunk back then…

20½) The Who (Friday, December, 17, 1982—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $10.00

Not an official concert per se, but I’m including it here anyway, since it was sorta like being there as we attended the closed-circuit live satellite broadcast from Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens of The Who’s final show on their much-publicized 1982 "Farewell" Tour.  We were very disappointed there was no KC date on this tour, although I heard there was a potential gig lined-up for a night that the Kansas City Kings had a game slated for Kemper Arena, and they were totally unwilling to reschedule it.  Kemper’s other main tenant at the time, the Kansas City Comets indoor soccer team—who were then outdrawing the Kings in droves, thus had more at stake—even offered to move one of their home games to accommodate the Who tour, but things just didn’t work out.  Thus, Kansas City got screwed on account of a mediocre NBA team with a Mickey Mouse front office.  Was I heartbroken when the Kings left town three years later?  Here’s a little hint:  "Don’t cry for me, Sacramento…"

This tour is generally regarded by most Who fans as one of their worst, but I’ve watched the video of this show a zillion times over the years, and I never thought it was all that bad really, apart from how blatantly obvious it was that Pete Townshend didn’t want to be there.  Even Pete’s trademark windmills on the guitar seemed forced, and his apathy was readily apparent (not to mention downright maddening) throughout.  This was also what I call Pete’s "bad haircut" era, and he just had a very negative aura about him—you could tell this tour was just a big paycheck to him.  "Just hand me my checkbook, and I’ll crawl off to die…" as PT once wrote.

Meantime, stalwarts Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle saved the day by performing brilliantly, while drummer Kenny Jones was merely adequate.  Don’t get me wrong:  Jones is a very good drummer—just not a very good WHO drummer.  The show featured a few surprises on the set list throughout, including from the very start as they opened with "My Generation"—which Townshend had steadfastly refused to play on this tour prior to that night—along with rarely-performed songs like "Love Ain’t For Keeping", "Naked Eye" and "Drowned".  Roger even played rhythm guitar on the title track to It’s Hard, as well as on "Eminence Front", which also featured keyboardist Tim Gorman.  The Ox also nearly blew the roof off the place with his none-too-subtle "The Quiet One" from the middling Face Dances album.

There were also a few moments of levity during this show, even from the moody Townshend, like stomping on a big fake arachnid at the conclusion of "Boris The Spider", as well as following "It’s Hard", when he muttered into the microphone, "What’s hard is making it feel hard."  Hey, Viagara—there’s a potential catchphrase for you!  I also loved Daltrey’s introduction of Entwistle: "He’s known by many names: 'The Ox', 'Thunderfingers'...'Big Johnnie Twinkle'!  And quite a few others…"  The funniest point of the show occurred when Roger got a little too close to Pete while doing his trademark microphone twirling, and it took Daltrey nearly two verses of "5:15" to finally untangle his microphone cord from Townshend’s guitar cord!

If this truly was a bad Who tour/show, so be it.  But, as the old axiom goes, The Who on a bad night were still better than most bands on their best night, and even back then you just knew this wasn’t the end for them, anyway…

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


...underestimate the power of the Dark Side!

Blog--exciting and new...Come aboard, I'm expecting you...

Sorry, but I just can't help but be excited"Love Boat", Season One comes out on DVD in a couple weeks!  Also sorry I haven’t done much blogging on current events and such, but I got so wrapped up in doing my Concert Trek series that I misremembered to keep up on things lately…

So nice of Fidel Castro to finally step aside as leader of Cuba, but I ain’t holding my breath on things changing much there as long as his brother’s in charge.  The good news is little Castro is only about five years younger than Fidel, so I think we can safely assume he won’t have a 50-year reign like his brother did.  Meet the new bosssame as the old boss...

I heard that Rev. Fred Phelps and his merry band of nutjobs planned to protest at two of the funerals for the victims of last week’s shootings at Northern Illinois University, never mind that homosexuality didn’t have a fucking thing to do with it.  This is crude to say, I know, but wouldn’t it be kinda nice if one of these crazed gunmen just took out the Westboro Baptist Church instead of innocent bystanders?  I will never understand what possible satisfaction anyone could derive from disrupting the funeral of some stranger who never did anything to them.  One of these days, these weirdos are going to piss off the wrong people with their deranged protests, and I can’t wait to see it happen.

I love this story about the U.S. Navy potentially shooting down a crippled old spy satellite tomorrow before it crashes into something on Earth.  You don't suppose while they're at it they could take out the satellites that bring us BET and Faux News Channel?

I also find this week’s massive beef recall from a California processing plant a tad amusing.  Seems to me that recalling meat that’s two years old—most of which has already been consumed—is every bit as pointless as keeping score at a Harlem Globetrotters game…

I found it downright laughable when the Raytown street crews charged up and down my street twice on Sunday morning to the plow the whole one inch of snow we had just received.  To top that off, it stopped snowing about an hour after that and the sun came out and melted most of it anyway.  A complete waste of time, gas and equipmentin other words, my tax dollars hard at work...

Nice to see a true mutt win the Westminster Kennel Show last week instead of those sissy-looking frou-frou dogs that usually win.  Uno did Snoopy proud by becoming the first Beagle to ever win this thing in like 100 years.  I still say they should have a separate weenie-dog competition, too…

Great article in last week’s Newsleak about how all the conservative TV, radio and print pundits/pinheads now all have skidmarks in their drawers over eventual Pres. nominee John McCain.  McCain actually did pique my interest at one point, but he lost me when he started kissing ass with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to win support a couple years ago.  I initially swore up and down that I wouldn’t vote for a Republican even at gunpoint in this election, but then again, if Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, O’Reilly, Beck, Malkin, et al, are so dead set against McCain, then he’s probably worth taking another look at.  At the moment, Obama’s still my front-runner, but you never know.

What's amazing to me is all those people claim to be so in-touch with the pulse of the rank and file of the American voting public, yet they are so blind to the fact that people are fed up with the same old bullshit we've been getting from the Dubya Administration, therefore even staunch conservatives are turning to McCain in droves.  I'd like to ask ol' Rush and Bill O'Retard, et al, do you have any better suggestions for a decent candidate?  Huckabee and Romney sure don't appear to be cutting the proverbial cheese...

It makes me so proud as an American (cue the Lee Greenwood song and keep yer hankies handy!) to know that our elected officials have their priorities in order these days.  Hell, screw that war in Iraq, skyrocketing gasoline prices, (lack of) gun control, the bazillion-dollar deficit and a looming recession—by dingies, let’s go get those bastard sports cheaters!  Between last week’s Roger Clemens circus before Congress and Arlen Specter obsessing about the NFL’s "Spygate" scandal, it’s certainly nice to know that all of our ducks are in a row…

By the way, why is it every time there’s some sort of scandal in this country, the media always attaches the suffix "gate" to it?  Watergate was just the name of a hotel—there was no gate involved in the scandal itself.  What’s going to happen if there’s ever a scandal at the Kentucky Derby—are they going to call it "Starting Gate-gate"?

"The Spirit Of Radio"—Rush (1979)
 "Bright antennae bristle with the energy…"  I was a little slow on the uptake hereI first thought Geddy Lee sang, "Bright and tender, bristle with the energy."  Duh, it’s a song about radio, dummy!

I read where hack TV host Pat O’Brien recently entered rehab for the second time.  Now I see where he may have gotten some of his delusions, like when he was working for CBS Sports and reporting on Bo Jackson’s hip injury and said something like, "I’m sure those who love Bo Jackson—and I think that includes everyone—wish him a speedy recovery."  Uhhh, don’t include me in that group, buddy—I think Bo Jackson was/is a horse’s ass.

Coming soon to a theater near you—yet another Will Ferrell movie where he has the same stupid look on his face in the print ads for it!  Ferrell is this generation’s Chevy Chase—all smarm and no charm—and just like fellow SNL-alum Adam Sandler, all his movies are just variations on the same theme.  This current one, Semi-Pro, was inspired by the old American Basketball Association from the ‘70s, and what sucks about that is they missed a golden opportunity here.  Instead of some schlock parody film that’ll be forgotten in a month, they could’ve just done an actual biopic on the ABA and I guarantee you the true stories would be ten times funnier than anything they could make up.

If you ever want to read some hilarious (and true) sports stories, I highly recommend the book Loose Balls by Terry Pluto, which chronicles the wild and crazy history of this forgotten league that once tried (and nearly succeeded) to rival the NBA.  The stories about the old Spirits of St. Louis team alone are priceless, like when star player Marvin Barnes was confused by the departure/arrival time of a flight from Louisville to St. Louis, which because of the time zone change had it arriving six minutes earlier than take-off, which led him to say, "Man, I ain’t gettin’ in no time machine!"  Meantime, the ABA’s impact on the sport of basketball is hard to ignore, as they gave us the three-point shot and all-star slam dunk competitions, and they were one of the first sports leagues (along with the American Football League) to feature the players’s names on the back of their uniforms.  I also highly recommend a visit to a wonderful ABA tribute site here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Star-Crossed History

Time to take a brief timeout from the Concert Trek series to salute the venue at which I have attended more concerts (26) and sporting events (over 300) than any other, Kansas City's dump with a hump, Kemper Arena.  Kemper is a place I have a love-hate relationship with, and I find it rather ironic that the old St. Louis Arena was at one time called The Checkerdomea moniker that should have been bestowed on Kemper, considering its checkered past.

Here’s what Kemper looked like when it first opened.  Officially known as R. Crosby Kemper Memorial Arena, so named for a local banker who donated a big chunk of change to build it, Kemper Arena was parked in the heart of the famed K.C. stockyards, right next door to the old American Royal Building, which was best known for hosting livestock shows, rodeos, and minor league hockey during the '60s and early '70s.  Looking like a big white oversized plumbing company headquarters with its pipe-wear holding up its roof, it was hoped that the arena would spur major development in the surrounding West Bottoms area (i.e. bars, restaurants, hotels, et al), but that never quite materialized.  In spite of its poor location, Kemper Arena had at least one good thing going for itoutstanding sightlines for both concerts and sporting events.  It also didn’t take long for Kemper to find a place in the national spotlight, as barely 18 months after opening, it hosted the 1976 Republican National Conventionoriginally slated for downtown's Bartle Hall, which wasn’t completed in time to nominate Gerald Ford and Robert Dole (AKA, “Dull & Dole” as Johnny Carson once dubbed them).

Seating just over 16,000 humans, when Kemper Arena opened, the paint was literally still drying the night on November 2, 1974 as the NHL’s expansion Kansas City Scouts lost to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3, after beginning their season with a 10-game road trip necessitated by putting the finishing touches on their new home.  The Scouts only won 20 games at Kemper in their brief two-year existence in KC, with the high point being December 3, 1975 when they knocked off the mighty Montreal Canadiens 6-5, tying a team record for most goals in a game, including a hat trick from Wilf Paiement, who was the closest thing the Scouts ever had to a star player.  In spite of attracting decent crowds (for that era, anyway) and having what I think were the coolest uniforms (see left) in the NHL, the team owners were undercapitalized, and the Scouts moved to Denver after the 1975-76 season to became the Colorado Rockies (not to be confused with the baseball team of the same name), and they're now the New Jersey Devilsstill my favorite NHL team.  What can I say?  I’m a loyal som-bitch...

Kemper Arena was also home to the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, beginning in ‘74.  The Kings' first home here, venerable Municipal Auditorium, was not available during parts of January and February each year because of annual conventions and exhibitions, thus we had to share our NBA team with Omaha from 1972 thru '74, and that didn’t sit too well with local fans.  I still say this was a big reason why that team failed to succeed here.  Even after moving to Kemper and dropping "Omaha" from their name, the Kings still played half a dozen games a year in Nebraska for several years, as well as staging 3-4 “home” games a year in St. Louis during the ‘80sI don’t think they ever did play a full home schedule in Kansas City throughout their 13 seasons here.  Apart from an unexpected and exciting playoff run in 1981, the Kings never totally caught on here, in spite of having several star players like Nate “Tiny” Archibald (see pic), Phil Ford, Otis Birdsong, the late Jimmy Walker (not J.J. from “Good Times”), Reggie Theus and Scott Wedman.  The team bolted for Sacramento after the 1984-85 season.

Kemper Arena’s biggest claim to fame as a sports venue is probably as a college basketball venue.  The annual Big 8 (now Big 12) postseason Tournament always packed the place, and Kemper also became known as “Allen Fieldhouse East”, as the University of Kansas enjoyed beaucoup success there, including winning the 1988 NCAA Tournament against Oklahoma.  It was during a 1986 NCAA Tourney regional game involving KU on national TV that a clock malfunction on the scoreboard may have benefited the Jayhawks, and it led to the eventual replacement of the main Kemper scoreboard in 1988.  Meantime, the popularity of the Big 12 Tournament grew by leaps and bounds here, and in one of the bigger wastes of money in recorded human history, Kansas City decided in the mid-’90s to blow $20 million to add 3,000 nosebleed seats on the east side of the building that were only used once a year, thus giving the arena its new hump and glassed-in atrium area.  You’d think this little addition would’ve included moving the outdoor box office indoors, but noooooo!  Even venerable old venues like St. Louis Arena, Chicago Stadium and our own Municipal Auditorium had/have indoor ticket booths, but hockey fans and concert-goers are still expected to freeze their hineys off waiting in line for tickets at Kemper.  Poffeycock!

My favorite memories of Kemper Arena involve my favorite sports franchise ever on this planet, the mighty Kansas City Comets of the old Major Indoor Soccer League.  When the Comets moved here from San Francisco in 1981, they instantaneously became the hottest ticket in town, and actually outdrew the Kings at the gate during the early '80s.  I fell in love with the sport and the team almost immediately, and by the mid-‘80s, I ate, slept and drank the Comets.  I’ll never forget the orgasmic scream I let out on April 19, 1985 (I rarely scream, folks!) when midfielder Tasso Koutsoukos scored the game-winner @ 1:22 of overtime, as the Comets finally beat their longtime nemesis St. Louis Steamers 4-3 in a playoff game that was probably the most intense sporting event I’ve ever attendedI’m tellin’ ya, folks, this was war!  From that point on until the bitter end in 1991, I only missed two Comets home gamesmy devotion to that team was such that I even passed up a Kiss/Ted Nugent concert in early, 1988 (WTF?!?) at Municipal Auditorium the same night in favor of the Cometsand I was totally heartbroken when the team folded.  I remember one week in 1986 when I practically lived at Kemperbetween Comets games and concerts, I was there five out of the seven nights that week!  The Kansas City Attack of the NPSL replaced the Comets in 1991-92, and while they were actually a better team on the field and went on to win two league championships in the '90s, it was never quite the same vibe as the original team.  The Attack even changed their name back to Comets in 2002, but they struggled at the gate and subsequently ceased operations and, as of this writing, are still waiting for this mythical 10,000-seat Johnson County arena to be built for them over on the Kansas side.  Meantime, look for a full-fledged salute to my beloved Comets on this here blog sometime in the not-so-distant future.

The void left by the Comets was partially filled by our minor league hockey team, the Kansas City Blades of the International Hockey League.  The Blades had a dismal inaugural season in 1990-91, but affiliated themselves with the NHL’s fledgling San Jose Sharks the next year, and went on to win the IHL’s Turner Cup in 1991-92 after sweeping the Muskegon Lumberjacks 4-0 in the champeenship series.  Yours truly unwittingly got his five minutes of fame at a Blades game long about 1995 or so because my game program was autographed by a Blades player, thus I got to do the tire roll contest on Kemper ice between periods of the game.  I whiffed on both attempts of rolling a tire from center ice to the goal, but still won a new free oil change from Firestone.  Unfortunately, I had just recently had my oil changed—d’oh!

No discussion of Kemper Arena would be complete without mentioning the roof collapse on June 4, 1979.  A nasty little thunderstorm blew through town that evening with 70-plus-mph wins and heavy rains, the combination of which was enough to send the scoreboard crashing to the floor and ¾ of the roof along with it.  Thankfully, the arena was empty at the timeif this had happened at the same hour the night before, there’s no telling what carnage we’d have witnessed.  Kemper was closed nearly nine months for repairs, and re-opened with a Kings game on February 20, 1980 vs. Seattle (I was there), and the current roof has remained intact ever since.  Between that and the infamous Hyatt skywalks collapse two years later here, it seemed like the sky was falling around these parts…

Other numerous problems have plagued Kemper Arena throughout its existence.  To begin with, the arena sits in what is a rather unsavory part of town.  It can be a bitch to get to sometimes, as it’s bordered on one side by railroad tracks and by the Kansas (Kaw) River on the other.  Kemper sits amongst numerous abandoned warehouse buildings (several of which now serve as “haunted houses” every October), loading docks, dead-end streets and the old stockyards itself.  You can even pass by the ol’ K.C. Bolt, Nut & Screw Co. on the rickety 12th Street Viaduct on the way there!  It’s an area very similar to that surrounding Seattle’s Safeco Field and Seahawks Stadium (and previously The Kingdome), but some forward-thinking Seattlelites were on the ball by converting many of those old warehouses and freight docks into brewpubs, restaurants and other retail outlets, whereas the West Bottoms area here only has three actual places to hang out before and after Kemper events:  the venerable Golden Ox steakhouse (which is a tad too pricey for the average sports fan), a small Italian eatery and a hole-in-the-wall bar/restaurant.  The bar inside Kemper itself is a travesty, with one bartender trying to serve 200 people at once.  Official arena parking is also a tad scarce, often forcing patrons to park in gravel lots filled with mud puddles.

One also needs a fair amount of muscles to open the metal doors just to get in the place.  Once inside, Kemper Arena itself also leaves a lot to be desired.  Maybe it’s just me, but every time I walk in, I catch this whiff of dirty mop bucket water, especially in the dimly-lit johns, where one is expected to pee into a trough lined with rusty pipes.  The gray concrete concourses don’t exactly entice one’s eye either.  Once inside the seating bowl, the lighting is patchy and dark in places, and the PA has all the fidelity of a C.B. radio and/or Kraco car stereo from the ‘70s.  Acoustics for concerts are iffy, at best, as well.  Then there’s the infamous Daktronics scoreboard, which replaced the malfunctioning one in 1988.  The scoreboard itself is fine, but the original video screen (the “Dak-O-Matic” as my friend Tom and I derisively called it) was a joke.  It was one of those rear-projection jobs that only worked effectively when the arena lights went down during the pre-game shows.  The rest of the time, you were viewing a shadowy white screen 90% of the time.  During the late ‘90s they replaced it with a dot-matrix video screen that had a bit more definition/resolution, but it’s so microscopic you need binoculars to view the blasted thing!

Another black mark on Kemper Arena took place on May 23, 1999, when WWF wrestler Owen Hart fell to his death from the arena rafters during a stunt gone wrong when his safety harness opened prematurely as he was to be lowered to the ring.  Two guys I worked with at the time were there and saw it in person.  Not sure I’d have been much in the mood to watch phony wrassling after seeing all that, but as they say in show bidness, the show must go on, and it did that night.  Then again, things haven’t been all bad at the big house at 1800 GenesseeElvis left the building here one last time almost two months to the day before he died in 1977; the live version of Paul McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed” you usually hear on the radio from Wings Over America was recorded there on May 29, 1976; one track from Fleetwood Mac’s 1980 Live LP was done at Kemper (“Over My Head”, I want to say); Ozzy Osbourne and REO Speedwagon both did full-length live concert videos there circa 1985-86neither of which I attended, much to my chagrin!

With the advent of the new Sprint Center downtown, Kemper Arena’s future is mostly cloudy at best.  The Kansas City Brigade of the Arena Football League called Kemper home the last two years, but is moving to Sprint this season, thus Kemper is resigned to mostly serve bucolic endeavors in connection with the annual American Royal livestock show and rodeo, as well as various tractor pulls and motocross events, and its tenure as a sports arena is pretty much over, apart from hosting the occasional UMKC home basketball game (when Municipal Auditorium is unavailable).  One thing that will most assuredly endure until they implode the place is this damn silver mylar balloon that attached itself to the Kemper rafters sometime in the early ‘80s.  Every time I go to Kemper, I make sure to glance upward to see if it’s still hanging around, and after 25 years or so, it’s still there!  Nice to know that some things never change…

Ticket Stubs--The Lost Art

Not sure why I didn't think of this before while doing my Concert Trek series, but here's a little visual evidence of the shows I 've profiled so far (click pic to enlarge).  Remember the good ol' days when concert tickets were printed in advance?  They were certainly more aesthetically pleasing than today's bastardized print-'em-on-the-spot tickets.  That's Kiss in the middle of the top row, Ted Nugent on the left of row two, Rush on the left of row three, ZZ Top next to them, and "The" Police at the bottom right.  You might also note the water damage on the Foreigner stub there!  Unfortunately, my Pat Benatar, Quarterflash and Charlie Daniels stubs are missing in action and presumed lost.