Saturday, March 8, 2008

You're being inspected--have no fear...

If you’re wondering why I sometimes give my blog entries such non-sequitor titles, it’s because I try not to repeat the same ol’stuff all the time, like "Odds and Ends", "Misc. Thoughts", "This and That", etc.  Plus, I kinda like being irreverent now and then.

Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead one hour tonight, as Daylight Savings Time is already upon us this year.  Although I prefer setting them back and gaining one hour instead of losing one, it’s still kinda fun to be able to manipulate time like this.

Speaking of the "Time Warp", I rented Rocky Horror Picture Show again on DVD this week.  I’ve seen this thing at least three times now, and I still don’t get what the big deal was.  I know it was a big cult classic and total camp and all—camp can be a lot of fun, sometimes—but I still think it’s overrated as hell.  I guess it’s one of those "you had to be there at the time" kinda things to appreciate the full impact of it.

I’ve been meaning to acknowledge the passing of Mike Smith, former lead singer of the Dave Clark Five, who died last week of pneumonia.  Smith suffered a debilitating fall in 2003 that left him paralyzed, which came on the heels of the accidental death of his son three months earlier, and I remember reading about a benefit concert staged for him to help offset his medical bills a couple years ago.  Like most people, I automatically assumed that Dave Clark was the singer of the band that bore his name, but in fact DC was the drummer and Mike Smith sang and played keyboards.  He's not to be confused with late drummer Mike "Smitty" Smith of Paul Revere & The Raiders, who died in 2001.  DC5’s Mike Smith’s passing is eerily similar to that of singer Dusty Springfield, coming just days prior to induction into the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

While I’m on the subject anyway, here’s my all-time Dave Clark 5:
1) Try Too Hard (1966)
2) Any Way You Want It (1964)
3) Glad All Over (1964)
4) Catch Us If You Can (1965)
5) Bits And Pieces (1964)

Quite possibly the flukiest Top 5 hit single in history was Hurricane Smith’s "Oh Babe, What Would You Say?" from late, 1972.  Smith warbled this piece of ‘30s-sounding pastiche that was unlike anything else on AM radio at that time, yet in the '70s it fit right in!  If you're not familiar with that song, here's what it sounds like, although this video is totally unrelated to it.  Born Norman Smith, Hurricane was nearly 50 when he recorded the song, and was already well-known in the music industry as the studio engineer on all of The Beatles’ albums up through Rubber Soul (John Lennon dubbed him "Normal"), and he passed away earlier this week at age 85.  He also worked with Pink Floyd and several other bands during his career.  I never even knew what the dude looked like until I found this video of him on YouTube doing a song that sounds similar to "Oh Babe".

Is anyone out there as tired as I am of these stupid Internet ads with these two hoochie-mamas reacting to something as if they’d just won the lottery?  Yes, I know it’s just an attention-getting tactic, but one of these chicks looks like she’s about to wet her pants, and I’m finding it very hard to believe that anyone would get that excited over new low mortgage rates!

…why is it most corporations only hold job fairs on weekdays when people who have jobs they hate can’t attend?  I see these things advertised on TV and in the papers all the time, and they’re always on weekdays, which is fine for the unemployed, but why don’t they ever conduct job fairs on weekends or in the evenings when normal nine-to-fivers who might be thinking of changing jobs/careers (like me, for instance) can attend without taking time off?

Packers QB Brett Favre announced his retirement this week, thus setting off the BFLF (Brett Favre Love Fest), which is still ongoing on ESPN.  Don’t get me wrong—I have nothing against Favre, but I’m so sick of the way the media fawns over him the way they do.  I was mildly surprised that he’s not coming back for one more season, but then again, what more does he have to prove?  Kind of a shame, too, that the last pass he ever threw was an interception.  Favre also violated one of the basic tenets of football during his farewell address Thursday:  There’s no crying in football—except at Dick Vermeil press conferences…

The jury is still out on whether our new Rock station in K.C., 99.7 The Boulevard, is going to fly or not.  I'm still hearing way too much Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison and Eric Clapton on there for my liking, but every once in a while they surprise me with some good stuff like Pete Townshend's "Slit Skirts" from 1982.  Unfortunately, one has to sit through drivel like Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" and Edie Brickell's "What I Am" to get to the good stuff.  Station still needs some tweaking, but there's hope anyway...

…that I officially became a working stiff.  I began my first real job on this date in 1981 as a busboy at Waid’s Restaurant just outside of Raytown.  Yes, for $3.35 an hour, I got to clean up after people in my itchy brown double-knit uniform.  Oh well, I had to pay for all those concert tickets somehow!  I eventually worked my way up the food chain and became dishwasher, baker and fry cook over the next five years.  If nothing else, I learned how to cook for myself there, and I can proudly say that I never worked at a McDonald’s…

Friday, March 7, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 8

Through the past darkly...on we go!

36) Elton John (Thursday, September 20, 1984—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $15.00

After Elton’s spectacular show two years before at Starlight, I was naturally pretty stoked about seeing Captain Fantastic in concert again, and while this show wasn’t quite as good as ’82, it was still pretty good stuff.  Once again, Elton toured with what I think is quite possibly the greatest backing band any musician ever hadguitarist Davey Johnstone, the late Dee Murray on bass and drummer Nigel Olssonalong with second guitarist Fred Mandel.  Why Elton ever broke that band up is total mystery to me.  This concert also marked the debut of my own little personal innovation at concerts—a handy notepad for to keep track of set lists on!

With no opening act, EJ played a longer set than in ’82, and there were quite a few changes to his set list on this tour, right from the opening numbers "Tiny Dancer" and "Levon", as well as adding "Philadelphia Freedom", "Candle In The Wind" and "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me".  He also leaned rather heavily (too heavily for me, actually) on tracks from 1983’s Too Low For Zero, even more so than his new album Breaking Hearts.  Apart from thumpers like "I’m Still Standing" and "Li’l ‘Frigerator", Elton was getting a bit complacent and falling into a comfortable rut, as all his albums started sounding the same with fluff like "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" and "I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Flu—er uh—Blues", a trend that plagued him throughout the rest of the ‘80s.  There was one song from Breaking Hearts I was hoping he would perform called "In Neon", but he sadly omitted it, and "Rocket Man" was much shorter and not nearly as sonically trippy as the way they played it at Starlight, but overall it was still a great show.  To get a good taste of it, there are several clips from Elton's Wembley Stadium concert from that same tour included on the recent Elton At 60 DVD.  Here be a little taste of that show.  Hercules!  Hercules!  Hercules!

THE SET LIST:  Tiny Dancer/Levon/L'il Frigerator/Rocket Man/Daniel/ Restless/Candle In The Wind/Bitch Is Back/Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me/Who Wears These Shoes?/Sad Songs (Say So Much)/Bennie & The Jets/Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word/Philadelphia Freedom/Blue Eyes/I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues/Kiss The Bride/Too Low For Zero/I'm Still Standing  ENCORES:  Your Song/Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting/Goodbye Yellow Brick Road/Crocodile Rock/Medley: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On/I Saw Her Standing There/Twist And Shout

37) Iron Maiden/Twisted Sister (Monday, December 17, 1984—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: Free

I had no idea I would even be attending this concert until about two hours beforehand, when my friend Tom called to inform me that he’d somehow snagged some free tickets for it.  I was rather torn about attending at first because I had a final exam the next day, plus missing "Monday Night Football" on TV was sacrilege to me back then.  Also, I wasn’t terribly familiar with Iron Maiden’s material at that time, other than "Run To The Hills", thus I was suddenly put into the following quandary:  "Whadda you wanna DO with your night?!?"  But, since I really liked Twisted Sister, and since you can never beat free tickets, I said "I Wanna Rock!", and we attended.  Turned out to be a pretty good move, too.

In spite of being the opening act, Twisted Sister’s stage set was pretty much like what you saw in their video for "We're Not Gonna Take It" with the chain-link fence, etc.  The way they played, you’d have thought they were the headliners too, as Dee Snider and the boys were well-received by the relatively small crowd—about 6,000 as I recall.  Their set was great, but I did have issues near the end when Snider was trying to get the crowd all worked-up and make noise, etc., and he pointed out some guy in the crowd standing with his arms folded and Snider began berating him for being a wimp and not getting into the show.  I think it’s very uncool when performers try to bully their audience like that.  I myself was usually pretty passive and stoic during concerts, and preferred to just kick back and soak the whole show in, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t truly into it.  Sorry, Dee, but I’ll enjoy the show in my own way—I don’t need to be told what to do!  In spite of all that, I do like Dee Snider a lot, and TS played a damn good set that night.  Too bad that band didn’t have a longer shelf-life…

When Iron Maiden’s stage set was revealed, I was already impressed with them before they even played a note.  Their stage was an Egyptian-themed motif to match the cover of their new Powerslave album, and it seemed even more massive than a Kiss stage set.  And even though I was unfamiliar with most of the songs they played, I was impressed with their musicianship, especially bassist Steve Harris, who might well be the fastest bass player in the world.  Singer/screamer Bruce Dickinson was pretty good too, and I remember the standout songs that night were "2 Minutes 2 Midnight" off the new album, as well as "The Number Of The Beast" and the encore "Run To The Hills".  And then of course, there was IM’s ever-present 20-foot-high mascot Eddie, who dropped in during the middle of the act for a visit.  I was impressed enough that I picked up Powerslave shortly afterwards, and while to this day I have trouble getting into some of Iron Maiden’s mythical and/or gothic subject matter in their songs, I do like the testosterony-ness of their music.  Not a bad concert for free, either!

38) Kiss/Queensryche (Wednesday, December 26, 1984—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $12.50

When Tom and I first saw Kiss in 1979, we had back row tickets at Municipal Auditorium.  The second time we saw them in ’83, we upgraded to the loge section about halfway between those back row seats and the stage.  For our third sojourn with The Hottest Band In The World, we upgraded all the way to the second fucking row at stage left—for a whopping $12.50 a ticket, no less!  Hell, $12.50 won’t even cover the damn convenience fee for second-row Kiss tickets today.  I was stunned to snag such phenomenal tickets after only waiting in line for about three hours at the old Love Records store in Midtown K.C. (remember them, friends?).  As we came to find out later, though, second-row seats aren’t necessarily what they’re cracked up to be because between sets during the inevitable rushing of the stage by the people behind us, our chairs got so scrambled around that I wound up standing parts of three different ones and sharing them with other people the rest of the night.  My ankles were killing me the next day, too.  By the way, is it just me, or does Paul Stanley look as if he's about to puke his guts out in the above photo?!?

In addition to Tom, for this concert I also had a new co-pilot, my first-ever girlfriend, Lisa #1 (there was a Lisa #2 a few years later, hence the distinction), to whom I had just lost my virginity two nights earlier on Christmas Eve.  We’d been seeing each other about three months, and being the good boyfriend that I was, I invited her to the concert even though she was more of a Country music fan, and didn’t know squat about Kiss.  If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have brought Lisa along, because she didn’t have a very good time, which I couldn’t really fault her for—second row at a Kiss concert with Gene Simmons and his tongue hovering over her was probably not the best way to break in a Rock concert rookie!  It also didn’t help that because of the stage-rushing chair scramblefest, she wound up about arm’s length from me and we never could get that close to each other until the show ended.  Truth to tell, Lisa and I didn’t have much of a relationship anyway, one that can be succinctly summed up by a classic Bob Seger lyric:  "I used her, she used me—but neither one cared."  Not real proud of that, but at least I'm being honest.  And I digress…

As for the show itself, it weren’t too shabby.  This was Kiss’ Animalize tour, but since they didn’t play here on the truncated Lick It Up tour with the dearly-departed Vinnie Vincent the year before, there was plenty of new stuff for them to play.  As was the case on the Creatures Of The Night tour, we got acquainted with yet another new lead guitar player for Kiss, and it wasn’t even the one we were expecting.  The late Mark St. John, who replaced Vincent for the Animalize LP, was unable to perform because of an arthritic condition called Reiter’s Syndrome, so Bruce Kulick was brought in to temporarily fill in for him. St. John’s condition never improved, and young master Kulick took over permanently.  While not very animated on stage, Bruce was/is a damn good guitar player, and he served this band well for the next 11 years.  Meantime, Eric Carr was really hitting his stride as a drummer by this point in his career, and his solo was even longer and more powerful than the last time, with his drum riser even going mobile toward the front edge of the stage.  Gene and Paul even threw "Little Caesar" a couple bones by letting him sing lead vocals on both "Young And Wasted" and "Black Diamond".

Oh yeah, there was this other new wrinkle, too—this was the first time we saw Kiss in concert without make-up, and while the look was definitely different, the show was still pure Kiss, and they were just as good without the white stuff as they ever were with it.  Minus the platform boots, the guys were much freer to romp around the stage, plus it was plenty loud, there was still plenty of pyro, and seeing them up close was a special thrill, in spite of being twisted like a pretzel while standing on the seats.  You could literally "feel my heat" during the chorus of "Heaven’s On Fire" when the flashpots lit up—it felt like my eyebrows had been singed!  We were even close enough that I could see the seam on the side of Gene’s leather pants was about to bust open at mid-thigh.  This was also the tour that Gene wore that blatantly-obvious wig (see "Young And Wasted" video) to conceal the haircut he’d gotten for his recent role in Tom Selleck’s action flick Runaway.  I never understood what he needed the wig for—it’s not like he got a crew cut or anything.  His hair wasn’t all that much shorter than it was during the Music From The Elder era three years earlier, and he didn’t have a problem performing live with that hair length.  By show’s end, Gene’s perspiration made that damn rug looked like a drowned rat! 

Speaking of show’s end, there was a rather curious occurrence before the encore as Paul Stanley thanked the crowd, when these two guys emerged onto the stage from the shadows—it was none other than Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick.  Paul whirled around and exclaimed, "Hey—it’s Cheap Trick!" and the pair came out and waved to the crowd while Gene mockingly sang, "Surrender—Surrender, but don’t give yourselves away…" then just like that, they disappeared into the night.  Don’t know what they were even doing there—Cheap Trick had no concerts in the area then that I was aware of—but damned if this wasn’t a great missed opportunity for a fun little jam session.  Just as well, I guess, I’ve read that Kiss were lousy jammers, Gene and Paul especially.  Anyway, if you want a real good taste of post-make-up live Kiss, I highly recommend the Animalize Live Uncensored video, which was taped about three weeks prior to this show.  It’s out on DVD now, and my copy even has Spanish subtitles—Viva el Beso!  It’s one of Kiss’ better live recordings, and Eric Carr’s drum solo here is phenomenal.

Queensryche opened the show with a fairly lackluster set.  This was long before they got big, and I’ve always had trouble getting in this band.  Although I liked parts of 1990’s Empire, I was pretty turned-off by all their pseudo-intellectual psychobabble—dudes, this is Heavy Metal, not Quantum Physics class!

THE SET LIST:  Detroit Rock City/Cold Gin/Creatures Of The Night/Fits Like A Glove/Heaven's On Fire/Under The Gun/War Machine/Young And Wasted/I Love It Loud/I Still Love You/Love Gun/Lick It Up/Black Diamond  ENCORE:  Rock And Roll All Nite

39) Deep Purple/Giuffria (Wednesday, February 13, 1985—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $13.50

One album that got a tad more than a few spins on my turntable during my Fall ‘84 semester at UMKC was Deep Purple’s reunion album Perfect Strangers.  This was one of those rare times when once-estranged members of a major band reunited and more or less picked up where they left off, and it was one of my favorite records of the year.  The subsequent concert tour was quite successful as well.

During the Winter ’85 semester, I had an evening class on Wednesdays, so we arrived just as the opening act Giuffria (a Gene Simmons discovery) was doing their encore, their one and only hit "Call To Your Heart", so I can’t really comment on their set.  I only recall that they had really really big hair!

Purple’s set was quite good, although not nearly as loud as their legend cracked them up to be.  The set list was about half new stuff and half old stuff, and both sets of stuff were very good.  The only one of the old songs I could’ve done without was the long and drawn-out "Child In Time", especially since singer Ian Gillan couldn’t scream it like he used to.  Beyond that, he was in great voice, and as I remember was fairly jovial with his between-song patter.  He even worked in a bit of an inside joke during one song with the line "I don’t want to drink your poison" from his role as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar several years earlier.  The new songs that really stood out were "Knockin' At Your Back Door" and "Nobody's Home", a personal DP favorite of mine.  Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore had a much better night this time than he did with Rainbow at Arrowhead in ’82 (see "Concert Trek"—Episode 3), and much to my surprise, he was even willing to play "Smoke On The Water" which he’d developed a pretty healthy aversion to after playing it so many times over the years.  The other standout on this night was Jon Lord on the keyboards as he did his trademark rocking of his organ (no, not that organ!) back and forth, and his extended solo was accompanied by an animated rockin' Ludwig van Beethoven on the rear-projection screen.

I came away from this show with a pretty good impression of this band.  While it wasn’t quite Made In Japan-ish, it was a pretty good concert, anyway, and I still can’t fathom why these guys aren’t in the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame.

40) Kiss/W.A.S.P. (Saturday, January 25, 1986—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $14.00

After attending 39 concerts from June, 1979 to February, 1985, I’m a bit stumped as to why I went nearly an entire year without going to any.  I'm not sure if there just weren’t any good tours during that time, or if it was money or school or work or what.  One factor was quite possibly the 1985 Kansas City Royals, as I went to quite a few ballgames during that magical champeenship season, plus Tom and I took a pretty lengthy vacation in August too, which could at least partially account for the lack of concert-going on my part that year.  And of course, Animotion and A-ha never made it to town, either...d'oh!!

Anyway, it was back to the good ‘ol Aud again for yet another Kiss show.  After our slightly harrowing experience in the second row in ’84, Tom and I retreated back to the relative safety of the loge section for this one.  For the first time, we saw the same Kiss band lineup for two consecutive shows, as they toured in support of their new album, the underrated (even by the band itself) Asylum.  I was very disappointed that Kiss chose to only play two songs off the new album ("Tears Are Falling" and "Uh! All Night") when there were several good ones to choose from like "Any Way You Slice It" and "King Of The Mountain".  They also tried throwing in a cover version of The Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again" that came off rather flat.  The stage set was also not one of my favorites, featuring their new gargantuan light-up Kiss logo that had multi-colored lights within the framework of the letters.  [Memo to G. Simmons: Bigger isn’t necessarily better!]  The stage was also flanked by yellow staircases shaped like lightning bolts that extended out toward the audience on the sides, but the band hardly used them.  Bruce Kulick said later that he hated those stairs because he kept roughing up his knees on them.  Oh, and then there were those gawd-awful day-glo get-ups the guys wore on that tour.  Even Simmons admits total ignorance for his fashion faux-pas:  "I looked like a drag queen!"  At least his hair was real this time.  In spite of all that, it was a good show, but hardly a great one.

As I did when Motley Crue opened for Ozzy, I was very interested to see this latest outrageous opening act, W.A.S.P.  Their stage set-up was festooned with 3-D likenesses of the four band members’ heads on bloody stakes, but that’s about as outrageous as they got, as I’m sure Kiss politely asked them to water down their act for this tour.  Still, I was still fairly impressed with Blackie Lawless and the boys, who were kind of a cross between Motley Crue and Twisted Sister.  "L.O.V.E. Machine" and "Blind In Texas" were the highlights of their set, and Blackie scored a few points with the crowd (and me) when he said, "Come on, make some noise, Kansas City—you got the best fuckin’ baseball team now!"

One other aside—this was the only other concert besides Styx in ’81 that I can recall being physically ill at.  I felt okay to start with, but started coming down with something as the show wore on, and I was laid up with some kind of virus the next day during Super Bowl XX as the Bears pummeled the Patriots.  My fever finally broke the following Tuesday morning, right about the same time as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.  In other words, it was a rather eventful time...

THE SET LIST:  Detroit Rock City/Fits Like A Glove/Cold Gin/Uh! All Night/Young And Wasted/Heaven's On Fire/I Love It Loud/I Still Love You/War Machine/Love Gun/Lick It Up ENCORES:  Tears Are Falling/Won't Get Fooled Again/Rock And Roll All Nite

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Concert Trek--Episode 7

For those of you just joining in, this is not a countdown, but rather a chronological anthology of every concert I've ever attended.  And believe it or not, I'm barely even a third of the way through...

31) Genesis (Sunday, January 29, 1984—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $11.50

I had always heard a lot of good things about Genesis in concert prior to seeing them, both aurally and visually, and those rumors were quite true.  Their self-titled 1983 album was still high on the charts and the videos from it were all over MTV around the first of the year.  With no opening act, it was all Genesis, and they put on a very good show, indeed, and this was my first and only indoor concert to ever have a weather-related delay.

The set list was pretty much filled out by songs from their three most recent albums, Genesis, Abacab and Duke, with a couple from the ‘70s thrown in like "Follow You, Follow Me" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway".  In addition to the core trio of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks, the band was augmented by guitarist/bassist Darryl Stuermer and drummer Chester Thompson, both of whom are excellent musicians who don’t get a whole lot of ink.  Collins spent about half the show singing up front and the other half behind the drums, while Stuermer and Rutherford traded off playing bass and six-string guitar and Tony Banks manned his phalanx of keyboards.  Highlights included "Mama" and "Home By The Sea" from the new record, as well as "Abacab" and "Turn It On Again".

Another potential highlight was dashed about a minute into "Illegal Alien", when the arena went totally dark briefly and the emergency lights came on.  It was windy as all get-out that night, and one of the transformers near Kemper Arena evidently blew its top, causing a momentary power outage.  The band left the stage and someone from the arena staff came on to reassure the crowd that it was a house problem and that everything was okay.  After about a ten-minute delay, Genesis returned and Phil Collins grumbled about the "great electrical system you have in this town", and instead of restarting "Illegal Alien" (a favorite of mine), they launched into the ever-droning "Misunderstanding" (not a particularly big favorite of mine).

In spite of that blemish, it was a fine show with outstanding audio, and Genesis employed one of the best light shows I’ve ever seen, apart from maybe Kiss and the Rolling Stones.  Even from the nosebleed seats on the stage right side at a severe angle, the view was spectacular.  As good as they were, for whatever reason, I never have seen Genesis in concert since.

32) Ozzy Osbourne/Motley Crue (Saturday, February 11, 1984—Municipal Auditorium) Ticket price: $12.50

My first concert encounter with the Ozz-Man, as well as this upstart band Motley Crue that reminded me a lot of Kiss—this turned out to be a terrific double-bill.

The Crue opened with a nice, tight 45-minute set that featured their second LP, Shout At The Devil.  Motley Crue wasn’t quite as outrageous as I was expecting them to be—Ozzy’s camp probably made them tone down their act—but I was fairly impressed anyway.  Oddly enough, I haven’t seen them in concert since, and I’ve heard very iffy reviews about their subsequent tours, especially their most recent ones.

This was Ozzy’s first tour with guitarist Jake E. Lee, who replaced the late Randy Rhoads for Bark At The Moon, and he acquitted himself quite well.  While not quite as flashy as Rhoads, he was still a standout, and handled the inevitable comparisons to his late predecessor pretty well.  This was also my first look at drummer Tommy Aldridge, whose work in Black Oak Arkansas in the ‘70s I enjoyed very much—this guy is a primo basher on the skins, on which he even uses his bare hands during his drum solos!  If memory serves, I believe Bob Daisley was the bassist on this tour, as Rudy Sarzo had left Ozzy’s band the year before to join Quiet Riot, and Don Airey played the keyboards.

Meantime, Ozzy was Ozzy, ambling around the stage all night exhorting the crowd to make noise.  There was no bat-biting on this night, of course, but he put on a surprisingly good show anyway.  One highlight was "Centre Of Eternity" (great song, btw) when these guys dressed like monks carrying candles wandered on stage during the song’s mournful intro chant with the bell tolling, creating a rather ominous scene that fit the mood of the evening perfectly.  Outside it was unseasonably warm that night, and the area was in a Tornado Watch when we arrived—a rarity around these parts in mid-February.

I was a bit disappointed there were no lazers in this show like I’d seen Ozzy use on prior shows on MTV, but they weren’t really needed, I guess.  Much was made about Ozzy’s new song "So Tired" being his first slow ballad (how quickly everyone forgot "Changes" from Black Sabbath’s Vol. 4), and there was a lot of speculation about whether or not he’d do the song live.  He didn’t—they merely played the album track on the PA when the lights came up at the show’s end.  The rest of the set was filled with Ozzy’s biggies, like "Flying High Again", "Crazy Train" and "Paranoid", as well as new stuff like "Bark At The Moon" and "Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel".  I was hoping he’d do two others from Bark that I really liked, "Slow Down" and "Waiting For Darkness", but we can’t have everything, now can we?  Overall though, it was a pretty good (and loud) night of Rock ‘N’ Roll.

33) Van Halen/The Velcros (Wednesday, June 20, 1984—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $13.50

Another fun show, as Van Halen managed to put up a pretty good public front that made things seem like business as usual, but as we found out later, the rifts in the band were beginning to form.  By this time, David Lee Roth insisted on arriving at gigs separately from the rest of the band and have his own dressing room, etc., and he and his ego were becoming intolerable to deal with.  Little did we know this would be our fourth and final round in concert with Diamond Dave as VH’s frontman.

The stage itself for this tour was Van Halen’s biggest and sleekest yet, complete with plenty of room to romp, stacks and stacks of speakers and amps, and the ever-present gym mat in front of Alex Van Halen’s drum riser for DLR’s jump landings.  Apart from "Hot For Teacher" and "Panama", I thought the stuff on 1984 was pretty weak, and my dislike for "Jump" is well-noted on this blog.  Fortunately, VH didn’t lean all that heavy on their new record, and the setlist covered their entire career to that point.  The highlight of the night was during the encores when a huge cake in honor of bassist Michael Anthony’s birthday was paraded onto the stage, and a major league food fight ensued, as the boys trashed the stage with the cake.  I can’t remember if it was Eddie Van Halen or Anthony, but one of them damn near fell on their ass while slipping on some cake.

VH also continued their time-honored tradition of bringing along another nameless, faceless band to open the show.  This time the honor went to the nondescript Velcros.  The only thing I recall about them is one of the guys resembled the late Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.  Beyond that, fuhgeddaboudit!

34) The Jacksons/Chris Bliss (Saturday, July 7, 1984—Arrowhead Stadium) Ticket price: $28.00

Remember all the uproar Michael Jackson and his brothers caused when they announced their Victory tour, and that you had to buy four tickets via mail order, and they were 28 bucks a pop?  Remember how outraged everyone was at the exorbitant ticket price and strident ordering system?  Remember how they tried to justify the ticket price by saying that Broadway shows charged $50 bucks a pop at the time, so this was a bargain by comparison?  Remember when Michael Jackson was still a good-looking black guy?  Well, one almost longs for those days now, since $28 for concert tickets would be a fucking steal today, and Michael Jackson has been replaced by a walking-talking child-molesting zombie!

The eyes of the world were focused on Kansas City that weekend, as The Jacksons kicked off their much-anticipated Victory tour with a three-night stand at Arrowhead Stadium.  Not since Raquel Welch starred in Kansas City Bomber had this town received so much attention!  Okay, I’m just kidding there.  I really wasn’t too keen on forking over $28 to Michael and his bros., but my friend Tom went ahead and sent off for tickets anyway, and damned if we didn’t get some for the second night, so I attended "under protest".

As good as my memory is, and for all the anticipation and build-up, you’d think I’d remember more about this concert than I do.  That’s not to say it was a bad show at all—it was a very good concert, but for whatever reason, I’m having trouble dialing up too many details about it.  I do remember the set list was about half-Jacksons and half-Michael solo stuff, and MJ danced his ass off all night.  "Billie Jean", "Beat It" and "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)" were high points, but that’s about all I remember.  Oh wait, I also remember Tito Jackson sported a shirt with his first name in big letters on the front, but his guitar strap covered up the ‘O’!  That’s about it, really, apart from walking away feeling like I’d seen a good concert, but still hardly worth the kind of money they were charging.

Instead of a music act, the Jacksons opted to have comedian Chris Bliss open the show for them.  His act had one distinctive feature—a juggling finale bit he did under black light to make the objects glow in the dark and set to the tune of The Beatles’ "Carry That Weight/The End".  The only reason I remember this is because I saw the same comedian doing the same bit at one of the comedy clubs a few years later...

35) The Go-Go's/Red Rockers (Friday, September 7, 1984--Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $11.00

My first concert outside of the state of Missouri was also my first visit to one of my least-favorite concert venues, the newly-opened Sandstone Amphitheater near Bonner Springs, Kansas.  I was very underwhelmed by the Spartan-like amenities of the place, not to mention the crappy sightlines from the lawn area we were camped out in.  At least the lawn came in handy during the opening act, Red Rockers (of "China" fame)—it enabled me to stretch out and take a nap during their lame performance!

In what turned out to be The Go-Go's final tour before breaking up (the first time), they were actually touring on a much better album (Talk Show) than the last time we saw them in '82, but the spark just wasn't quite there anymore.  I've watched concert videos from this same tour, and although it wasn't readily apparent then, the strains of touring were beginning to tear the group apart, and it was a case of too much, too soon.  This wasn't a bad show, mind you, but overall it was just okay.  Some things just aren't meant to last.

Monday, March 3, 2008

"They Died Old"--Vol. VI

"Awed At The Aud"

During my mighty “The Puck Stops Everywhere Tour” hockey road trip in late March, 1994, I was so looking forward to seeing the "Igloo" in Pittsburgh, along with the venerable Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto and the Boston Garden for the first time, not to mention paying one last visit to Chicago Stadium, which was in its final season then.  But another venue managed to upstage all of them—Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium.  What a terrific and unexpected surprise this place turned out to be!

Located just a short walk from Lake Erie and nestled in right next to an elevated expressway, “The Aud” opened in 1940, and as with most of the old-school hockey arenas, it hosted circuses, rodeos, concerts and other big civic gatherings in addition to sporting events.  It originally seated close to 13,000 people, but an early ‘70s expansion that literally raised the roof also raised the building’s capacity to over 18,000.  I felt right at home at The Aud, because its stone and concrete exterior looks very similar to Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium, and its seating bowl layout bore a very strong resemblance to that of the old St. Louis Arena.

The sightlines there were outstanding for hockey, and I had the very good fortune to snag a killer center-ice seat in the second row of the upper balcony that gave the feeling of hovering over the action at the game I attended.  The fans there were friendly and very enthusiastic, and the atmosphere was electric throughout the game.  The Aud’s horn was busy that night as the Sabres won 6-3 over those dreaded Hartford Whalers, and it was even louder than Chicago Stadium’s famous goal celebration device.  Do not adjust your computer for this pic, btw--I snapped it using a diseased roll of film!

Memorial Auditorium also had a brief stint as an NBA arena when the Buffalo Braves were tenants there in the early ‘70s.  The Braves enjoyed an all-too-brief run of success with playoff runs featuring star players Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio and they had what I thought were some of the coolest uniforms in the NBA when their colors were orange and black until they switched to that wussy-looking powder blue crap.  Anyway, attendance dropped sharply by the late ‘70s and the franchise moved to San Diego in 1978 and they’re now the L.A. Flippers—er, sorry—Clippers.  The Aud also hosted numerous NCAA Tournament regionals during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and was the home of the Buffalo Stallions of the Major Indoor Soccer League in the early ‘80s and Buffalo Blizzard of the National Professional Soccer League in the early ‘90s.

But it’s hockey that The Aud is best known for, and it was home to minor league Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League for 30 years before the expansion Sabres joined the NHL in 1970.  The Sabres enjoyed success right away with their “French Connection” line of Gilbert Perrault (pronounced ‘per-ROW’), Rick Martin and Rene Robert (pronounced ‘ro-BEAR’).  They played in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975 against the Philadelphia Flyers, with Game 3 forever known as the infamous “Fog Game”. The Aud had no air conditioning then, and warm temps. outside caused the ice surface area to fog up like a bathroom mirror during a hot shower, and visibility was very poor for the players, refs and fans.  The Sabres won the game on an overtime goal by Robert.  Meantime, Sabres center Jim Lorenz spotted a bat flying across the rink and killed it with his sticksounds like something right out of a Hitchcock film!  Philly won that series, btw, 4-2.

Other Sabres fan favorites included Pat LaFontaine, Alexander Mogilny, Dave Andreychuk and the late Tim Horton, among many others.  The Aud was also the scene of goalie Clint Malarchuk’s horrific injury in 1989 when his throat was slashed by a skate (see my post a couple weeks back about that), and the old building had one final hurrah in April, 1994 when it hosted a quadruple-OT 1-0 playoff thriller as Dave Hannan scored the game-winner over the New Jersey Devils @ 5:43 of the 4th OT, causing the Sabres’ manic TV/radio announcer Rick Jeanneret to orgasmically scream out his name, “Daaaaaaaaave Haaaannnnnnnan!”

The end was near for The Aud when I attended that game in ’94, but the fans in Buffalo were not all that crazy about the prospect of a new arena replacing it.  I clearly remember some of them booing lustily whenever the PA announcer did promos for the super-duper luxury suites at the new arena about to be built just a block away and also near the spiffy new minor league baseball park then known as Pilot Field.  The fans weren’t quite ready to leave their beloved arena, and I totally agreed—for its age, Memorial Auditorium was still in pretty good condition and quite serviceable.  I think they could’ve gotten another good ten years out of the place before a replacement was needed, but time marches on.  The new venue (originally dubbed Crossroads Arena) opened as Marine Midland Arena in 1996 (now known as HSBC Arena), and from what I've heard, it’s one of the better arenas in the NHL.  Still, I got a bit of a chuckle when the main scoreboard there crashed to the floor just two months after the place opened, which I took a sign from above that they should’ve stayed put at The Aud!

Unlike the other old venues I’ve profiled on the blog so far, Memorial Auditorium is still standing.  It’s been virtually unused since the Sabres moved down the street, and has basically been collecting dust for the past 12 years or so, but I hear that The Aud has a $10 million date with the wrecking ball later this year, although there actually was talk of turning The Aud into an oversized Bass Pro Shops outdoorsman emporium (ewww!).  It’s sad that major cities can’t find ways to convert old arenas and stadiums into something else—the Montreal Forum being a rare exception—but then again, it’s just as sad to watch old places like The Aud (and Detroit’s Tiger Stadium) just sit and rot for years, so I guess it’s inevitable that they tear it down.  Had I known what a cool place it was, I was would’ve visited The Aud sooner and more often—it was a very underrated arena, and a classic hockey venue.

Jeff Healey, 1966-2008

Sad news in the music world with yesterday's passing of guitarist Jeff Healey, who died of cancer just three weeks shy of his 42nd birthday.  Seems like the dice were loaded from the start for this guy, as he lost his eyes at age one to a disease called retinoblastoma, and battled cancer throughout the rest of his life.  Being blind didn't stop him from teaching himself to play guitar by laying it in his lap and strumming it like an autoharp.  Despite being so unorthodox, his style worked well and he was highly thought-of by his peers.

Healey is most famous for the hit song "Angel Eyes", written by my man John Hiatt, who never recorded it himself, although he does perform it live now and then.  I saw Jeff open for Z.Z. Top in 1990, and was rather impressed.  So was the right Rev. Billy Gibbons, who remarked during Z.Z.'s set, "How 'bout that Jeff Healeyhe's something else..." before dedicating "Blue Jean Blues" to him.

Rest in peace, Jeff...