Saturday, June 7, 2008

You bet yer sweet bloggy...

That's a slightly-overdue nod to the late Dick Martin.  Say goodnight, Dick...

JIM McKAY, 1921-2008
We lost an icon today with the passing of legendary ABC sportscaster Jim McKay.  I can't even begin to imagine what late Saturday afternoons during my youth would've sounded like without this man, who was the epitome of class.  No matter how big (the Olympics) or small (barrel-jumping) the event he was covering, he brought the same amount of enthusiasm to it, and he seemed totally unpretentious as he reported on them.  McKay was substance-over-style, and just a regular guy, unlike today's self-promoting broadcasters/ wankers.  McKay is probably best remembered for two significant phrases: 1) "The thrill of victory...and the agony of defeat", and 2) "They're all gone," and I don't even need to elaborate on why, do I?  Rest in peace, Jim--ya done good...

DWIGHT WHITE, 1949-2008
Yet another former Pittsburgh Steeler has left us.  This time it's defensive end Dwight White, who was 1/4 of the famed '70s "Steel Curtain" defense, the second member of which to die this year (Ernie Holmes died in a car accident in January).  DW died of complications following back surgery at age 58.  White is the latest in an eerily long list of former Steelers who have died in recent years.  According to ESPN, at least 38 former Steelers players have died since 2000, with 17 of them 59 or younger (as was White) and according to a Los Angeles Times survey in 2006, one-fifth of the former NFL players from the 1970s and 1980s who died through that year were former Steelers.  Weird...

So much for Big Brown winning the Triple Crown, eh?  His owner kept pulling a Joe Namath all week by guaranteeing his horsey would win the Belmont Stakes today, but BB eased up near the end and finished dead last.  I believe Col. Potter on "M*A*S*H" put it best:  "Pony pucks!"

Wanna watch a conservative pundit get his clock cleaned?  Then check out this video, and watch Conservative goomer Kevin James (in the words of Louie DePalma on "Taxi"), "Squeal like an eel, and a worm!"  And afterwards, read my man Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column about it.  It's freakin' brilliant...

My patio is quickly becoming a killing ground for chipmunks.  Last fall, there was the untimely demise of one of these little rodents who got a little too curious about my wall paneling scraps and was crushed to death.  Today while working on another project out back, I caught a whiff of a dead critter, and sure enough, I found the carcass of yet another chipmunk floating in a five-gallon bucket filled with rainwater.  Unlike Donald Duck, I have nothing personal against chipmunks, but I'm sure the head of the local Chipmunk Union 101 has a bounty out on my ass right about now...

Seems that the guy who was once considered the front-runner for bringing an NHL franchise to Kansas City, one William "Boots" Del Biaggio, has filed for bankruptcy.  Currently a co-owner of the Nashville Pre-Daters, Boots is also accused of loan fraud in one of four lawsuits he's currently named in.  It would appear this character has a rap sheet that stretches from Maine to Maui, so maybe it's just as well K.C. won't have a team owned by him playing at the Scent Printer anytime soon...

Hillary Clinton predictably threw her support to Barack Obama today after finally ending her campaign for Prez-dent.  And of course, she's saying what a great candidate Sen. Obama is, blah x 3, after ripping on him right and left for the last eight monthsgimme a fucking break already!  I get so sick of these hypocritical politicians who dog the other candidate then turn around and praise them when they concede the race.  I believe Col. Potter on "M*A*S*H" put it best:  "Mule fritters!"

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 14

For the uninitiated out there, this is NOT a countdown, but rather a chronology of every concert I've attended since 1979.  Believe it or not, we're only 2/3 of the way through after this installment...

66) Nick Lowe/Jim Lauderdale (Tuesday, February 14, 1995—The Lone Star) Ticket price: $7.00

During the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I found myself really digging the music of Nick Lowe, and I was especially impressed with his vastly-underrated 1990 release, Party Of One, which was co-produced by his erstwhile partner-in-crime Dave Edmunds, who also played guitar on several tracks.  Thus, I was very interested in seeing what the man could do in concert, but this turned out to be a somewhat disappointing show, as was his latest album at the time, The Impossible Bird

Singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale was the opening act, and wasn’t too bad.  He’s really more of a Country singer, but I immediately recognized one song he played, “Halfway Down”, which was recorded by Edmunds the year before on his sadly-overlooked Plugged In CD.  Lauderdale played right at 30 minutes and was fairly well-received.

In Nick’s band, the Impossible Birds, were a couple familiar faces, namely keyboardist Geraint Watkins (who also plays in Edmunds’ touring bands) and former Commander Cody guitarist Bill Kirchena Country solo artist in his own right.  Drummer Bobby Irwin (a holdover from Nick’s Cowboy Outfit band) and bassist Bill Riley provided the rhythm section, while Lowe played strictly acoustic guitar instead of his traditional bass (first disappointment).  The sound was pretty good (once the hippie at the sound board got his shit together, anyway) and the band was very tight, but the pacing of the show was poor.  Lowe leaned too heavily on the new album, and although he finally did get around to playing some of his older stuff like “Without Love”, “The Rose Of England” and “My Wildest Dream”, they weren’t his front-line songs like “Switch-Board Susan”, “So It Goes” and “Heart Of The City”—all glaringly omitted from the set list (second disappointment).  The set list was also devoid of any Rockpile or Little Village songs, and much to my chagrin, Nick didn’t play a freakin' thing from Party Of One, either (third disappointment).

One song he did play made my day, the rumbling “Bobo Ska Diddle Daddle” from 1985, and "Half A Boy & Half A Man" was a high point.  Lowe also added a nice touch by reminiscing a bit about the old days of playing at the Uptown Theater.  The crowd seemed pleased with the show overall, so I guess I was in the minority.  It was a decent show, I suppose, but I came away feeling a bit let down.

SET LIST:  12-Step Program/Love Travels On A Gravel Road/Without Love/Soulful Wind/Lover Don't Go/The Rose Of England/Trail Of Tears/Dream Girl/Cruel To Be Kind/Where's My Everything?/I'm Coming Home/14 Days/Tombstone Every Mile (Bill Kirchen-vocals)/Half A Boy And Half A Man/Crying In My Sleep/Bobo Ska Diddle Daddle/Raging Eyes/I Knew The Bride  ENCORES:  Shelley My Love/My Little Baby (Geraint Watkins-vocals)/My Wildest Dream/I'll Be There/What's So Funny (About Peace Love And Understanding)

67) Black Oak Arkansas/PMS Blues Band (Saturday, June 24, 1995—Land Of Oz) Ticket price: $10.00

Black Oak Arkansas is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures, and the first band I ever officially saluted here on this blog.  I was too young to see them play live during their heyday (hay day?!?) in the ‘70s, so seeing them at this gig would just have to suffice.  In some ways, I almost wish I hadn’t…

I have a feeling we were in Kansas after all, Toto!  Land of Oz was a fairly new Country nightclub/bar at the time over in Kansas City, KS that also catered to the Southern Rock crowd.  It was a pretty good-sized place and if nothing else, it was very clean.  Our seats were at a table in the second row to the far stage left side, so our view wasn’t bad.  The opening act, the PMS Blues Band, was quite good.  They played a good mix of blues Rock, à la Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the bass player was quite impressive.  An interminable intermission ensued, and BOA front man Jim “Dandy” Mangrum himself appeared in front of the stage at the other end signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.  For reasons unknown to me to this day, I was too freakin’ shy to walk over and at least shake hands with the man, and I’ve been kicking myself for it ever since.  Everything I’ve ever heard about Jim indicates he’s a very nice guy and very accommodating to the fans, but for whatever reason, I just kinda froze and did nothing.  Stupid!  Stupid!  Stupid!

Anyway, during that interminable break, I was saddened to learn of the recent death of singer Ruby Starr, a former cohort of Dandy’s.  Her band, Grey Ghost, toured with BOA in the ‘70s and she often joined them on-stage, and that's Ruby you hear on BOA’s 1973 hit “Jim Dandy”.  The DJ at the bar also informed us that Black Oak was recording the show for a possible live album.  Hmmm, sounded like fun, but that plan was pretty much quashed from the get-go with the opening number “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul”.  The sound man was a semi-famous local hippie named “Buzzz” who ran an electronics shop north of the Missouri River and had also worked with local favorites The Rainmakers.  Turns out that Buzzz cued up the wrong cut from the CD for the recorded spoken intro bit from “Lord Have Mercy…” and we wound up hearing the opening chords to “Uncle Lijiah” from the first BOA album instead.  “Sounds like Buzzz might be buzzin’...” Dandy remarked, but they played the song anyway.  So much for that great live album…

The only original BOA member remaining besides Jim Dandy was rhythm guitarist Rick “Richochet” Reynolds, and as I expected, both of them had packed on a few pounds since their heyday.  Reynolds still played like a young Rocker and Dandy struck his usual poses, looking like an elderly David Lee Roth, all the while playing his washboard as skillfully as one can, while the remainder of the group were newbies.  Still, the show was largely disappointing because they played precious few classic BOA tunes, and instead tried to emphasize newer material that wasn’t all that good.  Dandy rambled on between songs, doing mindless raps about most anything that would come to mind.  The main highlight of the set was the classic “Hot Rod” (we ain’t necessarily talking about a car here!), while “Jim Dandy” and “Hot And Nasty” came off really flat.

I gave Jim and his band an A for effort, though—he was (an still is) a Rocker at heart—but this show was almost depressing to me in some ways.  The old swagger was still there, and Dandy put up a brave front by acting like it was still 1975, but I honestly thought he looked rather silly trying to pull off the same moves he’d done 20 years earlier now that he was pushing 50.  I also found it very sad to see the place was half-empty by the time they closed the show with “When Electricity Came To Arkansas”.  It was then that I came to the sobering realization that Rock ‘N’ Roll was not aging gracefully at all…

Oh well, the night wasn’t a total loss, as I arrived home to enjoy the videotape of my mighty New Jersey Devils winning their first Stanley Cup.  The team once known as the woeful Kansas City Scouts was now at the top of the hockey heap!

SET LIST:  Lord Have Mercy On My Soul/Jim Dandy/Heartbreaker/Singing The Blues/I Ain't Got No Money (But Baby I Ain't Poor)/You Know I Love You/Uncle Lijiah/Hell Raisin' Rebels/Sweet Delta Water/The Wild Bunch/Happy Hooker/Baby Shakes/Hot And Nasty/King Of Broken Hearts/Hot Rod/In Cold Blood/Ramblin' Gamblin' Man/When Electricity Came To Arkansas  ENCORE:  Do Unto Others

68) “Summer Jam ‘95”—Blue Oyster Cult*/Steppenwolf*/Nazareth/ Foghat /Missouri (Saturday, July 8, 1995—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: Free (*=Did not see this act peform)

The year 1995 was an especially shitty one for me personally.  A good co-worker friend of mine died in a house fire, my mom suffered an mini-stroke, plus my father also had some neurological problems as well, and then there was my ill-advised house rental attempt with the “Landlord From Hell” (remind me to tell that story sometime)—it just seemed like 1995 was one crisis after another.  Apart from the Devils winning the Stanley Cup, the Chiefs going 13-3, and our minor league hockey team, the Blades, nearly winning it all, there were very few bright spots for me during that misbegotten year, which coincided with this string of mediocre-at-best concerts that I attended.  At least this particular concert was free.

There was a time here when a “Summer Jam” or "Summer Rock" concert was a big deal here in Kansas City.  They were usually held at either Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium or Arrowhead Stadium, and usually featured 4-5 current big-name touring acts.  Now it was “Summer Jam” in name only, merely catering to the nostalgia circuit, and far less exciting.  My friend Tom and I came upon free lawn tickets to this concert somehow, but it had rained off and on all day, and we came close to bagging the show altogether as opposed to sitting in the wet grass all night.  When we arrived at 7:00 there was a gargantuan line of people waiting to get in—evidently we weren’t the only ones who got free tickets.

Local favorites Missouri were onstage as we searched in vain for a spot on the lawn to sit, but there were none, so we parked ourselves on the slope off to the side that faced away from the stage, since Mo. wasn’t all that visual anyway.  They sounded great, anyway, on their hits “Mystic Lady” and “Movin’ On”.  Ironically, Missouri was first on the bill at the very first concert Tom and I ever attended"Summer Rock '79" at Arrowhead.  Just as Mizzou finished their set, a nice Sandstone security person informed us we could sit in the back section of the seating bowl if we wanted—upgrade!  Screw that yucky lawn, too.  Still, the atmosphere was less-than-satisfying.  It was hot and stuffy out, the crowd was generally rather unsavory—I’d never seen so many tattoos at one time in the same place before...

A long set-change ensued before Foghat finally came on well after 8:00, opening with “Fool For The City”.  We were treated to the original Foghat lineup of Lonesome Dave Peverett, Rod Price, and Roger Earl, who reunited with bassist Tony Stevensthe first in a long line of Foghat bass players.  Late guitarists Peverett and Price had put on a few pounds since their glory days in the ‘70s, but still played well together, and Roger Earl was solid on the drums.  “Honey Hush” was a highlight, as were “I Just Wanna Make Love To You” and the perennial closer “Slow Ride”, but I found it odd that it took them over an hour just to play six songs.

SET LIST:  Fool For The City/Louisiana Blues/Honey Hush/Motel Shaker/I Just Wanna Make Love To You  ENCORE:  Slow Ride

Then it took the roadies over an hour to change sets again—you’d think after 30-some-odd years of Rock shows, roadies would have this down to an art form, but these good ol’ boys were moving slower than a nudist on a barbed-wire fence, and to top it off, the sound still sucked and they were plagued by feedback all night.  Nazareth finally got on stage after 10:00 and played a so-so set.  Growler Dan McCafferty was still their lead singer, and bassist Pete Agnew and late drummer Darrell Sweet still manned the rhythm section, but the rest of the band were newcomers on the guitars and keyboards.  Playing a mix of new songs and obscure oldies, they ignored several of my Naz faves like “Holiday”, “Morning Dew”, “Go Down Fightin’” and especially the killer “Expect No Mercy”.  They finally got around to the good stuff with “Hair Of The Dog” (AKA, the “Son-of-a-Bitch song" that all the drunks around us anxiously longed to hear), followed by “Love Hurts” for the encore, but it was too little, too late for me.

SET LIST:  Razamanaz/Beggar's Day/Big Boy/Heart's Grown Cold/Java Blues/Hair Of The Dog  ENCORE:  Love Hurts

Nazareth left the stage at 11:00, and Tom and I were in no mood to endure yet another interminable set change, then sit through Steppenwolf (a band neither of us really cared for), followed by another interminable set change, just to get to Blue Oyster Cult.  We both liked BOC, and if they’d been next on the bill, we would’ve hung around.  I was also growing weary of all the tattooed, pot-smoking, whiskey-drinking, white trash, Freedom Rock ("turn THIS up, man!") hop-heads we were surrounded by, so we decided to blow off the rest of the concert and head for a bar instead.  Suddenly, Rock concerts had somehow lost their allure for me…

69) “Spirit Festival ‘95”.38 Special*/Marshall Tucker Band*/Molly Hatchet/The Outlaws (Friday, September 1, 1995—Liberty Memorial Mall) Ticket price: $7.50. (*=Did not see this act peform)

Kansas City’s annual Spirit Festival got bounced around quite a bit like a basketball, date-wise.  First it was an annual 4th of July event, then they switched it to Memorial Day weekend, and by 1995, they gave Labor Day weekend a shot.  It was Southern Rock night on Friday, and I just happened to be in the area that night anyway for my moonlighting gig at the Kansas City Star, so I dropped in for a little Rock 'N' Roll before going to work.

Hardly anyone was there yet when the Outlaws hit the stage, so I was able to secure me a nice spot on a curb near the stage left side.  The weather was damn near perfect, and was even quite comfortable while basking in the setting sun.  The Outlaws from “down in Tampa town” sounded pretty good too, but played a lot of slow bluesy stuff and stretched their songs out a bit.  They finished with their two biggies, “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” and “Green Grass And High Tides”, right around 7:00.

Molly Hatchet came on after a brief set change (which was most-welcome after the previous show I attended) and put on a disappointing set.  Late singer Danny Joe Brown sauntered around like a big shot, and was constantly holding his mic out toward the audience to induce them to do his job for him—I hate that at concerts, btw.  I liked DJB a lot, and even enjoyed his commentary about his excitement over getting season tickets for his beloved new Jacksonville Jaguars during the show, but I thought he was kinda dogging it that night.  The sound was pretty crappy too, and Hatchet only played six songs, plus a totally needless drum solo.  I'd have gladly traded the drum solo for a couple more songs, eh, fellas?  Like I’ve said before, Molly Hatchet was a fine live band—if you caught them on the right night during their heyday, that is.

I would've dearly loved to have hung around for Marshall Tucker and .38 Special, but I was due at work at 9PM, so I reluctantly made my way out.  I might’ve gotten my $7.50-worth if I had stayed…

SET LIST:  Bloody Reunion/It's All Over Now/Gator Country/drum solo/Writing On The Wall/Dreams I'll Never See  ENCORE:  Flirtin' With Disaster

70) “Spirit Festival ‘95”—George Thorogood & The Destroyers/Hot Tuna (Saturday, September 2, 1995—Liberty Memorial Mall) Ticket price: $7.50

The lineup of acts for the Spirit Fest was quite good in ’95, so I made this one a doubleheader, of sorts, by attending on back-to-back nights.  I somehow even managed to make my way back to practically the same spot I was in the night before, and I didn’t have to go to work afterwards, so I had the entire night to myself this time.  I also smuggled my camera in, which is a concert rarity for me, and managed to get a few half-decent shots of the proceedings, which I'm sharing below here.

Hot Tuna, featuring former Jefferson Airplane stalwarts Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, were our opening act this time.  They played a folky blues set as a four-piece band with no drummer.  It wasn’t the most scintillating music I’ve ever heard, but tolerable, all the same, and the crowd seemed to like them.

The set change only took 20 minutes (wow!) and Lonesome George and the boys took over and played an outstanding set of Raunch & Roll.  George always did have a reputation for putting on a great show, and damned if he didn’t on this night.  Opening with a personal favorite of mine, 1985’s “Long Gone”, George and his Delaware Destroyers were tight, and they just smoked through their 90-minute set, playing just about all of their classics. I was very impressed with George’s showmanship—he’s definitely a crowd-pleaser—as well as some of his dance moves.  For a guy his size, he’s surprisingly graceful on his feet (but please, George, don’t go on “Dancing With The Stars”, mmm-kay?).

The rest of the band was top-notch as well, with Hank “Hurricane” Carter wailing away on his sax and Billy Blough laying down his funky bass.  I never saw drummer Jeff Simon all night until they came out for a bow before the encore because the speakers were blocking my view of him, but he cooked on the skins throughout.  The show wrapped up with a rousing rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”, and a good time was had by all—I’d never seen that many drunks in the same place in all my life.  And oddly enough, I wasn't one of them!  Best of all, though, Lonesome George and the boys ended the evil string of mediocre shows I attended by putting on a great one.  I looked forward to seeing them again in a (hopefully) smaller venue so I could enjoy them even more, since they were so b-b-b-b-bad!

SET LIST:  Long Gone/Who Do You Love?/No Particular Place To Go/Night Time/ I Drink Alone/One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer/If You Don't Start Drinkin' (I'm Gonna Leave)/ The Sky Is Crying/Get A Haircut/Bad To The Bone/Gear Jammer/Move It On Over  ENCORES:  What A Price/You Talk Too Much/Johnny B. Goode

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Can I help you--occupy your brain?

Another pioneer in the world of Rock ‘N’ Roll left us this week as Bo Diddley died of a heart attack yesterday at age 79.  Believe it or not, the man was still performing shows up until he suffered a stroke last summer.  As influential as the man was, I find it sad that he was rarely ever compensated monetarily for his work, which is often the case when it comes to early Rock and Blues musicians (especially Black ones).  Early Rock ‘N’ Roll would not have been the same without Mr. Diddley, that’s for sure.  R.I.P., Bo…

Claiming she was “doing research for a role”, actress Tatum O’Neal was busted for attempting to purchase cocaine over the weekend.  The spin-doctor machine immediately kicked into gear, as she now claims that those nice officers who busted her actually “saved” her.  Yeah, sure, whatever.  This all comes after her 2004 tell-all autobiography where she claims to have gotten clean, yadda x 3.  I don’t mean to sound cold-hearted or unsympathetic to someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, but I’m becoming a bit jaded about these celebrities who go around claming that everything is peachy-keen in their lives after some major fall from grace (especially after reaping the profits from a tell-all book), only to fuck up again.  Cry me a freakin' river...

It behooves me to tell you that I took a side trip back to the nether world of the early ‘80s this past week by viewing the entire series “Square Pegs” on DVD, which co-starred Sarah Jessica Parker before her ever-present mole (along with the rest of her) was quite fully developed.  Upon further review, I seem to remember this show being a whole lot funnier in 1982 than it actually was.  Some of the plotlines were thinner than the Olsen twins, and it got awfully repetitive after a while—no wonder the show only lasted 19 episodes.  One bizarre episode involved the character Johnny Slash (played by the late Merritt Butrick) trying to get a New Wave band together to play a gig at the supermarket he worked at, and we were somehow supposed to believe that John Densmore of The Doors (playing himself) had nothing better to do and sat in with them on the drums.  Evidently, that was the case, and Densmore looked rather pathetic and out-of-place here.

“Pegs” did have its moments, though, particularly those involving insufferable preppy Muffy Tepperman (played by Jami Gertz) and her on-going exploits to raise money for Weemawee High School’s adopted “poor Guatemalan child.”  Tracy Nelson as the Valley Girl with the Pat Benatar haircut was kinda cute too—ironicially, she went on to play a nun on “Father Dowling Mysteries”.  Some of the jokes from the show are horribly dated now tho, like “Did hemorrhoids stop George Brett?”  Well, yeah, they kinda did…

Although I was a bit of a high school misfit myself during that same era and could definitely identify with the two main characters, Patty and Lauren—as well as their Lenny & Squiggy-like male counterparts, Johnny and Marshall—I just don’t get why anyone would bust their ass so much just to fit in with a bunch of unlikable snob assholes.  Oh well, the DVD was worth it just to reminisce a little about the Space Invaders/Pac-Man/Donkey Kong era, just to get a load of some of the things kids were wearing back then.  But I will say one thing, though:  at least girls gave a hoot about what they looked like back then, which is more than I can say about current skanky fashions, particularly today’s hairstyles—borrrring!

Is it just me, or does the name Shia LeBeouf sound like a girl’s name or what?  Until I read about him in Entertainment Weakly for the first time, I just assumed Shia was a chick with a name like that!

“Mr. Bojangles”—NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND (1971)  “I met him in a cell in New Orleans, I was down and out…”  I grew up thinking the singer met Bojangles “at a sale in New Orleans”.

And here’s the Kiss tribute band Kiss posing with Condoleeza Rice in Sweden for no particular reason, other than to prove what a publicitiy hound/suck-up Gene Simmons has become, to the point where he’ll even have his photo taken with inept Secretaries of State.  Rice claims to have Kiss on her iPod, and that “Rock And Roll All Nite” is her favorite Kiss tune.  Yeah, sure, right—it’s probably the only Kiss song she’s ever heard of.  Btw, does Paul Stanley (second from left) look like he just ripped a fart in this pic, or what?

So, Gene, inquiring minds want to know, how was Condi?  Is she “entity” #4,001?  Did you put her Polaroid in your scrap book with the other 4,000 entities?  Did your tongue rate you a return booty call at the White House sometime soon?  If you can, try to play some better background music than Foreigner this time…

I read today on MSNBC’s web page that former Dallas Cowboys Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin are allegedly “watching over” perennial dumbass Adam “Pac-Man” Jones so he won’t get into any more off-field troubles.  That’s like putting a runaway teenage girl in the custody of a pimp and a drug dealer, respectively…

Always on the cutting-edge when it comes to crazy ballgame promotions, the minor league St. Paul Saints even outdid themselves on May 25th with their "Bobblefoot" giveaway in honor of Sen. Larry Craig, who did a little foot-tapping just a few miles away at the Minneapolis airport.  Here's the official write-up on it:  "Some of the most famous dance halls in the country include Radio City Music Hall in New York, the Fox Theater in Detroit and now the list includes a restroom at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.  With so much fanfare around dancing, the St. Paul Saints will honor "tappers" during National Tap Dance Day."...  The design is a bathroom stall, with a foot that peaks out of the bottom and "taps" up and down.  The day coincides with National Tap Dance Day."While many people tap their foot because they are impatient, others may do it because they are nervous.  It doesn't matter if your tapping style is done with a "wide stance" or is used as some sort of code, the Saints are asking all fans to tap to their heart's content on May 25."

The Saints are owned by Mike Veeck, son of the late master promoter and baseball showman Bill Veeck, and the team always has some sort of nutty promotion to bring the fans out to the ballpark.  There was even a time not so long ago when they were actually out-drawing the Major League Twins on some nights.  And why not?  Who wants to go watch baseball in an antisceptic dome on such beautiful summer nights?

I read in the paper today that the Major Indoor Soccer League ceased operations recently after a long uphill struggle to find its niche in the sports world.  This came as no big shock to me, but I still find it rather sad, because like hockey, indoor soccer is a fun sport to watch, particularly in person.  With as many kids as we have out there playing soccer now (inside and out), indoor soccer is a natural for families to attend, but for whatever reason, it never has truly caught on in this country, despite it’s high-scoring games that are the polar-opposite of interminable 1-0, 2-1, 0-0 outdoor games.

The original MISL formed in 1978, fielding six teams that played on Astroturf fields laid over existing hockey rinks, mostly in the northeast, and it quickly caught on in some cities, with its fast-paced action and Rock concert-like pre-game shows.  Kansas City got a team in 1981, and I was instantly hooked by our mighty Comets, and by the end of the ‘80s, I practically ate, slept and drank that team.  The team, as well as the league, was a big hit at the box office initially, and the Comets routinely outdrew the NBA’s Kansas City Kings during the early/mid-‘80s.  Unfortunately, the league got greedy and tried to expand too quickly, all the while over-spending on player salaries, and by the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, even the league's stalwart franchises like St. Louis, Cleveland and the Comets were folding right and left, and the league bit the dust in 1992.

Meantime, a rival league, the American Indoor Soccer Association, fielded teams in smaller markets like Canton, Dayton, Louisville, et al, and was marginally successful.  The Atlanta Attack franchise moved to K.C. in 1991 to fill the Comets’ void, but the league, which had changed its name to National Professional Soccer League by then, still struggled to make the big-time.  There was also an outfit called the Continental Indoor Soccer League that was partly-subsidized by several NBA owners, but it was mostly a West Coast venture with teams in Seattle, San Jose, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, etc.  By the end of the ‘90s, the CISL folded altogether and the NPSL morphed into the second version of the Major Indoor Soccer League and the Attack even changed their name back to Comets in 2002, but none of this translated into more fannies in the seats.  Kemper Arena was too big to house a team with such small crowds, so the Comets put their franchise on temporary hiatus three years ago while waiting for this mythical 9,000-seat Johnson County arena to be built that never has gotten past the talk stage (it was to be located right up the street from where I work, ironically), and I knew then that the team would never see the light of day again.  Sadly, I was right…

I plan to do a more in-depth tribute to the original Kansas City Comets soon in an upcoming blog series and share some of my favorite sports memories.  I dearly miss those “Hot Winter Nights”…

Monday, June 2, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 13

61) R.E.O. Speedwagon/Cheap Trick/.38 Special (Friday, June 26, 1993—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $12.50

If memory serves, this was Classic Rock station KY-102’s “Birthday Bash” celebrating the anniversary of the station’s debut on July 1, 1974.  KY did one of these every year on or around July 1, seemingly alternating between local favorites Speedwagon or Styx (and occasionally Z.Z. Top or Tom Petty) as the headliners every other year.  The birthday thing didn’t make the concert any more special or anything, just an excuse on the station’s part to hype things up.

.38 Special was already on stage when we arrived, and they played a pretty decent set of hits.  I was glad to see guitarist/singer Don Barnes back in the fold after having left the band during it’s “Second Chance” era—a song which they didn’t play that night, not-so-coincidentally.  And they still had Donnie Van Zant singing an occasional song and pretending to play guitar now and then—I still don’t see what purpose he serves in this band, apart from lending it his legendary family name.  Anyway, .38 sounded great during their set, which wrapped up with “Hold On Loosely”.

There are nights when Cheap Trick is the world’s greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll band, and there are also nights when they’re the worst.  This night was in the latter category, as they played a very disappointing and short set of only 11 songs, and they looked very over-the-hill.  Normally rail-thin, guitarist Rick Nielsen looked very pudgy as he stumbled around the stage, and none of the band acted like they gave a shit.  Opening with a very flat version of their concert staple “Hello There”, they stuck to mostly mid-tempo stuff like “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace” and “Heaven Tonight“, which really bogged things down.  The lone highlight was “Never Had A Lot To Lose”, but they looked and sounded like shit, overall.  I guess a band that tours as incessantly as CT is bound to lay an egg some nights, but they were so much better when I saw them five years earlier at Sandstone.

SET LIST:  Hello There/Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace/ I Want You To Want Me/Ain't That A Shame/Heaven Tonight/Magical Mystery Tour/Never Had A Lot To Lose/California Man/The Flame/Surrender  ENCORE:  Dream Police

Thankfully, R.E.O. saved the day by putting on a fairly energetic 90-minute set.  It had been 11 years since we last saw Speedwagon in concert, and a couple changes had taken place, as drummer Alan Gratzer had retired and was replaced by Bryan Hitt (a man who spells his first name wrong), and former Sammy Hagar cohort Dave Amato took the departed Gary Richrath’s lead guitar spot, and was quite impressive.  As expected, R.E.O. stuck to their big hits, avoiding the flop of an album they put out a couple years prior with the silly title The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog, and A Chicken.  Apart from “Ridin’ The Storm Out” opening the show instead of closing it, I thought it was a fine set, and they even included a personal favorite, “157 Riverside Avenue”, which they omitted in ’82 at Arrowhead.  Singer Kevin Cronin was especially animated on this night, and still seemed very enthusiastic about playing for the people, which is more than I could say for Cheap Trick.

SET LIST:  Ridin' The Storm Out/I Do'wanna Know/Tough Guys/Take It On The Run/Like You Do/Here With Me/Can't Fight This Feeling/Keep Pushin'/Back On The Road Again/Keep On Lovin' You/Don't Let Him Go  ENCORES:  In My Dreams/Time For Me To Fly/Roll With The Changes/157 Riverside Avenue

62) Z.Z. Top/Cry Of Love (Friday, May 6, 1994—Kemper Arena) Ticket price: $25.50

As with Van Halen a couple years earlier, it seemed like I went to the proverbial Z.Z. Top concert well once too often.  Of the seven times I saw them in concert, this was easily the worst show I’d seen Z.Z. Top do.  All the right elements were still there for a great concert, but this was just a very disappointing show.  First off, they were touring in support of a poor album (see my “Rock Bottom” post to view how much I hated Antenna), and it just seemed like they were going through the motions.  The stage motif was a huge radio (a la the album cover), and it featured a large mechanical stairway/platform on stage right, which at one point lifted Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill up and transplanted them to the rear of the stage, for no particular reason.

Z.Z. opened with several songs off the new album, and it took a long time for this show to really kick into gear and get rolling, especially since they relied on so many slower tunes as opposed to the upbeat ones.  They ignored several classics on this set list, like “Heard It On The X”, “Got Me Under Pressure” and most notably, “Tube Snake Boogie”, although they did revive “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide”, “She Loves My Automobile” and “Fool For Your Stockings” from 1980’s Degüello.  They also did a very flat rendition of “Tush” before the encore (a flat tush is never a good thing!) and ended the show abruptly with “La Grange” without even a “thank you” or “goodnight” or “fuck you” to the audience, let alone a grand finale like Z.Z. usually does.  At best, this was a very subdued performance from a normally enjoyable live act, and most likely the final time I’ll ever pay to see them.

Opening act Cry of Love was fairly forgettable, although their guitar player wasn’t bad and the sound was quite good during their set.  I didn’t much care for their music, tho, and I do remember their song “Sacred Ground” really grated on me, for some reason.

SET LIST:  World Of Swirl/Pincushion/Break-Away/Waitin' For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago/I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide/Cheap Sunglasses/Tell It/Fuzzbox Voodoo/Just Got Back From Baby's/Fool For Your Stockings/Cover Your Rig/Rough Boy/Planet Of Women/She Loves My Automobile/Antenna Head/PCH/Legs/Just Got Paid/Gimme All Your Lovin'/Tush  ENCORES:  Sharp Dressed Man/Viva Las Vegas/La Grange

63) Ace Frehley/Last Laff (Tuesday, May 24, 1994—The Lone Star) Ticket price $9.00

The Lone Star was a small club located in Kansas City’s Westport drinking district.  Not the greatest place for a concert, but if your timing was right, you could weasel your way up pretty close to the stage and get a good view.  The place has changed hands numerous times in the last 15 years, and was converted in a Have A Nice Day Café for a time in the late ‘90s, which became a favorite haunt of mine when I worked near Westport during that time.  Not sure what the place is now, thoughprobably a bloody coffee house now, for all I know…

When I arrived for this show (alone, this time), the opening act, Last Laff was finishing their set.  I could easily hear their music blaring as I stood out front of the club, and they were playing the Beastie Boys’ “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, so that let me know right there that I probably didn’t miss a damn thing.  I entered the club and had a few beers while waiting for the main act.  As showtime neared, Ace Frehley and his band entered through a side door about eight feet away from where I was standing and were quickly ushered into their dressing room.  Never thought I’d ever get that close to a member of Kiss, but wait—this gets better!

Ace and his boys hit the stage right around 11:00 and opened with “Detroit Rock City” with the Spaceman himself on vocals.  Despite some crappy sound at times, this turned out to be a surprisingly good show.  Ace did a fair amount of Kiss tunes along the way, including one I’d never heard live before, “Strange Ways” from Hotter Than Hell, as well as an all-time favorite of mine, “Parasite“.  Of his solo tunes, “Breakout” was one of the show’s highlights, and in a classy move, Ace dedicated the song to the late Eric Carr (who co-wrote it) and added, “He was a great guy and we miss him…”  The band (whose individual names escape me now) wasn’t too shabby, and I do remember the drummer was a real stand-out.  Ace brought some of his toys with him, like his light-up “New York Groove” guitar, as well as his trademark smoke-belching model.  Would have been an even better show if the Lone Star had a stage larger than a postage stamp—it seemed like Ace and his band were playing in a phone booth.

Toward the end of the set, I managed to finagle my way up toward stage right side near the path toward the dressing room.  Meantime, Ace made my day by doing “Deuce” as an encore.  The show ended, and Ace headed in my general direction (along with the other people who had gathered there).  I was hoping for a high-five or maybe even a handshake from Planet Jendell’s favorite citizen, but I don’t think he even saw me as everyone rushed towards him, but I did manage to sneak in a swipe-tag with my left hand on his left bicep.  I couldn’t believe I had just come into physical contact with a member of Kiss—I didn’t wash Ace’s sweat off my fingers for a week!  Okay, just kidding…

After all the years of hearing Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley ripping on Ace after he left Kiss, I came away from this show with the utmost respect for the man, because he could still play like a motherfucker (still does, from what I hear on his current tour), and what a thrill it was to see one of my idols up close like that.  I’d say I got my nine bucks’ worth!

SET LIST:  Detroit Rock City/Shock Me/Snow Blind/Breakout/Shot Full Of Rock/New York Groove/Strange Ways/2 Young 2 Die/Cold Gin/Rock Soldiers/Strutter/Shout It Out Loud/Rip It Out  ENCORES:  Parasite/Medley: Deuce-Day Tripper-Communication Breakdown-Tush-Kansas City-Deuce (reprise)

64) Jackson Browne/John Hiatt (Saturday, August 13, 1994—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: Free

A little background here:  My friend Tom and I and another friend originally had tickets for the Elton John/Billy Joel concert scheduled in Ames, IA on the same night as this concert that cost like 50 bucks a pop.  Meanwhile, I was in the midst of becoming a huge convert to the music of John Hiatt during the summer of ’94 after buying his Perfectly Good Guitar CD, and somehow or other, I was able to come upon free tickets to this show with him opening for Jackson Browne.  As it turned out, our other friend backed out on the Elton/Billy road trip anyway, and I so badly wanted to see John Hiatt, so we decided to sell the EJ/BJ tickets.  Luckily, I was able to put an ad in the paper and even recoup most of our money, so no big loss.  My one regret about it all is to this day, I have yet to see Billy Joel in concert, but oh well…

John Hiatt hit the stage as the sun was going down, opening by himself on the acoustic guitar on “Through Your Hands”.  The rest of the band joined him for “Drive South”, a Country-tinged song that was also a hit for singer Kelly Willis.  As I found out later, Hiatt likes to change musicians for each tour he does, and he always gives his backing band a new name for each tour (the Goners, Nashville Queens, etc.), so this time he was touring with the Guilty Dogs, thus explaining the plastic light-up fire hydrant in front of the drums.  In that band was standout guitarist Michael Ward, and he woke the crowd up a couple times during songs like “Lovin’ A Hurricane”, “Something Wild”, both from Perfectly Good Guitar, as well as the title track itself.  Hiatt immediately established a nice rapport with the crowd and had great stage presence—he was almost Bill Cosby-like with his facial expressions and mannerisms.  Prior to playing his signature song “Thing Called Love”, John thanked singer Bonnie Raitt for “keeping fresh tires on the tour bus” via royalty checks from her hit version of it.

“Slow Turnin’” ended the set, and before the encore, I made a quick run to the latrine, and overheard someone in the john say, “Does anybody even care about Jackson Browne?”  Obviously, I wasn’t the only one in the house who was there to see Big John.  Hiatt returned for an encore that included a song I was not familiar with at the time, but has become one of my enduring JH favorites, “Tennessee Plates”.  For a little taste of what Hiatt sounded like live during this period, I highly recommend the CD of his performance on PBS' "Austin City Limits".  Too bad John wasn’t the headliner here—he played like one!  He certainly blew Jackson Browne off the stage, as you’re about to read…

Browne came on about 9:30 and proceeded to reel off nothing but slow mushy love songs that were about as aimless as your average Edie Brickell record.  He constantly fidgeted about with his shirt and some intrepid insect that was incessantly pestering him, and even though he maintained a dialogue between songs with the crowd, he sure didn’t have much stage presence, and seemed very disorganized.  The crowd started getting restless after about 30 minutes, and after an hour, some people were fleeing for the exits—thus giving you an idea what a snoozer this show was.  Browne finally got around to playing songs people wanted to hear, starting with the Eagles’ classic “Take It Easy” that he co-wrote, followed by “On The Boulevard” and “Doctor My Eyes”, but it was too little, too late to save this turkey of a show.  He ended his set with “Running On Empty”, and even Tom and I gave up as Browne began playing “Loadout/Stay” for an encore.  I hadn’t seen so many people walk out on a headliner like this before (or since).  This spoke volumes for John Hiatt too, because I think about half that crowd came to see him instead of Jackson Browne.  And hell, it was free, so I got my money’s worth, either way…

SET LIST (John Hiatt):  Through Your Hands/Drive South/Loving A Hurricane/Straight Outta Time/Something Wild/Have A Little Faith In Me/Lipstick Sunset/Thing Called Love /Slow Turnin'  ENCORE:  Perfectly Good Guitar/Tennessee Plates

65) Rolling Stones/Blind Melon (Sunday, September 18, 1994—Faurot Field, Columbia, MO) Ticket price: $50.00

It took me 15 years of concert-going, but I finally bagged that one big fish which had eluded me that I dearly wanted to see in concert, the Rolling Stones.  When the Stones played a two-night stay at Kemper Arena in ’81, we were shut-out for tickets in the mail-order lottery.  When they played Arrowhead Stadium in ’89 on the Steel Wheels tour, I was unemployed and broke, so I was screwed then.  This time, there were tickets a-plenty, and I didn’t mind the two-hour road trip to Columbia one bit.  This concert actually would’ve most likely been staged in Kansas City proper, but this was the year that they righted an egregious wrong at Arrowhead by replacing the evil Astroturf with natural grass.  It was still baseball season, so neither Kauffman Stadium or Busch Stadium in St. Louis were options, and the Ram Dome in St. Louis was still a year away from completion, thus the Stones met everyone halfway, so to speak, at the University of Missouri’s Faurot Field.  Turned out to be a great move, as the home of the Tigers had excellent sightlines for a concert.

Tom and I were shocked to find plenty of open space near the top of the stadium on the sides—the assholes at TicketBastard lied to me when they said there were no more $25 tickets left!  Oh well, we were able to spread out on the bleachers with our $2 rented chair backs and enjoy the show, all the same.  Blind Melon was already on-stage when we arrived and they were abysmal, at best.  I couldn’t tell most of the time whether they were actually playing a song or just fucking around.  Late singer Shannon Hoon, who would O.D. barely a year later, was your basic snarky smart-ass throughout their set, and BM didn’t even bother to play their big hit, “No Rain”.  The crowd was just as unimpressed with them as Tom and I were.

It was a perfect night for a concert, weather-wise, and just around 8:30 (not Midnight, sorry!), the Stones came on with a blazeliterally!  The stage was huge, with this humongous dragon-like arm hovering overhead, which spewed forth a flame to begin the proceedings.  They also had flashpots scattered about the stage and behind it on the grassy area of the stadium that went off throughout the opener, Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”.  The video screen was sharp too, and it offered great animation and visual effects.  And then there was the light show.  To paraphrase comedian Tim Allen:  Hell, they had lights to light up the lights!  This was far and away the best concert light show I’d ever seen.  About midway through the show, Mick Jagger took attendance and inquired if there was anyone in the crowd from St. Louis, and about a third of the crowd roared.  Columbia? About a quarter of the crowd roared.  Kansas City?  Another third of the crowd roared, to which Jagger added, “They’re always a vociferous bunch up there.”  Vociferous?  That sounds like us...

The sound was excellent too, and Jagger, Keith Richards and Co., gave a very energetic performance.  High points included “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”which sounded better live than it had in years from these guys“Sparks Will Fly” (they literally did!) and “Honky Tonk Women”, which featured a hysterical video collage film of numerous women (of varying degrees of beauty), getting it on sexually.  They also played the better tracks off Voodoo Lounge, which was their best album in many years, although they omitted my favorite, the Chuck Berry-esque closing track, “Mean Disposition”.  Meantime, “Start Me Up” and “Brown Sugar” cooked, and a dandy fireworks display ensued after the encore, “Jumping Jack Flash”.  If nothing else, I was impressed with their stamina by playing such a high-energy show for over two hours at their advanced agesI remember some folks questioning whether that ‘81 tour might be the Stones’ lastha!  An outstanding concert, indeed—one of the better ones I’ve ever been to.

It took us over an hour to get out of the parking lot, so ironically, we weren’t able to head for home until “just around midnight”!  Didn’t get home until nearly 3AM.  I had to work early the next morning, and I was running on fumes, but it’s only Rock ‘N’ Roll (and I like It)…

SET LIST:  Not Fade Away/Tumbling Dice/You Got Me Rockin'/Shattered/Rocks Off/Sparks Will Fly/(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction/ Beast Of Burden/Memory Hotel/Live With Me/I Go Wild/It's All Over Now/Miss You/Honky Tonk Women/Happy/The Worst/Love Is Strong/Monkey Man/Street Fighting Man/Start Me Up/It's Only Rock 'N' Roll/Brown Sugar  ENCORE:  Jumping Jack Flash