Saturday, June 21, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 16

76) Jethro Tull/Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Saturday, September 14, 1996—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $17.50

My older sister Renee’s favorite band of all is Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and she had seen them a few times back in the ‘70s when she was living in Virginia, and just raved about their concerts.  At best, I was a casual ELP fan, but I agreed to tag along with her and her two sons to this show, since I liked Jethro Tull a little more than ELP.  The crowd at this concert was a strange mix of old hippies and young Lollapaloozers, and being 33 at the time, I fit in there about like Chris Rock at a PTL Club prayer meeting.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer came on stage right around 8:00 and played.  That’s really about all they did—play.  They opened with “Hoedown” and followed with the 1986 Emerson, Lake & Powell hit, “Touch And Go”, which I was quite surprised to hear.  There was no spark to their performance at all, and it was as if they were going through the motions.  Even Keith Emerson doing his trademark rocking of his keyboard stack seemed forced.  Renee was quite disappointed in their set and remarked, “technically they’re great musicians, but there’s no passion here.”  Hell, they didn’t even play “Karn Evil 9” (AKA “Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends…), and “Lucky Man” sounded very flat.  I’ll just have to go by my sister’s word that ELP was once a great concert attraction back in the day, because they sucked a big one on this night.

Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull hit the stage 30 minutes later and opened with “Aqualung”, with Anderson literally “sitting on a park bench”.  He waved his trademark flute around like a magic wand when he wasn’t playing it, and was surprisingly affable as the show’s emcee.  Remarks like “Between us and ELP, our collective ages now exceed 300 years,” helped Anderson quickly establish a nice rapport with the audience, and he also made sure to acknowledge his longtime guitarist, Martin Barre.  Unfortunately, about midway through the set, he quit talking to the crowd altogether and the band morphed from Jethro Tull into Jethro Dull, as they played a bunch of songs I’d never even heard of.  They finished with “Locomotive Breath”, followed by “Cross-Eyed Mary”, neither of which sounded very good, and I was very disappointed with the set list as a whole.  There was no “Living In The Past”, no “Teacher” (my favorite Tull song), no “Bungle In The Jungle”, not even “Heavy Horses” or anything from that 1988 Grammy Award-winning heavy metal album Crest Of A Knave (which I rather liked).  To be fair, having just recently attended two excellent Kiss concerts (including one just four days earlier), most anything would have been a comedown after that, but this was one of the rare times I almost couldn’t wait for a concert to end.

77) Kiss/*Outhouse (Wednesday, April 16, 1997—Kansas Expocentre, Topeka) Ticket price: $33.50
(*=Did not see this act perform)

Since I was denied the opportunity to see Kiss during the height of their popularity in 1977 by my father, I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to see them 20 years later as often as I could, and I was delighted to hear that the Hottest Band In The World would be dropping by the capital city in the Land of Oz.  They added another leg to their massively-successful Reunion Tour called the “Lost Cities” tour, wherein they hit some of the smaller markets in the States.  Gotta give it up to these guys—no town is too small for them to play in, whereas most big-name bands would blow off playing gigs in places like Duluth, Fargo and Topeka.  Ain’t that right, Sting?

Topeka was a mere hour’s drive after I got off work that day, and I very much enjoyed one feature of the Kansas Expocentre—the free parking!  Wichita’s Kansas Coliseum also doesn’t charge you to park, and that is so refreshing in this day and age.  This was my second Kiss concert at the Expocentre (AKA Alf Landon Arena), which seats about 8,000, and just like Wichita in September, there were a surprising amount of empty seats in the place.  Good thing too, because my assigned seat sucked anyway, so I found a nice spot upstairs on Ace Frehley’s end of the stage.  The view I had was excellent, but for some reason, from where I sat, it wasn’t very loud.  There was also a squirmy little kid in the row in front of me who kept standing in the aisle and blocking my view.  I found this spooky, by the way—18 years before, I had to have my parents drop me off and pick me up at my first Kiss concert, yet at this show, you had parents bringing their kids with them!  Anyway, after about eight songs of the kid annoying me, I relocated to a cozy little two-seat row in the back of the hall against the wall.  Was pleased to discover that the back wall was made out of that acoustic material with the holes in it like they use in phone booths, and it felt like the sound was being pulled toward me and bouncing off the walls—i.e. much louder and more enjoyable!

Also like Wichita, Kiss started off sluggishly, but built momentum as they went along.  They shuffled the set list around a bit since last time, moving “Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll” up to the third slot and “Firehouse” to fifth.  There were a couple new (and welcome) additions, namely “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” and an old favorite, “C’mon And Love Me”, which both sounded great.  Kiss also added a new wrinkle to the show since Wichita, in the form of a small stage at the opposite end of the arena floor that Paul Stanley was transported to via a cable rig during “Love Gun”.  Stanley’s voice was in top form, although his humor fell a little flat.  Following Ace’s guitar solo, PS tried to make light of the recent “Heaven’s Gate” suicide tragedy by saying, “You know, about a month ago, 39 people took a trip to see a spaceship.  You people have just met a spaceman!”  Let’s hear it for “Funny Man Paul”, ladies and gentlemen!  Gene Simmons must’ve had a heavy dinner, since he heaved up a heapin’ helpin’ of blood before “God Of Thunder”.  Peter Criss was solid on the skins, as usual, although his body language indicated he seemed a little bored at times.  Apart from a faulty panel on the video screen, this was yet another well-executed and outstanding show from my favorite band in the woyld.

On the way home, it occurred to me that I’d been to three Kiss concerts with the original lineup in less than 10 months, so I decided that this officially made up for all those times I missed out on seeing them when I was 12, and I even managed to let go of a lot of that anger over that.  It also dawned on me that Arena Rock was once again alive and well, so they could take all those lame-o wanna-bes from the ‘90s like Soundgarden, Dishwalla, Spin Doctors, Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Silverchair, Marilyn Manson, The Wallflowers, Hootie & The Blowfish, et al, and flush them down my toilet!  This was real Rock ‘N’ Roll that I enjoyed that night, the way it should be done!

SET LIST:  Deuce/King Of The Nighttime World/Let Me Go, Rock 'N' Roll/Do You Love Me?/Firehouse/Watchin' You/Shock Me/Calling Dr. Love/Shout It Out Loud/Cold Gin/Love Gun/C'Mon And Love Me/I Was Made For Lovin' You/God Of Thunder/New York Groove/ 100,000 Years/Black Diamond  ENCORES:  Detroit Rock City/Beth/Rock And Roll All Nite

78) Rush (Saturday, June 7, 1997—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $19.50

In addition to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Rush is another favorite of my sister Renee's, and she more or less turned me on to the band around 1979, so I decided to once again tag along with her and her sons to see our friends from the Great White North again.  My first Rush concert in 1981 was not a particularly good one (see Concert Trek – Episode 2), so this was their opportunity to redeem themselves, and darned if they didn’t—they most definitely weren't hosers this time…

With no opening act, Rush began promptly at sunset, opening with “Dreamline” from 1993's Roll The Bones.  This show was much better (and far louder) than the one I saw at Kemper Arena in ’81.  Geddy Lee was also much chattier between songs than he was that time and actually spoke to the crowd beyond just his usual “Thank you, very much” and “Goodnight!”  Utilizing a huge video screen similar to the Kiss Jumbotron, the show was done in two halves, with a 15-minute intermission in between.  The first half was comprised of old favorites like “Limelight”, “The Trees” and “Red Barchetta”, as well as some newer stuff from Counterparts and Test For Echo, and to my surprise, every last minute of their 1976 album-side-long epic “2112”.

The second half song selection was a bit weaker with stuff like “Natural Science” from Permanent Waves and the instrumental “Leave That Thing Alone” from Counterparts, but “Red Sector A” and “Force Ten” were highlights, as well as Neil Peart’s highly-entertaining drum solo.  The man never ceases to amaze me with the toys he finds to bang on and make noises with, not to mention his stamina in playing such a lengthy show at such a high level.  Rush wrapped up the show with “Spirit Of Radio” and “Tom Sawyer”, followed by a quick run-through of 1981's “YYZ” instrumental for an encore.  I was a tad disappointed they didn’t play anything from Signals or Power Windows—my two favorite Rush LPs—but even in a three-hour show, they can’t play everything!  Rush has enough good material in their catalog that they could play several three-hour shows in succession without repeating any songs.  Jolly good show, gentlemen—goodnight, eh?

SET LIST:  Dreamline/Limelight/Stick It Out/Driven/Half The World/Red Barchetta/ Animate/Limbo/The Trees/Virtuality/Nobody's Hero/Closer To The Heart/2112 -Intermission- Test For Echo/Free Will/Red Sector A/Roll The Bones/Resist/Leave That Thing Alone/Neil Peart drum solo/Natural Science/Force Ten/Spirit Of Radio/Tom Sawyer  ENCORE:  YYZ

79) Styx/Pat Benatar (Saturday, June 14, 1997—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $18.00

The summer of ’97 turned out to be an abnormally busy one, concert-wise, and I found myself back at Sandstone for the second straight Saturday for another concert featuring some ‘80s favorites, this time with my friends Tom and Sean.

I mistakenly thought the show started at 8:00 instead of 7:30, so when we arrived, Pat Benatar was already on-stage.  She opened with “Shadows On The Night” followed by the Blondie-esque “We Live For Love”, which ended just as we staked our claim on our plot of land in the lawn section.  To my utter disappointment, Pat looked like shit, franklynothing like in this photo.  She was dressed in slacker garb, which included these hideous gaudy green pants.  She had put on a couple pounds since the '80s, but geez, she didn’t need to hide it that badly!  Pat didn’t prowl the stage like she used to, either, choosing to just stand in one place all night and sing.  Her voice sounded like shit too, and she didn’t even try to hit that night note during “Promises In The Dark”.  Apart from her husband, Neil Giraldo, Pat had an entirely new band this time too, which included a chick keyboardist who doubled on the violin, and she was dressed even gaudier than Benatar, wearing an ugly green shirt and some pants that reminded me of my old Sears Toughskins that I wore in 2nd grade!  Who was the wardrobe manager for this tour, Urkel?!?

It almost looked at times like Benatar and the band were still rehearsing, and this was a very disappointing set all the way around, beset with technical problems with Giraldo’s amp throughout, too.  They also did a crappy rendition of “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, during which Pat invited several air-headed girls from the audience up on stage to sing the chorus.  Thankfully, at least Pat didn’t try to re-create the choreography from the “Love Is A Battlefield” video!  I knew going in that we wouldn’t see the sexy Spandex-clad wet dream-inducing Pat Benatar of yore, but I was still hoping we’d see a polished and vibrant Pat Benatar of 1997.  Instead, we got the over-the-hill version.  How the mighty had fallen…

SET LIST:  Shadows Of The Night/We Live For Love/Only You/True Love/Strawberry Wine/Hit Me With Your Best Shot/Love Is A Battlefield/Hell Is For Children/River Of Love/Heartbreaker  ENCORE:  Promises In The Dark

A brief set change ensued and Styx saved the day by playing a solid set of hits.  This show wasn’t quite the spectacular they used to put on back in the ‘80s, but more of a stripped-down version of the Paradise Theater tour, which was still quite entertaining, and it almost seemed like Tommy Shaw had never left the band for Damn Yankees.  Dennis DeYoung’s between-song banter was rather humorous at times with his recollections of the old days when they opened for David Bowie at their first Kansas City area gig in 1972 at Memorial Hall.  He also joked about the time when Shaw joined the band, “Tommy was about nine, then, I think…”  Shaw worked well in tandem with stalwart guitarist James “J.Y.” Young, as they traded solos throughout the night.  Sadly, bassist Chuck Panozzo seemed a little out of sorts without his recently-deceased twin brother John behind the drums.  New drummer Todd Sucherman proved to be a very capable replacement, though, and the band paid tribute to their fallen comrade with a new song called “Dear John”.

The set list included many of their biggies like “Too Much Time On My Hands”, “Lady” and “Miss America”, plus the long-overdue return of one of my favorite Styx songs, “Lorelei”.  About midway through, the band settled down to do a rather weak “unplugged” set, which was all the rage at the time, and they did the first verse of “Crystal Ball”, then the first verse of “Man In The Wilderness”, etc.  Plug it back in, already!  [Yes, I realize the whole “Unplugged” trend is what led to the Kiss reunion and all, but I hated that crap!  To me, acoustic guitar is the equivalent of black-and-white TV and should be used only in small doses.]  The show also included some cool lazers which were a nice touch, and it wrapped up with the usual closer, “Come Sail Away”, and I was quite pleased with their performance—this was a major upgrade over the last time we saw them on the dreaded Kilroy Was Here tour debacle.  Hmmm, I wonder why they didn't do any songs from that album...

Adding to the night’s fun were members of the audience which the three of us got a kick out of, especially this drunken bozo in front of us with his right leg in a cast hopping around on his good leg and waving his crutches around in the air.  We kept hoping that either lightning would strike his crutches or that he’d fuck up his bad leg (“I’ve never seen a compound fracture in person before…” I quipped), and the drunker this fool got, the funnier it was.  Hell, half the fun of going to concerts at that stage of my life was watching the people in the crowds acting a fool…

SET LIST:  The Grand Illusion/Too Much Time On My Hands/Lady/On My Way/Queen Of Spades/Snowblind/The Best Of Times/Crystal Ball/Man In The Wilderness/Show Me The Way/Dear John/Lorelei/Blue Collar Man/Paradise/Fooling Yourself/Babe/Miss America/ Rockin' The Paradise  ENCORES:  Kansas City/Come Sail Away/The Grand Illusion (reprise)

80) The Who/Ryan Downe (Saturday, July 19, 1997—Riverport Amphitheater, St. Louis) Ticket price: $45.00

Just when I thought we’d never see The Who play live again, they managed to resurrect themselves and do a tour.  With no Kansas City date on their Quadrophenia Tour, our next best bet was the Gateway City, so my sister and her two sons met up with me and my friend Tom.  This was my first and (so far) only visit to the House That Axl (Rose) Trashed, and I was rather underwhelmed by it.  Our seats were near the back of the seat section, and weren’t even under the friggin’ roof thereof, which sucked because it rained off and on throughout the night.  There was also a huge 15-yard chasm between the seats and the lawn area, and it looked to me as if the sightlines from the lawn were dreadful.  Some slacker named Ryan Downe was the opening act, and he was predictably unimpressive.

The ‘orrible ‘Oo hit the stage around 9:10, and did indeed play Quadrophenia in its entirety, as expected.  The show was aided and abetted by a video presentation that played periodically between songs featuring our friend Jimmy, the story’s protagonist, and his dialogue helped explain the plotline to the uninitiated.  Roger Daltrey was in fine voice and Pete Townshend seemed to actually enjoy playing this time, and he even split time between acoustic and electric guitar, in spite of his legendary hearing problems.  Pete even did windmills, which I thought might have ended in ’89 when he skewered his right hand on his whammy bar in Tacoma.  And then there was my man John Entwistle, who was his usual rock steady self, and The Ox’s bass solo during “5:15” nearly caused more damage to the house than Axl did.

The show was also augmented by two other singers, a Meat Loaf-ish guy named P.J. Proby who performed as “The Punk” and a Sting-ish guy named Brad Watkins who was the “Bell Boy”.  I could’ve done without them, and would’ve preferred to hear Roger and Pete do all the singing, but since Quad is a bit rigorous, I guess Daltrey needed the breather now and then.  Also in the band was Pete’s brother Simon Townshend on second guitar and backing vocals, and longtime Who sideman John “Rabbit” Bundrick on keyboards.  This was also my first live look at Ringo Starr’s little boy, Zac Starkey, on the drums and the kid was impressivehell, da boy was better than his old man!  It took The Who nearly 20 years, but they finally found a suitable replacement for Keith Moon at long last.

The Quad portion of the show was outstanding, and I anticipated a whole lot more afterward, but the rest of the show turned out to be a big letdown.  Daltrey and Townshend returned to the stage and did a half-assed version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (no synthesizers, no drums, no bass and no climactic scream, either), with Entwistle and the rest of the group rejoining them for “Behind Blue Eyes”, “Substitute”, “I Can’t Explain” and “Who Are You”, with Pete playfully pretending to smash his guitar at the end.  And that was it.  No “My Generation”, no “Baba O’Riley”, and not even anything from Tommy.  They only played for a shade over two hours, and for my $45, I thought they could’ve played a bit longer, and I walked away from this one a tad disappointed.  The Quadrophenia section was superb, but the rest was sub-par from a band I expect a WHOle lot better from.

SET LIST:  The Real Me/Quadrophenia/Cut My Hair/The Punk And The Godfather /I'm One/The Dirty Jobs/Helpless Dancer/Is It In My Head?/I've Had Enough/5:15/Sea And Sand/Drowned/Bell Boy/Dr. Jimmy/The Rock/Love, Reign O'er Me  ENCORES:  Won't Get Fooled Again/Behind Blue Eyes/Substitute/I Can't Explain/Who Are You

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blog Factor, Mr. Sulu!

After years and years of trying to find reasons to hate Tiger Woods, I have to give credit where credit is duethe S.O.B. is a legend.  There, I said it!  As you may or may not know, I hate golfat least professional golf on TV anywayand over the past ten years I've been mentally worn-out by all the coverage of Tiger Woods, especially on ESPN.  I've never disputed that the guy is good, but all the same, I've never been crazy about the guy because he's a tad arrogant and surly.  This is NOT a racial thing eitherI think it's funny as hell that the best golfer in the world is a black man, and more power to him.

Anyway, my friend Tom and I were out having a few beers Saturday night, and the U.S. Open thing was on the tube at the bar, and we both got a kick out of Tiger holing out on a shot from the bunker, and I thought to myself, "this som-bitch is the luckiest motherfucker in the world..."  Flash ahead to Sunday evening, and for no particular reason, I found myself watching the end of the tournament and the duel between Tiger and Rocco "Need You Tonight" Mediate (oops, sorry for the Chris Berman-ism, there) and I was just blown away by Woods' steely-eyed determination to tie the thing up and send it to overtime with a clutch par putt on the 18th hole.  All I could say afterward about Tiger was "What a putts!"  Hell, even the 18-hole playoff on Monday went into overtime, before TW won his 14th major tournament in his career.

Anyway, I now officially recognize Tiger Woods as real man of genius and an outstanding competitor.  But let me say this:  I'd kick his ass on any mini-golf course in America (as well as several other free-world countries)!

I was reminded this morning that it was 21 years ago today that former Kansas City Royals manager Dick Howser lost his battle with brain cancer.  He seemed like such a good guy, and I admired how DH refused to take any crap off of George Steinbrenner when he managed the Yankees in the early '80s.  I never will forget that night after I heard that he died, as I was actually moved to tears for one of the rare times.  I remember laying out on my mom and dad's patio lounger with my Walkman on, playing my Rush Power Windows cassette when the song "Marathon" came on.  Near the end of the tune, a heavenly choir-like backing chorus floods the background of the song, and I remember staring up at the full moon and thinking what a gyp it was that Howser went from the ultimate high of his careerleading the Royals to the 1985 World Series titleto slipping away from us in just a little over a year and a half, and as the song ended, I just laid there in tears.  The man deserved a better faterest in peace, Dick.

"Cat's In The Cradle"HARRY CHAPIN (1974)  "Can you teach me to throw?/I said 'Not today--I got a lot to do'/He said, 'That's O.K.'/And he walked away but his smile never dimmed and he said, 'I'm gonna be like him, yeah...'"  This line mystified me for years until I looked it up on the 'net.  I always thought the kid said, "But he smiled at his friend and he said..."  Speaking of good guys who deserved a better fate, HC left us way too soon in 1981, as he was killed in a car accident en route to a charity concert event.  Apparently Harry was not an excellent driver, and he obviously wasn't flying in his "Taxi" at the time, either...

The Kansas City Star announced today that it is letting go of 120 employees.  Too bad that hacks like entertainment columnist Hearne Christopher, Jr., ever-flatulent sportswriter Jason Whitlock and lifestyle columnist Jenee "You Go Girl" Osterheldt weren't among those let go.  By getting rid of the three of them alone, The Star could afford to keep the other 120 hard-working people they did let go...

...or on a couch, anyway.  Talk about your strange bedfellowsthese two palookas deserve each other.  Just think, you're looking at damn near 500 pounds of sanctimonious sacks of shit on one sofa, there...

...I give you the Top 3 bass farts in Rock 'N' Roll history:
1) "Space Oddity"DAVID BOWIE (1969)
2) "Oh My My"RINGO STARR (1974)
3) "Burn Like A Candle"PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS (1968)

I was watching the infamous "Jeopardy!" episode of "Cheers" recently wherein Cliff Clavin breezed through the first two rounds with the help of his "dream boards" that included categories like Stamps, Mothers And Sons, Beers Of The World, et al, before faltering in Final Jeopardy by responding, "Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?"

This got me to thinking, what would be my ultimate "dream board" on "Jeopardy!"?  I think it would go something like this:  State Capitals, Kiss Lyrics, Sanford & Son, '70s TV Game Shows, Tommy-The Movie and NFL Films Trivia.

My "nightmare board"?  That's easy:  The Bible, Shakespeare, Greek Mythology, The Sopranos, Fly-Fishing, and Zoology.

I'm currently watching the Boston Celtics obliterate the L.A. Fakers in a Game 6 muckin' fugging in the NBA Finals.  There was a time when I absolutely despised, loathed, and just plain hated the Celtics (the Yankees of the NBA) during the days of Havlicek, Nelson, White, Bird, McHale, et al, and loved the Lakers back in the days of Chamberlain, West, Baylor, Hairston and Goodrich, et al, but now the roles are reversedas Popeye might say, I can't stands L.A. no more!  That can be mostly attributed to Kobe Bryant, who I think is a total horse's ass, as well as Phil Jackson, whom I respect but still don't much care for.  I'm also happy for Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell for finally getting to the top after years of frustration, as well as Kansas grad Paul Pierce.  Hell, Bostonians were ready to string head coach Doc Rivers up by his nutsack last year, thus this victory is even more impressive considering that this was the same team that lost 21 games in a row last season, and they sucked like a Hoover Upright.  Can you say worst-to-first? Norm and Cliffy and the gang will no doubt be downing a few in celebration at Cheers tonight...