Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Coming into Los Angeleez...

Barring a last-minute air traffic controller strike or major earthquake, long about this time tomorrow night, I will be dining on Dodger Dogs and watching Manny Ramirez mangling routine fly balls in left field at Dodger Stadium, as my long-awaited Californy trip commences.  It's been a long time coming, and I'm very pumped about seeing La-La Land for the first time.  The itenerary goes something like this:  LA Thursday, San Diego Friday, back to LA Saturday, up to the Bay Area Sunday-Monday-Tuesday (Sacramento/Tahoe/Reno area included), then back to LA Wednesday and Thursday next week and returning home Friday.  If I can find some cheap Internet access along the way, I'll try to write and update y'all on how things are going, especially if I wind up having dinner with Renee Zellweger or Kate Winslet, or wind up staying the night with Gene and Shannon and the kids.  Otherwise, the blog will obviously be on hiatus until my return. Photos and complete details will follow, of course.

I am now free to move about the country, so as the CB radio-types used to say (and probably still do): "Catch you on the flip-flop!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Concert Trek - Episode 20

Only one more installment to go after this one...

96) Kiss/Ted Nugent/Skid Row (Monday, August 28, 2000—Kansas Coliseum, Wichita) Ticket price: $44.50

My little four-city Rock ‘N’ Roll road trip continued on another blazing hot August day as I trekked north from Dallas-Ft. Worth into Oklahoma en route to Wichita.  I stopped along the way in Oklahoma City to see the Federal Building memorial for the first time, and was quite impressed.  I also liked their new entertainment district called Bricktown, the centerpiece of which is a snazzy little minor league baseball stadium.  Well worth a look, if you’re ever down that way.

Unlike my last Kiss show at Kansas Coliseum in ‘97, this one was all general admission seats, so I pretty much roamed the entire building all night and enjoyed various different views.  I was practically running on fumes by the time Skid Row came on stage, and wasn’t real thrilled with having to sit through them and Nugent again to get to Kiss, but I muddled through all the same.  Unlike the show from the week before in K.C., I saw Skid Row from start-to-finish, and they played a decent set, and it appeared that guitarist Snake Szabo was fully-recovered from his leg injury early on in the Kiss “Farewell” Tour, as he was running around the stage as if nothing was wrong.  Nugent’s set was the usual routine, apart from dropping “Fred Bear” and the requisite camp fire thereof.  At one point, good ol’ Ted got on this “Dig meI'm 52 years old and sober” kick, which prompted me to go get a beer to toast Ted with, even though I wasn’t planning to drink that night.  When I attend a Rock concert, I don’t care to hear a temperance lecture—fuck you, Ted! Oh, by the way, Nugent wasn’t even 52 years old yet—his birthdate is December 13, 1948, thus he was still 51. So much for sobriety when you don’t even know your own correct age…

SET LIST:  Stormtroopin’/Paralyzed/Wang Dang Sweet Poontang/Free For All/Dog Eat Dog/Kiss My Ass/Do You Love Me/Stranglehold  ENCORE:  Great White Buffalo

Ironically, the beer perked me up a bit, and I was wide awake again by the time Kiss came on. I watched the first five songs from the very back row of the arena directly in front of the stage, and from that vantage point, the light-up Kiss logos nearly blinded me.  I didn’t remember them being nearly as bright at the K.C. show, even though we were almost at eye-level with them.  Got bored with that view after a while, so I made my way down to floor level and hung out near the small stage that Paul Stanley flies out to during “Love Gun” and by the time he did so, there was only one other person standing between me and the barricade.  At one point, Stanley had to lecture yet another moron in the crowd about using a lazer pointer, which apparently had become a major problem on this tour.  “Better get home or you’ll be late for second grade tomorrow,” he intoned, “We got 10,000 good people here and one asshole!”  Then without missing a beat, Paul went right back to working the crowd up for the next song.  As the show wound down, I made my way up toward the main stage and by the time they got to “Rock And Roll All Nite”, I was within about ten yards of the barricade directly in front of Gene Simmons’ mic stand.  With all this enormity in front of me, I was like Niles Crane beholding the sight of Daphne naked—“Oh, momma!”  It also dawned on me at the time how lucky I was to be able to do all these concerts (The Who included) during this period so I could do as Paul Stanley frequently advised and “remember when it was real!”

SET LIST:  Detroit Rock City/Deuce/Shout It Out Loud/I Love It Loud/Shock Me/Firehouse/ Do You Love Me/Calling Dr. Love/Heaven’s On Fire/Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll/2000 Man/Psycho Circus/ Lick It Up/God Of Thunder/Cold Gin/100,000 Years/Love Gun/I Still Love You/Black Diamond  ENCORES:  Beth/Rock And Roll All Nite

97) Kiss/Ted Nugent/Skid Row (Wednesday, August 30, 2000—Hilton Coliseum, Ames, IA) Ticket price: $45.00

I was originally planning to also attend the Kiss concert in Omaha on Tuesday night, but I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home in the wee hours of Monday morning from Wichita.  Money was running a little low too, so I decided to skip Omaha and just attend the show on the campus of Iowa State University instead.  Just for fun on that Wednesday, I decided to re-route my trip and went to Ames—via Omaha!  I’d always heard good things about the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, and the rumors were true—a very cool place to visit, especially the aquarium with the glass tube you walk through with all the fishies swimming around you.  Speaking of cool places, the penguin exhibit was THE place to be on a hot August day, as well!  Following that, I got to experience firsthand for the first time, “that long lonesome highway, east of Omaha…” that Bob Seger sings about.  Talk about a total borefest!  They don’t even have any interesting signage to read along I-80 like we do on I-70 here in Missouri.  Not even a bloody Stuckey’s sign—oy!

Built in 1971, Hilton Coliseum has aged surprisingly well, and it turned out to be a dandy concert venue, as the sightlines and acoustics were quite good.  I missed most of Skid Row this time, and was so tired of Ted Nugent by then that I spent most of his set watching the exploits of his rhythm section, drummer Tommy Aldridge and bassist Marco Mendoza (not to be confused with Mark “The Animal” Mendoza of Twisted Sister, also a bassist).  Aldridge is a total monster on the drums, and I have never seen anyone hit them with as much sheer force as he did during “Great White Buffalo”.

SET LIST:  Same as previous showsee above.

Being as this was the third show in three nights for Kiss, I had concerns about their collective stamina.  Turns out that Kiss was fine—it was yours truly who was the tired one!  After attending four concerts in six nights in four different cities in three different states, I learned a new respect for the rigors of the road and what bands and road crews go through—the road drains you after a while.

Since this was my fourth show on the Kiss “Farewell” Tour, I spent most of the night watching the concert through my binoculars observing the subtle things, like when Ace Frehley presses the button on his guitar to activate his rocket launchers, and when Gene takes a swig of his lighter fluid for the fire breathing bit.  Paul Stanley was the star of the show again this night, dancing his ass off throughout and seemingly was in high spirits.  There were a few minor fuck-ups here and there, like Ace missing his target a couple times with the rocket launchers, a couple flashpots not firing during “Heaven’s On Fire”, and most glaring of all, near the end of the show when Peter Criss failed to answer the bell for “Rock And Roll All Nite”.  Stanley got the crowd all pumped up and was about to intro the song, but no one was behind the drums.  The Cat Man must’ve lingered a bit too long in his litter box!  Not the greatest night Kiss has ever had, but still not a bad show.  I also have to give it up to them for putting forth the same amount of effort in the smaller markets like Ames and Wichita as they do in the big cities.

This was my record-setting 15th Kiss concert—a record that I can say in all certainty will never be broken by any other band—unless Z.Z. Top or Van Halen does a nine-night stand in my back yard or something.  Technically, Nugent is in second place with ten shows I’ve attended, but only three of those shows were as a headliner, so the other seven don’t count.  It was also more than likely my final Kiss concert, unless Ace Frehley and Peter Criss rejoin the band, or I soften my stance on the current Kiss tribute band called Kiss with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer.  All 15 of them were fun in one way or another, and most of them were awesome shows.  Thanks for the memories, gentlemen!

SET LIST:  Same as previous showsee above.

98) Weird Al Yankovic (Friday, September 23, 2000—Starlight Theater) Ticket price: $27.50

‘Weird’ was the operative word for this show, and it had nothing to do with Al.  This was the first and only concert I’ve ever attended that featured a rain delay.  I knew we were doomed when I checked the radar on the Weather Channel before heading out, as there was this large red blob headed east on I-70 directly towards K.C., and arriving right around showtime.  As my friend Rose and I drove to the concert, I apprehensively kept watching the rapidly darkening sky to the west.  Not long after we arrived at the concert, the Starlight people announced that the show would be delayed because of the lightning threat, and then it started raining.  Hard!  It turned into a deluge before we knew it, and the theater people announced that we could return to our vehicles if we so desired.  Most of the crowd headed for the hills, but Rose brought her umbrella and huddled under it while I roughed it and got wet.  Memories of Summer Rock ’81 at Arrowhead danced through my head as the rain came down in sheets, and it was all rather comical until lightning knocked the power out to the entire venue briefly.  Finally, after about 20 minutes the rain let up and eventually stopped altogether and it turned out to be a nice evening after that, even though I was drenched.

I believe there was supposed to be an opening act for Weird Al, but I assume they were scrubbed by the rain delay.  The crowd was an eclectic mix of people of all ages and intellects, and nerds and geeks abounded too.  Following a brief video intro—the song to which the geeks sitting behind us sang word-for word—Weird Al and his boys hit the stage at 9:00, opening with “Gump”, which was accompanied by a faux-Forrest Gump video in the background (Paramount wouldn’t let them use the real deal with Tom Hanks).  Al immediately acknowledged everyone for riding the storm out by saying, “You people are crazy!”  As I’ve said before, Weird Al’s band are all top-notch musicians, and their range is amazing considering all the different styles of music that Al parodies in his songs.  Sadly, the sound was dreadful—very uncharacteristic for Starlight—nor was the show very loud and I had trouble making out Al’s vocals part of the time.

After about four songs, another video appeared on screen and the band disappeared.  They re-emerged a little while later, having all changed into their bright yellow Devo suits for “Dare To Be Stupid”.  This would be standard procedure throughout the night, using the videos as a decoy during the costume changes.  This could be a risky venture for some acts, but in Al’s case, the videos were just as entertaining as the show itself.  Many of them were parodies of those Cold War instructional movies—the “duck and cover” genre—as well as movie trailer spoofs and some new AL TV interview segments like in the olden days of MTV.  The high point of the show for me was when Al recreated his own video for “Sounds Like Nirvana”, complete with the cheerleaders on stage and Al in an gnarly blonde Kurt Cobain wig and wearing his ugly green sweater and playing guitar left-handed.  The show ended with a salute to Star Wars featuring “The Saga Begins” (to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie”) and “Yoda”.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in (apart from the storm), but all in all, I came away quite impressed with Weird Al’s well-thought-out presentation, and I have never laughed as much at a concert than I did at this one.  Al’s well-worth the money to see in concert, if you get the opportunity.

NOTE:  I was unable to keep track of the set list because my notepad was rendered virtually useless by the storm!

99) Lynyrd Skynyrd/Deep Purple/Ted Nugent (Tuesday, July 3, 2001—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $9.97

I had never seen Lynyrd Skynyrd live in concert before, and even though most of their original members were either retired, kicked out of the band or dead, I was still interested in seeing them.  I was also interested to hear what the post-Ritchie Blackmore Deep Purple sounded like, so I decided to give this show a shot.  Plus, it was radio station 99.7 KY's annual birthday bash, and the $9.97 ticket price was quite appealing, plus this being my 99th concert made it seem rather appropriate.  But good gravy, Ted Nugent as an opening act again?!?  This was the Rock ‘N’ Roll equivalent of having gum on your shoe—it’s always there!!

The first thing I noted upon my arrival was that Nugent’s logo behind the stage now had a “.com” attached to it.  I found out later that he had an ulterior motive here, as when you dialed up his website, you were led directly into his right-wing conservative propaganda page instead of a site devoted to his music.  Figures.  Was disappointed to see that drummer Tommy Aldridge had been replaced by another drummer named Tommy (I didn’t catch his last name), but he wasn’t too bad.  Mercifully, Nugent rushed through his set like he had a bus to catch, and about the only change to the set list from 2000 was the addition of “Hey Baby” and he only did about 1/3 of “Free-For-All”.  Ted was rather subdued too, and didn’t even bother doing his “get out of America if you can’t speak English” rant, choosing instead to do some lame bit about America being the only decent country on earth and everyone else sucks (including Canada, I presume).  Fine, Ted, whatever…you’re no longer relevant to me.

SET LIST:  Paralyzed/Stormtroopin’/Free-For-All/Hey Baby/Wang Dang Sweet Poontang/Cat Scratch Fever/Stranglehold/Great White Buffalo

Deep Purple came on just as the sun started going down and opened with “Woman From Tokyo”.  I was immediately shocked at how utterly old these guys now looked!  Ian Gillan could still sing a razor line, but he now resembled a pre-AIDS Rock Hudson instead of the Rock star he once was.  Keyboardist Jon Lord now looked like a cross between Col. Sanders and the “medulla oblongata” guy from The Waterboy and bassist Roger Glover looked kinda like a cross between George Carlin and Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid!  Only drummer Ian Paice seemed to retain his youthful appearance and new guitarist Steve Morse was still young to begin with.  I wasn’t all that familiar with Morse prior to this show, other than that he played in the latter-day version of Kansas, but I was very impressed with him by night’s end.  The first thing I noted was he enjoyed a lot more interplay with the other guys in the band, in stark contrast to Blackmore’s stand-offish ways and the veritable force field that surrounded him on stage.  Glover, in particular, often hooked up with Morse during a few songs to do some Kiss-like maneuvers in time to the music (“Highway Star”, for one), and it was fun to watch.

The set list was pretty much identical to the one I had read on their website, and I was somewhat disappointed with it.  Too many obscure cuts for my liking, apart from the inclusion of “Pictures Of Home" from Machine Head.  I was also quite disgusted with the inclusion of only one ‘80s cut, “Perfect Strangers”.  The most interesting part of the set was Morse’s extended guitar solo, during which he played numerous famous guitar licks, with Glover and Ian Paice joining in at appropriate times.  He led off with a piece of “Dust In The Wind” from his Kansas days, then did the end part of “Stairway To Heaven” and bits from other classics like “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Day Tripper”, “Back In Black”, et al, all leading up to arguably the most famous guitar riff of all, “Smoke On The Water”, which closed the set, followed by “Hush” and “Highway Star” for encores.  Not a bad set, but kinda sad to see how much these guys had aged since I saw them 14 years earlier in ’87.

SET LIST:  Woman From Tokyo/Ted The Mechanic/Lazy/No One Came/Fools/Pictures Of Home/Perfect Strangers/When A Blind Man Cries/Steve Morse guitar solo featuring bits from: Dust In The Wind, Stairway To Heaven, Won’t Get Fooled Again, Little Wing, Mississippi Queen, Day Tripper, Sweet Home Alabama, Heartbreaker and Back In Black/Smoke On The Water  ENCORES:  Hush/Highway Star

Skynyrd finally came on well after 10:00 with a backdrop depicting a swamp-like area during a storm with simulated lightning.  Meanwhile, I could see the real thing striking just off to the northwest behind the venue, and I feared we might have a repeat of the Weird Al deluge.  They opened with “Working for MCA” and seemed to have a good time playing to the crowd.  Johnny Van Zant is the perfect replacement for his late brother, and in some ways it’s almost as if Ronnie never left us.  Johnny did pander to the crowd a bit too much for my liking, but he sang quite well.  Guitarist Ricky Medlocke was the most fun to watch as he moved around stage making Nugent-esque moves at times.  Bassist Leon “Mad Hatter” Wikerson was second-most fun to watch because he modeled his entire hat collection throughout the show, not to mention having the balls to wear red latex pants on a 90-degree night for the entire set.  Little did anyone know Leon would leave this earth just over three weeks after this show.

They did all the Skynyrd biggies, as expected, but very little of their newer stuff, which I expected to hear. “Gimme Three Steps” was a high point, as one would expect, and “Sweet Home Alabama” closed out the set, followed by “Free Bird” as the encore.  Sadly, the dreadful Sandstone sound mix rendered the legendary guitar solo (played entirely by Medlocke) virtually indiscernible.  Not a bad performance, although I came away feeling it lacked something, but I’m not sure what.  Oh, by the way, that lightning I spotted off the northwest managed to make its way to Sandstone just as I got to my car, and a major downpour ensued.  Timing is everything…

SET LIST:  Workin’ For MCA/I Ain’t The One/Keep On Workin’/I Know A Little/Medley: Down South Jukin’, The Needle And The Spoon, Gimme Back My Bullets, On The Hunt/Tuesday’s Gone/What’s Your Name?/That Smell/Simple Man/Gimme Three Steps/Call Me The Breeze/ Sweet Home Alabama  ENCORE:  Free Bird

100) Journey/Peter Frampton/John Waite (Saturday, July 28, 2001—Sandstone Amphitheater) Ticket price: $31.50

I treated my friend Tom and his wife to tickets for this show since both of their birthdays were that same week, but decided to wait and get the tickets at the show in an effort to circumvent the TicketBastard “convenience charge”.  Didn’t work.  I still wound up paying an extra eight bucks per ticket—talk about your royal rip-offs!

Former Babys lead singer John Waite opened with a respectable 30-minute set.  His vocal range was still quite good, and the highlight of his set might have been the somewhat-forgotten “Change” from the Vision Quest soundtrack, as well as his big hit “Missing You”—a song I was never all that crazy about.  Waite did surprise me by playing my favorite Babys song, “Isn’t It Time?” from ‘77.

Looking a bit more like a college professor than the teen idol he once was, Peter Frampton came on next, and he surprised me by doing another favorite of mine, the overlooked “Lying” from ’86.  Frampton—no relation to Arthur Frampton, the man with three buttocks of Monty Python fame—did several cuts from Comes Alive!, as one would expect, including “Lines On My Face” and “All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)”, along with the usual suspects “Show Me The Way”, “Baby, I Love Your Way” and “Do You Feel (Like We Do)”.  I was hoping we might also hear “It’s A Plain Shame” or “Doobie Wah”, but no such luck.  PF used his trademark talk-box gizmo throughout, which was kinda fun, but he indulged himself and stretched out some of his songs a bit too long at times, and the audience got a little restless.  The boy does know his way around a fretboard, though.  During his encore, he even whipped out the old Humble Pie gem “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, and it sounded great.  I never got to see Frampton in his heyday—if memory serves, he headlined one of the big Summer Jam concerts at Royals (now Kauffman) Stadium in ’77—but it was nice to finally catch him live.  He wasn’t too shabby.

SET LIST:  (Not quite complete) Lying/Lines On My Face/Show Me The Way/All I Wanna Be (Is By Your Side)/Penny For Your Thoughts/Baby I Love Your Way/Do You Feel (Like We Do)  ENCORES:  Blues Jam/I Don’t Need No Doctor

Journey came on a little while later, and opened with “Any Way You Want It”.  The Steve Perry-clone Steve Augeri was quite impressive, and the perfect replacement for His Royal Flakiness.  Neal Schon was impressive on guitar, and he too knows his way around the ol’ fretboard.  The set list was somewhat disappointing, with one too many ballads on it (although shockingly, no “Open Arms”) and not enough rockers.  The crowd (nearly capacity, with the lawn totally full) was enthusiastic throughout, though.  Unfortunately, I got pretty ripped on beer at this show, thus my intoxication limits my memory of the latter stages of the show.  As the Pink Floyd thing goes, “I dunno if I was really drunk at the time…”  I also couldn’t pick out the titles of the new material they played, so I just listed them as “new song” below.

SET LIST:  Any Way You Want It/Ask The Lonely/Stone In Love/new song/I’ll Be Alright Without You/Lights/When You Love A Woman/Feeling That Way/Anytime/Message Of Love/new song/Don’t Stop Belevin’/Faithfully/new song/Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)/Escape/Wheel In The Sky/Only The Young/Be Good To Yourself  ENCORE:  Lovin’ Touchin’ Squeezin’