Monday, March 12, 2012
The Rainmakers (Saturday, March 10, 2012—Farris Theater, Richmond, MO) Ticket price: $10.00
Kansas City’s Rainmakers have now landed in my personal Pantheon of bands that I’ve seen five or more times in concert, along with the likes of Kiss (17 times), Ted Nugent (9 times), Z.Z. Top and Van Halen (7 times each) and The Who (5 times). As per their usual, they did not disappoint on Saturday night, despite playing for what was easily the strangest audience for a Rock show I’ve ever been a member of and in what I’m pretty sure is the oldest venue at which I’ve ever attended a concert.
Richmond, MO is a town of about 6,000 folks located 30 miles east of K.C. in Ray County. Perhaps its most famous citizen is the late John Testrake, the airline pilot who was involved in and helped to thwart the June, 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet in the Middle East. Richmond is also home to the Farris Theater, a turn-of-the-century opera and movie house that has undergone extensive renovations in recent years and is in immaculate condition today. Just a few miles to the east of Richmond lies the town of Norborne, where Rainmakers lead singer Bob Walkenhorst hails from, hence why the band chose to play a gig in his old stomping grounds, so to speak. Gotta give it up to these guys—they’ll play anywhere. Throughout their history, The Rainmakers have played in everything form classy theaters like the Farris, Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS (where I first saw them in 1997) and the Uptown Theater in K.C. (where they filmed their "Downstream" video) to dives like Knuckleheads and the Beaumont Club (soooo-weee!) and even Kemper Arena, where they opened for Rush in April, 1988 on their Hold Your Fire tour. And who knows what kind of oddball venues they play whenever they visit Norway, where they have a rabid following, the reasons for which I have yet to figure out. I wonder if I could get them to play in my living room sometime…
Thank goodness I didn’t plan on imbibing before or during this show, because they don’t serve drinks of a liquor-ous nature at the Farris. It’s not a dry town, mind you—we passed at least three bars on the way in—but the theater doesn’t sell adult beverages. I was driving anyway, so it’s just as well, but I’m pretty sure this is the first Rock show I’ve even attended that was both alcohol-free and smoke-free, which made it seem rather surreal. There was no opening act for this show, thus we got a bit longer set from the headliners, who even took an intermission break in the middle. In recent years, The Rainmakers have taken a page out of the Paul Revere & The Raiders playbook by wearing matching outfits on-stage. At last year’s Knuckleheads gig, they each sported all-white t-shirts and jeans, and this time they went with all-green t-shirts (although St. Pat’s ain’t till next weekend). Next time, try the Raiders’ tri-cornered hats, fellas! Anyway, the band opened with “Snakedance” (which we didn’t hear last time) and the sound was pretty iffy and not nearly loud enough for my liking. I think this had more to do with the venue’s sound system limitations than the band, and it actually did improve a bit as the show wore on.
This gig was sponsored in part by a local rehabilitation and retirement home as part of a 4-show concert series at the Farris featuring local music acts. Many people bought the ticket package for all four of them, which would account for the shockingly large number of elderly people and folks in wheelchairs in attendance. To wit, I’d say at least half the audience (or more) attended merely because they’d already bought the ticket anyway, even though they were totally unfamiliar with the band’s music. This made for awkward moments like when it was just me and about half a dozen other people in the crowd shouting out “Hoo-Dee-Hoo!” on cue during the song of the same name. I don’t know about the folks upstairs in the balcony, but hardly anyone in the orchestra section where we sat was rocking or even bobbing their heads to the music at all—they just all sat on their hands as if they were watching a movie, and I felt like I was at a Sunday church revival meeting instead of a Rock concert. The third song in the set list was “Long Gone Long”, which includes the lyric “Goodbye to the Rinky-Dinks…” I think maybe the Rinky-Dinks might have gone over better with this crowd than The Rainmakers did! Thankfully, the band’s repertoire doesn’t include Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “You Got That Right” and the line, “You won’t find me in an old folks’ home…”
Last year at Knuckeheads, the band treated us to their entire self-titled debut album in sequence to celebrate the 25th anniversary of it. This time, we still got a heapin’ helpin’ from it (only “The One That Got Away”, “Doomsville” and “Drinkin’ On The Job” were omitted) and the lead track “Rockin’ At The T-Dance” was a highlight of the set. They also played a couple other songs from their latest album 25 On that we didn’t hear last time as well, including my favorite track, “Kansas City Times”, which featured drummer Pat Tomek (rhymes with ‘comic’) pounding out the rhythm on his new revolutionary piece of percussion equipment, the almighty cardboard box! Apparently PT used this innovation (not pictured here) when they recorded the song in the studio too, and it sounded great. Take that, Tama, Slingerland, Ludwig, Pearl, Sonor, et al—all you drum makers will be dinosaurs soon, and any day now, I expect Neil Peart of Rush to employ one of these during his 10-minute in-concert drum solos! “KCT” is a fond remembrance of Walkenhorst’s morning paper route in rural north central Missouri in his younger days, and it’s the only Rock song I know of that mentions baseball’s Campy Campaneris (let alone singer Marilyn Maye) in its lyrics. Bob also sprinkled in a few humorous stories from that period of his life in his neck of the woods between songs, which the audience who didn't know the band's music seemed to enjoy more than songs themselves.
The band also threw in a couple songs I heretofore hadn’t heard them play live, including “The Other Side Of The World” from the second album Tornado and “Johnny Reb” from their third LP The Good News And The Bad News. This kinda almost made up for the omission of my two faves, “Reckoning Day” and “Tornado Of Love”. However, they did perform another favorite of mine, a very funky version of “The Wages Of Sin”, which I was really surprised to hear that night in front of this predominately conservative (and probably) Christian audience. Walkenhorst did alter a few lyrics to the song (half-jokingly), changing “hell” to “heck” and “son-of-a-bitch” to “son-of-a gun” (shades of Charlie Daniels vis-à-vis “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”) to suit the crowd, but I have no doubt they just loved the line regarding Mary Magdalene: “Your boyfriend’s dead…the word is you’re a whore,” assuming they could make out what he was singing anyway. Then again, the atheist in me is quite partial to the lyric “If heaven is guilt, no sex and no show, then I’m not sure I that really wanna go…”
By the way, a note to all those people on the ‘Net and especially Facebook who keep hatin’ on new guitarist Jeff Porter—you’re all full of shit! Yes, I miss Steve Phillips and his distinctive slide work too, but JP doesn’t suck, and Phillips is off doing other things now. For some reason, these people think Steve is a sacred cow and Porter has to be another Stevie Ray Vaughan in replacing him. Porter’s style isn’t any better or worse than Phillips’—it’s just different, that’s all. Get over it.
Since “Drinkin’ On The Job” missed the set list this time, we didn’t get the usual Golden Oldies that The Rainmakers usually throw in with it medley-style (like Chuck Berry’s “Memphis”, Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away”, etc.), although BW had a little fun between songs showing off some old-school dance moves like The Swim while “channeling his inner-Davy Jones” in an ersatz tribute to the recently departed. The show wrapped up with a rather flat rendition of the band’s most famous song, “Let My People Go-Go”—for some reason, Porter and bassist Rich Ruth sang the backing vocals in a way-lower key than they should have—but they made up for that by closing out the night in the encore with their classic “Big Fat Blonde”. I can only imagine how the lyrics to that one gave the old duffers in the crowd a few skidmarks in their drawers…
Rumor has it the band is doing yet another KC area gig in another couple months. I’m all in.
SET LIST: Snakedance/Downstream/Long Gone Long/Given Time/My Own Bed/The Wages Of Sin/Missouri Girl/Information/Kansas City Times/Small Circles/Lakeview Man/Shiny Shiny [intermission] One More Summer/These Hills/The Other Side Of The World/Nobody Knows/Government Cheese/Spend It On Love/Rockin’ At The T-Dance/Width Of A Line/Hoo-Dee-Hoo/Let My People Go-Go ENCORES: Johnny Reb/Turpentine/Big Fat Blonde