Category Archives: Other concerts

The catch-all, clean up post for 2012

Been a busy, busy year.  I didn’t get every show reviewed, but I did get a number of the highlights.

In an effort to wipe the slate clean, here’s a list and a word or two about each one.  And, a hope that I can keep up better in 2013!

January:

Kool and the Gang – PCMA – reviewed

Joe Bonamassa – Baked Potato – reviewed

February:

Frank Turner – SLO Brewery – reviewed

Estelle – Anthology – My niece is in her band, so I was there to have fun and relax.

Frank Turner – Slidebar – reviewed

Frank Turner – Fox Pomona – reviewed

April:

Springsteen – IZOD Center – reviewed

Springsteen – Madison Square Garden – reviewed

Springsteen – Sports Arena – reviewed

Springsteen – Sports Arena – reviewed

Coachella – Three days, four posts…and still didn’t cover it all.  Interesting experience…but not sure I’d do it again.  A few good bands stick out in my mind.  The Head and the Heart, Dawes, Pulp, Bon Iver, M83, Madness, Kasabian, Givers.  And others….like Radiohead really didn’t do much for me.  Coupled with the hit-and-miss, the long walks and the heat.  This will stay on my “glad I did it list”, but not my “I want to go again” list.

May:

Jackson Browne – Largo –  Took a good friend to help give him a break and sadly we had to leave early to rush home for an ill family member. What I did see was  personal and moving.  The last song before the set break really sticks in my mind.  A version of Leonard Cohen’s “Thousand Kisses Deep”.  There’s a version on iTunes you can buy (not from this show, but live….I highly recommend it.)

June:

Head and the Heart – Observatory – reviewed

Beach Boys – Irvine Meadows – Took my nephew and just hung out.  They played a generous and overall fun show.  Nothing to review though.

Spyro Gyra/Lee Rittenour – Hyatt Newporter –  Seen both numerous times over the years…always fun and always the highest quality.

Dukes of September – Universal Amphitheater – Donald Fagen, Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald….what else can I add to that line up.  Great show, great fun.

July:

Howard Jones – Coach House – Doing two of his best albums complete.  Human’s Lib and Dream into Action.  I went on a whim, my sister passed away the day before I just needed some music.  Not in any shape that night to review, but it was a good show.

August:

Weird Al – OC Fair – I was supposed to see another show at the Fair that missed due to my sister.

Delgado Brothers – Brea Street Fair – Good friends, good music, but not really a show to review…just one to enjoy.

September:

Jack’s Show – Irvine Meadows – Joe Walsh, Pat Benatar, Toto, Mc Hammer, Gin Blossoms and Missing Persons.  Pretty cool show with friends.  The only real miss was MC Hammer, late and not a very good show.  Everyone else was fun.  The Gin Blossoms, Toto and Benatar all totally killed it.  Jow Walsh was a little self indulgent, as was Missing Persons.

Frank Turner – HOB Anaheim – reviewed

Estelle – Greek Theatre – Another trip to see my talented niece perform with Estelle….however LA traffic limited us to the last two songs…We didn’t stay to watch Anthony Hamilton headline…

October:

Elvis Costello – Irvine Barkley – reviewed

Head and the Heart – Wiltern – My third time seeing them this year….and of the same quality as the two shows I’d reviewed.

Joe Jackson – Orpheum – Doing mostly Duke Ellington from his new album, it was a very good and crowd pleasing show.

November:

Counting Crows – Grove of Anaheim – Wish I’d reviewed them…a great show, really a surprise how good they were live.  Loved it.

(I was supposed to see Steve Windwood at the Greek and I was so sick that I had to pass…disappointing.)

December:

Graham Parker and the Rumor – Wilbur Theatre – reviewed

Graham Parket and the Rumor/Lindsey Buckingham/Ryan Adams – Roxy – reviewed

Delgado Brothers – Harvelle’s – New Years Eve show tomorrow night!

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Graham Parker & the Rumour – The Wilbur Theatre – Boston 12-6-12 AND The Roxy Theatre – Hollywood 12-11-12

Most of this was written last night right after the show, but thanks to Time Warner shutting my entire home internet down (again…) and me nearly losing the whole thing in the process….I wasn’t able to get back and post it until today.

Been a lot going on, so I’ve neglected the blog for a bit.  It seems that I go to enough concerts that the task of writing about each one is a bit ambitious.  Still going to try and fill in the blanks, even if it’s just a wrap up list with short comments for the past few months.

But, the last two shows I’ve seen this year really need to be written down while the buzz of the second one is still ringing slightly in my ears from a couple hours ago.

When I worked at the Warehouse Records in 1978 (while I went to college), we had an assistant manager…Jean was her name.  She loved Graham Parker and the Rumour and used to play it a lot in the store.  “Heat Treatment”, “Howling Wind”…I was impressed, but I wasn’t exactly converted into a fan quite yet.

Then, “Squeezing Out Sparks” was released.  That was (and remains) one of my top ten albums of all time.  Here was a tight band with a great writer and acerbic lead singer that wasn’t exactly punk or new wave (whatever those even were then or now)….But it was this weird amalgam of garage rock and soul funneled into a passionate sound.  I gave in and became a fan.

They played a legendary show at the Roxy in 1979, but I wasn’t able to go.  Later, I obtained a bootleg of it that I played over and over.  He broke up with the Rumour not long after.  I saw him in the mid 80’s a couple times.  Once opening for Eric Clapton to an indifferent crowd at the Pacific Amphitheater and once at the Palace in Hollywood supporting the album “The Mona Lisa’s Sister”.  I hadn’t seen him since then, as he moved to being a mostly solo act and due to bad timing I’d always be gone when he hit town or hear about it later.

So, I was surprised and amazed to hear he’d reunited with the Rumour after 31 years apart, recorded a new album and was featured in a new movie “This is 40”.

Which brings us briefly up to date:

Last week I was on vacation in Boston and it just happened that he was playing less than a mile from our friend’s condo.  I played a bit for him and convinced him to join me and see the show.  We ended up with some very nice forth row seats, a bit to the side, but all in all…excellent.

He opened with “Fools Gold”, musically it was tight…vocally, a tad rough and I wondered how this might play out.  Would it work, or had too many years passed to ever revisit the wonderful sound from 31+ years ago?  “Pull it Apart” was next (and was better to my ears).  “Hotel Chambermaid” followed and things fell into place for me.

The band was rock solid and tightly locked in with each other.  Graham had slowed his urgent delivery of the past, but as he warmed up proved to be a better singer in many ways.  Keys may have been changed here and there, but the phrasing worked as good or better as those heady days when we were all younger, stronger and faster.

“Coathangers” was the first new song of the set with it’s theme of abortion rights echoing his earlier song “You can’t be too strong” from “Squeezing Out Sparks”.  It was damn good and things were really tight for a band who’d been apart over 30 years.  It was a bit surreal, I was actually seeing GP and the Rumour live in front of me.  Six months ago, I’d have said it would never happen,  it was something I didn’t expect but appreciated every moment of.

They took a brief detour into the 80’s with “Start a Fire”, and then played a five song suite from “Three Chords Good”, the new album.

“Old Soul”, “Stop Crying about the Rain”, “Long Emotional Ride”. “Live in the Shadows” and “A Lie Gets Halfway Around the World”.  These are a somewhat more content GP in places, with the last song (Lie) hitting harder and closer to the classic GP sound.  That being said, I liked them all…except maybe “Live in the Shadows”, which would maybe be my least favorite track off the new release.

From there is was back to the past and the closest to hits from his catalog.  “Watch the Moon Come Down” was brilliant followed by “Discovering Japan”, “Nobody Hurts You” and “Protection”….The later with some incendiary guitar work from Brinsley Schwarz.  For a bunch of guys in their sixty’s they were really rocking.  “Stupefaction” and “Local Girls” closed the set.  The encores were “That Moon was Low”, “Passion is no Ordinary Word”, “Hey Lord (don’t ask me questions)” and finishing with “Soul Shoes”.

A brilliant show that sent me back in time and really was a dream come true.  So happy that my friend from Boston was able to join me and even though he was unfamiliar with the material, he said that he had a really good time as well.

I’d learned that they were to play a record release party as their LA show.  It was for “This is 40” and to be at the Roxy…there was just no way I could miss that.

I arrived and learned that the Roxy has changed a bit (haven’t we all) since I was last there (As best I can recall it was around 1982 to see the Tubes!).  They removed all the seats and tables.  That’s sort of an issue for a guy with bad knees and strained back (long story there…)

I asked if it was possible to get a seat as I couldn’t stand for the whole evening.  It took a bit, but ultimately they put me in the VIP section.  I ended up sitting with a couple guys, one of them had broken his back in a motorcycle accident four months ago.  We chatted and I learned that they were touring and session musicians and that led to the first cool story of the night.  The subject of Springsteen came up and one of them mentioned he was friends with the late Danny Federici of the E Street Band.  He’d seen them more times than you could count and we traded a few Springsteen stories, like my first time seeing him in 1978 and found we’d been at some of the same shows.  But, the other fellow had the best one of the night though….

He worked as a session guy at a studio owned by Roy Bitten in the early 90’s.  He said that he had asked to meet Bruce sometime when Roy went to his house to see him.  One day he got a call and headed up to Bruce’s house with Roy.  He said he mostly sat to the side while Roy and Bruce worked on a song.  Roy mentioned he played bass, so he joined in for a bit.  Turns out the song Bruce and Roy were working on that night turned in “The Streets of Philadelphia”….wow, so, I was sitting with guys who hadn’t just met my all time favorite, but had seen him and even been in a little on the creative process on an amazing song.  I was impressed and really enjoyed just talking about music in general with them both.

I also had my “Hollywood moment” of the night….I realized as I was talking to them that Lemmy of Motorhead was standing nearby (pretty sure it was him and he hangs out there.)  and directly in front of me was Paul Rudd and Chris O’Dowd.  So yeah, I was hanging with the “A” listers last night.  Not bad for a old and never-cool guy from the OC.

There were two opening acts.

First was Ryan Adams who did three songs.  They were okay, but not memorable and his set didn’t really connect well for someone with his talent.

Up next was Lindsey Buckingham…(see…it was a pretty amazing night!)  He did four songs and absolutely tore it up.  Masterful vocals on “Go Insane” and brilliant fretwork on “Never Going Back Again” and “Big Love”.  One of the best four song sets I think I ever have heard.  A real contrast with Ryan Adams and his more indifferent sounding set.

Which leads me finally to Graham Parker and the Rumour for my second show by them in less than a week.  (The whole concept of any show by them is still hard to wrap my head around, but twice is just amazing!)

Opening with “Fools Gold” again (and a better version out the gate than Boston). The set list swapped things up a little:  “Three Cords Good”, “Hotel Chambermaid”, another great version of “Coathangers”, “What Do You Like” (from the soundtrack released today), “Get Started”, “Stop Crying About the Rain”, “Long Emotional Ride”, “Howling Wind” (which really took off).  “Live in the Shadows” followed (still not a favorite for me.)

But, the band was even more locked in than last week.  Not a note out place and improved vocally all around, including GP himself.  You could tell they were up for this show and it took me (and maybe them I’d guess) back to 1979 and the show I missed.  It was just brilliant to experience something that really seemed impossible for most of the past 30 years.  For a time a 19 year old version of me occupied that seat in place of the old guy who usually walks around these days.

“A Lie Gets Halfway Around the World” lead to “Watch the Moon Come Down” and then the same last five as Boston.  “Discovering Japan”, “Nobody Hurts You”, “Protection”, “Stupefaction” and “Local Girls”.  All I can say is those were everything I hoped for and more.

The first encore was a great version of “You Can’t Be Too Strong” followed by “Passion is no Ordinary Word” and then the second was “Hey Lord (don’t ask me questions), “Soul Shoes” and my final surprise of the night….”I Want You Back (alive)”, my all time favorite cover by them and played on that wonderful old bootleg I had…I couldn’t have asked for a better finish.

I waited for the crowd to thin and noticed Bob Andrews, the keyboard player my the merch stand.  I went over and met him and his girlfriend, Robin who collaborates with him now writing lyrics for him and designing some cool artwork for their CD’s.  So, I actually had a chance to say a brief thank you to him for all those years of brilliant music and for doing this reunion album and tour.

What an amazing way to wrap my concerts for 2012…by transporting myself back to 1979 and hearing a band that has been a soundtrack for me for so many years.  Just a brilliant night!

Here’s 1979 (not the best video quality, but all I can find of the song)

Here’s something from the Boston show last week. (A little shaky, but good audio).

If you like these, there are a lot more on You Tube….go check it out for yourself, old or new, it’s all good stuff!

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Frank Turner – House of Blues Anaheim – September 20

So yeah, I’ve been away a bit.

It’s weird how doing something you love can become a task.  And once you delay that task it begins to loom and becomes a bigger and bigger “thing” that you eventually don’t want to face because it seems like work instead of fun.  Well, I missed a couple reviews and felt like I couldn’t really come back until I caught up.  At the same time I’ve been starting a new business and under a lot of stress to make that work.  So, posting here became both too important to do and at the same time one of those things I could push aside as optional while I was enmeshed in my start up.

But, I saw Frank Tuner tonight and Jody who I know from his website forums mentioned having read some of my blog.  Which hit me with a sense of pride and also a feeling that I just had to get back here, even if it was to dip a toe back in the waters of writing.

Started the evening off by meeting Jody and her mom who drove up from San Diego for the show as well as my friend Elizabeth who had agreed to come and use my extra ticket since Julie was out of town….and I’d talked so often about Frank on Facebook and to her.  We all went to the beer garden and had dinner on their pre show patio.  Wasn’t bad really….not the best food ever, but a cut about bar food at least.  I ended up checking my camera and not hassling with trying to take it in.  But, because of my knees we took a seat upstairs rather than stand all night on the floor.  (One of my least favorite things about this venue is the lack of seats).

The first act Jenny Owen Youngs did a brief and well received set in the sort of standard singer/songwriter vein.  At one point at least she reminded me a little of Amanda Palmer of Desden Dolls (at least vocally).  Nice opener and set a good tone.

Next up was Larry and his Flask.

Totally out of control, in the best ways possible.  Flatt & Scruggs on speed by way of early Oingo Boingo…with maybe a touch of the Hot Club of Cowtown.  I loved them, would go see them again in a heartbeat.  Bonus points for a tuba AND a trombone….Lots of fun.

Here’s a sample:

They were wild, as was the crowd…who knew that kids still had mosh pits?

 

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls were up next.  This was the 5th time I’ve seen Frank in just over a year.  So yeah, I guess I like his shows.  This was his biggest headlining show in California so far and his first time headlining a House of Blues.  It was also a very spirited crowd with a lot of singing, dancing, moshing and general mayhem.  I was sort of glad to be seated above it to observe from a distance.

He played a near perfect set, a great mix of his most popular songs with some new songs mixed in and  nice Tom Petty cover near the end.

Here’s the setlist:

If ever I stray

The Road

Peggy Sang the Blues

Long Live the Queen

Glory Hallelujah

Reasons not to be an Idiot

Time Machine (new)

Wessex Boy

Substitute

Wherefore Art Thou, Gene Simmons (new)

Fastest Way Back Home

I Knew Prufrock Before he was Famous

I am Disappeared

One Foot Before the Other

Four Simple Words (new)

Try this at Home

I Still Believe

 

Encores:

American Girl (Tom Petty)

Love, Ire and Song

Photosynthesis

 

It was a crowd pleasing solid 90 minutes of fun.

Here’s a video of one of the older songs from the set.  And honestly, who can resist a good TS Eliot reference?

Great evening of music and fun with friends new and old…and isn’t that the whole point of all this?  I just know that I come home from a show like this feeling happier and less stressed from work, startup companies and all the rest of the day to day stuff.  Thanks Frank!

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The Head and the Heart – June 4, 2012 – Observatory, Santa Ana

When I committed to writing about every show I went to…I maybe didn’t account for the sheer number of shows I tend to see.  Combine that with work (and the loss of a close friend  a week ago)…and I feel like I’m always apologizing for not being caught up on reviews.  I will get them done at she point….but, I may need to stop going to shows for a week or two!

Tonight I saw the Head and the Heart again.  My first time was in April at Coachella where they were and remain my best find of all the bands I saw all weekend there.  Since that time I’ve had their disc on heavy play and really grown to embrace it even more.  So I was exited to share the show with some friends and with Julie.

First a word about the Observatory in Santa Ana….WOW.

I hadn’t been there in a year, (when it was still the Galaxy) and I saw Eels.  They are still apparently in the midst of renovations.  But, the work so far is great, and the previously barely edible food is now so good that I’d go back just to have meal there.  The alcohol is still a bit pricey, and please…if I pay 8 dollars for wine…can it arrive in a glass and not a plastic cup please?

The first act, Husky (from Australia) were quite impressive in their half hour set.  Some echoes of Radiohead and maybe even Crowded House.  They were a fine start to the night.  Here’s a sample of their sound.

Up next was Moondoggies…another Sub Pop offshoot band.  A little more “jammy” than the first band, I  found them to remind me of Crazy Horse or maybe Wilco.  Also, a solid opener…two for two on the night and both bands I’d be glad to hear again.  Something which is not always the case on a three band bill in this neck of the woods.

I have to say, seeing these two opening acts alongside a band I now love reminds me why I love smaller venues so much…and smaller labels.  This was an evening of real music played by folks who didn’t get into the business to try and find a demographic and sell to it.  Its music of emotion and music played with heart.  In a place this size, there no room to mail it in and no room to hide.  All three bands delivered more than my expectations and I left feeling better than when I arrived…and honestly, that’s why I am so passionate about seeing live music myself.

Which brings me to the Head and the Heart…

I love these guys, they are full of life and obviously loving what they are doing.  It’s so fun to see a talented band on the way up.  It’s all fresh and new and I only could sit and wonder what the years ahead will hold for them?  Will they become huge (a distinct possibility with the solid material and promise shown on their first album)….will the shifting music industry change what success even means and how will that play out for them?  (In other words…will anyone ever really be huge arena level good again?)  No matter what, I really hope for the best for them…because they strike me as nice and ernest kids with a lot of talent.

Opening with “Cats and Dogs”, “Coeur D’Alene” and “Ghosts”, then sliding into “Heaven Go Easy on Me” they set a great early tone for the encouraging crowd.  They dropped in the first of a couple new (and very solid) songs next and then grabbed the crowd with “Lost In My Mind” which Jonathan Russell explained he wrote while riding the bus to work.

Winter Song, and it’s achingly  beautiful vocals followed and frankly it brought a tear to my eye with its stark imagery and sound.

After another new song they did “When I Fall Asleep” from their iTunes Sessions recordings and then “Sounds Like Hallelujah”, finally closing the set with my favorite of all their material “Rivers and Roads”.

Josiah Johnson came out alone for the first song of the encore, a very fine acoustic version of “Honey Come Home” and then was joined by the rest of the band for a rousing “Down in the Valley” to close.  Clocking in just over an hour, it was a satisfying visit by a band with barely one album of material to pull from…they played it all, plus new songs and one from iTunes.  I just couldn’t ask for more.

Winter Song

Down in the Valley

I just can’t say enough about how great they are live.  If you have a chance, see them now while you still can in a smaller venue.

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Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – April 27, 2012 – LA Sports Arena

Of course I started this a week ago and work commitments got in the way.  I hate to keep apologizing for being late, but better late than never….and I will ultimately get them all done!

It’s always interesting to see an artist that your familiar with on back to back nights.  And, since Bruce changes his set from night to night there are always the inevitable questions about how the show will differ.  Night two was a somewhat different experience, but for a variety of reasons, not really having to do with the band or the performance.

For night two in LA, I went with one of my oldest friend’s (Dave and his wife Karen).  I was really lucky that out of the four Bruce shows that I saw in April that I was accompanied by good friends to three of them.  And, that does have an effect on how (at least for me) the performance comes across.

Night one in New Jersey was the most emotional show for me (and to me).  It was my first show without Clarence and that empty spot at stage right hit me the hardest on that night.

Night two (which I still need to do a full review on) was with my friend Tere and a couple of work friends (Paul and Micah), it felt more celebratory and fun than the first night had.  But, we’d also just wrapped a challenging work show of our own and I think were in a mood to celebrate.  Like a lot of life, I think you do often get hat you’re looking for out of show, the first night I brought baggage, the second I brought a more relaxed attitude and had a more fun experience.

Night three, I’ve covered recently, but it was with a friend who has a long history of his own seeing Bruce.  And with whom I often have some very deep philosophical discussions of work, politics, the economy, you name it.  So, I ended up being a bit more analytical and also being in a bit of pain with trying to stand for 4+ hours on my bad knees….that was NOT a good idea on my part.

So, with all that I headed to the Sports Arena on Friday with Dave and Karen.

They arrived a little faster than I’d expected and we rushed out the door and onto the freeway.  As we neared MLK off the 110 Fwy, I realized I’d left the tickets on my computer keyboard at home.  UGH.  We called Ticketmaster and sorted out with them canceling the tickets and picking up new ones at Will Call.  We were laughing about how technology has affected our lives and how in the old days we’d have been making the long trek home.  So, things were off a shaky. but not horrible start.  We missed the drawing for pit wristbands by a few minutes.  So, we walked over near USC to have dinner at a pizza place.  When we got back, Dave bought a ticket for Karen (she’d joined us last minute).

I decided that I just couldn’t handle standing in GA again for a second night and went to the box office to see about ADA seating.  Of course the box office is only set up to make you…(wait for it)….stand in a long line to see if you can get a seat because you can’t stand….(They could take a few tips from Coachella on that system).

However, things worked out okay when Dave was able to collar a fellow from the band who was helping sort out VIP tickets and he said he’d take care of getting me a seat.  As good as his word, he came back a bit later to where I was leaning with a nice aisle Loge seat to exchange for my GA.  It was really nice of him to handle it and gives me the feeling that the team supporting Bruce are a pretty nice group of folks.

Bruce was very late starting (almost 8:45), but it was a heck of a great show once again.  Here’s the setlist:

No Surrender
We Take Care of Our Own
Wrecking Ball
Badlands
Death to my Hometown (Morello)
City of Ruins
Does this Bus Stop at 82nd Street?
Jack of All Trades (morello)
Youngstown
Prove it all Night
Darkness on the Edge of Town
Easy Money
Sunny Day
Apollo Medley
Racing in the Street
The Rising
Lonesome Day
We are Alive
Ghost of Tom Joad (Morello)
Land of Hope and Dreams (Morello)
Rocky Ground
Bobby Jean
Born to Run
Dancing in the Dark
10th Ave Freeze Out

I was much more comfortable than standing the night before.  But, the music still carried the same impact and passion.  This may have been the best balanced show of the four for me.  Good friends, a comfortable seat with a good view…it was the full package.

“Prove it all night” into “Darkness on the edge of Town” was as brilliant as when I heard it in 1978.  “Racing in the Street” had it’s wonderful solo by Roy while Charles did his best impression of Danny’s original organ parts that wove in and around the piano.  From the Born in the USA album, “No Surrender” and “Bobby Jean” made somewhat surprising appearances into the set as well.

And those ghosts that I saw around me in NJ (sort of a movie of my life) back when I was alone on the very emotional first show without Clarence were still around me here in LA.  But, I can recognize them now and have a better sense of why they exist.

We all carry them and we all bring them to life in different ways.  Since music (and in specific Springsteen’s music) haas been such a constant for me since I was 18 years old.  It makes sense that hearing those songs in a show that rather pointedly reflects on both loss and celebration would open those memories up and remind me of my personal losses and victories.

As we all age, things start to become a bit more limited and finite for us…we hope for another day, but we have no promises.  So, we reflect, mourn, celebrate…and as always look to an uncertain future.  I certainly hope that Bruce will be back in the fall and maybe I can see him again.  But there are no guarantees in this life…so I have to keep my faith and hope, but allow it to still be tempered with experience and knowledge.

In the 34 years that I’ve watched Bruce, we’ve both grown older (and hopefully a bit wiser).  We are touched by loss, and still thrilled by the things that give us joy.  So, as he sang at at each show (and the core message that I’ve taken away from them)

“We’ve Been Traveling Over Rocky Ground”….but, make no mistake about it.  “We Are Alive”.

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Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – LA Sports Arena – April 26, 2012

So, this is not going to be in chronological order…I still have so much Coachella stuff to write.  Plus, I’m actually at work and have a ton of stuff I need to be doing.

But, this has ended up as one of the most intense weeks of concerts I experienced since maybe my Glastonbury trip.  I know that I’m falling behind here because of sheer number of shows and needing to, you know the part about actually holding a job and fitting in some sleep somewhere.

I wanted to just write this last night, but couldn’t avoid getting some sleep.  Now, I’m about 5 hours from heading back for one more show to cap the week (Springsteen Night 2 in LA).  So, I’m going to shift gears from work and try to get this out there before I try to finish Coachella or my other backlog from the month.

Did I mention that I’m a damn lucky guy….I get to do all this concert going  because I have this wonderful and understanding wife who recognizes how much this crazy stuff means to me and makes it possible for me to act like a teenager with no cares in the world sometimes.  Plus, I have a job that’s flexible enough that I can travel and get opportunities I’d never have with a traditional 9-5.  I guess sometimes things just really are that good.

So, back to Springsteen.

I had some of the easiest traffic to the Sports Arena ever…seriously, just over 40 minutes to LA in rush hour?  It took me half that time again to actually park once I got off at MLK.  (By the way Sports Arena…$25 to PARK?…seriously?).  I now the place is having financial issues, but don’t try to clean up your entire budget on two shows.

I met my old friend John, another Springsteen fan from way back (and originally from Jersey to boot) and we dashed across the road (well, as much dashing as my knees allow these days) and grabbed a burger and fries.  We caught up on industry gossip a little and wandered back into the arena about 7:30.  I was able to grab a spot to lean by the FOH rail and even chat with the house engineer to pass a message to him from a mutual friend.  He said he was loving the new K1 rig they were using, but it was so good he really had to be on his game because any mistakes were very apparent.  He has his hands full with 17 musicians on stage and after a little fine tuning early in the show I thought he did a stellar job.

Bruce and the band hit the stage about 8:15, he seems to have dropped the self-intro (which is shame) and instead they marched up to the “Theme from the Magnificent Seven”.  Without a word he launched into “Badlands”, the same song I saw him open with at my first show in 1978.  It’s a great opener and really sets a tone….and the tone tonight was that the band was going to be on fire.  It’s really amazing to see a band multiple times on a tour and for me this was seeing them after a break of a couple weeks from seeing the MSG show on 4-6.

The structure of the set was similar, but you could feel within a few songs that the musicians had shifted a little and were finding their spaces in the songs.  Izod and MSG were carried on passion…this had the same fire, but the arrangements had subtle shifts that showed an attention to detail and talent that I’ve always known you get from the E-Street Band.  They are not just one of the best bands ever, they are a huge part of what’s allowed Bruce to be one of the most respected rock performers of the past half century.  I saw him with the Sessions Band, he’s an amazing performer in any setting.  But, the backing from E-Street (appearing effortless, and yet certainly the result of tons of work) gives him the space and flexibility to do things like audible songs and swap them around without missing a beat.

My best story about the band doing that is when I saw them in Orlando in November 2002.  They played a killer show and during the encores Bruce turned around and gathered them around him.  In an instant, they roared into the “Detroit Medley” for the first time in 18 or so years on stage.  And it was near flawless….I still stand in awe of any group that can at the drop of a hat play a song in front of 18,000 people that they haven’t done in close to two decades….make no mistake, these guys are the best.

So, back to last night.

“We Take Care of Our Own” was followed by “Wrecking Ball”…I still can’t quite put my finger on it, but the football imagery and content of “Wrecking Ball” still seem to make me think of my late brother, Orville.  He was a giant (certainly in my mind) and a champion (AFL 1960 & 1961) and I just can’t hear it now without thinking of him and feeling a sense of loss.

So much of this tour is about loss.  Loss of family, loss of faith, loss of those you love who surround you for a time and then are gone from your life.  But, it’s not maudlin and actually not even that sad really.  It’s a recognition that we all (over time) lose things that mean the most to us and yet we still need to support each other, take time to grieve with each other, but then continue on down our roads.  I think that’s the most brilliant thing he’s done (and that I’ve been able to figure out) about these last three shows I’ve seen.  Like life…these shows are both happy and sad without ever going too far and  being too sad, or just mindless and oblivious fun.

From the River album, “The Ties that Bind” seemed a perfect choice to follow, then Tom Morello joined for a stomping version of the celtic tinged “Death to My Hometown”.  An introduction of the band and “My City of Ruins” followed.  The introduction to it containing the now familiar lines (to me at least)….”If we’re here, and you’re here…then THEY are here too”….referring in some ways not just to Clarence and Danny, but a more universal feeling of remembrance of all those we’ve lost and miss.  Then, the repeated lines of “Rise UP, Rise UP” echoed by the crowd reaching a fervor usually contained in a gospel church service.

Maintaining that fine balance, they shifted back towards the fun side with a rollicking “E-Street Shuffle” before Tom Morello came back out  for “Jack of All Trades”.  Next came a trio of lesser played songs that seemed like a nod to the fanatics like me in the crowd.  “Something in the Night”, “Candy’s Room” and “She’s the One” with Jake Clemons once again filling his uncles huge shoes flawlessly on the later.  He’s been a revelation and seems to be carving out a larger and larger role for himself each time I’ve seen them.  Hard to imagine he’s so young and yet so confident.  It seems he must have spent a lot of time learning from his uncle…he’s not Clarence and not trying to be…but, he’s an amazing kid taking on a huge legacy without flinching and with great style and grace.  In some ways, his presence alone is another subtle reminder of both our losses and yet our ability to somehow continue on.

“Easy Money” featured a nice duet with Bruce and Patti center stage followed by “Sunny Day” a song that some hardcore fans aren’t thrilled with, but yet is a crowd favorite and at each show now features a sing along with a child pulled from the crowd.  I suspect there’s a bit of a deeper message that may be hidden here as well, but at it’s center it’s a song that breaks the tension, lets the crowd sing along and again keeps the show in balance for fans of all stripes…new, old, hardcore, casual…there’s room for everyone on this train.

Next up was the “Apollo Medley” with it’s taking intro about how soul music was how a band in New Jersey survived playing dances in 60’s….”The way you do the things you do” and “634-5789” are brilliant choices and a pair of cover songs I don’t mind hearing night after night by this band.

Tom Morello came back for “The Ghost of Tom Joad” and one of his mind blowing solos.  Although for me having seen it three times it’s lost a tiny bit of the sheer shock value it had the first time.  Nonetheless, it’s a good fit into the set and message of the show and I wasn’t unhappy to have it appear once again.  (This was the first time it was played on this tour).  “The Rising” and “Lonesome Day” came next and then “We are Alive” which still connects very deeply for me.

A few of it’s lines “…Let your mind rest easy….Sleep well my friend….It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end…” really being a big part of the core message of the entire show.  Speaking of how our “…spirits rise…to stand shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart” one once again gets that dual sense of sadness and yet optimism.

He finished the main set with “Land of Hope and Dreams”, a departure from “Thunder Road”, and while I missed Thunder Road….Land of Hope and Dreams was another rousing plea for us all to get on board with everyone else “saints, sinners, whores, gamblers and lost souls” to find that better place for each of us.  It’s no mistake that it borrows heavily from Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready”….it’s really the same message…and sent as a message of hope to end this sermon at the church of rock and roll.

The encores are generally more about the fun side.  But, they start again on a more somber note…a recognition of the challenges we’ve all faced on our own roads…”Rocky Ground”.    Again, as this was a show about balance, the serious  message of a “…shepherd  who must gather his flock to higher ground…” was followed by the rare and pure fun cover of an old 60’s gem “California Sun”, played completely for one of the few times ever.  “Born to Run” honestly never changes and will just always be there for the crowd to sing along to.  The same with “Dancing in the Dark” (the only cut he played from the Born in the USA).

To close, (as with each show so far this tour) was “10th Ave Freeze Out”.  The oft told story of band forming now taking on a higher purpose as a memorial to Clarence  with the band still stopping cold on the line “….the change was made uptown and the big man joined the band….”….followed by an arena cutting lose and cheering while a montage of photos of Clarence is shown on the screens.  It’s handled so well…it’s become a wonderful celebration and way showing of respect and love to his memory.

With that, they left the stage having played a little less than 3 hours without a pause….

I don’t really understand how he has the energy and the ability to do this at age 62.  But, every show I get to see by him is a gift, not to be taken for granted.  I’ve never seen him have an off night, or give less than 110%.

So, I’m back again tonight for one more…I’m sure that songs will swap in and out of the set.  But the over-riding message and energy will remain the same….We ARE alive…

Something old…this wasn’t played last night, but it was filmed the night before I saw him the first time in 1978, and I just feel like hearing it right now:

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Coachella Day 1 – April 20, 2012 – The Evening

Well, I have to admit the main reason I broke this up was sheer exhaustion last night.  There’s just so much to say and describe!  It may take me a few days, but I will get it all out there.  And, I also would like to just say thank you to each of your for taking time to read my thoughts.  I had a very cool jump  in page views yesterday and it’s both motivating and scary to think there are actually people out there reading my ramblings.

So a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has stopped by in the past couple days.

Here goes with my evening Day 1

After Dawes I finally decided it had cooled enough to head to the Outdoor Stage.  I really couldn’t miss it, since it was Madness, a band I loved going back to the early 80’s and that I’d never seen.  By the time I’d arrived, I missed the opening couple numbers.  But still arrived in time to hear them burst into “My Girl” followed by “The Sun and the Rain” then “Taller than you are” with a great bit played by the horns of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys.

They were very tight and seasoned pros at working the crowd.  The banter by Suggs focused on how much money they’d lost in Las Vegas on their stop there a couple nights before.  Basically, it was everything you’d hope for from a Madness show….and it only took me 30 years to see one!

They did one song I’m not as familiar with, but judging from other recent set lists I think that it was “Ironshirt.  Then they reeled off a string of familiar songs and the hits….”Bed and Breakfast Man”, “Forever Young” (Dedicated to Suggs daughter in the crowd), “House of Fun”, “Baggy Trousers”…the inevitable “Our House”  (why is it that the biggest hits are often not the most interesting song by a band?)….”It must be Love” and then they wrapped with “Madness” and “Night Boat to Cairo”.

It was brilliant to sit there as the sun finally set and hear songs I’ve listed to for 30 years played by a crack band of musicians.  One of my top five sets of the whole weekend.  I had a brilliant time.

It was a short jaunt to the Main Stage where Pulp was just underway.  I’d seen Pulp the night before in Pomona (That review is still to come), and even though I missed the first couple songs they were just as epic the second night in a row.

Prior to seeing them, I really had no idea just how brilliant a frontman Jarvis Cocker is.  The standout cuts of the set for me were “Disco 2000”, “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” (Including a 4-20 joke about the smoke on stage”, “This is Hardcore” (which just had a awesome, creepy vibe), “Sunrise” (not as epic as the night before, but still amazing) and of course “Common People” which prompted a nice sing along.

This band is nearly criminally unknown in the US.  Mostly due to lack of touring.  The last time they played this area was 1996….But, they are in the same league with Oasis and Blur from the 90’s Brit Invasion era.  I can’t really compare line ups of the band, but I will say that this band was awesome and I really hope that it’s not the last time they come here and perform.

I could only find a full show of the Coachella clips that weren’t crowds shot and shaky…so, here’s a better clip of them from the Brit Awards:

So, that’s a pretty fine run of three bands….Dawes, Madness and Pulp.  A heck of nice roll….would it continue?

I wasn’t really interested in the Black Keys….I like a lot of blues, but their stuff has never really moved me.  So, I decided to head back to the Mojave tent and hear The Rapture and M-83.  Apparently I missed John Fogery guesting with the Black Keys on “The Weight”….but, I’ve seen John a few times and overall I think I made the right decision.  (Face it, you’re always going to miss stuff at a festival, so you just can’t let it bother you much.  If it’s meant to be for you, it’ll happen…otherwise, just enjoy what you do pick and the choices you make.)

I’d seen them on the web stream the week before and they were danceable, tight and had the whole Mojave Tent rocking.  They finished with a triple shot of “Echoes”, “Sail Away” and “How Deep is you Love”….which I found sort amusing since those are all titles of songs by other artists that I like (Pink Floyd, Randy Newman and Bee Gees)…but, all of the songs played were original songs by the Rapture.

Love the music guys….But, maybe you should spend a little more time on the whole song-naming-thing…

M-83 had a big buzz prior to the show and I decided they would be a good way to wrap up my night.  They drew a huge crowd and while I’m not knowledgable enough about their catalog to quote a set list….it rocked.  They reminded me a bit of Hot Chip who I saw at Glastonbury.  Very danceable and fun electronic based music.

Well, I did know Midnight City, as it’s been pretty hard to miss.  I don’t see any good clips of it from the festival, so here’s one from last week filed at the Music Box in Hollywood.

There was so much to choose from, I was sad to have missed Arctic Monkeys (too hot), Jimmy Cliff (did hear “The Harder they come” from a distance), Mazzy Star (the web stream just didn’t impress me), Explosions in the Sky (conflicted with M-83) and The Sheepdogs (also too hot).  But, I really felt even with the heat I got a lot of music stuff into a single day on Friday.

I let the crowd disperse from M-83 and headed to the ADA booth to try and get a ride back to the shuttle to not have to make the insanely long walk that they had created for the hotel shuttles.  Sadly, no one was there at that moment, so I ended up striking out and taking the better part of a hour to get to my shuttle….all the while I got to listen to Swedish House Mafia….honestly, without the lasers and the screens….it’s not that great to listen to…especially when you’re hobbling along over a mile on bad knees you’ve already been walking on for 14 hours.  Really, it was the only blemish on an otherwise nearly perfect day.

I think I finally made it back to my room around 2am and got to fall into bed to try and prepare for day 2.

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