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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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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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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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Elvis Costello – Irvine Barkley Theatre – October 2, 2012

I’ve seen a number of amazing shows so far this year.

Bruce Springsteen, four times…each different and each amazing.

Jackson Browne at the Largo holding a room spellbound.

The Head and the Heart at Coachella with the most amazing harmonies floating into the late afternoon heat.

The passion of Frank Turner twice and even the cool funk of the Dukes of September as the covered Buddy Miles, Sly Stone and the Isley Brothers.

But, tonight Elvis Costello put on a jaw-dropping show that I’d hold up alongside any of them, maybe only giving Bruce a slight edge due to the sheer force and power of his shows.  This was a different animal than that…so to compare them would be like apples to hubcaps…just not worth even trying.  Two different things, by two different artists with a clear vision and ability to age not just gracefully, but relevantly as they do so.

I saw Elvis with the Impostors back in 2002 in Long Beach, then I saw him solo in a show similar to this at the Queens Hall in London in 2002.  That show was good, this show was great.  (Even though Richard Thompson guested with him in London…)

Surrounded by an array of guitars and piano, he played a near two hour set that ranged from the feedback soaked loops of “Watching the Detectives” to the un-amplified hushed tones of his set closing “Allison”.  He played the hits, but some of the most compelling moments were the newer songs and covers.  Opening with a strong “Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes” and it’s brilliant opening line: “…Oh, I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused…” that transitioned into one of the best covers of Bob Dylan’s “When I Paint My Masterpiece” since Levon Helm did it back in the 70’s.  That seemed to set the tone for the evening…even though the tour was called the “2054 The Centenary Tour” in a mocking reference to his 100th birthday…(coming up in only 42 years…)  He later mentioned learning after naming the tour that Americans call it a centennial, and thus many had read it as the “cemetery tour” and expected a Halloween show.

He was an engaging host throughout the evening, telling stories about his dad singing in workingman’s clubs, singing a song about his three sons and dedicating a sweet version of “Walking My Baby Back Home” to his “gal” (Diana Krall, who he admitted missing very much in the intro).  It had all the best informality of sitting around and listening to the most talented friend you know play music, but he never wandered too far or slowed the momentum of the show.

Three tracks from his National Ransom album from a couple years ago really stood out to me, as did a gripping version of “Bedlam” from his DeliveryMan album.  The National Ransom songs: “Jimmie in the rain” which told the sad tale of a performer with a suitcase containing a book of poetry and a lariat he used “late at night” with further comments reserved as it was a family show…”A Slow Drag with Josephine” with it’s 1920’s swing…and most grippingly a menacing take on “Stations of the Cross” that traded the produced feel of the album version for a version that was deeper and richer in it’s stripped down simplicity.  I couldn’t find a good solo version on YouTube, so here’s one with the Roots from Jimmy Fallon.

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Other standouts were the hits: “Veronica”, “Everyday I Write the Book” and a ukulele plucked version of the old Glenn Miller standard “I Know Why”.  It was just one of those amazing nights when it all clicks.  Sure, I’d have loved to have heard a dozen different songs…he has a big catalog.  But, I wouldn’t trade a single note out to replace anything he did.

This one goes right to the top of my annual list into some very good company.  Shows like this are why I go in the first place…magic happens that you’ll never get off a recording.

Until next time…

(Which is actually Friday night for the Head and the Heart at the Wiltern!)

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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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Coachella Day 2 – April 21, 2012 – The Afternoon

I slept in a little due to the heat, but finally headed back in on the shuttle bus at about noon on Saturday.  I short note about the shuttles is that they were 99% awesome.  Easy parking, a direct route to the shuttle lot.  Nice drivers and staff from Valley Music Travel who run them.  My only minor quibble is the “trudge of death at the end of the night”….you have to do a complete circle around the perimeter of the shuttle lot….that adds something close to a mile to the walk.  After a full day in the sun, that is a killer.  It seems a little reconfiguration of that lot is order folks….please?

I went through both searches fairly quickly.  (You have to be searched when you come off the shuttle and at the gate.)  A small pain, but the guys doing them were pretty efficient and fast.  But, a small tweak here to only require one search would be appreciated when it’s over 100 degrees (103 on Saturday to be specific)…

I headed to the Gobi tent and caught the last couple songs by Spector.  The songs were both decent “Chevy Thunder” and “Never Fade Away”.  I sort of wished I’d caught their full set, but realistically was happy that slept in no matter who I’d missed.  (I”d already downed 4 four bottles of water on the bus and walk in…)  I sort of thought of Gaslight Anthem, but with a British twist.  Some potential there.

I found a nice BBC clip of them from last year:

I have to say, finding groups like these guys is the really cool part of a festival like Coachella (or Glastonbury for that matter).  Nothing like wandering to a stage knowing nothing by band and having them catch your ear.  It may not all be something that lasts and becomes one of your top favorite bands.  But, hearing something fresh beats only listening to classic rock or only stuff you’ve heard for years.  At least for me, it’s keeps my mind open and my iPod playlist rotating with new stuff.  And, you get an occasional Gaslight Anthem, Frank Turner or Head and the Heart who do become a huge favorite.

I stayed at the Gobi and listened to Dragonette in the Mojave from a distance.  Sounded good, a bit like LaRoux from where I was.  I heard later that they had some sound problems.  But, I couldn’t tell from my spot.  It was a nice way to pass the time between bands without venturing into the sun.

Up next were the Vaccines in the Gobi Tent.  They stormed on stage to the Ramones version of “Rock and Roll Radio” which led into “Wreckin Bar (RA RA RA)”

So, a Ramones influence, but I have to say….I was never a big Ramones fan.

(Side note: I took a date to see the Ramones at Crawford Hall in Irvine in December of 78…we had awesome seats in the 3rd row, but we were both sadly not too impressed….after about 45 minutes (which was like 20 songs…) I asked her if she was enjoying it and she said “not really”…so, we bailed out and left.  Yes, my only time seeing the critically acclaimed Ramones, and I left early.  Not sure if that makes me dumb, or really smart, but after 40 minutes I really felt I’d seen pretty much all they had to offer.  Respect to them, just not a huge fan.)

Anyway, the Vaccines we fast, loud and brash…the most interesting thing was a few sort of rockabilly guitar riffs buried in there.  The crowd dug them, but I can’t see myself rushing out to buy most of their stuff.  They played a new song “teenage icon” that stood out to me…so, maybe there’s some potential?  Here’s a pretty good clip someone shot of that.  (I would be behind him to the right about 50 feet.)….

However, all that being said, their closer “Norgaard” was a nearly perfect song, crowd, attitude, time of day, etc.  My only note after the song title is – “awesome song”   So, I guess you could say that they sort of won me over in the end and I had fun.  Another of those “festival” moments where you try something out of your zone and walk away glad that you did.

I broke for some lunch and had a nice chat with some random college kids sitting around me who were from all over the country and who’d all made the trip to the festival.  It was really nice just sitting in the shade, chatting about bands we’d seen and letting the world pass by for a few minutes, don’t forget to take a quiet minute or two at a festival.  Relax, it’s supposed to fun, not some marathon to try and see every act.  Sit a chill for a bit now and then (although using the term chill in the context of that heat wave is sort of odd.)

I decided after a bit to head to see Big Pink.  I caught most of their set, and it was all not familiar to me.  A bit like the Vaccines in some ways…mostly that I wasn’t really grabbed initially by the set.  Unlike the Vaccines, they didn’t really win me over in the end.  Another festival rule is that you just may not like everything you hear, no matter how hard you try to only hit the highlights.  It wasn’t that they weren’t talented….the girl they had drumming really was quite good.  They just didn’t really catch my ear.  Here’s a sample:

Next up was the Head and the Heart, which I reviewed already as a stand alone post….best set of the weekend for me.

After Head and the Heart I went and got a CD signed at the record tent by both Head and the Heart and Kasabian.

Once done, I started to head over to see Laura Marling.  But, I decided on the fly that since I’d seen her in London, I’d check out Manchester Orchestra and wait for Squeeze.  In retrospect, I’d much rather have rather seen Laura (or Noel Gallaher if it wasn’t still so damn hot).  Of the three songs by Manchester Orchestra that I heard…two were not very impressive.  The last song (not sure of the title) rocked much better.

But, I seemed to be all afternoon in a sort of an up and down pattern…I’d see something epic and then something that was blah….Nothing was downright horrible (as I noted above), just blah, derivative or maybe even boring.  The chances you take at a show like this…they can’t all be winners.

At least the drummer had a really awesome beard….

So, really not a bad afternoon considering the heat, I’d seen most of what I’d hoped and a one big highlight band.  I’d even gotten a couple CD’s signed.  So, I would deem the afternoon an overall success.

Next up was Squeeze, but I’ll save them for my evening review!

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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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