Tag Archives: Blondie

Wrapping up 2010

Wow, where do I start….

As evidenced by the previous posts I had a pretty amazing year of concert-going.  A near lifelong quest completed, an epic show I’d missed 30 years ago revisited.  A music oriented couple weeks in London.  Countless HOF members of the Rock Hall of Fame….heck a ton of them in just a single week.  Shows with good friends old and new.  Hard to even wrap my head around the whole thing.

Here’s the list:

Keb’ Mo’ – Coach House – Jan 14

The Blasters, John Doe, Rumble King – Coach House – Feb 20

Peter Gabriel – Hollywood Bowl – May 7

Styx, Kansas, Foreigner – Citizens Bank Arena – May 19

Richard Thompson – Royal Festival Hall – June 19

Green Day, Joan Jett – Wembley Stadium – June 19

Elvis Costello – Royal Festival Hall – June 20

Glastonbury – June 23-27

Jackson Browne – Albert Hall – June 29

Jack Johnson – O2 Arena – June 30

Laura Marling, Fanfarlo, Peggy Sue, Smoke Fairies – Hyde Park – July 1

Hop Farm – July 2-3

Jools Holland – Kew Gardens – July 6

Barenaked Ladies, Kris Allen, Angel Taylor – Greek Theatre – July 22

Blondie, Gorevette – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 8

Rush – Irvine Meadows – August 13

Al Yankovic – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 14

Scissor Sisters – DAR Consitiution Hall – August 23

Neil Finn – Largo – September 11

Muse, Passion Pit – Staples Center – September 25

Gorillaz, N.E.R.D. – Gibson – October 27

Bonobo – Music Box – November 26

Roger Waters – Staples Center – November 29

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 13

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 14

Twenty three shows and two festivals in all.  I don’t think I could even pick a “best”.  However a few things to note do occur to me.

Worst sound, Scissor Sisters.  Horrible mix that completely left the vocals out, and it’s not like I had a crappy seat, I was in the 5th row.  Really guys?  Totally detracted from an interesting performance.

Only show I left early, Jack Johnson.  It was okay, but very one-note.  I like his studio stuff, but in a huge arena it was lost.  Put the same show in an intimate venue and I might have loved it.  Add to the experience that I was a bit sick that night and it was just not a compelling show.

Most disappointing, Muse/Passion Pit.  Passion Pit left me cold and Muse after all the hype just didn’t live up to expectations.  Lot’s of copped riffs and wasted technology that didn’t go anywhere.  If you want to use technology look to Gabriel, Waters or even the Pet Shop Boys.  This was “sound and fury that signified nothing”…

Most intimate, Neil Finn.  The Largo is magic when Neil plays there and the September show was no exception.  An obscure setlist that actually added to the special feeling of the evening.  You knew even while watching this was the sort of thing that would never be duplicated.  Jackson Browne in the acoustic tent at Glastonbury was a close second.  While the masses grooved to Stevie Wonder….Jackson held court for a few hundred lucky folks and spun magic with his sidekick David Lindley.  Moving and unique almost sell short just how very special a way it was to end my Glastonbury experience.

Surprises…How awesome Gorillaz were in LA after disappointing in Glastonbury.

Bonobo, Midlake, Hot Chip, Fanfarlo, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Magic Numbers, The Bees….none of whom I knew before 2010 and who all get extensive spins regularly on my ipod now.

How great Rush could be at doing “Moving Pictures” after being somewhat average the other time I’d seen them previously….this show made up for that one in spades.

Disappointment….U2 having to cancel in Anaheim and Glastonbury…(of course it does give me a couple shows to look forward to in 2011 already…)

Well, that’s it…another year in the books, and an amazing one at that.  Curious to see what 2011 (and beyond) will bring?  But, it’ll be hard for any year to reach the heights of 2010 for me.

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Blondie and Gorevette at the OC Fair

Stepping away from my UK trip to review a local concert I went to see at the OC Fair first.

Obviously the ticket doldrums are having an effect on the OC Fair shows, only about 2/3 of the house sold…and that’s with tickets bottoming out at 10.00

I bought mine yesterday on a whim.

I had the chance to see Blondie at Hop Farm in the UK and had opted instead to see Richard Thompson on the smaller stage. Thompson thanked us at the time for choosing 60’s dinosaur folk rock over 80’s dinosaur pop. So tonight I decided to see what I might have missed.

First up was 30 minutes of Gorevette. That was about 29 minutes past what their talent warranted. Basically a band of punk cliches looking for an audience…it wasn’t me.

A pinch of X, a dash of the Ramones, a hiccup of the Runaways and the Go-Go’s that amounted to….nothing. The most memorable song of the set was a karaoke bar bad version of “Goods girls don’t” by the Knack…seriously kids? You couldn’t even cover better Knack song? Wait, that’s sort of an oxymoron isn’t it?

My mind wandered to the mid 80’s when I saw X open for Oingo Boingo on this very stage….and I knew that I would never look back at this band 25 years later for any reason except a small footnote in my concert-going history.

On to Blondie.

A strong opening with “D-Day” leading into “Call Me” and then a surprisingly muscular version of “The Hardest Part” from their “Eat to the Beat” album (they were still called albums back then kids).

A couple of surprisingly good new songs led to “Maria”, which was also a surprise in that Debbie Harry’s voice was spot on. None of the ravages of age showing the way that I’ve heard in so many other aging rockers (cough, Roger Daltry, cough).

Next up was the first of a couple small mis-steps of the evening. The song “What I heard” was fine, but the guitar solo was a little too “Bon Jovi” for my taste. I mean Blondie is about whip smart pop with a punk edge. Tommy Kesslers solos all night edged toward the excess of the 80’s Sunset Strip and away from the raw CBGB sound that I associate with the band. Not a fatal error, but an error to me nonetheless.

All was forgiven as the band blasted into the hits….”Atomic”, “The tide is high” (with a nice snippet of I’ll take you there and Debbie doing a mean hula) and “Rapture”….then the first (maybe only?) clinker if the night when she just couldn’t climb the heights of “Call Me”. Not a horrible version, just a weak spot or two finally tipping us that despite her ageless look, she is honestly a woman in her 60’s…(in great shape and darn hot), but after a solid hour of singing she was unable to keep her voice quite as ageless as her looks.

The set wrapped with “One way or Another”, and then four encore songs…interesting less known choices that were highlighted by “Picture This” and then closing with “Heart of Glass”.

All in all, well worth the discounted ticket and spending an evening with a band that I’d never really had a chance to see before. As I walked out many seemed to agree, as I overheard numerous positive comments from the crowd around me.

Good show! (Well except for Gorevette it was a good show.)

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Friday – Hop Farm

Sorry, I’ve been a little lax on my updates for a few days.  I’ve dealt with a combination of full schedule and being tired.  As this is technically a vacation…I took a couple days off from posting.  But, now I find myself well behind and need to start catching up.

Well, the day after the Laura Marling show I last reviewed I was off to Hop Farm in Kent.

Because of the distance to Kent I spent some time trying to work out the logistics of my return late that night.  London has this odd quirk of public transport in that the Tubes shut down just after midnight.  They have night buses, but those can be ram packed and take forever.  My departure and return point was from Waterloo Station, so I had a long distance to cover at 2am.  I finally decided that things would just sort themselves out and headed for Waterloo Station to catch my outgoing bus.

Feeling the need for some comfort food, I grabbed a Whopper at Burger King, then headed out to the pick up point in the shadow of the London Eye.  (Still never have ridden the wheel, it’s cool, but very pricey).  Lots of folks waiting with camping gear for the weekend.  At this point I realized that in all my return trip stress I have forgotten my hat and my sunglasses!  DOH!  So, it’s hot as hell and I’m going to stand in a field with no sun protection.

We board the bus (late, as they seem to be a bit disorganized) and head out of London via the twisting roads of the Southbank.  With distance and traffic it literally takes us over two hours!

I don’t have my ticket yet (Outside UK customer), so I’m directed to one set of tents, then on to another, then on to the opposite side of the field!  That alone is a 15 minute walk.  I hear one act (Damien Dempsey) end and Imelda May start.  Saw her at Glastonbury, but hoped to see her again.  I stand in a 30 minute Will Call  line and learn they don’t have my ticket there either…I was supposed to get it at the first place!  ACK!

A series of phone calls are made and I learn I’m not the first person off the bus to be sent on this same torturous path.  They ask me to wait and say someone from the bus company will come to me.  So, I wait another 20 minutes or so.  (The logistics of this trip keep getting more challenging at each turn.)

Finally a fellow arrives with my ticket and asks why I didn’t ask one of the bus reps?  I tell him that I did, and then recount the path I was sent on.  He apologizes.  I also mention I have a ticket for the next day, so he searches that out.  He says they didn’t realize that anyone would order tickets separately for each day.  An odd comment, since the days went on sale at different times…and their website didn’t have an option to combine the purchases?  Anyway…I’m finally in…just as Imelda May ends her set…darn.

The field of not very full, so I walk near the front for the next act, Los Lobos.

I’ve seen them many times, but it’s unique to catch them in England.  They do a tight and somewhat short festival set.  But, it’s a crowd pleaser and includes a lot of older tracks that I love.  “Let’s Just Say Goodnight”,  “Don’t Worry Baby”, “Evangeline”.  I think they realized that being in England called for something special, so they did a sloppy bar-band cover of “My Generation” by the Who.  They wrapped up with a cool mashup of “La Bamba.>Good Lovin>Good Morning Azlan”.  Very nice and put me back into a better mood after all the logistical crap of the morning.

Wandered over and heard a bit of Stornoway at the 2nd stage.

Another of the seeming wave of folkie UK acts I encountered this trip.  Not back, sort of Celtic influenced.  But, I hear Dr. John starting in the distance and decided to split to see him.

Dr. John is (as the Brits say), “Cracking Good”…tight band who tear into a mix of old classics (“Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Blues in the Night”, “Let the Good Times Roll”) and newer material (“Mighty Big Gap”) off his latest CD, Tribal.  I realize that with Dr John and Los Lobos so far this festival skews a bit older and bit more American than Glastonbury.

While they reset the stage for Blondie I head for the 2nd stage to see a British Blues legend, Peter Green and his Splinter Group.  (PG founded Fleetwood Mac and then later in the 70’s & 80’s dropped out of the music business for years.)  He has amazing tone and feel and I’m thrilled to hear “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Black Magic Woman” and “Albatross”.  So, not all American acts after all…This guy is a legend that I”m unlikely to ever hear touring the USA.  During his set, A fellow about my age sits down near me and we begin talking.  Nick has driven for the show and left his wife at home for the weekend.  We find we have many common favorite bands and end up hanging out and talking music.

We opt to skip Blondie after all and listen to another legend, Richard Thompson.  This is the 2nd time I’ve seen him on the trip, but the first show was the “popular song” show and this is his solo set with band.  Brilliant!

He thanks the crowd for choosing “Dinosaur Folk” in his tent over “Dinousar 70’s pop” on the other stage.  He’s quite witty with his banter between songs.  “Bathsheba” and “I want to see the Bright Lights Tonight” both stand out for me as highlights.

After his set, Nick and I strike out for the main stage and post ourselves to the right of the mix desk.  Nick has seen Van Morrison between 40 & 50 times…I’ve seen him once.  At 9pm sharp, Van walks on and leads the band into “She Moves on Solid Ground”.  He’s livelier than I’d seen him before and attired in a splendid summer white suit and white porkpie hat.

His band is tight and made up of (amongst others) and couple of musicians from Astral Weeks.  A great version of “Brown Eyed Girl” follows.  from there I really couldn’t have asked for a better set of my personal favorites.  “Help Me”, “Moondance” (which he doesn’t always play), “Philosophers  Stone”, “Baby Please don’t go”, “Tear your Playhouse down”.

Special mention to a couple of songs.  “Have I Told You Lately”, which Van redeems from the pap that Rod Stewart turned it into and restores from generic radio fodder back to a lovely ode on a summers night to a special person in your life.

“Into the Mystic” and “In the Garden”, both again are not traditional rock songs.  Both deal with love and more spiritual connections.  I won’t try to over analyze the lyrics or the meaning.  But, I will say that on a summers night in a field in England they were as close to perfection as anyone could hope to hear.  My friend Nick said that in all the times he’s seen Van this may have been the best one ever.  It was simply transcendent and washed away any of the previous hassles in getting to the show.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve had from this trip is no amount of planning will avoid a few problems…and yet, they great moments are well worth the troubles you have to deal with to get to them.  Much like life, the challenges give resonance scope to the successes.  Generally it seems that the good always outweighs the bad in the final tally.

Buoyed by the wonderful show, the magic of the cool evening and the amazingly great artists I just seen….I head for my bus.  And…it’s not there.

It arrives TWO hours later….

Shivering in the now quite COLD evening I climb aboard for the nearly two hour ride back to Waterloo.  Partway back, there’s a fight between a drunk kid trying to exit the bus via the emergency exit and the driver (a huge man that you’d really have to be drunk or stupid to mess with).  The fight ends with the drunk on the floor beside my seat and the drivers hands wrapped around his throat.

Well….

That’s an interesting finish to the day.

We reach Waterloo about 2am and I decide there is no way in hell I’m looking for a night bus amid all the drunks and homeless.  I grab the first cab and ride in style back to my room in East London.

Long day, interesting day to be sure….but, overall the good (Music and a new friend) outweigh the bad (logistics, bus fights)….

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