They Might Be Giants: 9/28/2011

They Might Be Giants is the ultimate nerd band. I first heard them on a college radio station and initially did not know what to make of their music. But I soon became a fan, and their album “Flood” dominated my CD player for a long time in the 90’s. So when my daughter expressed a desire to go see them, I went out and got us tickets, figuring it would be a fun father/daughter night out.

We got to the Orange Peel and found a spot amid the other music geeks. The band opened with “Asheville,” a song they wrote about the city we were in, which was very cool. They continued playing a great show full of quirky songs that made my geek-heart flutter. “Particle Man” and “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” were particularly fun for me. The crowd was psyched, jumping up and down in rhythm to the music. It was just a fun, fun night.

I can’t express just how much time like this mean to me. Live music is such a bonding experience, and sharing this night with my daughter is a memory that I will treasure. If you haven’t listened to this band, I suggest checking them out. They are unique and not like any “popular” music you will have heard before. Here is the setlist from the show.

Setlist:

  • Asheville
  • Can’t Keep Johnny Down
  • We Live in a Dump
  • Canajoharie
  • Judy Is Your Viet Nam
  • Particle Man
  • Meet James Ensor
  • Los Angeles
  • Turn Around
  • Celebration
  • Birdhouse in Your Soul
  • Clap Your Hands
  • Withered Hope
  • Battle for the Planet of the Apes
  • Cloisonné
  • Spoiler Alert
  • lder
  • Don’t Let’s Start
  • Your Racist Friend
  • Alphabet of Nations
  • Old Pine Box
  • Ana Ng
  • When Will You Die
  • The Mesopotamians

Encore:

  • Careful What You Pack
  • Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Encore 2:

  • Lie Still, Little Bottle
  • Nothing’s Gonna Change My Clothes

AC/DC: 3/18/2001

After I heard that the great Malcolm Young passed away at the age of 64, I figured I needed to shuffle through the pile of stubs and locate an AC/DC stub (I’ve seen them several times). As fate would have it, I came upon the stub from the last time I saw the band, which was in 2001 on the Stiff Upper Lip tour.

I went to this show with my friend Jim, who was a die-hard AC/DC fan. We went to the National Car Rental Center which was in the Fort Lauderdale area. It was your typical arena.

Honestly, I was expecting a mediocre show, some old dudes wheezing through a set, trying to recapture their earlier energy—but I was pleasantly surprised. The band exploded on stage and ripped right into “You Shook Me” and just kept tearing it up for the entire show. I kept worrying that Angus was going to hurt himself as he flung himself around the stage, but he was like the rock and roll Energizer Bunny… he just kept going and going and going…

The band played all the standard hits, and broke out some unusual tunes which I really got into, particularly “Shot Down in Flames” and “Get it Hot.” Even my die-hard buddy was impressed when they played those.

I can still picture Malcolm at this show, hair hanging over his face, steadfast and pounding out the relentless rhythm amid the rock and roll chaos. Rock on, Malcolm, and thanks for all the kick-ass music.

Here is the setlist from the show.

  • You Shook Me All Night Long
  • Stiff Upper Lip
  • Shot Down in Flames
  • Thunderstruck
  • Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be
  • Hard as a Rock
  • Shoot to Thrill
  • Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution
  • Sin City
  • Bad Boy Boogie
  • Hells Bells
  • Get It Hot
  • The Jack
  • Back in Black
  • Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
  • Highway to Hell
  • Whole Lotta Rosie
  • Let There Be Rock
  • T.N.T.
  • For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)

Alice Cooper: 7/17/1980

This is my ticket stub from the very first time I saw Alice Cooper. This was a huge deal for me, because I was a major Coop fan and was psyched beyond words to see the man live. This was the “Flush the Fashion” tour, which was not my favorite album at the time, but I have learned to appreciate it over the years. Anyway, on to the story.

I was living in Miami at the time, and West Palm Beach was a bit of a hike. I worked with a guy named Floyd, who was a bit of a redneck but he liked rock music, and he had a car. He agreed to drive me and my two friends Vinnie and Leanna, so the four of us piled into his car and headed down the road.

We were driving up I-95, Vinnie and Leanna were in the back, I was shotgun, and the three of us were talking and laughing while Floyd was driving. Then he suddenly pulled off onto the shoulder and started yelling at us: “STOP LAUGHING!! My license is expired and if I get pulled over by the cops, I go to jail.”

I looked at him. “Umm, the cops probably won’t pull you over if we are laughing, but they might if you are stopped on the side of the highway. But if it makes you feel better, we will be quiet.”

An uncomfortable silence ensued for a while. After a bit, Floyd said, “It’s ok. Y’all can laugh if you want.” At that point, I was failing to see the humor in anything.

We got to the West Palm Beach Auditorium, hung around the parking lot a bit, then went inside. It was a triple bill, so the first act to play was Billy Squire. He was OK. Next up was Mike Pinera’s Sea Rock. Mike was also playing guitar with Alice on this tour, but it was cool to see his solo band. For those of you who don’t know, Mike Pinera was from the Blues Image, so of course they played “Ride Captain Ride.”

While we were waiting for Alice to come out, Floyd asked us to kick in money towards gas, since he filled the tank prior to the drive and we had agreed to give him some money. I gave him $3 and Vinnie gave him $3. Leanna didn’t have any money. Gas was cheap back then. Floyd had spent $12 to fill the tank. Anyway, he stood there, looking at the money, and said: “Hey. I put $12 in the tank. There are four of us, and 12 divided by 4 equals $3 each, so you all owe me another $3.” Vinnie had no more money, and all I had was $3 to my name. I told him that Leanna didn’t have any money, explained our cash situation, and told him I would give him a few dollars at work when we got paid that week. He responded by saying that Vinnie and I could get a ride back, but he would not drive Leanna because she didn’t pay. At that point, I lost it and got in his face, yelling and cursing at him. People were backing away because the argument was getting really heated. Finally, I gave him the last of my money and said, “Here you go, asshole! Take my last three fuckin’ dollars. Cheap fucker! Hope you’re happy!” At that point, he tossed the $9 at me, turned around, and walked away.

Now I started to panic. West Palm was a long way from Miami, especially in the days before cell phones and Uber, and $9 was not going to pay for a cab. I envisioned us hitching, which was not what I wanted to do. Alice came out, started rockin’, but I was obsessing. Visions of me kicking this guy’s ass at work were dominating my thoughts. I tried my best to enjoy the show, but each song seemed to fuel my anger more and more.

Finally, after a few songs, who shows up beside us, but Pretty Boy Floyd. “Hey guys! WOOOOOOO! Killer jams!” I looked at him with a feeling of disgust, but had enough common sense to keep my mouth shut. After a while, my anger subsided as I realized that we were getting a ride home, and he didn’t even ask us for a penny. I figured that this guy must not be playing with a full deck. I would be sure to keep that in mind.

The show was awesome. Extremely loud, but I was lovin’ it to death. The stage show was scaled back, no guillotine or anything like that, but the fight scene in “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets” was very cool. I would see Alice many times after this, but there is nothing quite like the first time.

The ride home was uneventful, thankfully. Here is the setlist. Rock on!

Setlist:

  • Model Citizen
  • Grim Facts
  • Go to Hell
  • Guilty
  • Pain
  • I Never Cry
  • Talk Talk
  • I’m Eighteen
  • Gutter Cat vs. the Jets
  • Only Women Bleed
  • Clones (We’re All)
  • Nuclear Infected
  • Under My Wheels
  • Dance Yourself to Death
  • Road Rats
  • Elected

Encore:

  • School’s Out

Rainbow: 7/23/1982

Here is my ticket stub from when I went to see Rainbow on the “Straight Between the Eyes” tour. I don’t remember much from this show, which was post Ronnie James Dio. What I do remember is that Ritchie Blackmore was as fast as ever on the Strat. I also recall them playing “Long Live Rock n’ Roll” and finishing up with “Smoke on the Water.” I could not find the setlist from this particular show online, but I did locate a setlist from Madison Square Garden on the same tour, which is probably similar to the show I saw.

Here’s the MSG setlist:

  • Spotlight Kid
  • Miss Mistreated
  • I Surrender
  • Can’t Happen Here
  • Tearin’ Out My Heart
  • All Night Long
  • Stone Cold
  • Power
  • Difficult to Cure
  • Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
  • Smoke on the Water

Pink Floyd: 4/30/1988

I was living in Miami at this time, but thought nothing of taking a road trip up to Orlando to catch Pink Floyd. A group of us decided to carpool up there together, which led to a problem. I was playing music with a guy named Mitch, who was along for the ride. We stopped at a convenience store for refreshments, and unbeknownst to everyone else, Mitch got in to an argument with the cashier and walked out of the store without paying. The cashier got the license plate and filed a police report. A few weeks after the concert, police contacted the owner of the car, who contacted me, and I passed a message on to Mitch to call the officer and straighten out the dispute. He failed to do so, and after more harassment, I finally provided his name to the police. Needless to say, that ended our musical collaboration.

Anyway, back to the concert.

We made it to the Citrus Bowl, and it was pouring like it can only pour in Florida. But it was not a warm spring Florida rain. Oh no! It was bitter cold. Everyone was huddled together, wearing trash bags, trying to keep warm. I recall shivering uncontrollably, my teeth literally chattering. If it were any band other than Pink Floyd, I would have walked out. And while the lasers looked really cool slicing through the rain, after a while, I didn’t even care.

As a musician, I could not help wondering about the safety of the band members, as well as the equipment. I for one would never want to let my guitar get wet like that. But David Gilmour did not seem to mind, although he did comment about how it always seems to rain in Florida when they perform there. Richard Wright, the keyboardist, was literally covered under a tent of tarps. It was kind of silly that when he was playing a solo, the lights just shone on this brownish mound of plastic.

Having seen Pink Floyd before in Miami, I have to say I was a little disappointed with this show. The set list was shorter, and noticeably missing was “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” which was what they opened with in Miami. It felt like the band was miserable and just wanted to finish playing and get somewhere warm and dry.

After the concert, we all piled into a hotel room. There were a lot of us, so floor space and bathtub were utilized. Next morning, we headed back to Miami.

Here is the set list…

Set 1:

  • Signs of Life
  • Learning to Fly
  • Yet Another Movie
  • Round and Around
  • A New Machine (Part 1)
  • Terminal Frost
  • A New Machine (Part 2)
  • Sorrow
  • The Dogs of War
  • On the Turning Away

Set 2:

  • One of These Days
  • Time
  • On the Run
  • The Great Gig in the Sky
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Us and Them
  • Money
  • Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
  • Comfortably Numb

Encore:

  • One Slip
  • Run Like Hell

Roger Waters: 7/18/2017

My brother who lives in the Greensboro area is a huge Pink Floyd fan, so when I saw that Roger Waters was playing in Greensboro, I asked him to grab me some tickets. That was about nine months before the show. But finally the day arrived and it was time to take the drive to my brother’s.

My daughter and I set out on what should have been a two-and-a-half hour drive, but we were beset with rain, hail, accidents, construction, basically everything except an earthquake and a plague of locusts. But eventually we arrived, ate a few slices of pizza, and then piled into two cars to drive to the show (since there were six of us altogether).

We arrived at the coliseum where they were charging a criminal $20 per car to park. As we pulled up to the fee booth, my brother asked the guy working there if we could get a two-for-one deal, since the car behind was with us. And the dude actually said yes! I was kind of shocked, but my brother has always had a touch for finagling things like that.

We parked and headed inside. I went and checked out the shirts, which looked cool, but the cheap ones were $40, and a tie dye shirt was $75! I’m an old timer, and I just couldn’t bring myself around to spending that much money on a tee shirt.

Our seats were straight back, which was great because we got the full visual experience, which was amazing. The concert was heavy on the “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Animals” material, which was fine with me. The earliest piece he played was “One of These Days” from the Meddle album. That song always gives me the chills.

While the music and the stage show were both awesome, there was one big bummer about this concert: we had a screamer in the row behind us. This woman, who was obviously fresh from a trailer park, was raving about all the Xanax she took before the show. Then once the lights went down, she started screaming, and screaming, and screaming, at the top of her lungs. I am all for people getting psyched about a show, but this was ridiculous. About halfway into the second set, I said something to her, to which she nastily responded “Shut the fuck up!” and just screamed even louder. I debated escalating the situation, but decided it was not worth it. We have to choose our rock and roll battles.

Anyway, in spite of that, I had a great time. The show was political, but not overly so (lots of images of Trump as a pig in the second set). Having seen Waters about four times now, I have to say that this was one of his better shows. If you have an opportunity to catch this tour, you definitely should. Here is the setlist for those who are interested.

Set 1:

  • Breathe
  • One of These Days
  • Time
  • Breathe (Reprise)
  • The Great Gig in the Sky
  • Welcome to the Machine
  • When We Were Young
  • Déjà Vu
  • The Last Refugee
  • Picture That
  • Wish You Were Here
  • The Happiest Days of Our Lives
  • Another Brick in the Wall Part 2
  • Another Brick in the Wall Part 3

Set 2:

  • Dogs
  • Pigs (Three Different Ones)
  • Money
  • Us and Them
  • Smell the Roses
  • Brain Damage
  • Eclipse
  • Vera
  • Bring the Boys Back Home
  • Comfortably Numb

Alice Cooper: 4/29/2017

My wife is not an Alice Cooper fan, but she made me a promise that if he ever came close to us, she would go with me. Well, this was my chance to cash in on that promise. Cherokee is a relatively short drive (under an hour), and we figured we would make a day of it by touring the village and going to the casino.

We got there early and it was a gorgeous day. The first thing we did was visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. It was a cool museum that really gave a broad picture of the tribe’s history.

Afterwards, we walked around a little and went into some shops. Total tourist traps. Every shop had the same bogus crap that was made in China. It was kind of sad. It made me feel that their culture was reduced to mass-produced shit for white people on vacation to waste some money on. The only thing I bought was some coffee from a local coffee roaster. That was actually quite good!

After that, we went to Harrah’s Resort and Casino, where the concert would be held. This was my first time at a casino, so it was a little overwhelming. We had planned to gamble $50 each, but when they figured out we were newbies, they told us we could sign up for a rewards card and get $50 each credit to play. That was a no brainer! We got the cards and started on the slots. We did OK, cashed out that money, then tried our luck at the roulette table. Didn’t do quite as well there, but we still walked away with some money that we didn’t have before, so it worked out well.

We tried to get into one of the restaurants before the show, but there was no way. The waits were ridiculous. We ended up getting some fast-food grub which was disappointing but filled the void. Then we headed over to the concert hall.

The venue was quite nice: decent size with comfortable seats and a big stage. As we got to our seats, we ran into our friend Ari who was in the same row as us. Small world!

Show started right on time and Alice opened with a blistering version of “Brutal Planet.” Then it was classic Cooper for a solid two hours, complete with wild stage theatrics that included a giant Frankenstein monster, trademark snake, guillotine, and a straightjacket. The highpoint for me was definitely “Halo of Flies,” one of his more obscure tunes from the Killer album which I think is a metal masterpiece.

There was one point in the show where my wife got visibly disturbed, which was during the “Cold Ethyl / Only Women Bleed” segment. She felt it was misogynistic and promoted violence toward women. While I have seen that part of his performance many times, I have always viewed it as an acknowledgment of violence directed towards women, but not as a promotion of it. In fact, that part of the act is almost always followed by Alice being apprehended and punished for his crimes (usually by beheading). But, I had to agree with my wife that it could certainly be seen that way. Thankfully, that did not ruin the entire evening for her.

Anyway, here is the full setlist.

  • Brutal Planet
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Under My Wheels
  • Lost in America
  • Pain
  • Welcome to My Nightmare
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • The World Needs Guts
  • Woman of Mass Distraction
  • Guitar Solo (Nita Strauss)
  • Poison
  • Halo of Flies
  • Feed My Frankenstein
  • Cold Ethyl
  • Only Women Bleed
  • Escape
  • Ballad of Dwight Fry
  • Killer
  • I Love the Dead
  • I’m Eighteen
  • Elected

Encore:

  • School’s Out

Santana with Ozomatli: 10/17/1999

Santana is always great in concert, but this concert was especially nice since he had Ozomatli opening, and members of Ozomatli joined Carlos and his band during their set.

My wife and I went to this show with some acquaintances, another couple who we sort of knew but were not really friends with. The concert was at Coral Sky Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, which is your typical amphitheatre. There are seats in the front half and an open field in the back. We had seats, which was nice.

I was not very familiar with Ozomatli at this time, but they came out and totally rocked. I was really impressed with their sound and energy, and during their last song, they all picked up percussion instruments and walked out among the audience, jamming like a conga line. It was the perfect opener for Santana.

Santana was, as I said, amazing. His tone and the clarity of his guitar work are the signs of a musical virtuoso. He played a great mix of his classic music, as well as songs from his then new album, “Supernatural,” which I think is an incredible album and one I was listening to quite a bit at that time. The only down side about this show was the drive home. We lived in Miami at the time, so it was a bit of a long trek back from West Palm.

Anyway, here’s the setlist. Rock and roll!

  • Spiritual / (Da Le) Yaleo / Hannibal (with Ozomatli)
  • Migra (with Ozomatli)
  • Put Your Lights On (with Ozomatli)
  • Santana Sandwich
  • Day of Celebration
  • Victory Is Won
  • Maria Maria (with Ozomatli)
  • Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile)
  • Smooth
  • Bacalao con pan (with Ozomatli)
  • Make Somebody Happy / Get It in Your Soul
  • Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen
  • Oye como va
  • Everybody’s Everything
  • Love of My Life
  • Jin-go-lo-ba

Camera Obscura: 6/3/2010

cameraobscura_6-3-10

Camera Obscura is an indie band from Scotland. I had some friends who listened to them and the stuff I heard I liked, so when they booked a show in Asheville, I convinced my friend Joe to go along with me.

The bad sounded good, but they seemed a little tired on stage. It’s possible that travelling had taken its toll, or maybe they had overindulged. Whatever the case, they were not that energetic. But musically, they were tight and the songs sounded solid. It could also have been that they were a low-energy band on stage. Some bands are like that—great on recordings and less so live. Anyway, I enjoyed the show overall and bought a vinyl copy of “My Maudlin Career” from the concession stand, which was their most-recent album at the time. It’s a good album and I still listen to it occasionally.

Not much else to say about this show. If you’re into the indie stuff, like Belle and Sebastian, then you should check this band out too.

Cheers!

Greg Lake: 4/25/2012

greglake_4-25-12

“If you were stranded on a desert island with just one album to listen to, what would it be?” If you are my age, I’m sure you’ve answered this question many times. My response was pretty standard: Brain Salad Surgery by Emerson Lake and Palmer. Throughout the years, I have owned this on vinyl (twice), on cassette, on 8-track, and on CD. It is an album I never tire of listening to.

I dug out this stub because Greg Lake passed away a couple days ago. He died the same year that his bandmate Keith Emerson also died. 2016 has been a terrible year for musicians.

I went to this concert with my friend Bill, a former bandmate of mine and a writer for various music publications. He had acquired a pair of complimentary tickets, which included a pass to meet Greg after the performance. I have to say, I was pretty excited to meet someone who has inspired me musically for most of my life.

We drove to Raleigh, got some food, then went to the venue. The manager there was very accommodating and invited us in early, gave us more food and beverages, and made us feel like VIP’s. The venue was intimate and we had great seats. Finally, the lights went out and Greg Lake took the stage.

This was his “storyteller” tour, so it was just him on the stage, playing bass and guitar along with recorded tracks, and of course singing. He also spent a good deal of time between songs telling personal stories about bands, recordings, and life as a musician. I felt like I got to know him on a deeper level and gained a more rich understanding of him as an artist. He played a broad selection of music from his early days in King Crimson through ELP and solo material. For me, it was an amazing experience, but it got better.

After the performance, we went to the VIP guest room and waited for Greg to arrive. After a bit, he showed up and people queued up to meet him and ask him questions. I of course had to bring a copy of Brain Salad Surgery, which he graciously signed for me. I felt a little intimidated meeting him, but he was pretty relaxed. I asked him what new bands he listened to. He said none, really. I felt a twinge of sadness for him. There are some great musicians out there now, and I thought he might find enjoyment and inspiration from listening to them. To quote his song: “C’est la vie” (which he played).

Greg Lake will be sorely missed, but he has gone on to join the great gig in the sky. Godspeed.

greglake_bss