Patti Smith: 3/9/2020

Patti Smith has been on my bucket list of musicians/bands that I want to see before I die for a long time, and has actually been at the top of that list ever since I saw Steve Winwood. So when I saw that Patti was playing at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, I was psyched, until I realized to my dismay that I had heard about it too late and tickets were long gone for both nights. I looked at the “verified resale” prices and balked at the fact that they were well over $200. As much as my wife and I both wanted to see her, we did not want to do so that badly. I opted to play the waiting game, checking back occasionally to see if anything appeared within the limit of what I was willing to spend. My patience paid off, and I managed to secure us some tickets a couple weeks before the show. Still paid more than the face value, but at least it was within our budget.

And then came the coronavirus.

The Bay Area was reporting a number of cases, and health officials were advising individuals to avoid crowds. Yes, a sold out concert constitutes a crowd. My wife and I discussed the risks, and decided to go for it. This might be our last chance to see Patti in concert, we spent the money, and chances are, we would not be going to any more concerts for a while. In fact, the word is that now Santa Clara County is banning all large events, so this would definitely be the last show for a while.

One bonus about the virus scare was that the roads were free of traffic. The drive to San Fran, which would usually be close to two hours during rush hour, was an easy one hour. Parking was a breeze. We actually found street parking on Fillmore Street a few blocks from the auditorium. We figured we would grab a cup of coffee before the show, and saw the familiar Starbucks sign as we got closer to the venue, but they were closed – at 7:00 pm! WTF? What kind of a caffeine pusher closes their doors at 7:00? Well, we just went to the Fillmore and got in line.

They guy behind us coughed, and my wife told him he needs to be covering his mouth. That’s why I love her! He assured us that he was getting over a cold and it was not corona. Fine, but we kept a safe distance anyway. Then the woman in front of us struck up a conversation. She was a big Patti Smith fan and had gone to see her the previous night. Hearing her rave reviews just made us more psyched.

When we entered the Fillmore, I was truly awestruck. This place was home to the music that I grew up on, that is integral to who I am. The walls were covered with vintage photos: The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who with Pete sending his guitar sailing into the air, Eric Clapton when he was with Cream, on and on. The building seemed to resonate with the energy of concerts passed. I felt like I had entered the rock and roll Garden of Eden.

We found a spot, not too crowded, and checked out the opening act, Oliver Ray. Interesting. Three guys, Oliver on acoustic guitar and vocals, one guy on electric guitar, and the third dude on pedal steel. They had a unique sound that was hypnotic, almost too hypnotic. If we were sitting, my eyes would likely have started rolling into my skull. When they finished, I noticed Patti Smith on the side of the stage, watching them. I thought, “Now that’s cool. Supporting your opening act.”

In the break between bands, the place got packed. My germaphobia kicked in, and I tried not to let anyone press or rub against me. Not really possible at a general admission open-floor concert. I resigned myself that I would just need to sterilize myself afterward.

At long last, Patti and her band took the stage. And she was AWESOME! You know, sometimes when you have high expectations for a band, it is not easy for them to live up to the expectations. Not the case here. She was every bit as great as I had hoped. She played a nicely diverse set, interspersed with a couple readings from her books and some fun banter with the crowd. Her voice was strong, and she had more energy at 73 than a lot of musicians half her age. She proved that she is still the Godmother of Punk.

High points of the show for me… hands down the peak was “Land” segueing into “Gloria” to close the set. I’m getting chills now just recalling it as I write. She did a haunting cover version of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush,” which was very poignant. And finally, “People Have the Power” as an encore left me feeling hopeful and empowered.

As we were exiting after the show, we got a nice bonus. The staff was handing out really cool concert posters (see pictures at end of this post). We will definitely have to get them framed.

Anyway, here is the full setlist, after which I’ve included a few pictures from the show. Rock on, and keep yourselves healthy in these strange times.

 

Setlist:

  • Ask the Angels
  • Privilege (Set Me Free)
  • Don’t Say Nothing > “Footnote to Howl”
  • Reading from “Year of the Monkey”
  • Dancing Barefoot
  • Maria
  • Nine
  • Because the Night
  • About a Boy
  • Citizen Ship
  • After the Gold Rush
  • Reading from “Just Kids”
  • Pissing in a River
  • Land
  • Gloria

Encore:

  • People Have the Power

Eric Clapton: 7/23/1990

This concert was part of Clapton’s Journeyman tour. I had seen Clapton years before this with Muddy Waters, but I was definitely looking forward to seeing him again. My girlfriend at the time, Joyce, was a big Clapton fan too, so we were both excited about this show.

Our seats were in the lower section, pretty much straight back, so the sound was good, but the musicians were a little small. Not that I minded. Clapton sounded great, as was to be expected. He is, without question, one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

So you may be wondering about the guitar pick that is in the image along with the ticket stub. Of course, I would not have been able to get a pick sitting all the way in the back. But my roommate at time, Lowell, had seats right up near the front center, and he was one of the lucky souls to get a guitar pick that Eric had actually touched and played guitar with… and he gave it to me! I was kind of shocked. All I could think was, “Damn! That’s a true friend who offers you his Eric Clapton guitar pick.” It is a piece of rock memorabilia that I will treasure forever.

Here’s  the setlist from the show.

Setlist:

  • Pretending
  • No Alibis
  • Running on Faith
  • I Shot the Sheriff
  • White Room
  • Can’t Find My Way Home
  • Bad Love
  • Before You Accuse Me
  • Old Love
  • Tearing Us Apart
  • Wonderful Tonight
  • Cocaine
  • Layla
  • Cross Road Blues
  • Sunshine of Your Love

Roger Waters: 3/13/1985

This was my first time seeing Roger Waters. I had seen David Gilmour solo prior to this, which was very cool, but I was definitely excited to see Roger.

Unfortunately, we were on the second leg of this tour. The first leg, which happened in 1984, featured Eric Clapton on guitar. Instead, we had Jay Stapley. Oh well… such is life.

I went to this concert with both of my brothers, one of whom traveled a considerable distance to attend. But that brother has always been a huge Pink Floyd fan, so he was not going to pass on the opportunity to see Waters.

The show was basically broken into two sets: the first set was all Pink Floyd stuff, and the second set was “Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking” in its entirety. Then they did “Brain Damage/Eclipse” as the encore, which was awesome.

The sound was about as good as it could be, considering it was in the Hollywood Sportatorium, notorious for its crappy acoustics. The stage show was very cool. Lots of freaky visuals, props, and theatrics. Basically, everything that you would expect from a Roger Waters concert. High points for me were “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” “If,” “Pigs on the Wing,” and of course, “Brain Damage.” Here is the full setlist. Rock on!!

Set 1:

  • Welcome to the Machine
  • Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
  • Money
  • If
  • Wish You Were Here
  • Pigs on the Wing 1
  • Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
  • Southampton Dock
  • The Gunner’s Dream
  • In the Flesh
  • Nobody Home
  • Have a Cigar
  • Another Brick in the Wall Part 1
  • The Happiest Days of Our Lives
  • Another Brick in the Wall Part 2

Set 2: (The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking)

  • 4:30 AM (Apparently They Were Travelling Abroad)
  • 4:33 AM (Running Shoes)
  • 4:37 AM (Arabs with Knives and West German Skies)
  • 4:39 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 2)
  • 4:41 AM (Sexual Revolution)
  • 4:47 AM (The Remains of Our Love)
  • 4:50 AM (Go Fishing)
  • 4:56 AM (For the First Time Today, Part 1)
  • 4:58 AM (Dunroamin, Duncarin, Dunlivin)
  • 5:01 AM (The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, Part 10)
  • 5:06 AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes)
  • 5:11 AM (The Moment of Clarity)

Encore:

  • Brain Damage
  • Eclipse

Buddy Guy: 9/26/2017

Buddy Guy is one of those guitarists that I always wanted to see but for one reason or another, never did — until now. When I heard he was coming to town, I knew I had to go see him. He is advancing in his years and I figured I might not have many more opportunities to see the legend live.

My wife did not want to go with me to this show (she had seen Buddy before), and none of my friends seemed interested, so I bought a single and went by myself. This ended up being fine. The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was only about 2/3 full, so I went and got a better seat up on the balcony very close to the stage.

The show opened with a performance by a band called Blackfoot Gypsies. The band was comprised of three young white dudes and an older black man on the harmonica. They were pretty good. Obviously, the white guys were raised on a steady diet of Stones and Black Crowes, which reflected in their playing and stage attire. Not the best opening act I’ve seen, but definitely not the worst either.

Finally, Buddy came out and opened with “Damn Right I Got the Blues.” I was immediately impressed by his playing and by how energetic he was on stage. For a man in his 80’s, he played and moved like someone half his age. He played guitar with drum sticks, walked out into the crowd while playing, and channeled Hendrix by playing with his teeth and behind his back. All the while, exhibiting superb musicianship.

I was unable to locate a setlist from this show, so I will just say he did a great mix of his own stuff (including his work with Junior Wells) and some great blues covers. He played songs from Clapton, Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, and Muddy Waters, but gave each rendition his own unique style and sound.

If you have the opportunity to see Buddy Guy live, I highly recommend doing so. He is an incredible musician and an outstanding performer.

Eric Clapton: 6/30/1982

clapton_6-30-82

Eric Clapton has definitely earned the title of guitar god. As a guitarist, seeing him live for the first time was huge for me.

I went to the concert with my friend Jim, but almost didn’t get to see the show. I had snuck in a bottle and was imbibing prior to Clapton taking the stage, when a big hand clutched it while I was holding it. I looked up into the face of a very large security person, flashlight cocked back menacingly, as he said, “That’s mine!” I relinquished the bottle, and he stalked off, and I was grateful that the incident ended there.

We were kind of toward the back of the Sportatorium when Clapton came out, but the energy was immediate. Even in a place notorious for its terrible acoustics, I could hear his guitar work and was impressed from the first song. But we were all in for a surprise that night!

A few songs into the show, a big black man came out onto the stage. Eric must not have known about this because he turned, expressed surprise, and then welcomed the great Muddy Waters to the stage. They performed “Blow Wind Blow” together, which is one of those musical moments that is imprinted into my psyche. But what makes this even more amazing is that this ended up being Muddy Waters’ last performance ever.

Mr. Waters made his final concert appearance last June when he performed his early hit “Blow Wind Blow” in an Eric Clapton show in Miami.

(New York Times)

The other big surprise for me was a performance of “Whiter Shade of Pale.” I think they did it because the keyboardist was from Procol Harum, but I am not 100% sure of this.

The rest of the show was classic EC. I would see Clapton again years later, but the first time would be the best for me. Here’s the full setlist.


Setlist:

  • Tulsa Time
  • Lay Down Sally
  • I Shot the Sheriff
  • Blow Wind Blow (with Muddy Waters)
  • Wonderful Tonight
  • Pink Bedroom
  • Ramblin’ on My Mind
  • Have You Ever Loved a Woman
  • After Midnight
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale
  • Key to the Highway
  • Double Trouble
  • Blues Power
  • Cocaine
  • Layla
  • Further Up the Road

Ginger Baker: 10/23/1989

GingerBaker

While rummaging through my piles of stubs this morning, I came upon this one, which has a great story associated with it. For those of you who do not know who Ginger Baker is, he was most famous for being the drummer for Cream and Blind Faith, but he also played in other bands.

OK, now for the story.

During this time, I was in a couple bands and playing a lot of music, hence I had a lot of musician friends. One of my band mates, Greg, was a huge Eric Clapton and Cream fan, so he found out about this drum clinic where Ginger Baker would be performing. He and I, along with a few of our musician friends that included Big Ed and Bongo Bob, got tickets to attend. Big Ed and Bongo Bob were in a band together called the Pranksters, inspired by Ken Kesey’s merry band of freaks. Ed, who sadly passed away too young, was about 500 pounds and Bob loved to wear a suede jacket with fringes (in Florida) while channeling his inner Roger Daltrey.

We arrived at McArthur High School in Hollywood, Florida and all I could think of was “Oh, how far the mighty hath fallen!” I half expected the sign in front of the school to display “Puppet Show and Ginger Baker.” It was kind of sad to see that one of rock’s legendary drummers was reduced to playing by himself in a high school auditorium.

If you’ve heard stories about Mr. Baker, I can attest that they are accurate. He was kind of a curmudgeon, and he definitely suffered the effects of living the hard rock and roll life. He banged around on a blue Ludwig drum kit, and in between would tell garbled stories in a way that made Ozzy Osbourne sound eloquent. Then the floor was opened up for questions. Ginger seemed to have a difficult time understanding what was being asked. At one point, someone asked a question, which somehow reworded itself in his brain to a criticism about his drug use (the question had nothing to do with drugs). He started ranting about how people just won’t leave him alone about drugs, and blah blah blah. The poor person who asked the question went and sat down, dejected.

Finally, we all got to line up and meet Ginger and get autographs. People were getting records, drum heads, and such memorabilia signed. I lacked the foresight to bring one of my Cream albums along, but I did get him to sign the ticket stub, as you can see from the image.

When my friend Greg got up there, I could see how awestruck he was, meeting one of his musical idols. And hey, I understand. Meeting someone who has inspired you is a huge deal. But I was unprepared for what I would discover at our next band rehearsal.

The band I was in at the time with Greg, The DV8’s, would practice in Greg’s garage. I arrived for practice, guitar case in hand, and was greeted by a beaming Greg. “Look what I got!” he exclaimed as he pointed to the corner. There stood a new blue Ludwig drum kit. He was unable to resist the temptation to purchase the drum kit that Ginger Baker played on at the world famous McArthur High School. Every time after that when we would rehearse, when I looked at the drum set, I would get the image of Ginger Baker, sitting by himself, at the front of a high school auditorium.