Progressive Nation Tour – featuring Dream Theater and Zappa Plays Zappa: 7/29/2009

This was a pretty cool show. As a guitarist, getting to see John Petrucci and Dweezil Zappa on the same night was inspiring.

I went with my friend and bandmate, Bill (who is a keyboardist/vocalist). We got to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium early enough to catch the first of the four acts, a band called Scale the Summit. I was unable to determine whether they were good or not, because they were so loud and distorted, I could not make out any of the music. Now I’m not one to shy away from some loud rock and roll, but these dudes were just painful. We ended up hanging out in the lobby until they were done.

Next up was a band called Bigelf. Neither of us had heard of them before, but we were both impressed. Not only did they sound great, but they had amazing stage presence. I highly recommend checking these guys out if you have not heard them.

After Bigelf, Zappa Plays Zappa took the stage, and they were incredible. Dweezil is really able to pull off his dad’s intricate and complex music, and make it look effortless. Additionally, he had a large screen behind the stage, and during several songs, they had video and audio of Frank performing and the band accompanied the virtual performance. It was very cool, and a nice nod to his dad’s genius.

Topping off the evening was Dream Theater. I was enjoying them, but the grimace on my friend’s face let me know he did not find them as interesting as I did. While he conceded that Petrucci is a “frighteningly good guitarist,” he said the singer was too screamo and he found that irritating. A fair critique. I was not impressed by the singer, but I was not bothered either.

Anyway, here are the setlists from all except the opening act. Rock on!

Dream Theater Setlist:

  • A Nightmare to Remember
  • Constant Motion
  • Beyond This Life
  • Hollow Years
  • Keyboard Solo
  • Erotomania
  • Voices
  • The Count of Tuscany

Encore:

  • Metropolis Pt. 1: The Miracle and the Sleeper

Zappa Plays Zappa Setlist:

  • Peaches en Regalia
  • Inca Roads
  • Montana
  • Village of the Sun
  • Echidna’s Arf (Of You)
  • Magic Fingers
  • Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy
  • The Black Page
  • A Pound for a Brown on the Bus
  • San Ber’dino
  • Willie the Pimp

Bigelf Setlist (from Atlanta):

  • The Evils of Rock & Roll
  • Neuropsychopathic Eye
  • Pain Killers
  • Blackball
  • Hydra

The Black Crowes and Gov’t Mule: 11/29/1996

I went to this show with my friend Greg, who was also the other guitarist in a band we were in at the time called The DV8s. Greg was a little reluctant to go to this show with me, because Dike Dale was playing the same night at a dumpy little club in Miami. But after some convincing, he agreed to go with me, so we made the drive up to Broward County to see the show at the Sunrise Musical Theatre.

We had no idea that Gov’t Mule was also on the bill. In fact, although I was familiar with Warren Haynes as a guitarist, I had not even heard of this band. But we ran into a friend of mine in the lobby, and he was all stoked about the Mule, and told me it was Warren’s new band. I got excited too. Over the years, I would see Gov’t Mule many times, but this was the first time seeing them.

Anyway, we grabbed our seats and Mule opened the show. They were really really good! Powerful, a lot heavier than what I expected, having only seen Warren with the Allman’s and solo. And you can’t go wrong opening with a Zappa tune.

After a short intermission, The Black Crowes took the stage. They were great, and the crowd was psyched. But there was a moment there when Chris Robinson got pissed and stopped the show. Some asshole in the crowd had a laser pointer and was shining it at the stage, and I guess zapping Chris in the eyes. He stopped mid song and yelled at the unknown light-saber wielding jerk, cursing and making threats. I can’t blame him. The incident did not surprise me, though. South Florida concert fans were notoriously rude.

After the show, Greg was still focused on trying to see Dick Dale. He calculated that if we drove straight to Churchill’s Hideaway in Miami, we could make it in time. I was never one to pass up on some live rock and roll, and I did want to see the King of the Surf Guitar, so we went for it and made a bee-line to Churchill’s. We paid the admission at the door (so no ticket stub) and squeezed in. Dick Dale was great, but SO FUCKING LOUD! I love some loud guitar as much as the next person, but this was actually painful. I considered leaving, but like an idiot, I stayed. I do not exaggerate when I say that my ears were ringing for three days afterwards. I genuinely thought I had permanently damaged my hearing. Maybe I did. But the ringing eventually subsided.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found the setlists for both Gov’t Mule and the Black Crowes from that night. Here they are. Rock on!

Gov’t Mule Setlist:

  • Pygmy Twylyte
  • Blind Man in the Dark
  • Mother Earth
  • Game Face
  • Birth of the Mule
  • Grinnin’ in Your Face
  • Mule

Black Crowes Setlist:

  • One Mirror Too Many
  • Sting Me
  • Evil Eye
  • High Head Blues
  • Girl From a Pawnshop
  • Wiser Time
  • Ballad In Urgency
  • Hotel Illness
  • Mr. Spaceman
  • Nothing Love Everything
  • Black Moon Jam
  • Black Moon Creeping
  • Big Time
  • Hard To Handle

Encore

  • Sometimes Salvation
  • Twice as Hard

Dweezil Zappa: 10/31/2018

I had seen Dweezil a couple times before, and I had seen his dad, Frank Zappa. Which was why the last few times he came to town, I opted to pass. But this time—Halloween Night! That was something I could not pass up on.

I had bought tickets for me and my friend Dan to go. The Diana Wortham Theatre is a very small venue, so I bought tickets way in advance. We had good seats, second row balcony center, which affords a great view of the stage and excellent sound.

Halloween rolls around, and I get a text from Dan that he is at the hospital with his mom and not sure if he will be able to make it. Of course, I told him no worries, take care of what you need to do. Thankfully, his mom was alright and released after a few hours, so Dan texted me that he was still in and we would meet up before the show.

Since it was Halloween, I sported my Captain Kirk costume. Most of the crowd was also in costume, which added to the general freakiness. We got our seats, chatted for a bit, and then the lights went down and the band took the stage. All the band members except Dweezil were in costume, which was fun. They definitely were having a blast on stage, hamming it up, and of course, playing some incredible music. They played a loooooong time, a solid three hours. And the song selection was definitely worthy of the “Choice Cuts” tour name. They really dug deep into Frank’s vast musical repertoire. Definitely got my money’s worth.

Here’s a few pictures from the show, along with the setlist.

Setlist:

  • The Purple Lagoon (Intro)
  • Andy
  • Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me?
  • Fifty-Fifty
  • Call Any Vegetable
  • Tell Me You Love Me
  • Absolutely Free
  • T’Mershi Duween
  • Dog Breath
  • Dog Meat
  • Sleep Napkins
  • The Black Page Drum Solo
  • The Black Page
  • Halloween – Movie Theme Music (John Carpenter cover)
  • The Torture Never Stops
  • Valley Girl
  • Pygmy Twylyte
  • King Kong
  • Suzy Creamcheese
  • Cocaine Decisions
  • Drowning Witch
  • Sleeping in a Jar
  • Florentine Pogen
  • Zoot Allures
  • Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow
  • Uncle Remus
  • This Town Is a Sealed Tuna Sandwich
  • Keep It Greasey
  • Joe’s Garage

Encore:

  • Oh, In the Sky
  • Cheepnis
  • Return of the Son of Orange County
  • Funky OC
  • Trouble Every Day

Frank Zappa: 4/18/1980

This was my one and only time seeing the great Frank Zappa. He was playing two shows at the Sunrise Musical Theatre, and my friend Mark and I had tickets to the late show, which was starting at 11:30 pm. Zappa at midnight just seems appropriate.

The lineup for this tour was:

  • Frank Zappa
  • Ike Willis
  • Ray White
  • Arthur Barrow
  • David Logeman
  • Tommy Mars

We were pretty young at the time, and neither of us had a car, so we had to negotiate rides from the parental units. This proved somewhat challenging, but after some finagling, we got it worked out.

At the time, I liked Zappa, but was not a huge fan. I only owned one of his albums: “Roxy & Elsewhere,” but I liked the record a lot and it spent a lot of time on my turntable. But seeing Frank live, I realized just how frighteningly awesome a guitarist he was. He just came out on stage and unleashed an avalanche of intricate guitar work that frankly made my jaw drop (pun intended). And even though he didn’t play anything from the Roxy album, the show was excellent and started me down the path of really appreciating Zappa’s musical genius.

Here’s the setlist. Rock on!

Setlist:

  • Chunga’s Revenge
  • Keep It Greasey
  • Outside Now
  • City Of Tiny Lights
  • A Pound For A Brown (incl. Louie Louie, q: Inca Roads, I Love Lucy theme, Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation)
  • Cosmik Debris
  • You Didn’t Try To Call Me
  • I Ain’t Got No Heart
  • Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up
  • He Used To Cut The Grass (with vocals!)
  • Easy Meat
  • Mudd Club
  • The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing
  • Heavenly Bank Account
  • Dancin’ Fool
  • Bobby Brown
  • Black Napkins

Jethro Tull with U.K.: 9/4 or 5/1979

This is a pretty sad stub. The concert was amazing, but I was quite upset that the gatekeeper gave me the short stub. I even said something to the guy, but he was a real asshole about it and refused to let me have the better half. As such, I had to do some digging online to find the actual date of the concert, which was part of the Stormwatch tour. It seems that they played two nights at the Sportatorium. I’m not sure which was the one I attended.

Anyway, the concert was awesome! I was a huge Tull fan growing up. I have great memories of being in the woods in New York with my friends, listening to Songs from the Wood on a dinky cassette player. One of my earliest album purchases was Best of Jethro Tull, and I listened to it over and over and over. So getting to see Tull was a big deal for me.

The prog rock band U.K. opened the show. I was not that familiar with them at the time, but once I learned more about them, I felt fortunate to have gotten to see them live. The incarnation of the band I saw was the trio version which included singer/bassist John Wetton (from King Crimson, Roxy Music, and Uriah Heep), keyboardist/electric violinist Eddie Jobson (Roxy Music and Frank Zappa’s band), and drummer Terry Bozzio (from Frank Zappa’s band). I didn’t know any of their music, but damn – I was really impressed with their performance.

Then Tull took the stage. The entire band was out, sans Ian Anderson. There was a stand in the center of the stage holding his flute. Suddenly, a pirate-looking figure swung from one side of the Sporto on a rope to the other, swung back, and on the next swing, let go, slid across the stage and swooped up his flute. I was completely blown away! They played five songs from the new album, after which Ian said, “Well, we’ve played some new stuff, now the rest of the evening will be all older material. This song starts out loud, then gets soft, then gets loud, then gets soft, then gets loud again. I think you know the rest…” and they blasted into “Aqualung.” The crowd exploded. And true to his word, the rest of the show was all classic tunes, which included “Songs from the Wood,” “Thick as a Brick,” “Too Old to Rock and Roll,” and “Cross-eyed Mary.” And just when I thought it could get no better: the encore!! They came back, played Minstrel in the Gallery > Locomotive Breath > Dambusters March > Minstrel in the Gallery (reprise). To this day, that holds up as one of the best encores I’ve ever seen.

I would go on and see Jethro Tull other times in my life, but none of the subsequent shows ever lived up to this one. It was by far the best Tull show I have seen, and up there with some of the best concerts overall.

Grandmothers of Invention: 8/11/2012

Grandmothers_8-11-12

This was a really cool show, featuring members of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention. I had seen Zappa many years ago, and he was great, but as my musical tastes developed and expanded, my appreciation for his music grew.

For those of you who have never been to Asheville, the Grey Eagle is a small venue, basically a bar which also serves some food. But the vibe there is great. So needless to say, I had seats quite close to the stage with my friends Bill and Robert.

Musically, this band was incredible. Napoleon Murphy Brock was brilliant as the front man, chatting up the crowd, making jokes, dancing up a storm, and directing the music. They had a young guitarist who looked a lot like Frank and he was scary good on the guitar. But for me, it was Don Preston on the keyboards who stole the show. He was getting ready to turn 80 and he looked and sounded great. Not only was he all over the keyboards, playing incredibly intricate music, but he also performed magic tricks on stage, much to the delight of the audience. And if that wasn’t enough, he took out hi iPhone, opened a synthesizer app, and played a killer solo on his phone. It was impressive… most impressive.

The band returned to the Grey Eagle again the following year, and I went to see them again, convincing my brother (a long-time Zappa fan) to drive out to Asheville for the show. But that’s another stub and another story.

Here’s a video clip that my friend Robert took.

KISS: 4/8/2000

Kiss_4-8-00

This ticket stub is from KISS’s “Farewell Tour.” Umm, farewell to your money, maybe. They have certainly continued playing since then.

Anyway, I went with my friend Jim and I was pretty psyched to see KISS. I had never seen them and I had always heard they put on a killer stage show. Plus, it was a big outdoor thing with other bands I had not seen.

The first act to perform was Skid Row. My expectations were not high for this act, let me tell you. Although I love glam rock, the 80’s hair bands just never did anything for me. But I saw them, so check that one off the list.

Next act was Ted Nugent. Yes, I know, he is a most abrasive and unsavory person and not someone I would ever spend a penny on to see by himself, but I figured if it is thrown in for free, what the hell. And the truth is, he was really good live. If he would just play guitar and not talk, the world would be a better place. Wasn’t it Frank Zappa who said “Shut up and play your guitar”? Bottom line, for an opening act, he was good. At least you knew the songs and the energy was there.

Then it was time for KISS. Total spectacle! They were lowered onto the stage on this huge platform and kicked the show off with “Detroit Rock City.” Smokin! The concert was really heavy on the older, classic stuff. They even played some choice nuggets like “Strutter” and “Firehouse.”

The stage show was everything you’d expect. The pseudo-Ace’s guitar smoking and catching fire before floating into the air and exploding. Gene Simmons spit blood and breathed fire. Paul Stanley got the crowd roused and swaggered in his platform heels. It was over-the-top, glam rock pageantry at its finest. When it was over, I could not think of a single song I wanted to hear that they hadn’t played. A most satisfying concert.

I have had other opportunities to see KISS, but the tickets were high-dollar and I couldn’t image them being any better than when I saw them.

So don’t forget kiddies: “Rock and roll all nite, and party every day!”