Grateful Dead: 3/30/1989

The two shows in Greensboro are somewhat blurry, but there are snippets I remember. I definitely recall hanging with my friend Nancy, and I’m pretty sure I was with my friends Jon, Julie, and Miriam, although not totally sure about that. What does stand out distinctly is the sheer chaos in the parking lot scene before each show. Way too many people, many of whom had no tickets and were looking for a miracle or just there for the party. This led to problems in a town that did not seem like it was ready to host a psychedelic circus of freaks. There was a news story where an irate resident near the coliseum expressed his dismay at the fact that someone actually squatted and took a crap on his front lawn. It really seemed like the people who were getting on the Dead caravan were losing touch with reality.

I wish I had more to share about this first night, but I don’t. I am including the setlist though, which looks like it was a good show, but again, no way for me to tell. Maybe I should give the show a listen via ETREE.

Set 1:

  • Bertha
  • Jack Straw
  • Row Jimmy
  • Blow Away
  • When I Paint My Masterpiece
  • Bird Song
  • The Promised Land

Set 2:

  • China Cat Sunflower >
  • I Know You Rider
  • Looks Like Rain
  • He’s Gone
  • Drums > Space
  • The Other One
  • Stella Blue
  • Sugar Magnolia

Encore:

  • Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
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The Rolling Stones: 7/3/2019

I will begin this post by saying that this might just be the greatest of all my concert stories so far, and will be tough to top. As such, it is a fairly long post, but I promise you, it is worth the read.

So you may have noticed that the ticket stub has a date of May 31, 2019, which was not the date of the actual concert. If you’ve kept up with current events, you probably know that the entire No Filter tour was postponed because Mick Jagger needed heart surgery. (Who knew he had a heart?) I had bought three tickets for this show, with the intention of going with my wife and daughter. Going to this concert was actually a gift for my daughter’s birthday/graduation, since she had told me that of all the bands that were still touring, the Stones was the one she would most want to see. I suppose I’ve done my job as a rock and roll parent.

Anyway, the Stones rescheduled, and lo and behold, my wife and I had already relocated to California, a long way from Landover, Maryland, where the concert was being held. And since my wife had just started her new job, she could no longer go. So it was decided that I would fly back to North Carolina by myself, pick up my daughter, drive to Virginia, and then give the extra ticket to my nephew, at whose house we would stay. A bit of a logistical challenge, but worth it. I really wanted to make sure my daughter got to see the Stones.

Now is where the story gets really interesting.

About a week before the concert, I woke to an excited text from my daughter. She told me that she was letting people at her job know that she would be out the following week because she was going with her dad to see the Rolling Stones. One of her coworkers replied, “Oh, you’re going to see the Stones? My cousin works for the Rolling Stones. Do you want me to see about getting you backstage passes?” A quick email later, and we had three backstage passes waiting for us at will call. BACKSTAGE PASSES TO THE ROLLING STONES!! I really was having a hard time believing it. But I reread the forwarded text, which had the name of the contact should there be any issue picking up the passes or getting backstage, and was giddy with excitement.

So on July 1 I flew to NC and met my daughter. July 2, the two of us drove 8 hours to VA and connected with my nephew (who is the same age as my daughter and they get along great). Then it was July 3, the day of the show.

FedEx Field, the stadium which is home to the Washington Redskins, was about 30 miles from where we were in VA. The concert was scheduled to start at 7:30, so we left the house at 3:30 to give us plenty of time. I was unprepared for the traffic we encountered. It literally took us 2 ½ hours to get to the stadium. I was trying hard to be cool.

We paid the exorbitant $60 to park, and inquired about where the will call window was located. I was told there were two, one on each side of the stadium. Not knowing where the passes would be, I picked the one that was closest and we got in line. And we stood there. And stood there. The line was not moving and people were freaking out. I later discovered it was because the computers were not working and no one who had tickets at will call could get the tickets they paid for. Now I was feeling worried, because if I got to the window and the passes were on the other side of the stadium, we might have a problem. As I was discussing this with my daughter and nephew, someone near us in line, who was more observant than myself, pointed out that there was another will call window off to the side with a sign that said “Band/Tour Will Call” and suggested I go there. So I did. I walked right up and told the person there that I was supposed to be picking up backstage passes and gave him my name. “I have nothing for that name,” he informed me.

I responded, “C**** was the person who was supposed to give us those.”

“I just spoke with C**** and he didn’t say anything. But I can call him.”

So the guy made a call from his cellphone, I watched as he spoke and nodded, then he took two passes from the drawer and slid them under the window to me. I felt a twinge of panic and meekly mentioned that there was supposed to be three, and he casually got the third and passed it to me. And in my hand I held three backstage passes to the Rolling Stones.

I met back up with my daughter and nephew, and we each affixed our passes.

Right next to the window where I got the passes was the special VIP entrance. We walked up, they looked at our credentials, and we breezed in. Then they scanned our tickets (yes, we still needed the tickets we bought), and were escorted to an elevator that brought us up to the fifth floor. From there, we were led to the VIP lounge that looked down on the back of the stage. Free food and beverages were provided, so we ate and rehydrated, while milling around and chatting with people there.

Now I had never been backstage before, so prior to heading out there, I consulted with a friend of mine, Bill, who is a music journalist, just to know what to expect. He said for show like this, we probably would not meet Keith or Mick. They provide catering, and then usually one of the lesser band members comes out for a quick meet and greet before the show. So in this case, that band member was Chuck Leavell, long-time keyboardist for the Stones, who was also a member of the Allman Brothers in the 70’s. We got to meet him, and he was really nice and accommodating, graciously posing for a picture with the three of us.

At this point, the opening act, Ghost Hounds, had already been playing for a while, so we decided to leave the air conditioned comfort and go take our seats. By the time we got to section 431 in the upper deck, the opening band was playing their last song.

Although we were in the upper deck, the seats were not bad, and we had a decent view of the stage. We chatted with the folks around us as we waited for the Stones to take the stage.

Finally, the lights went down, and they exploded onto the stage, opening with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Great choice! For a group of guys who have survived over 70 years of hard living, and Mick just having heart surgery, they sounded damn good and had a lot of energy.

About halfway through the show, the band moved to a smaller satellite stage in the center and played a couple acoustic tunes, which was great, because then we had an even better view of the band.

All the while, I was noticing how much fun my daughter and nephew were having, and I felt really happy. I was glad that they were enjoying the show, and after going backstage and meeting one of the band members, I knew that this would be a special memory for them both.

But wait… things were about to get infinitely better.

About 2/3 through the show, the band was playing “Miss You” and my daughter was standing up and dancing. She was the only person standing in our section, and I was glad that people around us were not being jerks about it. But then some official looking dude with a lanyard and badge came up to us and waved my daughter closer. The two of them leaned across me so I heard the conversation.

Dude: “How many are in your group?”

Daughter: “Three…” (tentatively, like she was in trouble)

Dude: “Well I only have two passes to go up front. I’m with the band and am looking for someone in the upper decks who is dancing and enjoying the show so I can bring them up front, but I only have two wristbands. Do you want to go up front?”

I looked at my daughter and nephew, not wanting to split them up, or send them off alone, and asked the guy, “You don’t have three?”

“Nope,” he said, “Only two. Do you want them? I can take you up front right now.”

At this point, my nephew spoke up. “Go! Go! This is your chance. I’ll stay here.”

So we promised to come back up and get him afterwards, and went off with the dude who handed each of us a very official looking wristband.

The dude told us we would go up front on Keith’s side of the stage, that this was the best spot to be for the rest of the show. While we were going down, we could hear “Paint It Black” being played, the one song we missed, but a worthwhile sacrifice. We told the dude that C**** had also given us backstage passes, and he was like, “Oh cool, I know C**** really well.” And as we quickly made our way down to the front, my daughter kept looking at me, eyes wide, commenting, “What the fuck? How is this happening? I feel like I’m dreaming.”

We finally got down by the pit right in front, and the security did not want to let my daughter and me through. The dude started yelling at the security guy, flashing his badge, and then he waved someone else over, who said something to the security person, and just like that, we were right in front of the stage. The dude said his farewell, went off, and my daughter and I danced and basked in the glory of seeing the world’s greatest rock and roll band from a vantage point that few have experienced. Of course, I had to snap a few pictures on the phone.

We were up front for the last five songs, which was basically the last quarter of the 20-song show. I’ve been to many concerts in my life, but none of them compared to this experience, of being backstage and then essentially front row, for the Rolling Stones. And the fact that I shared the experience with my daughter, and the look of sheer ecstatic joy on her face, made the whole night seem like nothing less than a rock and roll fantasy come true. Miracles really do happen.

After the last note of “Satisfaction,” my daughter and I made it back upstairs and had no problem reconnecting with my nephew. Then we made our way to the car, sat in the traffic getting out of the stadium parking area, and made the drive back to Virginia with no problems, basically basking in the afterglow of the most epic concert experience ever.

I still have a drawer full of old stubs with stories associated to them, and more concerts on the horizon, but I doubt that I will ever be able to top this one. I suppose the only thing I can add at this point is the setlist. And yes, I know, it’s only rock and roll, but I like it, like it, yes I do!

Setlist:

  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash
  • It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It)
  • Tumbling Dice
  • You Got Me Rocking
  • Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay & The Goodtimers cover, first time performed since July 5, 1969 at Hyde Park)
  • Rocks Off (by request)
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Angie (B-Stage / Acoustic)
  • Let It Bleed (B-Stage / Acoustic)
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Slipping Away (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on lead vocals)
  • Miss You
  • Paint It Black
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Start Me Up
  • Brown Sugar

Encore:

  • Gimme Shelter
  • (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

Jeff Lynne’s ELO and Dhani Harrison: 6/24/2019

Some of you may have noticed that I have not posted in a while. That’s because I moved and am now a California dude. And what better way to get settled into a new state than by going to see a concert.

Electric Light Orchestra has been on my short list of bands I want to see but have not had the opportunity. I can now check them off the list. I managed to get tickets for my wife and I, which were cheap seats way in the back, but this actually worked out for the best, because the light show was mind-blowing.

Anyway, getting ahead of myself.

Dhani Harrison opened the show. If his name seems familiar, yes, he’s George Harrison’s son, and quite a good musician. His songs were cool and he had a unique sound, but his voice definitely sounded like his dad’s on a few songs. It was nice to have an opener who was actually good.

After a brief intermission, ELO took the stage. Wow! Incredible sound, even in a big arena. And the lights—mesmerizing. But what was most astonishing about the show was just how many hits they had. I recognized every song, and they played a long time. The band was comprised of multiple keyboardists, cellists, a violinist, and stellar backing vocals, so every song they played sounded spot on. Even “Xanadu,” my least favorite ELO tune, was cool.

Another treat was when Dhani Harrison joined ELO on stage and performed “Handle with Care” by the Traveling Wilburys. He nailed his dad’s part, and the vibe was just really good.

I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of shows here on the west coast. For now, here’s the setlist from this one. Rock on!

  • Standin’ in the Rain
  • Evil Woman
  • All Over the World
  • Showdown
  • Do Ya
  • When I Was a Boy
  • Livin’ Thing
  • Handle With Care (with Dhani Harrison)
  • Last Train to London
  • Rockaria!
  • Xanadu
  • 10538 Overture
  • Shine a Little Love
  • Wild West Hero
  • Sweet Talkin’ Woman
  • Telephone Line
  • Don’t Bring Me Down
  • Turn to Stone
  • Mr. Blue Sky

Encore:

  • Roll Over Beethoven

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

Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band: 3/27/1999

This was my second time seeing Ringo.  The first time was cool, but this show was light years better.

The lineup for this incarnation of the All-Starr Band was nothing short of mind-blowing.

  • Ringo Starr – drums, vocals
  • Todd Rundgren (from Nazz and Utopia) – guitar, percussion, vocals
  • Gary Brooker (from Procol Harum) – organ, keyboards, vocals
  • Jack Bruce (from Cream) – bass, keyboards, vocals
  • Simon Kirke (from Free and Bad Company) – drums, vocals
  • Timmy Cappello – saxophone, keyboards, harmonica, guitar, vocals

The band opened the show with “It Don’t Come Easy,” which is maybe my favorite Ringo solo song and one that he did not play the first time I saw him. This show also had a nice amount of Beatles tunes woven in. And the songs from the other members—WOW! Todd actually played some Utopia, Simon sang some Bad Co. and a Free song, Gary Brooker sang some classic Procol Harum stuff, including Conquistador, and Jack Bruce belted out several Cream hits. There was absolutely no weak spots anywhere in this show.

Here’s the full setlist. Rock on!

Setlist:

  • It Don’t Come Easy
  • Act Naturally
  • Whisky Train
  • I Saw the Light
  • Sunshine of Your Love
  • Shooting Star
  • Boys
  • Love Me Do
  • Yellow Submarine
  • Conquistador
  • Hammer in My Heart
  • I’m the Greatest
  • No No Song
  • I Feel Free
  • All Right Now
  • I Wanna Be Your Man
  • Bang the Drum All Day
  • White Room
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale
  • Photograph

Encore:

  • You’re Sixteen
  • With a Little Help From My Friends

Alice Cooper: 9/30/2009

This tour was coined the Theatre of Death tour. What was unique about this show was that the Coop was killed not once, not twice, but three times during the concert: once by hanging, once by electric chair, and once with the classic guillotine.

I went with my friend and bandmate, Bill. We made the long drive from Asheville to Durham, but got there in plenty of time to grab some dinner before the show. Some great Cuban food in Durham!

We got in to the Performing Arts Center, which is a beautiful venue. Our seats were a little to the right, but pretty close. Anyway, the buzz was going around the place that a band called 5th Avenue Vampires was opening, and the band included Dennis Dunaway, Alice’s original bass player. I got pretty psyched after hearing this.

The 5th Avenue Vampires were very cool, and Dunaway did a nice bass solo which included classic snippets from vintage Cooper songs, like the intros to “Dead Babies” and “Gutter Cats.” Definitely got the crowd riled!

After the intermission, Alice took the stage, opening with “School’s Out,” and just ripping through one of the most incredibly choreographed performances ever, with an onslaught of one kick-ass song after another. It was all Killer, and no filler.

Then came the encore, which featured Dennis joining Alice on stage to play an extended reprise of “School’s Out.” For an old Cooper fan, I was in my glory seeing those two together slinking around the stage. One of those rock and roll moments that will remain with me forever.

After the show, we drove to my brother’s house and crashed there, since he lived fairly close to Durham.

Anyway, here’s the setlist. Rock on, my droogs.

Setlist:

  • School’s Out
  • Department of Youth
  • I’m Eighteen
  • Wicked Young Man
  • Ballad of Dwight Fry
  • Go to Hell
  • Guilty
  • Welcome to My Nightmare
  • Cold Ethyl
  • Poison
  • The Awakening
  • From the Inside
  • Nurse Rozetta
  • Is It My Body
  • Be My Lover
  • Only Women Bleed
  • I Never Cry
  • Black Widow Jam (with Drum Solo)
  • Vengeance Is Mine
  • Devil’s Food
  • Dirty Diamonds
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • Killer
  • I Love the Dead
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Under My Wheels

Encore:

  • School’s Out (with Dennis Dunaway)

R.E.M.: 4/29/1989

The 80’s was a good time to see R.E.M. They were definitely riding the wave of success and were coming out with some great music. In fact, this tour was in support of the album “Green,” which is probably my favorite R.E.M. album

I went to this show with my long-time concert buddy Jim. Neither of us had seen the band before, so we were both pretty psyched. We went to downtown Miami, to the now-gone Miami Arena, and joined the fans.

I don’t have a whole lot to share about this concert, other than I thought the band was excellent. Nothing crazy happened, just had a fun night digging on some cool music.

Here’s the full setlist. (I had forgotten they did three encores.)

Setlist:

  • Pop Song 89
  • Exhuming McCarthy
  • Welcome to the Occupation
  • Turn You Inside-Out
  • Sitting Still
  • Orange Crush
  • Fall on Me
  • Feeling Gravity’s Pull
  • Cuyahoga
  • World Leader Pretend
  • Begin the Begin
  • Pretty Persuasion
  • Rotary Ten
  • I Believe
  • I Remember California
  • Get Up
  • Auctioneer (Another Engine)
  • It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Encore:

  • Stand
  • Academy Fight Song
  • You Are the Everything

Encore 2:

  • Finest Worksong
  • King of Birds
  • Swan Swan H
  • Life and How to Live It

Encore 3:

  • Harpers
  • Summertime
  • Crazy
  • Perfect Circle
  • After Hours