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

Dead & Company: 12/31/2019

Although I am a long-time Grateful Dead fan, and saw my first Dead show back in 1980, I was never fortunate enough to make the pilgrimage to the west coast to see the Grateful Dead do a New Year’s show. But now that I am here living in the Bay Area, I was not going to miss my chance to see Dead & Co. on New Year’s Eve.

When tickets went on sale, I logged onto everyone’s favorite Ticketmaster website and was put in a queue, and I waited… and waited. Finally I got in and nothing in my price range. But I was patient. Refresh… refresh… refresh. Finally, a single ticket appeared at face value for under $100, so I snatched it up. The rock and roll gods had smiled down upon me.

As NYE approached, I weighed the options on whether to take the train into San Francisco, or drive, which is less than an hour. I opted to drive, since I don’t indulge. I was unsure how late the concert would go and didn’t want to miss the last train, which was about 2:00 am.

On New Year’s Eve, my kids were in town for the holidays. Thankfully, my family was very understanding about my need to go to this show, and they were planning a chill evening at home. I headed off after an early dinner and drove into San Fran, getting there a few hours before the show.

As I pulled up to the Chase Center parking area, I asked how much parking was. The attendant told me $50. “$50?!” I replied, aghast. “No thanks.” I drove about a mile or so away from the venue to another lot, and that was also $50. I couldn’t believe it! I’ve paid half that much for concert tickets. I grudgingly turned around and went back to the lot right next to the Chase Center. If I was going to get hosed for parking, at least I wanted to be close.

After parking and finding a restroom, I made my way to the hippie vending area (nicknamed Shakedown Street). Lots of tie-dyes, stickers, and an abundance of illicit substances. While I generally don’t care what anyone chooses to do in regards to intoxicants, I confess that all the people selling nitrous oxide balloons and all the freaks huffing them pissed me off. I wanted to yell at them and say “Hey! You know that nitrous is one of the major global warming gasses, right? You selling nitrous to make a quick profit makes you just as bad as the oil execs pushing fossil fuels to make a buck.” But, I bit my tongue, purchased a “Making America Grateful Again” tee shirt, and got in line to enter the venue.

My seat was straight back, so I had a good view of the light show, and the sound was decent for an arena. The band took the stage right at 8:00 and launched into “In The Midnight Hour,” a great song to open a New Year’s show. They played two sets, and then took a somewhat longer break as the countdown to midnight began.

Shortly before midnight, the lights went down and the celebration began. A huge art deco clock was lowered behind the stage, and a biplane took off, circling the arena with some skeletons sitting on the wings. Then the dancers hit the stage, kicking up their heels in a “roaring 20’s” display that was very cool. As the sequined dancers kicked and shimmied, Father Time stepped out and began the countdown. “5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New  Year!” Colored balloons cascaded down from the rafters as the band started playing “Sugar Magnolia.” Perfect! Everyone danced throughout the third set, and the band closed the night with “Touch of Grey” as the encore. Yeah, a new decade, and I will survive.

The drive home was uneventful. I had a bottle of cold brew coffee in the car, so I drank that and listened to the Stones’ “Exile on Main Street.” Good driving music for a late night drive home.

Anyway, here is the full setlist, along with some picture I took from the show. Rock on, and may 2020 bring you lots of live music!

Set 1:

  • In the Midnight Hour
  • Big Railroad Blues
  • Iko Iko
  • Mr. Charlie
  • Loser
  • Tennessee Jed
  • Sugaree
  • New Speedway Boogie

Set 2:

  • Help on the Way >
  • Slipknot! >
  • Franklin’s Tower
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Drums (with Zakir Hussain) >
  • Space (with Zakir Hussain) >
  • Milestones
  • Standing on the Moon
  • Not Fade Away

Set 3:

  • Sugar Magnolia >
  • Uncle John’s Band >
  • Scarlet Begonias >
  • Fire on the Mountain
  • Sunshine Daydream

Encore:

  • Touch of Grey

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band: 9/10/1985

Springsteen on the Born in the U.S.A. tour. He was definitely one of the top touring acts in 1985. I had not seen Bruce but had heard about his epic concerts, so I figured I had to go and check him out. He lived up to the hype, that’s for sure.

I went to this show with my concert buddy Jim. He drove, and we parked in some sketchy lot near the Miami Orange Bowl, then made our way to the stadium. At this time, I was already losing interest in stadium shows. Shitty acoustics, too many people, risk of bad weather, there are myriad reasons to avoid stadium shows. But there was no other place that could hold the crowd that Springsteen would draw, so the Orange Bowl it was. At least we had decent seats.

Not surprising, he opened the show with “Born in the U.S.A.” It was a great anthem song to kick things off, and I was kind of glad he got it out of the way early. Not that it is a bad song, it was just way overplayed on the radio in those days. Then he tore right into “Badlands,” which was cool.

Miami in September can be brutally hot, and Bruce is known to sweat a lot during his performances. Anyway, the band had tubing set up on the stage that blasted a steady stream of cool air onto the musicians. I was somewhat impressed with this, and assumed that they were enjoying some air conditioning while still playing outside.

As was expected, the band played a long time (I want to say it was about 4 hours). They did two solid sets, and an encore that was so long, it was essentially a third set in my opinion. I have to say, after seeing Bruce live, I had a whole new level of appreciation for him as a musician. The man can rock. Period.

After the show, Jim and I started looking for the car. Unfortunately, we had forgotten where we parked, and as we wandered the dark and seedy streets of downtown Miami in the 80’s, I was somewhat concerned. But thankfully, we had no issues, and after almost an hour, we stumbled upon the lot where Jim’s car was parked.

Here is the setlist.

Set 1:

  • Born in the U.S.A.
  • Badlands
  • Out in the Street
  • Johnny 99
  • Seeds
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town
  • The River
  • Working on the Highway
  • Trapped
  • Darlington County
  • Glory Days
  • The Promised Land
  • My Hometown
  • Thunder Road

Set 2:

  • Cover Me
  • Dancing in the Dark
  • Hungry Heart
  • Cadillac Ranch
  • No Surrender
  • I’m on Fire
  • Pink Cadillac
  • Bobby Jean

Encore:

  • Can’t Help Falling in Love
  • Born to Run
  • Ramrod
  • Twist and Shout
  • Do You Love Me?
  • Stand on It

Steve Winwood: 5/9/2017

Steve Winwood was high on my short list of bands/musicians that I had not seen but wanted to see live. So when I saw that he was coming to Greenville, which is about an hour’s drive, I got tickets for my wife and I to go. It was a good thing that I bought them early because the show sold out quickly.

I had never been to the Peace Center, but I heard it was a very nice venue with excellent acoustics. We got there a little before showtime (it was a Tuesday so work prevented us from heading down there early). The first thing was had to deal with was parking. All the public lots were full, which forced us to go for one of the private lots. The woman there collecting money said “$20.” I responded: “$20!?!” She said “Yes, concert is sold out.” Talk about price gouging. I grudgingly paid the exorbitant fee and parked the car. We then walked over to the Peace Center.

The first thing I noticed was the crowd. I felt like the youngest person there, and my thinning grey hair is a clear indicator that I am no spring chicken, but these folks made me feel like I was at a concert with all my aunts and uncles. And they were all dressed up like they were going to the symphony. I looked at my tee shirt and felt oddly out of place; but I didn’t care all that much. I was there for the music, not for a fashion show.

Lilly Winwood. Steve’s daughter, opened the show. She was very good, not just someone riding her famous dad’s coattails. Her songs were interesting and her voice was powerful. I was impressed.

Then Steve came out, and as I expected, he was amazing. His vocals and his musicianship were stellar, and his backing band was solid. He played a nice selection of songs spanning his entire career, from Spenser Davis through his solo works. In fact, the only song I wanted to hear that he didn’t play was “John Barleycorn,” but it was an extremely minor disappointment in light of all the other great music he played that evening.

Toward the end of the show, his daughter came on stage and provided some backing vocals, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was nice to see father and daughter together, and her voice really added to the songs on which she sang.

Here is the full setlist.

 

Setlist:

  • Back in the High Life Again
  • Pearly Queen
  • I’m a Man
  • Fly
  • Them Changes
  • Can’t Find My Way Home
  • Had to Cry Today
  • The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
  • Empty Pages
  • Light Up or Leave Me Alone
  • Higher Love (with Lilly Winwood)

Encore:

  • Dear Mr. Fantasy
  • Gimme Some Lovin’ (with Lilly Winwood)

Dead & Company: 11/14/2015

DeadCo_11-14-15

This is the newest stub in the collection, and I figured I would post while the memory is fresh.

Sometimes, something magical happens at a concert, and that was the case with this show. First off, it was almost 35 years ago to the day that I saw my first Grateful Dead concert, so there was some definite nostalgia happening. But it was also special because I went with my youngest daughter and it was her first time seeing a “Dead” show. She was very excited and she pointed out that although I had taken her to some great concerts over the years, this was the first time that it was just the two of us, so it was really great father/daughter bonding.

We drove to Greensboro, which is about a two-and-a-half hour drive. We got there early and decided to grab dinner first. Hops burgers place was highly recommended, so we went there. It supposedly has the best burgers in the country. Don’t know about that, but the burgers were pretty damn good!

After we ate, it was a short drive to the Coliseum. The first thing I noticed was that parking was $20! Talk about sticker shock. That was less than what I paid for many of the concerts I’ve seen over the years, but I paid my dues and we got a nice spot right near the exit.

In keeping with Dead tradition, there was the typical parking lot bazaar with vendors selling all kinds of stuff: some legal, some not so much. I bought a couple tee shirts and my daughter bought a nice hoodie. I marveled at the throngs of people who were still desperately trying to keep the legacy alive.

We went inside and our seats were on the side of the stage: not bad, but we could not see the screens that made up the background. We decided to move to some open seats, which ended up being fine because no one else came to claim them. The move afforded us a great view of the band and the colorful light show.

The band sounded great. John Mayer did a nice job playing lead guitar, and the rest of the band sounded relaxed and together.

So here is the magic moment. My daughter’s favorite Dead song is “Friend of the Devil.” The Grateful Dead played it the first time I saw them and I was hoping, for her sake, that they would play it this evening. The first set ended, and no “Friend of the Devil.” I told her that it was highly unlikely they would play it, since I have only ever heard the song played in the first set. She seemed OK and was really enjoying the music and the dancing. Second set ended, which was an amazing set, but still, no “Friend of the Devil.” Then Bob Weir and John Mayer brought out acoustic guitars for the encore. I figured “Ripple,” but no, they played an amazing acoustic version of “Friend of the Devil.” I could see the joy and excitement bursting from my daughter’s happy eyes. I felt like they played it just for her. It was truly one of those special concert moments when the unexpected happens and it makes the live concert experience something transcendent.

Anyway, here is a video clip of the encore from the Greensboro show, a moment that will live on in my memory as one of the best concert experiences ever.