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

Motley Crue and Alice Cooper: 10/22/2014

While I generally get physical tickets for concerts, this one is a printout e-ticket. What’s unique about it is it is a Groupon ticket. My brother contacted me and said that Alice Cooper and Motley Crue were playing in Greensboro and he wanted to go, and asked if I was interested. Since I had never seen the Crue (they were not high on my list) and it was their final tour, added to the fact that I will not pass on a chance to see the Coop, I said yes. Anyway, my brother said he was getting tickets at a significant discount through Groupon. I didn’t even know that was a thing! He snagged tickets for himself, a friend of his, and me.

I drove out to Greensboro, which was about a two-and-a-half hour drive from where I was living at the time. We all connected, grabbed some dinner, and went to the show. The first band to play was called The Raskins. They were pretty good. Young leather-clad rockers who were clearly raised on steady diet of early punk.

After a brief intermission, the lights went down and Alice took the stage, opening with “Hello Hooray,” in my opinion one of the greatest opening songs ever. The song concluded with a shower of sparks cascading from above the stage. It was awesome! The rest of the show was all killer, no filler, blasting from one classic tune to the next. The only disappointment was that it was a fairly short set, with no encore. But I suppose that is how it goes when you’re one of the opening acts.

Then came Motley Crue. So I confess I have never been a fan, swiftly changing the station on the radio when they came on. But I’m open-minded, and was actually looking forward to checking them out. Lots of people I know told me that they put on an impressive show, so what the hell, it’s only rock and roll.

My overall impression… meh. I didn’t hate it, but I certainly did not love it. And in all fairness, they played after Alice Cooper, who is one of my favorite all-time artists. Had it been Motley Crue opening for Alice, I think I would have enjoyed their set much more than I did. It just felt anticlimactic. Even Tommy Lee’s “big drum solo” where the drum set went along the track above the crowd just felt, I don’t know, like a big fat who-cares. But, at the end of the day, I’m glad I got to see them and check them off the list. Definitely not the worst band I’ve seen, but not rushing out to buy any of their records either.

Here are the setlists for both Alice and Motley Crue. Rock on!

Setlists

Alice Cooper

  • Hello Hooray
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Under My Wheels
  • I’m Eighteen
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • Poison
  • Dirty Diamonds
  • Welcome to My Nightmare
  • Feed My Frankenstein
  • Ballad of Dwight Fry
  • Killer (partial)
  • I Love the Dead (excerpt)
  • School’s Out

Motley Crue

  • Saints of Los Angeles
  • Wild Side
  • Primal Scream
  • Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
  • Looks That Kill
  • On With the Show
  • Too Fast for Love
  • Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room (With “Rock and Roll (Part 2))
  • Without You
  • Mutherfucker of the Year
  • Anarchy in the U.K.
  • T.N.T. (Terror ‘N Tinseltown)
  • Dr. Feelgood
  • In the Beginning
  • Shout at the Devil
  • Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
  • O Fortuna
  • Drum Solo
  • Guitar Solo
  • Live Wire
  • Too Young to Fall in Love
  • Girls, Girls, Girls
  • Kickstart My Heart

Encore:

  • Home Sweet Home

Neil Young & Crazy Horse, with Sonic Youth and Social Distortion: 3/9/1991

I remember this concert very well. I love Neil Young, and had seen him with Crazy Horse a couple times before this show, but I had not seen Sonic Youth or Social Distortion, and I was pretty psyched that they were fleshing out a solid triple bill (and for only $20!!).

I went with my good friend and fellow musician, Big Ed Stokes (he was morbidly big, which sadly led to his early death not long after this show). Ed was one of the best guitarists I knew, and we spent many long days together playing music and teaching each other songs.

Anyway, we got to the Miami Arena with plenty time to spare, got situated, and waited for the music to start. Social D played first, and they totally rocked it! Straight-ahead rock and roll with a healthy injection of punk. When they finished, all I could think was, “Damn! I’d love to see them as a headliner.” They played a smokin’ version Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” which was mind-blowing. When they finished and the lights came up, Ed and I were both pumped and ready for the next act—Sonic Youth.

What can I say about Sonic Youth? They were one of the most disappointing bands I have ever seen. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the truth is, I thought they sucked. I stood there watching them, as they mindlessly pounded on their instruments, making noise, and rolling around on the stage, getting tangled in their cords. It was like watching a group of morons who were trying to make obnoxious noise to torment those around them. I distinctly recall wondering if they even knew how to play their instruments, because it did not seem like it to me. And after such a great set from Social D, it just made them sound all the worse. I asked Ed what he thought of them, and he said “They fuckin’ suck. I’m getting a headache.” Now Ed never shied away from loud music, so I felt validated. We ended up hanging out in the hallway until they finished playing.

After the Sonic Cacophony ended, we went back inside and waited for Neil. Finally, the lights went down and Neil & Co. exploded on stage with “Hey Hey, My My,” and it was one killer song after another. The high points for me were a powerful cover version of Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and “Welfare Mothers” as one of the encore tunes. I can close my eyes right now, 27 years later, and still picture them on stage, pounding out some of the greatest rock and roll ever. As long as Neil Young is still alive, then rock and roll can never die.

Here is the setlist from the show.

Setlist:

  • Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)
  • Crime in the City
  • Blowin’ in the Wind
  • Love to Burn
  • Cinnamon Girl
  • Mansion on the Hill
  • Fuckin’ Up
  • Cortez the Killer
  • Powderfinger
  • Love and Only Love
  • Rockin’ in the Free World

Encore:

  • Welfare Mothers
  • Like a Hurricane

The Pretenders: 3/28/2018

So I had some reservations about going to see this show. The reason being, I had seen the Pretenders back in the 80’s, and they were AWESOME! They were so great, I was afraid that seeing them 34 years later would be a let-down. (Note: This show was exactly 34 years to the day after I first saw them.) Anyway, my wife wanted to go because she loves the Pretenders and had never seen them, so I bought tickets. I’m damn glad I did.

The band was playing at the Peace Center in Greenville, about an hour’s drive. The venue has great acoustics and comfortable seats, but it’s a little strange. Most of the people who go there are old. Now I am no spring chicken and have earned my rank as a veteran concertgoer, but I felt like a teenager there. I think that many people purchase season tickets, but I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just older than I feel.

Anyway, the opening band was pretty good, although I forgot their name. But not long afterwards, the Pretenders took the stage.

What can I say? Chrissie Hynde still looks and sounds incredible. She took the stage in tight black pants, tee shirt, pink blazer, and leopard skin shoes, looking every bit the rock goddess that she always was. She had a great band with her (Martin Chambers on drums was the only other original), and the guitarist was especially good, channeling the classic riffs with punk-rockabilly flare.

What I thought was cool was that Chrissie was adamant about people not using their cell phones during the show, stating that they needed to just focus on the music. Now I have no issue with snapping a picture or two, even taking a short 30-second video to share on Facebook if that’s your thing, but I confess an annoyance when I am looking toward a stage and all I see are devices in the air, as if the experience is not real unless it happens on your iPhone screen. So Chrissie did shame someone for trying to use a phone, and I think that scared everyone else.

As far as the performance goes, it was kick ass from beginning to end, with an encore that was mind-blowing. She interspersed the tunes with some banter and cool stories, but not to the point of drudgery. The energy was high, and she played for what felt like a long time. Totally felt like I got my money’s worth.

I found a setlist online, but there were some things that I noticed were definitely not correct, so I edited it a little. I think this is mostly right now, but I am not promising 100% accuracy. But you should be able to get an idea of how the show was.

Thanks Chrissie, for all the great music. Long may you rock!

Setlist:

  • Alone
  • Gotta Wait
  • Talk of the Town
  • Down the Wrong Way
  • Private Life
  • My City Was Gone
  • Let’s Get Lost
  • Kid
  • Back on the Chain Gang
  • Hymn To Her
  • Forever Young
  • Don’t Get Me Wrong
  • I’ll Stand by You
  • I Hate Myself
  • Thumbelina
  • Night in My Veins
  • Middle of the Road
  • Mystery Achievement

Encore:

  • ?????
  • Stop Your Sobbing
  • The Wait
  • Tattooed Love Boys
  • Precious

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: 12/29/1983

This performance by Joan Jett was quite different from when I saw her open for The Who a year earlier. The Button South was a rock and roll nightclub, so it was much more intimate seeing her here as opposed to in a large stadium.

Don’t have a whole lot else to share about this show. I’ve seen Joan many times over the years, and this one kind of blends in with the remnants of memories from other performances. But I can say with certainty that she kicked ass, because she kicked ass every time I have seen her.

I love rock and roll…

The Ramones: 10/30/1984

Ramones_10-30-84

So as you can see, not only do I have a ticket stub from the Ramones, but I have a guitar pick too! It’s kind of a crazy story, so here goes.

I kind of liked the Ramones, but my friend Jim was definitely into them and invited me to go. I figured I might as well check them out.

The Button South was one of the main South Florida rock clubs at the time, and the place was jam packed with rock and roll crazies. We made our way up to the front and waited for the show to start.

The Ramones exploded on the stage. They were high energy right from the first note, and Jim and I were almost directly in front of Johnny Ramone. They all looked strung out, especially Joey who was skinny with long hair, growling into the microphone. It was pure rock and roll! I also marveled at their equipment, which looked like crap. The cords were patched together with old electrical tape and the amps looked battered. I was surprised that they still produced sound.

Anyway, on to the story of “the pick.” There was a girl who was next to me who had her hands cupped, begging Johnny Ramone for a pick. He kept coming up to her, holding a pick just above her outstretched hands, and then tossing it out to another part of the crowd. This went on the entire show. This girl didn’t dance, didn’t move, just stood there, begging.  Finally, after the last song of the encore, Johnny drops a pick into her hands… and it bounced out and landed right in front of me. So, I picked it up and looked at it. Now, I was a dumb teenager, and all this girl had to do was flash me a sad look and the pick would have been in her hand. But no. She got in my face and started screaming at me, saying that the pick was meant for her. I looked her in the eye and said, “Well, you should have held onto it then,” and tucked the pick into my pocket.

Later on, I felt somewhat sorry. Regardless of the fact that she was nasty to me, I probably should have given her the pick. But I was young and stupid. And “hey ho,” I still have a Ramones guitar pick.

X, Los Lobos, and the Blasters: 5/7/2016

X_5-7-16

First off, I hate these e-Tickets, but I bought tickets to this show at the last minute before travelling to Los Angeles to visit my daughter, so I had to bite the bullet and forego a real ticket.

I was pretty psyched for this concert, especially since I had never seen X or the Blasters before (I had seen Los Lobos once). And I figured seeing three L.A. bands together in L.A. would be very cool.

The Novo (formerly the Nokia Theater) is a great venue. We literally had the last row in the balcony, but no matter; the slope was steep so even being in the last row we had a great view of the stage and the sound was excellent.

So, now for the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First off, I was tired. I flew from the east coast the day of the show, so when it started at 9:00, it felt like Midnight to me and I had been awake for a long time already. Then, in addition to the three bands already on the bill, they had a fourth band opening, and they kind of sucked (can’t recall their name – blocked it from my memory). So when the Blasters came out around 10ish Pacific Time, I was feeling the jet lag. But, the Blasters were awesome and perked me up.

Los Lobos played next and they were REALLY awesome, way better than when I saw them the first time. I actually got a real boost in their set.

Then came an interminable wait while X set up. I was fading fast, as was my daughter. Finally, they took the stage around 12:30. As psyched as I was to see them, I was not feeling the energy. They seemed pretty lack-luster after two really hot sets. We stayed for a few songs and then Exene Cervenka stopped the show because a fight broke out in the front. That about did us in. We decided it was time to go.

It probably wasn’t the brightest move to go to a show while jet-lagged, but I’m glad I went. Got to check a couple other bands off my list. I would probably even see X again, but only if it was a local show and earlier.

Rock on!

The Clash: 3/31/1984

Clash_3-31-84

As you probably know by now, I have seen a lot of concerts, but only a few bands totally blew me away the moment they took the stage. The Clash was one of those few.

I was really into The Clash at this time. In my opinion, they were one of the best punk bands ever. I was really psyched to be seeing them, even without Mick Jones.

They opened with “London Calling,” and like I said, I was blown away from the first note. It was like an explosion of energy shot from the stage and shattered every cell in my body. And I could tell it wasn’t just me. The entire Sunrise Musical Theater erupted. I doubt there was a single person in their seats.

As was to be expected at a punk concert, people were climbing onto the stage and diving into the crowd. I suspect that the security was not prepared for this. Police and Sunrise concert security decided to stop it and seized a kid who had clambered onto the stage. Joe Strummer, ever the anarchist, stopped and got in the faces of the security and began yelling and gesticulating at them. I wish I knew what he said. Regardless, they released the kid who ran and did a swan-dive into the crowd. Everyone cheered, and then Joe stepped up to the microphone and said, “I don’t know what you all are doing, but you have the police really nervous.” At which point they broke into “The Guns of Brixton.” It was pandemonium!

As far as the rest of the show goes, there were no weak spots. It was kick-ass right up to the last note of “White Riot.” For those of you who are interested, here is the full set list from the show.

Forces have been looting
My humanity
Curfews have been curbing
The end of liberty

Hands of law have sorted through
My identity
But now this sound is brave
And wants to be free – anyway to be free

(Excerpt from “This is Radio Clash”)

Black Flag: 8/12/1984

BlackFlag_8-12-84

Back in 1984, I was working as a line cook in Miami at one of those TGI Fridays type of places that later went out of business. There was a young woman who worked there named Kim who was very much into the punk scene, hence her nickname “Punk Rock Kimmie.” One day she came up to me and punched me in the arm and said, “Hey Jeff. Wanna go see Black Flag?”

My response: “Umm. I dunno. What songs do they play?”

Kim: “I dunno, but they smash bottles on the stage and roll around in the broken glass.”

Me: “Yeah? How much?”

Kim: “Six bucks.”

Me: “Sure, I’ll pay $6 to see that.”

The show was at Flynn’s on Miami Beach, a true hole in the wall. This place was run down, dirty, dismal, and dangerous—essentially everything you would expect from a hardcore punk bar. I confess I felt nervous around all the skinheads who packed the small venue.

Saccharin Trust was the opening act, but I cannot tell you much about their performance. I was much more focused on the environment and the people there. But Black Flag I remember well.

They came out and it was nothing short of chaos. The mob of angry youths slamming was a bit intense, but I found a safe spot and observed the madness from outside the fray. Henry Rollins, the lead singer, stalked the stage in nothing but shorts, gym socks, and sneakers, screaming viciously into the microphone and spurring the already frenzied crowd. Sweat poured off of him and I remember thinking that he had way too much energy for a single human being. But the encore is what stands out the most for me.

After the high-energy performance, the band was called back on stage. Rollins, drenched with sweat, kicked off a sneaker and pulled off one of his socks. He squeezed the sock sweat into a glass and then drank it. Then he removed his other sock and squeezed it over the crowd. I watched with morbid fascination while fans stood there, mouths open, as sock sweat was squeezed into their mouths. The thought that crossed my mind: Some people will drink anything.

Big Audio Dynamite & Public Image Limited: 3/15/1992

BAD-PIL

This is one of those amazing shows that really stands out in my memory, and the ticket stub only tells a small part of the story. This was a big show that included a total of four bands, all of whom I was so psyched to see. It was an outdoor show at Miami’s Bayfront Park Amphitheater and I went with a big group of friends.

The first band to perform was Blind Melon. They were very good and performed an amazing set. The band suffered a tragedy a couple years later when the lead singer, Shannon Hoon, died of a cocaine overdose on October 21, 1995. I feel fortunate to have seen them.

The second band to perform was Live. Wow! I remember being blown away by the energy this band had on stage. It did not surprise me that they later rose to stardom. I had heard some of their music on the alternative college stations, but when I saw them live (pun intended), I immediately went out and bought “Throwing Copper,” which is an amazing CD.

Finally, we got Public Image Limited (PiL). Johnny Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols, commanded the audience in a way that is difficult to describe. He stalked the stage, engaged the crowd, and got everyone’s hearts pumping along with the music. When they finished, I was so psyched, but not quite able to grasp that there was STILL MORE! The main act, Big Audio Dynamite (or BAD), was still up next.

For those who are not familiar, BAD was formed by Mick Jones of The Clash after he left the band. I really like BAD and was virtually crawling out of my skin with anticipation. Was I in for a disappointment.

They came on stage, and immediately I could tell they were really wasted. The musicians staggered around the stage, slurring incoherently into the microphones, and getting tangled up in guitar cords. It was so anticlimactic after three amazing performances, each more energetic than the one before. The contrast was stark. And then, as if it couldn’t get any worse, the drummer fell over backwards and knocked his drums over. I felt like I was watching Cheech and Chong! I looked around and noticed people leaving in droves. We decided that we had to join them. There was no way we were going to sit through that kind of pathetic performance.

I was really bummed out about Big Audio Dynamite’s lack of professionalism. But I did not let that ruin the show as a whole. I got to see three great performances that day and have a great memory to go along with my ticket stub.