Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Live Experience

As my inspiration continues its seemingly endless road trip of distractions, I am grateful for the Chatbox.

Kevin M asks, "What band did you really love, but disappointed you when you finally saw them live and what band that you didn't really enjoy, blew you away live? (and please let's not include Van Morrison or Bob Dylan cuz they are too obvious.)"

As I've mentioned a number of times on these pages, I find Queen's run of releases, starting with "Queen II" and ending with "News Of The World," to be some of the greatest records in music history. But trying to recreate this music live was quite a task. The obvious issue? The vocals. But it wasn't just the layers of operatic harmonies that were absent from Queen's live shows. Freddie's lead vocals often didn't cut it either.

The man was a showman and while I always had a blast seeing Queen live, it always killed me to hear Freddie Mercury sing at a much lower register, often changing the melodies to these songs I loved so much, to something more accessible. I've had countless live recordings of this band from every tour and there isn't one I could listen to with the same joy as the studio recordings.

I'm not sure if this next entry is exactly what Kevin is asking for, but I'm running with it anyway. 

The first time I saw the Black Crowes live, they made me laugh. They had opened for Aerosmith right after the release of their first record and what I witnessed was a Spinal Tap version of the Faces. Chris Robinson was on his knees, banging the floor with his hand, pleading to someone as he wailed through "She Talks To Angels." He twirled his mic stand in the air like Rod Stewart and at one point smacked himself on the side of his head. This was a shambles. I hated this band, even though I didn't mind their debut, "Shake Your Money Maker."

Then suddenly, it was magic. Their second release, "The Southern Harmony & Musical Companion" threw me for a loop. This was no sophomore slump. I went to see them headline the Beacon Theatre and ended up going every night of the run. Since those shows in 1992, I've seen the Black Crowes multiple nights on every tour and they have rarely failed to knock me out. I became a huge fan thanks to that Beacon Theatre run.


Shriner said...

Two instances:

I had never really liked early Genesis and/or Peter Gabriel. Just completely indifferent to them. Not a big prog fan at the time (early Crimson was as far as I went -- didn't even care for Yes, for that matter...)

"Shock the Monkey" came out as a single while I was in college and some friends asked me if I wanted to see Gabriel's solo tour at a smaller venue with main floor tickets (I think I knew "Games Without Frontier" because of Kate Bush and that was about it) so I said "why not..." (Friends with different musical tastes dragged me to lots of shows in college for bands I didn't know...)

Show *blew me away*. The man owned the stage and demanded your attention. Stellar band and songs, etc... One of my favorite lifetime concerts ever -- except for the guy next to me who kept screaming out "The Knife" over and over...

I saw Gabriel a year later at a "stadium" show for the "So" tour and was less enthused. REM lost me when they went stadium, too. Which brings me to...

The Replacements. Only had heard of the band through others (and via stories of concert shenanigans) and really did not know/like much of the material at that point that I had heard. Was a bit too ragged for my ears at that time.

In 1985 (pre-release of "Tim", IIRC), they were the surprise/unannounced middle band between The Three O'Clock and REM -- and this was one of those "holy shit, who are *these* guys?!" experiences you rarely come across live. Became a huge fan ever since.

As for disappointments live -- *in general*, I have really not liked many "stadium" shows (with the exception of KISS in the 70s and the reunion tour-- that's a band that can play to the cheap seats easily). KISS on the Creatures of The Night tour sucked so much, though (primarily because of Vinnie Vincent's incessant wankery on ever solo...), that I stopped buying KISS albums for about a decade, not even realizing he was the guitar player for only one album...

Anonymous said...

Hello all…no, please remain seated,

In 1972, I started to learn to play the guitar at my high school in Manhattan. By early 1973 I had learned my basics. That spring, my parents heard their youngest son playing some chord changes on my cheap acoustic guitar that they kind of liked. They said it sounded good. To their growing consternation, I played it over and over. And over. To their utter annoyance I wouldn’t stop playing it.

Such was my teen-aged devotion to Stairway to Heaven and Led Zeppelin. In July 1973, I scored tickets to see the mighty Zep at Madison Square Garden and was stoked beyond belief. Stayed stoked until Robert Plante started singing the first song, Rock & Roll, in a voice that sounded nothing, I mean NOTHING, like the record. And, at least that night, Jimmy Page was….eh. I had fallen crests, you might say.

Cut to one year later: July 1974. A high school buddy talked me and my best friend into going to Madison Square Garden to see David Bowie. Not proud of it now, but, well…you see, I grew up six people in a 2 bedroom, third floor walk-up in a very working class neighborhood in Queens. You might say we hadn’t yet gotten Bowie’s message of inclusion (ahem). BFF and I basically agreed to go to the see Bowie, more as a freak show than any real desire to buy in to him and his music. As it turned out, DB’s Diamond Dog tour blew…us…away. My dories were hunky, you might say.

I forgave Zep….eventually. But never ever wanted to see them live again. Forty years later another bud invited me to see Bowie in NJ. Damned if Earl Slick wasn’t back in the band. Totally rocked it.


buzzbabyjesus said...

I saw Supertramp touring "Bloody Well Right" and "Crime Of The Century", which I liked because it reminded me of Genesis w/ Gabriel. Utterly lifeless rendition of the album. Went directly from fan to hater.

I wasn't a Springsteen fan when a friend offered a ticket to see him play the LA Sports Arena in 1980.
The seats were only a dozen rows back. Behind the stage. It didn't matter. The view was great, we were close and Bruce made sure we got a show. For 3 hours! Instantly converted.

jeff said...

An odd choice. Back in the late 1970s, when I was in journalism school, Sunday nights were spent in the Lone Star Cafe where Kinky Friedman was in residence. What wonderful shows those were. When they got better known, musicians would show up to sing a few songs with the backup band. One night, John Belushi sang a few songs and just destroyed the place. Just amazing. If you remember the Joe Cocker routine he did on SNL (out-Cockering Cocker), you know, but then this other guy in a gray suit, black pompadour, followed him, and the guy blew away even Belushi. He out Belushi-ed Belushi and out Elvis-ed Elvis. I'd seen those clips of Presley in his county fair days, this guy had it all down and more, plus an incredible voice.

Afterward, I was sitting on the stairs, and he stood by me. I said, "You were fantastic. I hope you make a record one day," and very politely he said, "I did." I asked him his name, and he said, "Robert Gordon."

I've heard his records over the years and I'm a real fan (if you can get hold of his bootleg, "The Humbler", a show he did with Danny Gatton, you'll treasure it for the rest of your life), but none of them match the incredible intensity and joy of that night for just good old fashioned rock and roll. One of the highlights of my life, witnessing that night and that performance.

mauijim said...

My biggest disappointment came 15 years ago on my birthday, when I was excited
to party and i chose to see Big Audio Dynamite, who i considered their debut lps, one of the best albums of the 80s. Noone told me that Mick had changed out everyone in the band to become BAD II. Gone were all the samples and in was a form of dance music Iwas unfamiliar with at the time.The crowd seemed to like the warm up act, The Farm, better and i was surrounded by much younger ticket holders compounding my angst of being so old compared to them. My wife had a good laugh at me that night. I finally got even a few years later when the Sex pistols reunited and while waiting in line to enter, a young woman asked her what was she doing here? That too was a lousy show. Guess seeing old punks is not a great idea

kevin m said...

Growing up in the 70s', The Who were one of my favorite bands. So in 1982, when I was 19, they embarked on their Farewell Tour (ha!). My college buddy and I decided to drive to Buffalo and scalp a pair of tickets.

Needless to say it was a huge disappointment. Opening act, The Clash were tremendous but The Who bored the hell out of me. Maybe it was Kenny Jones on drums. Or Townsends' new found sobriety. Even the band seemed liked they're rather be someplace else. Maybe they knew in their hearts that this "farewell" thing was not for real (Motley Crue please review your legal contract).

Thinking we caught them on a bad night, we managed to snag a pair of tickets to a show in Syracuse about 6 weeks later. And they sucked that night too.

That was the last time I saw The Who, not counting their abbreviated performance at the Sandy 12/12/12 show and various TV gigs like the Super Bowl. I'm going to see them in 2 weeks in Atlantic City and I'm very curious to see if they can make a believer out of me again (before I get too old).

Throughout the 80s and 90's, Bon Jovi was an act I didn't care much about. All of the usual stuff; Hair Band, MTV Band, etc. I didn't dislike them but had no vested interest in their music.

So in 2000 while living in San Francisco, I was invited to a private concert hosted by a radio station. It was at a small theater and they played for just over an hour. And yet in that short time frame, they knocked me out. Hit after hit! Their energy level was such that you thought they were playing a stadium.

Afterwards I was invited backstage to meet them and Jon and Richie Sambora couldn't have been nicer.

Are they my favorite band now? No, they're not even in my Top 100. But I did buy their greatest hits CD and a few years ago took my wife to see them at MSG and we had good time.

William Repsher said...

Re: Queen. It's amazing that Freddie Mercury had a singing career at all. He had a massive overbite - you can see it in his childhood pictures - and it sounds like he was prone to slurring his S's as a result. He obviously had a powerful voice, but that's the sort of vocal tick that stops most people cold in terms of pursuing a career as a vocalist. I get the impression that was very hard to mask live.

My disappointment: R.E.M. at Madison Square Garden when they hit it big after "The One I Love" went Top 10. Not that tour -- I saw them as Penn State on that tour, university-size audience, 10,000 Maniacs opening for them, Natalie Merchant swinging her waist-length hair around.

Was it the Green tour? Whichever, they had moved up a big notch to places like the Garden as opposed to universities and theaters. And it felt wrong to me from Day One -- they weren't that kind of band. The audience was mostly high-school kids, which was an unwelcome shock after years of being part of a thriving college music scene. A few years earlier, these people would have been at an REO Speedwagon concert -- the exact same people about eight years later.

The couple next to me was learning how to kiss, flagrantly, in public, a lot of tongue. Ever been around two people in public who need to get a hotel room. It's pretty damn uncomfortable, especially in a crowded/hard to move audience situation. It was like they had just read an Idiots Guide on how to kiss and were so embarrassingly awkward and stiff ... but I guess this was their big night!

At the end of the show, two kids in letterman jackets started scuffling, apparently over "stop looking at my chick, dude" issues, which degenerated into two horse's asses yelling curses at each other after a few seconds of windmill/rabbit punches that did no damage.

At 25, I felt like Methuselah in that audience and completely out of place. These were not R.E.M. people ... but I guess in the 90's they were, and that's where I checked out for a very long time thereafter. I shouldn't blame the band -- they did nothing wrong at that concert, aside from Stipe shaving his head and slipping into that vaguely-Bono rock star mode that did him no favors. I guess he couldn't play mumbly-peg poet the rest of his days.

The Replacements should thank their lucky stars they tanked it when it came to moving up to this level!

buzzbabyjesus said...

William Repsher-
I was at that REM show. I remember the "lettermen". I think I was only a few rows away.
Everything about that show was wrong.

Noam Sane said...

I saw REM in '85, at J.B. Scotts Theater in Albany NY. The Three O'Clock opened for them, I liked that band, lively and trying hard to please, and some cool retro psych songs. Dug it.

Then REM bored me to tears, and I was at the time, a big fan. They played forever and i stayed for the whole show but I don't remember a damn thing about it, other than my surprise at how uninspired they sounded.


I was going to York College in York, PA - their motto is "America's Shittiest College" I believe - and, as there was nothing to do except bong myself into the ether, I attended every crappy concert they booked (this included a double bill of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Roches, and you can't imagine the verbal abuse those ladies endured. Of course, they gave it right back; they had no fear of fratboys, it seems...)

Anyway, it's the spring of 1978 and the band is Huey Lewis and the News, pre-hit. They were still hungry, I guess, because even not knowing a single tune, they just slayed me. Simply a great rock and roll show.

Of course, all that year I'd been listening to My Aim Is True. It was years before I knew that connection. But yeah, great players and a very fine band.

How they got from that to "Hip To Be Square" is a question for the ages, I guess.

A Guy Called Tak said...

Back in sometime in seventies when I was still in Japan as a college student, I saw many bands at Budokan. Disappointments - The Moody Blues and America came to my mind.
Moodies played poorly and the sound system wasn't good enough to recover. I guess it's not easy to recreate that signature soundscape on stage.
As for America - their signature harmony wasn't there at all. I saw Eagles and they were much better.
In 80's, I saw Billie Idle at Roxy in L.A. - he was so drunk/high, he couldn't keep his posture up. His guitarist (forgot his name) was so pissed off - you could see from the way he glared at Billie. It was an awful show. But, I wasn't his fan anyway, so didn't matter.

Aaron said...

The Pixies. Really loved their first two albums. Then I went to see them. They blew chunks. One of the most uninspired performances I've ever seen.

Chris Collins said...

I'll second the Peter Gabriel comment. I saw him on the US tour and he was way, WAY better than I expected.

And this, of course, falls into the "duh" category but when I was 13 I LOVED Whitesnake. Of course now how insane that is, but when I saw them back then and realized how terrible they really were live it broke my little heart.