Attending live music is a thing of the past...temporarily, of course. And since I have some time on my hands, I thought I'd revisit some of the most memorable shows I've attended since my very first concert in 1974. I welcome all of you to do the same, if you are so inclined.
RICKIE LEE JONES, 8/10/82
I had not yet been sold on Rickie Lee. Honestly, I didn't like "Chuck E's In Love" at all, and her performance on Saturday Night Live left me cold. What the hell was she singing...or thinking? But, it may have been more my fault. I was caught up in punk, glam, skinny ties and of course, the hard rock now referred to as "classic" that WNEW-FM had been spinning on a regular basis.
Then, one afternoon while record shopping on Bleecker Street, my friend Joe, then working at Disco-Rama, played the first track off Rickie Lee's new album, "Pirates." The rest is history. "We Belong Together" knocked me out. Joe had been a fan long before her debut was released, claiming to be friends with Sal Bernardi, who sang and I believe co-wrote with Miss Jones. I have a vivid memory of Joe performing visual commentary, as I like to call it, as the rest of "Pirates" played. He'd use his hands to conduct the various points of seemingly impossible vocal tricks from Rickie Lee, the sweeping harmony that comes in the third verse of ""Living It Up," the hipster phrases and percussion in "Woody N Dutch." It was beyond entertaining, and truly helpful. Almost 40 years later, I tend to do all of those moves myself whenever I listen to "Pirates," which remains my favorite record of RLJ's.
That summer, the Dr. Pepper Concert Series on Pier 84, was star-studded. Looking at the schedule, it appears that I attended a dozen shows between June 25th and September 1st, double bills that included Duran Duran/Split Enz, Joe Jackson/Marshall Crenshaw, King Crimson/The Alley Cats, Cheap Trick/Axe (one of the loudest concerts I had ever witnessed and it was outdoors), Elvis Costello/Talk Talk, as well as Todd Rundgren, Weather Report and Miles Davis. But it was Rickie Lee's show that made a lasting impression and it was thanks to Joe and his assisted listening manoeuvres during "Pirates" that sent me there.
The show ran well over two hours. She had a rack of outfits on stage that she would "shop" through and often change behind from song to song. There were covers, "My Funny Valentine," "I Won't Dance," "Walk Away Renee," "I'll Be There," possibly a few more. The band played extended jams, occasionally swinging like the Count Basie Orchestra, and then getting a bit funky like Earth, Wind & Fire. Rickie Lee told jokes and broke hearts. It was nothing like I had seen prior. The show made me a fan for life.
Years later, when I had my shop, if I played Rickie Lee, someone would inevitably strike up a conversation, sometimes heaping praise, and others claiming "I just don't get her." One person was at the same show in 1982 and he remembered it differently, calling it a shambles, saying Rickie Lee seemed out of it and the band phoned it in. Not how I remember it at all. It still ranks high on my list of all time favorites shows.