Monday, August 27, 2007

Concerts I've Attended, pt. 2

Like the first part of this reminiscence of my concert going experiences, there is no particular order or relevance. I just started jotting down those that I remembered attending, and let myself recall anything about that experience that might add to it. There is certainly no chronological order, especially for those shows I saw in the ‘70s.

I was serving onboard the U.S.S. Shreveport when we hit the port of Copenhagen for several days. Our visit coincided with a celebration of Copenhagen and some U.S. city being declared “sister cities”, and one of one of the celebrities was Danny Kaye, who actually visited the ship and spoke to us briefly. But since we are talking about concerts, let’s move on.

I don’t know if it was the first concert by a ‘name’ performer I saw, but it must have been one of the first. Tivoli Gardens was a large amusement park in the city and was hosting outdoor concerts. One of the nights we were there happened to be the night that Elton John was performing. This was probably in 1971, and John was backed by Nigel Olsson & Dee Murray. I can’t recall if Davy Johnstone was also playing with him at the time, since we were pretty much just paying attention to Elton. He came out dressed as Mickey Mouse, even with the big, giant white gloves that he quickly cast aside to begin playing. This was before many of his huge hits, but he already had several Top Forty singles and his show was lots of fun.

I don’t recall if it was during the same North Atlantic cruise, but either the same year or the next when the Shreveport hit Portsmouth, England for a few days a handful of us went into London for a weekend. We were actually near the pier at which Nelson’s HMS Victory still sits, which we found very cool. Anyway, we stayed at a Bed & Breakfast and one night got tickets to a rock ‘n’ roll show at some club. There were some hairy moments as the place was filled with guys who looked like they had been extras in “Rebel Without a Cause”, but all sounded like they had taken the ferry cross the Mersey (if you know what I mean?).

A couple of bands played some really good covers of American pop stuff from the ‘50s, but then we were hit by a surprise. Screaming Lord Sutch came out and the place erupted! I only had a dim idea of who he was but it was a wild show to say the least. The guy was actually scary with skulls, flames and all sorts of stuff. The British Alice Cooper, I guess.

Joe Walsh was touring with his “Barnstorming” band when I saw him in Virginia. This was after splitting from the James Gang and before he actually produced his first solo album. I know he opened for either Yes or Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but my memory of those years won’t allow me to definitely state for which.

The second time I saw Yes, was in the mid-70s at an outdoor concert in California, I mentioned them last time out, but there were also several other groups that played that day. Little Feat (during the Lowell George era) opened the show but folks were still coming into the stadium so I don’t have any strong memories of the group; they were followed by Gary Wright who was getting lots of air play for “Dream Weaver”; next up was Peter Frampton who was a big draw back then in his own right with “Frampton”, this was where I saw how his “guitar box” effect worked. By the time Yes hit the stage I was pretty drunk and the place was rocking. It was also the last outdoor concert I attended.
It was also in California that I got to see Gordon Lightfoot. He was as good as I had hoped and definitely had the crowd very happy, except for one brief moment. This was in the mid-1970s and Gordon made a comment about how he felt sympathy for Patty Hearst for what she had undergone. The audience, for the most part, did not agree and I think he was surprised to be booed so loudly. He quickly recovered and went into one of his better-known songs, which got the crowd back behind him.

I also caught Carlos Santana during this same period, which (until the Jefferson Airplane concert at Radio City) had to be the loudest show I ever saw. My friend and I actually left our seats on the floor to head up to the balcony to save our hearing. Believe it or not, Lee Michaels (“Do You Know What I Mean?”) was the opening act. He was by himself on stage playing piano and did at least a half dozen songs. I thought he was good, but it certainly wasn’t what the crowd wanted to hear. Carlos Santana was moving into a jazz phase at this time, but still played the hits that everyone wanted to hear. Next to hearing Eric Clapton play, I can’t remember being as moved by a guitarist as I was by Santana.

Jumping back to Virginia in the mid-1970s, several of us decided to take in a Rock ‘n’ Roll Revival show. Chuck Berry was headlining the event, which was around the time that he was still getting lots of radio play for “My Ding A Ling” and “Reelin’ & Rockin’” of all things. Some local retro band opened the show, followed by The Dovells (The Bristol Stomp), The Shirelles (Soldier Boy and dozens of others), then Chubby Checker (The Twist, Limbo Rock, etc.) looking a bit older but still lots of fun. Next was Bo Diddley and we all know what he did! Chuck Berry finally came out and to our surprise, Bo Diddley played the drums for part of the set. That was totally amazing and the first time that I found that he had been a drummer at one point in his career. The concert was long but even after three hours the crowd wanted more. That was a great time!

A funny story about this night. My buddy Lee and I got to the concert hall a few hours early to pick up our tickets. We were sitting on the steps on the side of the building when this black guy in a black hat and a guitar case comes up to us. He asked us if we knew how to get into the building and we directed him around the side where they took deliveries and there was an entrance. When he asked us if we were going to the show we said we were. He laughed and said he hoped we had a good time. Naturally, just as he rounds the building and goes out of site Lee and I look at each other and say (Wait for it….) “Bo Diddley!!!” Yeah, you had to be there, I guess.

When I was in college at Eastern Connecticut they had a couple of ‘name acts’ play the gym each semester. Frankly, most were acts I had no interest in. I did get dragged to see Pure Prairie League and if you remember anything but “Aimee” you’re doing better than I was even then.
On the other hand, somehow somebody on the student activity committee must have found some extra money somewhere because he was able to get Harry Chapin. That evening his brother’s Tom and Steven were also with him. It’s sad knowing that only a few years later he would die in a car accident. He was an amazing songwriter and although he didn’t have the greatest voice it was perfect for what he did.

The only other show I saw was with Elayne when we went to see “Weird Al” Yankovic
in the Village. It was a lot of fun, with Al doing just about every one of his hits and doing so many costume changes it was remarkable. The fat suit he had for ‘Eat It’ was amazing. I’d love to see him again.

I’m sure that I’m missing a few concerts and several acts that I’ve seen. There were probably acts I saw in clubs or opening acts for others that went on to be names, but nobody comes to mind right now. This may not be the last of these types of posts, but it won’t be for a while probably unless somebody reminds me of something.
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