Category Archives: Music

Joelfest 2017, Part II (Part I)

Sound Check: The Only Times I’ve Ever Known

Several months ago it was announced that Billy Joel would be performing in September in St. Louis.

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

Sometimes it’s not easy being perceived as the No. 1 fan of a popular musician. Yes, I love The Man and his music but I’ve seen him many times. In fact, I’m not sure how many times. There was the first time in Columbia, then in St. Louis, then I think in Kansas City, then again in St. Louis, then when he opened the Savvis Center, then with Elton John at Riverport, then with Liz that last time… so 6 or 7 times. Maybe 8.

He puts on a good show. But it’s pretty much the same show – heavy on the hits, a few album tracks, songs from whatever new album he’s promoting. But he hasn’t had a new album in 24 years. And I don’t need to hear him perform “My Life” one more time.  So I am pretty much done with Billy Joel Live. Especially since concert tickets are more expensive than they were when I paid $5.50 to see him the first time.

So I had made my peace about Joel being in town and me not being there, despite constant questioning by people — including my wife, who would ask me on a weekly basis if I wanted her to get me tickets.

And then some cop shot some black man and some judge didn’t toss him in jail and all hell broke loose in St. Louis.

As a result, the U2 concert was canceled. The Wife had been looking forward to that show for some time, and it’s true what they say — If Laurie ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

So to make it up to her — and because her constant questioning me about whether I wanted tickets to Billy Joel was clearly as much about her desires as it was about mine (you learn these things after 29 years of marriage) — I figured I’d better scrounge up some concert tickets.

But the show is 2 days away and sold out. As luck or fate or whatever would have it, someone at work had a pair of tickets he wanted to unload. The bad news is they were floor seats, and I hate floor seats. The worst news is they were $150 each (plus a $40 service fee, which he wasn’t going to charge me, but once you’ve blown $300 on concert tickets, what’s another $40?)

Now, if my father were alive and he heard that I’d spent $340 on concert tickets, he would take his belt off and beat me with it. And he would be right to do so. But pa is no longer with us, so now it’s just a question of : Do I love my wife enough to spend $340 on concert tickets?

bjconcert

Looks like I’m going to the Billy Joel concert!

 

…To be continued   

 

 

 

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Gone: Don Williams

I ain’t gonna marry in the fall
I ain’t gonna marry in the spring
‘Cause I’m in love with a pretty little girl
Who wears a diamond ring.

And I’m just a country boy
Money have I none
But I’ve got silver in the stars
And gold in the mornin’ sun
Gold in the mornin’ sun

You’re my bread when I’m hungry
You’re my shelter from troubled winds
You’re my anchor in life’s ocean
But most of all you’re my best friend

I guess there’s not much I can do or say
Saw my baby with another guy today
Though I love her and I try to tell her so
It’s hello blues and down the road I go

Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife

MI0003714342Coffee black, cigarette
start this day, like all the rest
First thing every morning that I do
Is start missing you

Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never end
Some tears will never dry
My love for you will never die

Rendezvous in the night
A willing woman to hold me tight
But in the middle of love’s embrace
I see your face

Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never end
Some tears will never dry
My love for you will never die

My baby said, I’z crazy
My mama called me lazy
I was gonna show ’em all this time
‘Cause you know I ain’t no fool
And I don’t need no more schoolin’
I was born to just walk the line

‘Cause you know I’m a rake and a ramblin’ man
Free as an eagle flies
Well, look at me now and tell me true
Do I look like a daddy to you?
Oh, do I look like a daddy to you?

It must be love
It must be love
I fall like a sparrow
Fly like a dove
You must be the dream
I’ve been dreamin’ of
Oh, what a feelin’
It must be love

When I was a kid Uncle Remus would put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then Daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a bible in his hand
And he talked about honor and things I should know
Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door

I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And Those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be
So what do you do with good ol’ boys like me?

Lord, I hope this day is good
I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood
I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should
But Lord I hope this day is good

I have drifted up across the mountain 
And I have stumbled down the other side 
I’ve been tempted, tried and troubled 
Come early morning I’ll be home and satisfied 

Gone: Walter Becker

We seen the last of Good King Richard 
Ring out the past his name lives on 
Roll out the bones and raise up your pitcher 
Raise up your glass to Good King John 

You go back, Jack, do it again
Wheel turnin’ ’round and ’round 

I foresee terrible trouble 
And I stay here just the same 

I’m a fool to do your dirty work 
Oh yeah 
I don’t wanna do your dirty work 
No more 
I’m a fool to do your dirty work 
Oh yeah 

I heard it was you 
Talkin’ ’bout a world 
Where all is free 
It just couldn’t be 
And only a fool would say that

20th-century-masters-the-millennium-collection-the-best-of-s-55ed704c60655California tumbles into the sea
That’ll be the day I go
Back to Annandale
Tried to warn you
About Chino and Daddy Gee
But I can’t seem to get to you
Through the U.S. Mail
Well I hear the whistle but I can’t go
I’m gonna take her down to Mexico
She said oh no
Guadalajara won’t do

Well I did not think the girl
Could be so cruel
And I’m never going back
To my old school

And you could have a change of heart

I never seen you looking so bad my funky one
You tell me that your superfine mind has come undone
Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend 
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again 
When the demon is at your door 
In the morning it won’t be there no more 
Any major dude will tell you

I have never met Napoleon
But I plan to find the time

And I’m going insane
And I’m laughing at the frozen rain
And I’m so alone
Honey when they gonna send me home?

FM: No static at all

Throw out your gold teeth
And see how they roll
The answer they reveal
Life is unreal

I’m a bookkeeper’s son
I don’t want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don’t take me alive

No I’m never gonna do it without the fez on 

I’ll learn to work the saxophone 
I’ll play just what I feel 
Drink Scotch whisky all night long 
And die behind the wheel 
They got a name for the winners in the world 
I want a name when I lose 
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide 
Call me Deacon Blues 

She’s the raw flame
The live wire
She prays like a Roman
With her eyes on fire

Drink your big black cow 
And get out of here

 

In Concert: Ann Wilson

So I’m sitting on the couch watching “One-Punch Man” when The Wife comes to me and she says,

“Let’s go to the Ann Wilson concert.”

“Who? The name sounds familiar.”

“She’s the lead singer for Heart.”

“Oh. OK.”

Now you have probably figured out by now that when The Wife wants to do something — We Do It. I’m the kinda guy who likes doing stuff, and I don’t really care what, as long as it doesn’t involve running or risking my life (No dear, I won’t climb that mountain to see that lake; or ride that bobsled of death).

Plus, Laurie married me, and all that goes with that, so anything that can make her life a little brighter for a couple of hours, sign me up. Do you ever watch “The Big Bang Theory” and wonder “Why on earth did Penny marry Leonard?” So do I, but then I’m living proof that women sometimes do strange, inexplicable things.

Besides, I’m probably going to enjoy an Ann Wilson concert more than Shakespeare in the Park or the opera.

The concert was at River City Casino in Lemay, which is downtown St. Louis but off to the side. We had never been there before but it was near where Laurie goes to play bingo so I made her drive. Turned out it wasn’t a bad drive and we didn’t have to deal with downtown crap and the casino had a nice. large, free parking lot and we were able to get a spot at the front entrance.

Conveniently for the casino people, the Event Center was at the other end of the building, so you had to walk through the casino and restaurant row to get to it. I always feel dirty when I walk through a casino, I don’t know why. There was a Wonder Woman slot machine that I considered stopping at, but didn’t. I told Laurie that if we saw a Batman one or an Avengers one we were stopping, but there were none.

We found the venue but it was 40 minutes before showtime (we got there early since we didn’t know how long it would take to get there), so we made a stop at an Italian pastry kiosk for a tiramisu and a cafe mocha. Tasty.

The Event Center at River City Casino is a small-medium size joint where there’s really not a bad seat in the house. The rows go to Z, and the last 7 or 8 rows are on risers. I got us a couple of seats in row X and it worked out nicely. I was on the aisle for extra leg room and immediate extraction once it’s over; we were elevated so we didn’t have to stare at the back of someone’s head like the people on the floor; the venue was small enough that being in the back wasn’t a big issue; I don’t need to see Ann Wilson up close anyway; the seats were much cheaper; nobody in the risers is going to be standing up all night dancing and annoying the hell out of me.

The show was to start at 8 p.m. with no opening act. Good on you, Ann Wilson. “We’ll see how much of a diva Ann Wilson is by when she shows up,” I says. The show started a few minutes after 8. Good on you, Ann Wilson. She opened the show with a blistering version of “The Real Me,” track 2 from the classic Who album “Quadrophenia.”

Ohmigod, I love Ann Wilson.

annwilsonofhearttour2017poster (2)From there she ripped through a trio of Heart tunes (Barracuda, Crazy on You, What About Love) and that was pretty much it for the Heart catalogue, aside from a couple she slipped into Act II (but let’s be honest, “A Million Miles” is just an amped up reworking of the old folk standard, “500 Miles”).

It turns out that if you’re going to an Ann Wilson concert to hear Heart songs, you may leave disappointed. But if you’re going to hear an eclectic greatest hits show, Ann delivers. They’re just not Heart hits. In addition to a couple of her own songs, she and the band performed tunes made famous by Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, Yes, Peter Gabriel, The Animals, The Black Crowes, Buffalo Springfield, Aretha Franklin and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

Since I’m not a Heart fanatic, I had no problem with the song selection. Ann has an incredible voice and her 4-piece backing band was solid. I’d rather hear Ann sing “She Talks to Angels” than “Dog and Butterfly” anyway.

There was a large video screen behind them that showed odd images. Sometimes they were cool, some sometimes they made no sense, and some I could’ve done without.

She wrapped up the show (pre-encores) with an amazing 3-song punch of “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Alone” and “Love, Reign O’er Me.” Imagine the audacity of someone thinking. I’m going to end my show with not 1, but 2, Who showstoppers — and I’m not Roger Daltrey. And yet she pulled it off flawlessly.

Ohmigod, I love Ann Wilson.

 

 

 

Garth Brooks And The Downfall Of Country Music

So it’s been raining all weekend and I haven’t done much and I haven’t blogged because I haven’t done much and I was good with that when a friend posts that she’s going to see Garth Brooks!!! and a couple of friends respond with “Have fun!!!” and I respond with “Why are you telling her to have fun? It’s Garth Brooks,” and she responds thusly:

If you know anything about country music you would know he is like the best artist ever

OK. Now I have something to talk about.

Do I know anything about country music? Well, let’s see. I was born in the country. I spent the first 18 years of my life in the country. I occasionally go home to the country on holidays and long weekends.

Yeah, I know a little bit about country music. It’s the music of my people.

My pa had a pickup truck with an AM/FM radio that had six programmable buttons. He only programmed two — one was for KWTO (Keep Watching The Ozarks) and the other was for KTTS (No Obvious Acronym). Neither was a rock-and-roll station. Neither was in the classical or all-news format. It was all country, all the time, in Pa’s pickup.

You didn’t touch the dials on Pa’s radio. Even when he would get out and say “stay here,” you didn’t touch the radio. I spent many a day listening to country music on KWTO and KTTS. There was no 8-track player in Pa’s pickup. At home, Pa didn’t listen to records, but Ma did. There was Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and Roger Miller and Tom T. Hall and the Statler Brothers and a few others.

Gunfighter-Ballads-Robbins-CDI wasn’t a big fan of country music but I respected it and I liked most of it. When I moved out I left country music behind for the most part. None of my friends or roommates listened to it. Laurie wasn’t into it, although she did have a strong love for Marty Robbins’ “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.” I had never heard of the album so I got a copy and soon fell in love with it as well. I especially like the hot pink background on the cover.

I first became aware of Garth Brooks while watching a news show where they did a segment on “Up and Coming Country Superstar Garth Brooks.” I was intrigued because Garth had taken a less-than-great Billy Joel song and turned it into a hit. In fact, during the segment they showed concert footage of Garth jumping up and down and climbing on cables while singing Joel’s “You May Be Right.”

“Why is this country guy so into Billy Joel?” I thought. But I didn’t think enough of it to go out and buy a Garth Brooks album.

Shameless_(Garth_Brooks_single_-_cover_art)It turned out — and here I’ll be sociological for a moment — that Garth Brooks was at the forefront of the “New Country” movement. By the 1990s traditional rock and roll was in decline, having been muscled out by rap, grunge and alternative rock. Young white people who feared rap and couldn’t sing along to Kurt Cobain and Michael Stipe had nowhere to go. So they turned to Garth Brooks and his ilk, who had taken rock and roll and meshed it into an unholy alliance with country music. If there’s a Frankenstein Monster of music, it’s New Country.

Or, as Tom Petty put it, “What they call country music today is like bad rock groups with a fiddle.”

You think Tom Petty and I are being too harsh? Don’t take our word for it, take country music’s word for it. Every year the Country Music Association holds its music awards show. The tagline: “It’s Country Music’s Night To Rock.” Think about it.

The country music I grew up with didn’t aspire to be rock and roll. It was country and it was proud of it.

But hey, Garth has sold millions of albums and has billions of fans, so that has to count for something, right? Not especially.  Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies have made millions of dollars and have plenty of fans but no one would call them “great cinema.”

Still, it’s probably true that in the hierarchy of country music that Garth Brooks is like the best artist ever.

As long as you don’t count Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, Roger Miller, Tom T. Hall, Charlie Pride, Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Kris Kristofferson, Don Williams,  Hank Williams Jr., The Statler Brothers, Marty Robbins, the Carter Family and the Oak Ridge Boys.

Well, I’ll give you Garth over the Oak Ridge Boys.

(Yes, I am aware that this post makes me look like a “music snob,” but let’s be honest — when it comes to music we’re all pretty much snobs. At least I didn’t resort to the standard argument: “All (musician I hate)’s music sounds the same.”)

 

 

 

 

On Stage: Motown: The Musical

“Motown: The Musical” has returned to St. Louis for a 5-day run guaranteed to get audiences dancing in the streets — or at least in the aisles of the Fox Theatre.

Based on Berry Gordy’s 1994 autobiography “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, the Memories of Motown,” the musical rips through more than 60 tunes made famous by the Detroit-based record label while telling the story of its founder and several of its stars. The show premiered on Broadway in 2013.

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Gabriella Whiting (Florence Ballard), Allison Semmes (Diana Ross) and Tavia Rivee (Mary Wilson) in a scene from the First National Tour production of “Motown The Musical.”        Joan Marcus photo 

Chester Gregory stars as Berry Gordy, who at a young age was inspired to be the best he could be after watching a Joe Louis boxing match. After a few false starts, Gordy discovered that what he was best at was making records and nurturing talent. Among his earliest finds and closest friends are Smokey Robinson (David Kaverman) and Marvin Gaye (Jarran Muse).

Gordy launches his black artists onto the airwaves and the concert halls in the early 1960s, a time of racial segregation and unrest. The civil rights movement is a constant presence in the show, both in the characters’ lives and how it is reflected in their music.

Motown unleashes a wide variety of talent in its first 25 years — from Stevie Wonder to the Jackson Five to Rick James — but the artist who becomes the focal point of the story is Diana Ross (Allison Semmes). Her relationship with Gordy gives the show its romantic angle, as well as show his managerial skills in boosting her from fronting a girl group to solo success and a movie career.

Of course, success breeds many challenges. Gordy’s “family” of talent finds the grass is greener at other studios — especially when they’re offering so much more green. As his stars leave, the record company starts to falter. Even though all the old gang are coming home for Motown’s anniversary, Gordy isn’t sure if he wants to be there.

If you love the music of Motown, then you will love “Motown: The Musical.” A number of talented singers and dancers, along with an immensely talented band, belt out hit after hit, sometimes in truncated form but always with high energy and heart. The leads, especially Gregory, really deliver the goods.

In addition to its classic soundtrack, the show boasts colorful, elaborate costumes and a dazzling, multimedia sets. “Motown: The Musical” is a joy for the eyes and ears.

“Motown: The Musical” runs through March 26 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

Gone: Greg Lake

You see, it’s all clear
You were meant to be here
From the beginning

C’est la vie

Have your leaves all turned to brown
Will you scatter them around you
C’est la vie
Do you love
And then how am I to know
If you don’t let your love show for me
C’est la vie

Oh c’est la vie
Oh c’est la vie
Who knows, who cares, for me?
C’est la vie

He had white horses and ladies by the score
All dressed in satin and waiting by the door
Ooh, what a lucky man he was

Do you wanna be the player
Do you wanna be the string
Let me tell you something
It just don’t mean a thing

You see it really doesn’t matter
When you’re buried in disguise
By the dark glass on your eyes
Though your flesh has crystallised

Still… you turn me on

greglakekingbiscuitinconcert51571Soon the Gypsy Queen in a glaze of Vaseline
Will perform on guillotine
What a scene! What a scene!

Next upon the stand will you please extend a hand
to Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Dixie land, Dixie land

Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!
See the show!

Performing on a stool we’ve a sight to make you drool
Seven virgins and a mule
Keep it cool. Keep it cool.

We would like it to be known the exhibits that were shown
were exclusively our own,
All our own. All our own.

Come and see the show! Come and see the show! Come and see the show!
See the show!

They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
But instead, it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the Virgin birth

I remember one Christmas morning
A winter’s light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell
And that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a Silent Night
And they told me a fairy story
Til I believed in the Israelite

And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes
Then I woke with a yawn
In the first light of dawn
And I saw him and through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave New Year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear

They said there’d be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on Earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it Heaven or Hell
The Christmas we get, we deserve