Sammy Hagar Wows Loveland

Budweiser Events Center
Loveland, CO
August 20, 2013:

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I cannot write an objective review of Sammy Hagar’s concert in Loveland because well, I am a little biased. He not only endorsed my book, “Dance of the Electric Hummingbird,” but I’ve seen so many of his concerts now, I can’t even count them all. However, I can tell you that he freaking ROCKED the Budweiser Events Center last month—even though there was a less than full house.

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Said Sammy, “Well, it’s not a full house tonight, but you sure SOUND like a full house!”

Indeed; the audience loved him—and why wouldn’t they? At nearly 66 years old, Hagar had more energy than many men half his age, as he went from one fast song to the next. Only near the end did his voice begin to sound a bit scratchy—from the altitude no doubt, but his energy, and that of his band, The Wabos, (Vic Johnson on guitar, Mona on bass and David Lauser on drums) never waned. They killed it with four decades of Hagar hits, even giving a teaser of Hagar’s new album, “Sammy Hagar and Friends,” which was just released this week.

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The show opened with a Montrose medley, then the band went into “Red,” “I Can’t Drive 55,” “There’s Only One Way to Rock,” “I’ll Fall in Love Again,” and “Three Lock Box,” from Hagar’s early years, followed by a series of Van Halen greats: “Right Now,” “Why Can’t This Be Love,” “Best of Both Worlds,” “When It’s Love,” and “Finish What Ya Started.” Then came “Heavy Metal” and “Mas Tequila,” and the new song “Knock Down Drag Out.”

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For the encore, they performed “Winding Down,” another song from his new album, followed by an emotional rendition of “Eagles Fly” and another new song, “Bad on Fords.”

Sammy Loveland

As usual, Hagar interacted with fans who threw banners, shirts, hats and other objects onstage for him to sign. It seemed he did his best to make everyone in the audience feel as if they were part of the show–it’s one of the things that makes him such an entertaining performer. He also displayed the message captured in the photo below, as in each town he played, he donated money to the local food bank.

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I’m not sure many entertainers would do such a thing, but Hagar knows what it’s like to come from humble beginnings–his early life was anything but easy.

Perhaps part of the reason there weren’t more people in attendance at the show was because Heart and Jason Bonham were playing the same night in Denver, and B.B. King and Peter Frampton were playing Redrocks.

No matter.

“We’ve never played in Loveland before,” Hagar said. “But we’ll be back!”

If the audience’s approval was any indication, I’m sure he will be.

Photo Credits: Dee Walker. All rights reserved. Please do not copy without written permission.

 

 

KID ROCK Lights Drenched Denver Crowd On Fire!

August 3, 2013
Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater
Denver, CO

Kid Rock by Baja Rock Pat

Kid Rock, (real name Robert James Ritchie) hailing from Detroit, Michigan, is an artist that people either seem to love or hate, and since he’s such a highly-controversial “bad boy,” it made me want to check him out for myself and see what the fuss was all about. I could then base my personal assessment on how his voice, the beat, and the music made me feel.

Plus, if famous artists were going to offer tickets at a mere $20 each–for THREE bands–I figured, what did I have to lose? What did that say about the artists? Maybe that they were trying to make a statement that it’s not okay to charge $200 for a ticket to see a concert. Barry Fey, Denver’s most famous concert promoter, would have concurred. He once told me that the only way to lower concert ticket prices was for fans to refuse to pay exorbitant prices. Not sure if that’s ever going to happen, but at least Kid Rock, ZZ Top, and Uncle Kracker are making an attempt. It’s also a great marketing tool: make the concert affordable and more people will attend, thereby bringing the artist more fans who will buy his or her music and T-shirts and hopefully attend future shows.

IMG_0324There were three bands in the lineup in Denver that day—Uncle Kracker, ZZ Top, and Kid Rock. Due to a torrential downpour, it took us a while to get to our seats, so we missed the first band. I’m not talking about a nice, summer shower here, it dumped on us for hours, and there were a lot of people in the audience who hadn’t prepared for adverse weather conditions, giving the term “wet T-shirt contest” an even more “interesting” connotation. Oooo—middle-aged women in beige, cotton shorts should perhaps think twice about wearing black thongs when the sky looks like it may open up at any moment.

In any case, it was difficult to see ZZ Top through the tiny crack between the bottom of my umbrella and the top of my plastic rain poncho. Still I could hear them well enough, and the boys from Texas put on a great show—they always do—with their fluffy guitars, long beards, and gravelly voices. Uh how how how how…

By the time Kid Rock took the stage, the downpour had ceased and instead of the sky exploding, the stage did; Kid‘s performance blasted my bones right out of me.

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First, they played videos in five minute intervals stating: “15 minutes until show time!” “10 minutes until show time!” on the giant screens on either side of the stage, and before Kid came onstage, they played another video with an eagle rising from the bottom of the screen against a forest background with Kid‘s voice-over thanking God for allowing him this opportunity and asking God to help him deliver a great show to all those who came to the concert that night.

Nice touch, and although I know very little about Kid, I’d heard enough about him to know that this concert was not going to be a G-rated, Christian-rock-based show.

Oh boy.

IMG_0313Kid burst onto the stage, singing some hip-hop song laced with obscenities and cannon balls (his). The more I heard, the more I loved it. I had to ask myself, “Where have I been?” Well, perhaps where I’d been was that I’d heard that his music was more country laced with rock and rap. I was partially correct. However, I had no idea he could do it so well. There was a man a few rows ahead of us wearing a T-shirt that read “You’ve never met a motherf–er quite like me” and at first I thought, “Wow, that guy has some nerve!” Then Kid sang that in one of his songs, and later my husband produced the same T-shirt from under his soaked fishing jacket! I guess if I had to sum up my impression of Kid’s performance in one sentence, that would be it. I’d never heard anything quite like what he delivered that night. I apologize for not being familiar enough with his music to report the song he opened with, but it knocked my soaked socks off.

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Rock‘s band, Twisted Brown Trucker, and backup singers were top-notch too. Shannon Curfman, clearly not a novice, (she’s released quite a few albums herself) was so fantastic when she sang “Picture” with Kid, I would have liked to have heard her sing even more. She is truly a star!

Kid Rock and Shannon Curfman by Baja Rock Pat

I love music that challenges my sense of what is right and wrong in the world, music that challenges my sense of who I am as a person–brazen music that exposes the soul of the artist and makes no apologies. Kid spilled his guts on his drug use, sex, his faith in God, and his pride in being an American, among other things. No doubt, I’d never seen a motherf–er quite like Kid and next time he comes to Denver, I’ll be sure to be in the audience!

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Some of the songs from the setlist:

Wasting Time
Cowboy
Let’s Ride
Rebel Soul
Redneck Paradise
All Summer Long
Forever
What I Learned Out on the Road
Cocky
You Never Met a Motherf–er Quite Like Me
Picture
3 Sheets to the Wind (What’s My Name)
Bawidaba

(All photos and content property of Baja Rock Pat. Please do not copy without prior written permission.)

Concert Review: Bob Seger with Special Guest Joe Walsh

Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
April 2, 2013

The incomparable Joe Walsh opened the show to a packed house. What’s not to love about Joe? Dressed in a dark red leather jacket and black pants, his hair down to his shoulders, he looked great. He sounded great. My only criticism was that he didn’t play long enough!

Being a fan since his James Gang days, I loved “Walk Away” and “Funk #49” but the first big cheer from the audience came during “In the City.” The entire crowd was on its feet and singing along to “Life’s Been Good” and “Rocky Mountain Way.” Walsh quipped that if he were president, he’d make that the new National Anthem. When Bob Seger took the stage, he said what a treat it was to hear Walsh perform “Rocky Mountain Way” in Denver. Indeed. Hearing and watching Walsh perform is always a treat for me. “I used to live here,” Joe said as he introduced the song. “But I don’t remember much about it. They tell me I had a good time.” I personally recall those days—hearing about how Walsh recorded and lived at Caribou Ranch and wishing I would have been able to drive up there and hang out with the masters as they worked their magic. If I’m not mistaken, both “Barnstorm” and “The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get” were recorded there. Superb albums. I’d love to hear Walsh perform “Turn to Stone” again. In any case, Walsh never disappoints and I’ve seen him live many times.

Come back again, Joe, and next time, play longer!

Joe’s Setlist:                                                                                                                 Walk Away                                                                                                                 Analog Man                                                                                                                 Funk #49                                                                                                                            In the City                                                                                                                    Life’s Been Good                                                                                                       Rocky Mountain Way

(There was one more song in there, but I didn’t write it down!)

 

Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band

I love many different types of music, but there are times when nothing else will do but the familiar arms of good old rock ‘n’ roll.

The one and only Mr. Bob Seger. You know how great musicians have the ability to make time go in reverse for a few hours? Bob did that the other night. As he sang, his gentle melodies and beautiful voice transported me instantly back to my late teens/early twenties and held me there for the duration of the concert. Seger has a touch that reassures my soul, even when he’s screaming “Rock and roll never forgets!”

My first impression was that if I were to run ito him on the street, I wouldn’t have recognized him. That’s probably because I haven’t seen him in concert since the ‘80s. Back then, he still had dark hair. Now his hair and beard are completely white (or grey) and he wore rectangular-shaped glasses. “I’ll be 68 in May,” he said, explaining why he needed to sit down for a few of his songs. Hard to believe, because although he didn’t look like the Bob Seger I remembered, when he opened his mouth and sang, he was STILL the Bob Seger I knew. I hate that great musicians like Bob, who have brought so much joy and enriched the lives of so many, have to get old. People with that much talent ought to live forever. I guess in a way they do, through their music, but it just seems so unfair. I got the impression that there was a bit of a farewell tone in his stage presence but he still kicked it like there was no tomorrow, so I hope he never quits.

One of my favorite moments was during “Main Street,” when several white spotlights lit up Alto Reed and his silver saxophone. I felt like stars were leaping from his horn, gently bouncing off the walls and entering my heart, and I asked my husband to take a picture, but all he had was his cell phone, and the picture doesn’t do it justice. I noticed that even while I was there, when I watched the large screens on either side of the stage, it felt surreal–it was somehow so removed from what was really going on live.

There many were extraordinary performances that night, and the Silver Bullet Band was just as outstanding as they’ve always been, but the song that really stood out for me was “Like a Rock.” There was so much emotion in Seger’s voice that it brought me to tears and forced me to step back from my ordinary self—out of myself almost—and I breathed in the vibration surrounding me with all my senses—the purple, green and blue lights, the fantastic music and vocals. “These are the moments that make me a wealthy soul…” Bob sang and I felt it and believed it with all my soul.

“Roll Me Away” was so magnificent that I never wanted it to end. Sometimes there are no words to describe music, and all I managed to jot in my tiny notebook was “FREAKING MAGNIFICENT!” I couldn’t even tear myself away from the experience long enough to put my feelings into words. Anyway, it seemed like a travesty to waste time taking notes when there was so much great stuff happening.

Bob talked candidly about the origins of some of his songs, including a new song he’s recording called “California Stars” which he said was written by Woody Guthrie. “We’ve Got Tonight” was inspired by the movie “The Sting” and was originally titled “This Old House.” Seger played piano as he sang “We’ve Got Tonight”, as well as “Turn the Page,” another of my favorite Seger hits.

If I had to sum up the evening using Bob’s lyrics, it would be: “We’ve got tonight. Who needs tomorrow? We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”

Thank you, Bob. I hope you’re not planning on going anywhere for a long, long time… (Why do I have a lump in my throat just writing this?) Love ya, Bob.

Silver Bullet Band Musicians:
Bob McMillan – guitar
Chris Campbell – bass
Don Brewer – drums
Jim Moose Brown – guitar and piano
Craig Frost – piano
Alto Reed – saxophone
Horns: Motor City Horns: Keith Kaminski-sax, John Rutherford-trombone, Mark Byerly-trumpet, and Bob Jensen-trumpet

Setlist:
Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You
Fire Down Below
Main Street
Old Time Rock and Roll
All the Roads (New song)
Like A Rock
Travelin’ Man
Beautiful Loser
Roll Me Away
Come to Poppa
New song
We’ve Got Tonight
Turn the Page
Sunspot Baby
Katmandu

Encore:
Against the Wind
Hollywood Nights

2nd Encore:
Night Moves
Rock and Roll Never Forgets

Jonny Lang Concert Review – Loveland, Colorado

August 31, 2012
Thunder Mountain Amphitheater, Loveland, Colorado

Why is it that after I’ve just experienced a live concert that is so kick-ass amazing, I’m left feeling beat up, exhausted, and yet, indescribably invigorated?

Friday night, blues musician Jonny Lang performed at Thunder Mountain Amphitheater in Loveland, Colorado, and the phenomenal Mr. Lang, who never fails to blow his audience away, did it again.

With two local bands, Over the Rail and the Lindsey O’Brien Band opening for him, when Lang took the stage, he quietly picked up his guitar and with his long fingers stretched across the strings, began coaxing it into “Don’t Stop (For Anything).” Joining him onstage were Jim Anton on bass, Barry Alexander on drums, Dwan Hill on keyboards, and Akil Thompson on guitar.

I’ve watched Jonny change and grow over the years, taking the blues and playing them just as well as the old-time greats, (if there is such a thing as reincarnation, Jonny must have been one of the original blues masters–you just can’t manufacture that kind of soul) but he also turns them inside out and upside down and weaves them with different genres, such as gospel, R & B, Christian, soul, funk, and hard rock, as he did Friday night.

     Akil Thompson on guitar

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Anton on bass

 

 

I would be hard-pressed to find anything to criticize about the show, but if I had to name one, it would be that I would have liked to have heard “Still Rainin’” and “The Levee,” but that’s just me.

One cannot deny however, that Lang is a master not only of the guitar, but also of vocal ability. He captures his audience and grips them with each note like talons piercing unsuspecting flesh and we never want those talons to release us. A shining example of this was the intro to “Red Light.” Lang took us on an emotional rollercoaster with just his voice. What a treat. I’d like to ask him what goes through his mind when he’s up there performing because it seems like he’s in his own little world and yet, he gives two hundred and fifty percent every time, getting so deeply into the music that it’s hard to tell where his identity ends and that of the music begins. Maybe it doesn’t.

“Forty Days and Forthy Nights,” an old Muddy Waters tune, showcased Lang’s incredible guitar work–exceedingly impressive–without the use of a pick.

“Lie to Me,” always an audience favorite, began almost as an acoustical tease, then exploded in a metaphorical wall of fire and power until it consumed the entire amphitheater. It doesn’t get much better than this.

“Breakin’ Me” was performed with so much emotion that there was hardly a sound from the audience, and “Turn Around” had a funky R & B feel to it, as well as Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ for the City.”

 

 

 

Barry Alexander on drums

 

     Dwan Hill on keyboards

The final song was “I Am,” another emotional piece, in which all the band members performed solos. At the end of the show, Lang stepped up to the mic, and with a boyish grin on his face, quipped, “I just don’t want it to end!” and we knew he meant it. I didn’t want it to end either.

Thanks to the fine people at Thunder Mountain Harley-Davidson and Clear Channel Radio (107.9 The Bear), I got to meet Jonny backstage. Again, he did not disappoint. He was warm, down-to-earth and comfortably chatting with his admirers—signing everything they offered, then happily posing for pictures. Someone said to him, “Jonny, you have more talent in your little finger than most people have in their whole body!” Jonny smiled and replied, “It’s practice, just practice.” I beg to differ. I could practice until my fingers fell off and never get close to what comes so effortlessly to him.

       

Backstage with Jonny Lang

Discovering what a gracious person he was only deepened my respect for him and my appreciation of his music.

This man does have more talent in his little finger than most people will ever have, and he’s happy to share it with you; just don’t be fooled by his soft-spoken manner and humble nature—when he opens his mouth to sing and moves his fingers across the strings of his guitar—he will swallow you whole. And you will love every minute of it.

 

Setlist:
Don’t Stop (For Anything)
A Quitter Never Wins
Turn Around
Red Light
Livin’ For the City
That Great Day
Breakin’ Me
Angel of Mercy
Lie To Me
Forty Days and Forty Nights
I Am

Photo Credits: ©Dee Walker

 

 

 

Rock ‘n’ Roll Hell is Heaven

Aug. 11, 2009

Aerosmith stage curtain

Author’s note: I wrote the following over a week ago. It has since become news that Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler, fell off the stage at the Buffalo Chip Campground during their concert in Sturgis, SD on August 5, 2009. According to www.rapidcityjournal.com, Tyler was reported to have broken his shoulder and sustained stitches in his head.

Godspeed and healing, Steven!

(Aerosmith stage curtain photo by maduarte)

* * * * * * *

My sons say I’m out of the loop and that may be true to some extent. During the late ‘70s and most of the ‘80s when others were enjoying rock ‘n’ roll, I was busy trying to survive as a single mom, so I missed out on a lot. But I’m making up for it.

I guess there has to be a first time for everything, and Aug. 1 was the first time I’d seen Aerosmith in concert.

They played with ZZ Top at Fiddler’s Green in Denver. The ticket price was outrageous, but I’d been reading a lot lately about the many injuries the members of Aerosmith have sustained during the past few months so I figured I’d better go and see them. It may be my last chance to experience one of the legendary rock bands of my generation.

Lead singer Steven Tyler had recently had a bout with pneumonia and pulled a muscle in his thigh, warranting the cancellation of several scheduled stops on this tour. You can’t very well replace a lead singer with a voice and face like his. Bass player Tom Hamilton survived throat cancer a few years ago and is currently recuperating from “non-invasive” surgery. David Hull, who played with Aerosmith in the past, is now covering for Hamilton. Guitarist Brad Whitford hit his head and had to have emergency surgery, requiring him to sit out several shows. Lead guitar player Joe Perry had to have knee replacement surgery twice.

See what I mean? So I paid the $150 per seat ticket price and went. A man sitting next to me said that his friend had done sound or something for them years ago. “Even the Grateful Dead said they’d never seen anyone who did as many drugs as Aerosmith,” he told me. I guess it’s a miracle they’re still kicking.

Aerosmith Denver

Anyway, I won’t critique each song or style because I’m not intimately familiar with their music. However, I will give you a first-timer’s perspective.

ZZ Top opened the show and they always rock. I’ve seen them before and it never ceases to amaze me that a three-piece band can put out such a big sound.

Aerosmith came onstage when the sun was going down. They played most of my favorites: “Sweet Emotion,” “Dream On,” “Rag Doll,” “Walk This Way,” “Dreamweaver,” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” They sounded great although Tyler and Perry seemed winded much of the time. It was the altitude in Denver, I’m sure. Not an out-of-state singer’s best friend.

Every live show I’ve seen recently has had one aspect that really stuck out for me. This time it was Steven Tyler. He has to be the consummate rockstar—the very embodiment of the word. At 61, he still looked and sounded fabulous. He was dressed in silver, glittery tight pants that accentuated his tight ass and his lean, toned body. He wore a black tank top with the Aerosmith logo on it in rhinestones and had about 10 bracelets on each wrist. His fingernails were painted with a strip of black down the center of each one.

Now I’m not normally one who thinks men who wear makeup and nail polish are sexy, but I have to admit, Steven Tyler is sexy.

He knows how to hold his body and his long thick hair just right to create maximum effect. He has all the rockstar moves down to a science—perfect spins, suggestive poses, hip thrusts, and a special mic stand which he hauled everywhere. It had his initials painted on it and was decorated with sheer and glittery scarves that hung to the floor. He used them to slide back and forth between his open legs or wrap around his face throughout the show. Several times, he demonstrated his proficiency on harmonica and once on drums.

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The lighting was the most elaborate setup I’d ever seen. No wonder this concert cost so much! Colored lights on huge sections moved up and down above the band, there were smoke machines and fans to blow the performer’s hair and clothing just right, even a fake fire flaming around Joe Perry during one solo. Above the stage were four large screens that moved up and down and played various scenes or showed close-ups of the concert. My favorite was when each screen had huge moving flames on it. Combined with the music, the smoke and the red and orange bars of lights and single lights whose beams crisscrossed across the stage, I felt like I was in rock ‘n’ roll hell and it was heaven!

Joe Perry did an amazing job. Like Tyler, Perry is another consummate rocker—he has that refined, rock star attitude. The tour was called “Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Presents Aerosmith,” and was a combination of the game and Perry playing live. He had a duel with his Guitar Hero caricature after which, he asked the audience: “Who won the match—me or the cartoon?”

Of course there was no comparison.

At one point, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons came out for a jam session. It seemed that touring with Aerosmith has affected “That Little Ol’ Band from Texas,” because they brought out an extra amount of spice from one another. And Gibbons’ voice, well, like Tyler’s, is legendary. Uh hm, hm, hm…

From the opening blast, where the stage curtain dropped to the floor, revealing thousands of shooting lights, the sparkling performers and the thunderous music, I was so glad I went. These boys may be getting up in years, but you’d never know it to see them; they still have it. And they’re doing it up in a big way—rock ‘n’ roll that pounds the “Sweet Emotion” out of you the way it should be!

Melissa Etheridge Gives Colorado a Piece of Her Heart

Aug. 22, 2009

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Melissa Etheridge
is one performer I’ve always wanted to see live in concert. Since the late ‘80s, her raspy Janis-Joplin-vocal-style has always fascinated me.

I’m not one who’s normally impressed by singers with harmonious voices that sound like the trickle of water in a backyard pond as it slides over carefully-polished stones (although I love Bocelli). My soul is stirred by the ones who scream from deep down in their personal torments of love, anger, frustration, elation, and blow those sweet, meticulously-placed rocks to bits.

Melissa does this. Has always done this.

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On August 15, 2009, she performed for Bohemian Nights 2009 in Fort Collins, Colorado, as part of her “Live and Alone 2009” tour. She took the stage with just her guitar, but then played piano during a rendition of a Joan Armatrading song. She also played harmonica, telling the audience that a solo performer sometimes needed a harmonica. Nice reference to Dylan.

Etheridge, who is a breast cancer survivor, said that she now sees life in a new way, and one of her most passionate songs was “I Run for Life,” about that very thing. “I run for the truth, for all that is real,” she sang. The message that came through was the unselfish need to be there for others, to remind them that the “C” word is not a death sentence. I can’t think of a better purpose for a song than to inspire others.

This was powerful and her sincerity contagious.

She also played a lot of my favorites: “Chrome Plated Heart,” “Like the Way I Do,” “Bring Me Some Water” (which has always been my favorite Etheridge song), “Come to My Window,” “I’m the Only One,” and “I Want to Come Over,” in which I could feel her longing for understanding pounding out with every syllable.

Melissa’s appeal is her honesty. I heard so much angst in her songs—the kind that flows in the veins of great rock music and merges with the chords like a potion that heals from the inside out. Her music is clearly a yearning for self-understanding—isn’t that what we all long for?

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She also sings a lot about angels and love, but not in a soft way. Melissa’s got rock ‘n’ roll boots and she’s going to stomp you with them!

Like most out-of-state musicians, she seemed a bit winded due to the altitude, but toward the end of the show, she really kicked it into gear: hair flying and literally beating the notes of out her guitar. For an encore, she did a Janis Joplin tune “Piece of My Heart.” I don’t know a whole lot about Melissa, but Joplin had to have been a very big influence for her musically.

Toward the end of the concert, a college-aged girl next to me in the crowd was jumping up and down, pumping her fist in the air and screaming at the top of her lungs, causing those near us to stare. She kept apologizing to me, saying: “I’m really sorry; I swear I’m completely sober. Melissa is my very favorite!”

I just smiled. “You don’t have to apologize. You’re supposed to have a good time. That’s what it’s all about!”

And that’s also the difference between a person who merely gets up onstage and plays a guitar and someone who makes you feel it!

I was even lucky enough to get one of Melissa’s guitar picks. (I collect them.) On one side, it says: “The Dreams We Create” —another positive omen for me, I take it.

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“The Foot” Comes Down in Denver

Concert Review—Chickenfoot at the Fillmore in Denver, Colorado

September 11, 2009

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I am a writer. And when one is striving to maintain professionalism, it is one’s duty to present an unbiased account of the subject matter, is it not?

I tried. I really tried, but I just couldn’t do it. I was swept “Down the Drain” and it was so, so fine…

I first saw Chickenfoot perform at the Fillmore in San Francisco on May 17, 2009. It was their third live performance as a band; their debut CD had not yet been released. That show blew me away.

The Denver show topped it.

Chickenfoot was tighter than ever. And they delivered the kind of rock music that’s timeless and unforgettable.

The thing that continually amazes me about this band is that none of them upstages the others. They are all top-notch musicians in their own rites but they complement one another beautifully and it seems so effortless.

That evening, I had a backstage tour ticket. Our group was escorted into the venue to watch Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam, the band who would be opening for Chickenfoot, do their soundcheck. Davy is only 22 years old, but he has the soul of an old blues man. His music is in the same vein as that of Jonny Lang. Rock and the blues will never die as long as there are talented people like Davy keeping the soul alive.

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We were then escorted into Chickenfoot’s dressing area, a room a little larger than a closet, where all the trunks of clothes stood open and waiting for the band. I think Sammy’s trunk had more shoes than shirts! Michael Anthony’s still had the “VH” logo on it from his Van Halen days.

We were then taken to the hospitality room where the band hangs out before the show. There was a small drum set for Chad Smith, guitars, amps and equipment for Joe Satriani and Mikey, including Mikey’s signature Jack Daniel’s bass with two small shooters of JD stuck in it, a portable wine trunk stocked with about two cases of wine for Sammy, and platters of fruit, sweets and snacks. And of course, Sammy’s bottle of Cabo Wabo tequila was chilling in the refrigerator.

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They then took us onstage and showed us all the guitars in sectioned crates, the sound board, the snakes of cords, floor lights all in position, amps and Chad’s drums. What a strange feeling being up there and looking down at the empty room which would soon come to life with music and screaming fans. The Fillmore has huge glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling over what used to be its massive dance floor.

I couldn’t help but think about the many people it takes to put on a show of this caliber and how hard their lives must be.

After the tour, those of us who wanted to participate were given a digital recorder to record the song “Sexy Little Thing.” Apparently the band wanted audience footage to use for an upcoming video for their website. What a great way to get the fans involved! I took one but couldn’t figure out how to use it until about half-way through the song. But it was fun anyway.

We were then allowed into the venue to wait for the show.

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Joe’s guitars onstage

When Chickenfoot came onstage—with their square peace sign logo lit up above them, lights flashing, their energy tore from them like an avalanche breaking loose. “The Foot” had been unleashed!

“Avenida Revolution” was just as powerful and exciting as it was the first time I heard them play it–thundering, brazenly grabbing you by the throat and never letting up.

After a few songs, Sammy joked about the altitude, saying: “You only have to smoke one joint and do three shots and you’re f—ed up in Denver!” He also said that the last time he was here, it snowed and he and Mikey were hoping that didn’t happen again. You never know in Denver.

This time the setlist was arranged differently and I liked how they changed it up so that it didn’t follow the same sequence as their album.

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Chad Smith demolition squad

Throughout the evening, Chad must have thrown out at least six dozen drumsticks into the crowd. He even pulled a woman out of the audience and had her sit next to him during Hagar’s “Bad Motor Scooter,” inserting drumsticks into the front of her low-cut top, pulling them out one by one, playing a few beats and then tossing the stick into the audience. Drumsticks were bouncing all over the stage and landing in the audience. At the end of the show, he kicked his drums over, then grabbed his high-hat cymbal and held it over his head before tossing it to the ground. The man is a maniac! The way he pounds those drums shakes the entire earth. He doesn’t sit obediently behind the drums and keep the beat like all the other drummers I’ve seen. Chad messes with your mind. He’s all over the stage; he gets up and sits on the speakers or his drums, and he teases Sammy: “You’re f—ed up when you come out of the dressing room, Sam, and when you come out of the hotel!”

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He also announced that the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) had officially certified that Chickenfoot’s self-titled debut album had gone gold! (Sold over 500,000 copies) 

Satriani outdid himself. He was such a pleasure to watch, as he made his guitars move mountains, sing ballads and erupt in ferocious blazes with ease. Then he just stood there and smiled while Sammy and Chad hammed it up. This man has more talent than anyone I’ve ever heard and yet he remains humble. At one point, Joe took out his video camera and filmed everyone onstage and off.

Mikey was more outgoing than in the past—he walked to the edge of the stage and interacted with people in the audience. He sang an occasional lead vocal—and did a great job of it. His backing vocals and signature bass style are well-known in rock music and that night he did not disappoint. His vocals were spot on and his playing better than ever. Rarely is he as front and center as he’s been in Chickenfoot and he deserves to be! At one point, Mikey brought Sammy a cup with booze in it. Sam took a swig, then Mikey finished it off, and went over and screamed into the microphone. Crazy!

Sammy’s voice never wavered; it was strong and solid, yet melted into velvet for “Learning to Fall.” He delivered a stellar performance from the first note to the last. He jumped, danced, pranced across the stage, reached out and acknowledged the audience and had them singing along, fists in the air and jumping up and down. The Denver crowd really seemed to love his performance of Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter,” which he played on his slide guitar, and “Oh Yeah,” in which he had them all fully engaged and joining in.

He asked the crowd how well the Denver radio stations were playing their music and the audience booed. I have to agree–Chickenfoot needs more air time in Colorado.

Their rendition of “My Generation” by The Who and a teaser of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song” were a real treat. I wished they would have played the whole thing because what they did play sounded phenomenal. I think Sammy sang “My Generation” even better than Roger Daltry. Apparently these guys can play anything.

Notably absent from the setlist was “Running Out.” Don’t know why they didn’t play this.

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I lost it again during “Learning to Fall.” I’d seen them perform this live before, but I just couldn’t help myself. There is something about the music, Sammy’s voice, and the harmonies in this piece that takes over and rips me apart. I couldn’t stop the tears. There was however, a moment where Joe usually plays a note that rises up out of the music like a fast-forward video of a rose blooming, rising out of the ashes into its glory. For some reason, Joe chose to change the notes he played this time; he didn’t take it all the way up like he did before and the impact wasn’t as great. It was still an awesome song and a great performance, though.

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“Sexy Little Thing” exploded. The band was so tight on this—I think this had to be one of my favorites of the night. Also “Get It Up,” where the lights flashing on and off accented the sheer muscle of this band, who were all over the stage.

“Down the Drain” was dirty, nasty and solid. It made me feel like I was being sucked into something forbidden, glorious, dark and full of soul. Joe’s guitar solo went over the edge—a wild and wonderful trip into his heart. 

Through this entire concert, I tried to maintain a professional approach, to be able to relate this experience to my readers in a professional manner, (which I’m obviously still not doing) but how can you remain professional when the music is so captivating that it pulls you in and forces you to lose control? (Because that’s what it’s supposed to do!) Where do you draw the line for the sake of objectivity—maintain an equitable distance as opposed to becoming so involved in the moment that you don’t even care who you are anymore?

How can you be disciplined when Sammy is so into the music that he’s standing on his tiptoes, holding the microphone in both hands, bending backward and screaming: “it’s all… down… the drain… Yeahhhhhhhh” and Joe is cranking out sounds on his guitar so fast and furious that you can’t even see his fingers moving over the strings, Mikey is pounding his bass, Chad is owning the night and it’s all blending like one big fusion of music and spirit?

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As spectators, we have no ammunition. We are blown to smithereens.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

Sammy Hagar’s Birthday Bash 2009

Oct. 22, 2009

The crowd and balloons

Sammy Hagar recently celebrated his birthday at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with five days of rock ‘n’ roll, commencing on October 7 and culminating with his birthday “party” on October 13. You’d never guess by looking at him that he’s 62; he looks at least 20 years younger and has more energy than most 30-year olds—still touring around the world with his latest band, Chickenfoot.

The final concert of the birthday bash was almost cancelled due to the rain, which fell nearly every day and flooded the streets. Luckily it held off long enough for the show to take place, resuming its incessant misting (it doesn’t really rain down there, it mists heavily) by the time all was said and done.

I was fortunate to be able to acquire tickets to each show, a feat that’s becoming increasingly difficult to do. This is because the requirement for getting tickets is having to wait in line all night on the cobblestones of Mexico’s cockroach-ridden, dusty sidewalks, and this time there was an added bonus—it was raining.

Each year my body convinces me that I won’t do it again next year. And yet I do. Why?

Because there is something magical about Cabo. And because in Cabo Sammy lets his hair down a little more than he does while on tour. And also because you never know who might show up to jump onstage and join the party. In the past, there have been such music legends as Ted Nugent, Jerry Cantrell, Billy Duffy, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney, Chad Kroeger, and many others. This year the bash was in full swing as Sammy and Michael Anthony (former bass player of Van Halen) repeatedly snagged other people’s drinks off the trays of passing waitresses and helped themselves to a swig. They then replaced the drinks, but not before refilling them with tequila from the bottles chilling in the buckets onstage.

The first two concerts were laced with some of Sammy’s older songs: “Plain Jane,” “Your Love is Driving Me Crazy,” and “Turn Up the Music.”

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There was also a nice mix of his more recent work, such as “Cosmic Universal Fashion,” and “Loud.” A real treat was Sammy’s performance of “High and Dry Again.” I had never seen this performed live and for me, it was one of those rare moments where I couldn’t help but let go and become completely lost in it.

They played a lot of Van Halen tunes during the last two shows: “Best of Both Worlds,” “Poundcake,” and “Dreams,” a few tributes to Led Zeppelin and a bit of Sammy’s more famous songs such as “Rock Candy,” “I Can’t Drive 55,” and “There’s Only One Way to Rock.” Of course no Hagar concert would be complete without the performance of “Mas Tequila” and “Cabo Wabo,” and this week’s bash was no exception.

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Another highlight for me was “Let Sally Drive.” I guess this is why I also love the music of Janis Joplin—there is something so animal and soul-baring-raw about the screams.

During show #2 on Oct. 8, The Wabos, Sammy’s band consisting of Hagar on vocals, Vic Johnson on guitar, Mona on bass and David Lauser on drums, started out with an unusual version of “Rock and Roll Weekend,” with Dave and Sammy switching places: Dave sang lead and Sammy took up the drumsticks. It wasn’t long before Sammy announced, “I don’t know how you do it!” and Dave handed the mic to Sammy while asking the audience if they wanted to hear the song done right. The Wabos had been on “hiatus” while Sammy toured with his new supergroup, Chickenfoot this summer, so I’m sure it felt good for them to be onstage together again.

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The most memorable show of all was when Chickenfoot took the stage on October 10, with Joe Satriani on lead guitar, Sammy on vocals, Michael Anthony on bass and Chad Smith (drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers) on drums. That afternoon, the gift shop suddenly had “Puttin’ the Foot Down at the Cabo Wabo” tee shirts for sale and the fans were asked to wear their Chickenfoot gear because the show was going to be recorded.

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Chickenfoot’s performance seemed less passionate compared to the two previous shows I’d seen, (see my concert reviews dated May 20, 2009 and Sept. 15, 2009). Even so, I love the heaviness of their sound and the sheer power it puts forth to the audience. My favorite Hagar songs are like that too, the ones with a darker feel, like “Serious JuJu” and “Psycho Vertigo,” where there’s a deeper, cutting edge. It’s music that bites you in the ass—hard—and leaves its mark on your soul. Chickenfoot accomplishes this with every note.

Between songs, Satriani smiled and sipped his waborita while Anthony chugged tequila straight from the bottle. Chad Smith seemed a bit tired and he didn’t interact with the audience like I’d seen him do in the past, but he managed to pound the drums with the exuberance he’s famous for, and he tossed out a few drumsticks into the crowd.

“Get it Up” was by far the best performance of the night—the vocals and the relentless explosion of the music was a throbbing, intimidating force.

“Oh Yeah” also seemed to be a favorite, as the band had the entire audience singing along, cheering and raising their drinks above their heads.

Throughout the show, Joe just stood there so cool, so collected and cranked out a storm, like Tropical Storm Patricia that was wreaking havoc outside that night. At one point, he started to play Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs.” Mikey and Chad joined in, with Mikey singing lead. They only played a teaser of this, but it sounded magnificent—psychedelic and rich, and I desperately wanted to hear more. I swear Satriani can play  anything; and he makes it look as effortless as breathing.

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During the show of the 12th and 13th, drummer Matt Sorum, from Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Cult and Velvet Revolver stepped in, joined the party onstage and played drums for a few songs. Way to go, Matt!

Matt Sorum

On the 12th, as Sammy consulted the six foot long setlist taped onto the stage speakers, Mikey quickly jumped in and began to play the opening bassline to “Runnin’ with the Devil” with his teeth. The Wabos soon joined in, but Sammy didn’t seem too pleased as he stood in the background with his arms folded across his chest, allowing Mikey to sing lead for the duration of the song.

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“I think I pissed him off!” Mikey said afterward with a huge grin.

Chef Emeril Lagasse opened the show on October 13 and also played percussion for a song or two.

At the end, as everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and balloons floated down from the catwalk above the crowd, Sammy’s face was shoved into a chocolate cake, which he then proceeded to fling, whole, into the crowd. I was glad I wasn’t within firing distance.

Vinnie Paul, drummer for Pantera was there one night, but he didn’t perform, also magician Criss Angel.

I would like to have been able to provide you with a more comprehensive concert review, but I didn’t take notes during the shows. As it was, Sammy already scolded me for taking pictures while everyone else was clapping to the beat, saying “Put your f—ing camera down and clap your hands, dammit!” with a big smile on his face. So I guess taking notes would have been out of the question. I know, I know, I know, who takes notes during a rock concert? Um, writers…

Great music, great party, as always.

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Movie Review: “This Is It” –Michael Jackson

Nov. 2, 2009

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We arrived at the theater early so we could get a good seat. I thought we’d have to wait in line forever. I thought the place would be crammed with fans wearing one white glove, Michael tee shirts and holding “I love Michael” signs.

It wasn’t.

This alone made me sad.

Maybe it’s my age, I thought. Or perhaps it’s where I live—maybe a lot of people have espoused the belief that Michael Jackson was a pedophile.

I’ve posted my feelings about that before, so I won’t go into it here. See my entry of July 1, 2009 if you’re interested.

Whatever the reason, there were only a handful of people in the theater. Too bad for those who didn’t make the effort.

I have one word for this film: SPECTACULAR.

It wasn’t about Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeries, “Neverland” or the allegations brought against him in the past. “This Is It” was about the man’s musical genius. Period.

And he was. He transcended gender. He transcended race. And in this movie, he transcended the ultimate performance.

I have never been what you would call of fan of Jackson’s. I don’t even own any of his albums, and as my husband and I walked out of the theater the other night, I realized why. It’s because Michael was like my brother. I didn’t need to buy his music, he was just always there; I grew up with him. He and I were about the same age and I distinctly remember seeing him on TV way back in the ‘70s, wowing audiences as he outshined his brothers as lead singer of The Jackson 5—with their loud, striped, bellbottom pants, puffy ‘fros and all. I was rooting for him way back then, like a sister on the sidelines.

“This Is It” is footage from the long-anticipated Michael Jackson tour that never happened. It shows dancers auditioning and working tirelessly to give a perfect performance. It shows the sound people, musicians and special-effects crew. The sheer volume of people involved, not to mention the amount of money and props it must have taken to put on a live show of this magnitude is something I’m sure I could never comprehend. There were life-sized bulldozers, giant spiders, a cherry-picker, a black and white mini-film with Jackson spliced into Humphrey Bogart movies for “Smooth Criminal,” a complete theatrical graveyard scene for “Thriller,” a short jungle piece showing all kinds of animals and a little girl with a dream for a new world, and pyrotechnics to blow your mind. These are just the ones I can remember, and each one was a separate production of its own, done sparing no expense in any aspect. Everything was over-the-top perfect plus another 75 percent.

And then there was Michael. Looking extremely thin (I’d read somewhere that he weighed about 130 lbs. when he died), he was dressed in sequined jackets and layers of shirts, soft-spoken and rather timid, repeatedly telling people “God bless you” and “I love you.” But when he sang and danced, I realized that Michael had to have been the most talented performer the world will ever know. Even though these were only rehearsals, his moves were so spot-on precise, they seemed almost computerized. How could anybody dance like that? The film showed clips of “Human Nature,” with Michael bathed in pink and purple lights singing “Why? Why?” and it brought tears to my eyes. His intensity, his thirst for perfection and the depth of his soul was nearly palpable, and he wasn’t even giving it all he had; he was saving his voice and strength for the real performance yet to come.

There were a few shots of the Jackson 5 on a split screen, dancing and showing their explosive beginning. There were clips of Michael singing “I’ll Be There,” and it really moved me—the sound of his velvety voice with just the right amount of vibrato, combined with his complete command of his body—a finely-tuned instrument in kind, was amazing.

During “Billie Jean,” someone in the theater behind me actually shouted “Woo hoo!” and it made me smile. Jackson moved his body like ocean waves, flowing from the bottom up and the top down, and the way he looked right into the camera at one point, gave me a glimpse into his soul. What I saw was beautiful.

Throughout the film, I kept trying to think of how I could describe the power, the beat of his songs—so different from what I usually listen to, but larger than life, like Michael was. For lack of a better term, it was professionalism and sheer talent above and beyond, and it pulled me into its heart the way great music does. And I thought too, about how he had become a puppet for our amusement, with a sad and serious face who only smiled once. (I realize these were rehearsals for his big tour, and that’s serious business, but from watching this, I didn’t get the feeling that Michael was happy.)

I thought Aerosmith put on a high-tech, high energy concert, but every live show I’ve seen, now pales in comparison to what Jackson was doing.

I had no idea.

After watching “This Is It,” all I can say is that I desperately regret that I had never seen Michael perform live at least once. It made me realize too, how short and unpredictable life is and that I should do more of the things that make me happy and do them more often.

If you’re in the least bit inclined to go see this movie, DO IT NOW while it’s still on the big screen for another week or so.

Movie Review: “Chickenfoot Live”

Dec. 2, 2009

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I was a bit surprised and embarrassed to see that there were only six of us in the theater. As a matter of fact, the absence of advertising was strikingly apparent. There were no posters in the lobby and no lights or billboards promoting the event. I found this odd—wouldn’t they want as many people to attend as possible?

“Chickenfoot Live” was filmed in high definition with surround sound. It opened with the band in a huddle, bent inward, as Sammy Hagar said his customary blessing.

The next scene showed Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, Michael Anthony and Sammy onstage in Phoenix, AZ, and they opened with “Avenida Revolution.” I expected the sound to blow me out of my seat, the way it did when I saw them in concert, but it didn’t. Maybe the establishment needed to turn up the volume.

The theater also presented the picture with the bottom edge cut off because it overflowed the screen. This was distracting.

The close-ups were one of my favorite aspects of this movie—Chad, Joe, Sammy and Mike sweating and rocking their hearts out. There were a lot of interesting shots here, views the ordinary concert-attendee wouldn’t normally see, such as a shot looking down on Chad and his drums. Nice!

And the vocals were amazing. I don’t know if the film was tweaked to enhance range and singing in key, but the vocals were spot-on perfect. So was the music.

I would have liked to have seen performances from a few of the other shows thrown in though. I also would have liked to have seen the between-the-songs antics the band is known for. Not only are they outstanding musicians, their personal interaction with the fans is something that makes attending a Chickenfoot concert truly a memorable experience. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I felt cheated not having been let in on this important part of the show. While Joe normally just stands there smiling and blowing the walls off the place with his unparalleled guitar proficiency, Sammy and Chad usually ham it up with the audience and involve the fans. Sometimes even Mikey joins in. When Chickenfoot came to Denver this past September (see my post “The Foot Comes Down in Denver” dated Sept.15 ,2009) Chad brought a woman from the audience onstage. He stuck his drumsticks down the front of her shirt and pulled sticks out one by one, then tossed them to the crowd. 

I also didn’t think the movie showcased the incredible energy Chad has. And although it did a good job of portraying Satriani’s talent, I think it could have complimented him a bit more. The film’s portrayal of Hagar and Anthony though, was very well done. Some of the shots of Mikey were phenomenal; it made me feel like I was right there onstage with him. And there was a close-up of Sammy screaming into the mic that made me feel it all the way down my spine.

I loved every minute of “Chickenfoot Live.” And when I went online this morning and read some of the reviews from fans across the nation, I realized they too, noticed only a handful of people in the theaters. I think I know why. “Chickenfoot Live” wasn’t advertised because it was a personal gift from the band to their fans, a kind of “by-invitation-only” special screening, perhaps as a thank you to those of us who have supported them. Of course I could be mistaken, but I don’t think so.

Was the film “almost as good as being there?” Not even close. Chickenfoot explodes live. But if this is as good as it gets for you in lieu of a live performance, you won’t be disappointed.

Wish I was going to Vegas for their final concert on December 5.