I Will Follow


So, a few buddhas of my youth have been touring on their laurels a bit. Both Bruce Springsteen and U2 celebrated or are celebrating albums from 30+ years ago. Initially I was of mixed emotions about this. Both are quite capable of putting out worthy brand new music and have new records in the can, but chose victory laps for highly regarded records from sometime in their past.

While initially I was in the “but the new record…” camp in both places, I’m shutting up. If a band can play like they mean it, I guess we should sit back and enjoy that. If the passion is there, it remains a sight to be seen. It’s our classical music. I mean nobody is upset that there isn’t any new Beethoven floating around.

When Bruce announced a tour to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the release of “The River,” I thought fine. The companion album of outtakes from one of the prolific periods of Bruce and E Street Band was a nice treasure and musically the band hasn’t lost a step. The steeple chasing spectaculars are definitely a bygone era for understandable reasons but these cats can play. The show wound up being a top to bottom playing of the River, an introductory outake and a mix of other stuff. I was fine with that. They were great. Treated myself to another show, and it was more historical as Springsteen released his autobiography. It’s a good book and again, hearing songs that don’t get much airplay get well played was great.

But….you get a little further away from new music.

I guess that is okay, as the group owes its fans nothing, having given their all for decades. Bruce’s upcoming Broadway (and likely West End) solo offering makes you think the end is in site, but you know he’s got more to say. The selfish fan hates to admit it, witness everybody calling into E Street radio to grouse. You hate to see the fear that the mass audience of the 80s might not be there be the reason. As the man himself said “what’s to be afraid about playing the new stuff? They’re not going to clap as much?”

I remember thinking, watching a show in Pittsburgh on this tour as Bruce and the band started “Incident on 57th Street,” that there was a noticeable increase in beer aisle activity. I thought if those philistines leave during “Incident” to get overpriced beer, they deserve to be stuck in line for the “Rosalita” that followed.

Stevie Nicks was quoted in Rolling Stone as not being interested in making a new Fleetwood Mac record because she is afraid nobody would buy it. I say if you have the muse, turn it loose.

This brings me to U2. I first saw them in 1983 on their tour for the “War” album. I “blame” their current tour on the success of the River tour. They are also celebrating a record I’ve purchased in many formats with “The Joshua Tree.” It is a great work. There is part of me that wants to go see them just so I can hear “One Tree Hill,” a long time favorite song of mine. They have always taken a long time between albums, so it was a little maddening that this victory lap was undertaken, but ever was it thus. A new record is coming. While I’m still deciding what I think of “The Blackout,” I’m happy they got a new record ready and when it is released, I’m sure I’ll snag a copy.

When Bruce puts out any of the finished records fans have heard about, I’d snarf that up as well.

People talk of nostalgia or greatest hits shows like they are bad things and I guess the shows shouldn’t be seen that way. Billy Joel tours regularly but hasn’t put out a new record in 20 years. Because he has such a vast catalog and plays like he means it, folks go to the show and have a grand time. I guess that would kind of be the point, wouldn’t it.

It’s our classical music to be sure. The seemingly endless supply of music related deaths over the past year or so makes a rock fan feel his mortality a little bit, that some of things that have always been there from when you first started looking in the racks at Twin Fair, National Record Mart, Cavages and the mighty Record Theatre are always going to be there in the mass quantities that they were. Even the music stores are going by the way side.

You feel your own musical mortality a bit as a rock fan when one of your heroes takes up a 12 week Broadway residency so he can go home each night. I can’t blame him. I just hope we meet again along E Street as Broadway is a little too pricey for this working stiff.

So hopefully U2 has a great show tomorrow, I’ll look forward to the bootleg, er, the download.

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This Old Geek


Ladies and Gentleman, boys and girls, Geeks got to explore. There is stuff that geeks gotta do. There are some worthy rambles to be taken.  That’s doesn’t immediately mean Comic-Con (not that there is anything wrong with that), but there other worlds to conquer.

There is a vast world of geekihood out there, that calls out to step away from your screens, and come look at ours. One of the things that music geeks (you know who you are, current downloaders, former gawkers at Carly Simon album covers while you listened to Zep or AC/DC over the record store sound system, thrift store rummagers,  the t shirts in your wardrobe that aren’t superhero laden) and make the pilgrimage to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

I mean the place is literally calling to one’s inner and outer geek. We are all collectors in some fashion, be it comics, dvds, blue rays, what have you and if you schlep around the first few floors of the Hall of Fame, you can’t help but think you got in on somebody else’s treasures. You did.

Journey forth and be one with the music geeks, some of us, hell most of us are playing in these multiple dimensions. Okay, so you might not be a Springsteen acolyte, a Deadhead, but as that seer, sage, soothsayer Ice Cube notes: “Rock and Roll is a spirit.” There is so much to move the spirit inside these walls, even beyond the gift shop.(Photo: Author)

Regardless of your dispensation, part of your record collection is lurking in there, along the way, you will find some things that ought to be. You might a few bands that made you change the radio dial with manic like lightspeed, but there is also bands that you stayed in the car waiting for their song to finish on the radio. This was my second spin through the Hall, and just like rummaging through found comics or album covers, there is good stuff waiting to be checked out.

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Prince wore this ensemble when he literally made his guitar gently weep in a tribute to George Harrison some years ago.

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Elvis’ chopper, presumably for leaving the building

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This is the B-3 organ that Gregg Allman played on stage for many years with the Allman Brothers.

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Springsteen, a longtime presence for me.

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This piece of history literally speaks for itself(Photo: Author)

This is a pretty awesome site to see. Most of the artifacts can be found on the first two levels, the next two are lot of video and audio offerings including the Sirius Radio home and numerous theaters, all worth checking out. The main theater was dedicated to “The Power of Rock” an exhibit that runs into the fall. That show was a compilation of the best bits from performances of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction dinner, but there are some amazing legends to that voodoo we love em to do. The featured exhibit does change with some frequency so it is worth heading to the Hall’s site to have some heads up knowledge ahead of time (and to buy tickets ahead of time).

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Lest you think geek worlds don’t collide, as my son and I walked passed the AC/DC exhibit, a young voice yelled out “Hey, the Iron Man song.” No, it didn’t come from either of us.

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Gotta go, I mean, what other museum will have action figures….Go, now.

A Good Night for a Ride


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When Bruce Springsteen’s current tour was announced earlier in the winter, I had a little anxiety. Our live relationship goes back to 1978 and I was a little concerned. At the time, I was between fulltime gigs and spending precious dollars on a show seemtwo hoed too much of a stretch. I’ve been ushering at the downtown arena for sometime and hoped to get the call. An vet of a number of Boss groups and collectives, I knew there might be a ticket drop of some kind, but the worry was alleviated when I got my usher assignment lists a few  weeks ago and it consisted of two hockey games and Bruce Springsteen

This seemed like nice karmic payback for sitting through cartoon characters on ice and faux-metal Christmas rock. I was a hired gun for my favorite. Like most folks with this affliction, I’ve been following the tour online and listening to a few shows. When it is your favorite, you pay more attention to everything when you report to work. When I checked in, the band was onstage soundchecking songs that hadn’t been played yet on the tour. All I could think was “wait until the gang on RMAS rebooted on facebook hears this,” momentarily forgetting that many of said group were going to be in the building.

I was curious where I would be watching the show, er, helping patrons from and the gods were smiling upon my pathetic fanboy self, with a good assignment, close enough and the corridor for the folks who were going to be standing closest to the stage got to enter. Seeing their joy and trading high fives, etc. was a lift, as was seeing my oldest pal – who 36 years earlier was my partner in crime in securing our tickets to the Buffalo date on the original River Tour. I got caught up with some other familiar faces and folks from my parents neighborhood, even bonding with a fellow usher type joking about our mutual plans to see the street businessmen about discounted concert shirts.

About an hour before the show began, a couple appeared in my corridor to survey their seats. He took a look then disappeared to get the obligatory $9.00 beer. She surveryed a little bit more and looked a little weepy. Me, being part bartender and usher, inquired if everything was okay. She asked if I was a fan. I said, of course, couldn’t wait for this assignment, and told what made it extra special on top of the band playing in great form, that of last year’s uncertain employment status, that it nearly amounted to me missing see Bruce and the E Streeters once more. She told me that it was her first show after the passing of her son, who had journeyed to a few shows with her and her husband.

She heard my story and that made her smile and she said “see, our faith got rewarded.” I replied yes, indeed, it was going to be a good night for a ride.

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I wanted to get the above poster to commemorate the experience. Like all concert merchandise, they were overpriced and scarce, and by the time I was finished for the night, they were gone to ebay.

34 songs and three hours + later and countless people who meandered during the ballads found on the River (some of the best pure musical moments of the show), it was indeed a good night for a ride.

While it is impossible to explain why your favorites are your favorites, they just do it for you. There is that extra bonus that those special moments not only happened, but they continue to still occur. Almost made me want to scramble for a Rochester ticket.

So, before I left the arena Thursday night, I did indeed order the download of the show.

Faith continues to be rewarded.

 

 

 

Dear Boss, (book 3)


While I wait for Amazon to deliver me the one treat I’m allowing myself this tough year (“The Ties that Bind”), I was happily greeted with the news that the celebratory tour is coming my way toward the end of February, the 25th to be exact.

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Thank you for that.

The original release of the River and that tour fully brought me into the fold. I was 16 at the time and my musical notions were maturing somewhat. It’s a great record and I loved the whole thing, without the aid of the internet, newsgroups, trolls bitching about band players, leaked videos or anything. You got an E Street show over double vinyl.

I actually still have the recording I made when 97 Rock in Buffalo played the whole thing over the air, only to get myself to National Record Mart to pick up the copy that I would tape, eventually wear out, tape again as best buds would do (my buddy had a boom box but no turntable).

When the original Buffalo date was announced, you and the gang were set to play the old Buffalo Aud. My pal and I sorted what monies we had. Between the two of us, we had the princely sum of $24.50. That was enough to cover the cost of two tickets in the building. We’d figure out how to get there later (I had it bad). Inconveniently, on the day and time the tickets were going on sale, our history teacher scheduled a test.  He was sympathetic to our plight, but not so much that he rescheduled. My mom came to our rescue and took our modest fortune and cued up for two Bruce tickets while we were being good students.  Two front row lower bowl seats….yep, coolest mom ever.

We got that needed ride to my first arena sized E Street Experience and it was one of “those” shows, one of those forever burnt in your memory without the aid of youtube, you are in the moment without overpriced concessions, every detail bullying its way into your cerebral cortex shows.

35 years later and I can still picture the house lights on, the sax solo to “Jungleland” making my sternum hum and you on top of Danny’s organ set up punching the sky. The cadillac walk in “Cadillac Ranch” was fresh and new and “Out in the Street” was definitely the place to be.

So, it’s definitely worthy of some celebrating to be sure. Ironic that that set and tour announcements come 35 years to the day of the big occasion. That really isn’t much of a true milestone, but I’ll take what I can get. I’m looking forward to the original album songs, the outtakes, whatever the hell else you feel might fit. I am a little confused about the naysayers. Since the announcement of the shows, people have whined about the tour name (?), the dates all being put on sale at the same time, it’s a short run, people will show up when the time comes. I’ll drink the kool-aid again and enjoy the show. In the meantime, the blue rays will tide me over.

It all comes around when I can use the boost to be sure. You’ve had that unintended timing all along.

Looking forward to taking another ride.

Golden Slumbers


It is thrilling that Western New York has been racking up major event level concerts at an increasing rate in recent months. I don’t know if it is the stability of the ownership at our major arena, but it is a good thing, as you can never have too much music. Paul McCartney and his great band are coming to Buffalo for the first time and I believe those who are going are in for a thrill.

I mean, pick your metaphor, Shakespeare the way the author intended, etc. When musical history walks among you or at least drives itself nearby, it would behoove you to do what you can to see the show. I took that in 2010 the last time Sir Paul was near this parts and it was worth the effort of schlepping up to Toronto to see him, at the surprisingly reasonably priced Air Canada Center, excuse me, Centre.

When some body of work has been part of your personal soundtrack for so long, and the guy who created it still has the goods to deliver, it is a pretty amazing experience, enough so that “Let ’em In” was a thrill to hear, and I didn’t think that was possible. He has a great band working with him, so I’m sure attendees are in for a treat as he has made music with this group longer than any other, including those chaps in the 60s.

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You are going to get that picture, proof you were there, something to remember by, something to brag from. I get it and obviously, I am guilty of that too, but stow the phone and savor the moment. The Eagles took some flack for on their recent tour having a no-phone policy, to the point of Glenn Frey even teasing a song introduction with “there is a story about this song, and I’ll tell it as soon as this guy down front finishing texting.” While jerky, he did have a point. It was a good reminder to savor the moment. The memory of hearing songs you’ve heard all your life come to life by the guy who created them will be more long lasting than any crappy video you want to share on youtube.  The above is the one picture worth taking from McCartney’s first night in Toronto in August 2010.

The band was in fine form and for a gentleman with some miles on him, Sir Paul was in fine voice. There were Beatles numbers, Wings tunes, and various McCartney solo hits that gave the audience a nice cross section from an impressive career, something even non-fans have to admit.

My son has a respect for a lot of old school British rock and it meant the world for me to bring him to his first major rock show and have it be a Beatle, I mean, a friggen Beatle. It’s pretty hard to top that. But here’s probably the best souvenir I will ever take away from a show and I’ve been to a bunch.

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He’s a lot taller and I’m a little grayer, but he still talks of the experience and unlike a lot of shows, I still remember it like it happened yesterday. I don’t have any other images, no bootlegs or crappy video. I got a pin and my boy got his first concert shirt. Part of that was the event, part of that was the idea of the event. Much was made when the show was announced for here how fast the tickets disappeared. Concert tickets for as long as I can remember have had a tough battle finding their way to fans. The screams for legislation on ticket distribution were pretty laughable to me. When you got that body of work and amazingly have never been here, there will be some demand.

I watched as a woman nearby stopped to film a few precious moments of the Eagles recent stop in her phone, complete with flash on fullbore. Why risk getting tossed out when the moment is there to enjoy.

McCartney’s appearance at the First Niagara Center is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime appearance.

Enjoy the show. Be in that moment.

 

 

Cleveland Rocks


Yep, Ian Hunter was correct. Even though the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame only rarely does their inducing in Cleveland, the museum is great fun.

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You can take photos but some are kind of challenging. Witness the display case enveloping Mr. Garcia’s guitar below.

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But there are indeed friends around every corner.

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This guitar was one of Muddy Waters’

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I’m pretty knowledgeable about my music history in general terms, but never saw Elvis play a doublenecked guitar.

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But even here, Bill Graham is watching.

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And there are more folks waiting on you.

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(as the flood of pictures on my FB feed will attest)

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Time it right, however and the sun does shine over the wall.

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Thanks for having us, Pete

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Yeah, I’ll be back. Perhaps the Hall should have their party there once in awhile.

The Wearing of the Green


As a lifelong irishman, I should be offended, but this is pretty funny.

But before you raise a pint, okay another…

But there is some good songs out there for the actual celtic folk. This is my personal favorite.

I laughed a little to myself that my culture can get reduced to green bagels and to me picking them up, which in the department of counting your blessings means that I got first pick. See, silver linings everywhere.

In the company of a dear friend and actual guinness, (No green beer, got to draw the line somewhere), I rang in the weekend with some genuine celtic tunage that DIDN’T involve anything from U2.

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Watching Sunday night’s Grammy awards semi-seriously (okay, not seriously at all), I was taken a little for a bit of nostalgia (after seeing Ringo and Paul on stage after all the CBS hype and them only getting the one song) for of all things, the record store experience.  This started  earlier in the week when I ordered my copy of the new Springsteen record via Amazon so I could get the dvd that came with the cd, which was also accompanied by an instant download of the cd you were ordering in addition to the actual cd.

Got all that. Good. Just struck me how different it was scraping together the $2.99 plus tax for my copy of Darkness on the Edge of Town, purchased with the help of my older sister who drove and the double stamp books I had filled to ease the purchase at Record Theater. I know it’s still here, but it’s not the same experience. The mall record shops had those jamokes behind the counter who thought they were cool because they worked in a record store in the mall, nevermind that they were minimum wage workers too. But let’s face it, stocking Clapton LPs does beat refilling the pop tart display at the grocery store, but I digress.

It’s great to get the music and take it with you wherever you go, after you remember to back it up and so and find the right format for playing it in once you own it, but the old school pursuit is gone. That finding the “precious” at a reasonable rate is gone, replaced by hearing a new release on Spotify. That too is okay, might actually be easier to find songs that you might have overlooked on an LP.

But…I reacquired a turntable not too long ago. I used to think I didn’t have enough of an audiophile ear to hear the difference in some of the formats outs there. From the low rent mp3s to Flacs to other “lossless” formats, the subtle things weren’t registering. I think that is the nature of some recordings, but some records where some care went into them, you do see (or hear) I should say, what the analog audio guys are talking about. No format is perfect. Lord know I purchased some titles in most of them, save eight tracks.

As I approach AARP availability in a few weeks, (shaddup) you notice the folks you instantly know, probably ought to be hanging up their rock and roll shoes, but it is a good thing to see them in there still swinging….showing the kids how it is done.

I was sorting through some acquisitions of all formats to see if the collection could use a little weeding (it could), and while I don’t miss the orange crates full of music as those things were heavy, the hunt was pretty awesome.

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A friend of mine lamented recently that he hoped for other things to bring people together other than sports teams, since it seemed like big Bills wins were the only time joy was spreading through his facebook feed. Almost immediately, I answered that I thought music had that power, that a great song not only “gets” you, but it brings people together, makes friends, build memories and other shared experiences that aren’t easily definable.

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I had some traffic cop responsibilities at last night’s Pearl Jam show, but it was a blast to see music sort of front and center. The looks of genuine anticipation on the faces waiting to take their spaces on the floor in front of the stage made me smile. While waiting to head to my post for the night, I snuck a peek at the stage set up and it was one for the music being front and center (listen up, U2) and that made me eager to get to it. Now, the downtown arena (sorry, no free ads, my blog) gets criticized for sometimes being devoid of atmosphere. I think that has more to do with the mediocre hockey getting played in it in recent years. When the team plays well, we cheer, and buy jerseys and stuff, but I digress. The true point there is when the bulk of the attendees are into what is unfolding in front of them, the building has a pulse. And even if you can’t fully participate, it’s an awesome thing to witness. I’m a big believer in the benefits of losing yourself in something bigger that you, letting yourself go (it doesn’t always work, but I’m game to keep trying), as that is just good for your soul.

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The Pearl Jam show was one of those times. It was the second show of the tour and they hit the ground like they meant it. It was a great mix of new stuff, hits, back catalog, all played by guys who definitely were not phoning it in. I’m not the biggest fan, don’t know everything, but have always respected them tremendously. Liked the new songs a lot. Back when unplugged was the show, they definitely made the best one. But they put on the best arena show I’ve seen in a long time. When everybody joined together, meaning the spontaneous choir of 20000, you could feel the music without looking.

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Blew the roof off the dump they did.

A good soundtrack is pretty great and I’m glad they are a part of mine

Definitely, alive…..

Goin’ Down the Road


It dawned on me as I left the Machine’s show at Artpark this week that is it is sometimes good for the music to get a little smaller. For many folks, they watched the show entirely on a monitor. While there is nothing wrong with that, you don’t necessarily need to “See” the show to experience it, it feels like sometimes something is lost in the translation.

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The above was a facebook graphic making the rounds and the notion of “wanting less, decrapifying life, and enjoying something simpler jumped out at me. Sometimes it’s good for your music to get a little smaller.

Unplugged for a saturday night of music and mirth and it was truly a beautiful experience. You can lose yourself in a “little village” of 150 just as easily as in city of 50,000 stadium ticket holders.

It’s always liberating to lose yourself in something bigger than you. That’s why people do it. But with kindred spirits, musicians playing for the sake of making good music, trees and sky adding ambiance, a cooler and grass can have it all over a bar and a cover charge.