Tag Archives: Concerts

U2 and the Rules of Rock

28 May

Last night, we saw U2 in concert. They are not our favorite group, but some friends had extra tickets that they wanted to sell. We took them because U2 is a legendary band that people should see if given the chance and because we thought it would be a good show. In fact, it was a good show. However, it could have been a great show.

We got to our seats and saw a big wall.

I immediately thought they were trying to copy Pink Floyd, and, as the concert progressed, it was apparent that this was their version of The Wall.

Songs took the crowd through Bono’s youth with odes to his mother and to his childhood neighborhood. Then, the story took a turn as a comic book version of U2 was formed and flew too close to the sun before being brought back down to earth. Finally, the concert turned to the current state of politics and how America is a nation that can still be a shining beacon for the world.

Through all of that, there were great visual effects and moments of acting from Bono. At one point, he went from being a demon to talking to someone at home while cleaning up in a mirror.

All of that was fine. U2 is successful enough to indulge themselves in a little Rock Opera, and they have money enough to put together a visual spectacle. They were also low-key in their political statements for a band that has always been known for its politics.

However, through all of that there was one vital missing ingredient.

U2 did not play many of their hit songs. There was new stuff. There were deep cuts. There were homages to other artists. There were only a few songs that the casual U2 listener would recognize.

Throughout the day, I have been thinking about this and have come up with some ideas about what long-established bands should do during a concert. I call these ideas The Rules of Rock. Of course, they could also be called The Rules of Country. The Rules of Pop or The Rules of Any Genre of Music.

  1. If you have a song that reached Number 1 on the charts, then you should play it in concert. This would include “With or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” They did not play either of these songs, and I believe they are the only two singles to reach Number 1 on the US charts.
  2. If you have a song to which everyone in the building knows the words, then you should play it in concert. This does not have to be a Number 1 song. It could be something that was popular and people remember. “Where the Streets Have No Name” fits this category, but they did not play it.
  3. If you have a song that was the first semi-hit that put you on the map, then you should play it in concert. For a lot of people, “New Year’s Day” was the first sound they heard from U2, and it made them want to hear more. They did not play this, but it would have been a good idea.

I am sure that a ton of people left the concert happy with what they heard. Many people around us were singing along to songs that I have never heard. They cheered at some early U2 music that true fans of the band have probably grown to love. Certainly, those in the audience who Bono called out from the stage had a good time. Oprah Winfrey, Al Gore, former Republican Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, Ashley Judd, T-Bone Burnett, Ava DuVerney, Dierks Bentley. The list goes on and on.

As for us, we are not super fans or personal friends. We are people who wanted to hear the hits, and we did not hear enough of them.

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Guns N’ Roses – What a Concert is Supposed to Be

15 Nov

Last night, my nephew and I saw Guns N’ Roses in concert, and it was awesome. The original gang was back together with Axl, Slash and all of the rest. However, that was not the only awesome thing.

This concert was what a concert is supposed to be.

Before I explain that sentence, I must say that I was worried about this show. When Guns N’ Roses was one of the biggest bands in the world, Axl was notorious for being late. Heck, that is probably one of the reasons why the band broke up. The others were tired of his flakiness. However, that is not the only thing. When we saw Axl a few years ago with the alternate version of Guns N’ Roses, he was over two hours late. In other words, I did not have high hopes.

To my surprise, my worries were unwarranted, and this show was what a concert is supposed to be.

First, it started on time. I have never been to a concert that started at the time on the ticket. They always start late to make sure the crowd gets there. This concert was scheduled to start at 7:00. We got to our seats at 6:45 thinking that we would be there for a bit. At 6:58, the lights went down, and the preconcert video began. At 7:00, the band was on the stage.

I sent a text to my wife saying the show was beginning. She thought I meant the opening act, but there was no opening act. It was Guns N’ Roses. Heck, a lot of people had not even arrived. They were certainly under the impression that this show, like most shows, had some time built in.

This concert was what a concert is supposed to be because it started on time.

Second, there was no casual banter with the crowd. Axl yelled out Nashville a few times and said thank you after every song. That is all he said. There were no stories between songs. There were no proclamations that Nashville is their favorite city. They just went from one song to the other, and they did that for 3 1/2 hours.

Think about that for a second. They performed without a break for 3 1/2 hours. Heck, they came back for their encore after about 2 minutes off stage. That is what I call getting my moneys worth. They knew that people came to hear them play, and they played all of the great songs.

The concert was what a concert is supposed to be because they did not waste time.

Third, there was no agenda. In the recent concerts I have attended, the artists have felt the need to talk about our political climate. They give their opinions about the state of our country and the world. I do not pay for a ticket to hear all of that. I pay for a ticket to be entertained. Guns N’ Roses understood that.

As of this moment, I have no idea what Axl and Slash think about current affairs. However, I know that they can Rock the house down. Welcome to the Jungle. Paradise City. November Rain. The list goes on and on.

The concert was what a concert is supposed to be because it was not politicized.

Was Guns N’ Roses the best concert that I have ever seen? I am not sure, but it was the purest concert I have ever seen.

A Concert Full of Pet Peeves

15 Jun

Many of you know that I am a concert fanatic. The genre of music does not really matter. I just like to hear it live. Through the years, this fanaticism has created a lot of experiences. Great concerts. Bad concerts. Great venues. Bad venues. This, by no means, makes me a concert expert. However, I know a bad one when I see one. Heck, I even wrote an open letter to Madonna about the disaster that she called a concert.

I write all of that to write the following. This week, my wife and I saw a bad concert. In fact, it hit on a bunch of our concert pet peeves.

Ann Wilson of Heart was the performer. Actually, that is what the ticket said. Ann Wilson of Heart. While that was technically true, the ticket was sort of false advertising. More on that in a minute, we have to get to the list of badness.

The “We Love You” Fans – Everyone gets excited for concerts, and this excitement grows when the performer is one of your all time favorites. I understand this. Heck, that is why I like concerts. However, I have never yelled “We Love You” to a performer.

Here is how it usually goes. A song is over. The performer takes time to talk to the audience. Then it happens. “We Love You, Ann Wilson!” Some performers respond. Some performers ignore it. I am not sure which approach is best, but Ann Wilson chose the second option. The woman behind us could not get enough, and yelled it consistently throughout the show.

What causes people to do this? Once may be fine. You are expressing your adoration. You want the performer to know how much you care and how happy you are that they chose your city for a concert. However, the continuation has to mean something else. It has to mean that the “We Love You” person wants the performer to acknowledge them. Say “I Love You, Too” and let that person know that they care just as much.

It could mean that they want a personal connection. This performer is an important part of their existence, and they want to be a part of the performer’s existence. There should be a psychological study on the “We Love You” people. No matter the psychosis, please stop yelling. Ann knows you love her. We know you love her. Guess what, none of us care. Just listen to the music.

Wait, the music. That is the next pet peeve that this concert was able to accomplish.

Play the Jukebox – Several years ago, I saw Elton John in concert. After playing a few new songs, he told the crowd not to worry. He was going to play the jukebox. He meant that he was going to play all of the old hits that made him famous. Those were the same hits that people bought tickets to hear.

I know that performers want to stay creative. They want to show people that they can still produce great stuff. However, they need to understand that people want to hear the old songs. They want the music to take them back in time. Ann Wilson does not understand this. Over a two-hour show, she sang three songs from Heart. Those songs would have gotten people out of their seats. Instead, they sat there and listened to songs that they did not want to hear. Even the “We Love You” crowd just sat in their chairs.

Here is another weird thing. She did not sing that many new songs. She sang a bunch of old songs that other people recorded. Elvis Presley. Jimi Hendrix. The Who. Buffalo Springfield. This list goes on and on. Hey Ann, if you are going to sing old songs, then you may as well sing your own. I left there thinking that she has created a glorified cover band.

Ann Wilson has a great voice, and she showed it off. However, we wanted to hear that voice sing songs like:

“Magic Man”

“Dog and Butterfly”

“Dreamboat Annie”

Other songs can be sprinkled in, but the songs that made her famous should have been at the heart (pun intended) of the show. As I wrote earlier, the ticket said Ann Wilson of Heart. It did not say Ann Wilson Who Is Trying To Separate Herself From What Made Her Famous.

Although, I did notice a trend in some of the songs she chose, and that leads me to the next pet peeve.

Politics on Stage – I go to concerts to be entertained. I go to concerts to escape the world for a while. This means escaping politics. However, Ann Wilson wanted to get political. She started talking about the political landscape and how she wanted to relieve us of our confusion. That is really not her role. Her role is to sing “Barracuda.”

Instead, she sang protest songs from the late 1960s and early 1970s and was subliminally telling us how relevant they are today.

I teach a class on the History of Rock and understand that artists have always wanted to make statements with many of their songs. However, I do not need an aging rocker telling me how I should feel about politics. I have seen Ted Nugent in concert and did not want to hear it from him. Now, I have seen Ann Wilson in concert and did not want to hear it from her.

If I want to hear about politics, then I can get on Twitter or turn on some news channel. When I go to a concert, I do not want to hear someone’s opinion that is no more important than my own. I want to hear some great music.

I did not yell my advice to the stage in between the “We Love You” shouts. However, I will give it now. Ann Wilson should understand that she will always be Ann Wilson of Heart and people purchase tickets to hear those songs. If she did, then maybe the venue would actually be full. Oh yeah, those people yelling “We Love You” would probably love you more.

The Night It Rained Purple in Nashville

22 Apr

This afternoon, I walked into class to hear my students talking about the death of Prince. I had already heard the news but what somewhat surprised that they were talking about it. As the years have passed, I have realized that my popular culture history is getting older and older, and the popular culture of my students is getting newer and newer.

They wanted to know if I was a fan of Prince, and I told them that his music was a big part of my high school years. I also told them that I had seen him in concert and that it was one of the all time great shows. I cannot remember the year, but I can remember the night. I can also remember that it was the Musicology Tour.Musicology

The stage sat in the middle of the arena, and we had great seats. There was several of us, but we were able to get seats together. The entire show was awesome, but the ending was the most memorable.

Prince left the stage, and the lights went out. Everyone knew there was going to be an encore because there was one song still left to be played. That is when the spotlight shone from the ceiling. The light was purple, and it lit up the guitar from the movie Purple Rain. Water was streaming down. It was literally purple rain.

Then, Prince rose from the floor; took the guitar; and jumped into one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

It was a moment that I will never forget, but Prince was not finished. For the next encore he brought out a special guest, George Clinton. Yep, the Funkadelic one was in the building. Two legends on stage at the same time. The concert could not have ended in a better way.

Cuffing Them at the Kristofferson Tribute Show

27 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, we went to Bridgestone Arena for a concert honoring Kris Kristofferson. Numerous stars of Country music were there to sing the songs that he had written and showcase his musical legacy. This was a concert that was anticipated by Kristofferson fans and fans of the people who would be performing. However, I did not anticipate that the mixture of people would turn volatile.

Before the show, I noticed that a lot people were not accustomed to attending concerts at Bridgestone. As we walked down the sidewalk, one man stopped at every door and asked if that is where they enter. When we found our seats, the man next to me kept commenting to his wife about the large number of people in the building. In fact, they had the upper deck covered with drapes, which meant this was one of the venues smaller crowds.Kristofferson

Our seats were on the floor, which meant that it was hard to see what was happening on the stage. Floor seats are awesome when you are close to the stage. They are not that awesome when you are further back. However, there is one thing that is constant. Sitting on the floor means that you are going to spend some time standing up. I know that. My wife knows that. However, the people who do not attend many arena concerts apparently do not know that.

For the most part, people stayed in their seats. After all, Kristofferson songs are not the type of songs that get you dancing in the aisles. However, there were a few times when people stood up. That is when the yelling started.

“DOWN IN FRONT!!”

“PUT YOUR PHONES DOWN!!”

“WE CAN’T SEE!!”

For a while, the yellers got what they wanted. Then, Eric Church hit the stage. This is a guy who younger people love. This is also a guy who young people stand up to see. I am sure some of those young people came to the concert just to see him. When he came out, those young people stood up.

It was not long before the yelling started, but the standers did not sit down. In fact, one of the standers yelled back.

“WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WHEN YOU SIT ON THE FLOOR?!?”

I agreed with her, but she did not understand. They did not know to expect it.

The yelling continued back and forth. Then, an usher walked up to the young lady and talked with her. This is when she made a fatal mistake.

Before continuing the story, I should say that the young lady was sitting 6 rows in front of me at a concert. Yet, I could hear her clearly when she yelled at the usher.

“GET OUT OF MY FACE!!”

Actually, she included a derogatory term that means fornicating. It also begins with the letter F.

Within minutes, there were 6 police officers on the scene. Apparently, they did not like her comments because they were attempting to escort her from the building. She did not comply and ended up being held by her hands and her feet. This was to stop her punching and kicking. Eventually, she was leaning over a rail and being handcuffed.

As she was taken past us, her friend was being handcuffed and begin prepared for her own perp walk. As the officers took the ladies out, people cheered more than they had cheered any of the performers. They had hate in their eyes, and I could have sworn that one woman spat at them.

I have already written about people who constantly stand at sporting events. However, this was different. She was right. When you sit on the floor at an arena show, you should expect to stand up. Should she have screamed obscenities at the usher? No, he was just doing his job. However, I do not think people should have been yelling about people standing up.

I expected to stand up. But, I never expected to see someone get arrested at a tribute concert for Kris Kristofferson.

The Eagles Flew in from the West Coast

22 Feb

A few weeks ago, the news broke that Glenn Frey passed away. I meant to write something about his death, but outside influences kept me from it. Then, we watched the Grammy Awards and the tribute with the Eagles and Jackson Browne. Again, I meant to write something, but outside influences kept me from it. Now, it is a quiet Sunday night, and the chance to write has finally arrived.

When I heard about the death of Glenn Frey, my mind went to the first time I saw the Eagles in concert. They were one of my favorite bands, and everyone knew that they would never go on tour. However, I always told myself that I was going to see them if they ever reunited. Then, Hell froze over, and they went on the Hell Freezes Over tour.

I got second row tickets to see them at Starwood Amphitheater and could not wait for the show. I would finally see the Eagles. Then, disaster struck. They postponed a bunch of concerts, including the one in Nashville. I could not remember why they postponed the shows, but, upon Glenn Frey’s death, I read that it was due to his illness. It would be the same medical issue that would eventually cost him his life.

When the show was postponed, many people assumed that it would be cancelled and were refunded for their tickets. I refused to do that. The tickets were too good to let go. I kept them for months before hearing that the show would go on, and it was an awesome show. They opened by playing the entire Hotel California album.Eagles

As the years passed, the Eagles went on more tours, and I saw them a couple of more times. The last concert was a journey through their history with original members coming back to play with later members. However, nothing would compare with seeing that first show and hearing them open with the guitar notes of “Hotel California” as fake lightning flashed behind them.

The Eagles are my favorite band, and Glenn Frey was one of the driving forces behind their music. He will be missed.

As I have been writing this, Eagles songs have been going through my mind. I think I will end this post by listing my Top 5 Eagles songs. Since, “Hotel California” usually dominates such a list, I will leave that one out.

  1. Wasted Time” – The last track on Side 1 of the Hotel California album. It was released in 1976.
  2. Lyin’ Eyes” – The second single from the One of These Nights album. It was released in 1975.
  3. Pretty Maids All in a Row” – The third track on Side 2 of the Hotel California album. It was released in 1976.
  4. Seven Bridges Road” – Appeared on the Eagles Live concert album. It was released in 1980.
  5. Witchy Woman” – The second single from Eagles, their debut album. It was released in 1972.

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I mention that because I believe the Eagles should be inducted.

What are your favorite songs by the Eagles?

Live and In Person

31 Jan

Listening to music is one of my favorite pastimes. Cranking of the radio and letting the sound fill the air is a great pleasure. It is truly pleasurable when that music is of the Rock variety. However, listening to live music is more enjoyable. I have been lucky enough to attend many concerts, and there is nothing like being in a room filled with people and hearing a performer sing a great song.image-6

The other day, I was at the magazine rack when I spotted something called 101 Greatest American Rock Songs. With a title like that, how could I not buy it? The magazine offers an interesting list with stories about each one. As I read through it, a question entered my mind.

How many of these songs have I heard in a live setting? In Nashville, we hear a bunch of songs being covered by bar bands. My real question was trickier. How many of these songs have I heard performed by their actual performers in a live setting?

Here is the answer.

98. “When Doves Cry” by Prince

97. “Legs” by ZZ Top

95. “All Shook Up” by Elvis Presley

94. “Lay, Lady, Lay” by Bob Dylan

92. “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf

84. “Jackie Brown” by John Mellencamp

82. “Black Magic Woman” by Santana

72. “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan

64. “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper

62. “Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss

60. “Tangled Up in Blue” by Bob Dylan

51. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns N’ Roses

48. “Bye Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers

46. “Dream On” by Aerosmith

36. “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar

32. “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan

31. “One of These Nights” by The Eagles

29. “Ohio” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

27. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” by Bob Dylan

24. “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

23. “Enter Sandman” by Metallica

22. “Atlantic City” by Bruce Springsteen

18. “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith

10. “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley

9. “Hotel California” by The Eagles

5. “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

3. “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen

2. “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan

I have been lucky enough to hear 28 out of 101 in a live setting, and, by looking at the list, I am afraid that I will not be able to add many more.