Memorable concert moments

My wife and I have enjoyed many concerts throughtout our almost 35 years together as a couple. I wrote recently about our joy in seeing Joan Osborne in a small venue. Here are a few more memorable moments.

– Tina Turner is high up on a short list of performers. Before ending one of her famous songs, she asked the men in the audience to sing the chorus. She chided, “You’ve been saying this most of your lives.” The song was “What’s love got to do with it?”

– Billy Joel has so many hits, on three occasions during his performsnce, he asked the audience to vote on one of two songs to sing.

– Elvis Costello had this huge spinning wheel on the stage which had his song titles listed. He would ask someone from the audience to spin the wheel to pick the next song.

– Eric Clapton was joined on tour by Derek Trucks and Buddy Guy. Now, that was a treat.

– Bob Seger is one of my favorites. Near the end of his great show, he introduced the band. Don Brewer, the drummer, was a foundjng member of Grand Funk Railroad, a great 1960-70s band.

– Sarah Brightman, the London theatre actress who was once marriied to Andrew Lloyd Webber, can flat out sing. Her version of “The Theme to Titanic” was sung in French. Bravo.

– Elton John has a multi-generational following. It was so cool to see grandmothers, mothers and daughters sing each song word for word.

– Paul McCartney is a treat, anytime, anywhere. From The Beatles to Wings to his solo career, he has a significant body of work. The stories behind some songs were an added treat.

– Heart puts on an amazing concert. Ann Wilson was introduced by her sister Nancy as having one of the greatest Rock-n-Roll voices. No argument here.

– Tony Bennett and kd lang toured together after the cut an album. Her admiration for him was obvious. She offerred a humorous story about a hit song of hers “Constant Craving.” An uninformed fan had referred to it as “Instant Gravy,” which tickled her.

– Two concerts where I took my boys stand out, as Mom did not want to go. ACDC was terrific as we sat above left of the band. Also, Rush was outstanding as three musicians could produce so much sound.

And, there are so many more – Tom Petty, James Taylor. Chicago, Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, Janis Ian, Don McLean, etc. But, let me end on a personal note.

We attended an outdoor concert of Jimmy Buffett’s. My brother-in-law went with us and was feeling no pain. Someone from behind was shouting for Buffett to sing “God’s own drunk,” then I realized everyone was looking at us – it was my brother-in-law standing on the bleachers shouting.

Well, that is enough for now. What are some of your favorites? Any amusing memories?

Both Sides Now – a worthy song about many things

From where I sit, one of America’s greatest songwriters is Joni Mitchell. Perhaps my favorite song of hers is “Both Sides Now.” Ironically, it was popularized by Suite Judy Blue Eyes herself, Judy Collins. I also enjoy Neil Diamond’s version with his deeper voice, but Judy’s version is the one most folks know. First, let’s take a peek at the lyrics:

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

Oh but now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From WIN and LOSE and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

In addition to melancholic and reflective nature of the song, “Both Sides Now” resonates with me as it makes you think of issues, events and people from different perspectives. How we view things is based on our history of experiences. A line from the Heart song “Straight on for You” would reinforce this “what the winner don’t know the gambler understands.”

Mitchell starts with clouds as we lie on our backs and reflect. I find this a clever metaphor. Yet, what you see in the clouds can and will change. Not to mention when you ask someone else what he or she sees, you are likely to get a different answer. So, we really don’t know clouds at all, as what can be seen varies, even with the same observer.

But, the same holds true for love and life, as well. In the US, about half the people who get married, eventually get divorced. Once the passion abates from its peak, people have a different set of experiences and perspectives. As an old fart who has been married for twenty-eight years, it is important that you like your spouse, as well as love her or him. If you don’t, then your marriage will have some challenges. So, we all have viewed love from both sides now.

This goes hand-in-hand with life, as well. Think back on how many opinions of yours have changed over the years. Think back on who you thought were true friends, who you do not involve yourself with anymore. Think back on how it was to struggle with a budget and how it is far easier to make ends meet when you have some money. With the number of people who have been exposed to the precipice of poverty or who have fallen over the cliff, many never imagined that this could happen to them. Your perspective changes when you have to stand in a line to collect unemployment benefits or go on food stamps.

I was thinking about this song after I read the post by Emily January on “Zenzele: a letter for my daughter,” especially when she speaks of the two men you will meet – the one you will be madly in love with and the one who will be your rock to live with day-in and day-out. I also believe my love for this song is a reason why I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books. He describes himself as an outsider based on how he looked and who his parents were, a multi-racial couple (one from Jamaica and one from England) growing up in Toronto. So, he has an uncanny ability to see things from both sides or at least two perspectives. He is constantly challenging normative thoughts and beliefs as he can see things from an outside in perspective.

Joni, as per usual, you got it right. Your song stands the test of time due to the underlying truth in the lyrics. Thanks for setting your wonderful scripted words to such a beautiful melody.

Let’s go to a concert

Whether it is a local band or one who has sold millions of songs, attending a venue to hear live music is thrilling and makes you feel alive. My wife and I have stumbled into live music on vacation which was a treat and we have made special plans to attend artists of renown. We have even gone to see our friend play piano in one of his bands  on very short notice. This post is dedicated to him as he suffered a stoke yesterday and may not make it. We are thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Let’s honor him together and take a trip down memory lane. Please feel free to offer some of your thoughts and experiences.Together, my wife and I have seen some fairly big name performers and with very few exceptions were worth trip. I have even taken my boys to see some artists that my wife has not cared for, but were excellent to us – I could not drag her to see ACDC, Styx or Rush, for example, but we enjoyed the heck out of them. Yet, I was able to get her to see the Allman Brothers, which was well worth the effort.

Some of the well-known artists we have been fortunate enough to see include: Bruce Springsteen, who will leave you worn out, but you could hear just one more; Paul McCartney, from which I had to text my Beatles fanatical brother to guess where we were, Elton John, where we saw three generations of fans singing word for word with Elton; Eric Clapton, who brought along Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks for kicks; Tina Turner, the best performer around; Heart, led by Ann Wilson, one of the greatest Rock and Roll singers around; Tom Petty, who is so very underrated even with his tremendous body of work; Steve Winwood, what a thrill; Rod Stewart, who my wife had to see, but I enjoyed as well; Bob Seger, one of my all time favorites where we got tickets in the nose bleed section; KD Lang (once with Tony Bennett),  who can sing almost anything and does the best version of “Hallelujah” you will ever hear; Bonnie Raitt, God she is great; Peter, Paul and Mary, a wonderful treat, Chicago, where it rained half the concert, and George Benson, a great guitarist and performer.

In some smaller venues, we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is genuine, talented and funny; Elvis Costello, who my wife did not want to see, but enjoyed immensely; James Taylor, several times and always a treat; Jimmy Buffett, who is especially entertaining when seen with your drunk brother-in-law; Jackson Browne, who actually disappointed (avoid the first concert tour date), but whose music I love nonetheless and Flogging Molly, which was a wonderfully unique experience. We also saw: Arlo Guthrie (twice), Marcia Ball (go see her if you can), Marshall Tucker (a band with a tragic history), Altan, a neat Irish band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Foreplay, Harry Connick, Jr. and I am sure I am leaving off several others. My wife has gone to several with my daughter that were interesting from Owl City to Emilie Autumn, who apparently throws muffins at her audience.

Yet, we have seen some nice local bands that were a thrill, from Jazz to Blues to Swing to Pop. We have bought their CDs to honor their performance and help them out. But, the CDs also provide some memories taking us back to Montreal, New Orleans, Killarney, San Francisco, Blowing Rock or even home in Charlotte or Winston-Salem when we lived there. There is a Cajun restaurant in my home city that has live music every day. A neat memory of ours is my oldest son being asked to sing along with an Irish family in a pub near Watertown, Ireland as he was the lone American who knew the words to a song.

Music heard at home or in your car is a wonderful experience, but hearing live music makes it memorable. My wife won’t listen to Elvis Costello at home, but she enjoyed his concert, e.g. Yet, let me close with a tribute and memory of our friend Eddie, who had the stroke. Eddie plays in several groups, but the last time we heard him play was at his oldest daughter’s wedding a few months ago. It was also memorable as my wife played social director and got everyone up to dance, including Eddie’s mother. God be with you Eddie. You make us feel better about our lives with your music.

So, let me hear from all of you. What are some of your memorable experiences? Have you seen some of same folks? Do you have friends that play?

Straight on for You – A Tribute to Heart

My wife and I had the great fortune to see Ann and Nancy Wilson and their Heart mates perform live a few years ago. We decided to splurge and had seats in the second row off to the side. Although, they were not at the start of the career, we were enthralled by one of the greatest rock and roll voices of all time in Ann and her energetic guitar playing sister, Nancy. Anyone who can play “Crazy on You” on the guitar has got to have some energy. Heart began as a cover band in the Seattle area and gained renown with Ann singing some of Led Zeppelin’s songs better than Robert Plant could. It was a great tribute to both bands last December, when Heart performed “Stairway to Heaven” to close the Kennedy Center Honors of Led Zeppelin. As an aside, on one of their live albums is Ann singing one of the finest versions of “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers I have ever heard including the original.

Heart is a true kick ass rock and roll band. Their attractive looks may have overshadowed that fact at first, but even if you never saw them, you would like what and how they played. One of their earlier tunes was “Kick it Out” which is vintage rock and roll. Yet, they broke through with “Magic Man” and the aforementioned “Crazy on You” both whose straightforward and highly seasoned double entendre lyrics were cleverly done and gave us teenagers an extra thrill. Yet, with these lyrics setting the stage, their musicality showed Heart was all about words and music. And, when you have Ann belting out rock and roll songs like only she can, it made a very powerful sound. I will not highlight the three songs I mentioned first, as they are well-known. Yet, I do love them dearly.

I would rather highlight some other songs, a few hits and few that were interesting to me. One of the more lyrical songs they performed is “Dog and Butterfly,” the title song off a great album. Here is a sample of the lyrics.

Well I stumbled upon your secret place
Safe in the trees you had tears on your face
Wrestlin’ with your desires, frozen strangers stealin’ your fires
The message hit my mind, only words that I could find

We see the dog and butterfly up in the air he like to fly
Dog and butterfly below she had to try
She roll back down to the warm soft ground
Laughin’ to the sky, up to the sky dog and butterfly

To me this song is about not reaching your dreams. The dog will never catch the butterfly (his or her dream), but will keep on trying. The idea is to keep trying and learn to laugh at yourself, even if you fail. As, we will all fail more than once.

Another great song of theirs is “Barracuda.” This one is more obvious about a deceitful man who hurt her dearly, but the wordsmithing and tune are excellent.

So this ain’t the end, I saw you again today
Had to turn my heart away
You smiled like the Sun, kisses for everyone
And tales, it never fails!

You lying so low in the weeds
Bet you gonna ambush me
You’d have me down, down, down to my knees
Wouldn’t you, Barracuda?

Another title song, which is terrific, especially when played live is “Dreamboat Annie.” Here is a sample:

Heading out this morning into the sun
Riding on the diamond waves, little darlin’ one

Warm wind caress her
Her lover it seems
Oh, Annie
Dreamboat Annie, ship of dreams
Oh, Annie
Dreamboat Annie, little ship of dreams

Nancy usually sang harmony in the chorus to many songs. Her voice is good and she should have sung more lead on occasion. One of her better songs is “These Dreams.” It should not be lost on others, that dreams play a hand in several songs. Here are Nancy’s words.

Is it cloak and dagger?
Could it be spring or fall?
I walk without a cut
Through a stained glass wall
(Weaker in my eyesight)

Weaker in my eyesight
The candle in my grip
(Words that have no form)
And words that have no form
Are fallin’ from my lips

These dreams go on when I close my eyes
Every second of the night I live another life
These dreams that sleep when it’s cold outside
Every moment I’m awake the further I’m away
(Further I’m away)

After some time away from the charts, Heart came back big in the late 1980’s with “Alone” which showed the world that Ann was still a big time voice. This song needs little discussion and is quite apparent in its meaning.

I hear the tickin’ of the clock
I’m lying here the room’s pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh I hope that it won’t end though, Alone

Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?
How do I get you alone?

A song that many may not know which I have always enjoyed is “Mistral Wind.” Especially, when played live, this song resonates with me. In addition to dreams, references to the sea are often used in their songs. Here is taste:

No wind when I took the watch, my ship was still waitin’
I lay on that mirrored sky, a restless sail waitin’ I closed my eyes, said the words of will for the gentle breathin’
That moves the sea, make my sails fill

Whisper waves cloud the glass, awake at last like a lover
It rushed around the talkin’ sweet, roll over, roll over, roll over
And in my ear he blew his name, it sound so strange
But I heard it plain mistral, mistral wind

The double entendres abound in this one as well. Sometimes, they are plain-spoken about desire, but they are equally adroit at the subtle. That is part of their great appeal. This final song and the title of the post is in the former category. It is exactly as the title implies. “Straight on for You” may be my favorite Heart song, if I can have only one.

Quite some time, I’ve been sittin’ it out. Didn’t take no chances, I was a prisoner of doubt.

 I knocked down the wailin’ wall, ain’t no sin. Got the feel of fortune, deal me in

Comin’ straight on for you, you made my mind. Now I’m stronger, now I’m comin’ through. Straight on, straight on for you. Straight on for you.

The song is about taking a chance. A lyric in a later versus describes “what the winner don’t know, the gambler understands.” Initially, she is a prisoner of doubt and won’t dare to take a chance. But, then she realizes, if I want this person to be mine, I better take a chance. I might lose, but by God I better try.

And, that may be the best way to think about life. Earlier, I wrote about a recurring theme of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young of taking a chance and not sitting on the shore (there is that sea analogy again). Ann and Nancy took a chance and still do. They became one of the greatest rock and roll bands ever. Plus, I think they still have some more they can come “straight on for us” with. Many thanks ladies. You are the best.