Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Concert History

Recent discussions with some friends over a glass of wine about concerts we had seen over the years turned into some list making, memory searching, and ultimately a "Concerts" page at the upper right of my blog.

Eric Clapton
It has been fun taking this particular stroll down memory lane, insofar as reconstructing approximate years of the earlier concerts required a bunch of Wikipedia and other research to narrow shows down to which year (or two) they must have occurred in. For most of the shows in high school I remember either the album the band was touring for and/or what grade I was in school and/or who I saw them with. This exercise in historical archaeology has derived a fairly accurate list. At least in general terms. Some things were easy to find, like a Philadelphia show of Billy Joel and Elton John on the Piano Men tour. It was mid July of 1994; you can read reviews online. It was the first show of the first tour they did together. Other more recent ones I either have a clearer memory of, or are since I started blogging in 2009, and therefore have exact dates and write ups to go by. I don't think there is anything I couldn't narrow down to within a year or two. The one thing that makes counting things difficult with exactness is the fact that I have seen the Moody Blues roughly 10-12 times, but because I have seen them so many times I can't distinguish specifically when or where very well anymore. Oh well.

Some statistics and observations:

By decade:
  • Shows in the 1980's - about 13.
  • Shows in the 1990's - about 5.
  • Shows in the 2000's - about 5.
  • Shows in the 2010's - 12. With 6 more years in the decade, I am doing very well recently.
  • About 35 total shows.
Acts seen multiple times:
  • Moody Blues - about 10 (plus one Justin Hayward solo)
  • Rush - 3
  • Dire Straits/Mark Knopfler - 3 (1 DS and 2 MK). Mark Knopfler is Dire Straits...
  • Asia - 2 (but 29 years apart)
  • 16 different headliners seen once, and 8 opening acts that I can name, including a few that were (or became) bigger names (Stevie Ray Vaughn notably).
By venue (approximations because I can't count all the Moodies shows):
  • The Spectrum (Philly) - 12
  • The Corestates/First Union/Wachovia/Wells Fargo Center (Philly) - 5
  • The Tower Theater (Upper Darby) - 5
  • Mann Music Center (Fairmount Park Philly) - 4
  • Veteran's Stadium - 2
  • The Keswick Theater (Glenside) - 2
  • Caesar's Palace Atlantic City, Trump Plaza Atlantic City, Grand Opera Wilmington, World Cafe Live Wilmington, Colonial Theater Phoenixille, Borgata casino Atlantic City, the Valley Forge Music Fair, and the hell hole on the Camden waterfront - 1 each.
  • Between the Vet, the Spectrum and the Valley Forge Music Fair, 15 of the shows were at venues that no longer exist (the Vet having been imploded in 2004 and the Spectrum being dismantled in 2010-11). Both are now parking lots for their replacement venues. The Valley Forge Music Fair closed in 1996, was razed to put in a Giant supermarket which didn't last long, and now has a Barnes and Noble bookstore, a Wendy's fast food restaurant and a few other stores on its site. 
Tedeschi Trucks band
People seen but now dead:
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn - Opening act for the Moody Blues in late 1983. Died in a helicopter crash August 27, 1990 in East Troy, Wisconsin (near Chicago), after playing with Eric Clapton and others (aged 35). His guitar virtuosity was mind numbing. Much like Hendrix, he played with his teeth, behind his back, behind his head, and basically just out this world (I know, because I saw him do all that...). Of all the people I have seen, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson and SRV are the three that made my jaw drop. Wikipedia says that in the Fall of 1983, SRV and Double Trouble opened 17 shows for the Moody Blues, and were paid $5,000 per show plus a bonus for driving up ticket sales. Wow.
  • John Denver - First concert I ever saw - died October 12, 1997 in a microlite plane crash over the Pacific Ocean at Monterey Bay CA, aged 53.
  • Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown - Delta blues legend, seen as an opening act for Eric Clapton, died September 10, 2005 of lung cancer (aged 81).
  • Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons - Sax man for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, died June 18, 2011 of of complications from a stroke eight days earlier (aged 69).
Something that occurred to me while compiling the list is that I had a preconceived notion that my high school years (the early 1980's) were by far my "golden years" of concert-going. This may be somewhat true in the sense that everybody I saw in those years was at or near their peak in terms of popularity; the prime of the musical lives. Everybody on the 1980's list is now classic rock. When I saw them then they were just rock. And some of them are no longer active, and some are dead. But in terms of variety, quality and number of shows seen, the last four years is absolutely on a par with my four high school years. A few of the bands are the same. They are mostly now classic rock, or god forbid, oldies. Many of the performers themselves have less hair, and what is left is gray. But they can still play.

Justin Hayward
Omissions and "To Do's" - Of big name bands from my formative years, there are a number of big names that I have never seen, nor frankly do/did I have any real interest in: The Rolling Stones, The Who (on any of their forty-seven farewell tours), or Queen. Led Zeppelin I would have loved to have seen and we were hoping to get tickets to see the announced show for Philly that had to be cancelled when John Bonham died (how inconvenient for us...and him). Maybe there will be a chance to see some form of Zeppelin or Page/Plant at some point. I didn't know it then, but I would have loved to have seen the Grateful Dead. I never saw Yes in their original lineup (or close to it); the 90125 tour I saw with Trevor Rabin was very very different from classic Yes. I have only seen Eric Clapton once, and since he is one of the few musicians I would consider a true idol, I would like to see him again, even in the much-subdued later years incarnation. The best wines mellow with age and change character but don't lose a thing. I would like to see Aerosmith. People on the short list of "I'd see them anytime at any price" would include repeats such as Mark Knopfler, James Taylor, Eric Johnson and The Eagles. If things worked out right I would gladly repeat Rush, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Asia or the Dixie Chicks. I would like to see Trace Adkins, a country guy, but I guess that is unlikely up here in Pennsylvania.

1/10 adds to the wish list: Buddy Guy, Ben Folds, John Mayer, Gary Clark Jr, Diana Krall...

More important than having a specific list of people I'd like to see, I guess, is the simple commitment to seeing live music. Whenever. Wherever. Big names or small (or even family). Large venues or (preferably) small ones. There really isn't anything quite like seeing people create music live. Each show is an original unique event, and something that will never be repeated. A song played a thousand times is never exactly the same; the one you heard is...the one you heard. And seeing and hearing it in person isn't at all like listening to a CD or the radio...

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