Elvis Costello Welcomes One And All Into His Imperial Bedroom [Warner Theatre; Washington DC 11.03.16]

Sometimes artists record albums to make a cohesive, singular statement. Sometimes, the LP is simply a collection of what the writer has laying around that he hasn’t used yet, but, for the most part, when an album is released, unless it is a ‘concept album’ like The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ or Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, the artist never intends to perform the entire record in front of a live audience. In early 2016, Bruce Springsteen embarked on ‘The River Tour’ in which he played his entire two-record set from start to finish. By the time the second leg of the tour finished, that idea was abandoned, simply because the pacing of a record does not always make for great pacing in a live setting. 

Which brings us to Elvis Costello’s latest US tour, which stopped in DC last night; entitled ‘Imperial Bedroom and other Chambers’, Elvis and his band The Imposters promised to play the entire ‘Imperial Bedroom’ album, along with other songs from all eras of his career. And, the first thing Elvis got right that The Boss did not is, he chose not to play the songs in running order, which would have made for a very strange live show. Knowing before the show began that I would hear ‘You Little Fool’ and ‘Man Out of Time’, two of my all-time favorite Costello songs, I was extremely excited to see what the evening would bring as my friend Dana and I made our way inside the beautiful Warner Theatre.

 

Elvis kicked things off with a very deep cut, and a song not from ‘Imperial Bedroom’. Instead he started the evening with ‘Town Where Time Stood Still’ from the ‘Punch the Clock’ album. I admit, it was one I did not immediately recognize until the chorus showed up, and even then, the initial sound mix made the lyrics a bit hard to understand. If the audience wasn’t really sure what to make of the opener, that was soon corrected when drummer extraordinaire Pete Thomas launched into ‘Lipstick Vogue’, played at breakneck speed.

Before launching into the first ‘Imperial Bedroom’ selection of the night, ‘The Loved Ones’ Elvis asked the crowd ‘Are we sick of this yet?’ The audience seemed perplexed, as the show was just getting started. ‘I don’t mean the show, you know what I mean! Are we sick of this yet?!’ he clarified, to which the crowd roared their approval.

Photo by Dana Kiser

A word about the album ‘Imperial Bedroom’: It was released in July 1982, only eight months after Elvis had released an album made up entirely of covers of classic country music, which puzzled many of his fans, who expected the ‘Angry Young Man’ of ‘Armed Forces’ or ‘This Year’s Model’. ‘Imperial Bedroom’ is not for everyone, and it doesn’t have many instantly recognizable radio hits that the casual fan would recognize. For all that the album may not be, it does in fact contain Costello’s strongest lyrics to date, perhaps ever. Here is one example, from the standout track ‘Man Out of Time”:

There`s a tuppeny hapenny millionaire

Looking for a fourpenny one

With a tight grip on the short hairs

Of the public imagination

But for his private wife and kids somehow

Real life becomes a rumour

Days of dutch courage

Just three French letters and a German sense of humour

He`s got a mind like a sewer and a heart like a fridge

He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege

 

Almost every track on the album demonstrates Costello’s lyrical acumen, and if the public at large weren’t ready to follow him, he didn’t care. Thankfully the record has been repackaged and rereleased several times over the last twenty years, allowing fans to rediscover and appreciate it, and I think today the album, rightfully so, is considered one of the best in Elvis’ 40+ year career. Playing all of the songs live was no small feat, but for those lucky 1400 fans in attendance, it made for a very memorable evening.

 

Here’s the setlist, then some thoughts:

 

The Town Where Time Stood Still

Lipstick Vogue

On Your Way Down

The Loved Ones

Accidents Will Happen

You’ll Never Be a Man

Tears Before Bedtime

Moods for Moderns

This House Is Empty Now

Shabby Doll

Green Shirt

Human Hands

Watching the Detectives

The Long Honeymoon

Pills and Soap

Hand in Hand

High Fidelity

You Little Fool

Pidgin English

Encore:

Alison

Shot With His Own Gun

Almost Blue

Kid About It

…And in Every Home

Beyond Belief

Man Out of Time

Encore 2:

Town Cryer

Everyday I Write the Book

Encore 3:

Blood & Hot Sauce

A Face in the Crowd

American Mirror

(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea

Pump It Up

(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding

 

Photo by the author

Mid-set, hearing, in this order ‘Pills and Soap’ (again, a song that is an acquired taste), ‘Hand In Hand’, ‘Hi Fidelity’ and ‘You Little Fool’ was the portion of the show that seemed to be directed right at me! Hearing those songs all in a row, almost without even a break to differentiate where one ended and the next began, was a wonderful moment for this longtime fan.

 

While the set mostly consisted of material originally performed by Elvis & The Attractions, along with one of his collaborations with Burt Bacharach, the evening wasn’t completely about nostalgia. Costello is working on a musical adaptation of the 1957 film ‘A Face in the Crowd’ which starred Andy Griffith as a man who rises from the gutter to the halls of power. (If you’ve never seen the film, I highly recommend it). Elvis showcased three songs from the production, which definitely gave the proceedings a political undertone.

 A shout out to the mad musical genius that is piano/keyboard player Steve Nieve. His showcase piece of the evening was a charged and tense rendition of “Shot With His Own Gun”. Thomas, Nieve and bass player Davey Faragher (the “new guy” who’s been with the others for about fifteen years) were on point throughout the night, helping to keep things moving. 

The second to last song of the night was the crowd pleaser ‘Pump It Up’ which had everyone dancing, regardless of their politics and then he closed the night with a song written by Nick Lowe and recorded by Elvis in 1978. The song of course was ‘(What’s So Funny ‘bout) Peace Love & Understanding’ and, I cannot think of a more appropriate song (or question for that matter) given the current climate. It’s quite a feat when a song originally written in 1974 is now, forty-two years later, even more frighteningly relevant than I think its author or the evening’s performer could have ever possibly imagined.

 

As I walk on through this wicked world,

Searching for light in the darkness of insanity,

I ask myself, Is all hope lost? 

Is there only pain, and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside,

There’s one thing I wanna know,

What’s so funny ’bout peace, love, and understanding?

 

Thanks as always to Dana for attending this show with me, and thank you very much for reading.

Barry

The Night Adele Left Me Stunned

Part One: How I Got Here



My brother loaned me a copy of Adele’s ‘19’ CD in the spring of 2009, and I immediately loved her unique voice, even if the act of writing about breakups and relationships had been done millions of times. Adele was different. Like everyone, I bought ‘21’ when it was released in 2011, and played it to the point of being burned out on it, having to put it away for a while after listening to it nonstop for months. Then, she wrote and sang the theme for the Bond film ‘Skyfall’ (and her song was the only redeemable thing from a very disappointing film).

 

When ‘25’ was released, NBC was smart enough to cash in by broadcasting portions of a live performance by Adele from Radio City Music Hall Thanksgiving Weekend 2015. I recorded the special and, as I watched, I just remember thinking one thought for the duration of the special: I have to see her in concert!

 

Tickets went on sale in mid-December for a Fall 2016 US Tour. Since I would be attending the show solo, I decided Atlanta was the best city of her planned stops, and she even scheduled two nights, Friday October 28 and Saturday October 29. Amid complaints from fans saying that the shows sold out before they could get a single seat, I managed to snag a floor seat to the Saturday show moments before it became a sellout. All that remained was arranging the travel and accommodations.

 Part Two: I Hate Traveling On Show Day

After much deliberation, I decided to fly out to Atlanta on the day of the show, crossing fingers that I wouldn’t run into any delays that might throw a wrench in my plans. So Saturday around 11am, I arrived at Richmond International Airport for a 1:15pm flight.

Airport security check points are always a crapshoot for me. Sometimes, the TSA Agent is very nice and very understanding and doesn’t cause a big fuss when I explain that I ‘really don’t want to remove my shoes and braces and I know I am going to set off the alarm so you’ll need to wand me.’ This time the agent at RIC Airport was nice, but somewhat shocked that I was traveling alone, even asking ‘Are you sure you’re by yourself?’ All I could answer without laughing was ‘What the hell is that supposed to mean?’ He didn’t have a reply and the testing of my canes was completed without further comment.

 

The flight was uneventful and landed actually ahead of schedule. I was in the airport in Atlanta just before 3pm, and after walking what seemed like the entire length of the building, met the shuttle to my hotel. By 4pm, I was standing at the front desk of my hotel as the clerk told me my room was not already paid for. I knew this to be untrue and said as much as diplomatically as possible, even offering to show her a confirmation email I had from Hotels.com. She didn’t want to look at that, so, pressed for time, I told her I would talk to the morning agent when I checked out. I quickly dropped off my bag in my room, changed my shirt and headed out to meet a friend for dinner.

 

Donna is someone I met while I worked at Kaiser Permanente in 2012 while I lived in Atlanta. She was literally the glue that held the office together, and we commuted together on the same shuttle bus every morning and evening during my brief tenure there. I had not seen her since February 2013. When I was last visiting Atlanta this past June, she was out of town, so, even though my time in the city was very short, I knew the one thing I had to do besides the concert that brought me here was catch up with her. We agreed to meet up at The Vortex, a bar/burger joint that is 21+ only and serves fantastic hamburger concoctions.

 

It was great catching up with Donna. She’s recently retired and loving it. I am convinced that the offices at Kaiser Permanente have now fallen apart in her absence, but she disputes that.

 

After dinner, it was about 6:30 (an hour before the stated show time on my ticket) when I stepped into the Midtown Marta Station. Donna was taking the train north back to her car, and I was taking the train south then west to the arena. Standing on the platform, the air was humid, hot and stagnant. That was one aspect of Atlanta I had not really missed.

 

I boarded a train and found a seat. Two guys were looking over the transit map to figure out which stop they had to get off the train, and they were unsure.

 

“Going to Phillips Arena?” I volunteered.

“Yeah,” one of the two said.

“Three more stops, then change to the westbound train for one stop.”

“Thanks.”

“And, at this point, I am hoping she starts later than 7:30,” I said.

“Well, a friend I know who works at the arena said last night she started at 8:10, so we should be fine.”

Hearing this was a great relief. I suddenly went from having 30 minutes to negotiate the MARTA trains, the lines at the arena, and getting to my seat on the floor to now having at least an hour. I got off the south train and headed up the escalator to the westbound train and an agent was yelling ‘Anyone going to Phillips Arena, your train is to the left. There it is…RUN!’ Then she saw me. ‘Don’t run sweetheart, they’ll hold it for you.’

I stepped on the train, which was very overcrowded, and then we all departed one stop later in front of Phillips Arena.

 

Part Three: Showtime!

This was my very first concert that used ‘Credit Card Entry’ instead of an actual paper or electronic ticket. Now, since I had bought the ticket in December, I was issued a new debit card with the same card number, just a different CCV code. When I asked Ticketmaster about this, they instructed me to bring the card, my photo ID and my confirmation email. I had all of that, but the crush of people was such that as I approached the guy asking for tickets, I simply handed him my card and said ‘Let’s see if that works.’

It did, and I was given my seat assignment. Chalk one up for Credit Card Entry, it was flawless!

 

My ‘ticket’ said I had to enter Portal 2, so that was on the other side of the arena. I made my way around to my entrance and found that I was on the level above the floor. After showing my ticket to an attendant, she directed me to a staircase and, I slowly made my way down to the floor. Thanks to a very nice fan who assisted me with the portion of stairs that did not have a railing. I made my way to the floor and handed my ticket slip to another agent.

‘You wanna go all the way to the left, follow that wall and then an agent will lead you to your seat.’

So I did just that, found another agent beside the wall and he said ‘You wanna keep moving toward the stage. You’re pretty close to the front, so the next agent will show you to your seat.’

Walking toward the stage about another 15 rows down, I found another agent who led me to my seat: About fourteen rows from the stage, on the left side of the floor. I mean, I knew I had a floor seat, but as I sat down, I had no idea I was going to be this close. 


Immediately to my left was Karen, a self-professed Adele super fan sporting an Adele jersey (‘Hello’ on the front and ‘25’ on the back). Like me, she snagged her single ticket at face value. A couple on my row paid $1200 apiece for their two seats on the secondary market. Score one for the single people!

As the clock neared 8:15, I said it was getting close to showtime. The preshow music being played was a strange mix: ‘September’ by Earth Wind & Fire; ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’ by Brook Benton and, just before the houselights went down, ‘Sorrow’ by Bowie.

“Holy shit, that’s a deep cut.’ I said out loud to no one.

Moments before the houselights went down, I saw three security personnel wheeling a road case down the aisle toward the ‘B’ stage in the center of the arena. I watched them move toward me, flashlights ablaze even though the arena was still brightly lit. As I watched them pass me, I thought “Oh man, is she in that case? Wow!’ I leaned over to Karen and said ‘Turn around; I think the show starts on the ‘B’ stage’ (which was a few rows behind us). Sure enough as the arena darkened, the eyes on the huge screen opened and a pre-recorded voice said/sang ‘Hello’ a few times. Then Adele appeared in the center of the arena, facing those sitting in the back of the building. I did not see that coming! It was the first of a night full of many surprises.

 

Now, allow this audiophile to geek out for a moment. While Adele was standing in the center of the arena, she belted out the first half of ‘Hello’ but, the monitors for her sound were not at the front of the house, they were behind me, where she was standing on the ‘B’ stage. After singing half the song, she walked down the aisle to the far right of me (flanked by security). When she arrived on the main stage in the front of the arena, someone quite literally flipped a switch and, as she sang the chorus one more time, the sound from the front speakers and monitors hit me like a wall. The difference in volume and mix from my seat was vast.

I had not looked at any setlsts for this tour, knowing only that she opened with ‘Hello’ and closed with her biggest hit, ‘Rolling in the Deep’, so the set was a surprise as it unfolded throughout the show. Her second song was one I didn’t expect, ‘Hometown Glory’ from ‘19’, complete with video footage of Atlanta. Knowing that the ‘21’ and ‘25’ albums would be the showcase pieces, I was happy to hear any song from her debut.

“Are you ready to have a good time Atlanta?” she asked after the second song. The crowd of course roared in approval. “Well, you’ve come to the wrong place I’m afraid. This is two hours and seventeen songs of heartbreak, so if you’re looking for a good time, I suggest you leave now.”

 

Before I go any further, here’s the setlist:

Hello

Hometown Glory

One and Only

Rumour Has It

Water Under the Bridge

I Miss You

Skyfall

Million Years Ago

Don’t You Remember

Make You Feel My Love

Send My Love (to Your New Lover)

Sweetest Devotion

Chasing Pavements

Someone Like You

Set Fire to the Rain

Encore:

When We Were Young

Rolling in the Deep

Adele ‘talks a lot’ in between songs, so much so that she apologized ahead of time for her ramblings. While many performers have everything scripted to the millisecond, Adele could take a full five minutes to introduce a song, or, as she did on this night, she could invite a fan who’s 17th birthday was on the evening of the show and have the crowd sing ‘Happy Birthday’ while posing for selfies with the fan and her mom. The lights and visual cues for her songs are scripted, but everything else in between is totally off the cuff. It made for a very sincere expression of appreciation from a performer to her fans.

 

Now, I am an Adele fan, but usually I know going in if a show is going to be ‘life changing’ or ‘mind blowing.’ Seeing Stevie Wonder sing the entire ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ album last year was a Bucket List show. Leonard Cohen in 2009 was a Bucket List show. It was around the middle of the third song of the night when I realized that the evening was going to be unforgettable and mesmerizing, and an unexpected Bucket List show. I literally stood there watching her sing, no gimmicks, no dancers, no props save for a screen, and I was stunned.

 

Mid-set, she did a two song acoustic set, the first of which was my favorite track from ‘25’, ‘Million Years Ago’. I heard that song in November last year when my life was in upheaval, and while I wasn’t quite as melancholy as the lyric suggests, I related to the sentiment. The week the album was released, I literally played that song on repeat for hours at a time. Hearing that song live was unexpected and I was truly taking in the moment and savoring it.

 

As her ‘two hours of heartbreak’ came to an end with 20,000 people singing the chorus to ‘Rolling in the Deep’, a confetti storm began to rain down. As I watched the white confetti rain down, I thought ‘KISS did this already.’ But then, as I caught one and looked at it, I saw a handwritten lyric.

 

Again, I was stunned. Every single piece of confetti had a stamped message in Adele’s handwriting. I gathered four pieces and tucked them in my pocket as I was being escorted to the arena elevator (stairs were not really an option after standing for two hours). The confetti was the last surprise and one that left me speechless.

 

About an hour or so later, I was on MARTA en route back to my hotel. The train wasn’t as crowded as the trip in, and I sat there, not really able to put into thought or words how powerful and emotional the night was. It wasn’t necessarily sad, but it was a wonder to know I was in the presence of someone who is the best at what she does, but who also doesn’t take herself so seriously that she can’t have fun. My advice to you is, if you ever have the opportunity to see her perform, GO! It will be an unforgettable experience.
I have seen many shows this year alone, but, without question the best show I will see in 2016 is Adele. No one else is even remotely close. It may even be the best show I have seen in the last four or five years. The travel, the waking, the stairs, it was all worth it to experience that event, and it is something I will always remember. I am not even sure if it’s possible for me to convey my feelings accurately even days later, but hopefully you get the idea.

 

Part Four: Epilogue 

The next morning, I awoke far too early afer too little sleep to get my flight back home. The morning clerk at the hotel told me that my bill was indeed already paid, I made it through the security check point without having to remove my shoes and I walked my very sore feet to the other end of the airport to get on the plane. My flight included thirty eighth graders, and I sat beside a three year old little girl who was returning from Disneyworld. Sleep was what I wanted, but it wasn’t going to be an option.

 

Still, all worth it.

 

Thank you for reading.

Barry

 

My Experience with Blue Apron

After hearing the ads on my favorite podcast for a month (Plug: The Tony Kornheiser Show) and already having heard some my brother and some friends rave about it, I decided to dive into the food delivery service known as Blue Apron. My first shipment of three meals arrived this past Friday. 


Meal #1, Saturday: Seared Alaskan Salmon with Fall Country Vegatables

Mom is not a fan of fish at all, but the delivery came with a note advising to prepare seafood items as soon as possible, so I chose to fix the fish first. Let me say at the outset, the two filets that were included in my delivery were two of the prettiest pieces of fish I have ever seen that didn’t come directly from my local seafood shop. I had half a mind to chuck the scripted recipe and simply grill these two filets In my oven and be done with it, but that would’ve been cheating.

 

One bit of advice: Whatever the stated prep time is, double it (at least) to get an idea of how long this meal will take for you to cook. This meal had a lot of chopping (potato, turnip, apple), so I decided to use the Vitamix my mom bought a year ago but (for a lot of reasons I won’t go into here) had not yet been used to assist with the chopping. That helped with time, but it still took a while to coordinate everything.

 

The recipe included one huge turnip, which I diced, a potato and an apple used to make a vinaigrette (which turned out fantastic).

All in all, a lot of work, but the dish turned out very well, and even though I fried the fish in a pan instead of grilling, the protein lived up to the advanced billing. I did realize though as soon as I had finished preparing and cooking the meal that Blue Apron would not be suitable for a weeknight after working until 7pm. It’s great, but it’s for weekends only.

 

Meal #2 Sunday: Spicy Chicken with carrots

This one seemed like a mistake from the get go. Lot less prep time, but I had to change the recipe a bit since I don’t do spicy very well. Even though this had less prep time (and no Vitamix needed for chopping), the dish did not turn out as well as the first evening. The menu included rice with roasted chickpeas (and hence, I learned an excellent way to ruin a perfectly good serving of rice is to dump roasted chickpeas into it), fresh carrots, dates, almonds, Red Harissa Paste and Labneh cheese.

 

I had my doubts but followed the recipe as written, only cutting out the almonds (they were simply a garnish) and using only half of the Harissa paste. I will say it turned out better than I thought it would, but it’s not something I would want again.

 

Sorry, no pictures of the food, because I was so busy chopping, prepping and cooking that, when it came time to eat, I didn’t bother with my phone.

 

Overall, Blue Apron does deliver top notch ingredients that are probably above what I would normally buy at the grocery store (in the case of the fish, that’s a definite), but bear in mind, even though they deliver to your door, it’s a lot of work and it is an investment of time. If you have the time and the energy, these are worth a try, at least once. I still have one meal (Roasted Pork Steam Buns) that I will try this weekend.

Thank you for reading,

Barry

The Beatles Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years

 If you are a Hulu subscriber, then right now, you can watch a new documentary from Ron Howard about The Beatles. It is also playing in select theatres for a few days and yesterday I was lucky enough to see it at The Violet Crown in Charlottesville with fellow Beatles fanatic Dana. (I’m not sure why Richmond was skipped when they picked cities to screen the film, but that’s a story for another time.)

Shea Stadium, August 1965

When this film was announced earlier this year, I was all at once excited and skeptical. Excited because, the prospect of being able to manipulate the original audio from The Beatles’ live concert recordings so that the band could actually be heard was a very intriguing prospect; and skeptical because with over fifty years of hindsight, any interview given by the remaining band members (Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr) were bound to be layered with an almost sickening coat of nostalgia with none of the immediacy or intensity that is found in the archived live recordings.

 

I wanted to see this in the theatre because I wanted to see on the big screen, for the first time, how great John, Paul, George and Ringo were as a live unit. Yes the band changed popular music forever and they get lauded for their many studio inventions that have now become standard, but often overlooked is how tight and sharp they were onstage. Seeing ‘Twist and Shout’ from the Royal Variety Show in 1963, ‘All My Loving’ from their appearance on Ed Sullivan in February 1964, and especially the performances from Shea Stadium in 1965, I was thrilled that the crackle and excitement from those performances still transcends time and they hold up remarkably well. They are timeless. Seeing the live footage was worth the price of the ticket alone.

 One point I have to mention: Every once in a while, an artist gets tagged as “The Biggest Since The Beatles”; for a time it was Michael Jackson, New Kids on the Block got the moniker in the late 80s, Bieber has been called that recently. Really, there’s no true comparison between the domination The Beatles had in America and the world in 1964 and whatever and whoever came next. This movie drives that point home without stating it explicitly. 

The interviews with contemporaries are good for the most part, but one stands alone as being great; that’s Larry Kane. Kane traveled with the band during their second US tour in 1964 (“Twenty-five cities in thirty days” laments a tired Ringo in 1964 as the tour begins) and Kane was there again in 1965 (where he soon found that the lads had discovered marijuana). Kane’s recollections are vivid and sincere and, since I haven’t read any of his three Beatle-themed books, they were one of the few items in the film that was new to me.

 

And that’s the huge drawback with this documentary. It feels like I have seen this before, and, for the most part, I have. In 1995, The Beatles released a 10-hour documentary series called ‘Anthology’ which a lot (I reiterate a lot) of the material used in this film is lifted from. So, since The Beatles have already told their story before, there’s really nothing new here.

 

That doesn’t mean this film isn’t worth seeing. The live performances are breathtaking, and this film should remove any doubt anyone ever had that The Beatles were not a great live band. In the end, the film serves as a love note to Ringo, who has never really gotten his due. As I watched the footage from Shea Stadium, I was awestruck. Remember, The Beatles invented ‘Stadium Rock’ before the technology could actually support them. There was no PA system (save for what the stadium announcer used to announce baseball games), so none of the four on that stage could hear anything at all, except the screams of 56,000 fans. Ringo had to keep the band in time, and he did it all by watching choreography cues and hand gestures!! As Lennon once said in an interview (not included in the film) ‘The Beatles were the best f***in’ group in the goddamn world!’ That assertion makes Ringo circa 1966, the best drummer on the planet. Those who are quick to dismiss him as ‘only the drummer’ and the writer who gave us ‘Octopus’s Garden’, I hope they have their minds changed by watching this film.

 

Two quick notes in closing: The film does include some studio recordings, and it was a joy to hear the interplay between Paul and John while recording ‘Eight Days A Week’ and ‘A Day In The Life.’ There may not be many things left in the archive to release for public consumption, but I for one would love to see a two-disc set of studio banter and outtakes from The Beatles Recording Sessions released. It may suit a niche audience, but I would love to have that.

 

And, the film has many scenes that I have seen before, which allowed me to concentrate on miniscule nuances. Example: As the band plays Shea Stadium, it comes time for John to introduce the next number, which is ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy.’ He begins his intro, ‘We’d like to do a song…’ and then in a split second he blanks, looks back at Ringo and says off mic ‘F**k, what’s next?’ That moment (included in the film and repeated again in the complete Shea Stadium concert that airs in theatres after the documentary ends) was one that cracked me up. That show was a blur for them, so to see him forget his next line was no surprise, but it was very real.

 

If you are a longtime Beatles fan, you’ll see this movie. Don’t expect much of anything new, unless you’re a fan who has not yet seen ‘Anthology’; those fans (if there’s anyone who hasn’t seen Anthology yet) will love every minute of this movie. For the rest of us, we’ve seen this before, but this is a repeat no one will mind watching again…and again.

 

Word of advice from someone who saw it in a theatre: When watching at home, I suggest you turn the volume up very loud.

 –Barry 

Fire, Blood and Time Travel: KISS @Richmond Coliseum 09.09.16

First things first: If you are looking for objectivity, stop reading now. I have far too much invested in this band to be objective. How long have I been a KISS fan? Thursday September 15 marks thirty-nine years to the day since I got my first KISS album. The only other people I have longer relationships with are my mom and my brother.

So, objectivity went out the window around about 1987.

 

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let me say that this will not be your usual review of a show, but then, KISS is not your usual band.

 

KISS shows are always a good time, and for me a big reason they are so much fun is the chance to see other KISS fans; seeing fans who found the band in the mid-70s like I did, and fans who found the band in the 80s when videos for songs like ‘Tears Are Falling’ and ‘Crazy Crazy Nights’ were voted #1 on Dial MTV, and the coolest part, the really young kids who were seeing their first concert by any band ever. KISS fandom now spans 40+ years and multiple generations. Walking the concourse and seeing the little ones made up in face paint and some even in full mini-costume, it told me once again that KISS are far bigger than just the show and just the band on stage.

 

So, let’s talk about the band on stage.

 

As I have said before in this blog, music is memory. Last night, I was transported through time and space. When the band began the show by flying down from the rafters on a platform while playing my favorite KISSong ‘Detroit Rock City’, I saw for a moment what was happening on stage, but in my mind, I was taken back to the last time the band played this venue, in 2000 and had the same opening. When ‘Shout It Loud’ was played, I was taken back to the glory days of The Reunion Tour, when I literally had goosebumps and tears while watching the original four members on stage.

Last night, Paul Stanley, the ring leader and consummate frontman, did not have a voice. I had seen them before on nights when his voice was rough, but last night, it was such a far cry from what it used to be that, when Paul sang, I had to go back in my memory to a time when I heard the same song performed at a much higher caliber, and all at once combine the past and the present. Gene Simmons is doing in 2016 what Paul did throughout the 80s; he’s carrying the band and the live show. From about 1984-92, Paul took control of the band because Gene was busy trying to be an actor, a music business mogul and a talent scout. KISS was not Gene’s priority, and it showed in his songwriting (see: songs such as ‘Burn Bitch Burn’ and ‘No No No’). KISS on stage became ‘The Paul Stanley Show’ where Paul had very long stage raps after almost every song, but it helped keep the band afloat and, eventually Gene regained his focus on the band around 1992 and contributed one of the best songs of his career in ‘Unholy.’ I am not sure if the state of Paul’s voice is due to after effects from surgery he had on his vocal chords in 2011, or if it is just the cumulative effect of singing 100 nights a year for over forty years. Whatever the reason, I would imagine it has to be demoralizing in a sense for him, to know he once was one of, if not the best frontman of his era (see his performance of ‘I Still Love You from the 1995 KISS Unplugged performance, or listen to any of his songs on 1987’s ‘Crazy Nights’ to hear him at his peak) and, now he just can’t hit the notes anymore.

 

Which is why I thanked the Rock Gods for Gene Simmons last night; after a rocky first song, when ‘Deuce’ began with its signature riff and the fans on the floor screamed the opening line, for a moment, all was right with the world. Gene was able to deliver a sonic memory very close to what I saw and heard before. Gene is at times simply a loud, opinionated former reality TV star, but last night, when his band needed him to, he was able to muster up all of his Demon prowess and make sure no one in attendance left disappointed.

I decided to get this moment on tape. He’s been spitting fake blood since 1974; it still remains a highlight. 


 

There was a time on the Reunion Tour where Gene lost his voice and Paul had to sing all of the songs in the set. I don’t think it would ever happen (mainly because Gene would never bother to learn all of the verses to the songs Paul currently sings) but, if the band is determined to keep performing, maybe it’s time for Gene or drummer Eric Singer to sing lead on songs like ‘Love Gun’ or ‘Do You Love Me.’

 

The ‘Deep Cut’ that the band has featured on this tour is ‘Flaming Youth’ from 1976’s ‘Destroyer’ album. It’s always been a bit of an anomaly in their catalog (the studio version contains a calliope) and it’s a song that the band would never have attempted unless Eric Singer were behind the drums. Since the song has a strange time signature shift, I know if Peter Criss ever attempted to play it live, it would end about one minute in, and it would be a train wreck. The song though is in a range that wasn’t too taxing on Paul’s voice, so it was a highlight.

 

Now, for perhaps the strangest moments of the night: This tour is called ‘The Freedom To Rock Tour’ and KISS donate money in each city to The Wounded Warriors Project.’ They also hire a veteran to be a ‘KISS Roadie for a Day.’ Both are laudable and worthy actions. While I am all for patriotism, I just think from a pacing standpoint, the show grinded to a complete halt while Paul introduced Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones, who came on stage to present KISS with the key to the city, and then Paul led the crowd in a recitation of The Pledge of Allegiance. Patriotism is cool, but I would rather hear one more song than go through that exercise at an arena rock show.

 

If I seem a bit negative, please understand that I still had a fantastic time, and a KISShow is still unlike any other event out there. I know that, even if I deemed parts of last night performance lackluster, there were fans of all ages that walked away having seen the best concert of their lives, and that speaks volumes about how unique a KISShow is. 

 

The last year has not been an easy one for me, for many reasons, and so I cannot put in to words how much I needed last night’s show, how much I needed to walk away with a sore neck from headbanging during ‘Deuce’ and a sore shoulder from raising my fist during ‘Cold Gin.’ It was a wonderful and necessary release for me, so I am thrilled I saw this show. But, I know this show was my last. I cannot imagine a scenario where I see this band again. I doubt they will play Richmond again, and I know I won’t travel to see them. In fact, there is part of me that hopes tonight’s last scheduled show of this tour (09.10.16) in West Virginia is the last arena show for KISS. Just end, with no hype and no apologies. I don’t expect this to happen, but it’s a nice thought.

 

Lastly, a KISS show these days is really for the older generation of fans to introduce their kids to the experience, and that was my take away last night. In the row directly in front of me was a little girl, maybe four or five years of age, in makeup and Paul costume. As she watched the spectacle unfold before her eyes while standing on her chair, she was enraptured the entire night, especially when the blizzard of confetti rained down on her. No matter how many shows she attends In her life, she will never forget the time her daddy took her to see KISS.

That’s pretty cool.

 

Thank you to all the family and friends who attended KISShows with me since 1988. It was always great to be able to share my fascination with KISS, in all of its incarnations, with all of you. This marked my 19th KISShow (not including when I went to Totonto to see Paul on stage as the Phantom of the Opera). Each show has been memorable and had moments I will never forget. 

Last night’s setlist:

Detroit Rock City

Deuce

 Shout It Out Loud

Do You Love Me

I Love It Loud

Flaming Youth

Bass Solo

God of Thunder

Psycho Circus

Shock Me

Guitar Solo

 Cold Gin

Lick It Up

War Machine

Love Gun

Black Diamond

(Encore:)

Beth

The Star-Spangled Banner

Rock and Roll All Nite

Thank you for reading,

Barry

(Proud member of The KISS Army since 1977)

Old 97s Know How to Throw a Party (The National 08.18.16)

Last week Old 97s played at The National. I could write a lot of words about how much fun they were, about how they are the “rockingest” and “bestest” bar band I’ve seen in ages, maybe ever. 

I could tell you how surprised I was that the show didn’t sell that well, about how I hadn’t planned on going until my friend Dana said she’d go to this venue for the first time so she could see this band. 

I could tell you how impressed I was with openers American Aquarium, especially when they played a slowed-down version of John Prine’s “Spanish Pipedream.” I could say that all those in attendance had a rip roaring, alcohol-fueled party for two uninterrupted hours. And I could tell you how sorry I was that you missed it. 

All of those words mean little when I have this video I could show you. Here is most of the Old 97s song “Stoned” that I recorded only because I knew videoing it would prevent me from screaming the lyrics to the point of losing my voice. 

So here’s the video. I’m very sorry you missed the party, but I’m glad Dana and I were there. 

Make sure you see them the next time they’re in town. Until then, pickup a copy of  (or stream via Spotify) “Alive & Wired”, grab a bottle of something and throw your own party. 


Thank you for reading. 

–Barry

No Badge Needed 

As the clock read 6:30pm on my work PC tonight, it just sort of hit me that tonight is my last full shift at the office before moving to Work At Home Full Time on Monday. I am leaving work early on Thursday and Friday to attend shows. 

This is actually going to happen.

 

I was thinking last night, of the core group of original ‘Tier Two’ HelpDeskers (Beth, Tony, Chris C., Chris B., Sharon and Eric), I am the very last one to start working from home.

 

My desk is pretty much cleaned out of the stuff that belongs to me. Since this desk used to belong to Beth, the Help Desk Mom, the desk has a medicine cabinet, plastic wear, mugs and enough markers to last years. Most of that is staying put. I am however taking the mini-mirror that belonged to Mark C., and then was ‘handed down’ to Beth, and then to me since I inherited the desk. I have already put my key in the desk lock for whomever lands here next, knowing full well they will have no idea or appreciation for the small trinkets that have adorned this cubicle since the eBiz Help Desk moved up to the third floor.

 

All in all, I am very ready to begin the next chapter, and I look forward to the new challenge of working from home, though I know I am going to make myself go out more often after work, so as to avoid becoming a hermit who never leaves home.

 

As my calendar proves, that’s never been my style.

–Barry