Foo Fighters Rock RVA

For the last ten years at least, perhaps longer, I have heard many very smart people who work in the music business proclaim with certainty that ‘Rock Music Is Dead!’ It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.

‘Rock is dead. The passion is gone. It will never be the same.’

Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters obviously never got the message because, on Saturday night they offered a three-hour set of blistering hard rock as testament that Rock and Roll is Alive and Well!

It was something quite wonderful to behold.

Photo by author

Supporting their latest effort, ‘Concrete and Gold’, which was represented well in the evening’s set list, the band took the nearly sold out Richmond Coliseum crowd on a trip through the band’s 20+ year career, playing some songs that had not been played live in a very long time, along with the ones you expect to hear, and even a few that even surprised Dave and the band.

 

‘I say tonight we play songs from every album…so there ain’t much time for talkin’,’ Dave announced to the crowd three songs in. In fact, the songs didn’t stop and Dave didn’t say ‘Hi’ to the audience until they were done playing ten straight songs, almost nonstop. This was my first Foo Fighters show, so while I had seen Dave interviewed and seen some performances on television, I did not know that he basically turns into Animal from the Muppets on stage; a frantic head banging, hair flying maniac.

The featured songs from the new record translate to the stage well, especially ‘Run’ and ‘The Sky Is a Neighborhood’, the latter of which heavily features a trio of female lead singers, brought along on tour to add harmony vocals. I am happy to see on subsequent shows that most of the new material is still being played, although the title track, which was part of an epic 45 minute encore, as of this writing, has not been played since making its live debut Saturday.

Photo courtesy of Brian Hall

Another moment that appears to be a ‘Richmond Exclusive’, since we were the first arena stop on the tour, is drummer Taylor Hawkins’ lead vocal spotlight on a cover of Queen’s ‘I’m In Love With My Car.’ Dave asked the crowd if they liked the song being part of the show, saying they added it since the song inspired Hawkins to be a drummer and a singer. It was a neat moment, but with such a large catalog, I am sure most fans would have rather heard another deep cut from the Foos as opposed to a cover.

After the band left the stage the first time, we all knew they were coming back for an encore. There was a camera backstage that showed Dave urging the crowd to get louder and putting up one finger as if to ask ‘You wanna hear one more?’ Then he put up two, then three and eventually five fingers before finally taking the stage again to play what would indeed be an unforgettable encore.

When the Foo Fighters first hit the scene in the mid-nineties, I liked them, but I wasn’t a huge fan. I liked their songs when I heard them on the radio or when I saw a video on MTV (Although I did get sick of ‘Big Me’ when it seemed to be coming out of every radio speaker), but I didn’t own any records by them. Then I saw the documentary ‘Sound City’ in which Dave chronicles the history of the infamous LA recording studio, and soon after I saw that, I watched the HBO series ‘Sonic Highways’, which featured the band visiting eight US cities and writing and recording a song in each city. It was after that series concluded that I immediately bought the ‘Sonic Highways’ record and made it a point that, the next time Foo Fighters were anywhere close, I would check them out.

I mention all of this because, even though I have delved into the back catalog of the band, ‘Sonic Highways’ remains my favorite and, while I did not expect to hear a majority of that record on Saturday, I was ecstatic to hear two songs specifically. ‘Something From Nothing’, which kicks off the ‘Sonic Highways’ record was featured early in the set (and that song was when I took my glasses off, stowed them away in my pocket and decided to headbang like I was eighteen again, at least for a few songs).

 

As headbanging almost always is for me, it was a very cathartic moment.

 

Later, in the midst of that long encore, after already playing four songs and blowing past the 11:30pm noise ordinance curfew, there was a pause on stage and then Dave said, ‘Watch this! I’m gonna surprise the band!’ He then tore into the opening riff to ‘Congregation’ which is, without question my favorite song from the ‘Sonic Highways’ project, and it may be my favorite song by the band, period. The band quickly joined in, and we were off on one of my favorite concert moments in a very long time. 

The Congregation (Courtesy of Brian Hall)

To me, the song crystalizes how music can be at times as moving and as important as one’s religion or faith. I’ve always had a problem with ‘organized religion’, and some may find it offensive to compare such a secular activity to a religion, or use the word ‘faith’ when talking of music, but in my life, in some of my darkest hours, music has been the one thing that has kept me afloat and helped me see that, even when I was in seemingly insurmountable pain, I could get through it. 
Some lyrics:

Send in the congregation

Open your eyes, step in the light

A jukebox generation

Just as you were

And you need blind faith

No false hope

Do you have blind faith?

No false hope

Where is your blind faith?

No false hope

Open your eyes, open your eyes

Step into the light

Open your eyes, step into the light

I’m grateful they played ‘Congregation’, and I’m now aware that Richmond really did get a very special show. The following night, the encore was much shorter, and ‘Congregation’ has not been played. If this show ends up being the only show where it’s performed (along with probably Nashville, the city that inspired it), then I count myself lucky to have been there. 

Seeing the hordes of sweaty fans on the floor, sharing the experience of this show, it reminded me again that Rock is not dead, and, if you catch the right moment, you can even see Rock thrive in 2017.

The Foo Fighters rocked, and they rocked hard for three hours, and in doing so, they singlehandedly restored my faith in the power of Rock, and the power of music.

So, if they play anywhere close to where you live…GO! You won’t be sorry!

 

Setlist from setlist.fm

 

Run

I’ll Stick Around

Learn to Fly

The Pretender

The Sky Is a Neighborhood

Something From Nothing

Walk

Rope

(Extended outro; with drum solo at the end)

Sunday Rain

My Hero

These Days

Let It Die

(First time live since 4/ 3/12)

All My Life

Enough Space

White Limo

Arlandria

Times Like These

(Solo into full band)

Breakout

Make It Right

I’m in Love With My Car

(Queen cover) (Taylor Hawkins on lead vocals)

Skin and Bones

Jump / Fat Bottomed Girls

(Played during band intros)

Monkey Wrench

Best of You

[Encore]:

Dirty Water

This Is a Call

La Dee Da

Wheels

(First time in the US since 5/ 7/14)

Congregation

Concrete and Gold

(Live debut)

Everlong

 Thank you 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

 

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)