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 It had been replaced by ultra-slick, auto-tuned productions that strived for perfection, but in that pursuit had lost its soul.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

Adam Ant Reminds Us ‘Ridicule Is Nothing To Be Scared Of’

Wednesday night (09.20), Adam Ant brought his ‘ANTHEMS’ Tour to The National, and as promised, the evening was a wonderful flashback to the 80’s and the early days of MTV. More than that, though, the night was a testament to a performer who has survived the height of 80’s success (and excess), battled mental illness, and come out the other side. Perhaps he was surprised to find his fans were waiting for him when he returned to the recording studio after a 17 year hiatus in 2013? Whatever the reason, this tour is a celebratory nod to the past, and it’s also undeniable proof that Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) still has ‘It’; that star quality charisma that demands you watch him (and only him) as he commands the stage. 


Wearing a cowboy hat in lieu of his trademark pirate garb, and clad head to toe in black leather, Ant opened the show with a song originally only available on the cassette version of 1980’s ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’, the punk-tinged ‘Beat My Guest’, played at such a fast tempo that it was almost a thrash number, daring a mosh pit to materialize. For the first twenty minutes, each song came without a break for a breath; ‘Vive Le Rock’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Friend of Foe.’ It wasn’t until about the sixth or seventh song in the set when Ant stopped to say ‘Hello Richmond’ and acknowledge the crowd, mainly so everyone onstage and in attendance could catch their breath.

 

The biggest cheers of the night came when the two biggest US singles were featured toward the end of the set, ‘Strip’ and ‘Goody Two Shoes’, which were both MTV staples throughout the early 80’s, and a blistering version of ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’; but as the opening number proved, Ant isn’t adverse to throwing in a deep cut (‘Greta X; ‘B-Side Baby’) to keep things interesting for the longtime diehard fans.

 

As Goddard approaches his sixty-third birthday, he appears the happiest and healthiest of his entire career, which is a wonderful triumph. I admit that I bought a ticket to this show only because the tour was called ‘Anthems’ and I knew I would hear ‘the old songs,’ but after seeing Adam Ant in concert one time, I will see him next time and every time he’s nearby, even if the setlist is full of songs I don’t know. In this age of carbon copy bands, it was a pleasure to witness a pop pioneer proving he’s still at the top of his game, a bit older and a lot wiser.

 

Set list (courtesy of Setlist.fm)

Beat My Guest

Vive Le Rock

Dog Eat Dog

Apollo 9

Friend or Foe

Antmusic

Room at the Top

Desperate But Not Serious

Cartrouble

Zerox

Young Parisians

Prince Charming

Gotta Be a Sin

Puss ‘n Boots

Can’t Set Rules About Love

Christian D’or

Strip

Kings of the Wild Frontier

Greta X

B-Side Baby

Stand and Deliver

(Encore)

Goody Two Shoes

Lady/Fall In

Red Scab

Physical (You’re So)

 

–Barry

Charlottesville 


Today feels like Day One, A.C. Or, After Charlottesville.

I sat down at this same computer on Saturday evening with every intention of writing something about what happened. I stared at my blank digital page for a good five minutes, not even typing one letter, let alone a complete sentence, then I gave up. 

Well, now today I am at least past that.

I already know that anything I say here will mean almost nothing and any words I muster won’t change the fact that a woman died on Saturday, in my home state, while protesting Nazis.

Protesting fucking NAZIS!

I avoided the news after the true horror of the events came to light, and I escaped reality by watching movies from my couch. I am usually a very ‘plugged in’ person, always following political news and current events, but Saturday I was in shock. By chance I did turn the news on around 6pm so a friend who was visiting could hear the latest, and I did hear our governor speak and rebuke hate explicitly. But Saturday I just could not fathom how a protest rally under the guise of the removal of a statue – a fucking statue!! – ended with the deaths of three citizens and dozens injured.

Saturday I was shocked and saddened. Today that has given way to anger. But, I really don’t know what to do with that anger or how to channel it into something positive. That’s why I am attempting to write something. Just to get it out.

Quote bluntly, how the fuck did we get here?!

 

I don’t have the answer to that question, and the only comparisons I can draw between history and what happened Saturday [the Civil Rights Movement; The Summer of ‘68] seem to not quite fit.

Here is the internal dialogue that I kept having over and over late Friday night (when I first saw the ‘Tiki Torches’ photo online) into Saturday as events began to spiral toward an unfathomable Hell on Earth: If the Nazis/Alt Right held a protest in [your city here] and no one showed up to counter protest, to engage them in a fight, no one bothered to pay them any attention, wouldn’t our silence toward them and the fact that we paid them no heed speak volumes?

I am truly conflicted about this because, on the one hand, I understand the want, the necessity to make your voice heard in the face of hate, so I understand the urge to meet the enemy where they stand, and stand your ground.

There’s a part of me though that believes this ‘Alt-Right/Nazi’ minority isn’t worth my time or the energy to mount a protest. No one is going to have their mind changed by someone shouting in the street, no matter how many signs we carry or how many slogans we chant. If anyone is committed enough to wear Nazi swastikas in public, nothing I say or write is going to make them see the light of day, or the error in their ways.

That’s the internal dialogue merry-go-round I have been on since very early Saturday morning, and, as I write this on Monday night, I don’t know which stance is the correct one, or if they’re both right, or both wrong. That’s why I haven’t posted much about this on social media, apart from links to news stories.

I have read today that this same group is planning to have a rally in Richmond. That doesn’t surprise me, even though Richmond City Council has made no decision on what to do with the statues of Lee, Davis and Jackson. If they do decide to come to Richmond, I sincerely hope the horrors of Charlottesville are not repeated, but I know it would be wishful thinking on my part to hope the rally is completely ignored by the public and the press, so that the shouting of hate gets drowned out not by protests, but by its own echo chamber.

With a very heavy heart, tonight I am thinking of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, their families and friends.

 

If tomorrow has to be better, then hurry up tomorrow. We need you now.

 

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)