Friday, June 27, 2008

Joe Cocker Decoded

This really needs no introduction. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thanks to Eileen for sending...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gas Prices Keep Bands Off the Road

Fellow blogger Nedmusic just posted about his direct experience on this, but now CNN is on board with a story about how rising gas pricing are forcing young bands to abandon touring.

Seems that $4 per gallon gas is just too expensive for bands with minimal cash flow and no label support to justify traveling to gigs on the road, especially on the West Coast, where there can be more than 300 miles between decent towns with gigs.

The story says:

On the grass-roots level, cost has always been a concern for touring bands. But the nearly $2,500 in gas Garcia and his two bandmates would have had to pay just to make it to Vancouver, Canada, and back was too much to overcome.

"There's no way we can sustain a blow that big," he said, adding that the band is lucky to break even on a tour, even when gas prices are more moderate.

If they're not canceling their tours, small acts are banding together, stuffing themselves into smaller vehicles or cutting short their tours.

"We do have two bands, the Revisions and the Estranged, out on tour together right now who have decided to share a van to save on gas costs," said Ken Cheppaikode, who operates Dirtnap Records, a Portland, Oregon, independent label and record shop.

Cheppaikode said that after putting seven band members and their equipment into a van, they didn't have room for a roadie.

Maybe once Neil Young solves the world's fossil fuel reliance issues, we'll see more bands on the road, powered by alternative fuels (their vehicles, that is...)

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P George Carlin

I am probably not breaking this news to anyone who has an Internet connection, radio in their car or TV tuned to morning news, but wow, what a shocker here.

I remember listening to my brother's George Carlin album FM & AM (along with Cheech and Chong Big Bambu and Los Cochinos), and laughing my ass off even though I was too young to understand the drug-related stuff.

I later bought A Place for My Stuff on my own and found that one even more hilarious.

I saw Carlin a couple of times live, by which time he had landed securely on his formula of rotating between innocent, funny pieces and biting political ravings. He pretty much offended everyone, and we all laughed.

Kind of like with computers and phones that don't have a round, rotating dial piece, it's easy to think that Carlin and his brand of humor have always been with us, but this was very cutting edge stuff in the 70s. Along with Richard Pryor (and I guess Cheech and Chong), Carlin pushed the envelope further than anyone at the time.

Other articles will do the man far more justice than I, so how about remembering him with this clip, part of his long legacy:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Life on Mars? No Shit!

So, NASA was pretty sure there was ice on Mars. That's not news. That's how they knew where to plunk Phoenix Mars Lander down last month where it's supposed to run experiments including looking for signs of life in the ice.

But the fact that Phoenix dug and found white substance just below the surface is exiting. And now the ice seems to be 'melting.' This means Phoenix is in the right spot, and that it may be able to grab some ice, throw it into one of its eight ovens and analyze the heck out of it. If there are signs of life in the ice, we'll know soon, and that means there was/is life on Mars. And that changes everything, right?

Here are some quotes from a recent story in the Arizona Daily Star:

The thrill of Thursday's image comparison was that it verified that the lander had landed in the right spot, given that Phoenix's first mission is to "touch and examine water on Mars."

The proof was demonstrated to the Phoenix team at a briefing Thursday when image team leader Mark Lemmon, of Texas A&M University, showed them a "blink" comparison of photos taken that day and four Martian days previously.

Eight white spots that the scientists suspected were ice had disappeared in the second photograph.

Lemmon said his team now plans more continuous image monitoring of areas uncovered by the robot arm to watch for such changes.

Salt would not have disappeared, said Lemmon, nor would other elements. The conclusion was that it was ice that had "sublimated" — changed from solid to vapor without going through a liquid state.

"The big story," Lemmon said, is that the Phoenix Mars lander can now "reach out and touch" water on Mars.

Smith said one of the team's "great fears" was that it would find ice but be unable to reach the ice. But he is now convinced the lander is sitting on a huge shelf of ice that lies just a few centimeters beneath the soil.

As an aside, fellow blogger Voxmoose posted a fascinating entry about the experience he had at Cal Poly when Phoenix made its successful landing. It's as if he was 'there,' because he kind of was. Check it out here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Neil Young To Get 100 MPG In His Late 50s Lincoln

Aside from being one of the most prolific and interesting musical figures of the last 50 years, a one-time part owner of Lionel Trains and an outspoken supporter of Biodiesel, Farm Aid, Blu-Ray DVD format, and his own Bridge School Benefit, Neil Young is working on converting his 19 foot long late 1950s Lincoln Continental into a fuel efficient auto that could net 100 MPG.

The car is a 1959 Lincoln Continental MK IV convertible that Neil has re-named "Linc Volt," as he works with alternative fuel and auto companies to covert the huge 2.5 ton gas guzzler into a fuel efficient vehicle. I guess the Smart Car is not large enough for Young!

One of the companies Young is working with has entered the The Automotive X Prize, a competition for 100 MPG vehicles. The team will drive Linc Volt in a qualifying race in 2009. The final race from California to Washington D.C. will take place in 2010.

The Linc Volt Web site has all the background, and these great quotes:

Neil Young's Linc Volt project is inspiring in that it takes a behemoth, gas guzzling automobile, and turns it into an economical hybrid electric car.

They [Neil] came to see Larry Dye at Electric Wheels in Salem, Oregon to help transform yesterday's American dream... into tomorrow's. Imagine a gas guzzler like a late 50's Lincoln blasting down the road without using a drop of conventional fuel, sparing bio diesel that's required to recharge the batteries. It sure doesn't add up to a car that could easily cost seventy dollars to fill when it is empty.

Finally, the four wheel electric that people have been asking for for so long has arrived and progress continues in all directions. Neil Young's Linc Volt conversion helps move us through the evolution of this new frontier in transportation.

A couple of cool videos here:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Teenage Rush Fans - You Think YOU Had it Rough?

Back in the day (high school), liking Rush was apt to get you mocked - well, not mocked. But at least misunderstood and pigeon holed.

But if you were a teen aged Rush fan and felt like you had it bad, read this Seattle Weekly article by Nicolae White called Black Rushin. It covers growing up as a Rush fan who also happens to be a minority.

While I can't relate to the minority part, I can emphasize with these quoted passages from the story:

Neal Peart's drum set was fodder for hours of adoration and debate within my group of friends. It was bigger, shinier, and more accessorized than anyone else's—and he could play it with a level of technicality that was just incomprehensible to us. We would stare at live pictures trying to identify which piece made what sound on which song: "That's gotta be the glockenspiel!" I remember one of my friends practically getting into a fistfight with this fat loudmouth kid over the pronunciation of Neil's name. "Puurrrrt," my friend said. "Peee-urrrrt," the other kid snidely claimed. They had to be separated.

I used to try make my mom listen to Rush on my portable Panasonic cassette player... I would think to myself, "She'll love the intro to 'The Trees,' she just hasn't heard it enough."

I still try to convert the non-converted but have pretty much accepted that Rush fans are a unique and passionate breed, and maybe we don't need to have others join our little world. I appreciate Nicolae's plight and laud his commitment to the cause!

Friday, June 13, 2008

CD Review: Journey Revelation

If you are a fan late 70s to 80s Journey, go out and get the band's new CD, Revelation. It’s fresh, excellent and surprising. But get it for the new music, not the re-vamped hits disc. To be clear, this is a 3-disc set – one CD of new material, one CD of 11 old hits re-done with the current lineup, and a live DVD I have not yet watched.

The set is available only at Walmart unless one of your local music stores or online outlets has bought some from Walmart, marked up the price and re-stocked it.

Here is my take on the two music discs:

The Disc of Re-recorded Material:

As part of this package, Journey re-recorded 11 of their hits with the current lineup. I am sure the primary reason they did this is to make performance royalties on all of these new versions, especially because with the Walmart deal, they are making more money per unit than they would under any other distribution method short of them hand delivering it to your door and taking 100 percent of the money.

But certainly they also wanted to show off new singer Arnel Pineda and prove that they have found the perfect guy to carry the torch and deliver this catalog. Singing these songs is almost impossible. It burned out more than one Journey singer in the past, including Steve Perry! Pineda more than delivers and can sing every one of these songs in the way they need to be sung – with soaring power and emotion. He is great and really shines on these new versions.

But once you get over the novelty of how much Pineda sounds like Perry and how good he is, you realize that these are far more sterile versions than the originals. They are certainly technically better, but who wants that? I want the raw emotion of the recording of Lights when the band had only played it a handful of times, instead of a re-hashed version after they have been playing it for 30 years.

Pineda does bring a new freshness to the songs, because this is his first outing with Journey and he sings the heck out of the tunes. I think he actually has a stronger voice than Steve Perry did.

But my major gripes, outside of wondering if we really NEED this disc, include:

--Producer Kevin Shirley drenched most of the songs in way too much reverb. This is the same guy who produced Iron Maiden’s A Matter of Life And Death, which is the most raw, live sounding CD I have heard in ages. This Journey covers disc is the opposite. They get it right on Stone in Love – the last track. This one is very raw and sounds the most live. Listen to that one first if you want a tingle.

--I really miss Gregg Rolie’s vocals on the older material, especially Lights. This version of Lights is interesting, as they work outside of the lines the most here, and Pineda takes a lot of vocal liberties. And I like them.

--Can’t Jon Cain record on an actual piano? I am sure he has the most top of the line keyboards, but they don’t sound as good as a real live piano would have sounded.

--Drummer Deen Castronovo is an awesome drummer but is much harder edged than Steve Smith or Ansley Dunbar. The songs, therefore, sound more hard rocking than the originals, which is good, but in some cases may not be the most appropriate.

All in all, this covers disc is good but it really just made me want to go back and listen to the original versions. Maybe that was the point. Now people will go re-buy the whole Journey catalog! Smart business!

The New CD:

Now this is more like it! This sounds like a band that has something to prove. From the very first chords of Never Walk Away, this CD is about as rocking as Journey has ever been. The songwriting is tight. The songs are rocking and catchy, well played and as expected very well sung. Out of the 11 songs, there are only three ballads. That was a surprise (a pleasant one).

Never Walk Away is probably the radio track, but frankly, I could hear a lot of these songs catching on. Sometimes the first song on an album rocks and the rest fizzles. But this CD seems to get better and better until near the end.

The second song, Like A Sunshower, is a bit of a Lights throwback, as it is bluesy and mid-tempo. But that is where the similarity ends. It’s a standout track with a great chorus and blistering guitar work from Neil Schon. The third tune, Change for the Better, has all sorts of weird timing/accents and yet another catchy chorus, and by this point you realize you are listening to a pretty special CD.

But skip to song four, Wildest Dreams, to get the full frontal rock of this album. It’s like Journey speed metal. Schon's solo is pretty epic. Again, I wish it wasn’t so drenched in effects but it’s pretty killer. Then after the solo, the tune goes right into what sounds like a Porcupine Tree outtake with Pineda’s voice running through some weird effects. And of course the outro kicks into double bass drum patterns and with more ripping guitar, and you have – Journey speed metal. Worth the $11.98 right there in this one song. Schon is playing like his life depends on it. Someone laughs at the very end of the song, as if to say “My God we just rocked that one.” Brilliant.

The next song, Faith in The Heartland is really catchy and singable but again very driving. Keeps the CD moving along nicely. Drummer Castronovo powers this one with a laid back but propulsive groove. Again, the outro is fantastic. A solid, groove based jam with excellent playing by everyone. I could see them taking this one out pretty far live, if they wanted to go that way. Cain’s jazzy chords over the guitar power rock are a nice touch in this section.

And it just goes from there.

The release is not perfect. All three ballads are pretty forgettable – certainly nothing to rival the 80s power ballads of Open Arms, Faithfully, etc. The best one is After All These Years, which sounds like an inferior version of Faithfully. But after that song we get a couple more nice rockers. The album kind of fizzles at the end, with some of the lyrics being a bit campy and the weaker songs clumped at the end. But they send us off with an upper, the Schon-penned instrumental Revelations.

Although keyboardist Jonathan Cain is listed as co-writer on almost every song, this is a guitar album. Neil Schon is playing like he has something to prove, and he dominates. There are a number of songs where I don’t even hear keyboards. Journey without keyboards? Blasphemy! But it works. What it really means is it’s primarily a guitar/rock album, and that suits me just fine.

Most of the lyrics deal with overcoming struggle, embracing life and other fairly positive notions. Which makes sense, given what the band has gone through in the past ten odd years.

I think the band had a lot of fun doing this album and they clearly have a renewed energy and sense of purpose with Pineta behind the mic. The tour just kicked off in Europe this week. Hopefully they can keep the magic rolling until they get to the Northwest in September. But I feel like Journey has new life and has just kick started its flagging career.

And announced yesterday, the album sold more than 104,000 copies in its first week, and came in at number five on the Billboard album chart. Nice, guys!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

CNN Covers Portland's Love of Vinyl

I was just cranking my LP version of Iron Maiden Powerslave the other night, noticing how much warmer and richer it sounds on vinyl than on CD. It was a total blast from the past and reignited my passion for my old records (I still have about 500 but have not bought one in more than 20 years).

And then CNN runs yet another story about vinyl's resurgence, this time in my own town! I had posted about this in January and the story is just getting hotter. From the CNN story:

The best-seller so far at Fred Meyer is The Beatles album "Abbey Road." But musicians from the White Stripes and the Foo Fighters to Metallica and Pink Floyd are selling well, the [Portland] company says.

"It's not just a nostalgia thing," said Melinda Merrill, spokeswoman for Fred Meyer. "The response from customers has just been that they like it, they feel like it has a better sound."

Dig the full story here. Who of you still spins your vinyl? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

KISS 2? It's Closer Than You Think

Speaking of replacing band members, the buzz in Kiss-world this week is all about comments Gene Simmons made on Norwegian television regarding replacing ALL the members of KISS so that the b(r)and could continue after all the original members were dead and gone.

Simmons and Kiss manager Doc McGhee went so far as to say that the band is planning on finding the members of the "new" KISS through a TV show, similar to programs like "Rock Star" and "American Idol." Simmons went so far as to say that the deal has just been signed and is coming soon.

McGhee said, "I believe that KISS can go on forever. I believe that there is a way — and we are talking to people and we're pretty close to getting it done — about finding the four new members of KISS."

Paul Stanley was quick to pour water on the campfire, saying "no deal has been signed." Although he didn't rule out an 'official' version of KISS someday that had no original members. On KISS' official site (and his own, he says:

A KISS clone reality show? First of all, contrary to what was said by anyone, there is no signed deal. Secondly, if we were to do a "KISS II", and I don't rule that out, it would be in addition to, and never in place of KISS. If we were to do it, I know it would be done in a ground breaking way and would be tremendously entertaining. KISS has always defined itself by the rules we break, so what's the big surprise? We are in the middle of our biggest and most successful tour of Europe ever, playing to over a half million people, and neither KISS or I have any plans to stop afterwards!

This is just stupid. There are enough KISS tribute bands out there without having one that is officially sanctioned by the band. It's bad enough that Gene and Paul replaced Ace Frehley and Peter Criss years ago with very talented impostors who wear the makeup and do the same moves, down to having Ace actor Tommy Thayer sing Ace's tune Shock Me.

Now don't get me wrong. Tommy Thayer has been with the KISS organization since the late 80s, and drummer Eric Singer has as well, all the way back to Paul Stanley's first solo tour in 1989. And they are much tighter musicians than Ace and Peter ever were, so the band is about as solid as its ever been.

But I have to say, unlike the current Journey situation where they are playing up the fact the new singer Arnel Pineda is NOT Steve Perry, I wonder how many of the European fans who are seeing KISS for the very first time have any idea that they are being duped?

At least under this new idea, it would be very obvious and public that KISS is replacing itself with look alikes. I guess the question would be, would anyone go and see it? Would the draw be that maybe a 75 year old Paul Stanley would roll his leather studded wheelchair out to cameo a quick "Love Gun" while the KISS impostors backed him up?

I don't see people going for it, and I almost don't think it's doable. You can fool people into thinking that those dudes onstage are Peter and Ace, and you might even be able to replace Gene Simmons' onstage persona. But they are going to have a hard time finding someone who can sing and strut like Paul Stanley. The dude is a one of a kind.

Which is totally besides the point. This is a money grubbing move by Simmons and McGhee and I personally think it's bogus.

Here is the video in question:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Walmart Snags New AC/DC Album

There is some kind of conspiracy going on to get me to go to Walmart.

On the heels of the Eagles' out of the park success in ditching their record company and making their new album available only at Walmart, and the new Journey album also being available only at Walmart, now AC/DC is doing the same thing with its new CD.

Chicago Tribune writer Mark Caro posts about the news in an installment of "Is This A Sell Out?" called "For Those About to Rock - Shop At Walmart" saying:

The Eagles and Garth Brooks previously have sold CDs exclusively through Wal-Mart, with last year’s Eagles album, “Long Road Out of Eden,” considered a success story with about three million copies sold. But AC/DC? The classic headbangers’ new album won’t be available at any sort of rock music store, but you can pick it up along with a box of Huggies? Maybe this isn’t about AC/DC. Maybe this is about the death of the record store.

Other tidbits from the story in the Wall Street Journal (as picked up by the AP) include:

AC/DC is one of the few major acts yet to make its music available via Apple's iTunes Music Store. In August 2007, Verizon Wireless snagged the exclusive rights to sell the band's entire back catalog through March 2008, becoming the first and only digital music store to offer AC/DC's content.

But the deal was limited to full-album downloads. That requirement is one of the reasons that AC/DC's music has not appeared in digital form to date. Because full-album downloads are too large and too expensive to sell from mobile phones, Verizon sold them only from the PC version of its VCast Music service, for $12 an album.

This shite is big business, people. But I gotta say, while I will be only marginally OK with buying the new Journey CD at Walmart (because I HAVE to), I WON'T be buying anything else while I am there. Not even a Twix bar.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Foo Fighters Jam with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones

What in the ever loving hell?

Is Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins the luckiest guy on earth this year? First he jams with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson on YYZ, and now he kicks out the jams with Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones at Wembley Stadium over the weekend.

Apparently set up by rock photographer Ross Halfin (read his June 7 diary entry), Hawkins and Dave Grohl are joined by Page and Jones to do Rock and Roll and Ramble On.

The Telegraph ran a story that said:

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl told the 86,000-strong audience on Saturday that he had something special planned, saying: "Tonight this will be the show we are talking about for the next 20 years."

An emotional Grohl told the crowd after the impromptu appearance: "Welcome to the greatest day of my whole entire life."

This kick ass photo was taken by Ross Halfin.

Are the Foos the luckiest bastards alive or what? What's next? Hawkins joins The Who on Young Man Blues and The Real Me at Save The Planet Fest 2009?

6/9 addendum - as Judakris pointed out in the comments section, Grohl and Hawkins have jammed with Queen as well (I saw them on VH1 Rock Honors last year and it was pretty good). Lucky FREAKS!

Still trying to find a video that isn't all choppy and bogus but I'm out of time. You'll get the idea!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

New Journey Album, Singer Headed for Top

I have bagged on Journey here and here but lightened up a smidge when hearing about band hitting the road with Cheap Trick and Heart this summer (here).

But I never really explored the story behind how they got their latest singer, Arnel Pineda, until the band recently appeared on CBS News Sunday Morning and a couple of friends said I HAD to check this guy out.

So I YouTubed. And I gotta say - WOW. Not only can this dude sing, he seems to be a very genuine individual with a powerful story.

I will leave the details to CBS News Sunday Morning but the short version is that guitarist Neil Schon stumbled onto Arnel by looking for undiscovered singers on YouTube and found Arnel's cover band The Zoo doing various tunes, including some of the very hard to sing Journey catalog.

One plane ticket from the Philippines later to audition and the band is back in business. And aside from having the pipes, Arnel seems to be a genuine and humble guy as well. Note that in the CBS interview, keyboard player Jon Cain says something to the effect that Arnel is such a good guy that it makes him want to be a better person. Wow - coming from an a-hole like Cain, that is amazing.

Makes me almost WANT Journey to make a comeback and be successful again. And apparently it might be happening. According to an article on Blabbermouth today, the band's Wal-Mart only CD "Revelation" is "poised to sell around 80,000 copies in the United States during its first week of release for a likely Top 10 (possibly Top 5) debut on The Billboard 200 chart."

Revelation is a double disc, with batch of old Journey songs re-done with Arnel on vocals, and a new album's worth of material that producer Kevin Shirley (who also produced the last ten years' worth of Iron Maiden albums) has been raving about for months on his Web site.

Argh - yes, I may have to make a trip to Wal Mart.

Below are two YouTubes - the first is the CBS News piece. The second is one of the videos Neil Schon must have seen. After watching this guy sing his freaking heart out to an empty room (you even see someone wiping down tables in front of the stage at one point), you gotta root for this guy. He's going from literally nothing to the opportunity of a few lifetimes. he is the ultimate underdog, which makes me want to root for him.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Gilmour to Perform Atom Heart Mother

Roger Waters called it "pompous" and said it should be "thrown into the dustbin and never listened to by anyone ever again," but David Gilmour will join a 10-piece brass ensemble, a 40-piece choir and Italian band Mun Floyd to perform the album side long Atom Heart Mother from the 1970 album of the same name.

The performance will be staged at Cadogan Hall in London on June 14 and 15 by Ron Geesin, who composed the orchestrated component of the song on the original album. He also did an album called Music from the Body with Waters, also in 1970.

If you want to hear something that ought to be thrown in the dustbin, that's your album.

Atom Heart Mother on the other hand has its moments. Check out Floyd playing it live, without the orchestra or choir, in this video:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Concert Review - Iron Maiden part two

The Iron Maiden performance at the White River Amphitheater on Monday was out of this world. The band was super tight, the set list was a dream and for a bunch of guys who are roughly 50 and older, they still run around like they are 23 and put on one of the most high energy, exhilarating shows on the tour circuit today.

From Aces High, the opener, to Hallowed Be Thy Name, the encore closer, we got the cream of the 80s Maiden crop, as this tour (called the Somewhere Back In Time Tour) focuses on the band's 80s heyday. All the way down to the massive, awesome 1985 Powerslave stage set, which has been augmented considerably.

That's not to say the band is riding on its past. The previous tour saw the band playing its new album A Matter of Life and Death end to end, which only left room for three (yes three) other songs. Fly by night fans were pissed but I was thrilled. Who takes that kind of a risk anymore? And by the way, the album is fantastic. If you dig Maiden, get it now. Might be their best since Seventh Son.

Back to Monday's show...

Thinking about my past Maiden shows (seen them eight times now), I usually focused on bassist and founder Steve Harris, as he is so dynamic and all over the place. This time around though, I mostly watched Dickinson.

First up, I was wondering if he could still hit the notes. And by far he still can. Seemed like on previous tours, he was losing a bit of his vocal top end. But the only place I heard him have a bit less power is in the power parts like the intro scream of Number of the Beast and the scream out of the center section of Rime of the Ancient Mariner. But for the most part, he can still deliver. The dude is in great shape vocally.

And he is still metal’s most enthusiastic cheerleader, but not in a cheesy way like Paul Stanley. He runs back and forth, whipping up the audience during guitar solos or instrumental sections. He’d leave the stage for longer breaks and then come bounding out in a costume or mask. His between song banter is actually pretty funny and he seems to be loving what he's doing. He just looks like he's having the time of his life, and it rubs off on the audience.

In The Trooper, he donned a Union Jack coat and waved an enormous tattered flag with bullet holes and burn marks.

In Rime of the Ancient Mariner he wore a long worn coat fitting for someone lost at sea (he didn't wear an albatross thankfully), and he also had different jackets and headgear for other songs.

With the thematic nature of many of the songs, the elaborate stage settings, and Dickinson taking on characters in costume, Maiden is almost turning into Heavy Metal Theater. This sets them apart from most other bands. It’s almost like Peter Gabriel era Genesis where Gabriel dressed in costume to deliver the songs live.

The stage was backed by a giant screen that depicted album covers or backgrounds like an Egyptian tomb. These backdrops were actually curtains, and they used five or six different ones that would roll out as needed.

For Rime of the Ancient Mariner, the entire overhead light rig was lowered to provide a claustrophobic "lost at sea" feel, and in the center slow instrumental section, the entire rig rocked gently back and forth, making the whole stage look like a boat lolling on the waves.

The backdrop for the Somewhere in Time album made the stage feel like a futuristic city.

Now, mind you, all was not perfect. I have a pretty major gripe in fact, regarding guitarist Janick Gers.

When guitarist Adrian Smith left the band, they replaced him with the very capable Gers. When Smith rejoined, they didn't fire Gers. They just turned into a three-guitar band. Very cool - on paper.

However, Gers' style is a bit more of 80s shred than I like, and live, the dude is totally distracting. Between his phony windmills, swinging his guitar around and posing a la Paul Stanley, I had to make an effort to ignore him. We all noticed how the other two guitarists stayed away from him and even Harris seemed to be trying to ignore him. Frankly, the guy is embarrassing. And of course the other two guitarists had to sacrifice some solos so he has something to do, as he was not on any of the albums they are playing from on this tour.

Having said this, in a lot of spots it was cool to have the three part guitar harmonies from the albums duplicated precisely. Specifically Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Revelations and The Trooper. But I didn’t really miss those parts live 21 years ago and I wouldn’t miss them now. Lose this joker.

But overall, the show made me realize how many truly great songs Iron Maiden has. They had a sweet run of six or seven really great albums and just picking the cream of that crop makes for a night of killer music. In fact, the songs they chose NOT to play say a lot – they didn’t do Flight of Icarus, The Prisoner, and nothing off of Killers and only one song from the first album.

I could have done without Can I Play With Madness, Fear of the Dark and even Heaven Can Wait (except I would not want to take away Pat and Mady’s big sing along moment) and would like to have heard some more Paul Di'Anno era material, but what are ya gonna do? Dickinson said the next step for the band is to put out another new album and hit the States again, so maybe we’ll get some of that next time.

All in all, Maiden is in fine form and hopefully this North American tour will show the band that the U.S. still loves Maiden and that they should play here more frequently (next time in Portland, guys!).

Set list is below and you can see all of my photos here.

-- Intro - Churchill's Speech
-- Aces High
-- 2 Minutes to Midnight
-- Revelations
-- The Trooper
-- Wasted Years
-- The Number of the Beast
-- Run to the Hills
-- Rime of the Ancient Mariner
-- Powerslave
-- Heaven Can Wait
-- Can I Play With Madness?
-- Fear of the Dark
-- Iron Maiden
-- Moonchild
-- The Clairvoyant
-- Hallowed Be Thy Name

By the way, even though it is a bitch to get to, the White River is a great venue. Free parking, and we were out of the lot in 15 minutes. They let you bring in 'non professional' cameras. Of course, it's $8 for a can of Bud...

For part one of this review, which goes over our trip to the venue and some personal stories, go here.

Yes Cancels 40th Anniversary Tour

OK, are all the prog rock bands cursed? Or just the ones that have anything to do with Yes and Asia?

Jon Anderson of Yes has been diagnosed with "acute respiratory failure." Dr. John please tell me how serious that is. It sounds bad.

It's obviously bad enough that Anderson's doctor said he needs to rest for six months, so the band has pulled the plug on the tour I was going to see at the Edgefield on August 17.

This makes the fourth cancellation of a Yes/Asia related gig in the Northwest in the last three years. One of the most recent was when Asia pulled out of the Aladdin when singer John Wetton had to have emergency bypass surgery.

My best to Jon as he gets better! Health comes first.

Full story is here.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Concert Review - Iron Maiden part one

I saw Iron Maiden last night at the White River Amphitheatre in Auburn, Washington - about a three hour drive from Portland. I have decided to split this review into two parts as there were a few interesting side stories, which I will cover today. Tomorrow I will review the actual show.

So, the saga starts with my quest for tickets. When I heard about this tour, I was mighty excited and made a couple of posts here and here.

I have seen Iron Maiden more times than any other band - eight times including last night (rivaled at a close second by Rush seven times). Sounds extreme, I know, but this is over the course of more than 20 years for both bands.

I first saw Maiden on the Powerslave tour in 1985, and when I heard that they were bringing the whole Powerslave stage set on the road and were doing mostly songs from the Powerslave album and the two or three before and after it, I was pretty psyched and vowed to see this tour.

Apparantly, so did a lot of other geezers. The venue has an interesting seating scheme. The very front of the amphitheater is a fairly compact general admission standing-only section. Then there are blocks of assigned seats, and then general admission lawn. When the tickets went on sale, my goal was to get in that front section so I could get close to the stage like the old days.

But I screwed up and forgot about the on sale date until tickets had been available for about ten hours. But by then all I could get were lawn tickets. Argh. I bought three - one for me and two for my colorfield pals Mike and Dave.

Here is where things get good. colorfield's other guitar player, Pat, knows Maiden's bassist Steve Harris from way back. Very long story short, they became friends before Maiden's skyrocket to the top of 80s metal, and the two still play tennis whenever possible when the band is local.

This also means that Pat could possibly help us get better tickets. But the band was flying in and out of the show with very little time for he and Steve to hang out so this whole thing was TBD. But at least we had our crappy lawn tickets and were therefore "in the building. "

The big day arrived and Dave, Mike and I did the three hour drive. Pat had gone up early to try and catch Steve, and we hooked up at the venue. Pat was able to get passes for he and our buddy Mady who came up with Pat, but for whatever reason that was all that was left at will call.

We remained optimistic, as Pat was going to see Steve and we were hopeful we'd at least get better seats if not meet Steve. When we went to see Maiden at Ozzfest three years ago, the band got there really early, Pat and Steve had a match, and we got to meet him.

On the very likely chances that it would not happen this time, I gave Pat some stuff for Steve to sign if possible. Namely the photo of Steve and I from Ozzfest. In the meantime, we watched the opener, Lauren Harris (Steve's daughter) from the lawn. She was not specifically too good. I will leave it at that.

Meantime, Mike saw some dudes walking around with an Iron Maiden banner that depicted all of the albums to Somewhere in Time, dated 1987. He came back with the astounding news that he recognized the banner and in fact co-created it 21 years ago. One of the dudes toting this giant banner around the venue was buddy of Mike's from high school and indeed it was the same banner!

I had a cool meeting as well. If you think we were hardcore, driving three hours each way for this show, consider Chris La Tray, author of the Stumbling the Walk blog. He and his son drove eight hours (crossing a time zone) to get to the show. When he called to see where I was at, we were about 20 minutes out. He said, "We just got here. It looks like a heavy metal parking lot."

Chris had a recent cool encounter as well, when Ace Frehley played in Missoula, Montana and he was able to interview him for an article and blog post, and also meet Ace after the show. Chris and I had emailed about this and realized we'd both be at this Maiden show. We met very briefly to say hey and take the below snap. Bloggers unite!

So as Lauren Harris' set mercifully wound down, we pretty much resigned ourselves to the lawn. But lo and behold, Pat rang me up on my cell and said Steve was able to hook him up with comp tickets! So we crusied down to the 100 section just in time for UFO Doctor Doctor to start over the P.A. (Maiden always takes the stage right after this song).

I'll get into the details of the show tomorrow, but one other cool tidbit. Steve had Pat and Mady come onstage for the sing-along part of Heaven Can Wait, which I was able to get a couple of good photos of. Nothing like getting dragged onstage in front of 13,000 people to shout "Woh oh oh. Wo oh oh oh oh oh oh. Woh oh oh. Woh oh oh oh oh" a bunch of times. Or so I'd imagine. You'd have to ask Pat!

All in all, it was more than a concert - it was a great gathering with some meetings, some reunions, a lot of excitement and a great time overall. Got home at 3 AM and need to catch up on sleep but wow, what a blast. Big time shout out/kudos to Pat for making the good seats happen, and for getting Steve to sign my Ozzfest photo.

Part Two reviews the show, with a number of photos and a link to a slide show of all the snaps.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Another Rock Pioneer Passes - RIP Bo Diddley

Along with Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and a handful of others, Bo Diddley paved the way for what we know today as rock and roll.

I wrote more about this in my review of the Chuck Berry movie Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll, but Bo and most of the other founders of rock and roll had to overcome racism and music business vultures to do what they did, which was essentially to create and deliver a new form of music rooted in Delta and Chicago blues combined with old school country but with a beat and message that resonated with the youth of the 50s.

Fewer wild fires caught as quickly and spread so far and wide.

Today Bo passed away at age 79. See the full AP story here - a really good overview of Bo's life and influence. Nice quotes here:

Though he was upset that he never received the financial rewards he expected -- "I am owed," he told the AP, adding "a dude with a pencil is worse than a cat with a machine gun" -- he reflected modestly on the rock 'n' roll revolution he helped start.

"Well, it's no different from anything else, I guess. I started sumthin'. I just happened to be the first one," he told the British magazine Uncut in 2005. "But I never thought it would turn into what it did. Somebody had to be first, and it happened to be me."