Tag Archives: Elton John

A Night At The Opera

I don’t have my all my ticket stubs for concerts I’ve seen over the years, but I managed to save some.

Below – At the Beach Boys concert in Toronto, they let out everyone from the first show just as the second bunch, including us, were coming in, and it was close to a trampling scene. My wife was really freaked. I think she thought she was going to die. I suppose I did too.

Elton John wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. He wore an admiral’s hat and coat and looked a tad bored.

I saw Kris Kristofferson with Johnny Cash, and I’m trying to remember if it was from this ticket stub. You would think Johnny Cash’s name would be on the ticket, even as headliner. I don’t know. Maybe my mind is……….

I can’t remember much about Split Enz, but I remember the murmur in the crowd that Southside Johnny would be joining Gary U.S.Bonds at the show. This was ridiculous and I knew it. The two had worked together on an album in the past, which certainly didn’t mean they were going to reunite at Camp Fortune, near Ottawa.

Below –  The Who were great. Pete Townshend was great.

The Band at this point were without Robbie Robertson, but I loved them anyway. I saw them once before, in the early Seventies at the Montreal Forum when they and Bob Dylan were on the Before The Flood tour .

That little blue and grey stub means a lot to me. It was at Gerde’s Folk City in New York’s Greenwich Village, a little room that holds about 50 people, and not only did Rick Danko and Richard Manuel from The Band play only about 15 feet away, but Paul Butterfield got up and joined them. We sat at a fairly big table and Danko and Manuel and their women sat at the same table during breaks.

About a year after that, Richard Manuel hung himself, and in 1999, Rick Danko died of a drug-related heart attack. Fellow Band member Levon Helm left us just last April so now only Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson remain. It’s very sad.

Below – Willie Nelson was fun, Robert Palmer was slick, and the Pretenders were excellent. But about Pete Best: You might know that Best was the Beatles’ original drummer before being given the boot for Ringo. I have my own story about the guy.

When I lived in Calgary, an event organizer contacted me to see if I would set up a display of Beatles memorabilia, which I had a lot of, at a collectables show at McMahon Stadium, with Pete Best as invited speaker.

I said yes, and I was introduced to Pete Best and his wife Kathy, and both loved my Beatles collection. I was invited to a dinner with Pete and Kathy and the organizers, and after that we all went to this little theatre with seating for about 30 people, and we watched a screening of Backbeat, which dealt with the Beatles in Germany when Pete Best was still the drummer.

Kathy Best sat in front of me and would often remark during the screening how the movie was getting the facts wrong. “Bullshit” she said several times. At one point, I asked Pete, who was sitting beside me, if something on the screen had really happened, and he said no.

They still live in Liverpool. Or at least they did. Maybe they’re in Cannes now. After being fired from the Beatles, he first worked in a meat shop, then got a post office job which lasted until he retired. I read a few years ago that Pete finally cashed in from his time as a Beatle, when royalties arrived from the Beatles Anthology, which was a box set, a film, and a book, and his share was worth many millions.

The ticket below is for a show he did about a year later. His band went through a lot of Beatles material, and he doesn’t sing. It’s basically just a cover band.

And oh yes, I asked him why he was fired. There are lots of theories – that Ringo was simply a better drummer, that gay manager Brian Epstein tried and failed to seduce Pete, and that he basically just didn’t fit in with the others. Pete told me two theories of his own – he thinks the other Beatles became resentful because he was more successful with the ladies than they were, and also – and this one’s very interesting – he had tight curls and wasn’t able to comb his hair down in a Beatle cut, so he didn’t fit what Epstein envisioned.

He also told me that he and Paul McCartney almost burned down Hamburg’s City Hall by accident.

Next, the Eagles were fine, except we were so far away that something was definitely missing. I hate monster venues. Dire Straits, with Stevie Ray Vaughan opening was, of course, fabulous, and I also saw Stevie Ray Vaughan at the National Arts Centre, which was way more intimate than the Civic Centre.

Below –  KD Lang was neat, but I liked the opening act, a female Seattle band, Ranch Romance, even better.

Beside Elvis Costello is Steve Goodman, who you may or may not have heard of. He was a genius, longtime buddy of John Prine, and wrote City of New Orleans and lots of other great stuff. He’s been dead for quite a few years now.

Of all the shows I’ve seen, none can equal Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They were the best, the most exciting, they blew the doors off for three hours, and everyone left these shows exhausted.  There are four tickets here, and I can think of two other shows I was at also. I saw them in 1976 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and also sometime around 1979 at the Civic Centre.

I was such a Bob Dylan fan when I was a teenager, but when I see him on TV now, it makes me sad. He was never a great singer, which didn’t bother me in the least, but now he sounds like a cat being strangled. I loved his music from the Sixties and I still do, but somewhere along the line, something happened. Maybe he’s playing a gigantic joke on us. Regardless, I firmly believe his place in culture ranks up there with Elvis and the Beatles, and his early stuff still moves me.

I was never a Kenny Loggins fan, but we were in New York and wanted to go to Radio City Music Hall.

A year before that in New York, we went to see Oh Calcutta at the theatre next door to our hotel. I had no idea until it was playing that the male and female actors got naked.

Below –  My brother-in-law and I were given free tickets from a friend playing in the opening act, Honeymoon Suite, and the seats were great. I grew up listening to the Kinks, and I fully expected a nostalgia-type show like the Beach Boys, but it wasn’t that at all. They combined new stuff with old, and Ray Davies is a terrific showman. The Kinks were fabulous.

Melissa Etheridge was powerful and professional, ZZ Top played in front of a giant ’56 Chevy, and Robert Palmer was good, but the reason we really went was because it was Radio City Music Hall.

Finally, the Beatles. This is the big one for me, although I sat in the last row on the floor. I could see them just fine, but the screaming and fainting was amazing. The girls were just nuts, and although I could hear the music, it was difficult and often drowned out. Screaming and such was the big reason the boys stopped touring soon after this Toronto show, and would prefer the studio. I was 15, and all my life I’ve been proud to say I saw the Beatles.

There were other shows too, although the ticket stubs are long gone. The Hollies twice, John Prine, the McCoys, Led Zeppelin in Vancouver, the same city I saw the Grateful Dead and Ten Years After in. There was John Mayall in London, Van Morrison at Massey Hall, Blind Faith with Eric Clapton at Varsity Stadium, the Youngbloods at Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, plus, in various towns and cities – Gordon Lightfoot, Phil Ochs, the Young Rascals, the Association, Roger McGuinn, Murray McLaughlin, Sha Na Na, Billy Joel, John Cougar Mellencamp, Wynona Judd, and others I can’t remember at this point.

I also had tickets for Joe Cocker, who never showed up, and Roy Orbison, when I had to work.

It Seems There’s No Road Hockey Played In Beverly Hills

 

One of the many streets in Beverly Hills where there is no road hockey being played

I dunno, maybe it’s the time of year, but I saw no road hockey games on any of the streets of Beverly Hills and Bel Air as we drove around for a couple of hours listening to the GPS lady tell us to go right and left and turn at 400 yards.

She took us to the house the Beverly Hillbillies were supposed to live in but of course didn’t really, this being Hollywood and such, but we couldn’t see a thing, and after googling it later, it turns out that the present owners just aren’t excited about folks stopping outside and gawking, so a big gate and high hedges hide the place.

Anyway, Ellie Mae Clampett is 77 now so things just wouldn’t be the same.

On an extremely sombre note, we also drove to Cielo Drive to see the site where Charles Manson’s evil family murdered Sharon Tate and her friends in 1969 in one of the true crimes of the 20th century, a crime that had two nations fascinated for more than a year. The house has been torn down (who would want to live there?), and the address numbers on the small street have been moved around to confuse the curious. Even now, back at the hotel, weird black vibes stay with me. I followed closely the news of the murders and the trial of those involved when it was happening, and have always had a morbid curiosity. I know I should be ashamed of myself for treating this like a tourist spot, but it’s something I wanted to do.

Our hotel, the Best Western Sunset Plaza, is right in the heart of the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, across the street from The Comedy Club, and right beside The House of Blues, which was the setting of the strange Phil Spector saga. Spector, legendary rock producer who worked on the Beatles Let It Be album and created the Wall of Sound in the early sixties with bands like the Ronettes and the Righteous Brothers, was in this House of Blues a few years back, picked up a waitress, brought her back to his mansion, and proceeded to shoot and kill her, although he says the gun went off accidently. Regardless, the eccentric genius is now serving a life sentence.

Luciena and I, before our big Beverly Hills tour, decided to eat, which we do sometimes, and so, in the name of music history, pulled into the Sunset Grill and ate cheeseburgers. The Sunset Grill had a lovely song written about it, named “Sunset Grill” of all things, written and recorded by Don Henley of the Eagles. (cheeseburgers – five bucks).

I also noticed, especially as we sat on the balcony of the Sunset Grill, that like Beverly Hills, there is absolutely no road hockey being played on the Sunset Strip. And I’ve yet to see a Habs jersey.

The capper of the day was a visit to the legendary Troubadour club, a place where John Lennon was given the boot for heckling the Smothers Brothers, where Glen Frey and Don Henley were introduced to each other and formed a group that became the Eagles, and where Bob Dylan and Elton John and practically every famous act from the last five decades played. Three bands rocked on this night, with the headliners being J. Roddy Walston and the Business, who absolutely wowed the packed room with their hard driving, ear rattling, guitar/piano-based sound.

We were also probably twice the age of everybody in there, which in a peculiar kind of way was just great.

The NHL Awards Show Went Through The Five-Hole

las-vegas

In the aftermath of the NHL Awards show from Las Vegas, I’d like to say this. The show stunk. It was one of the most amateurish, rough, and thrown-together events in recent memory. Replace the producer and get a real one for next year.

There was lack of polish from any of the so-called hosts. Michael Buble was almost good, but almost isn’t good enough. He was without character, without presence, which is surprising considering he makes a living as an entertainer. Jeremy Roenick, who prides himself on being a bit of a ham, couldn’t read the lines, wasn’t funny, and should never be asked to do this again. In fact, the guy who could’ve done a better job than Roenick was Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who was engaging, well-spoken, at times emotional, and at times really funny. Like when he was thanking everyone and asked teammate Manny Fernandez, who was standing beside him, if he should thank Fernandez’s wife too. Or when he was awarded the Vezina, he said winning the trophy was unbelievable because he’d always spent his time just worrying about making a roster.

Most acceptance speeches were read without emotion, like they were just happy to get through it and be done with it, although to the players’ credit, they’re not actors at the Oscars, who deliver lines smoothly. But most speeches were awkward. CBC’s Ron McLean, usually a stalwart of the show, yet certainly not perfect, was missing. Don Cherry would’ve brought a smile. In fact, I have a pet rock that would’ve brought more of a smile than most of what we got on this night.

The show was heralded for months as a Las Vegas spectacle, which it wasn’t at all. There were brief moments of the city and Strip, but other than those, it could’ve been Orillia or Moncton. There should have been times slotted showing players around the city, taking in the sights and smells. We could’ve seen players losing their shirts at the tables. Or a quick visit to Hooters. Or looking to buy tickets for Cher at Caesar’s Palace. We should’ve got much more from this Vegas show in terms of the city and the players coming together.

The show needs to be revamped. There should be more personal revelations about the players shown to the fans. Tell us and show us more about Pavel Datsyuk away from the rink, for example. Maybe formal speeches by hockey players should be re-examimed. Most players are far from eloquent behind a microphone the way Jean Beliveau is. Or add a translater on stage for those with language problems and the player could chatter away in his own tongue.

With all the millions of dollars that float around the NHL, surely the entertainment could be first rate. Chaka Khan and Robin Thicke just didn’t get the job done. They were quite, well, ordinary. When they were on, it was time to go to the kitchen and make some toast. The league needs to fork out some serious dollars and get some world-class entertainers for what’s supposed to be a world-class awards show . Book them now for next year. Open your wallets, you cheap bastards. Grab some attention grabbers like Elton John or Bruce Springsteen or Green Day or a myriad of others who might be available with a year’s notice and a nice mix for young and old. Chaka Khan and Thicke? C’mon people. Who books these acts? These two should’ve been singing down in the Palm’s lounge for bus groups from Miami. Not in front of Mr. and Mrs. Beliveau and company.

Let’s face it, this night was embarrassing. And, when I look back, most of the shows have been pretty bad. But this was the worst. It couldn’t been great, with Las Vegas as the setting. But it wasn’t. Not by a long slapshot. The NHL took a puck in the teeth with this one.