Come Together Part 3

The dessert to my reunion tour weekend was seeing Extreme at Irving Plaza on Monday night. Excuse me, the Fillmore at Irving Plaza. New ownership? I don’t care. Just keep a few rock clubs open, NYC.

(Tangent: I bought the tickets months ago with my stimulus package money. The part that didn’t go to supporting Obama and a children’s theatre.)

My head was on vapors. My legs and back were worn out from driving a new car for over 30 hours in 3 days when I’m not so used to driving anymore. Emotionally, I was also spent. I was dressed like a tool because of an audition for a commercial where I was an office worker guy rescued by a lifeguard. So I go to a rock concert dressed like somebody’s dad, only I wasn’t escorting my teenage child. I didn’t want to carry a change of clothes because they frisk you at the door…especially, inexplicably, me. If I were to take a backpack, it would be a signal that I was hoping for a cavity search. I don’t know about you but I find that a buzzkill.

The ticket said the show started at 5:30pm. That seemed a bit early to rock on a Monday night but I got in line right after the audition. Turns out the opening act to the opening act was 2 hours of bands who did the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. It was proof positive that it takes a lot of hard work to truly rock.

Wannabes get together with an actual professional musician for a day and work up a 2-3 song set they do that night. The winners go to England for a big rock event.

While Kip Winger’s and Gilby Clarke’s groups were pretty good, my favorite was the one headed by Mark Slaughter. The lead guitarist was 16, the rhythm guitarist was 12, and the drummer was 10. They were really together in spite of the 15-year-old girl singer who had a meltdown when here microphone didn’t work. Apparently, she also didn’t meet up until 1pm that day. It seems like the bands were directed to keep going no matter what happened. And they did! I hope they go to England.

Glen Hughes seemed like a jerk. Like his reputation was on the line. So angry. I can understand it to a point but the way he behaved was overkill. Elliot Easton from the Cars had a lame group. Was it them or was it him? He didn’t seem to put much into it.

It was like watching rockstars become teaching artists. I think I might have to give that a try sometime. Most of the participants were in the upper Gen X/early Baby Boomer bracket but the pro rockers were running around like I do when my students are doing a play they wrote. Equipment wasn’t working, things were being played at the wrong times, phrases were off, people forgot stuff, and it was big, stinkin’ mess. But soooo great.

King’s X was a good opening act. After watching 2 hours of groups try to rock, it was good to see a band really do it.

Nuno Bettencourt was awesome in a way I’ve not seen. He just knocked it out of the park. He plays these really complicated, tough phrases on the guitar like they’re nothing. He’s got magic. At this time, he has attained my Ultimate Rock Guitar God status. Sorry Eddie Van Halen. It’s over. You had a good run.

What do they have in common? Working with Gary Cherone, who apparently was quite sick on Monday night but you’d never know it from how relentlessly he threw himself all over that little stage. I was worn out from watching the band just go at it for 2 solid hours. They truly seemed to be having fun and wanting to be there. Gary, it’s good you’re back with the band that cares.

The concert ended at midnight. After 6.5 hours of standing in one place I couldn’t feel my knees. I didn’t care. Nuno, a fellow Virgo, inspired me to be better. An object lesson in mastering your territory. Extreme isn’t the biggest act ever but they really put it all into that show. It’s been a looooong time since a performance combined such skill, magical presence, and joy. Thank you, Mr. Bettencourt!

Watch this:

The Big Reunion

So I’m spending a Saturday night in and Carolyn is watching the only sport she watches, tennis. More specifically, the US Open. The other night I had on the Mets/Phillies game and we were switching back and forth between sporting events. At one point we just looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, “Who are we??”

I snuck away to check to see if the tickets have gone on sale yet for the Van Halen reunion at Madison Square Garden. You must understand that I spent hundreds of hours with a guitar in high school playing along to their albums trying so hard to be Eddie. I never saw the classic line-up and, because they switched out Eddie’s 16-year-old son Wolfgang for long-time bassist Michael Anthony, I guess I never will. The real point is I have never seen Eddie and Roth share a stage together live.

some guys play fantasy football, I’ve been hopping on youtube and looking at old VH footage. There’s a gem of Eddie from circa ’78 playing his “Eruption” solo in a black and white film. Then you have them doing “Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers” in Sao Paulo. Just awesome: the ultimate party band with energy, presence, and chops. But start moving closer to their pinnacle time and you can see the cracks showing. I didn’t see this era live but what I’ve dug up on the 1984 tour looks like four isolated guys pretending they aren’t on the same stage together. And Dave is doing more of his Vegas thing than his disco karate man brand of whoop ass.

I caught the Hagar fronted 5150 tour and saw the Sammy line up on 3 different occasions. All were just fine. They seemed to be having a good time. Sound was always great! I had tickets to Roth’s first “Eat ‘Em and Smile” solo tour but decided not to go because my best friend, Geoff, bailed in order to go on a date. Top ten regrets of my life. I learned my lesson and saw Yngwie open for AC/DC. By myself. At age 15. And 106 pounds. On the floor. Rock ‘n’ roll!!

The first time I caught Dave was in ’99 opening for Bad Company in DC. He must have been high. He seemed a little lost. His mental game was off. He moved strangely. Twitches and unconnected kicks. One would almost think there was some kind of degenerative disease going on. He hobble danced a lot. The sound was all over the place like they didn’t check it beforehand. I was freaked out and left after he finished. The band was bargain basement. I saw him again at the Beacon in ’03. Much improved. I think he had a nicer wig, he sounded better, and he band was more solid. He had some great patter between songs and did a lot of songs from Van Halen and his catalogue. It was cool but the audience was so old. There was a 70-year-old fella doing air guitar like a madman.

Let me jump off the track for a moment and talk about Gary Cherone. I am in the minority who thinks he was the best singer for the band. Granted, he didn’t have the sexual energy of Roth or the party classic rock vibe of Hagar but he was great. His voice could go all sorts of places and he kept moving the whole time. When I saw him I felt like he was hiding a little on stage, kind of performing with an internal shield up but he was giving 120%. He loves performing. Just imagine having to go out there and give to everyone knowing most of them HATED you. I think he did a great job on the III tour. Last year, I saw him with the awesome Who tribute band, Amazing Journey. Cherone can sing, growl, and put on a damn show. Carolyn and I have arguments all the time about Queen. We agree that Paul Rogers is wrong for them. I think they should have gotten Gary. Take a look at this “Mean Streets” video and you’ll know what I mean. She thinks John Cameron Mitchell in full Hedwig gear would be more appropriate. I never saw Mr. Mitchell live but think he sounds more like Brett Michaels with theatre training.

I like Roth a lot. Read his book even. Twice. I want Eddie to be sober. I want Alex to not be the bossy manipulative jerk he seems to be. I want Wolfgang to not get screwed up like the drummer from Def Leppard (who was not much older than Wolfie when he started). I want them to get huge crowds, great notices, and put out more albums. I want them to get along and bring about world peace. I want to go and scream my face off. I want them to be the next Rolling Stones (please don’t scalp your own tickets like those scumbags). I want to be inspired again like I was through high school.

Maybe this will all work out. Another album will come along. Extreme should stay reunited so they can open for Hagar and the Other Half as part of an all-day Van Halen festival. Wouldn’t we all be happy?