Sunday, May 30, 2010

Since U Been Gone...

Do right woman - Melinda Doolittle was money in the bank every time she walked on the Idol stage.

This season of American Idol marked the end of an era as Simon Cowell left the show. Cowell is the heart of American Idol, his mocking criticism of other's (often questionable) talents made the program a real trial-by-fire game show. Sing your song well or get hung out to dry in public, that's potent tv. Maybe it was fitting that season 9 of American Idol was the dullest piece of crap foisted on us, it was as if the show knew it was dying too. Ryan Seacrest's mental behavior, Ellen's repetitive "I liked it" and Randy Jackson's "Dawgs" could not make up the difference. Even a resurgent Kara who stumbled through her first season only to come back with strong constructive criticisms for contestants couldn't escape the looming doom.

Though it appears the show will continue, it will never be the same. So it is time to take stock and remember my Top 10 favorite contestants on the program (and a few that sucked). Given I fall outside of Idol's usual demographic of being a middle aged man with a love for Rock music watching this stuff, my opinions might vary from the established list of past Idol greats. But in this list my votes are the only ones that count. Because for it...American Idol! (Duh na na na na)

10. Latoya London (season 3)

As good as she is, I almost didn't include her in the Top 10 because I didn't remember her until I was nearly done with this post (she replaced fellow season 3'er George Huff). And maybe that's why she didn't win. London was a remarkable performer on the program though, her vocals were always what Jackson would call "on point" and she was very attractive. Watching her was like viewing a champion figure skater hit all the triple axles with perfect precision. Her performance of Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody" is one of my fondest memories of the program.

9. Carrie Underwood (season 4)

Not quite the glammed up wholesome sex bomb she is today, contestant Carrie Underwood was a slightly pudgy Southern gal who sang with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on her face. Nonetheless, she was incredibly consistent reeling off strong performances like "Independence Day" while staying true to her Country roots. Underwood's voice was emotive and tasteful, leading Cowell to rightly predict she would have mega success after Idol. Interestingly her high water mark on the show was not a Country song, blasting through Heart's power ballad "Alone" with dramatic fervor.

8. Crystal Bowersox (season 9)

Bowersox's run was the show's shot at artsy legitimacy. Here was someone who harkened back to the folk/roots rock ideals of writing songs and playing them with authenticity. At turns Joplineque blues mama or Dylanish busker, Bowersox was nigh uncompromising in Idol terms. Whether she peaked early, was a victim of incongruous theme weeks or ran out of steam in the middle will be a source of debate for the next week or so. For me, her run of "Long As I Can See The Light" / "Give Me One Good Reason" / "You Can't Always Get What You Want" / "Me And Bobby McGee" was one of the best in the show's history. I even enjoyed her light take on Shania Twain's "No One Needs To Know" which got dissed by judges. Enjoyed what I caught of her original song "Holy Toledo" too.

7. David Cook (season 7)

The mighty rearranger, Cook is the guy who changed the game from best karaoke to artistic reinterpretation even as he borrowed from other artists. Cook's retelling of Chris Cornell's haunted take of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" was one of those Oh Wow! moments. His take on Lionel Richie's "Hello" was an eye opener too. And in a real shocker, Cook took the crown from anticipated teen friendly front runner David Archuleta.

6. Sanjaya Malakar (season 6)

Yup, this guy. He sucked in a big way, couldn't sing worth crap. What he did though, was stay on the show and outlast much more talented singers by building hype. Vote For The Worst, crying girl, all made for a lot of fun even if it was short lived. Malakar completely upended the point of the program in a way that was subversive but innocuous. It was no accident that once he ran out of items in his bag of tricks, Sanjaya was voted off. At least his appeal was based on some modicum of charisma, unlike dull crooner John Stevens or I-got-a-whole-state-voting-for-me Jasmine Trias.

5. Kelly Clarkson (season 1)

The original Idol, the fresh faced youngster with golden pipes and "cool beans". My wife couldn't stand when Clarkson dug in to the "soul growl" mode (something Clarkson seems to have dropped post Idol). She was the perfect American Idol, a wholesome looking girl with a positive attitude and big voice. Her tearful delivery of the victory song "A Moment Like This" sealed the deal in making both Clarkson and the show America's sweethearts.

4. Adam Lambert (season 8)

Glambert! No one had ever done what Lambert did on this show, and that was plain take it over. With a powerful rangy voice, theatrical stage presence and a techno rock vibe Lambert owned the program. I liked that he brought an 80s hair band rock sensibility to his screaming renditions of "Whole Lotta Love" while displaying sensitivity on "The Tracks Of My Tears". And naturally "Mad World" was the height of Glambert, mystery and laser beams. Had social politics not been involved, I believe he would have won the title.

3. Allison Iraheta (season 8)

The class of season 8 was one of the best in the programs history which is why season 9's fall off was so shocking. When it comes to AI I like my rocker girls, 'cause outside of Glambert the guys aren't really allowed to rock on the show. But the girls are. And how could I not like someone with such strong power ballad sensibilities, running through Heart's "Alone" and Aerosmith's "I Don't Wanna Miss A Thing" with raspy delight. Iraheta's take on Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" was a high point for me, though her duet with Glambert on Foghat's "Slow Ride" was phenomenal.

2. Bo Bice (season 4)

The original rocker of the American Idol bunch, Bice had a Southern rock edge that influenced everything he touched. From his emotional fury of The Allman Brother's"Whipping Post" to his likable run on BS&T's "Spinning Wheel", Bice exuded front man confidence. Even the Lynyrd Skynyrd connection seemed fresh which is saying a lot considering how much "Sweet Home Alabama" was used with Ruben Studdard. And choosing to do Badland's "In A Dream" a capella towards the end of the season? Priceless.

1. Melinda Doolittle (season 6)

Well, I ranked her numero uno so I guess it goes without saying that I consider Doolittle to be the best pure singer of any American Idol season. Her control, range, emotional connection as Kara likes to put it, power and story telling ability is unparalleled in this context. Doolittle more than lived up to her Gladys Knight comparisons. Her only failing was that she was too good a singer. People just got used to how good she was and without a tv story to tell the public like "I'm growing as an artist every week" or "I've got to do this for my kid" viewers lose interest. Probably the only contestant to make the Top 3 without a bad performance, I considered it a crime that she wasn't even in the finale. A crime I tell you!

So many great memories of American Idol, with the departure of Simon Cowell it seems time to close the book on this one. Even the misfires like Camille Velasco butchering "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", Haley Scarnato and her short shorts, Chris Sligh turning some random song into Coldplay for no reason, or that one girl who was more famous for provocative photos than singing gave plenty of entertainment. AI will probably limp through one more season and maybe I'll watch, maybe not. But to quote Chris Jericho it will the same...again.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Catching Up With...Throwin' Under The Bus

There's a catchphrase out there, it's been lurking around for some time now. It's's's chemical...mediate, levitate, love your mate like pretty kate, hallucinate, regenerate....I'm callin' you out it's "Throwin' Under The Bus!" Look, I just threw "Throwin' under the bus" under the bus.

My wife likes this phrase so now we repeat it whenever we hear it, which was often while we were watching Celebrity Apprentice. Cyndi Lauper always sounds the best when saying it. Too bad the show didn't go on longer, we could have made a drinking game out of the ubiquitous phrase. Now on to throwing more people under the bus.

Crazy Kelly from Real Housewives Of New York

Kelly Bensimon or simeon or I don't know her last name, the middle aged ex-model who recently posed for Playboy. Anyway, on that tv show Real Housewives Of New York Kelly and her richie rich pals took an exotic fancy trip. Kelly wasn't on the best terms with her costars to start with but she went on the trip because everyone on the program knows, you don't show up for the group shots you get no screen time. This girl went on the attack against her nemesis Bethanny and kept losing to the point she had a paranoid nervous breakdown over dinner. Her face melted into a lumpy mess as she incessantly popped candy in her mouth while spewing nonsense about her costars being like vampires and murderers. People do seem to be taking a shine to Bethanny Frankel's reaction "Go To Sleep!" which is kinda funny. Compelling pathetic with cameras there to catch it all, reality tv at either it's finest or most invasive.

Crystal Bowersox wuz robbed!

For the second straight year, American Idol voters brought a distinct artistic presence to the final and then voted for the blander opponent. In this case the winner was amiable growling guy Lee De Whys? I don't hate DeWyse, he's a modestly talented guy that seems likeable. Bowersox was just more of the real deal, someone with an artistic vision and the ability to make it come to life. Nowhere was that more apparent that finale night, where Bowersox gave strong performances while DeWhyse seemed to shrink from the spotlight. That "Up The Mountain" song Bowersox did? Nice.

Farewell Gary Coleman...

I liked Diff'rent Strokes as much as anyone else did, though in reality he was more my brother's idol than mine. Which is interesting in itself since Coleman was actually more my age than my bros. Remember that tv movie where Coleman was some cub scout or something? My brother loved that one. Anyway, back in an age when cute kids ruled the airwaves Coleman was king. It's sad that his adult life became a never ending plight of misery, at least now he can rest.

Foreigner "in Pieces"

Been hearing this song at work every day which is kind of nice, it stood out on the recent Can't Slow Down album. I like it every time I hear it. Fits in nicely since I saw Foreigner live a few weeks ago.

Heaven And Hell - The Devil You Know (2009)

In the wake of Dio's death I bought his last album, Heaven & Hell aka Black Sabbath. I haven't played it all yet, what I've heard is very good though. While searching online for stuff on the man, I came across some interesting covers of what will be his signature song "Holy Diver". You can hear it from my favorite You Tube cover singer Trookieness, hear it from a drunk dude in a bar, get it well done from a karaoke master , rock it to a sock puppet or jam to the ukelale. You can hear Holy Diver! Sole Survivor!

The Big Comeback: Bret Michaels

He's cheated death more times than James Bond now, Poison's Bret Michaels perseverance has paid off both in the hospital and the board room. Michaels has survived...I can't remember all the things that have happened to him the last few weeks but a lot...and he won Celebrity Apprentice out of drive and creativity. Then he got an appearance on the last American Idol show. Amazing! I may not be a huge fan of his music, but I have more respect for him now. Dude is a survivor determined to stay here and rock our worlds.

Sudden Update - Dennis Hopper

...and now Dennis Hopper has passed away. Very sad news, I've often enjoyed Hopper's crazy man routine in movies like Speed. Easy Rider is of course the iconic film he'll be famous for. With Hopper another part of the 60s has passed on, his presence was the definition of wild eyed radicalism which he carried into many a role.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Shell Game

Love at first sting - Scarlett Johansson strikes a pose and little else in Iron Man 2


and a half

Let's get down to brass tax: a lot of movie sequels suck. There are exceptions, but generally ideas start to run dry and more money gets thrown at the screen to compensate. Watching the trailers, that was the impression I had of Iron Man 2. More characters! More special effects! Probably a mind boggling story that results in predictablity! Still, I like the first movie and have always liked 'ol shell head from the comics so I hunkered down for more of the same.

So I have to say with surprise that I liked Iron Man 2. I liked it quite a bit. Returning director Jon Favreau does a good job of continuing the momentum carried from the first flick and staying true to the comic roots. Most of the cast from the original (Robert Downey Jr, Gwenyth Paltrow, and all those supporting folk) return in addition to Scarlett Johanssen and Samuel L Jackson. And a soundtrack heavy with Ac/Dc and The Clash? Pretty good stuff.

Most of what Iron Man 2 does is right. New baddies are added in with a fine Mickey Rourke chewing up scenery as a disgruntled Russian scientist turned evil (he has electric whips tied to him) and I think it was Jeff Fahey as the greedy sleazy corporate arms dude (may be wrong, don't feel like looking up who it really was). Favreau does well in balancing a multitude of characters running around at once. The action is as fast and fun as ever. And a nice sense of humor carries the middle of the flick as Downey Jr pulls us into the silly pathos of a seemingly doomed man (see Iron Man drunkenly dance and perform party tricks!).

In order to keep drama running, Tony Stark battles I guess battery poisoning from his arc powered chest and his anticipated mortality that comes with it. He also is in a dogged fight with congress about the proprietary rights to the Iron Man armor (which allows for entertaining trade offs between Downey Jr and Garry Shandling as a super conservative senator). Don Cheadle is one of my favorite working actors and he does not disappoint taking over the role of Rhody from that guy who won an Oscar playing a rapping pimp. The first two thirds of the film focus more on characters than action, a rarity in the short attention span world of summer movies. Maybe a little too long, I started itching for some action a good 20 minutes before it actually happened.

There are some wrong notes hit here or there, mainly Scarlett Johanssen as a foxy but stilted Black Widow. She looks really hot, so it's too bad she delivers lines with such empty intent that it sucks the life out of her scenes. When she starts talking about how she's a SHIELD agent and has secured the perimeter, it's done with lazy conviction like she's expecting one of the other actors to call "bullshit" on her. And the movie never delves into an obvious subject with Stark publicly revealing he's Iron Man. Why doesn't someone take Stark out with a sniper rifle when he's not dressed in armor? Stark saunters out in one public arena after another stripping off his armor in broad day light. Instead of investing all his damn time and resources into building electric whips with limited range, Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) should have just bought a gun and shot Stark while he was showboating. I mean, Stark doesn't know Whiplash exists or is coming after him and apparently Whiplash can buy off people to get into secure locations with his heavy duty metal coils on his body. So just take a gun with you and shoot Stark while he dances for the crowd. Not too hard, kind of a no brainer. Oh well...

Iron Man 2 is a good film that fits in with the first film nicely. Not as good as the first of course and like many sequels grittiness has been replaced with humor to ensure a wider audience. At the end of the flick I felt very entertained, even if not much happens that's terribly original. Better than average for a superhero movie, Iron Man 2 blows up stuff with aplomb.

Friday, May 21, 2010

He She Blues


Quirky is a tough musical commodity to sell, cause what can be charming one moment can be irritating the next. And so it goes with the second Zooey Deschanel / M Ward venture Volume Two. Going by the name She and Him, the free spirited duo craft retro pop penned by Deschanel and produced by Ward. They've done a credible job overcoming claims of "actress vanity project" by crafting music that has a distinct feel. Sort of like Roy Orbison backing The Dixie Cups is how I could describe their sound. A twangy innocence.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two tracks on this disc, the Orbisonish drama of "Thieves" and the nigh Brady Bunch pop "In The Sun". "Thieves" in particular has an ancient yet timeless tone of forlorn regret that's hypnotic. Lead single "In The Sun" plays well off the deadpan lilt in Deschanel's voice and Ward's sharp guitar.

After those two songs, things get patchy. The slow melancholy of "Me and You" or the satisfying early 60s styled popper "Sing" are nice tunes to enjoy on a quiet breezy day. But for every winner there's a clunker like the annoyingly repetitive "Over It Over Again" or the super twangy "Lingering Still".

This probably would have been a better listening experience as an EP, a 20-25 minute set instead of a full album. There's some good mojo in the concept, just not enough to flesh out a complete disc. Is there still hope for some official Muschausen By Proxy?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Experience The Rainbow

This KRQR double shot is a little more fitting for the radio station these posts pay tribute to, both of the following acts were hard rock regulars in the 80s.

The first is a to send more well wishes to the rocker Bret Michaels. Like him or hate him, I can't imagine anyone wishing the string of medical problems he's suffered the past month or so. Admittedly, I'm a bigger fan of Bret Michaels Reality Star more than Bret Michaels rock singer. On tv, Michaels comes across as an amiable sleaze with a strong work ethic and creative drive. And yes, a man whore. Whether he's asking a drunken slut to rock his world or pitching a flurry of ideas at a project manager, Michaels makes for great tv. The music of Poison is a little more hack and less inspired, but even that has its redeeming moments. And one of those redeeming moments is here, the early 90s power ballad "Something To Believe In"

The second shot in this twofer Thursday is a belated tribute to the recently deceased mighty Ronnie James Dio. RJD was one of the definining front men in Metal, a gnomish devil horn saluting growler. Dio first hit my radar with his arms raised to the sky - like a rainbow! A "Rainbow In The Dark" or as he enunciates it "A Reign-bow! In the Dahrrk!!" In recent years I've dug some of Dio's Sabbath stuff and who wouldn't love Rainbow's "Man On A Silver Mountain"? In final tribute to this icon of Heavy Metal, here's "Rainbow In The Dark".

Hopefully there won't be as much pain and misery in Metal's coming months (but isn't that what Metal's about?) until then it's like a REIGN-BOW!

Friday, May 14, 2010

You Look Mahvelous...Absolutely Mahvelous!

Remember when Dirk Diggler recorded "You Got The Touch" in Boogie Nights? Almost as funny as this, 'cause this shit is real!

When I was a wee lad Billy Crystal had this funny as hell bit on Saturday Night Live where he was Fernando Lamas celebrating the superficial with his catch phrase "You look mahvelous...absolutely mahvelous." A quarter century later, the joke has become reality on reality tv. Today's post celebrates D level reality tv celebrities celbrating themselves creating instant camp classics in the process.

First up, Real Housewives Of New York star Luann De Lesseps pulls out all the auto tune stops with her song "Money Can't Buy You Class". Or as my wife says "Can't buy you class but can buy you singing lessons." 'Cause Luann sure needs them. But her lack of singing ability makes this track that much better, hearing her stuck up ass talk like a cougared Miss Manners in the verses and then flatly warble thru the chorus punctuated with a robotic exclaim of "My-friends" or "Oh-yeah" is too damn funny. She takes vanity to a whole new level.

Not that De Lesseps is a pioneer in this field, there is the incredibly bad Heidi Montag music video "Higher" from a few years back. Heavily ridiculed and lampooned over the years, this epic fail is the reverse of De Lesseps in it's youthful take on insipid vanity. At least Montag may have had some original moving parts on her body back then, so it can serve as a blueprint when they try to rebuild her a few years from now. I can't say much about this that hasn't been said before somewhere else, but I can haul this relic out one more time!

And now for the model of these reality stars, Billy Crystal's "You Look Marvelous". I so had this 45 back in the day. Is that really worth bragging about?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Love Love Love

Charlene Yi goes lookin for nerd love in Paper Hearts

The movie's I've watched on DVD lately have the theme of love. Lookin' for love, losing love, finding know, the same themes that are in billions and billions of movies. Three movies I've seen try some novel ideas to attack these familiar themes with varying results.

Paper Hearts rating:

Zack and Miri Make A Porno rating:

Solaris rating:

Paper Hearts is a mockumentary rom com starring Charlene Yi as a stand up comic who doesn't believe she will ever be in love. She sort of plays herself as this movie blurs the line between documentary and fiction carefully to tell it's story. Yi interviews scientists, old couples and what not to find out what love is until she meets up with actor Michael Cera. The couple then spend the rest of the movie trying to date out of the eye of her own documentary crew as they doggedly chase them. Interspersed throughout the film are viginettes where Yi uses puppetry to show a more homemade poetic take on the narrative. The mockumentary concept is sort of frustrating, it plays heavily towards being like a real doc the first part and then drifts further into contrived fiction during the second part. Yi is a unique presence, a sort of shy unassuming tom boy who is billed as a comedian yet doesn't do anything funny. For the most part, the film plays on Yi and Cera's genial awkwardness to keep interest up. Despite all it's indie cool and low budget charm, Paper Hearts is at its core a conventional rom com slightly evocative of When Harry Met Sally. It's OK but left me wishing it was more.

Kevin Smith is a filmmaker with a strong following thanks to his sense of indie cool as well. I don't know why, I haven't been that excited about any of his movies. I think Mallrats was the one I enjoyed from start to finish. I tried to watch Chasing Amy but got bored. Only thing I recall from Dogma was a huge pile of shit (literally!). What else has he made? Probably something I like of his and just don't know it. Anyway, this is about Zack and Miri Make A Porno starring that guy from Knocked Up and Elizabeth Banks. They unconvincingly play down and out losers who are best friends. The Knocked Up guy reels off those nonstop funny rants he's known for and does a good job. Just the idea that he's platonic best friends with Banks who is frankly just too good looking for her role doesn't fly. And that's the crux of the movie. That these two characters have been bffs for ever and discover they have feeling for each other while making a porno out of financial desperation. So I didn't buy the main story, but there are some nice performances that made the film worthy of attention. Jason Mewes is great as a dim bulb porn actor and Justin Long (the guy from the computer commercials) was ROTFLMAO as a gay porn star. Plus there was some fun seeing former adult film actress Traci Lords take a mainstream nod towards her past. Like Paper Hearts, OK but left me wishing it was more. That's what she said. Ha ha.

The last movie on this list doesn't fit with the others, I just saw it recently. That was Solaris, not the philosophical original but the dumbed down remake with George Clooney. After seeing the Russian original I was curious about the modernized American version. Man, they should have left well enough alone. The intellectual mystery and debates about The Big Empty of death, existence and the universe gets filtered down to cliff notes. And in what I assume was an effort to appease the studio for pumping big bucks into this hard sell movie, we get a lot of Clooney ass in this flick. His ass has so much screen time I wonder if it started to ask the director what it's motivation was. The best model I can think of to represent Solaris is that statue "The Thinker", with the naked dude pondering with his fist under his chin. Just think, if this movie was a box office success college courses would have probably had philosophy teachers work out and then teach in the buff. Oh, and there's some plot twists not in the original that suck what little life is left in an effort to be a more conventional film and add some post 9/11 paranoia. Meh.

So now you may be thinking "Why doesn't this guy pick better movies to watch than this?" Good question, good question indeed...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

On A L.S.D. Trip

1998 or the year that Van Halen forgot, with Gary Cherone.

After watching Foreigner perform with current front man Kelly Hansen, my mind became fascinated with the pattern of rotating lead singers in established bands. Rock and roll band break ups and make ups are nothing new, it happens pretty much daily and has for decades. Bass players in particular come and go, some bands don't even carry a full time member on bass after a while (lookin' at you, Rolling Stones!). As I said a week ago, The Eagles jettisoned Don Felder pretty much saying he could stay in his own hotel California without an official replacement. In the late 80s, both Journey and Survivor gave their rhythm sections a rest leaving the door open for Randy Jackson to do some session work worth bragging about on American Idol. And with these changes the fans still come out to see their favorite bands, many not even aware of who is in any given band or when. Yet there is one position that fans do notice when there is a switch. You know what it is. Lead Singer.

In popular music including rock, the singer is often the emotional tie the audience has to the music. The singer is the narrator of the story, the possessor of a talent all want to have, the focal point of attention, the star of the show. According to those musicians that work with lead singers, complaints often start filing in after some success. They get tired of alleged prima donna attitudes, excessive creative or marketing control or they just plain don't like the guy (usually it's a guy) after a while. During one of the times Sammy Hagar was fired/quit Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen gave a name to this: L.S.D. = Lead Singer Disease. Now I don't know if EVH actually made this term up (or if Sammy Hagar really deserved such a slam, I lean towards no) but he's the person I remember hearing it from. So that will be the name of these posts, L.S.D. I know, what a trip. Ba dump dump.

So I thought it would be fun to write some posts about times when a lead singer from an established band leaves/gets fired and replaced with someone else. Then track what happens afterwards (usually something dismal until the original singer comes back). To kick things off, I'm going to cover the fracas that brought L.S.D. to my radar.

Sammy Hagar / David Lee Roth gets fired / quits and is replaced with Gary Cherone

Like they say in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, we're going way back now. Somewhere about 1995 or 1996. The story the way I recall it was Van Halen had finished touring in support of Balance aka the one where Eddie Van Halen sobers up and shaves a lot of his hair off. The band was called in to do music for the movie Twister and had a big blow out over Hagar's hackneyed song lyrics. Something about being told not to write words about hurricanes (because The Scorpions have that market cornered) and doing so anyway. Plus, Hagar was a new daddy at home and wanted some time off. Eddie Van Halen wanted to do some new tracks for a greatest hits comp, since Hagar was not available he roped in Diamond Dave. This was like a guy cheating on his second wife with his first wife, so Hagar was understandibly pissed. Saint Sammy and Ed talked with Rashomon flair - Sammy said he was fired while Ed said he quit - end result being no more Sam. At the same time, EVH had talked to other singers about fronting VH. People I've heard about include Mitch Malloy and Sass Jordan (EVH seems fascinated with having a female front woman, I've read he wanted Patty Smyth to join after Roth left the first time. As much as I like Smyth, just can't picture the warrior singing "Jump"). After an MTV appearance of VH with Roth, Diamond Dave put one foot out the door by arguing with EVH backstage. So DLR was kicked to the curb and the search was on for a new lead singer again. And after searching the guy they turned up was...Gary Cherone?

Gary Cherone of the Boston based band Extreme was the guy chosen to lead Van Halen to a new era. Like many, I was less than thrilled by this. One personal factor, I can't stand Extreme. Even with my love of lame rock bands, Extreme somehow dipped so low on my lame meter that even I couldn't like them. I remember watching tv when I saw the video for "Kid Ego" come on, I thought to myself "Wow, this band really sucks." They seemed like a generic copy of a generic copy. Then they got some character, but of the wussy kind. "More Than Words" took power balladry to an all time low with a tune filled with so much sap that Sting thought rain forests were destroyed in its creation (reaching too far for a metaphor? Fuck yeah, I'm buzzed on beer!). Even when they tried to rock, it would be ham handed crud like "Rest In Peace" that got played on MTV ad nauseum.

So yeah, I was less than juiced about Cherone as it was. Now he was put in the almost no win situation of replacing both Sammy Hagar and Diamond Dave as lead singer of Van Halen. To make matters worse, Eddie Van Halen told Cherone to sing like Bon Scott which made him sound like a bad imitation of...Sammy Hagar. It seemed like a long way to go for the band to essentially get a Sammy Hagar that does what he's told. Well, when I say band I mean Eddie and Alex Van Halen since Michael Anthony started getting iced out, reportedly playing bass on like only half the disc. One of Extreme's hallmarks was adaptability, they could mix a number of genres into their sound and apparently that's what the Van Halens wanted.

Because this was Van Halen mach 3, where Eddie's creativity would run unhindered by any egotistical lime light stealin' lead singer. And if Eddie Van Halen was an auteur on par with say Trent Reznor or Prince then Van Halen III was to be a work of genius. And some positive buzz started with people talkin' 'bout the song "That's Why I Love You". EVH was going to work in some of those influences that he appreciated but hadn't used like Peter Gabriel. And he was going to do it with TV theme king Mike Post as producer. Yes indeedy, it was Eddie Van Halen's way or the highway.

Van Halen III was released in 1998 to much fanfare. And it was everything that any prior Van Halen album wasn't. It was musically adventurous with Gabriel like rhythms ("Once"), political commentary ("Ballot Or The Bullet") and Roger Waters like croaking ("How Many Say I" with EVH on lead vox). While these excursions added to Van Halen's repitoire, they were merely functional representations of things other people did better. And try as they might, the band was only able to deliver decent hard rockers like "Without You" or "One I Want". No "Panama" here. Not even a "Poundcake". No fun aloud. The production sounded flat and evenly mixed, like a TV theme song. And the buzz song "That's Why I Love You" was dropped in favor of the "More Than Words"-ish "Josephina".

I tried for months to like this album, I really did. Eddie Van Halen sounded inspired, can't really fault any of the guitars here. As a whole, it just sucked too much. Too much for even a super fan like me to take. I wasn't alone, Van Halen III stopped the band's career cold. Even a tie in with the film Lethal Weapon 4 couldn't raise much interest in one of the disc's better cuts (the hard rock stomper "Fire In The Hole").

The failure of Van Halen III on a creative and commercial level effectively ended the band's recording career. To this day, Van Halen has not recorded a CD of new material - just greatest hits comps and reunion tours. Gary Cherone quietly departed from the group and I felt a little bad for him. I felt like he didn't get to be himself and have an opportunity to show if he could really do the job.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

No Way But The Hard Way


A few years back I got into Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings so I snapped up their new release I Learned The Hard Way the first day it was available. And I've got to say they did not disappoint. Nobody does retro soul better in my book, they remember all the lost moves to making R&B with real instruments. Tasty grooves, triumphant horns and Sharon Jones' impassioned singing are so immediate that it erases the passage of time. It would be easy to write them off as a one trick pony, but music performed with this much detail, care and inspiration can't be denied.

The only limitation this band has is the one set on themselves: They don't do anything that would not fit in the 60's - early 70s R&B scene. So there isn't any real artistic growth between the new album and their last one, 100 Days 100 Nights. Consistency isn't necessarily a bad thing (see AC/DC for that one) it just means that the only thing left to criticize is song quality.

It took a long time for this album, their prior disc was in 2007. The songs were worth the wait. There's just so much to like here. The smokin' title track with it's dramatic horns giving way to a breezy melody as Jones plays the jilted lover is perfect. And even with the retro sound Jones and crew find a way to be timely by tackling the economy on "Money". Other tracks like "Window Shopping", "Better Things" and "The Game Gets Old" play like lost smash hits from a bygone era.

Like The Black Crowes, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings will probably be viewed with an asterisk for their traditionalist ways. And like that great rock band, that's too bad because they use a style from the past to create heartfelt inspired music in the present. Chalk this up as another great one by this talented crew.
One more quick note, Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 07, 2010

Rockin Into The Night With The Juke Box Heroes

My wife took a lot of pictures from the concert, the one I liked the most is this blurry one from the Foreigner segment. I just like how it captures the energy. You get first prize in the fair honey, blue ribbon!

38 Special rating:

Foreigner rating:

and a half.
Still waking up from last night's fun filled extravaganza at the Dixon CA fair. I ate two kick ass corn dogs and lost money to one of the slickest carnys I've met. At the end of the evening two bands played: 38 Special and Foreigner!

We had good seats in the 3rd row for the show, it was outdoors in the nice open air. The temperature in Dixon is warm in the day and cold at night so we brought jackets even though we it was plenty warm earlier.

Until yesterday morning, I didn't know 38 Special was going to be there. I've been a fan of 38 for ages and had always wanted to see them live. Now I finally was going to :)

38 Special Set List:

Rockin Into The Night / Twentieth Century Fox / Back Where You Belong / If I'd Been The One / Wild Eyed Southern Boys / Help Somebody / Fantasy Girl / Medley (Back To Paradise - Somebody Like You - Teacher Teacher - Rough Housin' - Stone Cold Believer - Like No Other Night - Second Chance) / Caught Up In You

Encore: Hold On Loosely / Song I Didn't Know / Traveling Band

This set list was from memory so hopefully it's in the right order. As I said before, I've always wanted to see this band live. 38 Special straddles the line between clean AOR perfection and rippin' Southern Rock in a way that not only satisfies but has been influential on music (though they don't get credit for it). When I hear modern Country with it's blending of commercial rock and twang, I automatically think "This is the 38 Special sound". In High School I had all their records and followed them up to Rock And Roll Strategy in 1989. Although the current lineup doesn't feature one of my favorite guitarists, Jeff Carlisi, I was still pumped to see them.

They opened with the jam that kicked off their commercial success, the Survivor penned "Rockin Into The Night". Original members Don Barnes (guitar / lead vocals) and Donnie Van Zant (guitar / sometimes lead vocals) were in fine voice and the band featuring original bassist Larry Junstrom, longtime guitarist Danny Chauncey (formerly of the Bay Area band Billy Satellite) ,a drummer plus a keyboardist who I was not familiar with were locked into the groove. "Twentieth Century Fox" was a song I was hoping would be done just because I like it, the barrelling rhythm and vocal trade offs are hecka fun live.

The veteran band was well rehearsed yet still obviously enjoyed live performance. They were all smiles and energetically stoked the flames of the audience with signals to wave arms, clap hands or just plain "get on your feet!". Donnie Van Zant in particular was a blast, in the 80s I would see a lot of action photographs of him live and wondered if they were posed. Happy to say they are not, Van Zant runs all over the stage swinging his arms, mic stands and whatever else he can get his hands on. Guitarist Chauncey slightly overdid what I call the "Point and pick" and the "Side shoulder hustle" (The "point and pick" is when you point your finger at the audience and then pick a note, the "Side shoulder hustle" is when you move toward the audience with your shoulder at them like you're gonna sling something big) but was still engaging. Barnes tore into his solos, even taking over some of the old Carlisi ones, with his steady ragged riffing. Sometimes he would get into kicking matches with bassist Junstrum that was fun to watch.

"Back Where You Belong" came next, the song that got me into 38 Special to start with. Barnes faux police officer shirt brought back memories of the Hill Street Blues inspired video. After the song, Barnes made a joke about 1984 and parachute pants before the group launched into "If I'd Been The One" making it a tour de force from the Tour De Force album. The double play reminded me of playing Tour De Force endlessly because I was hooked on those two songs in '84. Even on vacation I would just play this tape and stare at the horses running from the fire on the cover.
38's unofficial theme song, "Wild Eyed Southern Boys" went by without a hitch.

Donnie Van Zant, a guy I thought of as being in the curious position of being a lead singer who doesn't sing lead, plugged his recent effort recorded with his brother Johnnie (from Lynyrd Skynyrd) in performing a track from their album Get Right With The Man. The song "Help Somebody" was OK, a bit of a snooze live without the dynamic interaction of the Van Zants playing off each other. Felt a little bad for Van Zant, the guy clearly liked this song a lot and fans used it for a bathroom break.

The pace picked up again with the surging "Fantasy Girl" (I'd say a favorite of mine, but so many of their songs are that it becomes redundant to say that). And then things got weird.

I realize 38 Special was the opening act, but that knowledge did not offset the strangeness of the hits medley that followed. The medley generally went opening riff, first verse, chorus then switch to the next song with the same pattern. It was as if I was watching a concert in fast forward, I'd just start getting into a song before it would shift to the next. At least I got to hear snippets of awesome cuts like "Somebody Like You" and "Rough Housin". The medley ended with a slightly extended chorus for the ballad "Second Chance", the groups biggest pop hit and only smash from the non Don Barnes era. So the keyboard player filled in the Max Carl role of singing lead and did a spot on job of capturing that vocal. And it answered my own trivia question: Does 38 Special play their biggest hit since Barnes wasn't there?

The crowd jumped to their feet and danced for "Caught Up In You" and ended the main part of the set. After a brief break where the drummer didn't even leave the stage, the group returned to kick off the encore with the Guitar Hero classic "Hold On Loosely". Barnes ably took over the mighty Carlisi solo at the end to everyones satisfaction. I went to the bathroom and 38 surprised with a longer encore that started with some song I didn't recognize from the porta potty, when I got out they were on to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Travelin Band". These last two songs were rollicking fast paced takes that really rocked.

The band left and the roadies began resetting the stage for Foreigner. The sun was going down and the temperature cooled more. was Foreigner time!

Foreigner set list:

Double Vision / Head Games / Blue Morning, Blue Day / Cold As Ice / Waiting For A Girl Like You / When It Comes To Love / Dirty White Boy / Starrider / Feels Like The First Time / Urgent / Juke Box Hero

Encore: Long Long Way From Home / I Want To Know What Love Is / Hot Blooded

The last time I had seen our erstwhile heroes was in 1999, as the opening act for Journey. Lou Gramm was still in the band but struggling with the health issues that affected his voice and weight. They were decent, it was tough watching Gramm unable to deliver the type of performance I had seen in '84 (through no fault of his own, the fact that he could perform at all after a brain tumor is an impressive feat in itself). The audio seemed sweetened on the choruses to cover for the change, it was still a good show. Just not up to the standard I had seen on the kickin' Agent Provacateur tour. My wife wore the T shirt I had from that concert, much to the delight of drunken fair attendees.

Foreigner hit the stage to the tune of double double, "Double Vision". This was my first live exposure to the current version of Foreigner that recorded a strong album, Can't Slow Down. Lead singer Kelly Hansen was in good form, his voice was strong and he nailed the Gramm styled vocals down to the inflections. Hansen exuded energy and showmanship, in some ways he was even more outgoing than Gramm was. Where Hansen lost me was his visual performance, he looks and moves like Steven Tyler (sorry, is that Brand Tyler?). This skinny guy with a long face and longer black hair moving all herky jerky - looks like Tyler, sounds like was a bit too much for me to process. It actually distracted me to the point that I missed Gramm for much of the concert. Though all things considered, Hansen did a good job.

The hits kept coming with "Head Games" that included some additional soloing by band leader Mick Jones. Hansen did a nice job of relating his California-ness to the audience after "Games", leading into another 70s classic "Blue Morning, Blue Day". "Cold As Ice" was next, featuring some fine vocals by the band as a whole as they retained the layered attack of the studio cut.

It was time to slow the mood down as Mick Jones took to the keyboards (though the band's keyboardist is quite good on his own) for the power ballad "Waiting For A Girl Like You". It started with just Jones and Hansen for the first verse, giving Hansen some time to shine. Though Hansen is mimicing Lou Gramm's original vocals, he definitely sings like he owns it which is cool. Then finally he got to sing a song he was on the ground floor for in its creation, the ballad "When It Comes To Love" from the Can't Slow Down album. I would have liked to have heard more songs from this album live, but you know they got to sell tickets so the new stuff was limited just to this.

Following the back to back ballads, Foreigner rocked things back up with "Dirty White Boy". Mick Jones took center stage for some six string sting. Jones has lost a step in his solos with age, he doesn't sound quite as accurate as he once was but that's OK. With Jones it was never about the flashy solos anyway, it was about those monster riffs and hooky melodies he comes up with. And he's still sharp as a tack on that. Did I just say "Sharp as a tack"? Damn I'm old, not as old as Mick Jones but still old.

Speaking of which, Jones handled lead vocals as they pulled out the proggy space rocker "Starrider" from their debut album. The band supported Jones nicely, he definitely has an ear for selecting good talent. The multinstrumentalist guy who plays guitars also sported some good flute at the start. All members of Foreigner both past and present have been formidable musicians and Jones gives them the space to do their thang, seems like a nice boss.

It was now time to run off to the big finish, in fact it felt like...the first time? "Feels Like The First Time" was trotted out for all to see. I got a big kick out of watching bassist Jeff Pilson, I'd been a big fan of Dokken back in the day but did not see them live. Pilson had all the hair band poser moves down it was awesome, he did the big swinging arms, headbanged and the "meet you in the middle of the stage and rock together." His rumbling bass lines added character to the groups sound.

Some keyboard flourishes led to the ever funky "Urgent" topped off by that guy that plays guitar / flute getting a sax solo. He amped it up even getting on his knees to dramatize it all.

The keyboardist and drummer then had a solo that was supposed to be together, the keys were nice and synthy and the drummer (who I think was said to be playing his second concert with Foreigner) syncopated with him. Then midway through, the power seemed to go out on the keyboardist leaving him with nothing while the drummer kept soloing. It was actually kinda cool, the new drummer is a basher type whose style reminds me a bit of original Foreigner drummer Dennis Elliott. The keys came back online to finish the solo and lead into the set closer...

That would be "Juke Box Hero". "Hero" still pulsates with power as the band brought the house down. Jones slung out as much flash as he could on the solo, even playing while moving the guitar around like a ouija board.

After a little bit of cheering Foreigner returned with the ever awesome "Long Long Way From Home." Then the one -two punch of "I Want To Know What Love Is" and "Hot Blooded" to end things on a high note. I've got to say, of the various live versions of "Hot Blooded" I've heard and experienced, this was by far the longest. We left about half way through the song to beat the traffic home, the song didn't end until we were almost off the fairgrounds. I thought that was great, the longer they played the more jump we got on the other people to get outta there.

And so it went, 38 Special and Foreigner was a great time at the 'ol fairgrounds that evening. 38 Special did deliver the better set, maybe because they had 3 original members to Foreigner's one. Foreigner did deliver the goods though, Jones knows how to pick talent and has surrounded himself with a very capable band. After the show we went to In N Out Burger so I could have another double double...cheeseburger :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Jimmy Carter's Revenge Part Six: Revenge Of The Jedi

I struggled with what to write for the sixth and final post in this series and it just fell into my lap. This morning my wife said "It's Star Wars Day."

"What?" I asked.

"Today is Star Wars Day" my wife replied.

"Like a literal day about Star Wars? May the Force be with you."

"Or may the 4th be with you."

Hard as it is to believe, there really is a Star Wars day. So it is time to reflect back on what Star Wars meant to me in the 70s. And what it meant to me was everything.

I saw it right there on my grade school report card, the teacher wrote "Star Wars! Michael talks about Star Wars all the time" or something to that effect. Because I was obsessed with this movie, saw it about three times in the theater and was jealous of those who made the news viewing it over 100 times. Adults have all the fun I thought. It was a sensory experience I had not seen before, everything moved fast and sounded faster. I began to learn the dialogue by heart. I drew an endless series of pictures featuring the Millenium Falcon or X Wing fighters. And I had to have every single item with the Star Wars label on it.

Yes, my poor parents were the victim of George Lucas as he completely reinvented movie merchandising. And being a kid with no concept of money, I had to have it all. ALL OF IT! I had to have the little Star Wars dolls, even the ones you had to mail away for, so I could put them on that plastic rotating stand. And watch in horror as those little light sabers permanently slid out of the arm of Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi or Darth Vader shortly after beginning to play with them. Got the first four collections of Star Wars bubble gum cards (blue, yellow, orange and green) until they started to resort to pictures of models used in the background of a one second scene to fill space. I had Star Wars T Shirts, posters, books, artist conceptual art, book bags, toys, bed sheets, buttons, hand held games, board games, soundtrack albums, narrated albums, disco albums based on Star Wars, and probably a plethora of stuff I can't even remember. Yup, I was Star Warzed from head to toe, body and soul.

You see, Winnie and I learned something that day. Something changed, Wayne would never ride a bike again...wait, sorry, wrong type of flashback.

Aunt Lily then went to art school, leaving Uncle Barney in charge of the money. And that was how I met your mother...damn, having a hard time getting the right memory here...

Star Wars in addition to my Star Trek obsession put my mind into outer space (from where it has yet to return! Ha ha). The original Star Wars movie was perfection, it has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle after sequels and prequels added so much detail (Midiclorins? Bueller...Bueller?)to the SW universe that it's hard to remember the incredible mystique it once had. But for one moment in time, every boy wanted to be Han Solo and shoot first at a galaxy of wonder. Happy Star Wars day or as Princess Leia would wish, Happy Life Day.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Jimmy Carter's Revenge Part Five: The Eagles Strike Back


The first phase of The Eagles career ended pretty close to Jimmy Carter leaving office, so they make for a fitting addition to this 70s series. Tonight or technically last night I saw The Eagles in concert at the HP Pavilion in San Jose CA. And what an experience it was! Before we even walked into the Pavilion, there were two religious picketers (one with a bullhorn) telling the crowd that we were all damned to hell unless we accept Jesus. It was kind of funny, of the 60 plus concerts I've been to only two others had religious demonstrators: AC/DC and The Rolling Stones. So we were like really? The Eagles lead to eternal damnation? Then I remembered, there are religious people out there who are convinced that "Hotel California" is about The Devil. They stab it with their steely knives but they just can't kill the beast!

Though if you consider going to a concert and being surrounded by people who carry on loud conversations, check their e-mail or get obnoxiously drunk while the band is playing a form of Hell, then maybe it does involve...could it be...Saaaatin? (insert Dana Carvey as the Church Lady here)

We had good seats for the show, I could see the performers faces without the assistance of the video screens. The screens had excellent coverage of the stage with live camera men and a robot camera on the end of a boom that swivelled over the front of the stage. A surprising amount of keyboards covered the stage (1 large piano, 1 electric piano and like three synthesizers) in addition to numerous microphones and a drum set with a percussion stand side car. There was a large half dome shaped video screen behind the stage and two smaller video screens flanking on each side. A small army of stage / lighting techs and side musicians gave plenty of support to the aging country rockers.

After about 30 minutes past the official start time, the lights went down and my first Eagles concert commenced.

The Set List:

Seven Bridges Road / How Long / Busy Being Fabulous / I Don't Want To Hear Anymore / Guilty Of The Crime / Hotel California / Peaceful Easy Feeling / I Can't Tell You Why / Witchy Woman / Lyin' Eyes / The Boys Of Summer / In The City / The Long Run

No More Walks In The Wood / Waiting In The Weeds / No More Cloudy Days / Love Will Keep Us Alive / Take It To The Limit / Long Road Out Of Eden / Walk Away / One Of These Nights / Life's Been Good / Dirty Laundry / Funk #49 / Heartache Tonight / Life In The Fast Lane

encore: Take It Easy / Rocky Mountain Way / Desperado
The lights go out and there stand the four remaining Eagles smoothly harmonizing on "Seven Bridges Road" the a capella classic from the Eagles Live album. First thing I notice is that the voices are a little lower toned than the 70s recording which would be natural for a band over thirty years old. However, with up to four additional back ground vocalists they are able to give "Road" a full bodied sound. Some spare instrumentation picks up towards the end which leads to the old school styled country rocker "How Long". The band comes across as amazingly tight and allows side guitarist Stuart Smith the first of many spectacuarly tasteful solos. Side man Smith's guitar work upped The Eagles musical prowess by leaps and bounds. In the first half of the show he was arguably the biggest star, I began to look forward to the guitar solos to see how he would creatively rearticulate classic guitar parts with his sharp agile playing. I hate to say it, but it's easy to see why Don Felder was let go when they can hire a guitarist of this caliber and not make him a full band member (which means mo money, mo money, mo money for the remaining Eagles).

This starts a block of Long Road Out Of Eden tracks that gives each band member a lead vocal turn. The fun "Busy Being Fabulous" was next followed by the Timothy B Schmidt sung mellowness that is "I Don't Want To Hear Anymore". This was all chased down with a standard Joe Walsh blooze rocker "Guilty Of The Crime". For this part of the show, the sound was lower than normal and had the cleanest live mix I've ever heard. While I enjoyed this part of the concert much of the crowd was restless for something they recognized. The crowd milled around to get more drinks or food, the guy to my left kept yammering on to get more play from the girl he was with, the girl was looking everywhere but the stage as she scanned her IPhone for emails...geez, when did going to a concert become the equivalent of watching tv? If the audience could have DVR'd the concert and fast forwarded to the big hits, they would have.

At some point in this Glenn Frey announced to the audience that this was the "Eagles Assisted Living" tour which is pretty funny. Age has certainly caught up with these guys, most of them were hunched over and jowly plus Don Henley appears to have added weight (not to mention a grey Grizzly Adams look). Frey seemed to struggle physically throughout the show and has lost power in his voice, changing his singing style to resemble a less raspy Neil Young (not bad sounding, just a little sad). Joe Walsh was mostly in the background during the first half of the show, drawing extra attention to his old lady haircut. Timothy B Schmidt seemed the best preserved of the four, retaining some power behind his high pitched voice. The concert set was cleverly planned to allow the four Eagles to rotate their lead vocals and instrumental involvement. They were able to pace themselves so the lead performer of each song could deliver a strong performance when the spot light shone on them for a few minutes, then allow a fade into the background while another band member or side man Smith takes over.

An extended trumpet solo lead into an absolutely epic rendition of "Hotel California". Not that unplugged Hell Freezes Over version either, the full on rock version. Here Don Henley began to truly impress. Having never seen him live, I was blown away by how well his voice has held up. In a live setting, Henley is able not only to retain the power but also the nuance and phrasing his raspy voice is known for in the studio. Plus he played drums at the same time! "Hotel California" soared majestically with the tight harmonies and twin guitar action that made that song great. The audience woke up and began dancing in the aisles. Some young kids a few rows below lit up some stinky ass pot. At the end of the song a guy in the row before me started yelling at the kids to put it out. Then the drunk guy sitting in front of us began yelling at the other dude, saying smoking pot is part of the concert even though he wasn't smoking (no, he was instead drinking profusely. He would become increasingly drunk, clumsy and loud. Eventually the guy gave us a break by literally getting lost in the arena and presumably throwing up.) For a second it looked like we were going to have a fight to watch on top of the concert, but the pot hatin' guy sat down.

In a true sense of irony, Glenn Frey took center stage to cruise through "Peaceful Easy Feeling". Timothy "cheap pop" Schmidt continued the laid back mood with a fine vocal on "I Can't Tell You Why" (with Frey serving nicely on keys). Henley and team then absolutely crushed "Witchy Woman", even nailing the high pitched wailing on the bridge. Again while drumming!

I went to the bathroom during "Lyin Eyes" and came back in time for Henley's solo hit "The Boys Of Summer". Then in a shocker the crowd became unglued as The Eagles kicked into "In The City". While it was a hit, "In The City" is far from being the bands biggest smash and is usually excluded from their best of comps. You wouldn't know that from the crowd reaction as ladies started gyrating and dudes fist pumping while Walsh tore it up with his first significant guitar work of the evening.

Don Henley went to the front of the stage to inform the audience of the intermission to "give you guys some rest" before swinging into "The Long Run". Henley slightly resembled Bob Seger with his shaggy appearance and walking shuffle as the brass section amped the R&B feel of this classic rocker.

Intermission gave everyone a break, which makes for a good spot to comment on the use of a brass section. It was real hit or miss for me. At some times, like "The Long Run", the brass section added some swing to the overall sound. In other spots, like say at the end of "Hotel California", they were in the way of the guitars. Overall I probably could have done without them, but it wasn't all bad.

The Eagles returned a capella again with the Long Road Out Of Eden tune "No More Walks In The Wood". This started a mellow block of songs that let the guys sit on stools for a bit. My personal fave from their recent album, the acoustic guitar harmony driven "Waiting In The Weeds", got a nice run through even as Mr Drunk Guy in front of us stumbled into his seat mid song to smother his girl and down more beer. Frey took the lead on the band's semi recent adult contemporary hit "No More Cloudy Days".

Then Schmidt addressed the far sections of the audience asking for them to cheer which they did with such precision that we thought maybe this was piped in audio and not an actual audience making noise. This would also explain the odd audience pops during the quiet "Love Will Keep Us Alive" in which there would be loud crowd noises at the end of each chorus. To be fair, the audience did seem happy to have a major hit they knew the words to again. Mr Drunk Guy loudly grunted the lyrics right into his girlfriend's ear before us.

"Love Will Keep Us Alive" buttered up the crowd for another oldie but goodie, "Take It To The Limit" with Frey on lead vocals. Everyone sang along like it was their favorite beer tavern tune, though I was surprised that Frey got lead vocals on it since it was originally sung by Randy Meisner. Meisner's role was taken over by Schmidt, so I thought it would have made more sense for Schmiddy to sing that one. But Frey did a nice job (what I could hear over the sing along), so I got over it. Ha! Get over it!

The lengthy "Long Road Out Of Eden" was the last stop before pulling into hitsville. Taking his cue, Walsh took over and ripped into the James Gang classic "Walk Away". San Jose erupted into a pot smokin' beer guzzlin' party like it was 1973 again. The festivities carried over to the boogie of "One Of These Nights". Then, like a closing pitcher in baseball, Joe Walsh whipped the crowd into a frenzy for my favorite performance of the night, "Life's Been Good". Sentimental flashback footage of Walsh and the band flashed on screen as he mugged, danced and tore through his guitar solos with authority. Even had a nice update to his lyrics by saying his fans "send me e-mails, tell me I'm great".

Don Henley strapped on an electric guitar to bounce us through his solo ditty "Dirty Laundry". Images of Fox news, Tiger Woods and Octomom flew by as Henley's '82 smash seemed all the more prophetic about how we love "Dirty Laundry". Funny cheap shot at The View's Elizabeth Hasselbeck during the line "Bubble headed beach blonde". The band got into a jumping jag, bounding together as a group before a tiring Glenn Frey had to bounce out. I wondered if the back ground vocals were being flown in, the "kick 'em when they're up, kick 'em when they're down" chorus sounded an awful lot like the original record.

With the team in the lead, Joe Walsh once again brought the heat pulling out the other James Gang classic "Funk 49". As fun as it was, I don't know if I could really call it an Eagles concert at this point because it had been so long since I heard, I don't know, an Eagles song?
Frey joined the fray with an actual honest to God Eagles song, "Heartache Tonight". Then they closed the regular set with a storming "Life In The Fast Lane". My favorite Eagles song! My wife says I was bopping my head with extra neck action.

After a break the encore started up with the ever reliable "Take It Easy" which went by smoothly. Walsh then rolled out more blooze rock thunder with "Rocky Mountain Way". To close, Henley nicely crooned the band's ultimate song "Desperado". Here we were, listening to that magical song that Elaine's boyfriend on Seinfeld could only hear in his mind, yet people were still jabbering all over. Every quiet moment crushed by the noise of people talking about stuff they could discuss minutes later.

As lame as the audience was, we had a good time at The Eagles concert. They're definitely getting long in the tooth and will probably have to stop for health reasons within a few years. But for what it was, a sort of one stop drop for Eagles and Henley / Walsh solo it was fun. Felt bad for frail Glenn Frey who needed to muster every ounce of energy he had just to go through the motions. I didn't expect a lot going in, The Eagles have a reputation for being weak live, so I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and strong performances. I even enjoyed Don Henley's drumming, a shock because on recordings I find his drums to be simplistic and draggy. What can I say, life's been good to them so far.