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Sunday, July 14, 2019

July 10, 2019: Mid-Week McCartney

San Jose, CA
SAP Center

My night out to see Paul McCartney did not start off well... I had a mediocre dinner (how someone can screw up a grilled ham and cheese sandwich is beyond me!) and then after walking the 10-15 minutes from the restaurant to the SAP Center I was greeted by a new policy that restricted bags to 5"x8" or smaller. If they were larger they needed to be clear bags or you had to check them for $5 and get a clear bag in return. I briefly considered checking my bag, but when I saw how long the line was to check bags I knew it'd be ten times worse retrieving it after the show, so I turned around and walked the 10-15 minutes back to my car to lock my purse in my trunk after taking out the essentials I'd need for the evening. I'll save my rant about the stupidity of this security theater for another day, but will just say this -- how hard is it to send an email to people who bought tickets in DECEMBER for this show to inform them of a new policy enacted on July 1?! Annoying as hell.

With the need to trek back to my car and then return to the arena, it was nearly 8:00 by the time I actually got inside. I wasn't too concerned -- I've seen Paul often enough to know that he doesn't start his show a the stated ticket time. I grabbed a bottle of water and made my way down to my seat. I knew when I bought the ticket that I'd gotten a pretty good seat, but I had rather forgotten where it was when I got to the arena. Third row up from the floor, right near the stage! Wow! Definitely the closest I've ever been for McCartney. As I worked my way down to my seat, I passed a couple of women who were in a bit of a tizzy. I assume that they, like pretty much every other woman I chatted with on my way in to the arena, were annoyed by the new bag policy. Nope, they had gotten seriously scammed on scalped tickets and had lost several thousand dollars! Yikes! It all ended well as they wound up with pretty decent seats, but also learned a really valuable lesson.


Paul took the stage about 8:25 and kicked off the show with "Hard Days Night" and everyone was on their feet singing and dancing along. Being so close to both the floor and the stage meant it was an up on my feet show most of the way through. Fine by me, though brutal for a school night, I was gonna pay the next day at work! Paul's got a new album out which I received a copy of when I purchased the concert ticket, and he played a few songs from it to an okay response from the crowd. While everyone appreciates his talent, folks are there to hear songs they've known and loved for decades. I will say, however, you know you're a rock god when you can get Meryl Streep (among many other A-list celebs) to dance around a recording studio for your music video (from an album released a few years ago.)

Still, the highlights are always the Beatles' classics, and while I didn't get "Michelle," I did get a lot of my favorite tunes. Personal highlights included "Let 'Em In" -- the first solo McCartney song I recall hearing as a kid, his tributes to John and George ("Here Today" and "Something"), and of course the finale of the show "Let It Be," "Live and Let Die," and "Hey Jude." Being so close to the stage when all the pyrotechinics went off during "Live and Let Die" was amazing. And HOT! Wow! Lots of flames (including one that didn't quite go out at the end of the song and kept burning a bit at the beginning of "Hey Jude".) While there are always songs you wish you could hear when someone has a catalog like Paul McCartney, I was a bit surprised not to hear "Yesterday" at all. Especially with the new movie out.

The show ended about 11:30 -- so a solid three hours of a well paced show, which considering Paul is 77 is impressive as hell. I hiked back to my car humming songs that are older than I am and appreciative of another opportunity to see an absolute legend at work.

Set List (courtesy of setlist.fom)

A Hard Day's Night
Junior's Farm
All My Loving
Letting Go
Who Cares
Got to Get You Into My Life
Come On to Me
Let Me Roll It  (followed by "Foxy Lady" jam)
I've Got a Feeling
Let 'Em In
My Valentine
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
Maybe I'm Amazed
I've Just Seen a Face
In Spite of All the Danger
From Me to You
Dance Tonight
Love Me Do
Blackbird
Here Today
Queenie Eye
Lady Madonna
Eleanor Rigby
Fuh You
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Something
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die
Hey Jude

Encore:
Birthday
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)
Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End

Saturday, June 22, 2019

June 21, 2019: One More Night in Vegas

Las Vegas, NV
Zappos Theater

I hate Las Vegas. Anything beyond about 36 hours is too damn long to be in Vegas. So I'm sure you can understand how thrilled I was to be going to Las Vegas for our annual company conference/trade show -- for six straight days! Now, don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy the opportunity to go to the event -- it's a great way to get to know my co-workers better and meet some of the other people in the company that work at other locations. I'm new enough at my job to still be learning a lot about the company and what we're doing and where we're going, and this conference is a great opportunity to learn more. It's just... Las Vegas... for six days. Ugh. Fine, I can deal.

Then Rob Thomas announced his summer tour dates. I checked the calendar for the Bay Area show -- Sunday, June 16. Damn, day after I arrive in Vegas. Well, let's see what other West Coast dates there are, maybe I can grab another show. What about Portland, I can visit friends/family there... June, 14 -- day before I need to leave for Vegas, nope that's not gonna work. How about LA? June 18 -- still in freaking Vegas. Keep scrolling.... oh you have got to be kidding me! June 21, Las Vegas -- the day AFTER the conference ends. Well, someone else was paying for my flight and I could pay for an extra night at the hotel, it won't kill me to spend another day in Vegas (maybe.) So I bought my ticket and resigned myself to spending a solid week in Las Vegas.

June rolled around and it was time to head off for the conference. The conference started on Monday, but I had to be there on Saturday to help set up the booth for our group. Keeping a long story short, set up was a headache and due to circumstances beyond our control we weren't able to finish setting up by the 7:00 p.m. deadline to be show-floor ready on Sunday evening. That meant having to finish set up Monday morning -- the one day the show floor opened late. When the floor opened at 10:00 Monday morning I was already pretty tired having unloaded a bunch of boxes and generally doing a lot of physical work that I don't normally do, and now I had to stand on the floor until the early closing at 1:00. Tuesday through Thursday were full 8-6 (or later) days of standing on the show floor in our booth and dealing with whatever issues came up. Whee. Thursday was tear-down after the floor closed at 3:00. It was worse than set up... one by one the team members who remained behind to help pack up had to leave to catch flights while one co-worker and I remained behind waiting on our misplaced packing boxes. It was nearly 8:00 by the time we got out of there -- 5 hours of sitting in a convention hall in Las Vegas with no air conditioning (the bays were open to the outside to bring things in and out) and no water. Yeah, fun. I grabbed some dinner before heading back to my room because I knew I'd never leave my room if I went there first.

Fortunately, I knew ahead of time that I'd be physically exhausted by the end of the conference and as I've said, I'm not a huge fan of Las Vegas, so that combination had me pondering what to do on Friday since I'd have the whole day to kill before the show. Spa day! I figured the hotel would have a spa or somewhere I could get a massage and a mani/pedi, and I was right. Made sure to book my Friday day of pampering early in the week and was pleased to discover that there were discounts for those of us attending the conference. I hadn't gotten the coupon when I checked in on Saturday morning, but since I was still wearing my conference badge when I dropped in to make my reservation the gal at the counter let me know. It was still expensive, as most things in Vegas are, but it was sooooooo worth the expense. It was great to have my tired legs and back worked on and then a nice bright red polish on my nails to welcome summer and a Friday night in Vegas.

I was staying at the Venetian Palazzo and had not left the resort since I arrived on Saturday. The Zappos Theater is in the Planet Hollywood Hotel that had been the Alladin the last time I'd been to that theater. I grabbed a cab and headed over about 6 to grab a bite to eat before the show. I'd looked at the restaurants on the hotel website a bit before and sort of knew where I wanted to go, but I wasn't sure where in the hotel it was located. That led me to wandering around a little bit looking for a place to eat. I took an escalator up from the casino floor to where I saw a couple of restaurants and tried to see if the place I was planning to go was up there. I wasn't really paying much attention to what was going on around me as I was looking for a place to eat, so when a guy bumped me as he passed on my left I was startled and turned towards him. "Sorry ma'am, gotta keep moving." I instantly realized he was hotel security and at first I thought he was directing traffic for the line to another show that was on my right, but then I looked in front of me and saw three more hotel security guys surrounding another guy in a jean jacket with a big number 20 on it. Oh my gosh! It's Rob Thomas! I've been to shows in Vegas before and know it's possible to run into the performer(s) you're seeing at the hotel and even thought to myself before I left "wouldn't it be funny to run in to Rob Thomas?" Well, whadda ya know! I was already heading in the same direction as he was because I'd noticed a restaurant ahead and while it wasn't the one I was looking for I thought I'd check it out, so I essentially followed Rob and his security all the way to the restaurant. It was an upscale steakhouse and a little more expensive than I really wanted to spend, but I did consider going in for a minute longer than I normally would have! Ah well, close encounter of the rock and roll kind.

Passing on dinner with Rob, I went back downstairs and finally found the restaurant I'd been looking for and had a nice Mexican dinner with a tasty margarita. I headed over to the theater afterwards and planned to buy the usual concert download that I usually buy at Rob Thomas/Matchbox 20 shows. This show had an opportunity to buy an actual CD of the show! The money was going to Rob's Sidewalk Angels foundation which is an animal rescue organization and I was more than happy to hand over my $40 for a CD and a good cause.

The Zappos Theater looks much the same as it did when it was the Aladdin, but they've reconfigured the main floor seating somewhat so it's not quite as semi-circle as it had been and the seats were facing forward more than I remember them being the last time I was there. I wasn't on the main floor, but a section behind in the second row. Pretty decent seat to the right of center stage. The one thing I was hoping was that folks around me would be sitting down. Normally, this bugs me as I like to stand and dance while listening to live music, but after six days of standing, I was perfectly fine sitting and chair dancing for the show. Fortunately, the people in front of me were a bit older (they were talking about having seen Elvis in Vegas back in the day!) so I figured they'd sit.

The opening act was a gal named Abby Anderson, and she was pretty good. I was really paying more attention to her female drummer. You don't see a whole lot of women playing drums and I always love to watch and see girls get down. She was pretty good too.

Rob finally took to the stage about 9:00 and opened up with a track off his new album "I Love It." It's a good uptempo song and an energetic way to open the show and I did a little chair dancing as it kicked into gear. One thing I always enjoy about seeing Rob Thomas with or without Matchbox 20 is that he really wants to make sure the audience is having a good time and his shows just have a real strong vibe of positivity. As expected , the set was a good mix of songs from his new album, other solo material, and a few Matchbox tunes. Personal highights include my new personal theme song "One Less Day (Dying Young)" from the new album and "Ever the Same" which is one of my favorite solo tunes of his. "One Less Day" has really hit home since turning 50 and is a really positive song about life (the title is a bit deceptive -- the hook is "I'm not afraid of getting older, I'm one less day from dying young.") and something I've really appreciated this year. 50 is just one of those birthdays that makes you think -- huh, I guess I'm not really young any more am I? But as the saying goes, age is just mind over matter -- if you don't mind, it doesn't matter.

While I did sit for most of the show and chair dance, there were a few points where I just had to get up and dance. Having Rob wander out into the audience during "One Less Day" was definitely one of them and when he covered David Bowie's "Let's Dance" well, you gotta get up and move. After the show I picked up my CDs and headed back to the Palazzo. Being a Friday night in Vegas, I knew taking a cab back would be ridiculous because of the traffic on the strip, so I decided to walk back. It was a warm evening, but not so hot that walking was unpleasant. The sights on the Vegas strip at 11:30 or so on a Friday night are their own form of entertainment in and of themselves!

All in all, a pretty good way to end a very long week in Las Vegas (though, 7 days is still 6 too many!)


Set list:

I Love It
Mockingbird
Give Me the Meltdown
Lonely No More
Her Diamonds
Heaven Help Me
Can't Help Me Now
If You're Gone
Streetcorner Symphony
One Less Day (Dying Young)
Little Wonders
Fire on the Mountain
Let's Dance
The Worst in Me
3 A.M.
Ever the Same
Someday
I Am an Illusion

Encore:
Pieces
Unwell
Smooth
This Is How a Heart Breaks

Saturday, May 11, 2019

May 10, 2019: Blues by the Bay

Redwood City, CA
Fox Theater

Anticipation can either enhance or completely ruin an experience. When you've waited a long time for something, the build up to the event can sometimes overwhelm the event itself. I bought my ticket to see Keb' Mo' at the Fox Theater in Redwood City -- about 10 minutes from my house -- in October. I could hardly believe my eyes when I got the email from the Fox that he'd be playing in May. I first heard Keb' Mo' in 1994 and fell in love with his eponymous "debut" album. (His true first album had been released a decade earlier to underwhelming response.) At the time I was really looking for some new sounds beyond my usual classic rock vibe and my favorite radio station at the time was playing an eclectic mix of music that included not just rock of the current and previous few decades, but a bit of blues and other genres. I soon made sure to pick up new Keb' Mo' CDs as they were released over the years and just fell in love with his delta blues style. Due to a variety of circumstances, however, I'd never gotten to see him perform live. Most recently, he was at the Mountain Winery last summer with Taj Mahal, but as I had been laid off at the end of 2017 and just started a new job in April my budget was a little tight for concert tickets. So, after 25 years of waiting, was the anticipation worth it or was I disappointed? I was definitely NOT disappointed.

It's been a busy few weeks at work. Lots of getting in early and leaving late (ish) as I've been supporting two extra teams in my office while the hunt is on for an additional EA. I actually thought the show was last Friday as I drove to work last week and was relieved when I saw it was still a week out. Hopefully I'd have a slow Friday and could go out and enjoy the evening. Alas, that was not to be. It was another hectic week and equally hectic Friday and I was pretty tired when I left work a little after 5. Back in October I had thought I'd go out for dinner before the show as a nice Friday evening, but as I left work I knew if I did that I'd fall asleep at the show. So I headed back home and took a quick power nap before making myself a light dinner.  Showtime was 8:00, so I left the house about 7:30 and headed off to Redwood City.

I hadn't been a show at the Fox in a while -- I usually go to the smaller Club Fox next door -- and it was nice to see how they set it up for a regular show. The Fox is an old movie theater that has been remodeled for use as a live music and theater venue. The front of the theater had removable chairs set up rather than the traditional bolted in seating found in the back of the theater. That allows for some GA type shows such as the benefit show Gregg Rolie did back in 2007. I headed down to my seat in the second row and was pleasantly surprised to find it was nearly center stage. The stage was set up fairly simply with a stool and microphone set in front of a back drop with "Keb' Mo'" in lights. There was another stool and microphone off to the side of the stage that I guessed would be for a second backing musician. It was actually for the opening act, a young blues guitarist named Jontavious Willis. He was very entertaining for his 30 minute or so set singing and cracking jokes. I didn't hit the swag table at all, but I definitely think I'll pick up his album.

Keb' Mo' hit the stage about 9:00 and I immediately started smiling and I didn't stop until the show was over. My face hurt! I've never left a concert with my face hurting! (Well, maybe that weekend in Michigan.) I haven't bought a Keb' Mo' album in a few years had been a little afraid he'd be playing tunes I wasn't as familiar with as I was with his mid-90s-early 2000s stuff. Nope, he played many of my favorite tracks from those albums. There were a few songs I hadn't heard before, but I enjoyed them almost as much as the ones I did know well. The show had a real intimate feel with just Keb' and his guitar on stage. It was a great vibe. A couple of personal highlights for me were "More Than One Way Home" and "House in California." The former is probably my favorite song of his, the latter is amusing and oh-so-true even more now than it was 20+ years ago. Jontavious Willis came out towards the end of the show for one song and it was fun seeing them play off each other.

Sometimes it can be difficult to describe the emotion and power of live music. I went into that show absolutely worn out from a busy work week and left three hours later invigorated with a relaxed and happy feeling that's stayed with me. Sitting in that theater and thinking "oh I love this song! .... I love this song too!.... Wow I'm so glad I finally got to this show!" all night long is just a great feeling. Just letting the music wash over me and take me out of time and space for a little while is a magical experience.

Who knew the blues could make you so happy?

Set list (courtesy setlist.fm)

Every Morning
Angelina
Just Like You
You Can Love Yourself
Soon as I Get Paid
Henry
More Than One Way Home
House in California
Life Is Beautiful
Am I Wrong
Anybody Seen My Girl
Government Cheese
Infinite Eyes
The Old Me Better
Old Walkin Blues (with Jontavious Willis)
I Remember You
This is Where I Belong
Put a Woman in Charge
Hand It Over

Encore:
She Just Wants to Dance
Shave Yo' Legs
I'll Be Your Water

Monday, October 1, 2018

September 28, 2018: Rock on with Ringo

San Jose, CA
City National Civic

The Beatles broke up when I was two. John Lennon was killed when I was 12. The only tour George Harrison did in my adult life was a brief tour of Japan in 1991. That leaves Paul and Ringo as the two remaining Beatles who regularly perform shows. I've seen Paul McCartney perform at least seven times, but it seems I always missed Ringo when he came through town. There were a variety of reasons -- other plans, tickets sold out before I could get them, etc. So clearly trying to get to one of his shows has been on my list for quite some time. Then a few years ago, Gregg Rolie (formerly of Santana and Journey) joined his All Starr Band, and I got even MORE motivated to try to go to one of his shows. That finally happened Friday night.

I bought the tickets for this show about six months ago with my friend Mary. Between then and now, Mary and her husband moved to Portland, so we had to make some adjustments to our plans for the evening. Mary flew down Friday afternoon and planned to catch CalTrain to Palo Alto where I could easily pick her up from work. She missed her first train, so we wound up getting down to San Jose about 7:00 -- not a whole lot of time to grab dinner before the 8:00 show time. Since I knew we'd have a short window between when we'd arrive in San Jose and the start of the show, I grabbed a quick bite to eat and after we parked the car, Mary and I had a quick dinner in my car. Not exactly the plan, but it would do.

We got into the Civic pretty quickly and found our seats, which were about 10 rows from the stage. Looking around, we were on the younger side of the crowd. There were some kids under 21, presumably at the show with their parents (or possibly grandparents), but for the most part the crowd looked to average around 65. We got settled in and chatted for a bit while we waited for the show to start. The biggest thing I noticed about our seats while we were waiting is that the rows were VERY narrow. You pretty much would have to get out of the row to let people get by to get to/from their seats. It got pretty annoying later once the show started and I wanted to stand up and dance a little.

The show started off about 8:15 with the All Starr Band walking on stage first. I kind of chuckled to myself as Gregg Rolie was the first one out. Gregg was joined on stage by Steve Lukather (Toto), Graham Gouldman (10cc), Colin Hay (Men at Work), Warren Ham, and Gregg Bissionette. Everyone got a big cheer, and then Ringo came out to a bigger cheer and they all launched into "Matchbox," the old Carl Perkins tune the Beatles covered way back when. That was followed by Ringo's solo track "It Don't Come Easy." One more Ringo-led Beatles tune followed and then Ringo handed over the lead singing duties to his band members.

I've gotta admit, the All Starr Band is a big reason I've wanted to see one of Ringo's shows for so long since in addition to hearing Beatles classics and Ringo's solo hits, you also get to hear songs from other well known musicians and their musical history. First up was Graham Gouldman. Now, I'm going to admit here that while I've known of the band 10cc for a long time, there is no way I could ever name one of their songs much less a member of the band. That's not to say I don't know 10cc songs, it's just that I don't have any association between the band and the songs. Thus led to the introduction of "Dreadlock Holiday" as a "hit song all over the world, except in America!" It's actually a song I know and would hear on KFOG before they went and blew up their format a couple of years ago. No idea that was a 10cc song!

That was followed by "two time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer" Gregg and the Santana classic "Evil Ways." I've heard Gregg perform this a number of times now and I never get tired of it. Next up, was Steve Lukather, who along with Colin Hay, ensured there were songs in the set that were hits after 1980! Lots of clapping along to "Rosanna." Finally, it was over to Colin Hay (who I did not recognize at all until he was introduced!) and the requisite "Down Under."

The show proceeded like this, with Ringo coming out front to do a couple of his numbers before turning things over to his band to do theirs. I really loved the energy Ringo had all night, but he has got to be one of the most awkward front men I have ever seen. He's clearly much more comfortable sitting behind the drums, which he did for a number of tunes -- both of his own and for nearly all of his bandmates songs. Around this time, I started doing a mental checklist of the Ringo-led Beatles songs trying to figure out what he'd be singing during the set list. First to pop in my head was the thought "Well, he'll have to do Yellow Submarine." And, yep, very next minute, there it was. It was great fun to sing along. "Yellow Submarine" is one of those songs I've just loved since I was a kid. It was kid-friendly way back when, and it still just puts a big smile on my face.

Ringo took a bit of a break after that and went backstage while the band played "I'm Not in Love" (oh! another 10cc song I know but didn't know!) and "Black Magic Woman/Gyspy Queen" which totally rocked the house. Steve Lukather was incredible on the guitar and he and Gregg had a good time playing off each other.

A third round of Ringo songs and band songs, and things started to wrap up close to 11 as the show closed out with "A Little Help from My Friends."  I was thrilled to hear that live. I've heard Paul do "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band" a few times and always wished it would morph into "A Little Help from My Friends," but it never does, so getting to hear Ringo perform it was special. Ringo dashed off stage after that, but the band stuck around for a bit and a minute later, Ringo was back out and singing John's "Give Peace a Chance." Great way to end the night!

Set list (courtesy setlist.fm)

Matchbox
It Don't Come Easy
What Goes On
Dreadlock Holiday [10cc]
Evil Ways [Santana]*
Rosanna [Toto]
Down Under [Men at Work]
Boys
Don't Pass Me By
Yellow Submarine
I'm Not in Love [10cc]
Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen [Santana]
You're Sixteen
Anthem
Overkill [Men at Work]
Africa [Toto]
Oye como va [Santana]
I Wanna Be Your Man
The Things We Do for Love [10cc]
Who Can It Be Now? [Men at Work]
Hold the Line [Toto]
Photograph
Act Naturally
With a Little Help From My Friends
Give Peace a Chance


*Yes, I know all the Santana songs are covers of other people's songs. For this purpose, it indicates they performed the Santana version of the song.