I never got the chance to see him in concert, sadly, but apparently Leonard Cohen’s stage banter didn’t vary from night to night by as much as a comma during his later tours. I’m sure most acts have a whole patter planned out, but if they’re good at their job it doesn’t feel like they’re working of a script or on autopilot.
This one’s kinda funny (to me). In 1997 I was dating a girl who was a big Duran Duran fan, going back to the early eighties. She’d seen them five or six times since they blew up. The group came to the Universal Amphitheatre while we were dating, and we went to the show. My GF knew the entire stage routine down pat. “During this song Simon will be right down leaning into the front row,” or “Okay, here’s when they bring out the big light and aim it at the crowd,” and, whaddya know, right then the stagehands brought out a huge arclight…that didn’t turn on. Frantic fumbling onstage as Simon LeBon can’t do the time-honored ritual of swinging the light around at the audience, as the bulb resolutely refuses to light up. Finally they yank the whole apparatus offstage again, and LeBon, looking somewhat lost, dances awkwardly to a song he normally doesn’t need to, as on any other night he’s swinging a few hundred pounds of wheeled metal around the stage. Finally, like a minute before the song ends, they get the bulb working and they rush it out, and he hurriedly illuminates the thirtysomething new-wavers and I thought it was sadly revealing. I didn’t last much longer with that GF (who, don’t get me wrong, was a super smart, lovely, wonderful person that I liked a lot) but that concert wasn’t one of the reasons.
Paul Simon - what a dick. Rude. And as amazing as he was as a talented writer and performer, that night he sucked.
I think you run into this a lot with the older performers. Same goes for Leon Russell and Albert Lee, when I saw them.
In the early 80s, I laughed at my Van Halen-loving buddies going to see all the metro-NY shows one tour, knowing that the setlist would be identical each night, unlike the Dead concerts I was seeing at the time.
Their defense was that David Lee Roth said different things between the songs (Hello, Hartford! Hello Uniondale! Hello East Rutherford?) which made it worthwhile.
I have seen some pretty disappointing Dead shows, to be fair. But never the same one twice.
Not even that. I saw them in 1984 on the second night of their LA-area stand, and thought Dave was pretty clever and witty and quick with a quip. Then I talked to some friends in my dorm who had seen them the first night. Exact same stories, exact same jokes, same telling the security guy in front to give the hot girl in the crowd a backstage pass, even the “spontaneous” bits of responding to questions from the front row were the same both nights. (While holding a liquor bottle… “What’s that? Is this real? Of course, who do you think we are, fucking Quiet Riot?”)
I’ve seen that same thing with several performers. But, hey, they’re performers. I’ve seen comedians do the exact same (spontaneous) material night after night. Robin Williams is famous for his rehearsed ‘off-the-cuff’ quips. And it’s not like bands go on stage and write songs, they rehearse the shit out of them.
I get why it might come off as staged, which might seem disingenuous but like I said, they are performers.
I wonder how this fits into the Zappa Family soap opera. The last I heard was a few years ago when Dweezil was on with Marc Maron. Dweezil was touring with a band filled with old band members doing Zappa Plays Zappa. His brother got a court order to get him to stop using the Zappa name. There was a lot of bad blood between the brothers and it seemed like Moon was on Dweezil’s side. It’s a shame because Dweezil is a really good guitar player and can give the song justice.
I have always been a huge fan of Concrete Blonde. Johnette Napolitano was doing a solo acoustic tour and I was excited to see her. The location was a bar that probably held about 100 people. After the opening artist performed, Johnette comes out and she is drunk and furious. She argued with a few people up front and even tried the get one person kicked out, who I found out later was the husband of the opening artist. Her performance was fine, but the vibe was so negative that it really put off the whole show. It was a small bar filled with people who were obviously her fans who made the effort to see her on a weeknight and she came onto the stage already at 11 on the rage scale, so the crowd didn’t deserve her wrath. The Facebook post for the show was filled with complaints. Obviously, something set her off and we’ll never know the story, but to take it out on paying fans in such an intimate venue?
The Hold Steady some years ago…only because they only played songs off their newest album and I hadn’t listened to it yet. That band is very wordy and literary but also loud. I felt like I needed to have heard those songs first in a way that I could hear the lyrics and wordplay to then enjoy the music live.
As it was… I was just kind of lost the whole concert.
Another thing I should have mentioned was how playback was used for some of the rock concerts I’ve been to. That was disappointing to say the least.
At some venues the sound changes so abruptly when they use playback that it is more than obvious. I get it that he/she/they may not feel like they could sing that high pitched song that night but the crowd is sure expecting it … still quite the downer.
Of course this does not apply to the Vengaboys and Modern Talking who were pure playback but fully acknowledged by the crowd. Studio quality sound by the way for those ones. Right off the copy of the master.
The bass is strong enough to cause a heart attack in the nosebleed section.
Funny to me, too — thanks for sharing!
I saw surf guitar legend Link Wray play a small club in 2004. He was 75 years old and absolutely shredded his guitar, leaving the audience amazed at times. It was one of his last performances, he died a year later.
But, his wife kind of wrecked the night. She was a thirty-something year old blonde who was really enjoying herself. At the beginning of the first set she went onstage and made a big deal about NO VIDEO.
Maybe five minutes into the second set she saw that a woman near me was filming. She freaked out, pushing past me (pouring a drink on me) and grabbing the video camera, throwing it to the floor, then grabbing the woman and throwing some punches.
Lotsa hair pulling, screaming, eventually crying. If it was a set-up it could have worked as comic relief, I guess. Instead, that was the end of the show. I actually knew who the video lady was, she was a regular at the venue. No police were called, people just started leaving in disgust sorta.
REM, Monster Tour at the Target Center in Mpls.(1993? 95?) I really only wanted to go because the openers were Sonic Youth. Welllll, it was the last tour stop for them, and Thurston and Kim had just had Coco, so they were not even awake for the show practically. I should’ve gone to something when they were putting in extra credit at First Avenue down the street. : ) I don’t remember much about REM so the show must not have been extra great or extra bad. Monster isn’t my favorite album tho.
Smashing Pumpkins in 1996 kinda sucked. Corgan kept stopping and starting songs, saying the band wasn’t performing up to par, etc. If he hadn’t done that, I’d have barely noticed anything wrong, but after he drew attention to it, all I heard was missed drum cues and fucked up bass lines.
Their studio recordings were great, they should have just stuck with that and never toured.
Was it this show, perhaps?
Depending on when you saw them in 1996…
Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and keyboardist Jonathan Melovin ODed on heroin on July 12. Melovin died and Chamberlin survived but gets kicked out of the band.
I guess that if you saw them before July 12, they were terrible because you had two barely functioning junkies in the band. They only took 6 weeks off before resuming the tour, so if you saw them afterward my guess is that they sucked because they hadn’t gelled with the replacement musicians yet.
Not excusing them by any means. I totally agree with you 100% this was a great studio band and a meh live band. Maybe if you saw them circa 1988 at the Metro it was a different story, but by 1995 their live performances were pretty harsh to watch.
I saw them in December, 1996 at Reunion Arena in Dallas, with Garbage opening, and they both played fantastically (Including three encores from SP). If it hadn’t been for Billy Corgan‘s incessant drivel/stage patter, I might’ve listed it among the better concerts I went to.
ETA in fairness I never saw them before that, so it still might not have been up to standard for fans.
Probably Kris Kristofferson at a music festival. Wasn’t really there to see him, but he was the late-night headliner on the 2nd night.
Came out, appeared drunk. Rambled incoherently, and apparently could not remember any of his own songs.
As it turns out, he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but it turned out to be Lyme disease. I have no idea why he (or his managers) thought that touring was a great idea for someone who was obviously not well.
It was August, so I guess it was the replacements? But I feel like it was working until Corgan started showing his micromanaging perfectionist side. Like dude, that’s not what live shows are about.