Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Surviving Myself - A Journey from Suicidal to Happy

In case you haven't heard, I'm officially letting the world know that I'm writing a book.  I'll be updating my progress at http://www.survivingmyselfbook.com/ and you can sign up to be notified when the book is ready. Thanks for your support!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Apocalyptica = Amazing!

Apocalyptica shreds it up in Boston
Lori and I saw Apocalyptica Thursday night, August 26, 2010 at the Royale in Boston. This wasn't just another rock show. This was something else; something unique, powerful and simply amazing to all my senses. Apocalyptica is made up of four classically trained cellists from Finland. Sometimes all four are on cello, but usually one plays drums. Their first release, Four Cellos Play Metallica, back in 1996 was an album of nothing but Metallica covers. That won me over for life and was featured at our wedding in 1997. Since then they've expanded to original instrumentals and even feature guest vocalists for a few songs on each new release. There latest album is 7th Symphony and it is magnificent.

I didn't even realize they were a touring band until a couple years ago, and I was drooling at the chance to see them live. They did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of the best concerts I've ever seen. I was stunned by their energy and movement all over the stage. These guys ran all over the place with their cellos just like any other band with guitars. There was so much head banging and cheering, yet such a unique and haunting sound. I still remember the first moment I heard a cello string played while the crew set up the stage, it had such a different resonance down to my bones. Visually, they look like a metal band with their long hair flying all around, crazed solos, and pure high-energy fun. They took a brief interlude to play "proper" cello music, all of them taking seats and playing some beautiful string arrangements. The raucous crowd simply stood in silence, watching and listening with such awe, it was surprisingly moving. After a night of heavy metal cellos including Metallica covers; Wherever I May Roam, Master of Puppets and Seek and Destroy, they closed with a classical nugget from 1874, In The Hall of The Mountain King. It was the most profound rock show I could imagine, and is a sight not to be missed.
Apocalypica - August 26,2010

It was a true multicultural night, as the openers were Japanese metal band, Dir En Grey. I couldn't decide what language they were singing in, but somehow I liked it anyway. The singer had a range from deep demonic wails to high pitched sounds like dolphins crying. This summer has been the best luck I've ever had with enjoying opening bands that I'd never heard of. Even Lori was digging some Japanese death metal.

There are lots of clips of Apocalyptica on YouTube if you've never heard of them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

J. Geils Band and Aerosmith Rock Fenway Park

I've seen both bands before, but it's been about 25 years for J. Geils Band and 15 for Aerosmith, and this was my first concert at Fenway Park, so I knew that alone would make August 14, 2010 a special show.

J. Geils band was preceded by a full marching band entering the stage single file and playing "Centerfold", then they left (which took quite some time) and the real band took the stage. They looked and sounded great, and seemed to be having a fantastic time - I don't know why these guys don't still tour. Peter Wolf was in great form - his voice, moves and stage raps don't give away his age, though he does look a bit more freakish these days. Plus Magic Dick still has most of his hair - nobody rocks the white man afro or the harmonica like him! They were even joined by their longtime touring horns - The Up Town Horns.

Geils set included (I know I'm missing some): "First I Look At The Purse", "Hard Drivin Man", "Night Time", "Southside Shuffle", "Freeze Frame", "Give It to Me," "Detroit Breakdown", "Love Stinks", "Musta Got Lost", "Looking For a Love", "House Party", "Whammer Jammer", "Centerfold". It was an upbeat, high-energy, foot-tapping, ass-shaking show. Wolf went out into the crowd multiple times. They really made the most out of their time on stage. I can't say the same for the next band.

Aerosmith started with a video narrated by Dennis Leary which encapsulated their career in terms of baseball - such as when Joe Perry was traded to the Cardinals. It was pretty funny, then the real show started with "Train Kept A Rollin'".  The set sagged a bit for me as it concentrated on more recent pop hits, but highlights came with "Last Child", "Come Together" and a strong ending of classics. The low point was probably Joe Perry's lame guitar duel with his Guitar Hero self on screen. Felt like nothing but a commercial to me.
One bummer about Fenway is how a great baseball seat puts you very far away from the stage which is setup in deep center field.  Also the volume is so low that anyone talking in the crowd around you can be heard over the band -- that never happens at true concert venues.

The climax for Aerosmith was the encore.  Steven Tyler appeared on top of the Green Monster at a white baby grand piano for an amazing version of "Dream On". It was a peak moment to be singing that song along with 38,000 other fans at Fenway.  He then ran back to the stage for the final song, "Walk This Way".

The surprise of the night was that there was no final jam welcoming some of the J. Geils Band. Steven Tyler had been saying for months what a fan of Peter Wolf he was, but they never appeared together. I would have bet anything that somebody was going to cover "Dirty Water."  Sunday, The Boston Globe and Herald both reported a heated argument between Wolf and Tyler at Fenway the night before the show. Tyler reportedly told Wolf not to use the stage ramp that goes out into the crowd. They argued over that and Tyler finally relented, but that seemed to kill any thought of doing something together.

I gotta say J. Geils won the night. Most fans I've heard from were disappointed in Aerosmith, mainly that the set did nothing special for such a cool homecoming night. Aside from the piano on the green monster, this was the same set list they've been on tour with. And if I was just to read body language - Steven Tyler and the rest of the band are far from friends, but without Tyler they've got no energy live.

I'd see J. Geils again in a heart beat, but Aerosmith seems to be flying on autopilot.

Aerosmith Set
01. Train Kept A Rollin'
02. Love In An Elevator
03. Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)
04. Livin' On The Edge
05. What It Takes
06. Pink  -- (I was regretting being there by this point)
07. Last Child
08. Cryin'
09. Rag Doll
--Guitar Hero Joe-- (DUMB)
10. Stop Messin' Around-- (with Joe's sons Tony & Adrian Perry. Nice for him, boring for us.)
11. I Don't Want To Miss A Thing  -- (This song makes me want to puke most of the time, but luckily a couple drunk guys in front of me serenaded each other. More entertaining than the actual song.)
12. Come Together
13. Sweet Emotion
14. Baby Please Don't Go
15. Draw The Line
16. Dream On (atop the Green Monster! COOL)
17. Walk This Way

See what the Globe thought, and the Herald.

Monday, August 09, 2010

KISS: Still The Hottest Band in the Land

The current KISS tour is called "The Hottest Show On Earth," and it literally is.  From the opening pyro blasts as Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and Tommy Thayer descend to the stage over Eric Singer's drum kit on Saturday night, I could not only feel the heat, but I could taste the flames down my throat. The people in front me flinched at every bomb blast all night long, and while I've never bothered with ear plugs, even I had to block my ears for the show-ending barrage of seemingly non-stop explosions. In other words; an AWESOME show.

We had great seats; 20th row on Gene's side of the stage. It was a fantastic crowd too.  The Comcast Center was the fullest I've seen it in a few years, and lots of people were in makeup. There were a few outstanding costumes too, including a perfect Eric Carr in our section. The age range in the audience was the widest I've ever seen; five to infinity. There were a couple of the oldest women I've ever seen at a show. I would have been surprised to see them at a movie, let alone a rock concert. All hunched over and barely moving, but one of them moved all the way down to her seat in the fourth row. Sick!

All the long established KISS theatrics were included; blood, fire, flying... and some new tricks including a bazooka.  As expected, the band sounded great and this probably is the best version of the band in terms of musicianship.  Paul's voice sounded a bit hoarse at times, not sure if was the sound of age, or an off night. There was one awkward moment at the end of "Black Diamond", after an extended finish timed to bomb blasts, the band stood in mid bow for a few moments, seemingly waiting for one big pyro cue. It never came and they eventually stood up and played a final chord. Looking forward to seeing them again on August 19 in Connecticut to verify whether that was a mistake or not. The set was a good mix of tunes from all the various KISS eras.

The show included a couple new musical tweaks, including Paul performing a good portion of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" during the intro to "Black Diamond," and the entire band playing a segment of the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" during "Lick it Up." This tour also features an epic six song encore, which is so much better than bands going on and off stage wasting everyone's time.

KISS Setlist Comcast Center, Mansfield, MA, USA 2010, Hottest Show On Earth

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Tonight I'll be seeing KISS for the... wow, I've lost track of how many times I've seen them, but tonight will make them the first band I've seen in five different decades; the 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's and now the 10's. This is an incarnation of the band I swore I wouldn't see and I've resisted all the tours since the "Farewell Tour" wrapped up in 2000.

I can still remember the first time I was introduced to KISS. I was in the fourth grade and someone brought "KISS Alive" to school and I was enthralled. I loved all the crazy rumors; Ace really was from space, Gene had a cow's tongue surgically attached to his own... Everyone I knew was a KISS fan when "Destroyer" was out and "Rock and Roll Over" was the first album that I knew the release date for and bought as soon as possible. KISS was my first concert (thanks Dad!), first poster, rock magazine, first music my parents didn't like... I fondly recall being amazed by the Paul Lynde Halloween TV special that featured KISS, then being horrified seeing them a few years later on the Tomorrow Show - Ace was wasted and had such a freaky voice, as did Paul, they didn't sound like the super humans they were in my mind. Years later, meeting them shattered the last of my childhood fantasies. I discovered Gene was quite an ass, and I was close enough to Paul to see the crotch pillow he crams down his pants -- that is an image seared into my brain forever no matter how much I want to forget it. But still the music and the emotion it brings back for me, make me unable to stay away for long (from the music that is, not Paul's crotch).

For those who aren't aware, today's KISS lineup does not include original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley, but rather has people performing in their makeup. When I first saw KISS as a wee lad in 1978, one of my biggest fears was not really knowing if it was them or not. I worried that they would put anyone off the street in the makeup and costumes. Perhaps different fake Kiss's perform all over the world? How could I be sure this was Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace? Happily, I was close enough to the stage to see and believe it was indeed the four iconic rockers I worshiped. But that worry, that feeling that this is a trick, has made me skip the many tours Gene and Paul have cooked up since 2001 with drummer Eric Singer and lead guitarist Tommy Thayer playing the Peter and Ace roles. Eric was actually in KISS for a while in the 90's when they toured without makeup and Tommy was their road manager on the reunion tour. It was even his job to reteach Ace his own guitar solos.

I've wondered for the last few years, how many fans in the audience think they are seeing Peter and Ace? Do people chant Ace's name or Tommy's? Eric is now even singing Peter Criss's "Beth" -- that still reeks of blasphemy, but I will not judge until I see it. I've accepted that this may indeed be the best incarnation of the band in terms of musicianship. Peter and Ace often had problems playing live night after night due to medical and substance abuse issues, so I'm expecting to see a KISS that has never sounded better, plus they are playing some new songs off "Sonic Boom" that I've never heard live and plenty of old ones I haven't heard in quite a long time. They are even planning another new album early next year. Quite a change for band that seems to have more repackaged greatest hits collections than Elvis. Perhaps I'll be seeing them in a sixth decade too?  Stranger things have happened.