Monthly Archives: February 2013

Kings of Leon @ various venues, CA Dates (3/28/05, 3/30/05, 04/05/05, 04/09/05)

It was the beginnings of Kings Of Leon. Some would say that it was before they became a completely different band (before the release of 2008’s Only By the Night). Half the KOL fans would argue that it was the END of good KOL. The other half will say it was the beginning of something more magical and focused. But in 2005, their sound was raw, unbridled, and undisciplined. And in 2005, their sound was rebellious and crazy energetic as well.

KOL had 2 EPs and 2 full length releases up to this point. They would spend the spring of 2005 opening for the global rock institution that is U2. I had only heard “King of the Rodeo” and “Four Kicks,” both of which completely baffled me, and not in a good way. But I was curious, and if U2 selected them to open their shows, they’ve got to have something special. So I got to hear KOL’s set on four occasions: twice in San Diego, once in LA, and the final occasion in San Jose – so you could think of this review as inclusive of all 4 dates.

The arena setting did not do KOL any favors or justice, not by any means, at least from my vantage point. The arenas seemed like big caverns, and this little group from Tennessee was trying to hold their own in front of thousands of fans that weren’t there for them. Caleb barely uttered a word onstage. They concentrated on their set and they were brave and determined. The band powered through their set each night, quickly flying through 40 minutes of energetic Southern alt-rock. Each cut was brief, sometimes clocking in just over two minutes. The songs were like concentrated doses of adrenaline, giving the audience brief but potent shots of energized rock, KOL style…and very unlike the anthemic slices of cinematic power pop they’re known for now.

During these shows, Caleb Followill’s vocals were so difficult to comprehend, and the quality did not improve over the 4 dates. There were times when I said to myself “I know the man is singing in English…but what’s he saying?” This was especially true during “Four Kicks.” But there was a quality to the voice that was unique. It was rough, but had this gruff bluesy tone to it, a soulfulness that sounded mournful and earnest. About the group and its playing ability, it was clear that they were a young group continuing to hone their musical abilities. The maturation over the next few releases would be evident. After these gigs I quickly forgot about Kings of Leon. And yes, the 2008 CD sparked my curiosity and I ended up liking a lot of those tracks. I may not have enjoyed it at the time, but I’m glad I got to see Kings of Leon before they broke in the US (or before they sold out…depending on your perspective).

The basic set was as follows with some variation:

Molly’s Chambers
Taper Jean Girl
Pistol of Fire
Wasted Time
The Bucket
Milk
Four Kicks
Razz
King of the Rodeo
Slow Night, So Long
California Waiting
Happy Alone
Head to Toe

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Rush @ The Coors Amphitheatre, Chula Vista CA 07/07/04

The Venue
The Coors Amphitheatre (now the Cricket Wireless) is pristine, even though it’s in the middle of nowhere, nestled in between open fields to the North and East, craggy cliffs topped with million dollar homes to the South, and fledgling housing developments to the West for the working stiffs…which incidently made me think of the urban sprawl depicted in “Subdivisions.” The venue itself reminded me of The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles: classy, spotless and very well maintained. I had a cheap lawn ticket and nestled myself halfway back, center/right of the stage with a perfect view. I was a good distance away from the rest of the lawn ticket holders, basically so I could have an uninterrupted viewing/listening experience…and well, to keep the more boisterous fans from being picked up by my mic.

The Show

The show was great! But I don’t think I’ll ever get lawn tickets again, I felt detached, too far away from the action. I guess it was too similar to watching the Rush in Rio DVD, I was an observer, rather than a participant. I really missed being “in there” with the rest of the die-hards, especially those in the orchestra/pit section who were pumping their fists the whole time. The crowd was VERY into it. I would say they were more vocal than the Irvine crowd. The band played effortlessly. There were no mess ups or glitches, no flubs or anything of that nature. Rush is like a machine, playing songs faithfully, and at times better, than the recordings on CD. And it was great hearing songs that weren’t previously featured on the Vapor Trails Tour, like “Red Barchetta,” “Subdivisions,” “Mystic Rhythms” and “Between the Wheels.” The cover songs were cool and I get the significance of their inclusion, but like any other selfish Rush fanatic, I just wish that playing time was allotted for more Rush songs…even though the show clocked in close to 3 hours. We were being spoiled, that’s for sure. And I can’t imagine the dexterity and stamina needed to play those challenging songs for that amount of time, and at their age? WOW. Coolest moment of the night, aside from the Jerry Stiller opening video, had to be the opening medley. And the moment the riff to “Bangkok” was played, the crowd let out this collective roar. It was a like a huge, deep and throaty “YEEAAHHH!!!” Absolutely hair-raising. And seriously, do we really need to keep hearing “Roll the Bones?” Great intro music was played before the show began. It was especially cool to hear dredg’s “18 People Living In Harmony.”

SET 1:
1. Classics Medley (Finding My Way/Anthem/Bastille Day/A Passage to Bangkok/Cyguns X-1/Hemispheres Prologue
2. Spirit of Radio
3. Force Ten
4. Animate
5. Subdivisions
6. Earthshine
7. Red Barchetta (I forgot to breathe when I recognized the opening notes )
8. Roll the Bones
9. Bravado
10. YYZ
11. The Trees w/a snippet of “Day Tripper” (Beatles)
12. The Seeker (The Who)
13. One Little Victory

SET 2:
1. Tom Sawyer
2. Dreamline
3. Secret Touch
4. Between the Wheels
5. Mystic Rhythms
6. Red Sector A
7. Drum Solo w/ “One O’ Clock Jump” (Count Basie)
8. Resist
9. Heart Full of Soul (Yardbirds)
10. 2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx/Grand Finale
11. La Villa Strangiato w/ “Pirates” rant
12. Xanadu
13. Working Man

14. Summertime Blues
15. Crossroads
16. Limelight

Oh ya, I forgot to mention that a couple was thrown out of the Chula Vista gig for fucking in the lawn area…ya, that’s right…that’s what I said…FUCKING in the lawn area during “Between The Wheels,” what an appropriate song choice, right?. And they were about 50 feet away from me too! I saw two dark figures with flashlights in my periperal vision. They were PD, they forcused their attention on this tangled mass, illuminating them with their maglites. That was a sight hehe. Ahh the concert experience.

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Dream Theater @ The Spreckels Theater, San Diego CA 03/07/04

The Spreckels is a gorgeous little theater on Broadway in downtown SD. I say little because it’s an intimate theater size with capacity around 1500. The interior was breathtaking, classy and well maintained. The sculptures, cherubs, and drapery created this ambiance fit for a Broadway production. The seating arrangement was very accessible, not a bad seat in the house. There were plenty of hostesses assisting fans, some of which were these adorable little old retirees who likely didn’t realize they were in for a very loud, molten slab of progressive metal that night. Johnny Orange from work joined me on this trip. He was a true metal head guitarist with an affinity for intricate music. He had eclectic taste – he loved metal like Helloween, Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Opeth and of course Dream Theater. But he also enjoyed world fusion band Dead Can Dance and the latin rock stylings of La Ley. He played this gorgeous Les Paul Custom in Alpine White with gold hardware, I remember that vividly. We got to our seats and chatted with a couple other fans. It was cool being able to catch this second Train of Thought gig, I was eagerly anticipating a completely different song line up compared to the Pantages gig from the previous night.

This album and tour were riveting. The band was giving the fans so much variety and value from night to night, compelling fans to see the band on multiple dates. Reviews from other shows on this tour were always positive. Surprises were occurring frequently on this tour. In LA the band played their debut album in its entirety and special guests joined them onstage. In San Francisco the band performed a cover of Journey’s “Mother, Father.” So who knew what we would witness in San Diego. This new album, Train of Thought, was right up our alley. It was dark and heavy, akin to the Awake album, which got me into Dream Theater initially. It was more a metal album with progressive flavorings, rather than the other way around. The lyrics were stark, the music was aggressive, and the keyboards took a back seat to the guitars. In fact, the Train of Thought CD was a hit at our store. You could hear copies being played in 3 different departments: Drums, Guitars and Accessories. A lot of the guys were very into the CD. You could easily find Johnny mimicking the feedback to “As I Am” during our shifts. One day while playing the TOT disc on our Bose system, Johnny reported that one of the accessories guys, Lucas, complained that DT “sounded like Super Mario Bros. music.” I laughed at Lucas’ ignorance, and Johnnie replied in his South American accent “Fuck him, dude. He listens to 311.” We laughed our asses off. Thus TOT was a hit in our little corner of the world. And the relationship between TOT and Awake was evident and tonight’s set reflected that relationship.

The show began with the band history video, receiving a very strong response from the crowd. Then the one-two metallic punch of “As I Am” and “This Dying Soul” kicked off the set in bludgeoning fashion. Those two songs were lengthy, frequently changed tempos and time signatures, and were especially heavy. Then the bone crushing riff of “The Mirror” began and we went absolutely berserk. The head-banging continued, along with the air-guitar and air drums. A segment of “Lie” was included in “The Mirror,” giving the crowd a generous dose of brutal, chest thumping progmetal from the TOT and Awake albums. It was an awesome start to this show. The momentum didn’t stop as the band tore into “Under a Glass Moon,” a signature shred fest off the classic Images and Words CD. The band was unbelievably tight and having fun. James was in fine form, singing the songs with power, nailing the difficult “..by your hand I’ve awakened, bare this honor in my name” portion of UAGM. These 4 tracks slayed us. We were in awe, and we were receiving a welcomed ass kicking from the band. The set transitioned to a couple newer tracks which were well received, ultimately closing set one with “Finally Free” which went down amazingly well. Set two began with the very cool “Trial of Tears” followed by the devil horn raising “Honor Thy Father.” That song is relentless, and the head banging shred fest continued. Wow, we were out of breath, and the head bangers were dizzy by this point, probably with concussions. A mind blowing keyboard solo by Jordan Rudess followed, which eased into a magical change up of “Another Day” off Images and Words, which received a spirited cheer from the crowd. This breather was a welcomed contrast to the previous metallic onslaught. The delicate mood continued with the cello laden “Vacant” off TOT, which segued into the powerful instrumental “Stream of Consciousness.” I have memories of “Only a Matter of Time” being performed, but maybe I’m confusing it with the LA performance. The set definitely ended with “In the Name of God” with “Metropolis Pt. 1” serving as the encore. There were some technical difficulties during Metropolis. It looked like James couldn’t hear the sound through his in-ear monitors and lost his place during the “there’s a picture worth a thousand words” part. James looked over at Mike, motioned to his ear then shook his head in disappointment, Mike just grinned and continued playing. All these guys are freakin’ awesome, but it just shows that even the even the most talented groups can suffer from technical glitches. We walked out of the theater feeling pumped but beaten up lol. This was a stellar show and vastly different than the Pantages gig in LA.

There were some MP forumers at this gig. I wanted to give shout outs to headup, finallyfree, Dmann and homersimpson. The following pics were taken by fans at this gig and posted at Mike Portnoy’s official site, no copyright infringement intended.

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G3/Steve Vai @ The Sun Theater, Anaheim CA 06/27/01

One of the more unusual gigs I’ve attended, venue wise. Dbfield and I made the trip to Anaheim to see this shred fest. The Sun Theater was a good venue, intimate and well maintained and cared for. However they had a policy of requiring a dinner purchase with every reserved seating ticket order. So much of the venue is filled with long tables. It was an awkward arrangement, and some fans ignored the dinner purchase, much to the frustration of the waiters. I asked the guys across from us “hey what’s up the the waiter?” A Satriani fan, he replied “Oh he’s an asshole! I told him I was fine with my water for now and he gave me a hard time.” So hopefully this policy is revisited or revamped, because the tension detracts from the concert experience. At least at the House of Blues you’re not “required” to buy any food.

As usual, Vai went with the “more is more” approach when assembling his live band. The band was an impressive collection of musicians, including ex David Lee Roth/Mr. Big bassist Billy Sheehan, Frank Zappa alumnus Mike Keneally on keyboards/guitar, Dave Wiener on additional guitar, and the unbelievably gifted drummer Virgil Donati. They reminded me of one of Zappa’s bands. Geniuses on their instruments…but they looked like a bunch of misfits and freaks! LOL. Billy Sheehan looked like a scrawny spinster holding a massive bass, long bushy hair tied back. Mike Keneally is huuuuuge. That man has put on a lot of weight over the years, and he was dressed rather casually: shorts, a T and a vest, and what looked like a fisherman’s cap. He looked like a big dude going camping or something. Dave Weiner looked like some young skater kid plucked off the street. Donati and Vai were the only guys that looked like actual rock stars, but who cares really.

It was a typical Vai show, with virtuoso musicianship and flair. That is not always a good thing unfortunately. The set grew tiring, and the performance got to the point that the wizardry became noodling, like long winded musical masturbation. I greatly enjoy Vai’s work on record. He’s the showy, flashy yin to Joe Satriani’s bluesy, Hendrix-like yang (it’s impossible to have a conversation about Vai WITHOUT having a conversation about Satriani, they go hand in hand). But translated onstage, there’s great potential to bore the audience. Another Donati collaborator, keyboardist Derek Sherinian (Alice Cooper, Billy Idol, Dream Theater) said it best: play like that all the time and it (the music) becomes boring. That’s exactly what happened. I surveyed the crowd a bit and there was a dichotomy. There was a section of fans that were very into the show, at attention, and eating it up. And there was another group of people that looked tired and were holding their heads up. Keep in mind we were all seated at dinner tables. Have a meal, get comfy, become a little bored…and you’re ready for a nap. Still glad I was able to witness one of the guitar masters live. Highlight for me was Donati’s insane drum solo. What I can’t get over was the portion where he twirled his sticks while maintaining a backbeat on the kick and snare. That asshole.

Shy Boy
Giant Balls of Gold
Erotic Nightmares
Blood & Glory
The Animal
Whispering a Prayer
Incantation
Jibboom
For the Love of God

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No Doubt @ The Staples Center, Los Angeles CA 11/19/01

I wanted to give No Doubt’s opening set for U2 a separate review. Writing a little blurb in the U2 review wouldn’t do No Doubt justice. I didn’t have any expectations going into this gig. I like some No Doubt songs but was no fan, and wouldn’t call myself an admirer either. But as openers for U2, No Doubt impressed the heck out of us. It was a big party, and the group played a festive and fun set that got the audience moving. It was U2’s gig, but when No Doubt stepped up to play, they effectively turned the concert into a No Doubt gig. The set was brief at 45 minutes but explosively uptempo. The Staples Center crowd got into, responding well to Gwen Stefani’s stage banter. She had excellent command of the crowd and she didn’t have to do too much work to accomplish that. Her stage presence was great and it looked like the group was having a blast onstage. Stefani’s singing style is perfect for this kind of ska-like alternative rock. Her vocals were high pitched, and she would do that sultry croon of hers and she would chirp and squeak her lines at times, much like Dale Bozzio of Missing Persons. In fact the likeness to Dale Bozzio was uncanny: the vocals, the look, the overall colorfulness.

The band was in great form, driving through one song after another, keeping the energy level high and the mood very playful. By 2001, this group was ready for arenas. Somewhat embarrassed to say it, but highlights for me were “Simple Kind of Life” because of the low key nature, and “Hella Good” (haha) because it actually sounds good live. The recorded version just sounds wimpy, especially how they were trying to go for that old school 70s vibe. But live, it really thumped and it rocked. Adrian Young laid it down, giving the drums the power and fullness needed to make the song come alive. It was a skull cracking backbeat that shook the arena. And  his kick drum had this commanding Whhhooomp that literally gave us a kicking that night. Great, entertaining group. Cool to see them open for U2.

Spiderwebs
Bathwater
Ex-Girlfriend
Simple Kind of Life
New
Hey Baby
Don’t Speak
Hella Good
Just a Girl
Sunday Morning

Peter Gabriel @ The Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood CA 10/06/12

I was so excited to see this show. Peter Gabriel is often thought of one of those stuffy, self- important artistes, but for me his music combined some of the most offbeat yet compelling ingredients and his stage shows were legendary, almost theatrical events. He is a true artist, and his collaborators are some of the best musicians in the business. He rarely releases new material. And he rarely tours, consequentially. His history is deeply rooted in progressive rock music (Genesis) as well as new wave, pop and world music. Leave it to Peter Gabriel to mix electronic beats, bagpipes, distorted guitars and African tribal singing.

This tour was not to be missed, it was a huge event for fans and the music community. Call it nostalgia, but Peter Gabriel was celebrating the release of the landmark ‘So’ album. In a fitting move, he had pieced together the original 1987 ‘So’ touring lineup, including the great Tony Levin on bass and Manu Katche on drums. The group would play two sets with an intermission. The second half would showcase the entire ‘So’ album, with the closer being “In Your Eyes,” Followed by the obligatory “Biko” as the final encore.

What would have been a stellar show turned into one frustrating pain in the ass. I arrived at the venue extremely late. I had planned my route fairly well, or so I thought, but as I approached The Bowl, I quickly became stuck in horrendous traffic that would not move. After a while of waiting, I veered off and ventured further down the 101 and exited wherever I could. Unfortunately, one way streets, blocked off areas, illegal U-turns, closed down park & rides and suspended shuttle services further delayed me, and I could not locate a decent area to park. By the time I had figured it all out and made my way into The Bowl, the closing bars of Red Rain had been completed. I was so disappointed. I’d never had such a problem accessing a venue before. My seat was in the upper sections of The Bowl, which seemed like a mile away. So I decided to hang out near the middle section and quietly watched the show while leaning against a barrier. Staff didn’t bother me, I didn’t obstruct anyone’s view, so it seemed like a good vantage point and consolation for missing the first half.

The ‘So’ set was great, the performances were excellent and the band was hot…much of which is owed to the rhythm section. Manu Katche on drums provides the entire group with elegant flair and groove. During the 2002 “Growing Up Tour,” a different drummer, Ged Lynch, was utilized. That man cannot play like Manu Katche, he can’t even touch him, and the songs suffered as a result – they weren’t the same without Katche’s signature style. His playing is hard to describe. Katche is a French national of African decent. He approaches the drumset like a percussionist if that makes any sense. He has excellent feel, elegance in playing, writes intricate drum parts, and channel the spirit of MoTown in his playing. I did a little stint working at Guitar Center some years ago. I was so envious of the store manager because he got to attend Yamaha Day in LA. Katche plays Yamaha drums (like myself!). The store manager said that Katche kicked everyone’s ass when it came technique, ability and showmanship. I so wish i could have seen that performance.

John Cusack came onstage, boombox in hand, during the intro to “In Your Eyes.” Cusack handed the boombox to Gabriel, he lifted it above his head just like in the Say Anything movie.

OBUT
Come Talk to Me
Shock the Monkey
Family Snapshot
Part 2, Electric
Digging in the Dirt
Secret World
The Family and the Fishing Net
No Self Control
Solsbury Hill
Washing of the Water
Part 3, “So”
Red Rain
Sledgehammer
Don’t Give Up
That Voice Again
Mercy Street
Big Time
We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)
This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)
In Your Eyes
Encore:
The Tower That Ate People
Biko

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Jaguares @ The Rainbow Ballroom, Fresno CA 09/18/08

I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I attended my first Jaguares show in 2001. That show was mediocre at best. I wrongly assumed that this 2008 show would be better. So Jaguares were touring in support of a new CD, ’45.’ The group’s return brought a naïve hope that the material would be strong and would usher in a rejuvenated sound for Jaguares. But no. That CD was also mediocre. I had hoped the show would be stellar, and would make up for the mediocre album. But no. It was also rather shitty. Ok, so maybe I’m being too hard on the show…but it seemed fairly shitty at the time.

I got to the Rainbow Ballroom in Fresno with time to spare. It’s a grand old venue located in a less than desireable area of the city. Other great acts have graced this stage: AFI, Alejandra Guzman, Morrissey, etc. so it had a decent reputation and it was a high traffic venue for quality acts. I had high hopes for this show…it was going to be great, the band would be in fine form and the set would be triumphant and riveting. Unfortunately, the best part of the night was having a few expensive beers and hanging out with two friends from work. There was no opener, and the set was lackluster and heavy with material from ’45.’ While I have a fondness for this group (moreso a fondness for Caifanes), the set was dull and unremarkable. The new material was immediate and raw sounding, but it wasn’t very memorable. And the bulk of Jaguares’ older songs were represented as well during this set, however the momentum of the show didn’t improve. Those songs can be described as bluesy, low key latin rock. Caifanes songs appeared sporadically during the set, some with altered arrangements. On this tour, Hernandez (vocals) would be joined by long time collaborators Alfonso Andre on drums and Cesar “El Vampiro” Lopez on guitar. Marco Renteria was a newcomer to the group, having played bass on the ’45’ CD and on this tour. And finally, and probably the best part of the performance itself, was seeing ex-Caifanes member Diego Herrera onstage handling keyboards and saxophone. Herrera left Caifanes after the Rompiendo El Silencio Tour in 1992. His return to the stage was beyond belief. 3/5 of Caifanes were on stage and it was very cool, the closest thing to a reunion we may ever get (fast foward to my 2012 Caifanes review).

I’ve blocked most of this show from memory. The band played very well as they usually do. Saul strained at times but I think his voice  was stronger than it was in 2001. However the momentum of the show suffered because of odd song selections. I give credit to the band for not relying on its past to make a strong show. However their past can’t be denied, and unfortunately the newer material cannot stand next to the Caifanes material. The basic set was as follows, but I’m certain there are errors with the order and song selection.

Alquimista
Lobo
Entre tus Jardines
Dime Jaguar
Mátenme Porque me Muero
Miedo
Arriésgate
Fin
Pintame
Como Tú
Detrás de los Cerros
Nubes
Visible
Los Dioses Ocultos
Viajando en el Tiempo
Detrás de Ti
Afuera
Te lo Pido por Favor
____________________
La Forma
La Célula que Explota
No Dejes Que…

The following shots were taken by fan GustavoRojo. Thanks for the pics!

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Poison & Motley Crue @ The Save Mart Center, Fresno CA 08/16/11

Worst. Sound. Ever. Initially I was excited to see this cool package tour locally, but the sound was horrendous. It’s not that often that The Crue or Poison come to the Valley, so a double bill along with the legendary New York Dolls was an ultra-rare event. Unfortunately the mix left something to be desired…sorely desired. I’ve been to other Save Mart Center gigs and have sat in just about every section there is. This occasion I was gifted some tickets for Father’s Day (Yay!) and had a seat in the upper level, dead center. One would think this would be a great vantage point for visual and audio. But nope, it was horrendous. While Poison gave an entertaining set, I could barely hear it. It was as if I was listening to the set OUTSIDE of the arena and maybe 100 years away. The overall sound was very muffled…the vocals sounded tinny and distant. C.C. Deville’s guitar sound was just as subdued. And I couldn’t even hear Ricky Rockett’s drum parts. I saw his hands move across the drums, but didn’t HEAR anything. Wow this was bad. All I heard was snare and some cymbals, no kick or tom-toms. And Bobby Dall’s bass parts…virtually non-existent. I looked around and thought “are you guys hearing this???” It’s not fair to accurately review the band’s performance, but visually, Brett Michaels worked the crowd very well. He was an energetic and spirited front-man, and the band looked like they were having fun. It was awesome to see this guy work the crowd just like he did during the heyday of the Sunset era. Ricky paid Fresno a little tribute by using bass drum heads with a crude, spray painted “Fresno CA” on them.

Look What the Cat Dragged In
Ride the Wind
We’re an American Band
Your Mama Don’t Dance
Fallen Angel
Unskinny Bop
Every Rose Has Its Thorn
Talk Dirty to Me
Nothin’ But a Good Time

The Crue took the stage to rapturous applause. Luckily their sound was more or less worked out, nowhere near as bad as Poison’s sound, but not great either. It was still a good improvement and made their set more enjoyable. The light show was jaw dropping. It was a tad over the top and blinding at times, but damn that was a cool light show. As for the players, while the guys in the Crue are all well known characters, I say characters because each one is so unique and recognizable, it had to be singer Vince Neil and drummer Tommy Lee that stole the show and provided the most showmanship. Vince is Vince. Great stage presence, very good singing ability (when he’s sober), and get’s into the gig, doesn’t merely perform for a pay check. His vocals were strong and he handled all the material very well for the most part. There were some clams but nothing major. Tommy Lee always provides the over-the-top entertainment. While he’s not know to be a very proficient drummer, he’s known for his showmanship and attitude. I think this tour he outdid himself. Tommy Lee’s drum solo consisted of a basic drum solo…but on a roller coaster rig. The kit was actually attached to tracks that elevated and released the whole drum kit. A fan was invited to sit in and join him for a ride. That was unbelievable – very rock SHOW and I emphasize the show part. Huge highlight. The other huge highlight for me was hearing “Home Sweet Home,” thee quintessential power ballad of the 80s. And so ended the Crue’s set. I’m not a fan per se of either band but was familiar enough to want to see the show. Glad I did, just wish the sound issues had been worked out.

Wild Side
Saints of Los Angeles
Live Wire
Shout at the Devil
Same Ol’ Situation
Primal Scream
Home Sweet Home
Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Drum Solo
Guitar Solo
Looks That Kill
Dr. Feelgood
Too Young to Fall in Love
Girls, Girls, Girls
Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
Kickstart My Heart

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Jaguares @ The Orange Pavillion, San Bernardino CA 11/02/01

This was without a doubt one of the roughest crowds I’ve ever experienced, akin to a rough metal crowd…or worse. The Orange Pavillion bordered on “dive” status, the area anyway. It was decent sized, with a capacity of 5000, but the turn out must have been half that or less. Security was tight, complete with a pat down, and I believe we even had to surrender our original ticket+stub for some odd reason. The crowd was quite inebriated, so consideration and etiquette quickly went out the door so to speak. I witnessed a few guys vomit in the crowd (or come close to vomiting/falling over). Several people attempted to push their way up front, wedging themselves in tiny gaps between audience members. They were pushed back with even greater force, leading to a pushing battle near the stage. So there were several hazards in the crowd, leading to a very uncomfortable experience and it detracted from the show.

The show itself was great only in the sense that I got to see Jaguares in the flesh. They were what was left of the once mighty Caifanes, a legendary group in its own right. However this incarnation was just a mere shadow of Caifanes, without the magic and sparkle that made the original group so vibrant. Jaguares’ sound was darker and more rooted in blues and jazz. Leader and vocalist Saul Hernandez fronted Jaguares along with Caifanes alumnus Alfondo Andre on drums. The rest of the group consist of a revolving door of guest musicians. This tour included Chucho Merchan on bass, Leo Corona on percussion, and Cesar “El Vampiro” Lopez on guitar. Lopez played guitar on Mana’s Donde Jugaron Los Ninos CD and has since become part of the semi-permanent Jaguares trio. The performance was good, however Saul’s voice was not in good shape. He often strained, and his overall tone was no longer pleasing to the ears. Saul’s voice  no longer had the power and sweetness of the Caifanes days, due to a vocal cord condition. However he gets an ‘A’ for effort.

The set was heavy with new material from the mediocre album Cuando La Sangre Galopa, peppered with older tracks from the El Equilibrio and Bajo El Azul De Tu Misterio albums. The band performed well and the arrangements were guitar heavy since there was no keyboard player utilized for this tour. The crowd was clamoring for Caifanes songs. 5 Caifanes tracks were featured, each was received with rapturous applause. “Amanece” pumped up the crowd, Saul singing the first verse a capella before the rest of the group crashed in. “Dime Jaguar” was also well received, but things didn’t heat up until “Cuentame Tu Vida” was performed. The song’s character changed a bit without the keyboards, however El Vampiro fleshed out the keyboard parts on guitar, giving the song a bluesier edge, rather than the Cure-esque/new wave sound of the studio original. Another cool performance was “Miercoles De Cineza” which saw drummer Alfonso Andre step up to center stage to sing the first two versus. He did VERY well, successfully imitating Saul’s high pitched singing on the studio original. Andre quickly got back to the drum kit in time for the rockin’ chorus. He did a great job of lead vocal duties and drumming. There were some good performances, however this was still a rough introduction to the group in a live setting, but I’ll take what I can get.

Something remarkable happened during this show. During the encore, as I surveyed the crowd during “La Celula Que Explota,” I found that nearly every face had tears rolling down. The lights illuminated the first few rows clearly. The crowd was in tears…literally in tears. I have never seen anything like that before or since. The song continued and men and women were tearfully singing along. I thought to myself “what the hell is wrong with you people?” I loved the song too, understood the lyrics, but was not experiencing the connection they were experiencing. Maybe it was the alcohol. Ya…that’s what it was…these people are drunk! So the group continued and the climax came, the crowd blissfully singing along to the aching conclusion. Whew that was emotional I guess. But then the band immediately segued into “No Dejes Que,” the bluesy, anthemic guitar intro receiving a roar of approval from the crowd. And then the massive sing along began: “Cuando veooo a traaaaveeeeesss del vassoooo…” and then that’s when it hit me, I began to feel it. You know that sensation when you’re about to weep? I tried to fight it back, squinted my eyes and bit my lip. Then I too joined the singalong “Veeoooo a travessss del tiemmpohhhh…and then I became misty eyed and couldn’t hold back any longer. Now I realized what it was all about. Even though the show might have been a little lackluster, it was this moment during the encore when I finally “got it,” this band means so much to people and I now know why. The ache, the melancholy, the sentiment, it hit me hard and I too wept like a sissy. It wasn’t a great experience, but it was still Jaguares. Maybe the next time will be better. This is the set as i remember it, I’m positive there are errors.

Dime de un Amor que no Ha Sufrido
Amanece
Cuando la Sangre Galopa
Dime Jaguar
En la Tierra
Cuéntame tu Vida
La Vida No Es Igual
Detrás de los Cerros
Fin
Como Tú
Miércoles de Ceniza
El Secreto
Tu Reino
¿Viejo el Mundo?
Afuera
_______________
La Célula que Explota
No Dejes Que…

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La Ley @ The House of Blues, Anaheim CA 09/08/01

Surreal and heart-stopping. That’s the feeling I had when my girl and I stood up against the barrier, first row, for La Ley’s show at the Anaheim HOB. We were on guitarist Pedro Frugone’s side, stage right. We arrived at Downtown Disney super early and it paid off. This would be our second occasion seeing La Ley, but it was the more riveting performance. It was a smaller, more intimate venue, the set was stronger…and we were in the first row!!! The Grammy winning group from Chile had always been popular in the latin rock realm, but now they were starting to break in an even bigger way, their album Uno was a platinum seller in the USA with accessible yet rockin’ music, even if it was in Spanish. Of special note, La Ley does songs in Spanish, English AND French! There was no opener for this show. The place was filled to capacity. Most HOB shows I’ve attended at least had some breathing room. This gig did not. Wall to wall, packed with bodies, mostly younger latin females. The crowd was LOUDER than the band. To those who don’t know, the music can best be described as latin alternative rock with pop sensibilities. Catchy choruses, memorable melodies, short song lengths, etc. It was perfect music for a day at the beach, or a Saturday night out, or a Sunday morning in. However, this band had immense talent. Singer Beto Cuevas was an awesome crooner, whose influences included Frank Sinatra and Simon LeBon of Duran Duran. His voice made the ladies swoon, and the power made the guys rock out. It was a pure, polished sounding voice, golden. You couldn’t help but grab a hair brush and sing along, miming into the microphone (hair brush). Drummer Mauricio Claveria was an exceptional drummer. His influences included greats like Steve Gadd and Neil Peart, and Claveria played a monster double bass kit, complete with splashes and mini-chinas. He could outplay most other alt-rock drummers. Pedro Frugone on guitar created melodic lines and upbeat phrasings. There was no full time basist at this point in the band’s career, however Archie Frugone (Pedro’s brother) filled in on this tour.The music was very melodic with a sprinkle of pop goodness, which was a great contrast to the stylings of Caifanes/Jaguares, Heroes Del Silencio and Mana. La Lay is definitely one of the “Big Four” of modern latin rock.

There were several great moments at this show, unforgettable moments. After a song, Pedro Frugone kneeled down to adjust his effects settings on a pedal board. He was within arm’s reach. I extended my hand and offered a friendly handshake. Frugone looked up at me, gave a broad smile and shook my hand…that was one of the greatest moments ever at a show. The guy next to me followed suit and also received a handshake. What a great moment. My jaw dropped in astonishment. The other cool…yet unsanitary moment, came when Cuevas shook his head like a dog trying to dry itself off. His head was full of sweat, and it flew everywhere. Beads hit the girls in the first couple rows and they squealed in delight. And a bead also landed in my gaping mouth. Whoa…that’s Beto Cuevas’ sweat….

The band was extremely tight, surpassing their performances on record. “Animal” was a great opener, it’s one of their well known tracks, and the tension was slow building, then the energey level fully erupted during the chorus section. The songs were tighter in concert, more energetic, and the singing was effortless and flawless. Cuevas worked the crowd into a frenzy, commanding us and thrilling us like a latin Freddy Mercury. There were two bouncers directly in front of us. As one surveyed the crowd, the other said to him “these guys sound pretty good!” The other bouncer nodded in approval. When the staff can get into it, then clearly some kind of magic is happening. Special moments for me include great renditions of “Tejedores Del Ilusion,” “Prisioneros De La Piel,” and the surprise inclusion of “Every Time” off the Crazy/Beautiful Soundtrack. “Every Time” was a great game changer during the show, it’s an English language ballad…at least I think they performed the English version. Regardless, it provided a gorgeous breather during the show. Of special note was a rare performance of “Vi,” one of my favorites off the Vertigo album. Cuevas introduced the song by saying “…esta tema se llama simplemente…” and he held up his hands, his fingers forming the letters V and I, and the band eased into the rhythmic rocker, it was captivating. We were also treated to two performances of “El Duelo,” a slow tempo arrangement like what’s found on the MTV Unplugged CD, and the traditional rocker used to close the encore section, it was freaking awesome hearing the song twice with different arrangements. The only minor complaint I had was regarding the arrangement of “Doble Opuesto.” That song is one of their key uptempo selections, and unfortunately Frugone played different guitar parts for most of the song. The late Andres Bobe gave that song unique character with his guitar playing, it was crisp, clean and melodic with very little distortion or overdrive…it was a clean fender stratocaster sound. Frugone added his own touch to the song and briskly played overdriven chord patterns. And there was no backing piano track, which also gives this song some of it’s unique flavor. It was cool to see the band abruptly stop “Doble Opuestro” and immediately launch into “Dia Cero.” This was a very awesome show. We witnessed the magic from the first row and we were floored. After it was all over, they practically had to carry us all out on stretchers. Girls were sweaty and ready to pass out, the guys were still pumped and wanted more, it was crazy good. Little did we know that the group would break up in 2005. Thank goodness we caught one of the latin rock greats in their prime. I can’t remember the set order very well, but I’m fairly certain the following songs were performed.

Animal
Eternidad
Hombre
Tejedores De Ilusion
Prisioneros De La Piel
Verano Espacial
Delirando
Paraiso
Vi
Every Time (Siempre)
Cielo Market
Eternidad
Fuera De Mi
El Duelo
Aqui
Al Final
____________
Doble Opuesto
Dia Cero
El Duelo