Category Archives: Concerts: 1998-2004
This had to be THE live show where I felt very much in the minority. While 99% of the crowd was having a good ol’ proggy time witnessing the legendary Spock’s Beard, me and my girlie had an extremely difficult time enjoying the show. The group was insanely talented, wicked talented! They were having a great time onstage and with plenty of enthusiasm and friendly chatter from Neal Morse. His voice was flawless and his work on the keys and guitar was just as impeccable. Nick D’Virgilio is an excellent drummer, but damn that man could sing too. His backing vox was out of this world, up there with Neal’s voice.
The songs were epic showcases of “classic” prog rock, colorful, sweeping and lush…and maybe that was the problem for me. At the time I hadn’t explored progressive groups outside of the progmetal subgenre. I preferred the crunch, the heavy riffs, the double bass drumming, etc. Classic Genesis and Yes hadn’t yet made it to my playlist. What I was spinning at the time was music by Queensryche, Conception, Metallica’s Justice album, Fates Warning’s APSOG, etc. So in retrospect, I couldn’t fully appreciate the sweeping arrangements, Beatlesque influences, and non-metal flavorings etc. Everyone else in the club appeared to be having a GREAT time. Any opener that can achieve that feat is awesome in my book.
Neal Morse wore a DT2000 tour jersey during the show, referencing it on a couple occasions to great crowd approval. The Beard rocked the house, giving the DT fans a generous helping of proggy goodness. This was the last night of The Beard’s tour with DT. As such, while SB performed, the guys in DT pulled various pranks during their set. In response, the guys in SB all came out onstage during DT’s performance of “The Spirit Carries On” to sing on the final chorus. Songs performed tonight included “Day For Night,” “The Healing Colors of Sound,” and “June.” I think “Thoughts Pt. 2” and “The Doorway” may have been performed but I can’t be certain. Gross out moment of the night came when the guy a few yards over couldn’t hold his liquor and ended up puking all over the floor, much to the waitress’s disgust and frustration. At least he took care of it and cleaned it up himself. Never seen anyone hurl at a HOB show, hope the dude remembered the show.
I was a little embarrassed to write this review (given I can’t deny that I once really liked this band). But then I thought about my life at this point, about school, friends, family, and fondly thought about where my love and I were at this point. I had to complete this write-up from the best of memory, to serve as a snap shot of the Fall of 2000. She had a copy of 3EB’s debut. She would play it on her Sony while we hung out. I bought my own copy of 3EB’s debut and really got into it. I liked how infectious the music was. Not too soft, not too heavy…catchy, and you couldn’t help but sing along to those sweet choruses and hum those guitar lines. My favorite tracks off that CD were “Jumper,” “The Background” and “God of Wine.” It was the sentimental tracks that I really enjoyed I think. I had bought a copy of BLUE when it was released, “Never Let You Go” had sold me, and continued that 3EB styled power pop. A year after Blue’s release the band would still be touring. I bought tickets for this Greek performance and was pretty psyched about going. Even better, Vertical Horizon would be one of two openers. We also had copies of Vertical Horizon’s Everything You Want CD, and those tracks were just as sweet (if not sweeter) than the best 3EB songs. What a great combo, I figured we would be in for a great treat. We arrived at the Greek and sat ourselves somewhere in the mid section, stage right.
Nine Days was the first group to go on. Their set lasted around 30 minutes and it ended with their hit “Absolutely (Story of a Girl).” They were a very fitting opener and matched the stylings of Third Eye Blind and Vertical Horizon. I hate when off the wall mismatches occur on tours, but this combination worked well. Vertical Horizon went on and delivered an excellent performance. They were seasoned musicians and their songs were very well crafted. They were an alt-rock band that reminded me of REM, but with greater musicianship and without the jangle-pop. My eyes immediately went to drummer Ed Toth. His playing caught my ears, he was doing some pretty sick stuff on that drum kit. It was an expansive drum kit as well, that also got my attention. He laid down his parts like a virtuoso drummer and make it look easy. Where did this guy come from? Later I would find out that he recorded with an early incarnation of The Dave Matthews Band. No wonder…I have to say that Ed Toth is right up there with the likes of Carter Beauford. The rest of the group was just as tight, and singer Matt Scannell was very impressive, singing his lines while performing rhythm as well as lead guitar work. VH’s set was powerful. It was poppy alt-rock but it hit the audience hard. The sound quality was great, crystal clear with a perfect mix. Their playing was just as great, without any technical or performance related issues. And what cemented my adoration for this band was when the group segued into RUSH’s “Spirit of Radio” near the end of their set. “Whoa…they like AND can play RUSH,” is what I thought to myself. It was a very entertaining and triumphant set. Highlights for me included “You’re a God,” the rockin’ “We Are,” “Best I Ever Had,” and of course “Everything You Want.” We definitely wanted to see these guys again.
Vertical Horizon’s set:
All of You
You’re a God
Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning)
Send It Up
Everything You Want
We Are/Spirit of Radio (Rush)
After a generous and tasty set by Vertical Horizon, finally Third Eye Blind’s set began. I was so disappointed. Vertical Horizon rocked us. But 3EB could barely touch them and almost whimpered in comparison. It was a very standard performance, sort of ‘by the numbers’ and unremarkable. The songs did not translate as well in a live setting. When I say that I mean they were decent renditions, however most of the songs lost that ‘pop’ and polished quality that’s found on record. Stephen and co. did a fair job performing but 3EB wasn’t the most engaging group onstage. It was easy to become distracted by other stimuli like the other fans, especially the 2 latinas behind us and to the right that wouldn’t shut the fuck up during a handful of the songs. Luckily they left before the show ended. But even with the absence of their obnoxious conversation and inappropriately placed woo-hoos, the band continued to lack something onstage: charisma. Every few songs, bassist Arion Salazar would travel to the wings of the stage and play to the fans on stage right/left, but other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot of instances of band “interaction.” Jenkins sang ok (as well as he did on record) and he performed his guitar parts without any obvious mess-ups. But he didn’t draw me in or do anything very noteworthy onstage. His ‘front-man’ abilities were lacking. I can’t even recall him addressing the crowd or doing any memorable stage banter. The front-man should make the fan ‘get off.’ I didn’t get off. Brad Hargreaves was confined to the back of the stage and laid down his drum parts without any problems. Their guitar player executed his parts well and switched to keyboards for one song…and that’s about it. And I didn’t know it at the time, but the guitarist onstage was not founding member Kevin Cadogan, but a replacement: Tony Fredianelli. Unbeknownst to me and probably much of the crowd, Cadogan (who was co-writer of many of 3EB’s hits) was fired from the group in January 2000. He subsequently sued Jenkins for wrongful termination and breach of contract. That suit was settled in 2002. And ever since then, success has eluded 3EB and Jenkins had to contend with several other lawsuits (by former managers, and replacement guitarist T. Fredianelli as well). I’d wager to say that Jenkins LOST more money due to record company debts and lawsuits than what was ever earned by record and ticket sales. At any rate, this was a very average show. It’s funny, the big standout/highlight that I have committed to memory was when the group transitioned into a few bars of Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” Sadly, that was the most memorable part of their set for me. Disappointingly, my absolute favorite 3EB song, “God of Wine,” was not performed this night. But at least Vertical Horizon left a great impression on us and outplayed 3EB, hands down.
3EB’s set was something like the following:
Thanks A Lot
10 Days Late
Never Let You Go
The Red Summer Sun
Losing a Whole Year
How’s It Going To Be
I Want You
Motorcycle Drive By
Deep Inside of You
Graduate/The Ocean (Led Zeppelin)
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 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.”
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
7. Red Barchetta (I forgot to breathe when I recognized the opening notes )
8. Roll the Bones
11. The Trees w/a snippet of “Day Tripper” (Beatles)
12. The Seeker (The Who)
13. One Little Victory
1. Tom Sawyer
3. Secret Touch
4. Between the Wheels
5. Mystic Rhythms
6. Red Sector A
7. Drum Solo w/ “One O’ Clock Jump” (Count Basie)
9. Heart Full of Soul (Yardbirds)
10. 2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx/Grand Finale
11. La Villa Strangiato w/ “Pirates” rant
13. Working Man
14. Summertime Blues
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.
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.
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.
Giant Balls of Gold
Blood & Glory
Whispering a Prayer
For the Love of God
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.
Simple Kind of Life
Just a Girl
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
Cuando la Sangre Galopa
En la Tierra
Cuéntame tu Vida
La Vida No Es Igual
Detrás de los Cerros
Miércoles de Ceniza
¿Viejo el Mundo?
La Célula que Explota
No Dejes Que…
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.
Tejedores De Ilusion
Prisioneros De La Piel
Every Time (Siempre)
Fuera De Mi
This was Fuel at their peek with the Something Like Human lineup performing. It was 2001, The band was tight, energetic and hungry. And Brett Scallions was obviously high. My lady and I were sitting up in the balcony section of the House of Blues Hollywood, dead center, and I could see Scallion’s glazed eyes and semi-erratic behavior from up there. During the opening number, “Last Time,” Scallions danced like Axl Rose across the stage, jerking his mic stand from side to side. The mic flew out of its clip and across the stage. The band continued to play and Scallions looking dazed and confused, paused for a bit, then walked over to retrieve the mic. Not the most graceful recovery but it could have been worse.
The set was brief, about 16 or 17 songs in all. The band had only 2 full length albums at that time so it’s to be expected. The highlight of the night for me was something unexpected and kind of random. Scallions performed a solo acoustic rendition of Elton John’s “Daniel.” It actually sounded great, it was lovely, and a nice contrast from the usual Fuel offerings. A recording of this cover can be found on the reissue of Something Like Human. Then Scallions humorously killed the mood by saying “alright enough of this sappy shit” and the band ripped into another hard rocker.
The stars of the night had to be Scallions and drummer Kevin Miller. Scallions is a good live singer and a decent performer. He wasn’t very engaging, nor did he have much stage presence, however he was the most animated player onstage. Guitarist Carl Bell and bassist Jeff Abercrombie just stood there, laid down their parts (and laid them down well) but that was about it. Kevin Miller on the other hand is a great showman type drummer. He played with precision and with power. The highlights of his playing style had to be the cool use of his toms to produce melodies. He would play these melodic tom patterns that served as outros to some of the songs, and he did some cool splash work as well, adding color and delicate accents to Fuel’s songs. It’s a shame he didn’t stay in the band very long. Highlights of the night for me include “Innocent,” “Sunburn,” “Bittersweet” and of course “Hemorrhage.”
It’s difficult to recall the set but I think it was something like the following:
Jesus or a Gun
Hemorrhage (In My Hands)
So in my community college days I finally let the Rush bug bite me. For years I was just about Dream Theater and Queensryche, having pushed Rush aside without giving them a proper chance, even though they had HEAVILY influenced my favorite progressive band, Dream Theater. I was familiar with the FM classic rock radio tracks but had never bothered to venture any deeper than that. While at work I overheard a couple customers walk by, an older gentleman and a younger guy. I caught only part of the conversation, he said something like “…and that was the 26th time I’d seen Rush.” I was astounded. How could a band have such a rabid, ultra loyal and dedicated fan base…especially a band that just “didn’t get.” So I decided to take a little chance. One day, on a whim, I ordered Moving Pictures and Exit…Stage Left from Amazon. That was one of the best purchases EVER.
Exit Stage Left was an awesome depiction of Rush in a live setting, and I also delved deep into Moving Pictures and discovered stunning gems like The Camera Eye, Vital Signs and Red Barchetta (this was my first time hearing the track!). I was floored by the detail, the technical wizardry, the shredding, Alex’s “lonely” sounding and sentimental yet rockin’ solos, Geddy’s intricate bass parts with that cool mid-range sound, and of course, Neil Peart’s god-like drum parts and poetic lyrics. Vinnie Paul of Pantera called Neil Peart “God on drums.” Pretty damn accurate.
So fast forward to the Staples Center gig in LA on the Vapor Trails Tour. It was the long awaited return of Rush to the stage after a long hiatus. Dbfield came along for the ride, we left Orange County fairly early and beat traffic. We sported our Dream Theater tshirts proudly hehe. While dining at the attached sports grill, a group of Rush fans sat at a nearby booth. I could hear one of the guys say “what’s with the Dream Theater shirts?” I’ve always felt that if you go to a live gig you wear ANOTHER BAND’S SWAG. Of course you’re there to support Rush, you bought the ticket didn’t you. Why not show your other favorite band some love?
Anyways, the show we received was much like the set depicted on the Rush In Rio DVD (one of the greatest concert DVDs EVER), with the exceptions being the absences of Closer to the Heart, Free Will and The Trees. However, we did get a couple seldom performed selections: Between the Sun and Moon and Vital Signs. OMG…when Vital Signs began, the Staples Center went ballistic. The synthesizer intro came over the PA, and the crowd began to roar and cheer. It was like a volume swell, a steady crescendo that eventually erupted by the time Alex and Neil joined in. We were seated in the middle deck, and we could feel a rumble beneath our feet. I swear it felt like the section was moving, as if an earth quake was taking place. That had to have been the song of the night. The set length was very generous, there wasn’t even an opening act on this tour, it was extremely cool. The set had to have clocked in at 3 hours with a brief intermission. The value was incredible. The set was a solid selection of songs, but there were many favorites of mine that were ommitted in favor of other well-known selections. This is a band with a wealth of quality material, it’s impossible to play all the good stuff within 3 hours. The new material sounded better live, with the standout track for me being “Earthshine.” Another very notable sequence was moving one-two punch of “The Pass” and “Bravado.” Wow, hearing those back to back was breathtaking. And of course there was the devestating Neil Peart drum solo, including big band excerpts. The drum solo had to be one of the most entertaining solos I’d ever seen. And drum solos usually allow a fan to take a pee break or grab another beer. Not this one. That solo mesmerized the crowd. I was sold, I was now a fan, and quickly became a die-hard. Very awesome first experience seeing Rush, I just wish the sound quality was a tad better. There was some distortion and a lot of mid range for some reason – I’ll blame it on the Staples Center’s crappy acoustics. But whenever I tire of a disc, mood or trend, I go back to Rush. Whenever I feel like practicing, I go back to some Rush tracks. Whenever I want to immerse myself in poetic story telling with vivid imagery, I listen to Rush. I may have jumped on a bit late, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this ride.
Distant Early Warning
New World Man
Roll the Bones
The Big Money
Between Sun and Moon
One Little Victory
Red Sector A
Leave That Thing Alone
2112 Part I: Overture
2112 Part II: The Temples of Syrinx
La Villa Strangiato
The Spirit of Radio
By-Tor & The Snow Dog