Last week my wife and I went to the Riverside Theater in Milwaukee to see the Dukes of September, starring Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs, and Michael McDonald. It was a great, great night--and it got me thinking about some of the other great, and not-so-great, concerts I've seen over the years.
My all-time favorite show was at the Orpheum Theater in Madison back in 1979, when Robert Palmer got every person in the theater out of their seats and dancing. (Even rhythmically challenged individuals such as myself.) The Eagles played Alpine Valley in 1980, and they did a long acoustic set in the middle of the show. While they were playing, the biggest full moon I've ever seen was rising right over the stage. I've never forgotten it. A few years ago, in the wilds of the Internet, I found a bootleg recording of that very show, which is an incredible souvenir to have. Another incredible night was back in 1990, when we saw Paul McCartney at Cyclone Stadium (Iowa State University) in Ames, Iowa. When Paul came out and sang "Yesterday," it was a bucket-list. I've had a few others like that: Ray Charles doing "Georgia on My Mind" and "What'd I Say" at Summerfest; Steve Winwood singing "Gimme Some Lovin'," also at Summerfest; Mavis Staples singing "I'll Take You There" at the Orpheum a few years ago.
I have had a couple of disappointments, too. When the Electric Light Orchestra played the Coliseum in 1978, they were so loud you couldn't distinguish one song from another. When James Taylor played Summerfest in 2005, the whole thing seemed kind of plastic and programmed, and I never felt like Taylor connected with me. I'd like to see him again just to see if it would be any different a second time.
If you've got a great concert story, I'd like to hear it. E-mail me at email@example.com and I'll put it in this blog next time.
Saturday at the 70s wrapped up the other night with a Casey Kasem countdown from the week of August 21, 1976. After I got off the air and back home, I listened until I fell asleep on the couch because 1976 is my favorite year. (You can hear the show again--and I can hear what I missed--this Saturday morning from 6 to 9.)
One of the top 40 songs in that bygone week was "Moonlight Feels Right" by Starbuck. In the oddball way of the Internet, I have become Facebook friends with David Shaver, Starbuck's keyboard player. He told me that he wasn't in the band when the song was recorded, but it had so many overdubs that when the band wanted to go on the road, they had to hire an extra keyboard player--him--to make their big hit sound right.
Starbuck reunited last weekend for a show in Atlanta. It was billed as "the Greatest Yacht Rock Revival in the Universe," and featured several other acts who were on the radio in August 1976. Included were Gary Wright, whose "Love Is Alive" was on its way down the Top 40, and John Ford Coley, whose hit with England Dan Seals, "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight," was in the Top 10. Larry Hoppen of Orleans was scheduled to appear, but he died last month. In August 1976, Orleans' "Still the One" was on its way up the Top 40.
Also on the bill for the Yacht Rock show Saturday night: Walter Egan ("Magnet and Steel"), Robbie Dupree ("Steal Away"), plus Peter Beckett of Player ("Baby Come Back"), and Elliott Lurie of Looking Glass ("Brandy" and "Jimmy Loves Mary Anne"). What a night it must have been. I wish I could have been there, but I had to be on Saturday at the 70s--which is never a bad thing.
The Summer Olympics are done for another four years. I watched a little, although I find the Winter Olympics more compelling. I am much more interested in the winter sports, including hockey--and curling. The Summer Olympics needs curling. I know it's played on ice. Are you going to tell me they couldn't make some ice somewhere, get some of those big rocks and a few brooms, and have themselves a bonspiel?
Every time there's an Olympics, somebody always takes a poll about what people think would be the easiest sport to medal in, and curling always makes the list. It's just sliding rocks down the ice, right? How hard can it be? Curlers tend to look more like the woman who does your hair or the guy who fixes your car than they look like beach volleyball players or track stars. Surely it must be an easy sport to play.
People who say this have never tried it. After the '06 Olympics, the Madison Curling Club held an open house for people to come out and try it. So I did. And I couldn't even stand up on the ice, let alone slide the rock, let alone get it to the other end of the rink, or do anything else, because I was too busy falling down. There's no doubt: the world's best curlers are athletes every bit as accomplished as Misty May Treanor or Usain Bolt, if not as buffed.
Yup, the London Olympics would have been better with curling. No question.
Every August, my wife goes to Pennsylvania to spend a week at family camp with her brother and sister and their families. It would be fun to hang with the nephews and nieces for a whole week, and I would be happy to do it--in a hotel someplace, with cable, and air conditioning, and a bar downstairs. I do not camp. I have tried it, I do not like it, and I have no intention of doing it ever again.
If my wife were here right now, she would chime in that they are not really "camping." They are sleeping in dorms, not tents, and they're eating in a cafeteria, not cooking over open fires. And I would respond that because they're sharing bathrooms and showers with other campers and there's neither cell-phone coverage nor Wi-Fi access up there in the mountains, the fact that there are no tents or cooking fires is merely a subsidiary problem.
So this week, I am Home Alone. What this means, mainly, is that I cook things she won't eat and rent movies she won't like. What's different about this year is that I have no cat at home to keep me company. Sophie passed a couple of months ago at age 20, and we are presently catless. Once my wife gets back to civilization, we will start the process of finding a new cat for our home. Unless she brings me back a souvenir raccoon.