Friday, October 29, 2010

You're Fooling Yourself...

Get up, get back on your feet.
You're the one they can't beat and you know it.
Come on, let's see what you've got.
Just take your best shot and don't blow it.
--from Styx "The Grand Illusion" album (1977)
So, taking yet another break from writing my SSJ travelogue (I promise I will wrap up that trip at some point) I took time to go down memory lane a bit last night.

Like Bon Jovi, Styx is one of those bands people call "a guilty pleasure" but not me. I just call it a pleasure. Period. I grew up on their music -- lots of memories of roller-skating parties, sleepovers and sneaking beer with my friends. Years later, a kick-ass version (if I do say so myself) of their "Come Sail Away" got me out of piano proficiency at Juilliard. No joke!

We have so many amazing venues in NYC, it's quite remarkable. Actually, the last time I saw Styx was at another landmark place, Radio City Music Hall. *sigh* Anyhoo, this was my first show at the newly restored Beacon Theatre. And it looks absolutely gorgeous. If you ever have the opportunity to go to an event there, do it! For some reason, I can't get my picture of the ceiling to post correctly, but trust me ... it's amazing.

The band's current tour is called The Grand Illusion/Pieces of Eight because they are literally doing both of those records in their entirety, just as they were released on vinyl in 1977 and 1978, respectively. Of course, that takes the spontaneity out of it a bit, as you know what the set list is. But that definitely doesn't detract from the great tunes.

For example, long before Jon Bon Jovi saw a documentary about DHL pulling out of Ohio, there was a truly rocking working man song. Isn't it amazing how some things just don't change?! "Give me a job, give me security. Give me a chance to survive. I'm just a poor soul in the unemployment line. My God I'm hardly alive..."

If you don't know the song, here's a clip with the original line-up. (I do miss Dennis DeYoung, I must say. But, it was a treat to have original bassist Chuck Panozzo join them on stage for a few songs!)

And, talk about the original song about being wanted dead or alive, you can't deny the absolutely powerful vocals of Tommy Shaw on "Renegade". That song never gets old. I was super-excited that my seat was about 20 feet from Tommy's mic stand. I've always liked him, both in Styx and Damn Yankees (the band ... not the Broadway musical. LOL)

All-in-all it was a fun show. Given the structure, I didn't get to hear some of my other fave songs like Lady, Lorelei, Best of Times and Crystal Ball -- though I was happy that one of the encore songs was Too Much Time on My Hands. That's always a crowd-pleaser.

And, as for the "guilty pleasure" thing and whether you like them or not ... whatever. I like a LOT of different stuff -- whether it be Shostakovich or Bon Jovi , Southside Johnny or the Dixie Chicks, The Doors or Billy Joel. Like I tweeted last night, if I actually cared what people thought of my musical choices, I certainly never would have played bassoon. #justsaying ;-)

p.s. oh yeah, and on the JoviFront ... apparently we can see where my priorities are as I have my European tour mapped out already but haven't even started packing my apartment (and I move on Sunday! LOL) By the way, looks like it will be Edinburgh, London and the two Dublin shows for me this time. Woohoo!!

ohhh...and p.s.2. The frickin' power went out at the Jukes final show in the UK last night. The band did an acoustic set for the crowd (until it was shut down by the fire marshall.) Damn, sounds like it was incredible! Argh. Next year, doing the WHOLE Jukes Eurotour!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Power and Poise...A Striking Combination

I take a break from my regularly scheduled Bon Jovi/Southside Johnny tour chaos ramblings to say a few words about another great musician...and even greater person.
So ... it may be a rainy, dreary day in New York City today but the sun was certainly shining last night in The Living Room on the Lower East Side. It was another fabulous evening with the talented, generous and kind violinist/singer/songwriter Lorenza Ponce.

This gig was the first opportunity I've had to hear her with her new band and ... wow!

Now, don't get me wrong, I liked her previous gang ... heck, one of my all-time favorite people played in it ... but, this new group of young, rocking musicians truly brings a special spark to the music. It's a much smaller group and you really felt the musical connection from person to person.

As I said to Lorenza after the show, there was a different kind of intensity to the songs ... and a feeling of flexibility and freedom that really captivated the room. A certain amount of that comes from the opportunity to work consistently with a group of musicians. There is a synergy that develops ... a trust that grows. It is called a band, afterall (def: a company of people coming together having a common purpose).

And that comfortability (yes, I know there is a debate on whether or not that is actually a word!) often leads to a situation where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I definitely felt a sense of that last night.

Here's what they played ...

Daddy's Baby
Baby Please Don't Go
Soul Shifter
Let It Down
Casual Girl
What Happened to You?

I hadn't heard "Daddy's Baby" live before so that was a real treat. On the album, the song took a while to grow on me but having now heard it in performance, I'm sold.

The new arrangement of "Baby Please Don't Go" simply rocks - there is no other word for it. And I think it's quickly becoming a signature piece for her.

Dedicated to a friend, Lorenza and the guys did a FANTASTIC cover of Neil Young's "Ohio" ...if you don't know the song, check out this link. Again, the arrangement was incredibly strong and powerful.

That aggressive feeling carried on to "What Happened to You?" which was on a whole different level than I had heard it previously. I have always loved the story behind that song (which I talked about in my last write-up) and last night's rendition really communicated the frustration, disappointment and disbelief behind the words. Loved it!

I'm looking forward to seeing where Lorenza and her band go from here (hopefully to someplace where they can play a longer set -- hahaha!) Seriously, though, I think she's in for an incredible ride ... and hopefully I can be there to experience some of it.

Next up for Lorenza...two more shows:

November 5th - Bearsville Theater (Woodstock, NY)

November 6th - Stanhope House (Stanhope, NJ)

p.s. I totally dug the Leon Russell tank top she was wearing. Cool. :-)

p.s.2. (trying to read my notes) the band included Jon Loyd (keys), Andy Stack (guitar), Zach Jones (drums) and Brett Bass (bass) ... truth be told, not sure Brett's last name was Bass or if I wrote it because he played bass. LOL. Sorry 'bout that!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just a Quick Post ...

Not feeling so well today ... will continue posting about my trek-ito (for it was a SHORT trek) a bit later. But, I just found this video of one of my fave Southside Johnny songs from the show in Melle. Take a listen ...

Anyhoo ...

Next up will be our free day in Bremen (Sandy's home!) with a surprise visit from our friend Iris and a crazy night at the Freimarkt Festival. If you're REALLY nice I might post the video of us singing at the biergarten ... haha ... NOT!! What they did to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" will haunt me for years to come. LOL

Here's a few images to give you an idea of the fun!

The awesome ferris wheel ... of course we HAD to go up on it!

...the view from the top

Elvis like you've never heard him before ...

...just the beginning of the oh-so-healthy eating day ROFLMAO ... (the best frickin' potato pancakes EVER!)

Hope you all have a great day. If you missed the announcement, three new fan club trips are now posted at Backstage with Jon Bon Jovi. DUBLIN here I come! Me, a pint of beer and every James Joyce site known to man. :-)

Countdown has begun to Best Buy Theater show ... and the arrival of a couple of my crazy German girls! Woohoo!

Friday, October 22, 2010

4/4: Night 2 Melle Show

Continuing on my quick flip through Europe, we come to night 2 of my trip and the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes show in Melle, Germany.

After all the emotion the night before, the band (and us too) seemed to relax a bit and just have a good ole time at this show. Ok, there were definitely some chaotic moments ... actually right from the get-go ... like when Johnny took my camera during the second song while I was trying to take a picture of Eddie. LOL

...and here's the picture he got for me ... thanks, Johnny!

I always talk about how this band never follows the set list, right? Well, here's a great example of a typical gig. Original written set:

...and here's what was actually played...

Talk to Me
I Played the Fool
Cry to Me
Everybody Needs Somebody

Walk away Renee
Cross That Line
Woke up This Morning
Love on the Wrong Side of Town
This Time It's for Real
Umbrella in My Drink
Harder Than It Looks
Coming Back
Into the Harbour
Sweeter Than Honey
Tango till They're Sore/Alabama Song
Nobody's Fault but Mine
Trapped Again
Hearts of Stone
Working Too Hard

First Encore:
You Can't Bury Me
I Don't Want to Go Home

Second Encore:
One More Night to Rock

Those in bold were not on the set list ... and then there was "Take It Inside" which was on the set list twice but not played at all. LOL

I was so happy to hear them do a couple of what I affectionately call 'Jeff Kazee songs' ... those with extensive piano parts or particularly Jeffrey-esque harmonies. Of course, sometimes things got a little messed up, but that just adds to the whole joy of a Southside show. In any case, "Into the Harbour" is one of my favorite songs so I'm glad Johnny stuck with it ...

*video by Rike*

You really can't blame Glenn, the intro Johnny sang really DID sound like "Tired Skin" Haha!

And sometimes you want to just do things yourself! LOL

Here's a few other pictures.

A rare clear image of the Energizer Bunny Billy Walton ... stand still Billy, I'm trying to get your picture!

In lieu of Tom's regular set which has a Pills & Ammo bass drum cover, they improvised with just sticking a t-shirt over it! Haha.

and the man himself.

At one point during the show, Billy's guitar string broke so Johnny came over and played a solo on it. Haha.

...and I love this one...

Once again, Johnny took someone's camera ... this time Steffi's! ... and walked all over the stage and took pictures with it. I'll be sure to post those later. He got some really great shots!

...and what is this ... a quick nap Johnny? Or a mini-Vulcan mind probe?

We were all so sad when the show ended as it was our last night together -- Beate and Steffi had to go back home. In Amsterdam we had all joined arms and sang along to "Hearts of Stone" (which got some cute looks from the band members). But tonight, we all did a vodka shot together and celebrated our friendship and the plan to see eachother again. (p.s. Johnny, you missed out ... we had one for you too if you had come out after the show!)

And so ends Day 2 in Europe ... what's next? An amazing day off in Bremen. Stay tuned! :-)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Europe: 4 Nights, 4 Cities con't

Day 2 (part 1): Road Trip to Melle

"Woke up this morning (in Amsterdam)
Looked around for my (wooden) shoes.
Couldn't find nothing
But this half-empty bottle of booze (wine)"
--from SSJ & the Jukes "Pills & Ammo"
* I did a little editing to the lyrics...*

And the journey continues ...

Here's a picture the next morning of me and the girls (Sandy, Steffi and Rike) ... minus Beate who had already left for the train to our next destination. We look pretty good considering the absolute lack of sleep we'd had already at this point.

After checking out of the hotel, we got on the road ... stopping in Amersfoort for some breakfast and a little shopping (if you know anything about my crazy German girls it's that they can shop with the best of 'em!) Luckily it had finally stopped raining ... instead, it was snowing!

It didn't take me long to remember why I could never live in Europe ... CROISSANTS! Dang, I could eat those every day for the rest of my life. Croissants in the States are not nearly as good. Period. But, not just croissants, all kinds of crazy pastries. So I decided to try this traditional Dutch one with spicy meat paste something or another inside (can any of my friends from Holland tell me what it was I actually ate please?! LOL)

Back on the road, we made a quick surprise stop at DavidsRosie's to say "hallo!" ... you Jovifans know her from her infamous "no Jon, not you! David!" moment in London at the 02. Click here to see video. It was so great to meet you Rosie! Hope you like the little MEMPHIS care package. :-)

A few hours later (and one video of us singing Living on a Prayer to the radio that I hope never ends up on Youtube!) we arrived in Melle, Germany and checked into the hotel. What an absolutely quaint little town. We were right by the city hall with this nice view from our room ... and the chimes (which Beate and I called "Bitsy Ben") that went off every 15 minutes ... ayyyy. Haha.

The venue Southside Johnny was playing is basically a dance hall attached to a restaurant/bakery. Seems the owner of the place really loves the band and they play there nearly every tour. There's even a great mural of them on the wall of the hall. Can't believe we forgot to get a picture - it's very cool ... yet strange ... all at the same time. It made us contemplate blowing up a picture of Jeff Kazee and doing a cardboard cut-out to put on stage. LOL

Here's me in front of the venue.

I also have a picture of me kissing Johnny's cheek on the poster ... maybe I'll send that to him for his own personal collection. Hahaha.

Next up ... the show in Melle ...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Europe: 4 Nights, 4 Cities!

Greetings friends! A number of you emailed me to ask if I was going to do a review of the Gulf Shores show. Thanks for checking in, but ... well ... I can't write about it cuz I wasn't there!

Why you ask?

Well, because, as much as I love Jon Bon Jovi and the boys, I couldn’t pass up the chance to go to Europe for the first part of the Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes tour. It was a QUICK trip, but man, we packed a lot into those four days!

Day One: Amsterdam

After a slightly bumpy and raucous crossing, I arrived at my first destination. Okay, I gotta say … y’all know I’m a New Yorker … things move pretty fast here. But that didn’t prepare me AT ALL for Amsterdam. It’s a well-known fact that the Dutch like to bike everywhere, but seriously … there were things coming at me from every direction – trams, bikes, buses, bikes, little cars, bikes, mopeds, bikes, bikes, BIKES! I think I stood there for a good ten minutes trying to cross the street in front of our hotel. It was like being in the middle of an endless video game.

So after dropping my bag at the hotel, I went out in search of coffee (not a surprise I guess LOL.) It was refreshing to not see a frickin’ Starbucks on every corner. In my jet-lagged state I made a beeline for the first coffee shop I could find … ahh! … but one must remember, this is AMSTERDAM. There are coffee shops and there are “coffee shops” where you can get a side of java with your order of cannabis. At this point, I’ve had about 1.5 hours of sleep in the last 36 … you can imagine what happened … walked in and was like “this is the strangest smelling coffee ever” … LOL.

Eventually found coffee and walked around the canals looking at shops and taking in the charms of the city. Made it back to hotel in time to welcome my crazy German girls who were travelling in from all over. After a great reunion, we headed out for a bit to eat before the show. (note: the Dutch make the best mayonnaise I have ever tasted…and with amazing fries! … and thus began the healthy eating during this trip ... oh lordy!)

Ok … I had heard over and over again how great the Paradiso is as a venue. As a musician and a fan of music, I have played in and seen A LOT of music halls both in the States and all over the world … but this place really IS special. An old church that has been converted, there is a main floor and then these fabulous balconies overlooking the stage. There's a wonderful intimacy to the place and with the backdrop of the incredible stained-glass windows, it was an unforgettable experience.

As for the show itself, Jukesfans know that this has been a challenging time as of late. As a result, emotions were definitely running high … but so was the energy of the band. It’s amazing what the human spirit can do in times of adversity. The crowd was great and that helped and inspired the band even more, I believe.

I love that most Jukes shows are general admission … this was my vantage point for this extraordinary night. Nice, huh?

*that would be me on the right*

Here are some of the funny moments I remember…

During “Paris” when Johnny got to the first line of the chorus which is “Paris you're a drug, you won't let go…” and at that exact moment, this HUGE waft of marijuana smoke drifted to the stage. Haha.

When Johnny got frustrated (no worries...that’s a regular occurrence) and chucked his harmonica at the back of the stage and almost took out Eddie’s head! By the way, the horns were on fire during this show. And the famous "dance moves" by Neal and Chris were a sight to see!

Southside is so great with the fans and at one point he took this guy’s camera-phone and began throwing it around the stage. Later in the tour you'll hear about him taking both my camera and Steffi's and taking pictures with it! Anyhoo, Sandy got this great photo when SSJ handed the phone back to the guy.

I hadn't really told anyone I was going (other than my crazy German girls of course) so it was nice to meet so many Jovi/Jukesfans at the Paradiso - both from the States and from overseas. It was also fun to see the looks on some of the band members' faces when they saw me there ... and what a nice welcome from Johnny, which Sandy captured on video.

As usual, the set was called out as they went along ... which always leaves room for absolutely amazing moments like this incredible tribute to Solomon Burke (who passed away en route to play at the Paradiso last week.)

Exhausted from the show and after SEVERAL bottles of wine and a whole lotta chocolate, we all finally crashed into bed! What an unforgettable day!

And that was just the beginning ...

.... stay tuned for Day 2: Melle, Germany

p.s. I was bummed to only be in Amsterdam for less than 24 hours. I definitely have to go back ... so many places I'd like to see there. And heck! who could not like a city that has the Museum of Bags and Purses?! No joke!!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Two More Nights to Rock

Once again I have back-to-back Jukes shows this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing what surprises Uncle Southside has in store for us ... maybe another JK solo ...? Gotta get my fill before the boys head to Europe next week. Hopefully it will be a bit cooler on stage than it was in this clip (I heard it was about 115 degrees ... no kidding.)

"Lost" (written by Jeff Kazee during the midnight hour while recording the "Going to Jukesville" record)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Rare Man Indeed

Just doing a quick drive-by today to say ... Happy Birthday to Tico Torres -- the heart, the soul, the rock-solid foundation of Bon Jovi.

The man has so many talents it's almost ridiculous - musician, artist, entrepreneur, golfer. Add to that father, husband, friend. Sensitive, playful, observant, loyal.

Hmmm ... certainly makes me wish there were more people like him out there. #justsaying

Monday, October 4, 2010

Got Bail Money? LOL

Happy Monday friends ... honestly, I'm actually GLAD Monday is here so that I can rest! LOL

I thought that with Jon Bon Jovi and the boys in South America that my schedule would somehow slow down. Ha! In reality, that just means I miss fewer Southside Johnny shows. Three in the last two weekends and another two on tap before the gang heads to Europe.

So, I took a quick trip to Bethlehem, PA on Friday to catch the Jukes at the new "venue" at the Sands Casino. As I found out ... not really a venue, just a BIG tent set up on an asphalt slab. I think they are planning on building something once they've stolen enough patrons' money. Ha! They didn't get anything from me! I came out ahead about $200. :-)

Anyhoo, there are some bands where the venue should just remove all chairs -- and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes is definitely one of them. Performers thrive on the energy that comes back to them from the crowd -- so everyone sitting on their hands the whole time is just cruel. So, after the main set, a few regular Jukesfolks and I finally rushed the stage. At one point I honestly thought we might get arrested, but figured it was well worth it. I look at it as doing a public service by standing up and singing. :-)

I must say, though ... Friday night reminded me why I hate casino shows - whether its Bon Jovi or Southside Johnny or anyone - because there is always some type of time constraint. Even though the performer usually pushes it as far as they can, it often feels like they (and the audience) are somehow short-changed. Nonetheless, the guys put on a great show as usual.

Speaking of performers who push things (in a good way), my weekend closed with the final performance of Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong's guest appearance in the role of St. Jimmy in the Broadway production of American Idiot. I had seen the show on opening night (review here) and was happy to be able to catch it on another special night -- especially as my friend got us house seats which were row H dead center. Woohoo! The show was definitely energized by Billie Joe and the crowd went wild. A cool moment during the bows when he had written a special intro about his stint on Broadway. Someone upstairs was able to capture it on video:

What the video didn't capture was when he gave his brand new Gibson guitar to a fan in the audience after she gave him a bouquet of flowers! That was something!

Not much to report on the JoviFront right now (plenty of Google alerts about Hall of Fame noms, interviews in South America, Heather changing her name, etc., that you can all read ... or not) ...

OH! except there IS the upcoming movie theater showings of the Giants concert(s) in May. Now, THAT should be a blast ... if you're coming in to NYC to see it at the 42nd Street AMC let me know and we can meet up. I'm excited because by that point I will be in my new place -- only about two blocks from there -- nearly smack dab in Times Square. :-)

So, until we "meet" again ...

p.s. SSJ photo credit: Kevin Mingora, The Morning Call