Monday, July 30, 2007

A night with Al Green and B.B. King

A couple weeks ago, Palace Entertainment did a quickie 2-day half-price sale on tickets to a bunch of concerts here this summer. So I picked up a couple shows. Tonight’s was the “B.B. King Blues Festival,” with B. B. King, Al Green and Etta James, and $10 a ticket for the lawn, parking included. Can’t beat that.

The time was listed as 7pm, and with multiple artists on the bill, I figured they’d start on time. But I really wanted to see Al Green. We missed him the last time he was through. Of course, I wanted to see B.B. King and Etta James, too, but figured we could afford to miss some of Etta’s set if it meant avoiding Pine Knob traffic, and we just saw B.B. a few months ago and figured it’d be pretty similar.

We aimed for a 7:30 arrival; unfortunately, it seems like everybody else did, too – we ended up in a mile long backup. By the time we got out of the car, we could clearly hear “Let’s Stay Together” coming from the speakers. Damn! Got to the entry, and found out why: “Etta James will not be performing tonight.” No explanation. The song ended as we climbed the hill, and I almost freaked. It was 8pm, could Al Green be done already?

Fortunately, he wasn’t. The lawn was packed. Not the pavilion; apparently the masses had all caught the sale, and it was one huge party zone up there. I can’t say what it was like down in the pavilion; it looked pretty dad and the back half was empty. But up top, it was about 50/50 black/white, all together, and it seemed like everyone knew the words to every song, and a good portion of them were up and dancing the whole time.

As for Al? He was in very good voice, with a tight band, a couple cool male dancers, and from his version of the BeeGees song (which he owns), to the closing combination of “Tired of Being Alone” and an extended “Love and Happiness,” the performance sizzled.

After that, B.B. was, dare I say it, a bit of a letdown. He can still play, and boy can he sing, but he was way long on the hoary shtick and not enough on the music. The party zone wanted to worship, but too often it just wasn’t happening. Viagara jokes only go so far, even for an octogenerian. Some of the spoken bits worked, especially the ones about his youth; unfortunately they seemed the exception this night.

As it was when we saw King in January at the Fox, a centerpiece song was the Bono-authored “When Love Comes to Town,” a presentation seemingly made more for its connection to U2 than for any worthiness in the set. It received a polite ovation, but when he followed that by going in to “All Over Again,” the wave of recognition was immediate. But when that was followed by a spoken intro to “Ain’t That Just Like a Woman” that had to last 10 minutes, we’d reached our limit – and apparently so had plenty of others. We had determined not to stick for the end, anyway, due to the traffic, but that one chased us, along with several hundred others. As we headed for the parking lot, he was doing a beautiful version of “You Are My Sunshine,” and we could hear the guitar sing from time to time as we left.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Go to TravBuddy, Get a Map

Today's little experiement. Went out to because I saw a link to it from another blog and thought it'd be cool. A few minutes later, my own map of where I've been (no separate entry for Hell, Michigan). So, here goes, my own map:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dylan at Freedom Hill

Last night we saw Bob Dylan at Freedom Hill Amphitheater over in Sterling Heights. The show was hot, though maybe not quite as much as the Palace show last November. Bob's been touring with he same band for several years now, and they were pretty tight throughout.

Freedom Hill is about in a county park about 20 miles due east from our house. Surface streets all the way, and we managed to catch every red light. We wanted to see Jimmy Vaughan open, but by the time we got there he was almost done, we got to hear about the last 10 seconds of his final song. After a couple minutes, I went over to the souvenir stand; Dylan always does venue-specific posters now, and I'm a sucker for 'em. I got to the front of the line, and behind the table was... Jimmy Vaughan. So now I have a signed poster. Vaughan was standing with a tall bald guy in an ancient Bob Seger t-shirt, some folks seemed to recognize him, too.

Dylan opened with Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 while Jimmy was signing, and as I don't much care for that song, that was fine by me. I got back inside, and first thing I noticed was that Bob was playing electric guitar. Last time through, he had been keyboards only. But this time, he was not only playing, he was occasionally taking lead. Not that he should ever be confused with lead guitarist Denny Freeman, but he wasn't half bad, either.

The second thing I noticed was the color co-ordinated outfits in Dylan's band. All the guitarists wore grey jackets and black hats, but Bob wore a cool black jacket with a grey hat, he also had a white shirt and yellow tie, and looked more than a little dashing on stage. George Recile and Donnie Herron did not have the jacket/hat combos.

After Just Like a Woman, which featured Bob's longest lead of the night, he went to the keyboard and ripped in to The Levee's Gonna Break. The songs rocked, and Bob actually seemed to be having fun on stage, even goofing with some folks in the audience. He teased with the harmonica, finally using it for My Back Pages and a few songs after. His vocal delivery of the chorus of My Back Pages, a choppy staccato that drove home the words, got a big ovation.

During Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine), the tall bald guy with the ancient Bob Seger T-shirt re-appeared, along with the not quite ancient Bob Seger, and they settled in 4 rows directly in front of us. Seger the man stayed until the middle of Thunder on the Mountain, but tall bald guy (I have since learned that he is Bill Blackwell, Seger's road manager) came back in for the closer. We passed him in the concourse as we were leaving, he was talking loud in to his cell phone: All Along the Watchtower!