Stevie Wonder 8/3/18

SW Ticket

It all started in July when I was scrolling through Facebook and came across an ad for the five dates Stevie Wonder would be playing in Las Vegas during the month of August. I did not remember ever seeing Stevie Wonder touring near me so I took a screen shot as a reminder to mention it to Ingrid. I remembered later that night on our way to dinner and her response was an ecstatic “We are going! He is a bucket list concert for me!” I did not take her totally serious until we returned home and she bought tickets and booked a hotel!

I am not exactly sure when or how I first heard Stevie Wonder but in all fairness I have never lived under a rock and his music is not only timeless but also universally liked by all types of people. This man is a legend through and through. I can say with certainty that the first song of his that truly grabbed me was “Superstitious.” That song creeps into my bones and makes me start dancing every time I hear it and I am not what anyone would describe as a dancer.

Due to scheduling conflicts we ended up getting tickets to the first performance and the day had come. Despite proclaiming that we would never drive to Vegas again after about a 10 hour ride home when we went to see Soundgarden years before, here we were driving to Vegas to pinch a few pennies on our spontaneous trip. We left San Diego at 11:30 am sharp and did not end up getting to Vegas and checked into our hotel room until 6 pm, which turned out to be perfect because it gave us a solid hour before we had to hop into a Lyft to make our way to the Park Theater. Apparently the whole Park MGM was a fully renovated/recently reopened Monte Carlo. Thankfully our Lyft driver knew this because we were about to get dropped off at the MGM and wander around aimlessly for who knows how long before we figured out we were in the wrong place.

I did not realize Stevie Wonder’s blindness was so severe that he would need assistance walking across the stage until I saw it with my own eyes. His band consisted of a DJ, two horn players, two drummers, three female backup singers, a bassist and a guitarist and they crushed it. Everyone in the crowd was up and dancing the whole time and it was just a good vibe all around. I would have been satisfied just hearing “Superstition,” “I Wish,” and “Sir Duke” but he played those and so many more. At one point he mesmerized me by playing from where I was standing what looked like a paper scroll. After some research I found out it’s called a harpejji, which in his own description is “somewhere between a keyboard and a guitar” with 16 strings. This man has brought great joy to the world and his music will continue to spread that joy for him long after he is gone. I am beyond thrilled that I got the chance to witness it live while he was still here.

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Loverboy 7/28/18

Loverboy Ticket

Loverboy? That band from Canada that had a handful of hits back in the 80’s? Yep. I grew to actually like five of their songs as I was exposed to them time and time again growing up in the 80’s and the show was on a Saturday so I figured what the hell? Much to my surprise the cheapest tickets were going for $60 so I decided to just check back periodically figuring they would get cheaper as the show got closer. My suspicions were confirmed when I received an email from Goldstar offering tickets for $20 but I did not have anyone to go with and the concert was 30 miles from my place at Viejas Casino in Alpine. By the time Bob said he would go when we were at the Breaking Benjamin concert a few days earlier the tickets on Goldstar were gone so I was right back in the same ticket conundrum as before.

There were exactly four tickets listed for sale on StubHub and each was $55. I did not want to see Loverboy that badly so I checked Craigslist, which had three postings. One linked back to StubHub, one was a pair for $30 each and one was a pair for $20 each. I responded by email to the $20 post but did not hear anything back all day so I called the $30 post and was informed the tickets were just sold. Right when I was about to let Bob know we would not be going I finally got a response from the $20 ticket posting saying they were available and we could meet up at the venue.

After picking up Bob from SeaWorld (he was there all day with his family) we were on our way to the middle of nowhere. There would be no drinking for me since I had to drive so I brought a little wacky tobacky and had some back at the car once we arrived and secured the tickets. We squeezed into our seats near the back and could not help but notice that there were a lot of empty seats. This surprised me since there were so few available on the secondary market but I rationed that the casino probably comped quite a few tickets that never got used. Bob and I would eventually take it upon ourselves to move to a row of our own much closer to the stage.

Once Loverboy took the stage to an underutilized video screen backdrop used simply to display Loverboy in typewriter text it was hard to miss the singer Mike Reno, who was once a normal sized man back in the day and was now a portly man. The crowd was precisely the crowd I envisioned and by that I mean old. The band was under no false pretenses about this as Mike Reno addressed the crowd with “We are at a different time in our lives. The kids have moved out of the house…” The band was very good at playing their instruments but it would be seven songs in before I even knew a song they were playing. I was very confused that a band of this nature would make the crowd wait through the entire first half of their set to hear a “hit.” When they finally played the songs I came to see it felt like they were showing off how much better they had become at playing their instruments in 40 years instead of playing faithful renditions of the songs people were there to see. One highlight for me was when keyboard player Doug Johnson played a snippet from “Riders on the Storm” by the Doors. That guy has some of the fastest fingers I have ever seen. The encore of “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” made the whole outing worth it but I can now say with certainty that Loverboy falls into the category of been there done that.

SETLIST: Notorious, Lucky Ones, Queen of the Broken Hearts, Take Me to the Top, It’s Your Life, This Could Be the Night, The Kid Is Hot Tonite, When It’s Over, Hot Girls In Love, Turn Me Loose, Working for the Weekend, Lovin’ Every Minute of It

 

Breaking Benjamin 7/25/18

BBticket

This show was not on my radar at all but Bob was jazzed to go and this was quite simply an opportunity to hang out and have some drinks with one of my favorite peeps. I do like Breaking Benjamin but I would have been good with the one time I did see them almost three years before this at Aftershock and I am not a fan of Five Finger Death Punch whatsoever. It did help that I scored a ticket for only $6 off of StubHub.

I originally thought Bob was going to drive us, which would have allowed us to grab a bite and have a couple beers in the parking lot but that did not happen. Instead we had beers at my house, no dinner and caught a Lyft to the show. We missed the opener Bad Wolves but once we arrived we were informed that our tickets were upgraded since the lawn section had been closed off due to a lack of ticket sales. Even better, when we got to the table where they were exchanging the lawn tickets we were upgraded to General Admission Pit tickets for no charge and no particular good reason. No complaints here as that meant my $6 lawn ticket turned into a $6 floor ticket. The good news kept coming as we then found out that Five Finger Death Punch was to open for Breaking Benjamin as opposed to the other way around like I had thought.

Five Finger Death Punch was touring for their seventh album And Justice for None that was released about two months before this. The floor section was not all that packed so we stood fairly close to the right side of the stage. The bass player was on our side of the stage a lot and looked like he was some sort of octopus creature from Pirates of the Caribbean due to his beard. I did not know the significance of the red hand painted on singer Ivan Moody’s face but apparently their fans did and he pulled about 10 of them with matching red hands out of the crowd to join him onstage for a song. They were good musicians but save for their cover of “Bad Company” I just could not get into it.

SETLIST: Lift Me Up, Trouble, Wash It All Away, Jekyll and Hyde, Bad Company, Fake, Wrong Side of Heaven, Remember Everything, Coming Down, Burn MF, Gone Away, Under and Over It, The Bleeding

Breaking Benjamin was touring for their sixth album Ember that was released on 4/13/18. I am fairly certain that I saw them at Aftershock during the day so seeing them at night was a much different experience. They seemed more in their element and had more presence this time. Maybe it was partially due to the darkness and maybe it was partially due to the dark beers I had consumed. Their mashup of the Star Wars Imperial March, Tool, Nirvana, Pantera and Metallica was pretty cool but anything Pantera is going to win points with me. Bob and I made a rare appearance in the mosh pit because a.) it felt criminal to get upgraded to floor tickets and not go in the mosh pit and b.) the pit was fun since it was more of a weak dancing circle than a full on slam dancing/get punched in the face on accident kind of a thing.

SETLIST: Red Cold River, I Will Not Bow, Never Again, Breath, Imperial March/Schism/Smells Like Teen Spirit/Walk/Sad But True, Sooner or Later, Blow Me Away, So Cold, Angels Fall, Psycho, Failure, Until the End, Believe, Torn In Two, The Diary of Jane

AFTERWARD: All the goodness of the evening was counterbalanced by the reality of life the next morning when we awoke to realize that Bob’s car had been towed since Bob did not end up driving and we did not put a parking pass in Bob’s car. $263 later and the universe was right again. I would do it all over again if given the chance.

Primus 7/6/18

PrimusTicket

When I brought up this show to Ingrid she asked me what kind of music Primus made and I was perplexed. Partially because she did not really know who Primus was and partially because I could not really think of how to describe Primus. I guess in my mind they are a unique mix of rock, funk and psychedelia with a virtuoso bass player that sings.

I had seen Primus almost exactly a year before this but three months after that they released the concept album The Desaturating Seven based on the children’s book The Rainbow Goblins, which was the first album since 1995’s Tales From the Punchbowl to feature drummer Tim Alexander.

This was one of the only times waiting for a ticket paid off because Calvin and I were able to get tickets a couple days before for only $8 with all fees off of StubHub. That is not a typo but it did make me feel like a criminal. Calvin and I showed up with just enough time to grab a beer before Mastodon took the stage to open. I have tried to like Mastodon but it just does not speak to me. This time of trying to like them was no different so I took the opportunity to stock up on beer while the lines were short. In hindsight I probably did not need much more beer since I started out the night with my first six pack of the hemp infused 7% New Belgium beer The Hemperor.

I love that Primus sandwiched The Desaturating Seven album in its entirety in between a choice selection of songs from Suck On This, Frizzle Fry, Sailing the Seas of Cheese and Pork Soda. Sneaky sneaky. This may have been the first time I ever saw “Nature Boy” live and it was worth the wait.

SETLIST: To Defy the Laws of Tradition, Pudding Time, Here Come the Bastards, Too Many Puppies, The Star-Spangled Banner, American Life, The Valley, The Seven, The Trek, The Scheme, The Dream, The Storm, The Ends?, Nature Boy, Welcome to This World, My Name is Mud, Jerry Was a Race Car Driver, John the Fisherman

P!nk 5/29/18

Pink Ticket

So P!nk’s world tour in support of her newest album Beautiful Trauma is definitely not the typical concert I would go to but Ingrid chose to take me with one of the two tickets I got her as a Christmas present this last year. P!nk just played San Diego in September for Kaaboo but Ingrid missed half of her set because Muse was playing at the same time.

I got a taste of what a P!nk show was all about when I saw her Grammy performance but that was not even the tip of the iceberg. This show was downright fantastic. I recognized some of the songs but an overwhelming visual aspect to the performance took the music to another level. The custom stage allowed her and her many dancers to spread out with choreographed routines. Two moving walkways in the middle section of the outstretched stage moved in opposite directions as she high fived people closest to her in the audience. A giant blowup of Eminem took center stage as she sang “Revenge.”

The real spectacle was when people were literally flying around the arena on some sort of pulley system. This rivaled a Cirque du Soleil show with the aerial acrobatics and is just not something seen in a live music setting. At one point during the show P!nk was dangling from one of her dancer’s arms high above the crowd without a harness on or a safety net below. High drama as she hit the high notes. The best rope pulley flying was reserved for the last song in her skin-tight glitter suit.

Even as impressive as the acrobatics were, they were nothing compared to the fact that P!nk was actually singing during all of this. Her voice sounded great and never wavered even as she was twisting and turning through the air. Her backing band was a traditional rock guitarist, bassist and drummer setup but she also had two backup singers and two keyboard players. This afforded her the ability to play “Just A Girl” by No Doubt and a delightfully surprising faithful rendition of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.

In an age of no talent ass clowns that lip sync and fake their way through it was refreshing to see an artist that clearly cares about giving her fans something special and real. P!nk did not just set the bar, she is the bar.

SETLIST: Get the Party Started, Beautiful Trauma, Just Like a Pill, Who Knew, Revenge, Funhouse/Just a Girl, Smells Like Teen Spirit, Secrets, Try, Just Give Me a Reason, I’m Not Dead, Just Like Fire, What About Us, For Now, Barbies, I Am Here, Fuckin’ Perfect, Raise Your Glass, Blow Me (One Last Kiss), So What, Glitter in the Air

Slayer/Lamb of God/Anthrax/Behemoth/Testament 5/10/18

Slayer:Anthrax

Slayer decided to “hang it up” and they chose the storied San Diego Sports Arena to kick off their farewell tour but the real reason I was here was to see Anthrax. My fondness for Anthrax started in high school when I was introduced to the Persistence of Time album. That fondness only grew once John Bush took over vocal duties on the Sound of White Noise album. After all this time and all these concerts under my belt Anthrax is a band that somehow managed to escape me.

Anthrax was just in San Diego on February 13th at the House of Blues but by the time I found out about the show tickets were sold out and going for $150 each. I decided to pass because I had already found out they would be coming back as one of the openers on the Slayer tour. Unfortunately when it came time to buy a ticket for this show I once again found out after it was sold out so was still looking at $150 for a ticket on the resale market. I heard there was a miniscule chance of the box office releasing additional tickets just hours before the show, so with nothing to lose I went straight from work down to the Sports Arena. No dice but as per usual there were a few guys milling around the parking lot trying to unload an overpriced ticket. This was right when the concert started at 5 pm and the first guy said he would sell one to me for $70. Not bad but I somehow made up my mind that $40 was what I was willing to pay and was willing to wait it out since Anthrax was not slated to start until 6:55. After another guy offered to sell me one for $120 I decided it was too early for bargains so walked over to nearby Buffalo Wild Wings for some wings and beer.

After scouring Stubhub and Craigslist to no avail I walked back over to the Sports Arena to start the same song and dance all over again. Now a guy was willing to let one go for $60 but I still had a little time. I offered $30 and reasoned with the guy that it could end up being $30 more than he might end up with otherwise. He walked away and came back five minutes later with his tail between his legs and let me have it for $30. I got in with just enough time to grab a beer and grab a spot since this was a General Admission concert.

Although the newest album to the credit of Anthrax was For All Kings they went with a heavy dose of songs from their classic album Among the Living for their shortened set. The backdrop to the stage was a nod to that album as was the shirt on Joey Belladonna’s back so I guess it all made sense. Joey was flying all over the stage still hitting the higher notes, Scott Ian was doing his stomp thing as he was crushing lightning fast guitar riffs and bassist Frank Bello was tripping me out because from a distance he was a dead ringer for Cliff Burton.

I saw two things during this performance that made me appreciate my fellow metalheads even more:

  • There was a giant mosh pit in the middle of the floor the entire time but in the middle of said mosh pit there was an island of people that were stationary. Kind of an “island of mosh” where they stood still and everyone kept doing circles around them. There were no problems, as everyone just seemed to respect one another to the highest degree.
  • Barely anyone had their phones out. This was not the crowd that wanted to try to make everyone else in the world jealous by posting where they are, this was the crowd that could give a shit about what you think. They were here to watch an awesome band play awesome music.

SETLIST: Caught in a Mosh, Madhouse, I Am the Law, Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.), Evil Twin, Antisocial, Indians

Oh yeah Slayer was here too…but I did not stick around for that. Don’t get me wrong I love me some Slayer but through a combination of being by myself, completely burned out from the week, the concert taking place on a “school night,” not wanting to sit through Lamb of God to get to Slayer and having seen Slayer many times I just couldn’t do it.

 

John Fogerty 5/5/18

fogertyticket

John Fogerty is a living legend. Once I found out he was still playing at 72 years old I looked into it and found out that he was doing a short residency at the Wynn in Las Vegas followed by a summer tour with ZZ Top followed by another short run at the Wynn. Seeing him with ZZ Top would have been badass but the tour was not slated to come anywhere near San Diego. Carpe Diem. Ingrid had wanted just the two of us to get away to somewhere like Vegas for a quick weekend trip ever since we returned from Aruba and when I told her John Fucking Fogerty was playing there she was over the moon. We decided a last minute trip was in order because who knew how many more opportunities the universe was going to offer to see him. After all, CCR held a special place in both our hearts for separate reasons, but also because the first concert we ever went to together was that other band touring around playing CCR songs calling themselves something very similar.

I will spare you ALL the Vegas debauchery but let’s just say that like our last minute trip, we also cut it close getting into the concert itself:

3:45 pm – Ingrid decided that she was feeling randy and proposed some afternoon delight.

4:05 pm – Me: “Do you feel that? Something feels weird.” Ingrid with look of horror on her face: “Oh shit! I forgot to take out my tampon!” Yes it took me longer than it should have to figure this out and yes we were making hanky panky near the end of her lady time but this comment immediately registered in my brain as “oh shit we have to go to the hospital to get it removed,” which was the very next thing that came out of Ingrid’s mouth.

4:15 pm – I walked around the corner to the pot dispensary to get an edible for the evening while Ingrid got ready to go out for the night. We knew we could very well be cutting it close to the 8 pm show time so had to prepare for the possibility of not coming back to our room beforehand.

4:30 pm – We grabbed her bottle of champagne and my tall boy Modelo, ordered a Lyft and requested he take us to the nearest hospital. Chatty Charlie behind the wheel inquired as to whom we were going to see and the first thing out of Ingrid’s mouth was “our friend broke her ankle…last night.” It was hard to hold in my laughter.

5 pm – We got checked into the emergency room and busted open our drinks in the waiting area. When in Vegas…

6:40 – They still had not called Ingrid’s name and I had to pick up our tickets at the Wynn no later than one hour before show time so I ate my special chocolate, hopped into a Lyft and hoped she would be able to join me in time.

7:29 – I got a text from Ingrid saying she was on her way!

7:45 – This is the time that we were supposed to show up to actually guarantee the seats that we purchased.

7:47 – We were granted entrance into the Wynn Theater. We immediately went to the only bar inside and waited in one of the five lines that were all going slow as molasses. About this time my special chocolate was kicking in so I really just wanted to get some beer and get to our seats.

8:03 – We apparently made it to our seats with a couple minutes to spare since the stage was empty save for “Fogerty” lit up in giant Vegas style letters. Our seats were awesome! We were sitting right in the first row of the balcony section not too far right of center. It was hard not to notice that this was the Alaska Cruise of concerts as I think we may have been the youngest people in attendance.

All of a sudden the theater got dark as the screen started projecting a little vignette of John riding a motorcycle through Vegas as he narrated how he felt about “Proud Mary” being covered by the likes of Elvis and Tina Turner. Before you know it the screen rolled up, John Fogerty popped up from under the stage playing “Proud Mary” and from then on it was pure bliss for roughly the next 90 minutes. The guy looked great for 72 years old and played guitar like a motherfucker but that voice…what little he may have lost with age was still unmistakably John Fogerty and still fantastic!

It was very much a Vegas show as many of the songs had added horn flourishes, keyboards and accordians but all the songs were still very much rock and roll. “Susie Q” was everything I needed it to be with the vocals progressively getting more balls out with each verse.

Almost right away I noticed that one of the other guitar players was flat out ripping it up. It turns out he was John’s son Shane Fogerty who played with him for the entire show. One very cool moment was when John’s other son Tyler Fogerty came out and joined dad and brother to sing “Good Golly Miss Molly” and killed it. He was donning a very 70’s Vegas looking red suit with embellishments and kept doing this Little Richard scream thing that was just perfect. I’m pretty sure we could be friends.

A couple of times throughout the show the smoke machines combined with our vantage point (and maybe my special chocolate) made it look as if John Fogerty was playing on a cloud, like when he took to the piano for “Long As I Can See the Light.”

Throughout the entire show there was one guy on the floor section standing up the entire time just loving it. I recognized him almost immediately as none other than Bill Walton because he is hard to miss at seven feet tall and ironically I ran into him one other time in Vegas. At one point during “New Orleans” a miniature marching band left the stage to walk down the aisle Bill Walton was in. The last person in this line was the drummer and he decided to hand Bill Walton his drum, which he happily put on and joined the band.

Near the end John ran through three of his solo “hits” and played a baseball bat guitar for “Centerfield.” It was fitting that he closed the show with a blistering version of “Fortunate Son.” No horns here. Just good old-fashioned rock and roll from one of the legends. Thank you Mr. Fogerty.

SETLIST: Proud Mary, Green River, Susie Q, Oh! Susanna, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Lodi, Good Golly Miss Molly, Whote Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On/Boogie Woogie Blues, Long As I Can See the Light, Love and War, Keep on Chooglin’, Who’ll Stop the Rain, I Heard It Through the Grapevine, Born on the Bayou, My Toot Toot, Jambalaya (On the Bayou), New Orleans, Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, Down on the Corner, Rock and Roll Girls, The Old Man Down the Road, Up Around the Bend, Centerfield, Bad Moon Rising, Fortunate Son