Three Concert Film Jewels

When switching on my TV last evening to look for the next episode of the excellent PBS series “Soundbreaking,” I was thrilled to see they were showing “The Last Waltz” instead – quite appropriate, given it was the 40th anniversary of The Band’s epic performance. This inspired me to do a post on great concert movies.

People who know me or have visited the blog are aware that I love going to rock concerts. Seeing my favorite artists perform live brings their music much closer to me than any album could ever do. While I’ve been to many great shows over the past three decades or so, unfortunately, there are way more acts than I can see. Of course, watching a concert movie instead cannot really make up for the thrill of being in the concert hall yourself, but I still enjoy it. Following are some of my favorite concert films.

The Last Waltz

As I watched this film again last night, I realized how truly outstanding it is. Robbie Robertson (guitar, piano, vocals), Richard Manuel (piano, organs, drums, clavinet, dobro, vocals), Garth Hudson (organ, accordion, synthesizers, soprano saxophone, clavinet), Levon Helm (drums, mandolin, vocals) and Rick Danko (bass, fiddle, vocals) simply put on rock & roll craftsmanship at its best. Add to this that the movie was shot by film director icon Martin Scorsese, and it’s not a surprise why many critics have called The Last Waltz the greatest concert movie of all time.

The film captures what was billed The Band’s farewell concert performance at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving day in 1976 (Nov 25). Released in April 1978, the film also features guest appearances from such amazing other artists like Muddy Waters, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Wood and of course, not to forget Band long-time collaborator, Bob Dylan.

The idea to turn The Band from a live to a studio act, similar to what The Beatles had decided in the mid-60s, came to Robertson in early 1976, after Richard Manuel had a serious boating accident. Robertson also thought about capturing the event on film and recalled he liked Mean Streets, the 1973 movie directed by Scorsese who had also worked as an assistant director and one of the editors of another legendary concert film –  Woodstock.

The Last Waltz has so much great music that is almost impossible to select my favorite moment. Clearly, one of the highlights is when all musicians perform Dylan’s I Shall Be Released.

The Concert for Bangladesh

This film is another jewel among rock concert movies. Directed by Saul Swimmer and released in March 1972, the film documents two benefit concerts organized by George Harrison and his good friend, sitar maestro, Ravi Shankar. The performances, which raised money for refugees of the 1971 revolution and armed conflict in Bangladesh, took place on August 1, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Similar to The Last Waltz, the show brought together an incredible array of rock artists, including Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and Eric Clapton, among others. Even Bob Dylan showed up. While Harrison had reached out to him, it was unclear until the very last moment what the great rock poet would do, until perhaps in typical Dylan fashion he suddenly walked on stage!

The concert kicks off with traditional instrumental Hindustani classical music performed by Shankar (sitar), Ali Akbar Khan (sarod), Alla Rakha (tabla) and Kamala Chakravarty (tambura). In one of the film’s lighter moments, the audience enthusiastically applauds when the musicians pause after tuning their instruments, to which Shankar remarks: “Thank you, if you appreciate the tuning so much, I hope you will enjoy the playing more.”

The rock portion of the film captures amazing music from Harrison, The Beatles and some of his guests. Highlights include While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Something and My Sweet Lord, as well as Starr’s It Don’t Come Easy and Preston’s That’s the Way God Planned It. It doesn’t matter much that the musicians at times struggle a bit with lyrics and their instruments. If anything, this gives the performance a charming spontaneous character.

Here is a nice clip of While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Rust Never Sleeps

This 1979 film is based on a live album with the same title from Neil Young and its longtime band Crazy Horse. The picture, directed by Young under the pseudonym Bernhard Shakey, captures a nearly two-hour show performed on October 22, 1978 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

While the film has received accolades for its terrific music, some critics have complained about grainy and underlit footage, as well as certain features that take away from the band’s great craftsmanship, such as the roadies with glowing eyes reminiscent of the Jawas in Star Wars, who can be seen in the beginning of the movie setting props on the stage and at times during the show. In my opinion, it’s a minor aspect of an otherwise outstanding concert film.

Rust Never Sleeps features some of Neil Young’s greatest songs, showcasing acoustic gems like Sugar Mountain, Comes a Time and My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue), and grunge rockers, such as Like a Hurricane, Cinnamon Girl and Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).

This clip of Like a Hurricane nicely illustrates how the film combines quirky features and outstanding rock & roll.

More Rock & Roll Acts to See than Money to Spend?

Like most rock & roll fans, I find there are many more shows than I can possibly see. And while nothing can replace the real deal, listening to a cover band can be a lot of fun as well. Following are four such bands I saw over the summer and greatly enjoyed – and all of it for free!

In addition to seeing “real” rock & roll shows, I enjoy going to free summer outdoor concerts, especially when they feature cover bands of my favorite rock & roll stars. While there are many such bands and not all are created equal, some of them do a fantastic job and come pretty darn close to the real thing.

Many moons ago, I played in a band myself, and part of what we did was covers. And while I’m not trying to say we were as good as some of the bands I’m going to talk about, I think I can appreciate the effort that goes into faithfully covering your rock & roll heroes.

Following are four cover bands I greatly enjoyed seeing this summer. Each represents great musicianship and a passion for detail to bring the music of rock & roll legends to fans and help keeping it alive. While I got to see them for free, their shows typically require tickets. Just like for any endorsements in previous posts, I have neither received any compensation for reviewing these bands, nor do I look for any such payments.

The Glimmer Twins

The Glimmer Twins are a Rolling Stones tribute band hailing from Philly, PA. Their name is the nickname Mick Jagger and Keith Richards adopted for their song writing partnership in the late 60s. While unfortunately I missed more than half of their free show in Wildwood Crest, NJ at the end of July, the remainder I saw was worth every minute and the significant amount of time I spent driving there from Central Jersey. Essentially, the band performs the Stones’ greatest hits but there is more to it.

Lead singer Keith Call and guitarist Bernie Bollendorf act like Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, respectively. Keith does a great job imitating Jagger’s moves, his British accent and making the kinds of on-stage comments you’d expect hearing during a Rolling Stones show – it’s kind of hilarious! Bernie, apart from nicely capturing Richards’ guitar parts, adds to Keith’s act by sticking cigarettes in his mouth while playing, just like Richards! And while the remaining members of the band – Mike Rubino (guitar), Chris Bollendorf (drums), Rob Eckstedt (bass), Valorie Steel (vocals) and Bobby Michaels (sax-flute) – don’t look like the Stones and their tour musicians, they do a nice job capturing the sound of the “Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World.”

The Glimmer Twins have a very active touring schedule that in addition to New Jersey includes various other states, mostly on the East Coast. Some of their upcoming gigs include Leesburg, VA (Oct. 1), Dubois, PA (Oct. 2), Wilmington, DE (Oct. 7 & 8) and Atlantic City (Oct. 14). For more information, see the band’s tour schedule on their home page or visit their Facebook page.

EagleMania

As their name indicates, EagleMania covers the songs of The Eagles. I was able to catch one of their free concerts at Etra Park in Hightstown, NJ in late July. Between their amazing vocal harmonizing and their instrumental arrangements, doing justice to the great music of The Eagles is not an easy task, but these six veteran musicians do a beautiful job.

The band’s slogan, “The World’s Greatest Tribute Band,” reflects their ambition to faithfully capture the sound of the The Eagles note by note. In addition to performing classics like The Long Run, Take It Easy, Desperado and of course Hotel California, the band also covers solo work from Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Joe Walsh, such as Boys of Summer, Party Town and Life is Good.

The band includes Frankie Reno (keyboards & vocals), Joe Gaechter (guitar & vocals), Ken Darcey (guitar & vocals), Steve French (lead vocals), Jon Weiswasser (drums) and Kevin Hummel (bass). They all have played music for many years and some have worked with pretty big names, for example Gaechter with Roger Daltrey and Jack Bruce, and Reno with Marshall Tucker and Ace Frehley.

EagleMania has upcoming gigs in Atlantic City, NJ (Sep 24), Rochester, NJ (Oct 1), Port Washington, NJ (Oct 7) and Groton, CT (Oct 14). For more information, visit their homepage and Facebook page.

Danny V’s 52nd Street Band

Established in New Jersey in 1994, Danny V’s 52nd Street Band is the “world’s longest running tribute to Billy Joel,” according to their web site. I saw them at Waterfront Park in Carteret, NJ at the end of August, which is a nice intimate outdoor venue right by the water.

Listening to Dan Vechesky (Danny V) and his seven-member band comes very close to listening to the piano man himself, which I had the pleasure to do in 2002 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Vechesky’s way to play the piano and his singing are strikingly similar to Billy Joel. It is obvious he has listened to Joel for a long time and taken great care to learn his songs note by note.

In fact, Vechesky even had a chance to the meet the man in May 1974 while working with the stage crew at a Billy Joel concert. It would take another 20 years before he gathered talented musicians from the New York Metropolitan area to form the 52nd Street Band, named after Joel’s 1978 album.

Appropriately, the band’s performance includes various songs from that Grammy winning album, such as Big Shot, Honesty and My Life. They also pretty much play all the other songs Joel includes in his concerts like She’s Got a Way, Captain Jack, The Entertainer, New York State of Mind, You May Be Right, Pressure and of course Piano Man, to name some.

The 52nd Street Band includes Ed Kuri (guitar, vocals), Troy Rusnack (bass), Keith Droz (drums, vocals), Matt O’Connor (horns, acoustic guitar, vocals), Greg Grispart (horns), Mike LaBuono (keyboards, vocals) and Joe Ferrante (keyboards, vocals). These musicians do a fantastic job backing up Vechesky with great attention to detail, just like Danny.

The band had a pretty busy touring summer (July and August) and as of September appears to have slowed down. The only current upcoming show listed on their web site is in Bordentown, NJ (Oct 15). Visit their web site and Facebook page for more information.

The Blues Brotherhood

The Blues Brotherhood from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley are a tribute band to The Blues Brothers. I saw them in mid-August as part of Musikfest at SteelStacks in Bethlehem, PA, a pretty cool venue at what used to be the home plant of steel giant Bethlehem Steel. These guys are pretty amazing both musically and in terms of their visual presentation.

From the first note to the last tune it is as if Jake Blues and Elliot Blues have come back from the past. The two guys who are performing John Belushi’s and Dan Aykroyd’s parts – Paul Miller and Aaron Hetrick – look and move like Jake and Elliott, and their singing is pretty good, too. They even enact the part of the 1980 movie where they perform at the Palace Hotel Ballroom north of Chicago, greeting the law enforcement officers in the audience – simply hilarious!

The band does an outstanding job backing up Miller and Hetrick and playing classics like She Caught the Katy, Gimme Some Lovin, Everybody Needs Somebody to Love, Sweet Home Chicago and, not to forget, Soul Man. Apparently, they sometimes play with two of The Blues Brothers’ original members, Tom “Bones” Malone (trombone, saxophone) and Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin (trumpet, percussion, backing vocals). Other members of The Blues Brotherhood include Steve “Stevie B” Bridges (saxophone), Barry “The Beast” Schultz (trumpet), Dustin “Credible” Hartman (trombone), Rob Bell (guitar), Ty Hooker-Haring (bass), Bob “B.T.” Thomas (keyboards/piano) and Willie “Too Big” Rose (drums).

According to band’s web site, their tour schedule is currently being updated. You can also check them out on their Facebook page.

 

 

The Boss Rocks MetLife

Bruce Springsteen delivered four hours of non-stop rock & roll to an ecstatic New Jersey audience.

Yesterday (Aug 30) finally was the night I had been waiting for all summer long: Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band were playing MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ – the third performance of their three-show run at the venue as part of 2016 River Tour.

From the first song, New York City Serenade, to the final tune, Jersey Girl, The Boss gave it his all, delivering four hours and one minute of non-stop rock & roll – I did not stop the time but actually read that on Springsteen’s official web site. The duration of the concert meant Bruce broke his own record from the previous week in the same venue yet another time!

In many regards, it was as if time would have stopped since 1988/1989 when I saw Bruce for the first time in Frankfurt, Germany in a comparable size stadium. He had not lost any of his intensity in almost 30 years, and you could be forgiven for not noticing he is now well into his 60s! The Boss also clearly seemed to be energized to play in front of a home crowd that knew all of his songs by heart.

The setlist included 34 songs and drew heavily from Bruce’s first two albums from 1973 and Born in the U.S.A., the 1984 album that became his most commercially successful record and one of the best-selling albums ever with more than 30 million copies sold.

Songs from Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. included Blinded By The Light, Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street, It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City and what I thought was one of the highlights of the show – a particularly spirited version of Spirit in the Night. From The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle Bruce played the strong show opener, New York City Serenade, as well as 4th of July Asbury Park (Sandy), Kitty’s Back, Incident of 57th Street and Rosalita, which remains a big crowd-pleaser.

I’m Going Down, Darlington County, Working on the Highway, Downbound Train, I’m on Fire and Glory Days were songs from the Born in the U.S.A. album, as was Dancing in the Dark – another highlight of the show. During the performance of the song, Bruce invited various people from the audience on stage to, well, dance with him! I thought it was telling that Bruce did not play the title song of the album. I once read he had gotten tired of the song and how many people completely misunderstood or ignored the lyrics.

There were only two songs from The River album, Hungry Heart and Out in the Street, which I felt was remarkable for a tour billed The River Tour. That being said, I had read that Bruce had started to deviate from the original tour concept to play all or most of the album’s songs. Still, I wish he at least would have performed the title song, which remains one of my favorite Springsteen tunes.

Other songs that stood out to me were Born to Run and Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out. During the latter, historic footage was shown on the large stage video screens of the amazing Clarence Clemons, The E Street Band’s former saxophonist who sadly passed in June 2011.

Just as he did back in 1988/89, Springsteen also played terrific cover versions of various great songs, which most notably included Twist & Shout, Shout and Summertime Blues.

This blog post wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the amazing E Street Band. Steven Van Zandt (guitar, background vocals), Nils Lofgren (guitar, background vocals), Patti Scialfa (acoustic guitar, background vocals), Max Weinberg (drums), Garry Tallent (bass, background vocals) and Roy Bittan (keyboards) all did an outstanding job to back up the Boss.

Among the additional musicians, Jake Clemons, the nephew of Clarence Clemons, must be mentioned. He literally had big shoes to fill playing Clarence’s saxophone parts and did so beautifully. I’m sure his uncle would have been proud of him!

The Springsteen concert was my last (commercial) summer concert. It was a great way to end my series of summer shows this year. Just like the previous Springsteen concert in Germany in the late 80s, I have no doubt this show will stay in my memory.

Note: The video clips were added to the post on April 11, 2020. All of the footage is from Springsteen’s three-show run at MetLife in August 2016, mostly from the August 30 gig I attended.

Sources: Wikipedia; Setlist.fm; YouTube

Bonnie Raitt at NJPAC

Bonnie Raitt is one my favorite artists, and I finally got a chance to see her live.

Yesterday (Aug 13), the wait was finally over. It was time to see Bonnie Raitt at New Jersey Performing Arts Center!

During the week leading up to the show, I had listened to her music pretty much whenever I got a chance to get in the mood. And with a 45-year professional career and 17 studio albums, there is a lot to listen to!

A good friend of mine who has been to various Bonnie Raitt concerts over the years had highly recommended that I go see her. He was right – the show was absolutely amazing!

Bonnie presented a mix of new and old songs, including a few of her previous hits. She started off with her cover of the INXS song Need You Tonight, which appears on her latest excellent album, Dig In Deep. Throughout the show, she also played various other songs from that album including Unintended Consequence of Love and Gypsy In Me. Another cover included Burning Down the House, the 1983 hit from the Talking Heads. In my opinion, it’s even better than Need You Tonight.

Perhaps the best known hit songs she played were Something To Talk About and the beautiful ballad I Can’t Make You Love Me, both from Bonnie’s 1991 album, Luck of the Draw. I was a bit surprised and disappointed that she didn’t play material from Nick of Time, such as Thing Called Love, the title song and Love Letter. At least I didn’t recognize any songs from the 1989 Grammy Award winning album. She did perform one of my other favorite songs, Can’t Get Enough (from 1982’s Green Light). 

As I had expected, Bonnie’s slide guitar playing was superb! But I have to say I was even more intrigued by the songs she played on acoustic guitar. The highlight in this context and perhaps of the entire night was Angel from Montgomery, from her fourth studio album Streetlights, released in 1974. BTW, Bonnie’s voice live sounds just as great as recorded. I would also like to acknowledge her fantastic band: Ricky Fataar (drums), George Marinelli (guitars), James Hutchinson (bass) and Mike Finnigan (keyboards).

Another shout-out is in order for Bonnie’s opening act, Richard Thompson Trio. Thompson, a founding member of the Fairport Convention, is an outstanding British electric and acoustic guitarist. I have to admit I’m not familiar with his music, but I certainly enjoyed what I heard! The drummer and bassist who performed with Thompson were excellent as well.

Notably, Bonnie asked Thompson to come back to the stage and play a song with her. You could clearly see the admiration she has for him. I think the gesture also shows what a class act Bonnie Raitt is when it comes to acknowledging other artists.

Here’s a clip of Raitt’s entire gig.

Set List

Need You Tonight (INXS cover)

Used to Rule the World (Randall Bramblett cover)

No Business

All Alone with Something to Say

Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes (Los Lobos cover)

Not the Only One (Paul Brady cover) (with Richard Thompson)

Round and Round (J.B. Lenoir cover)

I Feel the Same (Chris Smither cover)

Hear Me Lord (Oliver Mtukudzi cover)

Something to Talk About

The Comin’ Round Is Going Through

Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover)

Don’t Answer the Door (B.B. King cover) (Mike Finnegan, vocal)

Gypsy in Me

Unintended Consequence of Love

I Believe I’m in Love With You (The Fabulous Thunderbirds cover)

What You’re Doin’ to Me

Encore:

I Can’t Make You Love Me (Mike Reid cover)

Burning Down the House (Talking Heads cover)

Louise (Paul Siebel cover)

Your Sweet and Shiny Eyes

Note: This post was updated on November 15, 2020 with above clip and setlist.

Sources: Wikipedia; Setlist.fm; YouTube

Buddy Guy & Jeff Beck at PNC Bank Arts Center, NJ

The second show of my concert summer season featured guitar legends (and cool septuagenarians) Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck.

Last night (July 26), I had a chance to see Buddy Guy and Jeff Beck at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, NJ. From the moment I started exploring Buddy’s music in greater detail earlier this year (admittedly very late!) I wanted to see this amazing blues guitarist live. And when I learned he is doing a summer tour with Jeff Beck and they are playing in my neck of the woods, it was an easy decision.

PNC Bank Arts Center is a great outdoor venue, in my opinion – not too big, not to small. I’ve seen other fantastic gigs there, including Santana, Steve WinwoodThe Allman Brothers and Tom Petty. Yesterday, the weather was brutally hot, so luckily the show only started at 8:00 pm!

Buddy kicked things off, which almost made it feel like he was opening up for Jeff. While Jeff played the longer set, it should have been the other way around. After all, it was Buddy who was around first and influenced Jeff and many other great guitarists, such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Keith Richards! I read Clapton once called him “the best guitar player alive.”

Buddy was truly on a misson, saying he wants to save the blues. His guitar-playing was simply out of this world. I also thought he had a pretty strong voice. Both certainly did not give you any clue that the man is close to 80 years old. In fact, his 80th birthday (July 30) is just around the corner! In addition to playing and singing with an impressive amount of energy, Buddy also went on a little hike off the stage to walk through the audience in the front of the venue – pretty cool.

I thought highlights of Buddy’s set included Damn Right I’ve Got the BluesHoochie Coochie Man and Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me). He also played two songs from his latest album, Born to Play the Guitar, including the title song. Unfortunately, he did not perform my favorite from that album, Whiskey, Beer & Wine, which currently is also my overall favorite Buddy Guy song.

Next it was Jeff’s turn. He certainly delivered as well! In addition to his amazing guitar-playing, I was mostly impressed with his band, especially singer Rosie Bones who also appears on his latest album Loud Hailer, singer Jimmy Hall and dynamite bassist Tal Wilkenfeld.

I think my favorite of Jeff’s set was the version of the Sam Cooke classic, A Change is Gonna Come. Jimmy Hall did an outstanding job on vocals. Other highlights included Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and the instrumental of The Beatles’ A Day In the Life, which was the final song of the night.

Perhaps the only thing that could have made the show even better would have been at least one song both of these fantastic guitarists would have performed together, just like they do in the above photo!

Paul McCartney at Hersheypark Stadium

During the more than 25 years since I first saw Paul, he has not lost any of his magic!

Yesterday (July 19), the wait was finally over – Paul McCartney’s show at Hersheypark Stadium in Hershey, Pa. was simply amazing. There couldn’t have been a greater kick-off to my summer concert season!

Another highlight was that I enjoyed the show together with my 14-year-old. It was his first big concert!

From the opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night – the first time Paul performed this classic tune during a solo tour – to The End, Sir Paul gave it his all. And his all is still pretty magic! He certainly did not look or behave like a 74-year-old!

For almost three hours, Paul took the audience on an amazing journey through Beatlemania, Wings and his long solo career. Best of all, he really did appear to have a lot of fun doing so, and his joy to perform came across!

Of course, there were crowd-pleasers you’d expect like Hey Jude, Let It BeBand On the Run and Live And Let Die, which were awesome. Other highlights included Maybe I’m AmazedLetting Go and Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five.

But to me, the true standouts were the acoustic guitar pieces, such as BlackbirdHere Today and of course Yesterday. I’ve always loved Paul solo with just his acoustic guitar. He also threw in a great version of George Harrison’s Something, playing the first part of the song on a ukulele George had given to him many years ago before the band launched into the widely known version from Abbey Road.

Moreover, Paul played some songs by The Beatles I didn’t necessarily expect, such as Love Me DoYou Won’t See MeAnd I Love Her and especially Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!

Another surprise to me was Paul’s direct engagement with members of the audience. He asked a young girl on stage who had drawn a poster for him and signed it. July 19 happened to be her birthday – the coolest present ever, I suppose!

Paul also called a teacher on stage with a sign that asked, ‘Could you sign this for show and tell?’ He ended up signing two autographs on one of her arms! I guess taking showers just became more complicated for the teacher!

I would also like to share a funny anecdote that happened the next day. Together with my son, my wife had come along, and we decided to stay overnight close to Hershey and turn the concert visit into a mini-vacation.

So the next day we visited Hershey’s Chocolate World where we went on a historic trolley tour around town. The tour guide was a cheerful 18-year-old, who also apparently happened to be a big Beatles fan. So he started talking about the show, noting the Höfner bass Paul used was his second such instrument from 1963. His first had been stolen. He added he also he really wanted Paul to play Help, so he started shouting ‘Help, Help’ during the concert. Very quickly people around him had concerned looks on their faces and started asking him whether he was okay!

Last but not least, I’d like to acknowledge Paul’s fantastic band. Guitarists Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, who also plays bass on some of the songs; keyboarder, Paul Wickens; and drummer, Abe Laboriel, Jr. did an outstanding job backing up Paul!

Just like my first Paul McCartney concert I saw in Germany in the late ’80s, I will undoubtedly remember last night’s show for a long time! To all Paul McCartney and Beatles fans who haven’t done so yet, go and see Sir Paul if you get a chance. It will be one of your most memorable experiences that will stay with you for many years!

Note: This post was updated on April 11, 2020 with YouTube clips from the show.

Sources: Wikipedia; Setlist.fm; YouTube

My Summer Concert Season Is Heating Up

This is a little preview of shows I’m going to see later this month and in August.

It’s going to be a busy summer for me on the concert front. Following is what I’m planning to attend over the next couple of months:

Paul McCartney, Hersheypark Stadium, Hershey, PA, Jul 19: Sir Paul is going to kick off my summer concert season. I went to one of his shows in Germany in the 80s, and I’m beyond thrilled to see him again! A great friend of mine from Germany told me his previous gigs there earlier this year received rave reviews and even made the evening news! Apparently from the signature opening chord of A Hard Day’s Night until the end of the last encore about three hours later it’s an amazing journey from the 60s to the present. Some say The Beatles are overrated – they don’t know what they’re talking about. And Paul has also written some pretty good music thereafter. He has helped change rock music forever. In my of course completely unbiased opinion, there’s no doubt about that!

Buddy Guy & Jeff Beck, PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ, Jul 26:  Two guitar legends in one show – it doesn’t get much better than that! Admittedly, I’ve got some catching up to on Jeff Beck. The fact that Jeff played with the Yardbirds, which he joined in March 1965 to succeed Eric Clapton, already makes him totally cool in my book. And Buddy Guy? I also only started exploring his music in greater depth more recently. Wow, is all I can say – it’s like Jimi Hendrix never passed!

Bonnie Raitt, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ, Aug 13: Bonnie has been on my concert bucket list for a long time. My above friend from Germany has seen her three times and told me each show was fantastic. A friend of his caught Bonnie during her current tour in Frankfurt, Germany earlier this year and called him thereafter to rave about the concert. I’ve always been fascinated by Bonnie’s amazing slide guitar playing. And she’s released many great songs over the decades as well. It should be a lot of fun!

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ, Aug 30: This show will be part of The River Tour in connection with Springsteen’s 2015 box set, The Ties That Bind: The River Collection. I read the concerts feature performances of all or most songs of Bruce’s iconic album from 1980 and other tunes. The River was Bruce’s fifth studio album and includes two of my favorite Springsteen tunes: Hungry Heart and The River! I saw Bruce for the first time in Frankfurt more than 25 years ago, together with my above friend. It was truly an unforgettable gig that lasted close to four hours, including some 1.5 hours of encores. Very few artists put on a rock & roll show like that. What a way to end my summer concert season with a home play of The Boss!

I’ll be sure to post my impressions from each of the above shows, so make sure to check back if you’re reading this!

Concerts I’ve Been to Over the Years

I’ve been fortunate to have seen many terrific shows over the years, and I hope there will be many more to come.

I think my first concert was the German rock band BAP in 1983 – the same band I saw earlier this month during a short trip to Germany (see my separate post on this). Following is a list of other artists I’ve seen:

  • Johnny Winter
  • Bryan Adams
  • Tina Turner
  • Peter Gabriel
  • Sting
  • Paul Simon
  • Paul McCartney
  • Bob Dylan
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Huey Lewis and the News
  • Simple Minds
  • Toto
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • The Beach Boys
  • The Who
  • Billy Joel
  • John Mellencamp
  • Earth, Wind & Fire
  • The Temptations
  • Foreigner
  • Rod Stewart
  • Stevie Nicks & Don Henley
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Police
  • KC and the Sunshine Band
  • Rick Springfield
  • Night Ranger
  • Bon Jovi
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • The Allman Brothers Band
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • Steve Winwood
  • The Eagles
  • Santana
  • Journey

It’s hard to say which concert has been the best thus far. Paul McCartney (who I’m psyched to see again in July after more than 25 years!), Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Eagles certainly are among the most memorable shows.

I know Springsteen is going to be at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ in late August. The Boss is still going strong and I would love to see him again – should be a great home play!

There are many other music acts I haven’t seen yet and would like to see: Bob Seger, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin (I know, unlikely Robert Plant and Jimmy Page will ever agree to a reunion!), Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neil Young, Scorpions, Stevie Wonder and U2, to name some. So many great music artists, such little time – not to mention the money you have to pony up these days to go to a concert!

And then there some I wish I could have seen like Elvis and of course The Beatles – though McCartney’s show I saw in the late 80s featured plenty of Beatles music and oftentimes sounded just like the Fab Four! There are other great artists who are sadly gone like Joe Cocker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and David Bowie.

I suppose I have to be grateful for the many terrific concerts I’ve been to. Plus, there should be plenty of opportunities to see additional shows!

My Recent Attendance of a BAP Concert

During a recent short trip to Germany, I had a chance to catch a show of my favorite German rock band, BAP.

When planning a recent short trip to Germany, I coincidentally learned BAP were doing a 40th anniversary tour – an opportunity I did not want to miss. In fact, I moved up my departure by one day, so I could make the concert – and it was totally worth it!

BAP, now actually called Niedeckens BAP, was founded in 1976 by front man, Wolfgang Niedecken. The band’s characteristic feature is that all of their songs are performed in “Koelsch,” a German dialect spoken in the area of Cologne, an old city located on the river Rhine in Western Germany.

The first time I saw BAP was at a small venue in Bonn in 1981 after they had released their third album, fuer usszeschnigge, which took them from regional to national fame. While BAP did a few international tours, their popularity mostly has been limited to Germany – largely because of their German lyrics.

The recent concert took place in the Southern German town of Neu-Ulm. The venue was great – Ratiopharm Arena, an indoor arena that is also used for basketball games. Even though I was seated up and in the back, I had a great view, since the arena is relatively small.

I have to say BAP did an amazing show. During more than three hours nonstop, they pretty much played all of their most popular songs – and with 17 studio albums, they have a huge repertoire!

Wolfgang Niedecken is the only member left from the original formation, though it’s fair to say he has always been the band’s main driving force. A couple years ago, longtime drummer Jürgen Zöller and guitarist Helmut Krumminga left, so I was a bit skeptical how the “new” BAP would sound. But with Ulrich Rode (guitar) and Sönke Reich (drummer), Niedecken brought in two top-notch musicians. The line-up also included Werner Kopal (bass), Anne De Wolff (multi-instrumentalist) and Michael Nass (keyboards).

The band sounded absolutely amazing – in fact, I would go as far as to say they sounded as good as never before! This show was actually recorded by regional German television channel SWR1. Following are some clips I was fortunate to have subsequently found on YouTube. The albums on which these tracks originally appeared are in parentheses.

Nix wie bessher (Amerika – August 1996)

Aff un zo (Aff un zo – June 2001)

Jraaduss (für usszeschnigge! – October 1981)

Arsch huh, Zäng ussenander (BAP & various other artists – 1992)

Alexandra, nit nur do (Zwesche Salzjebäck un Bier – May 1984)

I realize it would probably be pure coincidence for almost any American rock fan to have ever heard of BAP. Unfortunately, the American iTunes store is pretty measly when it comes to German rock music. But if you’re curious, there is one BAP album available there, Radio Pandora, which was released in 2008. It’s not a bad album to get an idea of the band’s music, though they have released better music, in my opinion.

Note: This post was updated on June 8, 2020.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube