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Miscellaneous Concert Reviews


My Bloody Valentine Live in Seattle (August 21, 2013)
The Monkees Live in Seattle (August 17, 2013)
Steely Dan Live in Redmond, Wa (August 15, 2013)
Lyle Lovett and His Large Band Live in Woodinville, Wa (August 2, 2013)
The Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame (June 28, 2013)
Boz Scaggs Live in Snoqualmie, Wa (June 9, 2013)
Robyn Hitchcock with The Venus 3 Live in Seattle (June 4, 2013)
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Live in Snoqualmie, Wa (May 27, 2013)
Fleetwood Mac Live in Tacoma, Wa (May 20, 2013)
Nick Cave Live in Seattle (April 7, 2013)
Janis Ian Live in Seattle (April 6, 2013)
Michael Nesmith Live in Seattle (March 30, 2013)
The Residents Live in Seattle (February 23, 2013)
Ed Asner as FDR in Edmonds, Wash. (February 9, 2013)
Bob Newhart Live in Snoqualmie, Wash. (January 24, 2013)
Zappa Plays Zappa in Seattle (December 23, 2012)
John Cale Live in Seattle with Cass McCombs (December 9, 2012)
The Del McCoury Band with Dala Live in Edmonds, Wash. (October 27, 2012)

My Bloody Valentine

Seattle August 21, 2013

This is going down in history as one concert that I really didn't need to go to, simply on account of me not being that wild about My Bloody Valentine. On that note, however, I suppose I don't need to go to any of these concerts that I go to! But as I am simply enjoying the luxuries of being single, being a crazy music fan, being full-time employed with a lucrative job, I said to myself what I always say in when these situations arise: Why not? Making the decision easier, I do consider Loveless to be a divine album--although I probably actually enjoy more the albums it inspired more than I like the album itself. Some of my favorite music of all time is laced thickly with dreary, dreamy, druggy atmospheres. And there is no other album I'm aware of that fits that description more than Loveless (even if, maybe, I find some albums that came after it to fit those descriptions a mite more entertaining).

This was the first time I'd been to Showbox SoDo. SoDo is the name of the neighborhood, which stands for “South of the Dome,” referring to the Kingdome, which spontaneously exploded sometime in the year 2000. (Alright, it was a controlled demolition, but I am just going to pretend that it was spontaneous. It'll be part of the mythology.) The dome was replaced with one of these new-fangled sports arenas that--ever so lamely--is named after a corporation. Since we can't really rename a neighborhood after a corporation, this neighborhood will always remain “SoDo,” even when the dome it refers to is nothing but a fading memory.

The neighborhood seems to have a reputation for being rough, though I didn't notice anything too seedy about it apart from a strip club nearby. I'm sort of in love with parking garages, even if parking in one might be twice as expensive as other parking options nearby. (Those parking lots are always owned by guys holding wads of five dollar bills.) I avoided all of that with the more comfortably impersonal parking garage; and the one I'd managed to drive into happened to be the exact same one I'd parked in when I saw Paul McCartney at the baseball stadium.

Somebody online told me to take special care to bring earplugs to this event, and I did. However, it didn't dawn on me how loud this concert was really going to be until I'd entered the venue and a smiling girl handed me a set of earplugs. That had never happened to me before. So it was then I'd realized I was not only going to have only prepare for loudness, but complete annihilation of the eardrums. I mean, every time I attempted to describe how loud some of these concerts I'd been to before would automatically be dwarfed by this one. (With the possible exception of the Alice Cooper concert in November 2012 in which I was literally the closest person in that entire auditorium to the left stage speaker. ...Holy hell.) There were a number of times during this show I removed one of my earplugs. It was out of curiosity in the same manner a child would glance briefly at direct sunlight. Yes indeed, that was loud. Seriously to a level that will make your eardrums bleed. No wonder they needed to hand out earplugs. There would have been lawsuits otherwise.

For this event, I was determined to stand in the middle and closer to the stage than not. I stood back for a bit and let a small crowd of people assemble in front of me before I decided to close in on the lot. This was a standing-only venue--there were a few spots at tables at the bar that I could see, but I wasn't about to drink anything, so I didn't sit there. Also, I had happened to be both mentally and spiritually prepared to stand in a hot room, suffocating in a cloud of carbon dioxide and to have my feet and knees hurt for hours.

I was surprised, considering that these guys had released their landmark album in 1991, there were so many college kids there. I thought the place would be dominated by people who were in college... in 1991. Sure, there were a number of people there who undoubtedly fit that description, but not too many. More than that, these college kids I was standing nearby didn't seem to use deodorant! (So add that scent to the hot, suffocating CO2 cloud I was standing in the middle of.) Oh, and that's not even to mention the marijuana smokers in front of me. That's something I seem to always smell--even for a brief moment--at concerts but very rarely see. ...Every once in awhile throughout the show, I would feel a mild breeze come at me from up top, which reminded me achingly that there still existed fresh air somewhere in the world. However, I was steadfast; I was determined to stay and experience everything My Bloody Valentine had to offer me.

The event was originally slated to be at a nearby theater, WaMu, which is larger and seems to host a lot of big-name metal acts. WaMu theater was actually designed for rock events, unlike Showbox SoDo, which is a concrete box that most likely had industrial origins. My Bloody Valentine's characteristic blurry sound was rendered extremely blurry in that setting, making the entire concert come off like a never ending blast of interstellar energy right in my face. (Though that was kind of awesome.) I had a very hard time hearing Bilinda Butcher's vocals through all the dense blur--though I suppose that isn't unlike their albums. I could only barely see the stage at any given time, since there was always someone's head in the way. The stage definitely needed to be higher up, and that completely flat floor should have had a bit of an elevation change to it. The flat floor is generally something I would expect to see when I go to a concert standing on the floor in a hockey arena, or something. Not at a venue that only hosts concerts.

The opening act was the Lumerians, which is described as a “mind-bending space-rock.” I don't have a more apt description of them. They played eight songs, each entertaining in their whacked-out ways. (If you are curious about how they sound like, be sure to check out “Burning Mirrors” and “Black Tusk.”) Making the performance even more entrancingly bizarre were slide-show projections of dark textures that were shining on stage the entire time, in that dark room. I'd no idea what to expect from those guys (I can't even remember whether I'd even checked if there was even going to be an opening act before arriving), and what I got was nuts. So, kudos to them.

Of course the main event was My Bloody Valentine. Some songs were so blurry and heavy that I might not have recognized a number of them they played that I would have otherwise recognized. (Though truthfully I hadn't given too many listens to Isn't Anything and hadn't heard a lick of their latest album m b v, as the band seems to want to make that album difficult to acquire.) The songs they played that came at me as extremely distinctive were “Only Shallow” and “I Only Said.” Which I suppose makes sense, because those are the most distinctive songs from Loveless.

They didn't interact with the audience whatsoever, apart from Bilinda Butcher letting out a mild smirk when someone screamed out at her “You're beautiful!” Otherwise, we'd might as well not have been there. (Except I'm sure they smelled us. Trust me, there was quite a stench.)

Anyway, I might have been choking to death in that stinky cesspool of breathing college-aged shoegazing fans, but that didn't stop me from becoming mesmerized by the thing. That is even though, at one point, a man in his early twenties sporting an army jacket, nappy Mohawk, and piercings all over his face who was high on something and was defying physics by running throughout that extremely dense crowd like a knife cutting through butter. He was closely followed by a girl who had similar fashion advice. At one point, he was stopped right behind me and was using my shoulder--as well as the shoulder of the person standing next to me--to hoist himself up in the air. That experience was completely horrifying to me, as well as I'm sure the person standing next to me, but both of us were frozen. Partially, I'm sure, numbed by the concert, but also by the fact that you don't really want to interact with someone who is clearly deranged on some kind of substance at a crowded place where medics would have difficulty reaching you.

I remember being hypnotized at one particular point. It was during an extended drone that might as well have went on for 10 minutes, consisting nothing but a repeating 10-second loop. (If there were intricate, developing subtleties in their textures, I wasn't picking up on it at all.) I remember the band members remaining still, almost lifeless, concentrating on their respective instruments. That is apart from Debbie Googe who was playing her guitar hunched over, continually taking three steps forward and three steps backwards. If they were trying to illustrate what it would be like to be forever stuck in a 10-second time loop, then they managed it. I was so whacked-out of my brain at that moment that I'd even not-so-jokingly considered the notion that I was stuck in some kind of loop. That's the sort of thing I've never experienced before, although I'm not precisely sure whether it was worth it.

At any rate, the My Bloody Valentine concert was an experience and something else. Something the likes of which I've never seen before and don't think I would ever experience again. If they come to Seattle again, I'd probably give them a pass--especially if they play Showbox SoDo again. If it's ever to a more relaxed, open place with chairs, then I might consider going again and see if I might pick out anything more intricate from their live act.

The Monkees

Seattle August 17, 2013

Hey hey, one of my wildest dreams came true, and I got to go see THE MONKEES live in concert in the Summer of 2013. Of all the many big-time concerts I was going to in the Summer of 2013, that was one of the ones I was looking forward to the most. Interestingly--and I have to mention this--it happened to be on my dad's birthday, who I think associates The Monkees too much with all those the dumb, cheesy things he liked when he was a kid in the '60s. I suppose an equivalent thing for me would be if my (theoretical) kid ever dragged me to see a reunion tour of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. You know, a crazy tour featuring 70-year-old versions of Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and The Rest (otherwise known as The Never Got Famous Crew). ...Yeah, such a thing would be nightmarish.

The Monkees, who were much like The All-New Mickey Mouse Club in that they were an artificial pop group assembled for a TV show, were also unlike The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, because they were actually good. It's true that initially they didn't write their own music or play their own instruments, but the songs were great--they were among the finest of the era. Plus, as every good pop music nerd knows, The Monkees eventually did get around to playing their own instruments and writing their own hit songs. Particularly Michael Nesmith, who--if The Monkees had a genius in the group--was clearly that. (Then again, I guess Justin Timberlake would develop respectable songwriting and song-producing chops as well. And Gosling would turn out to be a great actor. But all of that was not while they were still being managed by Mickey.)

By the way, I had also attended a Michael Nesmith concert earlier that year. I remember one of the primary reasons I especially wanted to go to that was because I'd figured that with the recent death of Davy Jones I would never get the chance to see The Monkees (who had still been quite active up till his death). I was glad to know that I was wrong about that. I'd learned about The Monkees' 2013 tour from the periodic mass e-mailings I get from Rolling Stone Magazine. And as soon as I saw that they put a stop to Seattle on their itinerary, I knew of course I was going to be there. Never mind that it would occur during a particularly busy week in August when I'd already scheduled three other concerts! Well you only live once.

And there's the other important thing to mention: They might have lost Davy Jones, but they gained Michael Nesmith, who hadn't participated in a Monkees tour for decades. (There was a rumor going around that Nesmith hated Jones, and he was finally going to tour with The Monkees only because Jones was dead... But that's a horrible rumor, isn't it? Nesmith denies it, of course, and there's no real evidence for it, so don't believe it for a second!)

When I bought the tickets the split-second they went on sale, it was at an awkward time: a group meeting at work. I was somehow discrete enough about it to buy the tickets without being detected by a coworker sitting right next to me, who is generally quite nosy and undoubtedly would have made tsk tsk motions at me if I was caught. This would turn out to be my ninja triumph of 2013. (Yeah... I bragged about it after the meeting got out.) In the moment I bought the tickets, I decided against, for whatever reason, to not try to sit extremely close to the stage as I usually do. I instead opted for the best second-tier tickets that money could buy. And they were good seats! Fifteen rows or so from the front of the stage. Close enough to at least verify the identities of the people up there.

...Well, time inched by, and I found myself at the concert, at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. I will comment that I was disappointed about the venue. It's a great place for symphonic music (because that's, after all, what it was built for), but it's not so spectacular for rock concerts. The acoustics simply aren't suited for rock 'n' roll. But all the same, that didn't inhibit me from enjoying the show. I was greatly familiar with most of the songs they played, after all.

The concert seemed equally geared toward fans of the TV show as it was for fans strictly of their albums, and I wondered what percentage of the audience knew them best for which medium. ...Now, I've only seen a little bit of their TV show in passing, remembering it surfacing on TV Land and/or Nick at Nite in the '90s, and I remember my parents expressing a sort of bemusement that this silly show from their childhood was getting re-aired in the modern times. At that time, however, I wasn't interested in watching the show. But now that I've become fans of the albums I'm sort of interested in trying to watch it “seriously” now. I still haven't yet. The only Monkees video I've ever watched is their crazy, surrealist film, Head, maybe six years ago, and I remember being fascinated by it. Around that time, I even included it on one of my Top 100 favorite films lists.

Since TV fans constituted a major portion of the audience, this was one of the more visual concerts I've ever been to. They had a big screen that flashed images from their TV show and the movie. Before the concert began, it was showing vintage TV commercials. ...You know, commercials that featured The Monkees hocking breakfast cereals, Kool-Aid, toys, that sort of thing. The commercials were tongue-in-cheek and pretty funny, which makes them still entertaining to this day. (I wonder if The Monkees get commission from these companies for playing those commercials at their concerts? They should! I haven't thought about Kool-Aid in years.)

So, the houselights went down, and the opening sequence of their TV show blared on the screen and blasted through the loudspeakers. The audience went nuts; this was one of the most enthusiastic crowds I have ever seen at a concert anywhere, and that is saying something.

The houselights flipped back on, and all three of The Monkees were up there, standing right there in front of me. Michael Nesmith to the left, Peter Tork to the right, and Mickey Dolenz in the middle. And they had a large supporting band. Nesmith, of course, played the guitar most of the time, and Tork tended to stick with the keyboards. Dolenz, when he took lead vocals for a song, stood up in front playing big ole tom-tom drums. But other times, he would literally take the backseat at a drum kit. They all had their own distinct personalities, too: Dolenz was always content being the happy-go-lucky pop star; Nesmith was semi-reserved with a rock star stagger; and Tork seemed like he was always cut out for musical theater.

And the first song they started playing playing was one their biggest and one of their best hits: “The Last Train to Clarksville.” And, you know? They pretty much made a pass at all their biggest songs at this concert, and some otherwise. They gave us a massive 30-song set-list. Naturally, these songs would include “Papa Gene's Blues,” “I'm a Believer,” and “(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone.”

I was glad they played through quite a bit of what is probably their best album, Headquarters. They played “You Told Me” (which I remember Tork taking out a banjo and going to town with it!), “You Just May Be the One,” “Mary Mary,” “For Pete's Sake,” and “My Sunny Girlfriend.” Dolenz donned a table-cloth for “Randy Scouse Git,” and he told the audience the story that they all probably already knew: When he named the song, he wasn't aware that “Randy Scouse Git” meant something obscene in Britain.

They paid tribute to Davy Jones toward the end of the show, playing on the video screen the entire portion of Head in which Jones sings Harry Nilsson's “Daddy's Song” and his costume keeps changing. And then the three surviving Monkees came out and asked the audience to sing “Daydream Believer” in lieu of one of them taking on lead vocal duties. ...Yes, that was touching! I missed him there.

The songs from Head were certainly a highlight, particularly “Circle Sky,” which is a crazy piece of psychedelic magic.

So anyway, there it was. The Monkees. They were old and wrinkly, but as entertaining as ever, and I'm glad they made a stop in Seattle so I could see them.

Also, after the end of the show, I bought an extremely dorky T-shirt, one with really shiny paintings of The Monkees' faces on it. I'm not sure why I even bothered getting that, particularly since the line to the merchandise table was the longest I've ever seen. I do love the T-shirt, though, even if I'll never wear it in public. My only complaint was that Davy Jones doesn't appear on the shirt. I know he wasn't on the tour, but ... well, The Monkees will always be four people, right? Why not include all of them on the merchandise?

Steely Dan

Redmond, Wa August 15, 2013

Believe it or not, this is my 80 thousandth review of a concert from the Seattle area, and there were still a number of major venues I hadn't visited. Like Marymoor Park, another outdoors venue. (Why does Seattle have so many outdoors concert venues when they are only useful two or three months out of the year? ...But, man, when they are useful, they are niiiiice. July and August, the weather is astounding.) The parking situation at this venue is among the worst I've ever seen, though. The only place to park is on the grass in a giant lot that you share with thousands, and there is only one way in and out. So, when the concert lets out--unless you want to skip the encore or are an extremely aggressive driver--prepare to sit in your car for about an hour after the concert ends. Which is, really, is a small price to pay if you like the artist you're seeing.

I had fantastic seats, though, fourth row but a bit to the side, thanks to buying pre-sale tickets the split second they went on sale. I remember that day I bought the tickets. It was in April, and I was waiting between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the TV repairman to come. (On a related note: I am never buying a Samsung product again.)

It had been raining that day of the concert, though it had refrained from doing so during the performance, thank goodness. The venue employees who showed us to our seats gave us paper towels to wipe down our chairs, which was nice of them!

The opening act was a trio of instrumentalists, The Deep Blue Organ Trio. What I remember most about them was that, among other songs, they played an instrumental version of Stevie Wonder's “Jesus Children of America.” I also know that they had recently won a Grammy award. But most of all, I remember that they were constantly insisting that--for every person in the band--it was their birthday. Whenever the name of someone in the band was announced... it was his birthday. I didn't think that was funny, or anything, but I guess it was memorable schtick.

So anyway, I thought that band was pretty good. But, of course, they were only the opening act.

And then came Steely Dan. They're of course one of the most notable two-member bands in existence--Donald Fagen, hunched over donning sunglasses at the keyboards and Walter Becker, playing guitar, wobbly like a drunken kung-fu master. But naturally, of course, they had a whole army of supporting band members--more guitarists, a drummer or two, a brass section, and a trio female back-up singers. The back-up singers were known as The Borderline Brats.

Now, here is my confession to make: I didn't know Steely Dan's material that well when I attended this. I knew their material somewhat--having listened to one or two of them in the past--and I respected it--but didn't really love it. (This was more of my dad's idea!) However, immediately after the show, I bought their seven classic albums and have been listening to them endlessly ever since. Particularly Countdown to Ecstasy, which happened to be an album that was well represented that evening. It's made such an impression on me that I also now consider it to be among my favorite albums of all time! (The other six classic Steely Dan albums are also good, but they don't quite cut it in that same way.) Really, it's sort of interesting that I'm becoming fans of many of these bands after hearing them in concert.

The song that had managed to gain the most permanent impression on me--and, consequently, was my favorite moment from the show--was “My Old School.” The reason for that should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows it: It is catchy and cool. Nothing else needs to be said about that.

The other songs from that album (which I like nearly as much) were “Your Gold Teeth” (very low-down and cool) and “Bodhisattva.” They also performed “Razor Boy,” sung exclusively by The Borderline Brats, a moment that I remember striking me as beautiful. Fagen, of course, sang lead on most of the songs; however, Becker got to sing lead on “Daddy Don't Live in New York City No More” (even though he didn't sing lead on that on the album). Fagen's voice wasn't quite as amazing as it was in the '70s; unfortunately, it was more fading away rather than aging like a fine wine. But of course, he could still hit the notes pleasingly, and he came off too-cool-for-school doing so.

Now since I hadn't been properly indoctrinated in Steely Dan material before going to this show, I unfortunately don't have a great many things to say about their songs in detail, apart from just the general comment that I enjoyed them. The only song they played that evening that I was more than a little bit familiar with was their radio classic “Hey Nineteen.”

Another thing that stood out at me at the concert was Walter Becker reciting--what I am probably misrepresenting as--beat poetry in between a few songs. It was a bunch of nonsense that nonetheless seemed weighty, as he rambled them off his tongue with a kind of stylistic swagger as the band behind him played a mellow groove.

Now, the concert was great. What I have a complaint about is the venue. While the venue employees were nice enough to give us paper towels to wipe off our seats, they were also painstakingly trying to prevent people from filming the event with their phones, more than I've ever seen before. A small militia of venue employees were standing next to the stage, scanning the immediate area for anyone holding up a phone. If they caught someone (which they did roughly once per minute) they would walk up and shine a flashlight in their face. If that didn't get their attention, they would have to yell at them. Since, of course, there was a concert going on, they had to yell very loudly! ...And while I do wish that people would just follow the rules, the process of enforcing these rules was not only ineffective, but they were distracting to everyone else. (I had to giggle, toward the end of the show, when people started to gather around the front of the stage. The venue employees were continuing to take these painstaking efforts to make people put their phones away, but it was so crowded at the front that they just couldn't get to one particular person who was standing right in the middle, not only holding up an iPhone but a gigantic iPad.)

I also have to mention something hilarious that happened immediately after the concert ended: It was something that I've never seen before, and I'm not sure will ever happen again. There was a man facing the exiting crowd with his hands in his pocket yelling "Get your marijuana here!" It was in the exact same manner a hawker would sell bags of peanuts at a baseball game. I tried not to laugh as I passed by him, but I'm pretty sure I smirked a little. ...I didn't actually see anyone take him up on the offer, unfortunately, and I think most other people passing by him were just as shocked as I was. (Marijuana by the way is legal in my state now, but I'm very sure you're not allowed to sell it unless you're a licensed dealer in a brick and mortar shop.) Anyway... times are changing, I guess.

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band

Woodinville, Wa August 2, 2013

What I remember most was that it was misting. Outdoors venues in the Seattle area, you always run into that risk. That is even true for concerts occurring smack dab in the middle of those two months out of the year when there is sun (usually) and the grass turns brown. At least it wasn't drizzling. And what else, perhaps the mist was pretty? I ended up acting like a true Pacific Northwesterner in response to the weather and got a mocha latte. Even though I knew that meant I was going to have to stand in the bathroom line about an hour later. I guess that was me living on the edge. I was wearing new shoes, too. (Hm, I don't really have much to say about this concert, do I?)

Maybe the mist is why I can't find any YouTube footage for this event to jog my memory. (In case you didn't notice, I've taken way too long to finally get around to writing this review.)

I went to this event not knowing much about Lyle Lovett's music. People usually recognize “If I Had a Boat,” but I wasn't even so familiar with that song. The thing I knew most about Lovett is that he was once married to Julia Roberts. There was a song he played that an audience member nearby me, who was narrating, mentioned that he wrote it about Julia Roberts. (I think it was that low-key, jazzy “I Know You Know.”)

So there you go; I'm not going to be able to recall too many of the songs he played, except for “If I Had a Boat.” I was told by someone he is famous for that song, so I recognized it when he played it. I do however remember what was the most striking moment at the concert. It was “Church,” a gospel that got some tremendous momentum going! The song titled “Farmer Brown/Chicken Reel” also rings a bell (a silly swing number), so he probably played that one, too.

By the way, it's really hard to pin down Lovett's style. He does a variety of things. Perhaps his roots are country-western, but it doesn't seem quite correct to label him as a country-western musician. I described his style as “Americana” to someone, but he told me I was using the term incorrectly. However, I don't think that's wrong. Everything Lovett does is distinctly American, as he gives his own personal interpretation of a variety of musical styles (jazz, bluegrass, folk, country-western, gospel, blues, etc.).

He was quite chatty to the crowd, often making disparaging remarks about himself. That is, that he is ugly. I also remember him talking about how he was first trying to get into the industry and—well--surviving.

All in all, I might not have considered this one of the seminal moments of my concert-going experiences in 2013; however, I certainly enjoyed it. Lovett of course is a known figure, and thus I figured that it was worth seeing him. And it was! After the concert got out, I bought a few of his albums and I've been enjoying them quite well.

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All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.