Friday, April 7, 2017

The Pretenders and Stevie Nicks

Denise and I saw The Pretenders and Stevie Nicks last night at the new Coliseum in Uniondale. It was only the second night the Coliseum was open -- the first event there was the night before, featuring Billy Joel in concert with a special surprise appearance by Joan Jett.

There was a very strange vibe there last night.

First, about the new Coliseum:

1. The outside is a metal nightmare. The old Coliseum was a little boring, but somewhat classy. This is more of an idiot's idea of modern art. On the plus side, I guess you only look at the outside for the 5 minutes it takes you walk from your car to the building, so it's not that big a deal.

2. Parking for the concert was a criminal $30 a pop. Last week, I saw Lisa Loeb with free parking and $40 for the ticket. Here, the parking alone was three quarters of Lisa Loeb's ticket price. (And my understanding is for the opening night Billy Joel concert, parking was $40!). Someone needs to be hung for this. Preferably in the parking lot, dangling over the cars, as a warning to facility owners to come. Could be anyone on the Coliseum management team. Pick one at random, I'm easy.

3. They have at least put handrails on staircases inside the arena. I've been told they had put some in before they closed it down in 2015, but the last time I was there, they didn't have any. When I was 20, it was no big deal either way. But as I get older, the possibility of plunging down a staircase to a painful (and embarrassing) death seemed a real possibility. I'm glad somebody had the sense to put some handrails in.

4. The seats are still pretty narrow. The seats at the Boulton Center last week were way more comfy.

5. The inside looks pretty nice. Nothing special, but OK.

6. The sound was better than expected. The last concert I saw at the old Coliseum was R.E.M., and it sounded like they were playing under water. For a fairly large arena, I thought the sound was pretty good.

7. They need to train their staff better. I know it was only the second night, but our usherette spent half of the Stevie part of the concert standing out on the midway platform, watching the show, enjoying the music, bopping her head and having a wonderful time while those of who paid $100 a ticket got to watch the back of her head. Not good.

8. They have two "large" screens on either side of the stage, but from where we were sitting on the opposite of the arena lengthwise, the screens weren't nearly large enough. (And again, the usherette was blocking the one that was closest to us). There was a larger screen in the middle, but it was mostly used for special effects (and I'm pretty sure it belonged to Stevie's tour, not to the Coliseum).

Would I go back there for a concert? Maybe, but  I'd think twice about it. It would have to be to see somebody amazing. Would I go for a hockey game if they bring back the Islanders? Probably, at least once, but the parking had better be a lot cheaper if they want me to come back. Would I go there for minor league basketball (the new Long Island Nets team)? Probably not, unless they make everything dirt cheap. 

Now to the concert. Like I said, it was a weird vibe in the building last night. I've seen The Pretenders twice before (Denise has seen them more often than that). I've never seen Stevie solo before, although I did see her once with Fleetwood Mac.

The crowd was younger than I expected, and at least 60% female.

It was the last night of a fairly long tour together for both bands. Both Chrissie Hynde and Stevie said it was the best tour they ever had, and even though bands say things like all the time, I actually believed them. It probably wasn't an ideal closing show for either of them, though.

Chrissie started fighting with the fans in the first song of her set. I was too far away from the stage to see exactly what was happening, but something about the people in the front holding up their cell phones to record her was freaking Chrissie out, and she wasn't shy about letting them know it. (For those readers who are old-time Long Island Music Coalition members, she was channeling her inner Fleischmann). Don't get me wrong, she was in great voice last night -- a couple of times she really cut loose and showed you how long she can hold a note, and I don't think I've ever heard her better.

But whatever was throwing her off with those cameras, she never fully got into a groove. And in between songs, she would argue with herself, like "It's my fault, I know you guys paid good money to be here. But you're just really freaking me out," and "Does anybody want to come up here and dance? You guys probably all hate me now," and my favorite: "It's a love/hate relationship -- you love me, and I hate you".

Compounding her problems, I had a few of my own. I always like to sit on the aisle, so I can stick my long legs out a little. But there was a 7 o'clock scheduled start time (the show actually started at about 7:20), and for most of The Pretenders set, I got to watch the people who were either too stupid or too inconsiderate to get there on time stand on the stairs and block my view, waiting for the usherette to seat them (which is probably the only reason the usherette wasn't standing on the platform and swaying to the music during most of Chrissie's set, too). So the band sounded good, they were basically playing their greatest hits, and Chrissie's voice was solid. But between Chrissie's fighting with the crowd and my having to try to watch the set through the heads of the late stragglers and people coming up the stairs with their snacks, I didn't really enjoy the set as much as I wanted to. (I'd say I'm getting too old and cranky to go to concerts, but as Denise can testify, I was pretty cranky even when I was young).

It didn't help that I was starving, too. (We didn't have time to eat before the concert, and when we got there, the lines at the concession stands were long so we just went right to our seats). I considered stretching my arm out and grabbing the handrail, forcing each person who was going up the steps to pay a toll from their snack plate before I let them through ("Mmm, excellent nachos. That will be one piece from your soft pretzel, ma'am. I can't believe how under cooked these fries are!"). I would have been like the Coliseum's own bridge troll. Unfortunately, the handrails aren't continuous, they're a series of individual curly rails spaced a couple of steps apart from each other, so the people would have just looked at my funny and gone up on the other side.

Now for Stevie. For Stevie, this was her tour in support of the 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault album, an album made up of old, previously unused songs from various points in her past. I saw a video of a concert that Stevie did one night on the last night of one of her previous tours, so I know she can get a little emotional on those last nights. So her concert was meant to sprinkle some of her hits in with some of the 24 Karat Gold album, and to tell stories about how the various songs she was singing came to be.

This proved to be difficult in a large venue. And it proved to be even more difficult since apparently, about a quarter of the crowd suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder. The more Stevie talked, the more restless the crowd grew, especially in the far-off wilderness where we were sitting. So these yoyos's booed and heckled Stevie. And then the rest of the crowd, who wanted to hear the stories, got mad and started yelling at the hecklers. And through all of it, Stevie seemed to remain (or at least pretended to remain) mostly oblivious, going on with her stories ad infinitum. (At least she was oblivious until at one point, she said "I don't have a story for this next song," and a large part of the crowd cheered sarcastically. She didn't talk as much after that.)

On the plus side, I took advantage of one of her more obscure songs to scoot down the stairs, run to the bathroom, and get some pretzels from the now-lineless snack bar. On the minus side, of course, as soon as I stepped up the snack counter, she finished the obscure song and instead of telling a story, went right into "Gypsy". Figures. But again on the plus side, about that sound system -- the sound was even pretty good in the bathroom and at the snack counter.

My only disappointment as far as the song selection goes was she didn't play one of my favorites from her solo stuff, "Rooms on Fire". But on the other hand, she did play some of her best Fleetwood Mac songs, which I wasn't sure she would during her solo tour, including "Gypsy", a smoking hot version of "Gold Dust Woman", and an encore composed of "Rhiannon" and "Landslide", so I guess it evens out. (And Chrissie came and joined her for the Tom Petty part of "Stop Dragging My Heart Around", which was pretty neat).

I think Stevie had a good time, which I'm glad of (there's something I've always really like about Stevie. I was actually kind of embarrassed about behavior of the Long Island crowd on her behalf).  I know that Chrissie didn't have a good time, but she's tough -- she'll get over it. As for the crowd, I think most of them found it to be a mixed bag -- I know Denise and I did. (I had to laugh -- at the end of the concert, while I was waiting for Denise to come out of the ladies room, there was an angry woman with a young girl and an old woman in tow, complaining about the crowd at the customer service desk. She was telling them people were cursing and she brought a child and her mother because she thought it would be a family-friendly venue. She had seen the same concert at Madison Square Garden, and they didn't behave like that! Lady, what were they supposed to do? Fire the crowd?

Anyway, interesting night of music. And at least i got to see Stevie Nicks solo once in my life.

'Til next time, good people.